Monday, October 16, 2017


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?"    

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Light Ship Altares Flies Again!

I was raised on a healthy diet of creatures double features and classic TV science fiction. When I was eleven, sitting cross-legged on the living room floor in the enchanted cottage where I grew up, I briefly got lost in Gerry Anderson's made-for-TV movie, The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity, in which the crew of the light ship Altares launches to nearby Alpha Centauri in search of answers that might heal a dying Earth. I was captivated -- not only by the story and visuals, but by the common DNA the project shared with my beloved Space:1999, a television show that forever changed my life. Day's entire adult cast had performed on 1999 -- Joanna Dunham, Altares' CMO, played "Vanna", Raan's (the late, great Peter Cushing) daughter in the first season episode "Missing Link." Brian Blessed, navigator "Tom Bowen" was "Dr. Cabot Rowland" in "Death's Other Dominion" and Maya's father, "Mentor", in the second season "The Metamorph". And of course, Nick Tate was Eagle pilot "Alan Carter" and fittingly helmed Altares as her captain. I simply loved The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity.

Flash ahead some four decades to a Saturday night in New Hampshire's North Country, where I and several members of my writers' group were enjoying a late September retreat at the Waterfall House. After a long, productive day of writing (and exquisite dining!), I retired to my room and found a message from Robert Wood, who, with the late Gerry Anderson's son, Jamie, sought my help in bringing the crew of Altares back to life for a new generation of Science Fiction fans and readers. Would I be interested in writing a novelization of Johnny Byrne's pilot episode script? Feeling both humbled and also daunted by the prospect of adapting a legendary writer's beloved work from script to novel, I said yes. On January 1, 2017 with the movie playing on my laptop's screen, the original script open on the desk before me, and a fresh pad of lined paper and pen in hand, I began to write.

The going was, at first, slow. But like the light ship's charge across space, I built momentum. Both Robert and Jamie Anderson requested certain additions and enhancements to the story, namely a bigger reason for the crew to willingly enter the black hole at the climax of the original movie. Immersed in the script and the film, I woke late one snowy winter night from a terrifying dream involving the crew and consequences caused by their mission. I found myself reaching for paper and pen in the drawer beside my bed, jotting down rough notes, and in the morning they still stood up. I was able to weave these darker elements seamlessly into the original storyline, thus fulfilling the task assigned to me. Those changes -- and the completed novel -- were praised upon delivery. My novelization of The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity was recently published by Anderson Entertainment to great reviews and the potential for more adventures to follow.

"The instant the possibility arose to be involved with Day it felt like an inspirational lightning bolt struck me," says Robert, who proved himself a wonderful editor on the project. "Suddenly my mind was swirling with possibilities. Being a life-long fan of Space:1999, one of the things that inspires me most about Day is that it shares a lot of genetic material with 1999. From the cast to the music, production design, special effects, models, and of course, the script by Johnny Byrne! Johnny’s connection is of utmost importance, because although the original TV pilot has certain limitations and is hindered a bit by the educational aspect that was built into it, I have no doubt that if it had indeed gone to series, and had Johnny Byrne continued to be involved in it, that it would have gone on to engage with the same kinds of story elements that he had been exploring in his episodes of 1999. I feel very strongly that Day is a natural inheritor of the Space:1999 storytelling format, just with a smaller crew. The Altares crew, like the Alphans before them, find themselves unable to return to Earth, lost on the other side of a black hole (or "black sun" in 1999’s case), and at the mercy of whatever lies ahead of them as they search for a new home in the unknown depths of space. So I think that the storytelling style, as well as the feel and look of the show, would have been very much in line with Space:1999. It really is a bit of a hybrid between 1999’s Year One and Year Two, so all the elements 1999 fans love about Johnny’s episodes could be utilized as a launching pad for further adventures of the Altares crew. I think the relevance of Day lies in its core premise, just like in 1999. It’s a metaphor for life. Just as the Breakaway blast was the moment of birth for a new tribe of humans -- the Alphans -- roaming the universe, so too the Altares' journey through the black hole and their subsequent exit into a new universe represents the birth of another new tribe of humans (the Altareans?). All of us have felt at one time or another alone or lost or adrift in our own world, just as they do in their new universe. Confronting unknown challenges ahead. Making do with the limited resources they have. Both excited by and afraid of the unknown, but unable to stop the inevitable movement forward in their search for a new home. Finding strength and support amongst those closest to you, whether they are family by birth or by choice. The human will to survive. I could go on, but the point is that there are a lot of big topics intrinsically tied to the premise of Day, and immense storytelling potential. There’s a line I remember Johnny Byrne saying about Space:1999 when he came to write the script for the short film Message From Moonbase Alpha years later. He said, ‘You only have to dip your fingers into this quirky, magical pool before all sorts of other chemical things start happening.; I think with The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity we’re dipping our fingers into that same magical pool, and the chemical reaction is just beginning."

(The Altares crew, image from novel)
Throughout the writing of the novelization, it was imperative to me to honor Mr. Byrne by keeping his dialogue intact. Also, I tried to flesh out the main characters, particularly Dr. Anna Bowen and Jane Masters, the ship's copilot. At one point, I felt as though I was with them, not as an observer but along for the actual ride, which I'd experienced way-back-when during the movie's original TV broadcast. There's a paradox central to the enhanced storyline I was asked to create. But another one took place while seated at my desk, and for most of the writing of my adaptation, I was eleven again, which I believe is one of the many great blessings of this particular project. But now once more in the present, is there a future for the Altares and her crew?

"When you look at the core premise of The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity I think it can work very well as a platform for modern storytelling that is both exciting and philosophical," Robert adds. "There were just a couple of key concerns that Jamie and I discussed, agreed upon, and then subsequently shared as guiding points for the novelization. One was that we wanted to minimize the overtly educational aspect of the original TV pilot as it hinders the storytelling and adventure, particularly in the context of an ongoing series, where you don’t want to have to essentially stop the flow of the story for a mini-tutorial on E=mc2, or whatever other scientific lesson was being shoe-horned into the adventure of the week. That really wouldn’t have been an asset for an ongoing series. Two was that we wanted there to be more depth brought to the characterizations than was possible in the scope of the original. They only had 47 minutes, and they had to get from A to B to C, so Johnny’s script was driven by plot more than characterization. Although there were warm moments and worries, but there could have been more if there was additional time. The novelization provided the space to expand the story and characters a little bit, while at the same time not straying too far from the original, and I think does that job marvelously. The twist added to the relationship between Tom and Anna Bowen is my favourite because -- without giving it away for those who haven’t read the book -- although it’s immediately obvious the instant you read it in the book, it’s also something that never would have occurred to most people watching the pilot. It’s a genius twist that is seamlessly integrated with the original, while also suddenly adding a wealth of character depth. I love it, and I’m sure Johnny Byrne would have been very happy with the new life that’s been brought to his old script."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This, That, and the Other

(writing at the White Mountain Cafe)
My 2017 started on quite shaky ground. I returned from a long hospital stay a mere week before the New Year, barely able to walk following surgery and easily exhausted. But I was also excited by the prospect of what the year would bring, and happier than I thought humanly possible to be home at Xanadu with family and muse. Now nearly six months into 2017, I have plenty to show for the time -- I just wrapped my 1241st work of fiction, a mystery novella, have placed numerous short stories in publications, and will soon depart for my second writing retreat of the year (my fourth if you count two book launches, readings, and signings that took me to Massachusetts), with two more scheduled for June, including my return to the wonderful Writing From Nature, where I plan to complete one of my oldest unwritten tales. As for walking? Just try to hold me back.

Early in the year, I sold a long Science Fiction tale, "South of Human", to the fine publication Perihelion Science Fiction. The story is a free read, and Perihelion is one of those credits writers love to show on their resumes. I'm excited to report that a follow-up sale, "The Goldfish", is scheduled for their June issue.

Often on winter days -- especially when it snowed -- I found myself working in bed, with my right leg elevated and episodes of Stargate Atlantis playing on the TV (during my hospitalization, Bruce dvr'ed most of the series when it ran on Comet TV in December). I worked on short and long projects, a screenplay, and submitted manuscripts to editors for consideration. I read of the new literary magazine Riddled With Arrows edited by Shannon Connor Winward during one of those luxurious snow days, and submitted my short SF meta fiction, "Lessons in the Garden of Lost Language". I soon heard back with a minor rewrite request. I made those few changes days later while traveling home from the book launch and party of Murder Ink 2. The story sold and is presented with some fairly bad-ass writers in Riddled's debut issue.

(reading from Murder Ink 2 in Boston)
Speaking of Murder Ink 2 -- I owe more to publisher George Geers and editor extraordinaire Dan Szczesny than merely including my sports-themed mystery, "Murder at Channel Ten" in the follow up to last year's release; in a very real way, I credit them with my ability to walk again. During my hospital stay, I was bemoaning to one of the fabulous physical therapists, Claire, how I was likely going to miss the book launch in Boston. In her colorful Irish brogue, she said the launch was still two months off, and I'd sure as hell better plan to attend it. Her passion charged me, and I began to take to physical therapy like it was my religion. Not only did that effort lead to my release from the hospital, but two months later I found myself ambling without the aid of a walker or a surgical boot up the two flights of cast iron stairs to the third floor of Boston's famous Chart House restaurant, which was once John Hancock's office space. There, I signed copies of the anthology, read from my tale, and lunched on an incredible lobster roll, thanks to our generous and wonderful publisher. On the drive into Boston, I jokingly said that I'd order the lobster, even though we didn't yet know what our menu options for the luncheon were!

(with Judi Calhoun and others at the
Whittier Farm and Birthplace)
Earlier in February, I enjoyed a fantastic three-day retreat at a writers' group friend's sprawling manor house a few towns over. With his parents' blessing (they were away on a trip), seven of us wrote, dined in decadence, and enjoyed pizza on Superbowl Sunday -- and watched the New England Patriots win in perhaps the most famous comeback in NFL history.

During the first week of May, I again traveled to Massachusetts, this time for the launch, reading, and luncheon to celebrate Murder Among Friends, edited by the stellar Dave Goudsward. Murder contains my cozy mystery "Antiques". All of the stories are inspired by the works of John Greenleaf Whittier, with proceeds going to maintaining the Whittier Farm and Birthplace, where the launch was held. It was my pleasure to again appear alongside the talented Judi Ann Calhoun in the Table of Contents. We stayed with our famous friends, The Sisters Dent, ate well all weekend, and wrote together for much of those four days in the Bay State.

And soon, I depart for my fifth stay at When Words Count, a luxury retreat center for writers in Vermont. This time around, I'm staying in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Suite, the center's finest room. There, I plan to write on several projects, including the editing for submission of the screenplay I powered through during my winter writing sessions in bed. When not writing, reading, or dining on cuisine by the center's celebrated chef, I'm going in the pool -- and walking the vast grounds. Here's to an even better second half of 2017!

Monday, April 10, 2017


In early September of 2014, I joined many of my wonderful writers' group's members for a long weekend retreat at the Waterfall House. During that time, my pen moved nonstop, and I traveled unthinkable distances through the magic of the fresh page. One of those destinations was deep space, via a story I committed to writing during the retreat called "The Rats in the Bulkheads". That summer, I'd devoured an old beat-up paperback of Lovecraft's stories, and I got the bug to write a version of his "The Rats in the Walls", which had always terrified me as a young reader (and still does as an adult past his fiftieth year), only my version would be set in the dark wasteland of the unexplored galaxy. Early on the Saturday morning of the weekend, I picked a fresh notepad, put pen to page, and started free-writing a story about survivors of a generational exodus ship far from their new home who discover a threat to their existence, creeping closer from a region of the ship long ago sealed off during the catastrophe that diverted them off course.

I wrote the story through morning, paused for lunch, and completed it after preparing our big prime rib for dinner and setting it on a slow simmer. By the time the meal was served, I'd completed the longhand draft -- and was looking over my shoulders, unnerved by what I'd written. The perfect market presented itself in Shattered Space by the fine folks at Tacitus Publishing. It has been my pleasure to appear in Tacitus' two previous anthology releases, and I was thrilled to have "The Rats in the Bulkheads" find such a great home among so many unforgettable tales of outer space terror.

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

Daniel Rosen on "Little Deaths": "‘Little Deaths’ is part of a series of stories taking place on driftcolonies (generation ships). Anabaptist', about personal religious faith came out in February 2016, from Apex. In April 2017, ‘The Ship That Forgot Itself’ will be coming out in IGMS. I've always been fascinated by the idea of slow space travel, and the way that cultures change in isolation. ‘Little Deaths’ in particular is an exploration on how taboos related to death might change if death was no longer a permanent obstacle. Anyway, I figured murder would probably become a lot more common, and besides that, how do we form relationships if no one ever dies? Are people really interested in spending more than one lifetime with another person? Americans don't seem interested in that, statistically speaking. Would monogamy be effective if we lived forever? Perhaps. Perhaps not."

Colin Hinckley on "Red Shift": "The idea for ‘Red Shift’ came to me in the form of a night terror. A night terror is different from a nightmare in that while you’re in the midst of a night terror, you can feel yourself in bed and see whatever invading presence is visiting as if it were in the room with you. This one was slightly different in that it wasn’t exactly terrifying. I became aware that I was in bed, swimming out of a deep sleep, and saw a red square floating in the middle of my room. I could sense its sentience, but no malice or ill will. It was just a floating, red square, watching me as I slept. Then it disappeared. This image of a sentient floating shape followed me around for a few weeks before I put it to paper. The scale, as with most things I write, turned out to be much bigger than I anticipated. And I watched with alarm as what started as a red square turned into a giant red space octagon. The piece came out more or less intact over the course of a feverish two-hour writing session and much bleaker than I would have guessed."

David F. Gray on "The Stars Denied": "In 1971, while mucking my way through eighth grade, I ran across a trade paperback entitled The Shadow Over Innsmouth and Other Stories Of Horror, by H.P. Lovecraft.  It was tucked away on a dusty shelf in the back of the school library. I took it home, expecting a collection of run-of-the-mill ghost stories. What I got was an introduction into what is commonly known as The Cthulhu Mythos. My mind was not blown.  It was nuked.  While I can name several authors who have influenced me over the decades, it was Mr. Lovecraft who stoked that initial desire to write. Flash forward to 2015 and the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.  Its stunning pictures, coupled with Lovecraft's story ‘The Whisperer in the Darkness’, collided in my brain and brought about ‘The Stars Denied’.  While not a part of the Cthulhu Mythos, nor in any way a sequel to “The Whisperer in the Darkness’, it's DNA is nevertheless steeped in Lovecraft's hellish visions and the nightmares he gave that middle school kid all those years ago."

(interior illo for "The Rats in the Bulkheads)
James Austin on "Laundry" and "Heat Lightning": "‘Laundry’ was an enjoyable story to write.  The idea started simple enough, someone doing a mundane task in a futuristic setting.  As you can imagine, it came to me while sitting in a laundromat, wait for it… doing laundry.  Please hold in the surprise gasps.  There have been plenty of stories that include aliens, starships, and advanced technology without ever addressing those daily and weekly chores we all dread.  This offered my chance to explore my love of taking a look at the normal elements of life in a setting not typically observed. ‘Heat Lightning’ emerged from a seed planted long ago, and took a few years to develop into something I found edible.  Living in the Tampa Bay Area, you are exposed to plenty of lightning.  But what I always found so curious was ‘heat lightning’.  It would dance around in the sky, seeming to come from nothing, and no rain following the extraordinary display.  You have to understand, Florida storms can be legendary at times.  Running from your front door to your car would leave you drenched, maybe even a little scarred from the traumatic event.  But with heat lightning, what really happens in those peculiar clouds? For this story, I felt that there had to be a number of layers incorporated to tell one particular possibility, while trying to balance simplicity with complex tech jargon.  Also, keeping in mind the first rule of writing Science Fiction, never forget the human condition.  With so many moving parts, writing it was a difficult process and required a number of run-throughs before getting close to completion. The final result was not even close to where I expected it to end and I was enlightened from the experience."

T. S. Kummelman on "The Space of Gods": "When James first told me about the theme of the book, I figured this one would be easy.  Horror and science fiction -- my two favorite genres!  I immediately thought of Lovecraft; so much of his horror has a Science Fiction element to it, the leap to horror in space (opposed to his usual theme of horror from space) was automatic.  The challenge was keeping to the Lovecraftian elements: madness, terrifying oppressiveness, the need for the voice of the story to not necessarily meet a happy end…working these elements in was the challenge.  My original draft was too descriptive -- another Lovecraftian touch which, in this case, did not work so well.  Taking a hint from certain Hollywood storytellers, I opted to keep the horror itself ‘off screen’, as it were.  I gave minimal description of the ‘monster’ itself, which allowed me to keep some of the mystery.  I managed to keep to my original idea, which was basically ‘tentacles in space’ -- most of my stories never turn out the way I originally intended, but ‘Gods’ was (pardon the pun) a beast unto itself."

Brett Parker on "Space Cookies": "I got the idea for this story on a flight into Bangor, Maine.  The plane had descended through a cloud bank, which seemed pretty frigging big to me.  I mean, we entered the dang thing as soon as we started our descent, and it felt like we were flying into Carpenter’s The Fog or King’s ‘The Mist’.  Sure enough, we come out of the clouds and the runway looks to be about a hundred feet below us.  Made me wonder: ‘what business did this cloud have being that close to the damned ground?!’.  So I put a cloud where there shouldn’t be one -- in space.  The rest was balls-to-the-wall sarcasm; if there could be a cloud in space, why not a bunch of smart-asses, too?  The bitch of this story was the ending -- re-wrote it five times before it finally felt right.  That final ending was nothing like the other four, as all the others had a previously unseen character “returning” to the ship.  I had the right idea, just the wrong freaking character… "

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Meet the Talented and Luminous Kyle Rader

Six years ago on one of those scorching August dog day Wednesday nights I remember so fondly, I had the pleasure of meeting a young writer eager to learn the business side of the literary life. I was immediately impressed by both his chops and his passion for the words -- he shared a chapter of his first novel, and was receptive of the feedback provided by the members who make up the divine experience that is the Nashua Writers' Group. As the weeks progressed, I grew more fond of Kyle Rader -- the writer with, I often say, the most action-y/adventure-y byline ever. My new friend listened, worked to improve, shrugged off criticism, and put down the pages. Soon after joining the group, he began to submit his short fiction. Not long after that, Kyle earned the first of numerous acceptance letters.

Before our move north, Kyle started work on a Western/Horror hybrid novel about a triggerman trapped in a dangerous town in a blizzard who finds himself stalked by five of his mortal enemies, and with only four bullets to defend himself. It was my pleasure to hear early chapters during Wednesday writers' group meetings, the occasional Sunday party, or at the Friday night literary salons held at our former apartment with friends and food. Kyle finished Four Bullets after our move (while also penning new novels, novellas, and short stories at an admirable pace), and the novel found a home at Sinister Grin Press. It was my pleasure to sit down and talk with Kyle about Drake Travis, the shadowy lead in Four Bullets, his process, and what he's got in store for the future.

I love your novel. Bold, unapologetic, beautifully written. What’s the genesis behind your original idea for Four Bullets?

Thank you very much! Four Bullets is a source of pride and pain for me. Pride, because, it is my debut novel, obviously. Pain, because it took me so damn long to complete! The seed of the idea that became Four Bullets actually started as a dream, as clichéd as that sounds, it is true. The dream, which I scribbled down on some piece of paper I’d been using to capture story prompts and ideas (I now use my Idea Notebook), was quite removed from the end product of the story. In the dream, it took place in a desert, kind of like any Western town you’ve seen in the countless movies/TV shows that have come before. And, in the dream, the story played out as one long action sequence, so, all I knew was that the protagonist was released from a jail cell, given a gun with four bullets and told to head out into the town square and defeat five people. I thought the idea was cool enough that I decided I would turn that into a short story. This was fairly early on in what I am considering my ‘professional’ writing career, meaning, I was writing with the expressed goal of being published, so I was fairly green. When I sat to write the story, I fully intended to make it as close to that dream as I possibly could. However, when I sat down to outline -- I used to outline ALL my works, not just novels -- I rolled my eyes at how clichéd it was. A Western in the desert? Really original. The hero saving the day? Played out. So, I made the decision to change the setting from the summer and the desert to the dead of winter in the middle of a blizzard. It was that simple really. Coming to create Drake Travis, the Devil’s Claw, Captain Marsden and the rest of the cast, was trickier. I realized that making the protagonist the hero of the story was boring to me. All I could think of was Dudley Do-Right and I nearly abandoned the story altogether. I then remembered, of all things, reading a story arc in Action Comics, where the protagonist was Lex Luthor, and not Superman. He was still the evil guy you’d expect, yet, he was written in such a way where he got to do all the villainous things, and still be the one you were rooting for! I took that principle and decided to apply it to Four Bullets, and, thus, Drake Travis came to be. So, kiddies, if you ever wanted to know how to write a villain as your protagonist, there is your answer. Surround him or her with people that SEEM much worse by comparison. They may NOT be worse, but your audience just needs to think they are, otherwise, they won’t stay onboard with you as you make your character do terrible things. Anyways, it quickly became apparent that a short story wouldn’t be able to cover everything I wanted to say, so Four Bullets became a novella, and was COMPLETED as one, actually, until I went over it again and realized that I STILL had more to say, and had to add more in. The entire process of writing took longer than I feel it should’ve, but it taught me a lot of about writing longer pieces and outlining and editing that I use to this day.

In Drake Travis, you’ve created a hell of a protagonist. Not necessarily a hero. A flawed man with blood on his hands. And you clearly had a great deal of fun writing for him. When Hollywood casts Drake, who do you want in the role?

Ah, the question every writer asks him/herself about their stories! It’s certainly a fun one to ponder, that is for sure. Physically speaking, Drake Travis is rather unassuming. I essentially modeled his physique after my own, in that, he’s your average height and fairly lean. Not exactly the kind of person you think of when it comes to gunfights and action, which was my point. There is an actor, of whom, I actually never considered would make a good Drake until fairly recently and now that he’s in my head, I can see Drake as being anyone but. That guy is named Ben Foster. You’ve most likely seen him in many films, but the one that really, really stands out, at least for me, is 30 Days of Night, based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. The movie itself, is all right; good, but doesn’t quite reach the heights that the concept allows for. Ben Foster is only in two or three scenes and, in those scenes, completely steals the entire movie. He makes a lot of interesting choices in his acting and I feel he’s got the look, but the depth of his craft to ‘get’ who Drake really is. On paper, Drake Travis is just a psychopathic killer. The ultimate bad guy. In reality, he’s so much more. I don’t consider him to be evil, because I don’t consider him to truly be human. Earlier drafts of Four Bullets had Drake with a lot more humorous things to say, but I cut a bulk of them because I wanted to really strip him down and see how it played, and, I think it played out quite well.

You know I’m a fan of your work. Where can readers read your short fiction?

The easiest place to track down my stuff is to go to my website: I’ve got a section for all my published works there, and, I’ve even got a couple of freebies I created exclusively for the site up as well! So, hit me up over there and leave me some love.

Would you share with readers the story of your Idea Notebook? I’m always so impressed to see you flipping through that monstrosity!

Before I got serious about writing, if I had an idea, I’d scrawl it down (FYI: I have the WORST penmanship. It’s embarrassing!) on any random piece of paper I could find. In fact, I wrote down an idea for a short story two years ago on the back of a receipt from a brewery and I still have it! (story should be coming out soon, too!). As one can imagine, this becomes problematic from an organizational standpoint. While some people enjoy chaos, and even thrive in it, it simply wasn’t cutting it for me. So, I went out and bought a three-subject notebook and began to transfer some of the more prominent ideas into it; I also shoved some of the random scraps inside of the pages as well. I started using this notebook to not only capture new ideas for stories, but to outline them as well. In fact, the first outline of Four Bullets currently exists inside Idea Notebook Number One, I’ve a second one that I’ve been using for the capture of new ideas, a beautiful, one-of-a-kind one made for me by the uber-awesome Judi Calhoun (NAME DROP!!) I’ve toyed with exactly HOW I log things into the notebook over the years, but my main entry is really just to write down a sentence or two that describes the idea I’ve had. Most times, I am lucky enough to even come up with the title of the story along with the idea, so that will go in as well. For example, that story I mentioned that I wrote on the receipt? I came up with the title at the same time as the idea because it was taken directly from something my wife said at the time I wrote it. She was speaking about how, when she was a child, they’d buy honey from this old man who lived at the top of this windy hill down in South Carolina. ‘Let’s go see the honey-man!’, is what she said, and that is what the story is named. FYI, if you’re looking for a quaint story with a happy ending, you won’t find it in that one.

You often juggle numerous novel projects. What are you presently working on, and what are your writing plans for 2017?

Writing hasn’t been coming as easy to your old pal as of late. Been a bit distracted by life, the day job, and all that comes along with it. Lately, it kind of feels like pulling teeth when I sit down to get some of my REAL work in, yet, I press on. Even if its only two hundred words in a couple hours of work, that is still two hundred words down in my story that weren’t there before! I’m planning on an ambitious 2017. I’m currently at work on four novels, and am putting the finishing touches on a fifth, which my goal is to begin submitting for consideration early next year. I have this desire in me to be able to stop the daily grind of corporate work and write for a living, and, because of that, I’m taking on so, so much more than I used to, writing-wise. It’s a double-edged sword, of course, because that very ambition pushes down on me too hard, as it is lately, I think, and then I become far too hard on myself and get in a mind-set where I am counter-productive and am not getting ANYTHING done! I’ve also a novella that I am shopping around, which I hope to land a home for shortly! Fans of Four Bullets may not recognize these stories, as they range from transgressive comedy all the way to crime fiction, but, the same bold, unapologetic style that I have is still present, of that I can guarantee! I’m very punk rock/heavy metal when it comes to my writing, at least, in attitude, anyway.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


This past Christmas was, perhaps, the best of my life. I spent almost the entire month of December hospitalized, struggling to recover from surgery. On December 22, the morning after the shortest day of the year, I pulled up to our home, lovely Xanadu, after twenty-four days away, and stepping into the house was like opening the biggest, most wonderful gift ever. Slowly and unsteadily, I moved from room to room, balanced on a walker (less than two weeks later, I abandoned that extra set of legs completely). During my hospital stay, I thought nonstop of spouse, cats, and Muse (who, I imagined, spent every second with me during my time away from home). Christmas was only three days later. We celebrated it with an amazing dinner, the first movie I'd seen in a month (we watch movies every Saturday night when I'm not traveling), savored the new propane 'wood stove' and its luxurious heat (it had been installed mere days before my hospitalization), and the gift of our small family's reuniting beneath the protective roof of our home. On Christmas morning, I wrote a story -- a long tradition I've maintained since I was fifteen. Yes, the best Christmas ever!

Waiting for me upon my return and adding to the joyousness were my beautiful contributor copies of This Wish Tonight, a holiday-themed anthology by the fine folks at Mischief Corner Books. Wish contains my novelette-length story of M/M love set during one troubled Christmas, in which a glass artist and a fireman meet, fall deeply in love, and ultimately solve a series of hate crimes in their fair New England town. The story came to me back in the summer of 2000, when I saw a neat magazine piece about a glass artist on TV's New Hampshire Chronicle (which would, years later in 2013, run a segment on my writing career.). At the end of last July, during a NaNoWriMo spell in which my pen was on fire, I dashed off the first draft of "Fear of Fire", a story I'd wanted to write for so long. It was accepted and appears with two other holiday-themed tales within the covers of an exceptional book. My fabulously talented co-authors shared the back-stories behind their stories in This Wish Tonight.

Wendy Rathbone on "Eve of the Great Frost": "My stories and novels often start with one image in my mind and go from there. Many of my stories come from phrases in my own poems. For this tale I was inspired by a December poem I wrote with images of a gothic castle made of ice, black carriages delivering party-goers and cloaked kings, and snow all around like rippled white satin. This was a seat-of-my-pants tale, meaning I had no outline, just an idea of a young man who has trained hard to become the perfect erotic holiday gift fit for a king. Because I love science fiction settings, I created a slice of alien culture with a ritual of giving people as holiday gifts to royalty. I set the story in the far distant future where the galaxy is human-colonized, and where starships and faster than light travel are taken for granted. Toss in the gothic images from my poem, mix them up with future technology, a grand party, and a male/male romance and everything started to come together. Many of my novels and poems are set in this future of mine which I call my Starshiptopia universe. It is not all that important to know that, though, when reading this story. It simply stands alone as a tale of a man who has high hopes and a single wish to become the king’s chosen on a perfect night of winter beauty and celebration…and then everything goes wrong. In spite of all that, he perseveres and ends up with a night to remember. A wish fulfilled."

J. Scott Coatsworth on "Wonderland": "I'd wanted to do a holiday story for this anthology since I saw the original call. But I didn't have time. Then the deadline was delayed a couple weeks, and suddenly I had a little space in my writing schedule. I tried (I really did) to make this a standard contemporary story, but it turns out I am just constitutionally incapable of writing a regular romance. So my story morphed into a post zombie apocalypse, midlife crisis, OCD romance. The OCD part necessitated a bit of research, so I ran the story by a few friends with OCD experience -- one therapist and two folks who have dealt with it in their own lives. I did learn an awful lot about it, too, including the fact that OCD can be brought on by a strep infection that goes to the patient's brain, a fact I used in the story. It has a cool name -- PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus). And of course, i set it in rural Montana, a place I've never been to. So I got to look for a little town that would suit my needs, and to research it down to the last gas station, drug store and (now empty) grocery store. I really enjoyed writing a character with OCD -- it was a stretch for me as a writer. And I also enjoyed writing a love story for characters in their forties. Love shouldn't be limited to twinks."

Sunday, February 19, 2017


For fifteen years, I wrote sports/action & adventure/celebrity features for the late, great magazine, Heartland USA. During that time, I covered such diverse topics as the X-Games, building demolition, the Softball World Series, and the Cape Cod Baseball League. I conducted one story from the dugout at Fenway Park, did a ride-along with the U.S. Coast Guard (a float-along?), and interviewed such notables as Keith Olbermann, Guy Fieri (for a special football tailgate grilling story), Dirty Jobs star Mike Rowe, PGA golfer Boo Weekley, and the bad boy of bowling, Pete Weber. I also had the joy of appearing in the second-largest men's general interest magazine after Playboy -- Heartland USA boasted a bi-monthly circulation of 3.5 million issues.

During one of those late nights writing to deadline for the magazine, I fell asleep at my desk with ESPN playing in the background (in 1999, I was invited as part of a select group of reporters to the sports giant's 20th Anniversary party, held at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut). I jolted awake and immediately reached for pen and a blank note card, upon which I recorded an unforgettable dream about a former Major League pitcher, his career derailed by injury, who is brought aboard at a big sports network to help its media director determine whether a series of seemingly natural deaths are really the work of a murderer. This past June, camped on my sun porch, I long last penned 'Murder at Channel Ten', and fired off the edited draft to Murder Ink 2, edited by Dan Szczesny (my tale of small town crime, "Exhuming Secrets on a Hot August Day', appeared in the first Murder Ink). Submitting a story set in a sports network newsroom was something of a risk -- though 'Murder at Channel Ten' technically adhered to all of the guidelines. The risk paid off, and my story now appears in an impressive Table of Contents.

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

Karen Dent and Roxanne Dent on "The Werewolf Murders": "Many of the same characters Karen and Roxanne Dent created in, ‘The Death of Honeysuckle Rose,’ Volume 1, Murder Ink, insisted they be included in Volume II and ‘The Werewolf Murders’ was born. The story takes place three years later, April 1948. The war is over and big changes have occurred in Portsmouth, NH. Peace and prosperity are on the rise, along with a drug trade snaking its way up north. Ruby, promoted to senior crime reporter, is checking out a lead down at the docks, when a particularly savage murder occurs. The howl of a wolf, vicious lacerations, and an eyewitness who swears they saw a werewolf, has all the earmarks of a sensational exclusive. But Ruby doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and follows the twisted trail of clues straight into the jaws of a brutal murderer."

Dan Rothman on "The Devil's Tail": "The first newspaper in the Americas was printed in Boston in 1689. Exactly one issue of ‘Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick’ was published before it was shut down by the government. (The Governor and Council complained of ‘sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports’; i.e., fake news.)

I read all four pages of ‘Publick Occurrences’, curious to see what was of interest to the 17th-century reader. I was not too surprised to find a story which began: ‘A very Tragical Accident happened at Water-Town’ -- a story which ended with an Old Man swinging from a rope in his own cow-house!

Tales of untimely death have sold newspapers for hundreds of years. One such untimely death was that of John McLaughlen, who was found dead in the well of his New Hampshire tavern in 1787. My story ‘The Devil's Tail’ imagines how an early newspaper might handle John’s tragical accident. Warning: the tavern-keeper may not be the only character who shuffles off this mortal coil!"

O. Lucio d'Arc on "Obituary Mambo": "My first story in Murder Ink Vol. 1 was ‘One Way Dead End’ and many of the characters are the same in my second story, ‘Obituary Mambo’ -- the title of a Tom Waits song, by the way -- which is in Murder Ink, Vol. 2. A key line in the story is, ‘Some things are worse than reading your own obituary.’ The main character, the reporter Randy Dixon, is the same but the real star of this story -- which includes murder by cremation -- is a cadaver dog, Boner. A lot of the action takes place on Cape Cod. This story also includes an ‘erotic’ sex scene between the reporter and the female publisher. As far as writing goes, I write when I feel like it, morning, noon or night, with no particular schedule. Every time I work on a story in progress, I start reading it from the beginning, changing phrases or actions or characters as I go, until I get to where I left off the last time and then I continue from there. That eliminates a lot of the bumps in the narrative. For my second story, for the first time I thought a little bit ahead and doped out in my mind where I wanted the story to go. For my third one, ‘Beta Theta Pie Man,’ written but unpublished, I actually made a list of the characters so I could keep track of them. Some of the fiction in my stories is based on real life, because it’s always better when you write what you know. In ‘Obituary Mambo’ I’m actually two people, the reporter and the old guy helping out his son at his breakfast restaurant. The third book in the Randy Dixon trilogy, ‘Beta Theta Pie Man,’ also has a lot of noir and pulp fiction elements: atrocious murders of innocent young people, a women’s rugby team that’s into human sacrifice, a little mutilation, a secret symbol taken from a Kurt Vonnegut book. I am currently working on another work, ‘Kindergarten,’ which is a first-person account of a woman who stumbles into a series of gruesome murders."

Mark Arsenault on 'Hashtag Splat': "I started working on my story idea for ‘Hashtag Splat’ back in the 1990s, when I was working in Lowell, Mass. Driving around the city, you’re always crossing one of the bridges over the Merrimack River. One time I started daydreaming about a scenario in which a man climbs to the top of one of those bridges and demands to talk to a reporter. For seriously the next 20 years or so, I would be reminded of this idea every time I drove over a bridge -- any bridge, anywhere. And I’d slip back into that daydream. What makes this a good idea for a story is that the situation immediately brings up a lot of whys. Why would he climb up there? Why would he want to talk to a reporter? These are the kind of questions that drive a narrative forward, and pull readers along. I dropped my characters from Murder Ink 1 into this situation and let them figure out the whys. Not that I want to make it sound easy. It wasn’t. This story was written by the trial-and-error method, and that’s a grind. Too bad I didn't daydream an ending 20 years ago."

Judith Janoo on "Bitter Pills": "I grew up watching fishing boats come in and out of our small Maine harbor. When the opportunity arose to write a mystery story for possible publication in Murder Ink 2, my mind was already climbing over the rocks to get to the sea. ‘Bitter Pills’ scratches the surface of quirky, gutsy, eccentric characters that inhabit this coastline. It addresses the fact that fishermen, when the fishing grounds are depleted, have no one to bail them out. The ocean belongs to no one, and there’s international competition, too, for its dwindling resources. Ted Holmes, aspiring to be the Michael Moore of the Maine Coast, bought the local weekly newspaper. The news thus far in this fishing town consisting of who launched the longest mid-water trawler, caught the most herring, or took in the most stray beagles. But now, out of the blue, Ted finds himself investigating a disappearance, and uncovering the story behind a murder. This was so much fun to write. There’s something about a dead body that gets the ink flowing."

Stephen R. Wilk on "Unexpected": "There are two roots for my mystery ‘Unexpected’. The setting in a small New England newspaper office derives from my own experiences in small papers and magazines, all of which were pretty grungy and kind of cheap. It was light years removed from the classy, polished world of publishing portrayed in the TV series Name of the Game, with their pristine offices in a mid-town Manhattan high-rise. In particular, I was inspired by a university magazine my mother worked for, which ran out of two old Army Barracks buildings at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, with creaking wooden floors, temperamental heating, and the presence of their mascot, Kelty the Retarded Dog. I thought that title a little un-PC, so I changed it and made him a cat. The other root was a supposedly true story I heard from someone at a research lab I worked at. I’ve since learned that a similar story has been told about other research labs, so this might simply be a science-tinged urban legend. I had actually written it up, but couldn’t figure out where to use it until the call for submissions for Murder Ink 2 came along."

Amy Ray on "Kittery Killer's Club": "This story revisits the characters from ‘A Nose For News’ which was featured in the original Murder Ink anthology. Kay Leavitt works for a small weekly -- much like the newspaper I worked for ten years ago as a reporter covering the ‘exciting’ school board and town meeting beat. Kay prefers mundane news, but murder seems to follow her, as it did the evening of her writers’ group meeting. For many years, I’ve been privileged to be in a group of talented writers who critique my work, including this short story (and my upcoming mystery/thriller Color of Betrayal, due out next year from Barking Rain Press.) Kay’s group, which includes her boss Wayne and his faithful pug companion Poe, are awaiting the arrival of their featured speaker when they learn he has been found dead. Murdered. In a most heinous way. With no shortage of suspects, Kay -- and invariably, Poe -- set out to solve the mystery of who killed their esteemed speaker. The motivating circumstances that precipitated the killing in the story actually happened, but luckily it was not resolved with murder. That end is better left on the pages of a fictional short story."

Robin G. Baskerville on "Obit Desk": "When I was a child I used to watch hard-boiled detective movies in the afternoon with my mother. These black and white beauties were full of hard-boiled dames and equally jaded dicks. When I sat down to write something, anything, for Murder Ink, the phrase ‘ . . . trading on the entrée that my job affords me, not carte blanche, but carte noir, assured access via back entries and alleys, the forgotten ways in that rats, mice and reporters use,’ came to me, and I built my story ‘Obit Desk’ around that. Work with enough people and there’s always that one who is too tightly wound. Work the obit desk and/or letters to the editor beat and you will meet a lot of colorful characters, some whose reality is not shared by the majority of us, or – perhaps -- by any of us. I took these three elements, added some social commentary and wound up with ‘Obit Desk’, a tight little package of a story written in the style of an aspiring (expiring?) ace reporter."

Jeff Deck on "Making the Transition": "Though I’ve held several editing jobs, my experience in actual journalism was brief. I happened into a copy-editing and page layout job at Seacoast Media Group in Portsmouth, N.H., a few years ago, mostly because I needed income but also out of some lingering nostalgia for my college paper days. The work was fast-paced and demanding, the hours were not great (my fiancée was often asleep when I came home; 11 p.m. would be an ‘early’ night), and the pay frankly sucked. But nobody was there to get rich. These were people with a deep commitment to facts and the truth. My comrades on the copy desk were the most delightful group of snarky English-major nerds you could ever meet. Unfortunately, the job didn’t always love them back. As the newspaper group was shuffled from one behemoth corporate owner to the next, freezes on raises and ever-multiplying responsibilities per staffer made it hard to be loyal. Every time a reporter bailed for a saner job with a more livable wage, their replacement got younger and greener. I lucked out with a job offer out of the blue that basically doubled my income. The rest of the copy desk hung in there until several months later, when the latest corporate giant to own SMG decided to consolidate the copy desks at all of its ‘assets’ around the U.S. into one centralized editing and layout center in Austin. Sure, you could keep your job; you just had to move halfway across the country. I was working on a supernatural mystery / urban fantasy series, The Shadow Over Portsmouth, when I saw the call for submissions for Murder Ink Vol. 2. I realized that a side character in my series, a copy editor for the Portsmouth Porthole, would be going through the same type of difficulties as my old colleagues at SMG -- and that corporate downsizing would be only the beginning of her nightmare . . ."

Patrick Sullivan on "The Confession of Mike Reardon": "My editor at The Lakeville Journal, Cynthia Hochswender, met Dan Szczesny at the 2016 New England Newspaper and Press Association conference and informed him I would submit an entry for the second volume of Murder Ink. She promised ‘murder, fly-fishing and nekkidity.’ I have avoided the NENPA event the last few years, mostly because I made a joke about it being ‘the world’s longest funeral’ and nobody laughed. Informed I had months to write something, I naturally put it off until a couple days before the deadline. I made a couple of false starts. They were horrible. I put it out of my mind. Then I had a dream. I woke up and fumbled around for a piece of paper, scrawled a couple lines, and went back to bed. Come morning, there it was, on a Post-It note: ‘Always wanted to be a detective. So when found body hoped for best.’ So my detective, a reporter with a sort of Walter Mitty thing going on with fictional gumshoes, was born. I didn’t fulfill Ye Editor’s promise exactly, but I did provide a corpse, some angling, and partial nekkidity. And I did it in one four-hour sitting."

Donna Catanzaro on the creation of Murder Ink 2's cover: "Like most of my work, creating the cover for Murder Ink 2 is was like writing a story.  I searched old pulp magazine covers for sleazy characters and imagined a who-done-it, complete with noir characters that could be either heroes or villains. Due to the number of bullet holes (they were fun to make!) it’s clear a murder has happened here. The female reporter has crossed the police line. Is she the perpetrator back to scrub her prints, or a faithful reporter back to do her job? Next to her is a dagger, ready for her to defend or attack. But notice that there are two cigarettes in the ash tray. Is there another person in the room with her, sitting to the left out of view? Is the man in the doorway, the villain, her sidekick, or a jealous lover? I leave the rest of the story to your imagination."