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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Suspense/Horror Writer Billie Sue Mosiman Talks about the Craft of Fiction

We were all greatly saddened to hear that Billie Sue Mosiman has passed. She was always supportive of so many of us in the writing community, and her work was enjoyed by readers around the world. Billie was an incredible woman, a wonderful friend, a powerful creative force, and a champion for female horror writers everywhere. This interview was originally published in the November/December 2018 issue of Suspense Magazine, shortly after her death. It's unfortunate that she never had the chance to read it in print.

 

Billie's Night Cruise was nominated for the Edgar Award and her novel Widow was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Novel. She was a prolific writer—although largely suspense/thriller novelist, she often wrote horror short stories. Billie had also been a columnist, reviewer, and writing instructor. I'm glad I had the opportunity to interview her before she passed … and hope you find the following inspiring.

 

You've been writing professional since the early '80s—more than 60 books and probably more short stories than I can count. What persuaded you to write in the first place?

 

I was always a reader and went through a lot of books as a youngster. Then one day a man in a suit came to my grandmother's house. He looked so grand I sat around listening in the living room while they spoke. I discovered he was a Dean of a University and I knew you had to be educated to do that. I was smitten by an intellectual. I thought, yes, that is what I want to be. Just like this man.

 

My family had never gone to college, but, at thirteen, I knew I would. And it would be grand. Of course, I wanted to go to learn how to be a better writer. I had faith and determination. I went to my little blue diary and wrote in it: When I grow up, I want to be a writer.

 

What authors inspired or influenced your style?

 

I loved Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jim Thompson, Bradbury, and a raft of others. It was a few years of reading before I came upon genre books and loved them too, reading each author's entire works.

 

Your work often bridges the gap between suspense and horror. A prime example, I think, is your novel Night Cruising, an Edgar Award Nominee. How much of this wedding of horror and suspense is intentional, and how much is simply "I write what I enjoy reading"?

 

The books are organic in the way they turn out. My work was always graphic and I didn't think I owed anyone anything. I was free to write the novels as they came to me. So sometimes they were called horror, but were unlike straight horror.

 

Your novel Widow was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. The story involves a female serial killer and a male copycat murderer, and apparently you did a lot of research for the book. You even interviewed exotic dancers. Likewise, your novel Wireman was based on true crimes in the Houston area back in the late '70s. How much research is required for your fiction? How do you go about it?

 

Sometimes it takes a lot of research. If I don't know something I won't write about it. I didn't know how detectives worked so I asked questions of another writer's chief of detectives' husband to build my own in Wireman. Some books are purely imaginary, set in places I've lived or traveled to. But if I don't know something I make sure to research it.

 

You've also been an editor, most notably of the anthology Frightmare—Women Write Horror, which also garnered a nomination for a Bram Stoker Award. You've always been a champion for female writers, especially those in the horror and suspense genres. What led you to start this particular project?

 

I saw so many anthologies on the market in horror and it always appeared to have a predominance of male writers. I have nothing against them as some are the best in the world. But where were the female writers? I knew for certain there were great women writers being ignored. I decided I'd do something for them. I'd pull together an anthology that gave them a voice. I think I was angry. I never backed down from a fight and I thought it was past time for a fight. The women came through and I was so proud. I did not add my own work. It was for them.

 

As an editor, what do you look for in a story? What gets you to "yes"?

 

If it excites me and if it catches me in the first three paragraphs. I don't like info dumps or overly wrought work or stories with no point. I'm kind of exacting about those things.

 

Your novel Moon Lake involves a lake monster, but the focus is on the teenage lead characters. Is this the closest you've come to a YA novel? If so, was this meant to attract a younger audience?

 

It was meant as an adult read, but I see how it would appeal to a teen. I'm part kid myself so I'm not surprised I end up with novels meant for a younger reader.

 

You've also written a memoir of sorts, Alabama Girl: Memoir of a Writer—Part 1. What motivated you to write your own story? Is there or will there be a "Part 2"?

 

My mother was such a towering personality in my upbringing and a disruption to the family. I had her and my dad living in my large home when they aged, but each day was like I was twelve again and my mother was the queen in my life. I don't know if I have the heart to write the second part of that book. My son, our only child at the time, died in a house fire. Other terrible things all living creatures confront happened and I just didn't think I could face writing about it. So it may never happen.

 

Do you think about marketing at all when you're in the "creative mode"?

 

Nope. I never had to do that and I can't start now. I just write stories.

 

From your perspective, how has publishing changed over the years? Where do you think it's headed?

 

Publishing has lost its way. The Amazon digital phenomenon started it. Anyone who wanted to write a book did. Those who hadn't read enough. Those who hungered for fame before they knew the rules of grammar. And so forth. We all know what happened. People got used to free digital copies. Why should they pay? Publishers, in some instances, did a rights' grab from authors then overpriced the market. The film and TV scripts have overtaken the reading of books. I weep for the whole scene and hope one day things return to normal. Normal being more than three major publishers, higher advances, more promotion, sharing digital rights with authors, and so forth.

 

We are not tradesmen. We don't make art except with words. From our minds to yours we share worlds. It's an honorary endeavor and as serious as can be. That's what I learned from the great authors who came before me. The world needs stories and novels. People need them. They may not know it, but I do. Since the caveman wrote on cave walls, we should have known now important a life of letters can be.

 

Looking back, what would you have done differently? In short, what advice would you offer a young writer following in your footsteps?

I doubt I'd done anything differently except maybe slowed down publishers who pushed me for the next book. My advice to young writers is to be true to yourself. If you like mystery writing and someone pushes horror onto you, balk, back-peddle, do anything you can to stick with what you love. Read tons of books, of all kinds. Write like a mad person. Trust your gut. And never, never give away your Life of Copyright. If someone wants to give you a million bucks for it to one of your books, trust you can get $1.2 million from some other publisher who won't steal your copyright. Besides being productive, you must be smart.

 

And, last question, what do you enjoy most about writing?

 

Being lost in the story and nothing else exists. Thinking how others feel when they read my words. 

 

 

We miss you, Billie.

 

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Jeff Strand: The Marriage of Humor and Horror

If you're looking for a unique (if not twisted) blend of humor and horror, Jeff Strand is the man. Nominated four times for the coveted Bram Stoker Award, Jeff has more than 40 books under his belt, and apparently has many more yet to spring from his tilted brain. Just the titles of some of his books tell you much about the man—Dead Clown Barbecue, Blister, A Bad Day for Voodoo, Everything Has Teeth, The Sinister Mr. Corpse, and The Severed Nose, just to name a few. He has been the Master of Ceremonies of the Bram Stoker Awards banquet for years, and is a familiar face in horror circles.

 

Jeff became a full-time writer in 2015, and would probably write even more if he wasn't so addicted to videogames and Spider-Man comics. But he did find time to talk with me about … well, stuff.

 

 

You're trapped in a cave with Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, and Chucky. Is it party time or dying time?

 

Dying time. I could fend off Jason, Michael, Freddy, and Pinhead, but Chucky pushes it over the top. Avenge me.

 

I've always believed horror and humor are kissing cousins. You apparently share that opinion. Why do you think that lip-locking works so well?

 

A lot of perfectly innocent jokes involve really horrible things. (DOCTOR: "I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that you've got three days to live." PATIENT: "That's the good news? What's the bad news?" DOCTOR: "We've been trying to call you for the past two days.") Horror/comedy just takes that one step further.

 

Speaking of humor in horror, your Andrew Mayhem series is a hoot. The titles alone are ... um ... unique: Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary), Single White Psychopath Seeks Same, Casket for Sale (Only Used Once), Lost Homicidal Maniac (Answers to 'Shirley'). So, how much (if at all) of Andrew Mayhem is Jeff Strand?

 

Almost none. In fact, when I first created the character, the most important element to me was that he had two young children that he was responsible for when he was off doing dangerous things, and I don't have kids. The other key factor was that he was a guy in his thirties who didn't really know what he wanted to do with his life, which was never the case with me. I've always been laser-focused on the whole "I wanna be a writer!" thing. He's a fun character to write and I love the guy, but he's definitely not a stand-in for me.

 

Wile E. Coyote or Yosemite Sam?

 

Yosemite Sam having a temper tantrum is one of the funniest things animation has ever produced.

 

What, in your opinion, was your "break-out" novel?

 

Pressure. I was worried about it at the time because I'd established myself as the horror/comedy guy and now I was publishing a "serious" novel. I thought readers might shout "Stick to the jokes, Funny-Boy!" But it ended up being my most popular book by far, and got me my first Bram Stoker Award nomination and my first mass-market release. Dweller was my second "serious" novel, but some later books blurred the line to the point where I wasn't sure how to categorize them.

 

Do you work from an outline or just wing it? Read More 

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The Evolution of Flash Conwright

https://www.amazon.com/Plague-Shadows-Written-Remains-Anthology/dp/0998519626/

Smart Rhino Publications, in collaboration with the Written Remains Writers Guild, just published the anthology, A Plague of Shadows. The book includes diverse stories and poems about "haunts and the haunted," written by the WR guild members as well as guest writers. One of my stories, "Vindictive," is in the mix.

 

The chief character of the tale is Francis "Flash" Conwright, a hit man who also happens to be a serial killer. I introduced the character in a tale titled "Welcome to the Food Chain," which centered around the theme of steamed crabs. Yep, crabs. (And Conwright is allergic to shellfish.)

The story was published in several publications before landing in the Smart Rhino anthology, Uncommon Assassins. Conwright was first described in a bit of dialog at the beginning of the story:



"Flash, huh?" The fat man leveled his eyes at the slender man sitting across the table from him. "Why do they call you Flash? Like that comic book guy in the red tights?"

 

"Something like that. I don't like to waste time," Conwright said. "I was a high school track star. Got the nickname back then. That was in another life, a distant time."

 

 

I liked Conwright so much that I resurrected him in "Right Hand Man," which brought more of his somewhat sick humor to the forefront. He proved to be a more fully developed character in this story, and it was a hoot to write. The story appeared in the first Written Remains anthology published by Smart Rhino, Someone Wicked.

 

So, Conwright reappears yet again, this time in A Plague of Shadows. Here he faces a pesky, vindictive ghost that attempts (and succeeds to some degree) in ruining his business. I added more to this story involving Solomon "Solly" Ventura, who is Conwright's liaison for orchestrating contracts with their clients. Solly has contacts in organized crime, but particularly likes assigning Conwright with freelance work. He and Conwright have been friends for years, and I think their dialogue adds humor and a better glimpse at their relationship. At least, that's what I was striving for in the story.

 

Don't be surprised if Conwright shows up in any of my future work. I really like the guy! 

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A Plague of Shadows: A Written Remains Anthology--Now Available!

 

Smart Rhino Publications just released its latest anthology, A Plague of Shadows: A Written Remains Anthology. We'd published one other anthology, Someone Wicked, with the Written Remains folks. That anthology was so well received and reviewed, Smart Rhino was happy to work with the guild again, this time focusing on stories on "hauntings and the haunted." Not your traditional ghost stories, mind you. We were striving for stories slightly (or majorly) beyond the norm. We weren't disappointed.

 

Some of the early reviews for the anthology were impressive!

 

"The tales in A Plague of Shadows are captivating and entertaining. Put simply, they are amazing. Without doubt, this collection of ghost stories is the best anthology I've read in years."

— Tony Tremblay, author of The Moore House and The Seeds of Nightmare

 

"This collection of 20 stories will leave you wondering what lurks in the gloom behind that half-open closet door or in the mists that shroud the streets in the wee hours of the morning. … Would send shivers up M.R. James' back and have Poe reaching for extra lamps. I recommend it highly!"

— JG Faherty, author of The Cure, The Burning Time, and Carnival of Fear

 

"A Plague of Shadows is this year's 'don't-miss' anthology. Some of the stories creep up on you, while others come at you full force. In the end, all of them will lurk in the back of your mind, just waiting for the lights to be turned off."

— Shaun Meeks, author of Shutdown and At the Gates of Madness

 

"This is the kind of book writers and readers need. Writers need it because it showcases their work and readers because it offers fresh perspectives on complex subjects."

— Paul Dale Anderson, author of The Instruments of Death series

 

"Gloriously dark and gripping, the stories and poems in A Plague of Shadows will burrow under your skin and make themselves at home. Highly recommended!"

— Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

 

"All the speculative fiction stories—whether they concern ghosts, engineering malfunctions, post-apocalyptic, cultural beliefs, and crime sprees—are exciting and compelling to read. Each story should be read in one sitting to appreciate the twists, turns, and surprise endings."

— Frank Hopkins, author of Abandoned Houses: Vietnam Revenge Murders

 

"Shadows take many forms: from past mistakes to uncertain futures, from unresolved relationships to unanswered questions. The shadows in the pages of this anthology are guaranteed to prey on your psyche and leave you gasping for breath."

— Suzie Wargo Lockhart, Executive Editor at Digital Fiction Publishing Corp.

 

 

As with Someone Wicked, we decided to publish fiction and poetry from WR members as well as guest authors, like Graham Masterton, Billie Sue Mosiman, and Jeff Strand. Here's the table of contents.

 

 

Starving Time -- Jane Miller

 

Bark of the Dog-Faced Girl -- Maria Masington

 

The Stories That We Tell -- Billie Sue Mosiman

 

For Number 11 -- Carson Buckingham

 

Bottom of the Hour -- Phil Giunta

 

Powder Burns -- J. Gregory Smith

 

Neighbors From Hell -- Graham Masterton

 

Finding Resolution -- Patrick Derrickson

 

The Fierce Stabbing and Subsequent Post-Death Vengeance of Scooter Brown -- Jeff Strand

 

On the House -- Jacob Jones-Goldstein

 

No Good Deed -- Gail Husch

 

Haunting the Past -- Jasper Bark

 

To Heart's Content -- Shannon Connor Winward

 

Twelve Steps -- Jeff Markowitz

 

Song of the Shark God -- JM Reinbold

 

Dollhouse -- Jennifer Loring

 

The Black Dog of Cabra -- J. Patrick Conlon

 

The Angel's Grave -- Chantal Noordeloos

 

Vindictive -- Weldon Burge

 

A Hanger in the World of Dance -- Stephanie M. Wytovich

 

 

We're very proud of A Plague of Shadows, and feel privileged to once again provide a venue for authors who create incredible fiction. We hope, if you read the book, you'll enjoy it and would be willing to post a review on Amazon, B&N, or wherever you like. Every review helps! The more support Smart Rhino receives, the better we're able to continue providing an outlet for great fiction.

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Book Review: The Moore House by Tony Tremblay

Take a cup of Matheson's The Legend of Hell House, a cup of Blatty's The Exorcist, and a heaping tablespoon or two of the movie Poltergeist, and you have the basic recipe for Tony Tremblay's The Moore House. Only the basic recipe, however. Tremblay, like any great chef, knows how to add his own tasty ingredients to make the novel his own. And a satisfying, delicious meal it is!

 

The novel starts with a gruesome scene involving a homeless man, and the horror and suspense are unrelenting from there. But I think the book works best because of the interplay and complicated relationships of the main characters (three nuns who are empaths and a priest experienced in exorcisms). All of them are flawed characters—perhaps the priest, Father MacLeod, most of all. Tremblay skillfully manipulates the reader by putting us in the minds of the three empaths (a nice trick there). Father MacLeod, on the other hand, comes off as self-serving and despicable, a character impossible to like. But, in the context of the story, wholly believable.

 

The pacing of the novel is perfect—I found it to be a fast and enjoyable read. The characters, despite the bizarre plot, are realistic. The story is horrifying. If you love horror fiction, this book definitely belongs on your bookshelf. I can't wait to see what Tony writes next—maybe a sequel to this??

 

One last note: If you're a character in a Tremblay novel, you probably don't want to be a police officer. Just sayin' ...

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The Escalating Market Battle Facing Small Indie Publishers

The current Smart Rhino Publications library!

Smart Rhino Publications just completed a Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming anthology, A PLAGUE OF SHADOWS. We reached 178% of our goal, which is absolutely fantastic! We can't thank our supporters enough.

But, you may ask, why a Kickstarter campaign at all? Well, truth be told, small indie publishers are having a rough time of it in today's market. Perhaps the market is overloaded. Perhaps fewer people are buying books. It could be any number of factors. In light of those difficulties, small publishers now have to revise their marketing strategies and find alternative ways to increase funding. Crowdfunding is one of those ways.

Many independent publishers have folded in the past few years for lack of funding and various other reasons. That in itself is sad. But, sadder still,  Read More 

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Jeff Menapace: The Success and Struggle

Jeff Menapace and his copy of ZIPPERED FLESH 3.

Jeff Menapace is a Philly-born horror/suspense author who has won acclaim for his best-selling Bad Games series of novels, among his other work in fiction and nonfiction. His novella Sugar Daddy was the 2011 recipient of the Red Adept Reviews Indie Award for Horror. His novel Numb, while containing some elements of horror, is a dark noir thriller sure to please readers of suspense. And Side Effects, a psychological thriller, introduces us to his series character FBI agent Maggie Allen.

And apparently, he longs to pet a lion!

 

Jeff is an approachable, amiable guy, and was more than willing to spend a few minutes with us to answer a few questions.



Your Bad Games trilogy has been quite successful, now optioned for future feature films. Not bad! Did you intend to write a trilogy from the start, or was it happenstance?

No way did I intend to write a trilogy from the start! I wrote book one and was able to land an agent with it (this was nearly 10 years ago) and he immediately asked me for a sequel, stating that pitching two books instead of the one would help land a publisher. So, I got hard at work on the sequel, completed it, gave it to my agent, and  Read More 

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Jack Ketchum: Master of Mayhem

 

It’s hard to believe that Jack Ketchum’s debut novel, Off Season, was released back in 1980. The controversial book, involving grotesque acts of cannibalism, immediately garnered fans in the horror world, even though the original publisher abandoned support for the novel. Today, the book is a classic in horror literature, and Jack his written more than 20 novels and novellas since then. He has won several Bram Stoker Awards, and five of his books have been produced as films—The Girl Next Door, Red, The Lost, Offspring, and The Woman.

Not surprising, Jack always has projects in the works, and has recently collaborated a good deal with director, writer, and actor Lucky McKee. I was thrilled that he was willing to take some time to answer a few questions.


You’ve had a fruitful relationship with Lucky McKee, including the recent collaboration, The Secret Life of Souls. How did you two hook up, how did it come about?

Lucky knew about my stuff and wanted to option Red for himself to direct and The Lost for his buddy Chris Sivertson and by way of introduction he sent me a copy of May. I’d just returned from some Con or other with a stack of what turned out to be amateurish, bad DVDs from various people, and waiting on my desk was a DVD by this guy named Lucky, so I figure, after watching half a dozen of these things, this has gotta be more of the same. I mean, the guy’s name is Lucky.’ So after a week or so I get to feeling guilty and watch the rest of this drek, and the last one I watch is May. Good grief! this is the real deal! Brilliant movie! So I get hold of my agent and tell her let's get back to him right away, he wants to option Red and The Lost if the price is anywhere near right, he’s got ’em. Turned out Luck and I are simpatico as all hell, very much on the same page as to what we want from our stories, our people, our themes. So we decided to work together on some original pieces. Which turned out to be The Woman, I’m Not Sam, and The Secret Life of Souls, with a couple of short pieces in the bargain.

You’ve used a number of pseudonyms, particularly when you were writing for men’s magazines early on. For new writers, what are the pros and cons of using pseudonyms, from your experience?

I don’t see any cons, really. After a short while  Read More 

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Meet Horror Writer & Ferret Lover Jezzy Wolfe

Jezzy Wolfe is an author of dark fiction, with a predilection for absurdity. A lifelong native of Virginia Beach, Jezzy lives with her family and quite a few ferrets. Her poems and stories have appeared in such ezines and magazines as The World of Myth, The Odd Mind, Twisted Tongue, Support the Little Guy, and Morpheus Tales. She has also been published in various anthologies, such as Graveside Tales’ Harvest Hill, The Best of the World of Myth: Vol. II, Library of the Dead’s Baconology, Western Legends' Unnatural Tales of the Jackalope--and, of course, several Smart Rhino anthos. We love her style!

Jezzy was a founding member of Choate Road.com and at one time cohosted the blogtalk radio shows “The Funky Werepig” and “Pairanormal.” In addition to her brand of humor and horror fiction, she maintains both a blog and storefront for ferret owners and lovers, known as FuzzyFriskyFierce. Visit Jezzy on her author’s blog at jezzywolfe.wordpress.com, on her ferret blog at FuzzyFriskyFierce.wordpress.com.

Jezzy was more than happy to spend a few minutes to talk with us. Enjoy!


You've written three short stories for Smart Rhino (“Locks of Loathe” in Zippered Flesh, “Luscious” in Zippered Flesh 2, and “Agnus Dei” in Insidious Assassins). And your story, "All Will Turn to Gray," will appear in Zippered Flesh 3. Do you find writing horror fiction more rewarding than other writing? Why horror?

Horror challenges me. I gravitate to it, like a delicious, freshly brewed pot of coffee. Horror gets your pulse racing (also like a delicious, freshly brewed pot of coffee). It reminds you to be grateful for being alive ... and for not being one of the unlucky schmucks you're reading about. I am personally fascinated by what is not known and not seen--things mysterious and sometimes beyond comprehension. Supernatural tropes really grab my attention. Slashers freak me out as well, simply because they are often in very plausible scenarios. But I do not feel it is an easy fit for me, as I'm the dork who goes to the theater and laughs at the jump scares, and makes silly comments. It's knee-jerk. Maybe it's a response to fear (although you will find that I'm not the bastion of wit and humor when I'm walking through a haunted house attraction). So when I can manage to produce a story that is legitimately creepy and unsettling, I am a bit surprised. As well as giddy. In that way, I do find horror more rewarding, because it is against my nature, and therefore more an act of discipline.

Your humor always impressed me as snarky. Well, maybe not snarky—unique and dark. Do you consciously incorporate humor into your writing? Or does it happen naturally?

I have to fight to NOT be a smart-ass when I'm writing. And that's almost precisely what it is. I'm that way off screen as well, constantly making wisecracks. There are things I've written where I gave myself permission to be as ridiculous as I wanted, and those particular projects are more comedy than horror. Perhaps something akin to really enthusiastic bizarro, even. But if I want to produce something that really chills the reader,  Read More 

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An Interview with JM Reinbold, Founder of the Written Remains Writers Guild

JM Reinbold is the Founder and Director of the Written Remains Writers Guild, located in Delaware but with a membership that extends beyond the state. JM is a champion of all writers, and developed the Guild as a teaching/learning and networking environment for professional (and semi-professional) writers in various genres.

Smart Rhino Publications published the anthology Someone Wicked: A Written Remains Anthology back in 2013, highlighting not only the work of members but the fiction of selected friends of the organization. Smart Rhino will also publish another Written Remains anthology, A Plague of Shadows.

JM agreed to answer some questions for us regarding the Guild--and we hope you'll learn something from her dedication to the writing profession!


What was the genesis of the Written Remains Writers Guild? What exactly does "written remains" mean?

Way back in 1995, a year before I graduated from Neumann University, I founded the Written Remains as an open writers group so that writers I’d met and worked with in college could continue to meet after we graduated. The name--The Written Remains--has a dual meaning. First: It refers to the written word. Written words remain in some form, physical or digital, long after the author of those words has departed this world. Second: The Written Remains refers to the grand visions of stories that exist in writers’ minds and what actually appears on the page are the written remains of those grand visions.

Someone Wicked is actually the second Written Remains anthology, and a third anthology is in the plans, another Smart Rhino publication? What are your chief intentions for publishing stories by Guild members?

Our members are all accomplished writers. Some are under-published and, if not under-published, then their work hasn’t always received the attention and recognition it deserves. My chief intention in publishing stories by our Guild members is  Read More 

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