Publisher/Full-Time Editor/Freelance Writer

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Jeff Menapace: The Success and Struggle

October 23, 2017

Tags: Jeff Menapace, Bad Games series, Zippered Flesh 3, horror fiction

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 he loved it. But then of course came the inevitable: “Any chance for a third? A trilogy would be fantastic.” I think my reply was something (politely) along the lines of “No f*cking way. I killed everyone; they’re all dead.”

I soon parted with my agent (on good terms) and went the indie route, and Bad Games and Vengeful Games sold very well. I was hit with lots of letters from readers asking for a third book. So, I totally sold out and whipped up a third. Nah, I’m just kidding. I balked on the idea of a third, and the last thing I wanted to do was sell out and write a cheap imitation of the first two books. Eventually, however, an idea did come to me, and slowly but surely, book 3, Bad Games: Hellbent was born, and now, believe it or not, roughly five years later, book 4, Bad Games: Malevolent is due out late this summer. Never say never, I guess.

Do you work from an outline or just wing it?

I work from a rough outline. I generally have an idea of what I want to happen, but more often than not, once the characters begin to develop, they take on a life of their own. At this stage, quite often the story will change from my original intentions. It’s rare that a story goes exactly as I intended. I guess you could say it’s kind of like having several routes to a destination. I’ll get there eventually, but I often change routes mid-way, if that makes any sense.

So, why horror?

Well, apart from the standard answer I’m sure most give about always being a weird kid whose mind constantly wandered towards the dark side (and it’s assuredly true in my case) I think the thing I like about horror is the primal feeling it instills in us. It forces us to live in the now. I believe people spend so much time worrying about the past and future that no one embraces the now (and I’m certainly guilty of this too). But when you’re scared shitless, it kind of forces you to live in the now, you know? It’s exhilarating.

Do you really think the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the best movie ever?

Unquestionably, unequivocally. It is so raw and gritty and real. No twists, no backstory (and none asked nor welcomed) just true in your face terror. It’s freaking brilliant.

Stephen King or Clive Barker?

Yeesh! Tough one. I think Misery is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, so it’s hard to go against, King, but Barker is just so … I don’t know how to describe it. His mind—there’s no scale to describe his brilliance. His way with words. I’ve often said that many writers have a style that is imitate able if you read them enough. I don’t think anyone can imitate Barker. He’s one of those writers that makes you both elated and jealous. Elated because you just read a particular passage that was brilliant, and then jealous because you know you’ll never write anything that good LOL.

And, with Side Effects, you've now started a mystery series with the FBI agent Maggie Allen character. Is this a natural progression from your horror writing? What do you see as different about the two genres?

I’m always trying to branch out into different genres, and I love serial killer/police procedural thrillers. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is another all-time favorite of mine. So, I wanted to give the genre a shot. I am extremely proud of Side Effects and think it’s one of the better things I’ve written, however reception to it has been mixed. Stephen King once said a writer is often the worst judge of his work, and maybe he’s right in this case LOL. Still, I like the book quite a lot, and I really like the characters Maggie and Morris. I think with some editorial tweaking of book 1, there’s a solid series ready to take off someday.

What has been you're greatest challenge as a freelance writer?

Technology! I am exceptionally stunted in the tech department. I still have a flip phone! If it was up to me, I would just write all day and let someone else handle all the tech/marketing stuff. But alas, I cannot, and it can be, as you say, a challenge.

If you could go back in time and start over, what would you have done differently?

That’s a tough question. I think it’s human nature to always wish we did something “different” in the past. But I believe we grow just as much, if not more so, from our mistakes and failures. Obviously, there are little things along the way I wish I could have done differently, but that’s life, isn’t it? How else do you learn?

Your short story “Worm” is included in the Smart Rhino Publications anthology Zippered Flesh 3. What do you find most satisfying about writing short fiction?

The lack of pressure to know that when the story is finished it’s finished. When embarking on a novel, you know you need a certain amount of words in order to reach novel territory, but with a short story, the tale can be told in as little as a few pages. I mentioned Misery earlier as one of my favorite novels. King stated that he meant the tale to be a novella, not a novel, but as he got going, the story ventured into that “is it a novel or is it novella?” length, and I suspect (though I could be a zillion percent wrong) it’s why he inserted the Misery novel Paul Sheldon was writing while being held captive by Annie Wilkes into the entire novel itself. Otherwise it would have been too short.

What advice would you offer writers concerning marketing their books?

Huh. I guess the best thing to suggest, other than writing good stuff, is to develop a decent following via social media and a mailing list. A mailing list is very valuable. Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of good editing and a professional-looking book cover. Do not skimp on these! They are worth every penny.

When it comes to writing, what’s on your bucket list?

Not sure. Gathering with a bunch of my peers I respect for cocktails and laughs? Seeing my work on the big screen? Tough to say at this stage in my career.

Imagine you’re lost in the Canadian wilderness, fully dependent on your self-preservation skills. You’ve managed to start a fire. If you could have two other writers hovering around your campfire, who would they be?

You said Canadian wilderness. Their health care is better than ours. So, I wouldn’t worry. Seriously though, I’d probably want Hemingway to bring the booze and the party atmosphere, and then maybe Poe. He’d love Hemingway’s booze, and getting inside his head would be an experience unlike any other, I think.

One last question, just for fun, knowing you’re a fan of the Three Stooges. Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, or Joe? And why? (And no fair saying you like them all!)

Larry. He was a Philly boy, but also one of the greatest reactive actors ever. Next time you watch an episode, watch Larry’s face during a scene that doesn’t involve him directly. He’s always in the moment. Next, in order of favs, would be: Moe, Curly, and Shemp. F*ck Joe. Couldn’t stand him.

I wasn’t a fan of Joe either. Too much of a wimp and never funny.

Thanks, Jeff. Great interview!

You can learn more about Jeff and his work at his website, www.jeffmenapace.com. Read his story, "Worm," in ZIPPERED FLESH 3.

(This interview was originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Suspense Magazine.)

Jack Ketchum: Master of Mayhem

July 13, 2017

Tags: Jack Ketchum, horror fiction, The Secret Life of Souls, Lucky McKee, Off Season

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 you get used to answering to Joe or Agnes just as you would your own name. The pros, of course, are usually a matter of hiding—for whatever reason. With the men’s mags way back when I’d have three or even four stories in the same issue sometimes, so rather than have it look like I wrote the whole damn magazine, I’d use my real name and pseudonyms. Some folks, when they’re writing in various genres, like to hide their Evan Hunters from their Ed McBains, for instance. I hid behind Jack Ketchum for Off Season because I was worried my parents would freak at the extreme subject matter, which actually didn’t turn out to be a problem, and so I could sell it more easily masked as the ex-agent Dallas was known to be. But then the thing sold so well I figured, nobody’s going to be looking for a new book by me, but Jack’s another story.

When asked who the scariest man in America was, Stephen King answered “probably Jack Ketchum.” Who do you think is the scariest writer in America today?

Well, let’s see, Donald Trump really didn’t write The Art of the Deal, did he. I’ll have to think about that one ... hmmmm ...

Apparently you did a good deal of research on cannibalism before writing “Off Season.” How much does research play in your writing these days?

It completely depends on the piece. Some demand a lot, some not much at all. I spent a year researching Cover before I even sat down to start, and The Girl Next Door was almost like taking dictation, it just flew right out of me. Same now as ever. Lucky and I did a good deal for Souls, but almost none for I’m Not Sam. My solo stories too. It varies greatly.

How has your previous experience in acting informed your writing, especially your work with movie adaptations of your books?

I’m of the opinion that pretty much anything you do in the arts informs everything else you do in the arts, feeds into it. Acting, saying the same lines over and over to yourself until they’re memorized, you learn a lot about rhythms, about emphasis. I did Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, for instance, where he insists right in the text where the pauses in your dialogue should be, which tells you what he wants emphasized. You learn a lot about the interplay of characters’ voices. My dialogue’s much the better for having done that I think.

What’s your worst nightmare today?


What’s your definition of success?

Doing what you love doing, and getting paid for it sufficiently to get by.

When writing, do you listen to music or have something in the background to spur your senses?

I need complete silence in order to hear what the words sound like—that rhythm and emphasis again. And I can’t be looking at anything either. I’m too easily distracted. In the hills of New Hampshire I tried working in front of a window—and and became quite the bird-watcher.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Damn! what was her name again?

One last question, just for fun. If you could rewrite/remake any horror movie, which one would it be?

Maybe Karloff and Freund’s The Mummy. That opening is terrifying. But then it settles for the occasional eerie sequence and dramatic lighting. And Karloff’s undeniable presence.

Thanks Jack! Great talking with you.

For more on Jack Ketchum, visit his website at www.jackketchum.net.

(A version of this interview was also published in the Nov./Dec. 2016 issue of Suspense Magazine.)

Meet Horror Writer & Ferret Lover Jezzy Wolfe

June 30, 2017

Tags: Jezzy Wolfe, horror fiction, Smart Rhino Publications

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, it's a challenge to keep a straight face. It's natural for me to write for laughs, and more of an exercise in restraint if I'm writing for screams.

Do you think writing blogs has impacted your other writing? If so, how?

Absolutely. I'd never considered seriously pursuing writing until after I had blogged for a few years. I used to do all my blogging on Xanga, which was a blogging network that successfully merged blogs with social networking. Users interacted a lot more on sites like Xanga. It wasn't about a thumbs up or shares. It didn't even have private messaging when I first started blogging ... that came around later. Users gravitated to groups that represented their interests, and communicated directly with those group members, not by status commentary, but by actually visiting those user pages, reading the posts, and commenting on those posts. And Xanga was well populated with poets and writers, some of whom were actually published and in print. I enjoyed those interactions, and they helped me find my voice. Over time, I went from silly commentary to poetry to short fiction. That was where I found myself as a writer.

I've never found that blogs such as Wordpress embraced the best of blogging. Yes, you get broader traffic and visibility. But the interaction is not there. Wordpress is not so much a communal experience, not like old school Xanga, or even Livejournal. That social interaction helped me immensely. But that's just me.

Which authors have most influenced your writing?

I really started getting into horror as a teenager, reading Christopher Pike (known for novels such as Slumber Party and Chain Letter) and Richie Tankersley Cusick (author of goodies such as The Mall, Silent Stalker, and Someone at the Door). I still have all those books, in fact. They've all been read so many times, the bindings are worn out.

As an adult, one of my very favorite voices is Barbara Michaels (better known as popular mystery author Elizabeth Peters, who has sadly passed on). I have every title she produced under that name. Her books had a distinct formula that I was quite fond of, and they were always incredible entertaining. Locked, secret attic rooms full of a history kept hidden under five (or 50) years of dust? Sign me up for that! Egyptology, Greek mythology, and twisted bloodlines discussed over scones and clotted cream? Mmmm, yes please.

I'm also a huge fan of Nicci French, which is a pen name for a man and woman team that writes psychological thrillers. I love the language and atmosphere of French novels, and I'm convinced that bad brain chemistry is every bit as terrifying as what others perceive as horror. What's scarier than the brain's inability to distinguish facts from fiction? After the year we've all had, I think we can agree that nothing is more terrifying than bat-shit lunacy.

So ... um ... ferrets??

Hell yeah! Ferrets are my people! I mean, if ferrets ever could be people. Those frenetic little furbeasts must be my totem spirits. I find them as inspiring as they are entertaining. Don't get me wrong, I like a good cat or dog. They're cool. But ferrets? Everything about them is a celebration. They relish just being alive. Many live unexpectedly short lives due to unavoidable diseases, others meet tragic fates as a result of their dogged determination and curiosity. Still, let them out of their cage, and it's like someone handed them the winning lottery ticket. They jump, they chatter, they play with you. They are jubilant, engaging, endearing. All in a tiny, slinky package with big eyes, long whiskers, and a helluva lot of 'tude.

So yes. Ferrets. I can't see me ever being without them. They give me levity and hope. If pets are antidepressants, ferrets are antidepressants and an IV drip of caffeine, with a helium chaser. I love those crazy freaks!

I could use a cup of coffee now. How about it?

I usually have a cup of java in my hand as if it's glued there. Maybe something a bit more lubricating ... like a great bourbon?

Thanks, Jezzy. Looking forward to working with you again soon!

Armand Rosamilia Talks About Horror

January 16, 2017

Tags: Armand Rosamilia, Zippered Flesh, Smart Rhino Publications, horror fiction

Armand Rosamilia knows quite a bit about horror writing. His work has appeared in many publications, including his story, "Creeping Death," in the Smart Rhino anthology Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! He's also written a good many novels, including his Dying Days series, Chelsea Avenue: A Supernatural Thriller, Middletown Apocalypse, Dirty Deeds, and others. We were thrilled to have a chance to talk with Armand about one of his favorite topics--horror writing.

Zombies seem to be the rage, especially with the success of The Walking Dead TV series. You've written a good deal of zombie fiction, particularly in your Dying Days books. What do you think is the appeal?

It depends on the person. Some readers love zombie fiction because it is a mirror held up to society. Some think it foreshadows our future. Some think it is an analogy for the way the world is today, and is falling apart. For me, I just think zombies are really cool. I love reading about them and, as a kid, I loved watching zombie movies. So I can see the entertainment value of them first and foremost.

You're an incredibly prolific writer. Where do the creepy, often bizarre ideas come from?

I read a lot. Always have. Dean Koontz books started me on this journey at 12. I read mostly nonfiction now and watch Discovery Channel Investigation shows. The real horror is all around us, and is easy to tap into as an author. I have so many ideas for novels and shorts I'll never get to, and it would be a large chunk of my day just to write them all down. Whenever I don't have a specific contract on my desk and I'm able to add whatever I want to my writing schedule I simply tap into my brain and see what's at the front of the ideas and if I'm excited about writing it right now.

What's your latest (or impending) release? Can you tell us about it?

I always have a few projects on the horizon. I just released Green River Blend: A Supernatural Thriller with Devil Dog Press. It is a story about coffee. Yep, coffee. A mysterious man opens a coffee shop in a small Florida town and, when the residents get addicted to his coffee, strange things begin to happen. Beta readers said it was very much Bentley Little-ish, and I agree. When I began writing the novel, I was looking for that exact feel to it.

Next up is my crime thriller Dirty Deeds. I won a Kindle Scout contract with it. Look for it the end of January. I'm excited about it because I've never strayed this far from what I normally write. The advance readers love it, so it will definitely turn into an ongoing series.

Thanks, Armand, for giving us some background on your incredible work!

For more information about Armand, visit his website.

(This interview was originally published in the January 2016 issue of the Smart Rhino Publications e-letter.)

Graham Masterton: Horror and Suspense Master Extraordinaire

October 14, 2016

Tags: Graham Masterton, horror fiction, horror, suspense fiction, suspense

Graham Masterton is something of a literary chameleon. A prolific author, his 100+ books run the gamut from horror to thrillers to historical fiction to sex “how-to” manuals to his current series of Katie Maquire crime fiction. His debut as a horror writer began with the immensely popular novel, The Manitou, in 1975, which was also made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg. Several of his short stories have been adapted for television, including three for Tony Scott’s Hunger series. The man has been around the block a few times.

Graham is magnanimous and more than willing to talk about writing and publishing, and has long been a supporter of other writers in the field. In fact, he will talk your ear off given half the chance. I was thrilled that he was willing to take some time out of his busy day to answer a few questions for Suspense Magazine.

So, where did it all start?

I was writing fiction from an early age. I loved the novels of Jules Verne like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and H.G. Wells like The War of the Worlds, and wrote my own adventure novels and bound them in cardboard. At the age of 10 or 11, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and loved the stories of “The Pit and the Pendulum” and blazing dwarves. I started writing my own short horror stories to read to my friends during break time at school. Some of my friends met me years later and told me that I had given them nightmares. I wrote a 250-page novel (by hand) about giant supernatural crabs when I was 12 (which I still have). When I was 14, I wrote a 400-page vampire novel that has been lost.

I was expelled from school was I was 17. Expulsion was the making of me, though, because I then got a job as a trainee reporter on my local newspaper. In those days, local newspapers were staffed by retired Fleet Street men (national newspaper reporters). They taught me how to write a tight, compelling news story that would grab a reader’s attention—how to write vividly and concisely—but more than anything else, how to interview people. I quickly learned that most people are bursting to tell you their innermost secrets, particularly since you are sympathetic and you listen carefully to them and ask the most penetrating questions. They will tell you things that they would never tell their friends or their families, because you are a stranger.

When I left the local paper at the age of 21 and was appointed deputy editor of a new British Playboy-style magazine called Mayfair, I was called on to interview the girls who appeared in the center-spread every month. Most of the men who met them simply “gawped” at their breasts, but I always made a point of talking to them about their ambitions and their love lives and whatever made them unhappy. Out of that experience, I developed a question-and-answer sex feature in the magazine called Quest, which purported to be conversations with couples about their sex problems. I wrote it all myself, but almost all the content was quoted pretty much verbatim from real girls.

I left Mayfair after three years after a spat with the editor and joined Penthouse the following week as deputy editor. Not long afterwards I was appointed executive editor. Penthouse had recently been launched in the U.S. at that time, so I got to travel frequently to New York in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. There I met several publishers and it was suggested to me by Howard Kaminsky from Warner Paperback Library that I write a sex “how-to” book in the same anecdotal style as Quest. That was how I came to write How A Woman Loves To Be Loved by “Angel Smith”. It was hugely popular (especially since Angel looked gorgeous on the cover) because few sex books had been written before in such a conversational style … most had been either medical or prescriptive. I’ve written 29 manuals over the years.

How did your earlier career with men’s magazines and writing sex manuals inform your fiction writing?

The Multi-talented Aaron J. French Discusses Writing, Editing, and His Love for Anthologies

July 21, 2016

Tags: Aaron French interview, horror fiction, Lovecraftian fiction, anthologies, Smart Rhino Publications, Zippered Flesh

Aaron J. French is one busy guy! Besides being a prolific writer, he is an accomplished editor and has pulled together some of the best horror and weird fiction anthologies now available. His story, "Whirling Machine Man," appeared in the Smart Rhino anthology, Zippered Flesh. His latest novella, The Dream Beings, is a hard-boiled Lovecraftian tale involving a serial killer and an investigator who is pulled into cosmic horrors.

Aaron agreed to answer some questions for us--and we hope you'll learn something from his vast experience!

Aaron, you and I have similar backgrounds: writer, editor, anthologist. Let’s start with your own fiction. Your collection of stories, Aberrations of Reality, has been described as a “modern grimoire of mystical horror,” and you’ve also written a zombie collection, Up From Fresh Soil. Your The Dream Beings is an incredibly creepy serial killer/occult novel. Plus you’ve written a number of novellas. How do you manage to juggle your time to write your own work, considering your many other obligations? Do you have a defined routine?

Thanks. Yes, it’s a lot of work, there’s really no getting around that. But it’s work I love to do, so that makes it worth it. I used to have a steady routine of writing 1000 words a day, and I did that for many years. But at this point, I’m basically just working all the time, whether writing, editing, and working academically (still writing). So I basically just do as much as I can on all fronts, but focus on whichever one has the nearest deadline (ha). But whenever I have a break, I try to write a new short story, or at least revise one that I have already written. It’s a way of keeping myself working on my own fiction, given everything else I do. And yet, I will say that more and more—as you mentioned with AoR and The Dream Beings—I have been using my own personal experiences and my research into science, religion, and magic to inform my stories. Yes, life is weird. So, while I still write to entertain (as it were) or for a certain market, lately I have been formulating more of a specific agenda with what I want to do with my fiction. You can see this most explicitly with Aberrations. I feel almost like a scientist, and I am doing experiments with my work to see what I can tease out of it. Ultimately, I want to explore how horror and science fiction affect states of consciousness.

You’re a book editor for JournalStone Publishing and the Editor-in-Chief for Dark Discoveries magazine. What advice would you offer horror and other fiction writers looking to publish their work? What are the common “mistakes” you see in the submissions that come across your editor’s desk? (more…)

Meet Horror/Suspense Writer W.D. Gagliani

June 30, 2016

Tags: W.D. Gagliani interview, Smart Rhino Publications, horror fiction, suspense fiction, Zippered Flesh

W.D. Gagliani is the author of many novels, including Savage Nights, Wolf’s Trap, Wolf’s Gambit, Wolf’s Bluff, Wolf’s Edge, and more. Wolf’s Trap was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2004. Bill has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous anthologies and publications. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Authors Guild. Raised in Genova, Italy, as well as Kenosha, Wisconsin, he now lives and writes in Milwaukee.

Bill, with his co-writer David Benton, wrote the story "Piper at the Gates," published in the Smart Rhino anthology Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! We had fun in the following interview!

You tend to write a hybridization of horror and crime fiction/suspense. Do you find this combination easy to write, and why?

I do find it easier (no writing is truly easy, as you know). But not because there’s something magical about the mix that I’m tapping into. I find it easier because I grew up loving thrillers (and mystery and other genres, but thrillers were big), and later fell under the spell of one S. King, who blew my mind and sent it reeling into that black hole of terror I’d always been circling anyway. I had enjoyed horror before, such as James Herbert’s The Rats and The Fog, but when King came along with ‘Salem’s Lot, I truly was lost. I went all in on horror then. I took a break for my first couple years of college, then jumped back in. It became my favorite genre to read.

But, in any case, I never quite lost the thrill of the thriller. I loved the British authors the most. I admit, writers such as Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, and Duncan Kyle. Although David Morrell made a huge impact with First Blood and I started discovering great American writers, too. After quite a few years concentrating on horror, I just naturally started to channel the thriller people I’d always liked so much. So, the idea that thrillers and horror aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive swirled around in my head, but subconsciously. I think in the long run I found that I couldn’t always sustain that sense of terror or dread needed in a horror novel, but if I mixed in a sense of more realistic suspense, maybe less supernatural and more grounded in what happens every day in the world (violence seems to be the true universal language, unfortunately), I was able to fill out the plots in a way that seemed more fulfilling to me. Since I came to love the so-called splatterpunks of the '80s, whose work tended to be more visceral and less supernatural, it was like blending two primary colors to create a third (secondary) color, you know? Whether or not it works, I don’t know. I have fun with it, so I hope that sense of fun translates down to the reader.

The sixth Nick Lupo novel was recently released. How did you develop a character who is a werewolf homicide detective? (more…)

Interview with Michael Bailey, Bram Stoker Award Winner

May 29, 2016

Tags: Michael Bailey interview, Bram Stoker Award, anthologies, Smart Rhino Publications, horror fiction

Michael Bailey is a multli-award-winning author, editor, and publisher of incredible speculative fiction. He recently won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology for The Library of the Dead. His nonlinear horror novel, Palindrome Hannah, was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Awards. His follow-up novel, Phoenix Rose, was listed for the National Best Book Awards for horror fiction, was a finalist for the International Book Awards, and received the Kirkus Star, awarded to books of remarkable merit. Scales and Petals, his short story and poetry collection, won the International Book Award for short fiction, as well as the USA Book News “Best Books” Award. His short fiction and poetry can be found in anthologies and magazines around the world, including the US, UK, Australia, Sweden, and South Africa.

Michael has published a number of anthologies (including Pellucid Lunacy, Qualia Nous, The Library of the Dead, and the Chiral Mad series) and has just released Chiral Mad 3, published by his own imprint, Written Backwards, at Dark Regions Press. He is currently the Managing Science Fiction Editor at Dark Regions. Michael took some time off from his busy schedule to talk with us.

Chiral Mad 3 was just released, and you must be ecstatic. An introduction by Chuck Palahniuk, illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, stories and poetry by incredible writers (Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Mort Castle, Gary Braunbeck, Gene O’Neill, and 15 others). Wow! This is your most ambitious project to date. Can you share with us some of your process when pulling together such an impressive anthology?

I’m not even sure where to begin. I knew there would be a third Chiral Mad someday (I was hounded for it immediately upon release of the second volume). I knew if it were to exist, the book would have a specific story by King: “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” so I guess it all started with Steve. Apparently he digs my anthologies, or at least I hope he does, since he’s found his way into three of my books. “The Jaunt” appeared in Qualia Nous last year (a literary blend of science fiction and horror), and “I Am the Doorway” will appear later this year in You, Human, my first science fiction anthology with Dark Regions Press. (more…)

Bram Stoker Award-Winner Lisa Mannetti on Storytelling

February 18, 2016

Tags: Lisa Mannetti interview, historical fiction, horror fiction

Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, THE GENTLING BOX, garnered a Bram Stoker Award and she was nominated in 2010 both for her novella, “Dissolution,” and a short story, “1925: A Fall River Halloween.” Her story “Everybody Wins,” which was included in the UNCOMMON ASSASSINS anthology, was made into a short film by director Paul Leyden, starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title Bye-Bye Sally. Lisa lives in New York.

What was your favorite (the most fun to write) section of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND HUCK FINN? Tell us a little bit about it.

Truly, my own cats, Tom and Huck, were such wilders and so much fun and so connected to me, I had a great time writing every part of the book and frequently found myself laughing out loud as I worked—both at them and what I was putting down on the page. But, if I had to choose a favorite section, I’d have to say it was the séance scene. Unquestionably, Tom’s braggadocio draws on the same giddy bravado displayed by Twain’s Hank in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT—especially the scenes when he’s up against Merlin, and those moments in Twain always made me laugh, too. But Tom’s attempts at frightening the Chancery House guests, his description of the medium and his delight at their terror struck me as hilarious; and a critic or two concurred.

Here’s Tom’s take on Myra the medium and her lack of style—just before he lets loose and shows her how a séance ought to be conducted! (more…)

Meet Paranormal Thriller Author Sandra R. Campbell

October 13, 2015

Tags: Sandra R. Campbell interview, horror fiction, Suspense Magazine

Sandra R. Campbell can trace her passion for the macabre back to reading Edgar Allan Poe as a child—with her pet crow, Big Fellow, by her side. She has since submerged herself in a wide range of dark literature. An avid thrill seeker, Sandra always looks for her next big adrenaline rush. And when spelunking, climbing, and monster hunting fail to deliver, she turns to creating through-the-rabbit-hole worlds and sends her characters on their own adventures. Her novels include Butterfly Harvest, Dark Migration, and most recently The Dead Days Journal.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra last year at the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference, and was impressed with one of her panel discussions. She kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Well, let’s start with something a little different. I know you spend a good deal of time on the water and live near the Chesapeake Bay. Has this passion influenced your writing at all? If so, how?

Sandra Campbell (SC): Tranquil waterways and writing are big passions in my life. Water is my escape—a quiet paradise where I go to unwind and recharge. Writing is what I do when I need to create. After my move to the bay area I noticed more water settings and nautical terms popping up in my books, but other than that these two passions are very much separate.

WB: Your novels are often called paranormal romance. Would you debate that classification? Do you see the books as more paranormal or more romance? Or something else entirely?

SC: I would debate that classification. Relationships are a huge part of all of our lives, and so it’s only natural to include relationships in my writing. However, romances are known, if not formulated, to have happy endings. I have yet to write a happy ending. In fact, my critique group challenged me to write one. Two years later, I still haven’t managed to come up with a single happy ending.

My writing has always crossed genres. I prefer to make the story more about the character’s journey and less about the romance. The most common thing I hear from fans is that my works of fiction are unique. “Unique Fiction” would be a great new genre classification, but since it doesn’t exist (yet!), I’d say my books are paranormal thrillers. Fast-paced, action packed with a touch of intimacy and a monster on the side. (more…)

Meet Debut Horror/SF Novelist Christian A. Larsen

September 3, 2014

Tags: Chris Larsen interview, horror fiction, science fiction, anthologies, Smart Rhino Publications

Chris Larsen’s first novel, Losing Touch, has garnered much praise and acclaim since it was published by Post Mortem Press last year, winning several awards and receiving rave reviews. The horror/sci-fi novel focuses on a typical beleaguered husband/father, Morgan Dunsmore, who is not only watching his life dissolve around him, but is also losing physical tangibility. Being able to “phase” through solid matter sounds like a superhuman ability, but for Morgan it proves to be more horrific than heroic.

Chris has also written numerous short stories for anthologies and other publications. I had the pleasure of working with him on his story “The Little Things” for the Zippered Flesh 2 anthology. I recently managed to catch up with Chris and used the opportunity to talk with him about his book, his writing, and his future.

Weldon Burge (WB): Your novel, Losing Touch, won the Preditors & Editors Award for “Best Horror Novel” of 2013. The book has been well-received just about everywhere. Not bad for a debut novel! To what do you attribute your success?

Chris Larsen (CL): I was talking to my wife, Maureen, about this the other day. I really don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much, but if you would have told me five years ago that I would have a novel published with a foreword by Piers Anthony—and won an award for it to boot—I’d have told you that you were shitting me. I think what I mean by that is that “success” is a relative term, kind of like “old” or “rich.” It’s not the sales or the accolades that make me feel successful—it’s the positive comments and reviews. When I know that I’ve reached a reader, that’s success, and it’s measured one reader at a time.

I really couldn’t tell you how I achieved that success, though. I just wrote a novel that I wanted to read. Or I tried to, anyway. There were times (many times) that I finished writing for the day and I thought that what I put on paper (read: “the screen”) was absolute crap. But a writer writes. You just keep pushing forward until people starting reading and liking what you’ve written. And it took me a while. I mean, I started “writing” when I was 10, finished my first novel at 27 (don’t look for it on Amazon—it’s safely locked in a trunk where it will stay, forever and always), and published a couple of dozen short stories before I even took a crack at novel writing.

WB: What does your family think of all this?


Meet Bram Stoker Winner L.L. Soares

October 27, 2013

Tags: L.L. Soares interview, horror fiction, Smart Rhino Publications, Zippered Flesh, Green Tsunami

The horror fiction of L.L. Soares has appeared in many magazines, including Cemetery Dance, Horror Garage, Bare Bone, and Shroud, as well as anthologies such as The Best of Horrorfind 2, “Right House on the Left, Traps, and both Zippered Flesh anthologies from Smart Rhino Publications. His first story collection, In Sickness(written with wife Laura Cooney), was published in the fall of 2010 by Skullvines Press. He recently won a Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, Life Rage, which was released from Nightscape Press in 2012.

Soares is an incredibly talented and versatile man, working not only as a writer but as an editor, publisher, and frequent film critic. He took some time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Weldon Burge (WB): Your novel, Life Rage, won the 2012 Bram Stoker Award for “Superior Achievement in a First Novel.” Aside from the obvious ego massage, how has the award benefited your writing career?

L.L. Soares (LLS): To be honest, I think it’s too early to tell. I’m actually still in shock – it all seemed kind of unreal at the time. I’m hoping it will make it easier to sell future books, and that hopefully more people will read my work. But I guess only time will tell.

I am proud of the fact that I can put “Bram Stoker Award Winning Author” on my book covers now, though. That’s very cool.

WB: Your second novel, Rock ‘N’ Roll, was published earlier this year. It seems to be more of an erotic thriller than Life Rage, but still laced with violence and horror. Which novel did you have the most fun writing, and why?

LLS: Even though they are different in a lot of ways, both books do share a love of characters. My stuff is very character-driven, and I think that is what links the books. Life Rage just deals with more characters, whose stories intertwine. For the most part, Rock ‘N’ Roll is focused on one main character, Lash. Also, where “Life Rage” is more obviously a horror novel, Rock ‘N’ Roll was harder for me to categorize. It’s almost more surreal than horrific at times. I hesitate to say it falls in the “bizarro fiction” category, because, despite rather odd elements, it is rooted in a real, recognizable world, so I don’t think it’s strange enough to be bizarro.

But the truth is, they’re all fun, and I am comfortable in several genres. The first stuff I wrote as a kid in manuscript format—the first stories I sent out to magazines and publishers when I was still in high school—was mostly science fiction, and some fantasy. I am also really into noir fiction—Jim Thompson is one of my heroes. So I incorporate all kinds of things in my writing. I do notice that horror is one of the more universal elements in my fiction, though. There’s always some horrific element in most of what I write. I just have that sensibility, I guess. I think of all genres, horror is the one I am most in tune with.


Meet Bram Stoker Winner Lisa Mannetti

May 29, 2013

Tags: horror fiction, suspense fiction, historic fiction, Lisa Mannetti interview, Smart Rhino Publications

Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box, garnered a Bram Stoker Award, and she was nominated in 2010 both for her novella “Dissolution” and a short story, “1925: A Fall River Halloween.” She has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn; Deathwatch, a compilation of novellas—including the story “Dissolution”; a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover; two nonfiction books; and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Her story “Everybody Wins” was produced as a short film by director Paul Leyden, starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title “Bye-Bye Sally”.

As an editor, I’ve worked with Lisa several times over the past year or so. She kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Your debut novel, The Gentling Box, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2008. That’s like strapping on a jetpack and blasting off into a writing career. How has the award helped your career?

Lisa Mannetti (LM): Winning was the single most gratifying event of my life. Years earlier, when I began writing horror, I placed second in a contest at one of the World Horror conventions and when the publisher mentioned my story would probably “garner a lot of interest for a Stoker recommendation,” I practically passed out in front of the mailbox onto my front lawn. So winning such a prestigious award was beyond my wildest dreams. I always try to write my best, but I thought of the Stoker as a true pinnacle that might be always beyond my reach—so it wasn’t on my mind at all during the writing. My goal was getting the book published. Winning for The Gentling Box actually meant even more because two major agents could not sell it to any of the houses in New York. When it received acclaim, it signaled to me that my belief in the novel wasn’t misplaced after all. That’s really huge.

In terms of my day-to-day career, it’s helped smooth the way for subsequent books and projects, a new agent, and the publication of my work in general. In the old days, I’d write a story and sit down with lists of places that seemed like a “fit” with the piece, then start making the manuscript rounds. Now I’m asked to contribute to magazines and anthologies, so my stories are essentially sold before I write them. I’ve never felt like the prescribed theme was any kind of creative impediment--most editors have given me tons of latitude. Those invitations to contribute have been terrific. One of my stories, “1925: A Fall River Halloween” which features Lizzie Borden as a character, was nominated for the Stoker in 2010.

It’s also helped in subtler, but no less important ways, and a few examples come to mind. I’m now an active member of the Horror Writers Association (a long-term goal I finally met) and a new edition of the book will be coming out from Nightscape Press (I couldn’t be more delighted!). Most of all, it makes me very conscious when I sit down to write that it’s critical—imperative—to set high standards and (whether the result can be deemed successful or not) to strive to produce the very best work I can—or die trying.


An Interview With Horror/Suspense Writer Charles Colyott

April 17, 2013

Tags: Charles Colyott interview, horror fiction, suspense fiction, Smart Rhino Publicati0ns

Charles Colyott lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere (Southern Illinois) with his wife, daughters, cats, and a herd of llamas and alpacas. He is surrounded by so much cuteness, it's difficult for him to develop any street cred as a dark and gritty horror writer. Nevertheless, he has appeared in Read by Dawn II; Withersin magazine; Terrible Beauty Fearful Symmetry; Horror Library Volumes III, IV, and V; and the Zippered Flesh and Uncommon Assassins anthologies from Smart Rhino Publications. His mystery novels, Changes and Pressure Point, focus on Colyott's acupuncturist, martial-arts-savvy protagonist, Randall Lee.

Colyott took some time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Weldon Burge (WB): Let's get the geek question out of the way first. Zombie or robot apocalypse?

Charles Colyott (CC): Zombies, of course! I feel like we'd have a better chance against them ... unless we're talking the almost indestructible ones from Return of the Living Dead, or the really awful ones from Brian Keene's The Rising. Then we're just screwed.

WB: And one other nagging question: Why llamas and alpacas instead of cows and goats? Can you even milk a llama? And why would you want to? (OK, that was three questions.)

CC: My wife and I just sort of fell in love with alpacas before we even knew what they were. I liked the fact that we didn't have to use them in any way ... no killing, no milking, etc. We just cut their hair once a year (something which must be done anyway). I imagine it is possible to milk one ... but I can't fathom why anyone would want to. Our llamas act as guards for our alpacas, and they take their job pretty seriously.


An Interview With Horror Writer Kealan Patrick Burke

May 11, 2012

Tags: horror fiction, suspense fiction, Kealan Patrick Burke interview

Kealan Patrick Burke is a man of many talents—a skilled and promising horror writer, editor, artist, and actor. Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, he came to the United States in 2001 to find his fortune in writing. During the intervening years, his work has garnered critical acclaim and awards, and he has been called “a newcomer worth watching” by Publishers Weekly and “one of the most original authors in contemporary horror” by Booklist.

Kealan’s stories have appeared in many publications, including Cemetery Dance, Corpse Blossoms, Horror World, Grave Tales, and a number of anthologies. His work also includes novels (KIN, Currency of Souls, Master of the Moors, The Hides), novellas (The Turtle Boy, Vessels, Midlisters, Thirty Miles South of Dry County), and collections (Ravenous Ghosts, Theater Macabre, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania).

The man truly is busy! Yet, when I asked Kealan to talk with us concerning his experiences, he kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Born in Ireland, coming to America--what was the hardest part, as a writer, of acclimating to the U.S.?

Kealan Patrick Burke (KPB): The hardest part of coming here, as a person, not solely as a writer, was leaving everything I knew behind: family, friends, the culture, and basically starting from scratch in a place I’d never seen outside of TV. It was a daunting task, and pretty terrifying for a guy who had scarcely been outside of his own country for twenty one years. But that same task provided ample fodder for my writing, broadening my horizons and widening my perspective to an infinite degree. More importantly, relocating here afforded me the opportunity to write uninterrupted for two years, an opportunity I hadn’t had up to that point, and in that space of time, I wrote and sold my fiction like a madman. So if I hadn’t made the move, it’s quite likely I’d never have seen my work in print, or have ended up pursuing writing as a full-time career.

WB: Do you work from an outline, or do you pretty much improvise?

KPB: Generally I don’t work from an outline because I like to be surprised by where a story takes me, and plotting out every detail, every twist and turn, seems to suck all the fun out of it and runs the risk of sapping my enthusiasm for the project. Instead I’ll keep a notebook by the computer into which I’ll scribble plot points, twists and revelations, character traits and phrases I like as they come to me. The current novel, Nemesis, for example, while not fully outlined, has roughly fifty pages of notes that wouldn’t make much sense to anyone else if they looked at them. To me, those notes are like an extended movie trailer. There’s just enough to know what the story’s about, but not enough to spoil it. If I ever tackle a book as big as Lonesome Dove, or The Stand, however, it may become necessary to outline just to keep things on track. We’ll see.


Book Review: FEAR ME by Tim Curran

August 10, 2011

Tags: horror fiction, book review, Tim Curran

Tim Curran is a revered horror writer, the author of the novels Hive, Skin Medicine, Dead Sea, The Devil Next Door, Resurrection, and Biohazard. His latest novel, Fear Me, has just been published by Delirium Books.

The short novel is set in Shaddock Prison, a maximum security facility housing some of the most vicious, hardened criminals in the country, including the protagonist, Romero. When Romero gets a new cellmate, Danny Palmquist, he assumes the scrawny blonde kid won’t last in the hell that is Shaddock—but, he doesn’t know Danny’s dark secret and his own brand of “hell”. Whenever Danny is hassled or harmed, Danny’s brother takes bloody revenge on his oppressors. Despite the bars and walls, there is no escape from the horror unleashed every night as Danny sleeps. And the deaths are supremely gruesome.

Curran steers clear of prison clichés here, yet successfully immerses the reader in the rigors and inhumanity of prison life. As the lead character, Romero is a believable, complex character, but he is far from the convict with the heart of gold. He intercedes in defense of Danny, although it is likely to mean his own death, even before he discovers Danny’s true nature. But, even then, Romero’s motives are largely self-serving and more out of a sense of fairness than any real concern for Danny’s well-being. In Curran’s deft hands, the characters are well-defined, and the plot—while outlandish and horrifying—is ultimately thrilling and satisfying.

Many of Curran’s stories, while not Cthulhu Mythos pastiches, often contain Lovecraftian undertones. Fear Me is no exception, and is certainly not for the faint of heart—the novel is filled with brutal violence, gore, slime, and ever-heightening suspense until the incredible climactic scenes. This is a must for Curran fans—or anyone who loves a fast-paced horror yarn!

(A version of this review was also published in the August 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine.)

Moving From Anthologies to Novels: Interview with Weldon Burge by Suspense Magazine

June 22, 2011

Tags: suspense writing, horror fiction, anthologies, Weldon Burge, Suspense Magazine

The following was published in the June 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine. I enjoyed the interview. Thanks to Shannon Raab for the great questions!

Being best known for his gardening articles hasn't stopped Weldon Burge from trying all sorts of things, literary-wise. He does freelance writing for many nonfiction and fiction publications. His nonfiction has appeared in Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Gardening How-To, Birds & Blooms, Flower & Garden, National Gardening, Delaware Today, Country Discoveries, Grit, Back Home, The Almanac for Farmers & City Folk, and other national magazines.

His fiction has been showcased in Suspense Magazine, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Grim Graffitti, The Edge: Tales of Suspense, Alienskin, Glassfire Magazine, and Out & About (a Delaware magazine). His stories have also been adapted for podcast presentation by Drabblecast, and have been accepted for the anthologies Don't Tread on Me: Tales of Revenge and Retribution, Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror, Ghosts and Demons, and Something at the Door: A Haunted Anthology. Weldon had several projects brewing, including a police procedural novel and an illustrated chidlren's book. He is also one of Suspense Magazine's book reviewers.

Currently, Weldon is a full-time editor for Independent School Management, which provides a wide range of products and services for private schools. He's been the editor of Ideas & Perspectives, the company's flagship publication, since 1993. He created, posted, and maintained ISM's initial Web site starting in 1995, and is still involved in its development and content. He is also highly involved in the production of the company's other publications.

This month, we showcase our own Weldon Burge. He is always ready to do whatever we ask, and we are so honored to bring him to the forefront in Suspense Magazine's Contributor's Corner for the month of June. Enjoy!

Suspense Magazine (S. Mag.): Fiction, nonfiction, blogging, full-time job, and a family. How do you juggle it all?

Weldon Burge (WB): I do most of my writing around 2 a.m. on Saturdays.

Just kidding—but not entirely. I write wherever and whenever I can find the time: during my lunch break at work, in the evenings after dinner, or even at 2 a.m. on Saturdays. I live a life of deadlines (I’m a full-time editor), and I learned long ago how to prioritize my time. Family comes first. Everything else shakes out from there. So, I set deadlines for myself, but often find that I certainly can’t find time for everything—and that’s when prioritizing comes into play. The projects I deem the most important are the ones that get done. I have an extensive, ever-growing to-do list.

S.MAG.: You’re active in your local writing group, what is the biggest personal benefit of that association?


On the Experimental Fringe of Horror Fiction: An Interview With Michael Bailey

March 2, 2011

Tags: horror fiction, Michael Bailey interview, Suspense Magazine

Michael Bailey is the author of the nonlinear horror novel, Palindrome Hannah, which contains five interrelated tales as well as a secret sixth story that plays out backward through the other stories. The entire book is structurally a palindrome. The novel’s sequel, Phoenix Rose, is also experimental horror. Michael is also the author of the short story and poetry collection, Scales and Petals, and is working on his third novel, Psychotropic Dragon.

His first foray into editing is an anthology of psychological horror, Pellucid Lunacy, which was just recently released. The anthology is a collection of 20 bizarre stories, from authors with unique styles and imagination. All profits from the anthology are being given to charity—it truly is a labor of love!

I asked Michael to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and publication of Pellucid Lunacy, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Before we talk about Pellucid Lunacy, I want to ask you about your other books, specifically why you went the self-publishing route. Editorial and artistic control? Or more than that?

Michael Bailey (MB): Few publishers are interested in new authors. With experimental horror fiction, there are even fewer. Palindrome Hannah is a nonlinear meta-novel. When first sending it to publishers (agents wouldn’t touch it), I received a dozen personalized letters and enough form rejections to bind a book that would probably sell. They all said the same thing: dark, ambitious, risky. Publishers weren’t interested in artsy; they wanted cookie-cutter moneymakers. Experimental rarely sells. After polishing the novel for four years, I decided to put it out there myself to see what would happen. It sold close to 1500 copies by word of mouth and was a finalist for the 2006 Independent Publisher Awards—rave reviews, the works. It was then that I realized I would never submit to cookie-cutter and would forever push my love for nonlinearity, which of course spawned Phoenix Rose, an even stranger novel (listed for the 2010 National Best Book Awards), and my short story collection, Scales and Petals. I now have a new imprint I call Written Backwards. For me, it’s more than editorial control, although that has a lot to do with it. I simply want to publish what no one else will publish, fiction that disregards conventionality.

WB: What then possessed you to pull together, edit, and publish a horror anthology?


Something Dark in the Doorway: A Haunted Anthology

December 19, 2010

Tags: horror fiction, anthologies, Something Dark in the Doorway, Weldon Burge

There's nothing like a collection of ghost stories for late-night reading, and Static Movement's Something Dark in the Doorway: A Haunted Anthology certainly fits the bill. But, as editor Greg Miller noted in his introduction, stories about hauntings can take many forms: "While reviewing the submissions ... I simply didn't anticipate the extraordinary variety of ways in which the word [haunt] can be interpreted." Here you will find stories of people haunted not only by ghosts, but by other supernatural creatures as well as human emotions, regret, and worry.

My story, "DWF," is the first of the 22 stories in this volume, and it was written in the classic ghost story style (e.g., M.R. James, Arthur Machen), with a decidedly modern slant. It was first published in the Delaware magazine Out & About (October 1996), and won First Place in its "Fright Fiction" contest.

Other stories I enjoyed in this anthology include:

  • "Haunted by the Self" by A.J. French—a study in ego and paranoia that is provocative and tests the imagination
  • "The Door of Gingercove Hotel" by Joshua Brown—a haunted hotel tale with a Lovecraftian flavor
  • "An Apple for Teacher" by Anthony Cowin—about a teacher and one of her problematic students, and fruit trees
  • "The Patience Factor" by Rick McQuiston—sometimes patience isn't golden
  • "My Ghost" by Gregory Miller—a poignant story about how childhood memories can be haunting
  • "The Doll Keeper" by Mason Kuldinow—a story involving a sea monster and a bizarre "collection" beneath the sea
  • "Mirror, Mirror" by Bruce Harris—sometimes even reflections can prove to be "haunting"

If you enjoy horror stories, especially those involving hauntings in various forms, you're sure to find stories in this anthology that you'll enjoy!

When I Decided to Write Horror

November 12, 2010

Tags: horror fiction, short stories, freelance writing

I've always loved horror movies and horror fiction, going back even before I learned how to read. I remember my Uncle Donald and his box of EC comics, which he shared with me despite my mother's admonition, "Don't show him that trash! You'll ruin his brain!" Too late, too late. I was probably 4 or 5 at the time, and I came to love those comics filled with the walking dead, vampires, and gruesome death.

I also remember going to the Everett Theater in Middletown, DE every Friday night. The theater often showed Hammer Film double-features and many other horror movies in the late '60s (yes, I'm dating myself!) that scared the crap out of me. I loved every minute of it. I read every ghost and eerie story I could get my grubby hands on.

But, I was experiencing horror only as entertainment.

I can pinpoint one story that changed my life and inspired me not only to read horror, but to write it. This happened in 1969, when I was 13. I can thank Anthony Vercoe, the author of "Flies," for starting my freelance career.

The story appeared in the fine little anthology, 11 Great Horror Stories, published by Scholastic Book Services. That's right, I now write nasty stories thanks to Scholastic! The book contains mini-classics like "The Dunwich Horror" by H.P. Lovecraft, "The Oblong Box" by Edgar Allan Poe, "The Judge's House" by Bram Stoker, and "Thus I Refute Beelzy" by John Collier. What 13-year-old wouldn't be impressed?

But Vercoe's story was unlike anything I'd ever read before, it was so in-your-face, so no-holds-barred when it came to the gross out. I've certainly read stronger stories since then, and there were many other pulp stories of similar caliber, but "Flies" made a difference for me.

An Interview With Jeremy C. Shipp

November 3, 2010

Tags: Jeremy Shipp interview, bizarro fiction, horror fiction

Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of four books: Vacation, Sheep and Wolves, Cursed, and the just-released Fungus of the Heart, a fine collection of short stories. His fiction has been published in approximately 50 publications, including Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, and Withersin.

Jeremy's work is often poetic and poignant, often goofy and gonzo, but always entertaining. Considered a bizarro/horror writer, in truth his writing defies categorization. I think he's just fun to read. I think of him as a literary Frank Zappa.

Jeremy has been on a blog tour for his new book, so I asked him to drop by and share some thoughts with us. Being the great guy that he is, Jeremy played along.

Here we go!

Fungus of the Heart was recently released. Are you giddy?

I’m as giddy as an energetic schoolgirl in an anime who was just asked out by the cool kid.

You seem to be on top of this social media thing. How important is social media in your marketing scheme?

Social media is king, queen, and court jester. I connect with my fans primarily through sites like Twitter, Facebook and Clownspace.

Harlan Ellison or Philip K. Dick?

It’s my strong belief that the two would tie in a thumb wrestling match.

Do the attic clowns ever sleep?

The attic clowns will only rest once the world population is laughing and trembling with fear simultaneously.

No basement clowns?

The ninja coconut monkeys keep the clowns out of my basement, thank goodness.

You’ve been nominated for the Bram Stoker award. How cool is that?

It’s as cool as a scientist studying zombie animals in the Arctic, which is pretty darn cool.

Ghosts and Demons

September 30, 2010

Tags: horror fiction, anthologies, suspense fiction, Ghosts and Demons, Weldon Burge, ghost stories

Who doesn't like ghost stories? (Heck, the Ghost Hunters show on Syfy is one of my guilty pleasures!) Not only do I love reading ghost stories, but I love writing them.

Static Movement just released the anthology Ghosts and Demons, with 33 stories filled with apparitions, demons, and paranormal mayhem of every stripe. My short story, "Blue Eye Burn," is included. This is one of my favorite stories, originally published in Out & About, a Delaware magazine, back in 2004. The tale is about a Vietnam vet who is visited by a child from his past, a child long dead.

Some of the many other stories I enjoyed include:

  • "Death Comes for Gil Bates" by William Wood—what the future holds for the Grim Reaper
  • "Walking the Dog" by Rick McQuiston—will make you take a second look at man's best friend
  • "The Green Washing Machine" by Gayle Arrowood—a different take on appliance hell
  • "The Winter Experiment" by William Todd Rose—a chilling encounter with Yuki-onna, the mythical snow woman
  • "Happy Slapping" by Jason D. Brawn—a violent street punk gets his just reward
  • "The Rendezvous" by Gregory Miller—sometimes it's better to avoid old loves
  • "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" by Ken Goldman—a story involving a langsuyar, a malevolent ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth ... but much more

This anthology also contains five works by Yolanda Sfetsos, a writer hailing from Australia. The book ends with three of her stories, which are preludes to her novel HELLBLAZE.

If you enjoy horror stories—and ghost stories in particular—you'll find plenty to enjoy in this anthology! Halloween is just around the corner (hint, hint).


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