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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Print Books Are Not Dinosaurs ... Yet

For the past few years, digital devices and e-books have gained great popularity in schools and homes—and most school-age children have access to the technology. Smartphones and iPads proliferate in many of our schools. Many educators believe that print books will soon become obsolete—or at least decrease in use—as children mature in a world ruled by technology.

Yet, so far, this hasn’t been the case. According to Scholastic’s 2015 Kids & Family Reading Report, the print book is not dead yet. Most students have read an e-book—61% in 2014 compared with 25% in 2010. However, for students ages 6–17, print books are still preferred—65% compared with 60% in 2012, and 77% who had read e-books said that the majority of books they read (especially for pleasure) were in print.

A preference for print books may be a growing trend in our society overall. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have steadily declined since 2012. Comparing AAP survey results from January 2015 and January 2016, sales of paperback books grew 4.3%, while e-book sales declined 24.9%. (However, in the same period, sales of hardback books fell 18.7%.)

According to a 2015 survey of librarians by the School Library Journal, 56% of schools in the U.S. reported that they include e-books in their libraries, but only 6% of librarians reported a high student interest in e-books. Their observations show that, while students may use e-books for research and school projects, they prefer print books for pleasure reading. They appear to prefer a book “in hand”—there is an apparent physical, tactile element to reading.

This seems also to be true for college students. A new study, recently reported in Tech Times, indicated that 92% of those surveyed preferred print books over e-books. Interestingly, of those who preferred e-books, many expressed concern over the environmental consequences of publishing paper books.

Our teachers use digital books in their classrooms more and more. The next generation of students, taught how to use technology at an early age and now entering our lower schools, may change reading habits. But it’s too early to tell if they will have a greater affinity for e-books. So we are left to wonder how trends will change in the future of education. Most likely, students (and ultimately adults) will develop the ability to use both mediums—print and electronics—for accessing information and enjoying the “fun” of reading. Perhaps this dual ability will positively affect the literacy of our students.

But it’s clear from current research that print books are far from extinction.

First published in The Source for Private School News, Vol. 16, No. 3.


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Meet Bram Stoker Award Finalist James Dorr

Indiana writer James Dorr’s The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award® nominee for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. His other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and his all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). Also be on the watch for Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth, a novel-in-stories due for release from Elder Signs Press in spring 2017. Dorr, an Active Member of HWA and SFWA, has seen his work published in more than 500 publications, from "Alfred Hitchcock's Magazine" to "Xenophilia."

If you're familiar with Smart Rhino's anthologies (and we certainly hope you are!), you may remember his stories "The Wellmaster's Daughter" in Uncommon Assassins, and "Labyrinth" in Insidious Assassins. His story "Golden Age" will be published in Zippered Flesh 3, now in production.

James was happy to spend a few minutes to talk with us. Enjoy!

Your book The Tears of Isis was a Bram Stoker Award finalist in 2014 for the fiction collection category. Your stories have appeared in many anthologies, including Smart Rhino's Uncommon Assassins, Insidious Assassins, and the upcoming Zippered Flesh 3. Do you prefer the short form over writing novels? What's the allure for writing short stories?

Allan Poe wrote in his essay, “The Poetic Principle,” that “a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul.” So, a true poem must necessarily have a certain brevity. “That degree of excitement which would entitle a poem to be so called at all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of any great length. After the lapse of half an hour, at the very utmost, it flags--fails--a revulsion ensues--and then the poem is, in effect, and in fact, no longer such.” There are such things as epics, of course. But to Poe, despite the need for unity for a work as a whole, such a work in practice becomes a series of shorter poems, though perhaps not so much through the fault of the poet as that of the reader.

Nevertheless, I think I agree with what Poe is getting at-- Read More 

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Armand Rosamilia Talks About Horror

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,  Read More 

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Talking with Chantal Noordeloos, Author of Coyote the Outlander

Chantal Noordeloos lives in the Netherlands, where she spends a lot of time arguing with characters (aka writing). In 1999, Chantal graduated from the Norwich School of Art and Design, where she focused mostly on creative writing. There are many genres that Chantal likes to explore in her writing. Currently steampunk is a focus of hers, leading her to write her Coyote novels about a female bounty who faces bizarre challenges.

But Chantal's "go to" genre will always be horror. "It helps being scared of everything. That gives me plenty of inspiration," she says.

Chantal is one of Smart Rhino's favorite writers, and we always enjoy talking with her. She gladly provided the following interview--which captures much of her inherent wackiness. Enjoy!


Your Coyote novels, Coyote the Outlander and Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly, are uniquely steampunk. Coyote is a strong and fascinating heroine. How much of Coyote is Chantal?

Ha! You caught me there. There’s quite a lot of me in Coyote, more so than any other character I’ve written so far. I think that also has a lot to do with that she’s an old role-play character of mine, from back in the days that we played Dead Lands.

There are a great deal of differences, of course. I can’t shoot a gun to save my life (in all honesty, I would more likely shoot myself than an opponent) and even if I could, I don’t think I’d have it in me to kill anyone. In a fight of flight situation … well, let’s just say I do the worst … I freeze. *cringes*

So, not so much the heroic bounty hunter, more the useless cannon fodder. If the *insert scary monster here* Apocalypse should ever happen, I would be among the first to die—and I probably won’t even die with dignity.

But at least I get to live vicariously through Coyote, right? Right? *bites lip*

Where I think we’re similar, she and I, is that Coyote has my zany outlook on life, and my sense of humor. One could argue that all characters I write have "my sense of humor" since, ehm … I wrote them, but that’s not exactly true. There is a difference between what I write and how I am in real life—there are plenty of characters I’ve written where I thought: "Dude, wtf is wrong with you?" Not sure what that says about my own mental state, but there you have it.

Coyote reflects how I feel about subjects such as inequality.  Read More 

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Liz DeJesus, Writer of Modern-Day Fairy Tales

Liz DeJesus loves taking familiar fairy tales themes and giving them new twists--if not turning them upside-down. She is a novelist, freelance author, writing coach, and poet. If you enjoy the retelling of fairy tales, be sure to check out her work--including Jackets, First Frost, Glass Frost, Shattered Frost, and several others. Her story, "Sisters: A Fairy Tale," was published in the Smart Rhino anthology, Someone Wicked.

Liz agreed to talk with us about her work--and, as always, we enjoyed the conversation!

Let's start with the easy question for you. Why fairy tales?

It goes all the way back to my childhood. I was bullied as a kid throughout most of my childhood and fairy tales were a safe haven for me. Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault. Their books and stories all conveyed the message that I could have hope and that things could get better for me. I needed that message so badly at that time in my life. So I read them over and over again just to keep myself afloat. It took a while but things did eventually change for me.

So that’s the main reason I always gravitate towards fairy tales. In life and in my writing. Besides, it’s so much fun to play with these stories!

I love reimagining these fairy tales. I especially adore writing fairy tale retellings. I like to think about what it would’ve been like to have been in their shoes. Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood … just to name a few.

I remember the short story I wrote for the Someone Wicked Anthology, "Sisters: A Fairy Tale." It’s a fairy tale retelling of the story "Toads and Diamonds." That was a lot of fun to write. I got to see two sides of a story I always wanted to know more about.

With The Frost Series (First Frost, Glass Frost, and Shattered Frost), I use fairy tales as the foundation of the story. What if Snow White and all these fairy tale princesses had children? What happened to those children? Bianca Frost is the main character of the series and she’s a witch as well as a descendant of Snow White.

In my collection of short stories, Mugshots, I use fairy tales once more except that this is a modern retelling of Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, and Goldilocks and they all commit crimes that land them in jail. Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll! Believe me, I had WAY too much fun writing that particular book.

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

 

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Graham Masterton: Horror and Suspense Master Extraordinaire

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,  Read More 

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Meet Thriller Writer John Gilstrap

Most people know bestselling author John Gilstrap for his thrillers, especially his Jonathan Grave novels (No Mercy, Hostage Zero, High Treason, Damage Control, End Game, Threat Warning). But fewer know that he is also an accomplished screenwriter, writing screen adaptations of novels by Nelson DeMille, Thomas Harris, Norman McLean, and of course his own work. Outside of his writing, John has an extensive background in hazardous waste management, fire behavior, and explosives—knowledge that he has incorporated at times in his fiction.

John welcomed an interview for Suspense Magazine, and I thoroughly enjoyed our Q&A session!

Let’s start with your screenwriting. Your first screenplay was an adaptation of your own novel, Nathan’s Run. Apparently you knew nothing about screenwriting before taking on the job. Yet you wrote the screenplay in, what, less than a week? What did you do to get up-to-speed on that project?

Two years after I’d sold the movie rights to Nathan’s Run, my film agent at CAA called with the bad news that Warner Bros was putting Nathan’s Run in turn-around—the first in a complex series of steps that generally lead to a movie’s death. All because of script problems. I told my agent that the previous script writers were missing the point of the story; that I could do better, if only given the chance. Important Hollywood Lesson: Be careful what you say.

“Hmm,” my agent said. “Do you think you could do it by next week?” The word “sure” escaped my lips before the filter in my brain had a chance to stop it. Sure I could write a screenplay in a week. Why should I let a little detail like never having seen a screenplay—let alone write one—stand in my way? Bravado, baby.

So, with so little time to deal with the deadline, what did you do?

I dashed out to my local bookstore and picked up a copy of William Goldman’s book, Adventures in the Screen Trade, and read it cover to cover in a day. In it, he’s got the complete script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and when I finished it, I thought I had a handle on this screenwriting thing, so I started writing. Three days later, I had a completed script for Nathan’s Run.

Wow, three days? How did it go over?

 

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

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,  Read More 

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Meet Horror/Suspense Writer W.D. Gagliani

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,  Read More 

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Interview with Michael Bailey, Bram Stoker Award Winner

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.

I designed the cover for Chiral Mad 3 and on a whim decided the entire book should be chiral in structure, with an odd amount of stories and an even amount of symmetrically-placed poetry. I reached out to a handful of writers I wanted in the book (for both fiction and poetry). Before I knew it, I had a dozen stories and a dozen poems; every single one of them spectacular. Chaos quickly took over.

I had so much fun  Read More 

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