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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Meet Horror Writer Shaun Meeks

Shaun Meeks was born and raised in Toronto, and still lives there with his partner, Mina LaFleur. Shaun was formerly a semi-pro skateboarder. Now he enjoys sharing his nightmares in his writing--and scaring the hell out of his readers! His short stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Smart Rhino's ZIPPERED FLESH 2, SOMEONE WICKED, and INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS. He is also the author of the books SHUTDOWN, THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE, and DOWN ON THE FARM.

Thanks, Shaun, for hanging out with us for a few minutes!

Your novel, THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE, is a great monster story. (And the cover is super, too!) What's your recipe for a great monster?

I’ve been writing a lot more monster stories as of late, and part of that has to do with this new series I’ve started, "Dillon the Monster Dick;" THE GATE AT LAKE DRIVE is the first book in the series.

What makes a good monster? Really depends on what you’re going for. Making one scary--the stuff of nightmares--is just fun. To do that, I usually think of what frightens people. Deep-sea life, spiders, demons, the dark--these are things I’ll splice into a monster so that, on a deep level, the elements strike a chord of fear within the reader. I love the idea of monsters with slimy tentacles, coarse hairs, a multitude of eyes, and a nest of sharp, deformed teeth. The trick is making the reader imagine what it’d feel like to be face to face with the monster. The idea of feeling the repulsive skin touching your own, the overwhelming odor of rot that lingers on the thing's flesh. That's what I want readers to be thinking as they read.

But what about the monsters that truly hate or can't change what they are, the ones that you pity? I enjoy playing with that theme--the monster that is hunted and feared, yet proves to be the character with which the readers relate. The humans who shun or hunt the creature prove to be the real monsters. Having a reader relate to the monster isn’t always easy, but it’s great when it works!  Read More 

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Meet Suspense/Horror Writer Billie Sue Mosiman

Billie Sue Mosiman’s NIGHT CRUISE was nominated for the Edgar Award and her novel, WIDOW, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Novel. She’s a prolific writer, one of our favorites here at Smart Rhino Publications, appearing in several of our anthologies. A suspense thriller novelist, she often writes horror short stories. Billie has also been a columnist, reviewer, and writing instructor. She lives in Texas where the sun is too hot for humankind. We are grateful that she took some time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

You're a powerhouse short fiction writer, with stories in a great many anthologies and collections. Do you get more satisfaction out of writing short fiction than writing novels? If so, why?

I enjoy both forms of fiction writing. What do I find easiest to write, though? Short stories. One idea, a couple of characters, one forward plot. Novels are Olympic where stories are like college sports. I very much enjoy finishing a novel. I know I've run the marathon and made it.

Your latest novel, THE GREY MATTER, received a nomination for the Kindle Book Award. Your work often bridges the gap between horror and suspense. How much of this is intentional, and how much is simply "I write what I enjoy reading"? Do you think of marketing at all when you're in the "creation mode"?

Two of my suspense novels employed more than suspense. BAD TRIP SOUTH has a little girl who can read minds. It was the first time I mixed genres and I really liked how it came out. You're following a crime drama and meanwhile the girl knows exactly what's going on in the minds of the adults. I employed speculative fiction in THE GREY MATTER, which is essentially a crime suspense novel. The world goes dark due to EMPs and there's a serial killer in it. Otherwise, most of my books are straight suspense novels. I figured if whatever I write is something I like, others will like it too. Now I'm writing a new novel, THE BLACKEST PLACE, and it will be noir suspense. I do write what I enjoy reading.  Read More 

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L.L. Soares & Laura Cooney on Their Novella GREEN TSUNAMI

Husband and wife team, Bram Stoker Winner L.L. Soares and Laura Cooney, having written some truly incredible and entertaining horror fiction over the years. L.L.'s stories have appeared in a number of Smart Rhino anthologies ("Sawbones" in ZIPPERED FLESH, "Seeds" in ZIPPERED FLESH 2, "Sometimes the Good Witch Sings to Me" in SOMEONE WICKED, and "What the Blender Saw" in INSIDIOUS ASSASSINS). Smart Rhino also had the pleasure of publishing their SF/horror novella GREEN TSUNAMI. The two of them took some time out of their busy schedules for a few interview questions.


Most of your writing tends toward horror, but GREEN TSUNAMI definitely has a science fiction flavor as well. What sparked the idea for the novella?

LL: Well, a lot of it had to do with the initial concept. Our first short story collection, IN SICKNESS, had just come out from Skullvines Press (which featured solo stories by both of us, and a novella called "In Sickness," which we wrote together). A couple of writers we knew were starting their own small press, and they wanted another collaborative novella from us. The only stipulations were that: 1) it had to involve the end of the world, and 2) it had to be told in correspondence format between a husband and wife (letters, emails, etc.). At this point, apocalyptic fiction had just started to really get big, but we didn’t want to do anything that had been done before. No zombies or cannibals or stuff like that. In fact, the entire idea of the end of the world can instantly bring to mind ruins and barren spaces and death. And we wanted to do something the complete opposite of that. Where, instead of death and desolation, there was going to be life. It just wasn’t necessarily going to be human life. Not as we know it.

And that’s how the science fiction flavor evolved. There are also elements of bizarro fiction in there, since both Laura and I are big fans of surrealism, and the idea of a constantly evolving, mutating landscape seemed to tap right into that. Unfortunately, once the novella was completed, the small press that asked for it closed up shop. Here we had a novella we really thought came out great, but the place that had requested it was gone. That’s when Smart Rhino swooped in and came to the rescue. Which we’re both grateful for.  Read More 

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Bram Stoker Award-Winner Lisa Mannetti on Storytelling

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! Read More 

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Developing Characters Via Dialogue

Many fiction writers have difficulty developing real-to-life characters in their work. One of the ways to pull this off effectively is with dialogue—something most of us enjoy writing. But, as an editor, I often see short stories that miss the mark. How? With dialogue that doesn’t truly differentiate the characters, much less help define them.

Have you read fiction in which the dialogue has one tone, one voice? Typically this is because the author is writing in his or her own voice instead of getting into the characters’ heads and talking in the ways they would. The dialogue must fit the characters. I’m often guilty of being lazy when developing dialogue myself, and often have to go through my drafts to hone the dialogue.

Let’s consider an example.

I’m currently working on a police procedural novel. Of course, there are a number of detectives and other police officers in the story, and each has a distinct character. My main character, Matthew Marrs, is a by-the-book, straightforward detective with a heart, who is highly intuitive and superb at his job. His partner, Gordon O’Daniel, constantly looks for the humor in situations, is something of a lady’s man, and is quick-witted and street-smart. Anthony D’Oro is an older, gruff detective, something of a curmudgeon. Now, let’s hear them talk.

“Give me a break,” Marrs said.

“Gimme a break,” D’Oro said.

“C’mon!” O’Daniel said.

The detectives react to the same situation and say pretty much the same thing, but with different voices that portray their characters. Even if I didn’t add the attributions, you’d probably know who said what from my earlier descriptions of their characters.  Read More 

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Taking a Shot at Flash Fiction

I'm not a big fan of flash fiction--generally stories of fewer than 300 words. But, when it comes to writing, I'll try anything (at least once). So, I took a shot at writing flash fiction, and even what I've written is not quite short enough at about 340 words. Still, see if this passes muster ...


Dunes
by Weldon Burge

There was snow on the beach, dunes upon dunes, and the ocean, pissed at the world, clawed at the surf with icy fingers.

James gazed out over the bitter Atlantic from his 10th-floor, hotel room window. He’d checked into the hotel the previous evening, in the middle of the worst nor’easter to hit the Northeast seaboard in decades. The trip from Atlanta to Atlantic City had been pure hell.

James could see white caps on the waves as far out as he could see. The wind howled like a demon outside the window. He wanted to see dolphins. Even seagulls. Any form of life. But the water and the beach were barren.

He wanted summer again.

Hard to believe that, only months before, James had brought the family to this very hotel, this beach, for a week of sun and fun. He remembered Luke and Matt, six and eight, helping him build an enormous sandcastle, then gleefully pounding it back into the sand with their bare feet. James could hear Matt laughing as they both attempted to boogie board on the chaotic waves, often tumbling together in the surf and chasing their boards in the wet sand. He remembered telling both boys to stop throwing potato chips to the hordes of raucous gulls that surrounded their bleach blanket.

Most of all, James remembered the distinct aroma of cocoa butter, the sweet suntan lotion on Lori’s bronze skin as she soaked up the sun, stretched out next to him on the blanket. She turned to him, a magnificent smile for him, a gift. He so loved this woman. She was beautiful beyond description, beyond imagination. James felt like the luckiest man on the planet, right at that moment when she smiled for him.

Was that really the last time she smiled?

James wanted summer again.

But seasons change.

There was snow on the sand, dunes upon dunes, and James was due in divorce court at noon.

 

So, what do you think?


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Meet Paranormal Thriller Author Sandra R. Campbell

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.  Read More 

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Reflecting on Pearl Harbor

My wife, Cindy, and I took a 10-day vacation in Hawaii to celebrate our 25th anniversary, doing all the "touristy" things like taking guided tours, snorkeling, going to luaus, and generally having fun. But our visit to Pearl Harbor—and especially the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial—was a somber, sobering event. I already knew a good deal about the Japanese surprise air attack on the morning of December 7, 1941. But Cindy and I still learned a good deal more at the museum and exhibits there.

At the Arizona Memorial, it's incredible to see the massive hulk of the sunken battleship just under the water, knowing that hundreds of men are still entombed there. The film reel shown at the museum depicting the exploding ship, lifting its mass 10 feet above the water, was jaw-dropping. Most of the men on board, probably sleeping on an early Sunday morning, never had a chance—and likely never knew what hit them. Walking through the memorial was somewhat eerie, with people talking in hushed tones, if talking at all. The large wall at the end of the memorial, listing all the men who perished there, is nothing short of mind-numbing. But I noticed many Japanese visitors looking up at the wall, and then bowing their heads and closing their eyes in contemplation, in reverence. You cannot leave the memorial without feeling humbled.



I was particularly interested in learning more about Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander of the Japanese attack force on Pearl Harbor.  Read More 

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Meet Suspense/Thriller Writer and Publisher Austin S. Camacho

Austin S. Camacho is the author of five novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series, four in the Stark and O’Brien adventure series, and the detective novel, Beyond Blue. Austin is deeply involved with the writing community. He is a past president of the Maryland Writers Association, past Vice President of the Virginia Writers Club, and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. He is part owner of Intrigue Publishing, and was the chief organizer for the annual Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity (C3) Conference near Baltimore.

I had the pleasure of meeting Austin two years ago at the C3 conference, as well as working with him on his story “One of Us” for the Insidious Assassins anthology, published by Smart Rhino Publications. I recently managed to catch up with Austin and used the opportunity to talk with him about latest projects.

 

Weldon Burge (WB): You’ve written a good many suspense/thriller novels, including the Hannibal Jones mystery series, the Stark and O’Brien adventure series, and most recently a detective novel, Beyond Blue. Let’s start with the series. What do you find most appealing about writing series? Do you find the series easier to market than stand-alone novels?
Austin Camacho (AC): The most important point about character development is that people are changed by the events they experience. So the most appealing part of writing a series is that I get to follow up on those changes. I’ve followed the rising and advancing of Hannibal Jones’ spirit, and the rocky path along which Stark (a mercenary) and O’Brien (a thief) are following toward becoming actual heroes, in part due to their friendship. And I think series are easier to market because readers get caught up in characters more than in plots.

 

WB: Your latest novel, Beyond Blue, is about a team of detectives whose only purpose is to help police officers in trouble. What sparked the idea for this novel? How much research was involved in pulling the book together?
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Meet Debut Horror/SF Novelist Christian A. Larsen

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?

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