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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

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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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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