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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

Meet Debut Thriller Writer D.B. Corey

D.B. Corey’s first novel, “Chain of Evidence”, a police procedural/thriller, was published by Intrigue Publishing this past summer. In the story, Moby Truax, an aging detective who is nearing retirement, must investigate a serial killer stalking the streets of Baltimore—and Truax suspects the murders are that of a copycat killer, and that he actually faces two serial killers.

After a stint in college, Corey joined the USNR flying aircrew aboard a Navy P-3 Orion chasing down Russian subs. During his time there, he began a career in IT. He didn’t begin writing until his mid-50s, and had to pay some dues before landing his contract with Intrigue and the subsequent publication of his first novel.

I asked D.B. to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and publication of Chain of Evidence, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Your novel, Chain of Evidence, was published by a new independent publisher, Intrigue Publishing. What have you learned from that partnership?

D.B. Corey (DB): I signed with Intrigue in July of 2012. The novel was released in August of 2013. Had I not missed my first deadline, it would have come out four months earlier. So the first thing I learned was not to miss deadlines. Once the book did come out, I discovered I had a second job—marketing myself; something I was unprepared to do. I found that writing the book was the easy part, there were not enough weekends in the month, and the publisher designs the cover. He may even want to change the title, but that was OK with me. My title was terrible.

WB: The hero in your novel is Moby Truax, an aging detective nearing retirement. The villain, Harvey Morral, is a serial killer who also happens to be a medical examiner who is into necrophilia. How did you research to develop these two characters?

DB: With all respect, I consider our military men and women and our first responders to be heroes, so I would never refer to one of my fictional characters a hero. Heroes are flesh and blood people who can be hurt, so my good guy is “the protagonist.”

WB: Couldn’t agree more. Sometimes we forget who the true heroes are!
DB: I didn’t want Moby to be a super-cop—some guy who stood six-six, weighed in at two-hundred-and-fifty pounds, was solid muscle, played in the NFL, and had bullets bounce off his chest. Everybody writes those kind of main characters and the movies are full of them. To research Truax, I only had to look at myself. I wanted him to have the same problems I found myself facing; age related problems: diminishing faculties such as memory and eyesight, weight gain, resistance to and resentful of the changing world around him. I used those things as a starting point. As he developed, he had to deal with younger peers with entitlement expectations and a boss who regarded him as taking up space. Moby became cynical, suspicious, arrogant, condescending and proud—lots and lots of flaws; a good main character.

Harvey Morral, on the other hand, is hateable. He is wanting in every social aspect of his life to the point he’s willing to kill to attain the women he covets. He employs a tried and true template of many literary bad guys, but to put just a bit of a spin on him, I made him a coward, who only finds strength when he hides in the shadow of a legitimate killer.

WB: Is Moby going to be a series character?

DB: God I hope so. If the novel is well received, I have the second in the series in mind. He’ll be retired, and broke, and maybe I’ll bring back Vecchio (Moby’s female foil in the book) just to drive him nuts. I think that’s as good a place to start as any.

WB: What’s been your most pleasant surprise as a debut novelist?

DB: I must admit, I am very pleased with the reception the novel has received to date. And if I may share an anecdote; my son mentioned to his neighbor that I wrote a book. She downloaded it and read it in two days; said she couldn’t put it down. She asked my son how she could get a signed copy, so he and I went to visit with a paperback. That’s when I realized how it must be for celebrities, because that’s how she treated me. I felt a bit awkward in that particular role, but she was, and I’m loathed to use this term as applied to me, “star struck.” We sat and talked in her kitchen for thirty minutes or so, I signed the book, and left. Later, I read her Facebook post. I had no idea that small gesture could mean so much to someone.

WB: Least pleasant surprise?

DB: If I may, I’d like to do what politicians do—change the question. My least pleasant occurrence came before the book published. I corresponded with a writing friend online. We critiqued each other’s work. One day, she was especially harsh on a scene I wrote. I went back to look, and it was obvious she hadn’t read what she critiqued. I commented on her error and suggested that maybe she read too fast. She became belligerent and said that she always skipped over the things I wrote, and maybe I should just give up. That was a bit hard to take, and I actually considered her terse advice. But, the longer I thought about it, the more I was determined to prove her wrong, if only to myself.

WB: You’ve mentioned that you read “10 or 20” how-to books before tackling the novel. Which ones were the most helpful, that you’d recommend to other first-time novelists?

DB: I may have exaggerated just a tiny bit. But, of the starter books I read, I found several to be beneficial: The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Hooked by Les Edgerton, Goal Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon, and On Writing by Stephen King. King’s book is probably the most intuitive of the lot. Those are my four favorites, the books I recommend. Of course, there are many others on query writing, synopsis writing … you get the picture. The point is, if you want to become a writer and if your name isn’t Hemingway of Twain, you might want to take a few pointers from those who have gone before you.

WB: Do you work from an outline, or just wing it?

DB: Actually, I’ve tried both. I wrote from the seat on my pants (known as a pantser in the trade) to begin with, but then I read Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, another how-to book. It was good and made many points, but every time I tried to outline, I found myself writing entire scenes within the outline. No self-restraint.

I met Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector) at a conference earlier this year. Nice guy. We had a few drinks and he told me he spends eight months writing an outline to a novel. James Patterson said in an interview that he does the same, and writes 60 to 80 pages of outline for his. To be honest, I don’t see how they do it. I have to sink my teeth into the story. I can’t do that several weeks down the road, so I employ a combination of outline and writing. I use bullets for notes I want in each scene, and then write it. Maybe not right then, but I don’t wait months either. E.L. Doctorow described novel writing as driving a car at night. You know where it starts and you know where it ends, in between, you can only see as far as your headlights. I tend to agree.

WB: You spent 12 years in the U.S. Naval Air Reserves, and flew as aircrew on a Navy P-3 Orion submarine hunter during the Cold War. How did those experiences help you in your writing career?

DB: Well, I wasn’t aboard the P-3 the whole twelve years. They did let me out on occasion. But kidding aside, I did many cool things in the Navy, from tracking Russian subs to orbiting a pod of playful whales in the North Atlantic, and from each sea experience, came a sea story. If you ever meet a sailor in a bar, ask them. They’ll keep you enthralled for hours over a couple beers and a bowl of peanuts. I learned how to transform the mundane into the exciting, because after you’ve told the same story half-a-dozen times, you need a twist, if only to keep it fresh for yourself. That’s what fiction writers do, if you think about it.

WB: If you could go back in time to start your writing career all over again, what would you do differently?

DB: Absolutely nothing. I couldn’t have done this were I any younger. I didn’t have what it takes.

WB: What's next on your writing agenda?

DB: I am working on another thriller, this one with a vigilante theme. A woman is brutally murdered and the killer gets off on a technicality. The sister is not happy about it and … well, hopefully, it should be out next year.

After that, I’m going to see what I can do about disassembling the government in a YA thriller.

WB: The ultimate villain—Professor Moriarty or Hannibal Lecter?

DB: Although I like Moriarty, I just wrote a novel with a very sick antag. Hannibal Lecter—no question.

WB: One last question, just for fun. Who is your favorite superhero, and why?

DB: I grew up with Superman, The Flash, Batman, Green Lantern, X-Men … but I’d have to flip a coin between Spidey and Iron Man—Spidey because he had true super powers but was damaged, and Iron Man because of his technology, originally purposed just to keep him alive.

WB: Well, D.B., thanks for spending a few minutes with us!

DB: Weldon, thank you for the opportunity! I enjoyed your thought-provoking questions, as I’m sure you can tell by my rather lengthy answers.

For more on D.B. Corey, visit his Web site at www.dbcorey.com.

(A version of this review was also published in the Jan/Feb. 2014 issue of Suspense Magazine.)
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Meet Bram Stoker Winner L.L. Soares

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.




WB: You’ve written a collection of short stories, In Sickness in collaboration with your wife, Laura Cooney. How did that come about? And will you be doing it again?

LLS: In Sickness just came to me as a fully formed idea. Laura and I are both writers, and we’re in the unique situation of being married and both writing mostly in the horror genre. It also gave me a chance to spotlight some of Laura’s fiction, as well as my own. I think she’s an awesome writer. The idea was that the book would include stories by her, stories by me, and then a novella (also called “In Sickness”) that we wrote together. It was a pretty easy concept to pitch to publishers—kind of pre-packaged and ready to go. I had the title and the basic idea. Even the cover was something we had beforehand. We had been visiting our friends Steve and Valerie Dorato and I saw the painting Val had done that would become the cover of “In Sickness”. It was so somber, so emotionally resonant, that I knew immediately that I wanted to use it for the book. It just all kind of fell into place. I think Skullvines Press did a wonderful job with it.

As for doing it again, Laura and I were asked to write another novella together for a new publisher a little while ago. We wrote it, and they liked it, but the publisher folded before they could put it out, so we’re in the process of finding a new home for it. It’s called Green Tsunami, and it is a different kind of take on the apocalypse. No radioactive wastelands or zombies or anything like that, but something completely different. I hope to get that one placed somewhere soon. The only rules we had when it was requested of us was that it take place during an apocalypse, and that it be written as either letters or emails back and forth between two characters. I’m really happy with how that one turned out, and hopefully it will be placed somewhere soon.

We’ve also been kicking around some other ideas for future projects.

WB: Aside from your wife, which author would you love to collaborate with? And what would you write?

LLS: I have actually done a LOT of collaboration. I wrote a short story and a novella with Kurt Newton (the novella is Breaking Eggs, available from Sideshow Press), which came out quite well. A story I did with Daniel G. Keohane, “Mermaids”, was published in Cemetery Dance. And I have stories I wrote with Peter N. Dudar and John Dixon that turned out really well. Aside from that, I write a movie review column with Michael Arruda called “Cinema Knife Fight” that is a collaboration I do just about every week. So I’ve had a lot of experience “playing well with others.”

As far as someone I would love to collaborate with but haven’t, I would love to work with someone like Clive Barker. I just think he’s so rich with wonderful, dark ideas. As for what we would write—it would be more interesting to leave that to the imagination.

WB: Which authors have had the most influence on your fiction?

LLS: Despite the fact that I write mostly horror, most of my biggest influences have been outside the genre.

The first writers I got hooked on as a kid were Poe and Lovecraft. Poe I was exposed to through school and Lovecraft I found on my own. I was obsessed and read everything I could find by Lovecraft. Then as I got older, I got into science fiction, and the writers who really stood out for me were people like Fritz Leiber, Theodore Sturgeon, and Harlan Ellison—the kinds of writers who defied genre boundaries a lot of the time and who weren’t afraid to take on taboo subject matter. Strangely, I don’t ever think I had a period of time where I read much YA fiction. It was just the classics and then on to the more intriguing science fiction of the day. And comic books, of course.

I was also heavily into the whole “new wave” of science fiction from the 1970s, which included writers like Thomas M. Disch, Barry Malzberg, Norman Spinrad, Joanna Russ, Michael Moorcock, and Samuel Delany, as well as Philip K. Dick (who was pre-“New Wave,” but obviously had a big effect on it) and Philip Jose Farmer.


Perhaps the biggest SF-related influence, though, was J.G. Ballard, a writer who started out writing science fiction, but whose reach went way beyond that genre. Ballard was very important to me. I remember reading his novel Crash for the first time and being totally blown away by it. I’ve re-read that one several times since, and it still amazes me.

In horror, I’m a huge fan of Jack Ketchum, Shirley Jackson, T.E.D. Klein, Clive Barker (especially his early horror output), Dennis Etchison, David J. Schow, and Poppy Z. Brite. I was a big fan of the Skipp and Spector novels, too. And there were some comic book writers, like Steve Gerber and Alan Moore who inspired me as well.And noir/crime fiction like Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford.

Then there are so-called “mainstream” writers like Philip Roth, Jerzy Kozinski, Harry Crews, Ian McEwan, Chuck Palahniuk, and Dan Fante, all of whom I enjoy immensely.

But most of all, the writers who I had the most connection with, were ones who kind of stood outside of genres, people like Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Jr., and Hunter S. Thompson. Writers who were pretty much genres unto themselves. But I guess one overall connecting tissue among all these writers is that they were and are risk takers. They were not satisfied to be held back by any boundaries. I can relate to that.

WB: If you could start your writing career over, what would you do differently?

LLS: I’m not really sure. I started writing at a very young age. I remember writing one-page stories based on movies I had seen on TV in a lined notebook when I was as young as six or seven. So there was always that desire. I knew very early on what I wanted to do with my life. I started sending out actual manuscripts—short stories, mostly—to magazines when I was in high school. I had this idea that I would start selling stuff early on and have a long and prolific career, but it didn’t turn out that way.

I sold my first story in college, to The Minnesotan Science Fiction Reader of all places, for all of fifteen dollars, but it folded before my story could be published. After that, it took me another 15 years before I made my next sale, which happened to also be my first professional sale (at pro rates) to Gothicnet.com. In the meantime, I was writing constantly during those years in between. It wasn’t like I had given up. But I got enough rejections over those years to wonder if I would ever actually sell anything. So much for my plans for a long writing career! I had a long period from the late 80s to the mid-90s where I was writing things that I never sent out at all. I’d just finish one thing and go on to the next one.

In a weird way, finally selling stories and novels later in life is satisfying because I’ve been working at it for so long. In another way, it feels like now I am in a race against the clock to write as much as I can in the time I have left. I guess any success I have now is bittersweet, in the sense that, if this had happened twenty years ago, I would have more time to create a much larger body of work.

So I guess my answer to your question would be, I don’t know. I did all I could think to do at the time. Beyond that, it was out of my hands.

WB: The short stories you’ve written for the Smart Rhino Zippered Flesh anthologies are so different. “Sawbones” in the first anthology was an absolute gorefest. “Seeds” in the second anthology has no gore at all, yet is in my view even creepier. When you write horror, are you more comfortable going for the gross out or the creep out?

LLS: I actually don’t have a preference. I know a lot of people who say they prefer the quiet chill to gore, but I don’t really think one is better than the other. I see both subtle horror and extreme horror as two different tools in my writer’s toolbox, to be pulled out when they’re needed. I hear people say all the time that subtle horror is better, that gore is just a crutch, and while I’m sure that is true in some cases, I don’t agree with it over all. Gore elicits a very visceral response, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want. I just don’t even think about it when I write, though. I write what fits the moment.

Another big influence on me has been movies, of course, and I’m just as happy with a subtle old Val Lewton film as I am with something like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I like both kinds of horror, and I can appreciate them for what they are.

WB: What are you reading now?

LLS: I try to read outside the horror genre as much as possible. Not because I have anything against horror—I love it—but if that’s all you read, it becomes tiresome. At the same time, I have a lot of friends in the genre and I want to read their new books when they come out. So right now I’m kind of reading several things at once: I just finished a collection of interviews with musician/spoken word artist Lydia Lunch who I love, put out by Re/Search Books; I read Nick Cato’s latest novella, “The Last Porno Theater”, which I really enjoyed; I’ve been reading a biography of Aleister Crowley by Richard Kaczynski a little at a time, and, every so often I read a book in the 33 1/3 series about classic albums. My “To Be Read” pile includes The Evolutionist by Rena Mason, Mountain Home by Bracken McLeod, and autobiographies by directors William Friedkin and Elia Kazan, to name just a few. So, yeah, I’m all over the place.

WB: You’ve been a film critic forthe film review column “Cinema Knife Fight” for a decade or so, focusing largely on horror/suspense films. What do you think are the three best “unknown” horror movies—incredible movies that almost no one has seen?

LLS: There are so many great movies that are underappreciated. If I had to pick three off the top of my head, they would be:

Possession (1981) by director Andrzej Zulawski is starting to get more attention lately, but it still deserves to be discovered by more people. It’s a story about a guy (Sam Neill) whose wife (Isabelle Adjani) is having an affair. But the more we learn, the more surreal it all is, going in some really Lovecraftian directions by the end. Just an amazing, unusual film.

Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural (1973) by Richard Blackburn, is kind of a mix between a dream/nightmare and a fairy tale. It has that kind of feel to it. About a girl who goes back to her hometown and finds witches and vampires. It’s so different and original that it’s refreshing.

Sugar Hill (1974) by Paul Maslansky is probably my favorite movie from the whole “Blaxploitation” movement in the 1970s. It’s about zombies, but the old school kind, that are raised up by voodoo. A woman (Marki Bey) whose boyfriend is killed by gangsters, gets revenge using zombies. With a scene-stealing performance by Don Pedro Colley as Baron Samedi, who is the zombie master. Really terrific little flick. Also featuring Robert Quarry (from the underrated Count Yorgamovies) as a gangster. With all the fuss about flesh-eating zombies these days, it’s nice to just submerge yourself in a well-made movie about traditional voodoo zombies once in awhile.

WB: How much does your love of cinema influence your own writing style?

LLS: I’m sure cinema has influenced me a lot. I was a fan of horror movies before I was a fan of anything in other mediums. I am a very visual writer—I picture these characters and situations in my mind’s eye as I’m writing—and I’m sure that’s a cinematic influence.I’m sure things like pacing and drama come from that, too.


For horror, and movies in general, I think there were two big periods. First, there were the 1930s—the time of the classic Universal horror films and the peak of screwball comedies by directors like Preston Sturgess and Howard Hawks—which was a true golden age for cinema. There just seemed to be so many great movies made during that decade, and so many kinds of movies. One thing I had as a kid that isn’t really as prevalent now was the whole Saturday Morning Creature Features, where they would show a lot of classic horror and sf films. That’s how I was exposed to a lot of this stuff, and kids today just don’t have that kind of access. Or maybe they’re just not interested. Sure there’s video, but there’s also this idea that black and white movies are for old fogies, which is really sad. It’s like there’s a whole world of movies out there that is being unjustly ignored.

I remember seeing the original James Whale Frankenstein (1931) when I was about six, and that’s the movie that really did me in. That made me a horror fan for life. It just had such a huge impression on me at the time, and it’s what led me to seek out all things horror throughout my life.

The other major cinema period for me is the 1970s. This was after the whole studio system in Hollywood came to an end, and suddenly all of the strict rules that governed movies were gone. So many directors pushed the envelope then. It didn’t always work, but it was a time of experimentation and extremes. I think the 70s is my favorite movie decade. It’s when we got everything from Easy Rider to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Midnight Cowboy. Everything seemed new and exciting—depictions of sex and violence, the emphasis on characters even more than plot—and the decade taken as a whole is so exhilarating.

But I’ve just watched so many movies throughout my life—and many, many more to come—that I’m sure they’ve had some kind of effect on me.

WB: So, what’s your next writing project?

LLS: Coming up this fall is my first mainstream novel, Hard. It’s coming out from a small press, but it’s not horror. I am really curious to see what kind of reception it gets, because it’s different from what people might be expecting from me. Although it does deal with subject matter that isn’t that much of a stretch, the porn industry during the 1980s, and a character who is a torturer. So I’m sure fans of my horror fiction will be able to get into it pretty easily.

In the meantime, I have several projects I’m working on, including a crime fiction/noir novel called Binge, and a novel that takes place in my fictional city of Blue Clay, Massachusetts, that really opens up some of the mysteries I’ve created around that place in some of my short stories, called Buried in Blue Clay. Plus I’ve been working on a few new short stories and novellas. So I’m plenty busy these days.

WB: Thanks, L.L, for a great interview! We look forward to reading more of your work in the coming years. Good luck with your future writing endeavors!

Read more about L.L. Soares and his work at his web site, www.llsoares.com.

(A version of this review was also published in the Sept/Oct. 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine.)

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Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity, 2013

Weldon Burge, Executive Editor at Smart Rhino Publications, at a book signing at the C3 conference.

I've attended a number of writers conventions and conferences over the years, and have learned a great deal at most of them. Of course, the opportunities to network, to talk with other writers and publishers, abound at these events. But the most recent conference I attended--Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity (C3)--was a different animal.

I attended C3 last weekend (Sept. 13-15) at the Hunt Valley Inn near Baltimore, not sure what to expect, this being the first year of the event. I was pleasantly surprised. The organizers (chiefly the owners and friends of Intrigue Publishing) did an excellent job pulling together all the elements of the conference, despite a couple of last-minute changes in key speakers. I knew I was in for something special when I saw the paperback anthology of stories by many panelists and attendees that was included with the other conference materials. When have you ever seen that?

The three days were filled with panel discussions, all of which invited participation from those in the audience. No dry lectures here! Every panel involved a conversation among the experts sitting on each panel, the moderator, and the folks sitting in the seats before them. This was a refreshing change from many of the conferences I've attended in the past.

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Meet Bram Stoker Winner Lisa Mannetti

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.

 

WB: Much of your work might be considered historical horror. Do you enjoy doing the research required for these books?

 

LM: Oh my God, don’t get me started!  Read More 

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An Interview With Horror/Suspense Writer Charles Colyott

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.

WB: Chinese culture, especially martial arts, flavors the Randall Lee novels. How much of this is pulled from your past experience, how much from research? Read More 

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An Interview With Horror Writer Kealan Patrick Burke

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.

WB: What is your biggest challenge when writing a novel?

 

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Infusing Music Into Writing

I attended the 2011 Delaware Regional Writers Conference last month, and one of the workshops I attended was "Infusing Rhythm and Music into Writing and Performance." The workshop leader, Holly Bass, is a writer, poet, performer, and director, and was a founding member of the DC Writers Corps. Although the workshop was geared more toward poets, I was fascinated with the aspect of using music and rhythm in fiction writing.

Holly engaged the workshop participants in a number of group activities aimed at "freeing the voice." She introduced us to hip-hip poetry--first having us read written versions of the poetry, and then having us listen to recordings of the writers performing their own work. Of course, our readings of the poems were vastly different from the "real thing."

As an exercise, Holly asked us to write a poem using sound to provide descriptions. I'm not much of a poet, but here's what I came up with:

Slapping sand, water churns
Surf crashes
Echoes on the undulating dunes
Cries of gulls, swooping birds
Chatter and squawk and scream and talk
Over a sole french fry in the sand
Lightning to the east, electrifying, diving
Thunder rolling, booming, moving, drumming, drumming
The sea is black, angry, locomotive-chugging
Storming the beach

OK, I'm no Sandburg. But, not bad, right?

Thank you, Holly, for an enlightening workshop!

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An Interview with Thriller Novelist Stephen England

When you think of counterterrorism political thrillers, perhaps Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, and Brad Meltzer come to mind. Soon, you may be adding Stephen England to that venerable list. His new novel, Pandora’s Grave, the debut novel of his Shadow Warriors series, is an action-filled espionage/military thriller sure to impress many readers and rightfully garner him many fans. (Read my review!) And, at the age of 21, he has many years of writing ahead of him!

I asked Stephen to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and self-publication of Pandora’s Grave, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.

Weldon Burge (WB): Pandora’s Grave includes many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim characters. Did you write character profiles before starting the novel, to keep things straight?

Stephen England (SE): Not really. I learned so many things about my characters through the course of the novel—I’m afraid it would have been a very boring book if I had attempted to lock them away at the start. To give an example—about half-way through Pandora’s Grave I realized that the character of Bernard Kranemeyer, the Director of the Clandestine Service, was really little more than another faceless bureaucrat. A major problem considering the major role he plays in the story. But then it occurred to me one day—what if? What if he was a retired Delta Force operative, an amputee who had lost his leg in an IED attack? It was quite literally as though someone had turned a light on for me—it’s those type of revelations that make writing so rewarding for me—those moments when you turn a corner and something fits so perfectly—I can’t imagine Kranemeyer any other way now. That’s who he is.

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Book Review: PANDORA'S GRAVE by Stephen England

An archaeological team, including a number of Americans, disappears high in the Alborz Mountains of northwestern Iran. Days later, imagery from U.S. spy satellites reveals detachments of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps converging on the area. With the presidential election only months away, President Roger Hancock authorizes a covert CIA mission into the mountains of Iran to rescue the archaeologists. Little do the rescuers know of the ancient evil they must face, or that the events could lead to the next world war—or even the apocalypse.

So begins Stephen England’s thrilling counterterrorism novel, Pandora’s Grave, the first in his Shadow Warriors series.

The lead character, Harry Nichols, is a church-going Christian, but also a highly skilled paramilitary operations officer who leads his team into dangerous regions of the Middle East, often on what seem like suicide missions. He faces moral dilemmas in his profession and is forced to make hard decisions, and this makes his character deeper and richer as the novel progresses. All the characters are well developed and thoroughly believable.

There is machismo and brutal violence aplenty, but England tempers this with a sensitivity and humanity rarely exhibited in espionage/action stories. There is little “black and white” here—the villains and the heroes are not always clearly discernible, adding to the overall suspense.

I was most impressed with England’s ability to maintain objectivity as he developed his Muslim, Jewish, and Christian characters throughout the novel, displaying a keen insight for character motivation based upon religious conviction, political ideology, and personal moral (and often amoral) predilections. There were many opportunities where the writer may have started to “preach,” but England deftly held his hand and created a balanced narrative, leading to a wholly satisfying conclusion (and, of course, a taunting taste of the sequel to come).


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


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Book Review: FEAR ME by 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.)

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