Monthly Archives: March 2016

Perfectly Prolific: Interview with Edward Ahern

Welcome to another author interview! This week, I’m happy to spotlight Edward Ahern. Edward is an accomplished writer who’s had work appearing in dozens of anthologies and journals, including See the Elephant, Flapperhouse, and Bewildering Stories.

A few months back, Edward and I discussed his trajectory as a writer as well as the tips he can share for other scribes out there.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Edward AhernI’ve been a writer of sorts since I was sixteen and started doing obits for a weekly. Degree in journalism, and a year as a reporter at the Providence Journal before needing more money to handle a pregnant wife, so wrote intelligence, marketing and sales reports (frequently fiction) until retirement. Was sixty-seven before resuming writing, I mostly read genre ( including about 25,000 words/week reviewing for Bewildering Stories) and general or realistic fiction rather than literary. Having just typed that, I have love/hate relationships with David Foster Wallace and James Joyce.

At over sixty short stories, you are widely published in the speculative fiction field. What advice can you offer for new writers trying to break into the literary world?

The biggest mistake I made in trying to get initially published was in thinking that my still rough draft was good enough for the top of the market. After a great many rejections I would in frustration send the story to the bottom of the market, which would, more often than not, accept it. I finally realized that I needed to re- and re-write ruthlessly to get a story in shape for a top publication. And even then the top tier rejects me a lot.

See the ElephantSince you have heretofore written more short fiction, how did your process change (or stay the same) when you wrote your novella, The Witches’ Bane?

I’ve now had over eighty stories and poems published, most also reprinted. I write terse, and usually short, so when I got into the novella I felt like I was trying to eat too much ice cream. Now have the same stomachache working on a novel. I often take a little break and write a short poem or two before getting back into the double chocolate.

Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?

Personal favorites: Hmmm. Literary stories it would have to be “The Cottage” which won a couple awards. Fairy tales “Care and Feeding” which has been published five times so far. There’s a lot of fantasy, but maybe “Listen to the Deaf Man Sing” which will be out shortly at Metaphysical Circus. Sci-fi, one of my earliest stories “The Body Surfer” (four pubs) Horror would have to be a quiet little piece, “The Dog Fisherman.”

Any last tips you’d like to share?

I absolutely swear by Duotrope, it’s more than worth the $50/year. And relationships with editors who’ve accepted a story or two are gold. They already know and like your stuff.

Big thanks to Edward Ahern for being part of this week’s author interview. Find him online!

Happy reading!

Beginner’s Luck: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned as a New Writer

Two years ago this month, I sent out my first ever short story submission. It was rejected. It was a kind rejection, but still a rejection. However, the very next submission was accepted, and thus began what has been a reasonably successful career so far. Seriously, I can’t complain. I’m not one of those “critical darling” writers, but I do actually have fans beyond just my parents and husband, which is pretty cool!

So in honor of the two year anniversary of my short fiction career, here are 10 lessons I’ve learned as a new writer.

Rejection is sometimes the only constant in your career.
This might be the hardest lesson to learn, but if you want any sort of longevity in the publishing industry, it’s probably the most important. No matter how far you get as a writer, you’ll keeping hearing the word, NO. A lot. But just keep in mind that even stories that make it into top tier journals have often been kicked back to the author once or twice (or even ten times). A rejection from one publisher only means that it’s time to find another. It’s that simple, and it’s that difficult.

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.
On this blog, I sometimes create “writer advice” posts (kind of like this one!), but I never expect every single reader to take my word like some newfound gospel. What has worked for my career might work for yours, or it might not. As you sift through the countless blogs and social media posts about writing, you—and you alone—have to learn what’s best for your career. Decide what you want from your writing, and go from there. Also, realize that what you want now might not be what you’ll want in six months to a year, so be willing to continually review your goals and update accordingly. Nobody can make these decisions for your career except you. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions stop you from going after what you desire out of this crazy life as an author.

Learn the basics of promotion (and apply those principles liberally).
Just writing great stories is sadly not enough to build a career. Sure, it’s a necessary ingredient, but without some promotion on your end to get your name out there, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle for recognition. So what do you need to know? Well, here are the bare bones principles about promotion: If you want to get serious about your career, start an author website. Maybe start a blog. Update both regularly. Consider attending writing conferences, and find places to do book readings to promote your latest releases. Also, maintain a presence on social media, and try not to be a jerk, which leads to our next lesson…

The publishing industry is insanely small.
In publishing, everybody knows everybody knows everybody. You will come across the same editors, writers, and publishers in your genre again and again, and rest assured, they all know each other. Sometimes, that means literally “they go to conferences and have drinks at the bar” kind of knowing each other, or sometimes, it just means that they network online. Either way, writers and editors talk. It’s human nature. If you’re acting like an entitled fool online, people will take notice, and this is a time when all publicity is not necessarily good publicity. So just be respectful to your fellow writers and publishing comrades. It’s the right thing to do anyhow.

Most editors are cool people…
I’ve worked with editors who run the gamut from beginners at startup magazines to bestselling anthologists. One thing is pretty standard across the board: almost all of them are terrific, and they care just as much as you do about putting the best version of your work out there. Listen to their feedback, and also, feel free to engage in conversation with them about any edits, especially if you’re confused or feel strongly about something. Again, don’t be a jerk, but most editors are open to working with authors. It is part of their job description, after all.

… but learn to avoid the ones that aren’t.
I’ve worked with around 100 or so editors so far in my writing career. Almost all of them are people I’d be willing to work with again in the future. Almost all. Simply put, there are editors out there whose working styles just don’t jive with my own. If you find an editor that doesn’t work well with your style, it’s a really easy fix: don’t submit to that publication again. You don’t need to write an angry follow-up email. You don’t need to bad mouth them in a blog post (do you see how I made no suggestion whatsoever about the identities of these not-jiving-with-Gwendolyn editors?). Just avoid them. And fortunately, there won’t be many of these editors anyhow, so the problem will more or less solve itself.

Learn the publishing lingo.
There are plenty of terms you’ll come across in your writing travels, but here are a few to get you started. Standard manuscript format means formatting your submissions like this. A slush pile is the term for a magazine’s queue of unsolicited submissions (meaning you’re simply responding to an open call and the editor didn’t request your work in particular). Multiple submissions means sending more than one story to the same market at any given time. Simultaneous submissions means submitting the same story to more than one market at a time. The important thing is to know the terms, research unfamiliar ones, and be sure to follow the guidelines for the individual publication. If you don’t, the editors will likely remember who you are, and they’ll be less inclined to accept your work in the future. Again, as mentioned above, the publishing industry is small. Don’t give someone a reason to hold a grudge.

If you can, work a slush pile.
There are plenty of magazines out there that are always looking for first readers to help wade through the proverbial slush pile. If you can spare a few hours a week, even just for six months or so, working a slush pile can be one of the most eye-opening experiences for up-and-coming writers. You get a real sense of what makes a good story work from opening to closing lines, and it will also help you understand what sinks a story in the first couple paragraphs. Work the slush, pay attention to what you’re reading, and you’ll become a better writer. It’s almost a guarantee.

Overnight success is a myth (mostly).
Success is earned, not readily distributed. You’ll have to work for this writing vocation, and you’ll have to work hard. That’s the truth of it. And yes, there are a few writers out there who get accolades for just about everything they write, even in the early stages of their careers. Is it ridiculous to say I would prefer not to be one of them? That if this got too easy, I’d get bored? In fact, as silly as it sounds, I fancy myself a warrior writer, with my career trajectory along the lines of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth (Refusal of the Call! Belly of the Whale! Road of Trials!). That means the setbacks define me just as much as the successes, and all of them make me a better author. So please savor the journey. When you look back on your career at the end of your life, you’ll realize these moments were the ones that really counted.

Find like-minded writer friends.
We started with the important lesson of rejection. Let’s finish with another important lesson, albeit a more positive one: the power of networking and commiseration in the publishing industry. Namely, making friends. It seems simple and a little obvious, but sometimes just knowing that there are people out there who are in your corner and who understand what you’re going through (rejection! extensive edits! creative blocks!) is enough to get you through the day. Also, if you think that all writers are your competition, then you might be approaching this from the wrong perspective. Sure, there are only so many slots in major magazines and anthologies per year, but that’s for the editors to decide. Discovering other writers in your genre will help you find people willing to assist you with your gnarly first drafts and to commiserate when the going gets tough. And out of all the things in the world, you can’t put a price on that.

And here’s where I’ll give a shout-out to a few of my writer friends who have helped me stay (mostly) sane through these last two years: Scarlett R. Algee, Brooke Warra, Miracle Austin, Lee Forman, Gerri Leen, Lori Titus, Brandon Getz, Nathan Hystad, and Matt Andrew (and a whole slew of others). There are days I’m not sure I could have survived this industry if it wasn’t for your support, so THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

What lessons have you learned as a writer? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading!

Sweet as Gingerbread: Interview with M. Brett Gaffney

Welcome back to another author interview! This week, I’m pleased to present M. Brett Gaffney! Brett is the art editor for the consistently lovely Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, an online publication featuring the best and most beautiful in fairy tales, magic realism, and other works of the fantastic. Brett is also an author in her own right with poetry published at such places as Stone Highway Review, Cactus Heart, and Penduline.

Recently, Brett and I discussed her work at Gingerbread House as well as lots of other great tidbits (Island of the Dolls, anyone?).

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

M. Brett GaffneyI grew up making stories, filling notebooks with poems and stories, even fan-fiction. But I think I decided to become a serious writer when I was in college. I was an English major taking a poetry course at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. My then professor, now friend and chief editor of Gingerbread House, Christine Butterworth-McDermott took an interest in my poetry. When she first suggested I submit my work for publication, I thought, oh man, maybe I’m a writer. It’s weird how powerful others’ validation is with regards to the things we do, but I respected her (and her husband, John McDermott, creator of the BFA program in Creative Writing there) so much that her encouragement gave me the boost I needed to really work at it. The writers I read then are still some of my favorites today: Kristin Naca, Kim Addonizio, Patricia Smith, Marisa Silver, Stewart O’ Nan, Toby Barlow… And then some newer favorites: Jamaal May, Ada Limon, Ross Gay, Tarfia Faizullah, Aimee Bender, Benjamin Percy, Rick Yancey… I’m also reading a lot of nonfiction right now, books about Jonestown and American “murder houses” at the moment.

You are the art editor at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. How did you become involved with the publication, and what is your process in curating such a lovely and effective collection of art for the site? 

During my last year at SFA, Christine and I talked about starting a literary journal catering specifically to fairy tales. And then two years later during my MFA program at Southern Illinois, we made it a reality along with Kay Winfield, our web editor, and Kayla Haas, our fiction editor. We knew we wanted to pair the poems and stories with some images but the art curation truly started while putting together our third issue. I was a fan of photographer Brooke Shaden’s work and then realized one of her pieces would pair great with a poem we were publishing. So I emailed her for permission and she said yes. Ever since, I’ve adopted the title of art editor and commenced an ongoing search of social media, deviant art, and other journals for artists that embody the kind of work we look for: strange, surreal, and of course fairy-tale-esque. I’m actually in the midst of finding art for our February issue. We of course choose our literature first then search for the right artistic pairing; it’s always an exciting challenge. And now I feel we’ve become a journal that prides itself on our visual aesthetic just as much as the literary work. It’s a beautiful hybrid. This month (February) will mark our seventeenth issue.

Gingerbread House LitAs a poet, do you have a specific process behind your work, or do you allow each poem to develop organically in its own way?

I think each of my poems requires its own process and most of the time it is very organic, usually drafted initially by a feeling or image. Though some require research, like poems about Waverly Hills Sanatorium, and that process is a bit more methodical. I find the facts I want to tether the poem to and then work around them. Though I have to be careful not to rely on research or else the poem starts to feel too loaded down with history, more like a textbook. Most of the time it’s just me, the laptop, and a bit of music. The other night I started writing to Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel on a loop. What I got out was raw and powerful but now I just need to go back to it and see which lines are really good and which ones are mostly tears.

All of your writing is captivating, but my own favorite is your poem, “La Isla de las Muñecas, Xochimilco, Mexico.” What inspired you to write about the Island of the Dolls, and have you ever visited the infamous island yourself?

Thank you! I wish I could say I’ve visited the island. Alas, I’ve only watched what few documentary segments I could find about it. I first read about Xochimilco on some website, probably Cracked, as one of the most haunted locations in the world. But then of course I needed to know more, get as close to the truth of the place as I could. The images of the dolls alone are terrifying but this one man’s dedication to the collection is what really captivated me. So I carved out a story for him and tried my best to both unsettle my audience and also pull them in, make them want to leave a doll offering themselves. That’s also one of my first poems to be published so it holds a special place in my heart.

What upcoming projects are you working on?  

I have a list, haha. But the two I keep coming back to are my poetry collections about Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Louisville, Kentucky and my time working as an actor at the Dent School House, a haunted house in Cincinnati, Ohio. Waverly has captured my attention for about six years now and I’ve written thirty plus pages of poetry on the hospital, its history and its ghosts. My Dent poems are newer, as I’ve only worked two Halloween seasons there. So far, the poems I’ve drafted look at the haunted house from behind the scenes. For example the one I’m working on right now specifically deals with my getting punched in the face by a customer I successfully scared.

Huge thanks to M. Brett Gaffney for being our featured author this week. Find her online, and keep an eye on Porkbelly Press for updates on the upcoming release of Brett’s chapbook, “Feeding the Dead.”

Happy reading!

On the Waves: Four Great Seaside Stories to Read Today

Here in my writer world, March has already been a fantastic month so far with the release of two new stories! “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray” is now available to subscribers of Shimmer, and the story will go live on the website on Tuesday, April 12th. My other early March release is “The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea.” a coming-of-age fairy tale that follows lonely siblings Sarah and Dwayne as they discover a young girl along the sand near their seaside home.

The ocean is a constant companion of sorts for my family. My husband grew up on the Atlantic where he used to accompany his fisherman father out on their boat to cull their lobster traps. Although I don’t have any big seafaring stories like that, I’ve always loved water as well. Rivers, lakes, oceans—all of them have long served as inspiration for my artistic and personal endeavors. My husband and I were even married in the Redwoods Forest overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

“The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea” was inspired by this love for all things nautical. The ocean can be fickle, ranging from cruel and dangerous to profoundly giving. So what if the ocean was too giving and accidentally washed a sleeping girl to shore? As my husband taught me, the fisherman rule is that you never take anything from the sea that isn’t either fish or seashells, but shouldn’t an odd child who speaks in her ocean tongue be an exception to this rule? That unusual question is at the heart of this tale.

“The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea” is now free to read at Kraxon Publishing, and I’m super excited that editor David Jones invited me to submit to the publication. It gave me an opportunity to write a fairy tale, something I don’t do often enough, and I’m so proud of this piece, which is both a strange and fantastical ode to childhood as well as an ocean adventure.

So in celebration of the release of “The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea,” here are four great seaside stories that have inspired me over the years. Maybe they’ll inspire you as well!

“Haunting Olivia” by Karen Russell
In some ways, “The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea” is a photo-negative of “Haunting Olivia”—in my story, two young children find a girl along the shore, whereas in “Haunting Olivia,” two young children are searching for a girl in the ocean. In Karen Russell’s brilliant tale, the eponymous Olivia is swallowed up by the sea following a normal, carefree day at the beach. Afterwards, her two guilt-ridden brothers spend their summer days scouring the ocean waters for signs of their only sister, thereby haunting her ghost rather than the other way around. A lovely homage to childhood longing with a palpable sense of sorrow that lingers long after the final scene, Russell’s beautiful prose brings the ocean to life in a way no other writer ever has.
Read “Haunting Olivia” for free here.

“Night Surf” by Stephen King
Night Shift was the first single-author collection of horror stories that truly changed my life. Almost every tale in the book is worth reading (other standouts include “The Boogeyman” and “Strawberry Spring”), but “Night Surf” in particular has always stayed with me, brimming around the edges of my life and rearing up in my mind when I least suspect it. An apocalyptic tale of disease and desolation, “Night Surf” follows a group of young friends as they face the end-of-days along the ocean. There are no easy answers in this story, and the outlook is predictably bleak, but that only ups the emotional ante in one of King’s most understated—and underrated—works.
Pick up a copy of “Night Surf” here.

“Bones of the World” by Jennifer Hykes
Now there are seaside stories, and then there are having-tea-with-lobsters-on-the-dock seaside stories. Author Jennifer Hykes dials the charming weirdness up to eleven with this tale of Maggie, an offbeat and perfectly amoral protagonist who could be the long lost cousin of Shirley Jackson’s Merricat Blackwood. Now for her part, Maggie really does want to be helpful. Unfortunately, her brand of helpfulness can at times be profoundly dangerous to others, thanks to her not-so-latent supernatural abilities. To tell you more than that would be to spoil the fun surprises hidden in this lovable and disturbing yarn.
Read “Bones of the World” for free here.

“The Lake” by Ray Bradbury
If there is one story that serves as the primary inspiration behind my short fiction career, it would be “The Lake.” I’ve gone around and around with this story, frequently naming it in interviews as among my favorite horror tales, so I probably sound like a proverbial broken record featuring it again here, but I just think it’s too good to omit. Granted, the water in this story is not an ocean but the titular lake. However, the emotional vastness of this particular body of water, as a young boy copes with the drowning of his friend Tally, is greater than all the oceans of the world combined. It’s said you can drown in grief. This story puts that old adage to the test.
Pick up a copy of “The Lake” here.

Happy reading!

Weird and Wonderful: Interview with Kristi DeMeester

Welcome back! This week, I turn a spotlight on purveyor of horror and the weird, Kristi DeMeester. Kristi is the author of numerous short stories as well as the chapbook, Split Tongues. Her fiction has been featured widely in publications such as Black Static, Shimmer, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye among others.

Recently, Kristi and I discussed where she’s been as a writer and where she’s planning to go (and she even hinted at her forthcoming and highly anticipated short fiction collection).

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Kristi DeMeesterWhen I was younger, I was always more of a reader than a writer. I’m not the person who can say “Oh, I wrote my first story when I was six.” But I ingested every book I could get my hands on. I did try to write a novel when I was eleven. I think I got three spiral bound pages in and stopped. I titled it Who Made You the Boss Anyway. Yeah. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 24. When I left my MFA program two years later, I started writing horror.

Some of my favorite authors are Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson, Livia Llewellyn, Laird Barron, Michael Wehunt, Poppy Z. Brite, John Langan, I could go on and on.

In only a few years, you’ve already reached so many milestones in your career, with stories appearing in Black Static, Shimmer, The Dark, and Year’s Best anthologies. When it comes to your short fiction, what’s left on your to-do list? Are there still publications out there you’re eager to crack?

I’d love to have a story in Nightmare, Apex, and Cemetery Dance. And, of course, I’d like to be on a Datlow or Guran list at some point.

As I read multiple stories from authors, I always love to search for the threads that connect the writer’s world. One primary theme I’ve noticed that permeates your work is your frank and nontraditional exploration of motherhood. You’ve confronted the subject from various angles: a mourning mother looking for something transcendent in “Like Feather, Like Bone”; unlikely mother figures searching the hungry darkness in “All the World When It Is Thin”; a lost mother who must be retrieved in “To Sleep in the Dust of the Earth”; and a predatory mother who offers her child as a sacrifice in “The Marking.” When crafting these stories, did you set out specifically to explore a certain aspect of motherhood, or did that develop naturally as you wrote? Also, it can sometimes be difficult to get editors to pay attention to narratives that plumb the depths of “the monstrous feminine.” Have you experienced any resistance when writing such female-focused stories?

Motherhood is a topic I come back to because I’m constantly trying to work out my own issues with it. What it means to be the daughter of a terrible mother; how frequently daughters don’t recognize how much of themselves has been sacrificed in the face of a self absorbed mother; how that might ultimately affect my own abilities to mother and the fear of ultimately turning into the monstrous thing my own mother was. Because even though I’ve separated myself from that abuse and toxicity, she’s still a part of me. Lurking somewhere under my skin and lying wait in my blood. And I think too frequently, women have a lot of pressure to be this selfless, giving fountain of love and are expected to lose themselves in their children. I have a lot of fear about that as well because I can’t do that, and the associated guilt is enough to drown, and I wonder if I’m going to turn into her no matter how hard I rail against it. Much of my fiction centers on those fears because I think it’s a dark underbelly that women often try to ignore. I know that I have tried.

I haven’t experienced overt resistance necessarily. No one has told me explicitly that my story would be a hard sell. But some of my stories that deal with the darker aspects of femininity have been tough sells. “The Marking,” which appeared in Three-Lobed Burning Eye and which will be reprinted in Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume 3, was rejected eight times before it sold. It’s one of the more intense stories I’ve written dealing with mother/daughter relationships. I’m still in shock that it was selected for Year’s Best Weird.

Congratulations on the recent release of your chapbook, Split Tongues! What was the process behind launching the project through Dim Shores, and was there anything about putting together your first chapbook that was particularly surprising or challenging?

Split TonguesThank you so much! I was so excited when Sam reached out to me. I didn’t have anything at the time that was the length he was looking for, but I had an idea in the back of my mind about a teenage girl and speaking in tongues. I sat down the same day he emailed me and started “Split Tongues.” A week and a half later, it was finished, and I sent it to him. After that everything came together beautifully. I was so impressed with how professional and courteous Sam was. Working with him was a dream. Anytime an editor allows the author to help with design and artwork, it’s a phenomenal experience, and I was thrilled when I found Natalia Drepina, whose photography appears in the book. Thankfully, Sam liked her work, too. It was a lovely experience.

Looking forward in your career, you’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you have your first collection of short fiction in the works. What can you reveal about that project at this point? Have the stories been selected, and can we expect some never-before-released pieces in the table of contents?  

Unfortunately, I can’t reveal much. The stories have all been selected, but there may be one or two never released pieces that will be added.

Out of your published stories so far, do you have a personal favorite?

It’s titled “The Beautiful Thing We Will Become” (and will appear in Word Horde’s upcoming Eternal Frankenstein anthology).

Tremendous thanks to Kristi DeMeester for being this week’s featured author! Find her at her author site, and pick up a copy of Split Tongues, while you still can!

Happy reading!

Criminal Mind: Interview with Calvin Demmer

Welcome back! For this week’s author interview, I’m excited to spotlight Calvin Demmer. Calvin is a mystery, crime, and horror writer whose fiction has appeared in multiple publications including Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, and Pilcrow and Dagger.

Recently, Calvin and I discussed writing rituals, favorite stories, and finding inspiration in creepy medical procedures.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Though recollections of my youth are vague, I do recall making up many stories, but more importantly always having a lingering desire to write them down. My clearest memories of this was when I was around twelve or thirteen and actually typed a few stories out on the PC just for the joy of it (one was about zombies breaking into a research facility and another was about a possessed guitar). That probably truly lit the flame, but it wasn’t until about mid-2014 that I actually rekindled that fire and started to sit, write, edit, and then submit completed work. Once again, I found that I enjoyed creating my own characters, and sending them on arduous journeys through the worlds and situations my mind could think up. So I’ve stuck with it ever since.

My favorite authors list grows by the day and seems to be ever changing. However, looking at some authors/writers who heavily influenced the first phase of my writing, I’d say: Dan Simmons, Philip K. Dick, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan and Dean Koontz.

Do you have any rituals as a writer? Also, do you subscribe to the “write every day” philosophy, or do you simply write when inspiration strikes?

Finding the perfect conditions to write everyday can be difficult, but I’m sure I will develop some habits as I go along. I do tend to grab an energy drink and put on the headphones (usually hard rock/metal). I’ve heard a couple of writers talking about this “wall of sound” when writing, and after trying it, I have found it can work for me at times.

I try to write everyday, but some days are just more productive than others. I do find myself editing most days though. I seem to blaze through a first draft of anything, and then end up spending ten times the amount of time going through it and making it better. But there is joy in that process as well, being able to get the story tight and clear.

Much of your work is in the speculative and mystery/crime genres. What in particular draws you to this type of fiction?

It’s what I’ve always read, so I guess it just came naturally.

My first few stories were either all fast-paced pulp-style mysteries or horror stories with a twist, some with a bit of a Twilight Zone feel. Of late, I have written more science fiction and fantasy stories, but once again it all falls under the umbrella of the type of stories I enjoy reading.

I don’t doubt I will eventually try other genres, I find it interesting to push myself and try things that are different, but speculative and mystery/crime genres will always be home.

Audrey at NightOut of your published stories, do you have a personal favorite?

If I had to pick one on the spot, I’d say “Heartless” which was my first published story (Sanitarium Magazine issue #29). I was reading a book on medical procedures, can’t even recall why now, and when I came to the section on heart surgery, I thought, that’s cool, but how can I make this into a dark, creepy tale? . . . And through that, my character James Vandersson was born.

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

Having the time to construct longer and more complex worlds and plots for my characters is definitely a goal. So, hopefully in five years I would have written a novel or two.

Also, I want to venture down the other paths writing can take you. This includes things like comics and graphic novels. I enjoy the whole writing process, and am eager to see and try the different ways stories can be presented.

Big thanks to Calvin Demmer for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his website and on Twitter.

Happy reading!

Paranormal Legacy: Interview with Lloyd Green

Welcome back once again! For this week’s interview, I’m thrilled to present the awesome Lloyd Green. Lloyd is a writer with quite an impressive resume. He’s penned numerous short stories and novels, and he has an impeccable eye for research in his historical genre-blending fiction.

Recently, Lloyd and I discussed ghosts, horror, and how his incredible writing career came to be.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Lloyd GreenFirst of all, Gwendolyn, I’d like to thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed.

I’ve been writing short stories since I was a teenager and I’ve always been interested in reading science fiction and horror novels. I didn’t seriously think about being a writer until seven years ago. A high school friend, who now lives in another country, located me through Facebook. I proceeded to email her pages and pages of narrative in an attempt to bring her up to date about decades of relationships, jobs and family. She repeatedly commented that what I was sending her seemed more like a fascinating book and asked if I had ever considered writing. Some of the material in those letters, I eventually used in my first book Reflections of EL: In Search of Self. So my need to seriously write science fiction and fantasy really began with this first fan and it expanded from there.

Without a doubt, Stephen King is my all time favorite writer. I’ve been reading his work since Carrie first called out to me from the retail bookshelf. The man writes his characters and plots as if he were standing there watching the action. Second is Frank Herbert because of his effective world and history building as shown in his Dune series and finally there’s Orson Scott Card beginning with his book Ender’s Game. I admire the plot twists and secrets in this book and also the following ones in the series.

You and I share a bit of educational background: we both hold psychology degrees. Has your education ever worked its way into your writing in surprising ways, and do you have any advice to newer writers out there about how to get inside the heads of their characters?

If I’ve learned anything, I recognize not to compartmentalize a character. When writing about a criminal, don’t just figure that he must have had a dark past and he has to be evil to the core. His course might have begun with the purest of intentions. The real core of the character is the reasons for the decisions he makes. The more his reasoning feels similar to the reader, the more a reader will identify with the criminal and understand the path that he takes in an attempt to accomplish his goals. Understanding the criminal’s motivations also means the reader understands that there are layers of good and evil in all of us. We are all complicated beings but above all else, we yearn to be noticed and heard.

The same holds true for the intellectually disabled individuals who I worked with for decades. Recently, I wrote a short story, “Poor Interfaces,” which describes the relationship between a staff person and the one that he cares for. Being able to relate to the disabled as people who have something in common with you instead of people who are different, moves the relationship from administrator or direct caregiver to one of friendship. There will always be the professional side that has to be maintained but in the long run we are more drawn to help our friends because we feel that we are also helping ourselves.

Your work often touches upon a variety of paranormal elements. Have you always been a fan of the horror and fantasy genres?

The Green LegacyAs far back as I can remember. As a child, I was scared to death of horror movies. When I finally understood that my imagination and what I thought might happen was scaring me worse than the actual event, everything changed. After this realization, I began to look forward to the presentation of the rush of fear that the writers and/or directors were serving up.

I’ve always believed in otherworldly life. We usually become afraid of whatever cannot be concretely explained. I’ve only had one paranormal experience and to this day, I’m not certain if it was real. One morning in 1994, I woke up to find an elderly woman standing a few feet away from my bed. From behind her, sunlight softly bled through the sheer window curtains. Her entire form was shimmering as if she were glowing. Her stringy hair was bleached white and her outstretched gnarly hands reached out towards me. She did not say a word and for this I was thankful because I feared what message she might present to me. I shut my eyes in terror, praying that this horror was not real.  When I was brave enough to open one eye, she was not there. I’ve never been able to determine whether the entity was real or a dream.

In my writing, I use mystical and/or frightening characters that are just a bit too human. I get the reader to identify with the seemingly odd character by writing about them as if they were a close friend or family member. This would slowly get the new acquaintance crawling under the reader’s skin because they feel they understand the character. In spite of the character being frightening, this finally leads to the reader caring when the creature is not making appropriate decisions. A successful writer has learned to realistically portray the monster, which lives in all of us.

In some of your work, including The Green Legacy, which takes place in the nineteenth century, you interweave elements of historical fiction. What is your research process when writing a time period piece?

I love historical fiction because there is a frame of reference that the reader might already be familiar with. After I decide on the time period, I dig into finding as much information on the town and its people as possible. There will always be fact-finders who will stop what they are reading in order to look up the background circumstances that the writer is describing. Since I’m going through the trouble of documenting and presenting, it only makes sense that I deal with information that can be proven. It cuts down on arguments and it’s a lot less embarrassing when others begin to pick apart facts.

While putting together my book, The Green Legacy, I started with a search of my own family tree. I came across a branch that held two different names for the same distant relative. That made it difficult to verify who this person was and her true place within the family. In this case, I collected as much history as I could from relatives and again explored Ancestry.com in an attempt to verify her place in the Green family lineage. Only after all of this did I begin to include this person as part of what I call factual family history. After this foundation was set, I then moved into the fictional story that I really wanted to tell, which is about a sixteen-year old with psychic abilities who is sold into slavery and her secret agenda.

You’ve written both novels and short stories. How is your process different (or similar) depending on the length of the work?

Not really different. I write out my general ideas but I eventually turn it all into a chart. How extensive the chart becomes will sometimes determine the length of the story. The chart is necessary to ensure consistency between plot twists and secrets. As most writers know, you can never say, “I’m going to write a 350-page speculative fictional story today.” Stories take on a life of their own and they will be as long as they need to be. My outline simply helps with consistency because it drives me nuts to proofread and find facts out of place or secrets mistakenly revealed too early.

Out of your published stories, do you have a personal favorite?

That’s easy. “Halloween – 1979.” It was published through Sanitarium Magazine. It’s a short story about two couples that decide to visit a well-know haunted house on Halloween night. One participant discovered that the creeping fear was not contained within the established house of horrors. The basis for this disturbing story is based on a factual personal event.

Huge thanks to Lloyd Green for being our featured author this week! Find him online at EndlessPerceptions.com and at LloydGreen.org. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!