Monthly Archives: July 2016

Nostalgia and Reprints: The Story Behind “All the Hippies Are Dying”

While this blog space is never exactly quiet (Author Interviews! Submission Roundups! Writing Tips!), it has been a little while since I’ve shared anything about my recent publications. So let’s remedy that before July slips away from us! I’m so thrilled that last month saw the release of my magic realism tale, “All the Hippies Are Dying,” at The Wild Hunt. This strange story about a mother obsessed with her youthful foray at Woodstock and the daughter who tries and fails to bring her mother into modern day is a little bit dark, a little bit magical, and perhaps more than a little bit wistful. It’s also among my favorite stories I’ve ever written, so that always makes a story release even more exciting!

First off, it’s worth noting this isn’t the debut of “All the Hippies Are Dying.” The story was originally released last year in the first issue of The Gateway Review. My experience there with editor Joe Baumann was a fabulous one, and he supported “Hippies” so much that he even nominated it for a Write Well Award through the Silver Pen Writers Association. How nifty is that?

Since I do love this story so much, it’s been great to see how it’s found a second life at The Wild Hunt. And it was quite fortuitous circumstances that led to the publication. In the spring, The Wild Hunt editor Ariell Cacciola reached out to me after reading my Shimmer story, “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” and asked if I would be interested in contributing to her new magazine. One visit to the site, and I loved the aesthetic of The Wild Hunt so much that I knew I had to be involved. I sent Ariell “All the Hippies Are Dying” and I was so incredibly pleased when she and her fellow editor enjoyed it enough to add it to the other beautiful tales in their archives. So far, “Hippies” has received some nice reviews (huge thanks to Morgan Crooks for including it as a top June story pick on Ancient Logic), and it’s beyond thrilling to find the story is resonating with readers.

“All the Hippies Are Dying” is an oddly personal tale, one that highlights my love of turntables and vinyl and 1960s music. In a way, I’ve been carrying this story with me since I was fifteen years old and started researching Woodstock in books at the public library. That’s when I first fell in love with the bands from that era—The Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, among many others. In those well-spent days of youth, I was a little like the matriarch in “Hippies,” just hanging around a spinning turntable and absorbing every note of the music. Thus, it was both cathartic and slightly bittersweet to finally translate some of those feelings into a cohesive story.

“Hippies” also gave me a chance to explore the world of magic realism. I’ve been a huge fan of magic realism fiction for years, and this was one of my first interpretations of the genre. I definitely hope to return soon to this fresh and lovely brand of fantasy in my short fiction. In the meantime, an early sketch of a new novel I’m writing will blend a healthy dose of horror with magic realism, and though it’s too early to tell for sure how this new project will turn out, I’m certainly hopeful that it might become something both strangely beautiful and beautifully strange.

So if you’re so inclined, head on over to The Wild Hunt, and take in the nostalgia of “All the Hippies Are Dying.” The free love of Woodstock awaits you!

Happy reading!

Woodland Magic: Interview with Alina Rios

Welcome to this week’s author interview! Today I’m proud to present the multi-talented Alina Rios. I was fortunate enough to work with Alina on the debut issue of Bracken, the new magic realism magazine for which she serves as founder and editor. Needless to say, it was an amazing experience, so of course, I had to invite her to appear on my blog.

Below, Alina and I discuss Bracken as well as her inspiration and future plans as a writer, editor, and photographer.

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

Alina RiosI never decided to become a writer. I just wrote. I started early, when I was five, and the process of writing my first poem is still vivid in my mind. Adults were talking, I was bored, I was given a pen and paper to draw, and I wrote a poem about a bunny. I can still recite it. Since that time, I wanted to write more than anything else. The backs of all my school notebooks, except perhaps the ones from my Spanish classes, were filled with poems and story starts.

My father left when I was very young and once I started writing, I used it, as I see clearly now, to escape into my dreams. Fortunately or not, I never grew out of it.

Moving from St. Petersburg, Russia to Cleveland, Ohio slowed me down quite a bit because for a long time I found myself between languages, where Russian was starting to slip away—and sadly I let it—and English had not quite come in and taken over my dreams. It was years later that I decided to take writing seriously and enrolled in an Intro to Writing workshop at the Story Studio in Chicago. That’s where I realized, Hey, I can do this. No more non-native language excuses.

In Russia, I read and fell in love with “Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov. It was and still is my favorite and most formative book. This is going to shock people, but before discovering this book, I found Russian literature boring, and favored European literature always, devouring the translations on my mom’s bookshelves. After coming to America, I discovered Diana Wynne Jones—funny, as she’s British—whose worlds and humor, and the infectious spirit that permeates her books, found a home in me. Neil Gaiman is another favorite, especially his earlier books, and his short stories. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Stardust. In the last few years, I’ve discovered Patricia McKillip, and a worn-out copy of her “Winter Rose” is always on my bedside table.

You are the editor at Bracken, a new literary magazine dedicated to magic realism. What inspired you to start this magazine, and what are your plans over the next year or two?

The idea for Bracken came to me at first because I wanted to create a place where all of my favorite stories and poems could live. But as I began working on it, I realized that this was more about giving back to the arts community. I was in a position to support authors and artists with affirmations of their work, encouragements of “almost-there” submissions, and the gratification of first publications.

My plans are rather simple. I want Bracken to stay alive.

My Creative Director, Piper Robert, and I have talked about doing a print anthology at the end of the year. I hope this happens, because both of us are very partial to print and we think the beautiful aesthetic that we have developed for Bracken would translate very well to print. If there is to be an anthology, there will be a release party, somewhere in Seattle, possibly in this little bookstore I know of in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, which is the oldest part of the city.

We’ve also talked about adding music to the magazine. We haven’t explored the idea fully, but I keep finding pieces that would fit very well with our theme.

What can readers expect from the forthcoming second issue of Bracken? Also, do you have any tips for those writers who are submitting to Bracken’s slush pile?

BrackenThere will be more magic, more sadness, and many ways to disappear. We already have the cover art lined up and it is amazing—very different than our first cover but it just fits. I feel like poetry is shaping up quite a bit differently for this issue and I like that. It still does everything you’d expect from our poetry but there is a lot more water in this issue. I have a strange feeling that fiction might follow suit. Piper noticed that there was a lot of silver in our first issue. It is intriguing to discover that we have a themed issue after the content is set!

As far as submissions go, I would say a simple hello with a name attached to it is a great beginning. I also like hearing about the person who’s submitting. Not a bio, just a few words on where the author is coming from. If I know that, I feel I can help the submitter better in my response. It also puts me in a better mood for reading the work.

As far as the actual work goes, we’re looking for lyrical prose and poetry. That means that it must sing. Yes, even your prose. Read any piece from Issue I and you’ll know what I mean. In fiction, we are looking for character-driven stories, which means we want you to go deep, usually inside yourself, to write the kind of story we want to publish. We will always choose an internal transformation over an external adventure. Also, we love the woods, as the name suggests. We also love gardens, fields, backyards. We love rivers and lakes because they often at some point end up near the woods. Once we get into seas and oceans, it becomes a tougher sell. However, that might change, as we’re finding we have to let go of some very good fiction and poetry because it doesn’t quite fit our theme. It is this dynamic tension between keeping the content on land and simply getting amazing magic realism that is going to evolve this magazine.

Also, please oh please follow the submission guidelines. It could make the difference as to whether we read your work.

In addition to your editing, you are an accomplished fiction writer and poet. Have you found it challenging to balance your Bracken duties with your writing schedule? Do you have any tips on time management for other writer-editors out there?

I have found the balance of creating my own work and running a magazine quite challenging. Let’s add on top of this being a single mom of a seven-year-old. However, I have found the magazine to be so soul-feeding that it keeps me going.

As far as tips go, I would say, ask for help. I was so lucky to find Piper. I am lucky to have a nanny who drops off my son at school three days a week. That’s three days that I get to write at a café in the mornings before work. And those hours are precious. Also, I have enlisted the support of some secret readers. They can cut down on my obsessing over submitted work that is hard to part with for such a sympathetic soul as myself.

I have stopped submitting my own work for the moment, because there is just too much to do. But I know I will get back to it, having learned so much already from being on the other side. Another approach that works for me is to have designated writing and editing times in my day. Mornings are for writing. Evenings are for editing Bracken. This works for me because I’m most creative in the mornings, and more keenly focused in the evenings.

You are also an amazing photographer! Has your imaging work ever inspired your writing, or vice versa?

Thank you! I am just starting to move into that area. I have always used photography as a tool to help me get inside myself, to slow down, to really see. In that way, I usually take photos when I cannot write, either because of external circumstances (like being out with my son) or when I’m stuck in a story and need to step away.

Where would you like to see your career as an editor and writer in five years?

Love this question. It is something I haven’t thought of too much because I’m trying to live in the present for a change. But, now that you’ve asked, as a writer, I’m really hoping to start writing plays. Theater has always been such a key part of my life, as has writing, and it is only natural to want to bring them together. I am nursing an idea of a play and I’m very curious how it will come out. Also, there is a chapbook of fiction and poetry I’ve had in mind that I would love to finalize and start sending out. I also hope to get Bracken to a stable enough place that I can start writing and submitting more.

As an editor, I want to keep publishing the true, real voices that are laced with the sadness of the world. I hope to inspire those who are struggling to write, and those who are writing to write better—to go into the darkness of their hearts, and find the beauty. I also hope to be trusted with an anthology some day.

Any links you’d like to share to others’ work?

Here are [some sites] where the creativity is resonant with the spirit of Bracken:

Tim Walker Photography

Kristy Mitchell Photography

Caroline Shaw, Composer

Big thanks to Alina for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at her author site as well as on Bracken Magazine!

Happy reading!

Medical and Macabre: Interview with Rebecca J. Allred

Welcome back! This week, I turn a spotlight on author Rebecca J. Allred. Rebecca and I became acquainted when we were both featured in Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology last year. But that beautiful tome was hardly Rebecca’s only publication. Her fiction has been featured in numerous outlets, including Borderlands 6, Vignettes from the End of the World, and the upcoming volume of Nightscript. In addition to her work as a writer of the macabre, she is also a full-time doctor, dealing with horrors of an entirely different kind.

In the midst of her busy schedule, Rebecca and I recently discussed her favorite authors, her writing inspiration, as well as the intersection of her two careers.

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

I’ve dabbled in writing for as long as I can remember (I recently found a short story of mine written at some point in grade school – complete with construction paper cover and crayon illustrations) but I didn’t start to take my writing seriously until about three years ago. I’m one of Stephen King’s constant readers, but other authors I’ve recently enjoyed include Jonathan Carroll, Gemma Files, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr, and Brian James Freeman.

So far, your fiction has been primarily horror. What first attracted you to the genre? Were you always a fan from childhood, or was it something you learned to love as you got older?

My mom read everything Stephen King put out in the ’80s and ’90s. She read The Stand while she was pregnant with me and has always said I was cooked in horror. As a kid, I preferred the bad guys in Disney movies and gravitated more toward the darker animated films (Secret of NIMH, The Last Unicorn, and The Black Cauldron) than the glittery princess pieces. Consequently, my art has also always tended toward the dark side. The aforementioned grade school short story is called “The Case of the Strange Noises,” and once, I convinced my younger sister and cousins to let me pose them as murder victims, then took a series of crime scene photos that my mother holds hostage to this very day. There’s a story in there, I just haven’t excavated it yet.

By day, you work as a pathologist. Do you find that elements of the medical industry often creep their way into your writing, or do you tend to keep your day job and your fiction mostly separate?

I find medicine creeps into a lot of my writing. There are so many strange and wonderful and occasionally downright horrifying things that I encounter on a daily basis, it would be impossible (and a waste) not to incorporate those experiences into my fiction.

Chilling Horror Short StoriesYou and I first met through our shared table of contents in Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. What was the process for your story, “Ecdysis,” that appeared in the anthology? Also, have you visited the book in the wilds of a bookstore yet?  

“Ecydsis” was originally written back in my third year of medical school. I was on my psych rotation and watched the Ashley Judd film Bug. I wrote the first draft in about 30 minutes, and then it sat on my computer for about three years until I decided to revisit and revise it. The first draft had none of the backstory, just a boring session between the unnamed narrator and his therapist. I still liked the idea though, and it occurred to me that giving the narrator a family history that allowed for multiple interpretations of his current condition (and thus lending some ambiguity to the narrative) might make for interesting reading.

Sadly, I’ve not yet seen Chilling Horror Short Stories (or any of the anthologies in which my work appears) in the wild yet, but if I ever do, I’ll flood social media with photos like that friend we all have who just had a baby.

Your story, “From the Fertile Dark,” is slated to appear this October in Nightscript, Volume 2. What fun tidbits can you reveal about this tale?

When I decided that I was going to get back into writing, I did a search for writing contests. I stumbled across a weekly writing challenge called Flash! Friday. It was a weekly flash fiction challenge that gave writers a photo prompt and 24 hours to write and submit a story. The max word count varied, but it was never more than 500. I wrote for Flash! Friday weekly for several months, trying to get myself into the habit and kickstart my idea generator. I created a lot of what I call “seedling stories” for Flash! Friday, and since then I’ve expanded a number of them into longer, more complete works. “From the Fertile Dark” grew from a seedling inspired by a picture of an empty swing with a child riding the shadow.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I have a six week break coming up between when I finish my last year of training and when I start my first “real” doctor job this fall. During that time, I’m going to attempt a novella with hopes of pitching it to some small presses by the end of the year. I’ve also got about half a dozen short stories in various stages of completion I’m working to finish up and ship off to the slush mines.

Any links you’d like to share?

I have a story appearing in the anthology Borderlands 6, edited by Tom Monteleone. The list of contributors is so amazing that even if I weren’t in this one, I’d encourage people to check it out. Pre-orders for the signed, limited edition can be placed at, and I’ll be posting links to paperback editions on FB and Twitter as soon as they become available.

Big thanks to Rebecca J. Allred for being part of this week’s author interview series! Keep up with her work at her author site!

Happy reading!

10 Awesome Websites that Will Make You a Better Writer

The business of writing is tough. With rejection the name of the game and a deluge of information (and misinformation) out there, it can be difficult to know where to begin. A few years ago when I started, I had no idea what I was doing or how to get there. There was a lot of stumbling in the dark (and heck, there’s still plenty of stumbling), but most days at least, I feel like I have a general idea of where I’m going, and that’s thanks to some incredible resources that are available online to anyone and everyone who wants to utilize them.

So for your scrivener pleasure, here are ten awesome websites that have helped me in my journey as a writer. Among you more experienced authors, all these sites might look familiar, and that’s great! It means you’re way ahead of the curve! But for those of you just starting out or simply looking to take your career in new directions, one or more of these sites might be exactly what your writing career needs at the moment.

So whether it’s teaching you the specifics of plotting a novel or helping you to streamline your submission process, these sites will help to make you a better (and more inspired) writer. And who doesn’t want that?

If you’re working on a novel and need help with plotting…

Helping Writers Become Authors features an array of posts about structuring scenes, stories, and character arcs as well as common writing mistakes that—let’s face it—all of us make occasionally. Blogger K.M. Weiland breaks down novels and demystifies many aspects of storytelling that vex us most as writers. And one of the best things about her site is that even if your story is already in good shape, her tips will help to make it even better, meaning that you can use her advice at any point in your plotting process or at any level in your writing career. After all, the best advice is the kind that just keeps on giving.

If you’re eager to become the next best young adult novelist…

Better Novel Project will guide your way. With fantastic outlines and adorable illustrations, this award-winning site examines the most popular YA books and offers advice on how to apply the general principles to your own work. And I know what some of you readers might be thinking: But I don’t want to write YA fiction! No problem. Blogger Christine Frazier offers regular tips on writing that could still improve your plotting and character development as well as provide some valuable insight into what makes a bestselling book. And admit it: we all want to be bestsellers some day, don’t we?

If you’re seeking somewhere that will help you find markets and track your submissions…

Duotrope is an easy-to-use and fairly affordable resource that offers a searchable database of over 5,000 short and long fiction and poetry markets. Additionally, the site offers a personal submissions tracker as well as statistics on each market, including length of time for response, and percentage of acceptances versus rejections. This is the one site on this list that I use every single day, and my life as an author is far easier for it.

If you’re seeking somewhere that will help you find fiction markets and track your submissions, but you can’t afford a subscription fee…

The (Submission) Grinder is a nice alternative to Duotrope. Although I will always be a little partial to Duotrope—I discovered it first, and the platform design is a little more to my preference—The (Submission) Grinder is truly so similar that you might do a double-take between the two sites. And since the world doesn’t call us starving artists for nothing, having a site where you can find markets and track submissions for free can definitely be a big help.

If you’re seeking markets for your science fiction and fantasy short stories…

Ralan is the place to go. A staple of the speculative fiction scene, the website is so informative that it’s almost overwhelming. Over the many years of its existence, Ralan has been nominated for awards and features no “exposure only” markets, which means every market listed will pay you, some of them quite handsomely, if you submit and the editors accept your work. Way back in the long ago days of 2014, I found my very first markets on Ralan, so it will always have a special place in my little writer heart.

If you write horror and other dark fiction…

The Horror Tree will inspire your macabre soul. With tons of submission calls as well as a blog filled with great tips from working writers, this site will keep you entertained and always poised for that next submission. The Horror Tree was also the first submission site I discovered after Ralan, and one that has helped me locate numerous markets that later went on to accept my work. Good stuff for us creepy writers!

If you still can’t get enough horror and dark fiction…

Dark Markets is another fabulous website that features a variety of horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction markets where you can send your work. With an easy-to-navigate design and a constantly updated list of publications, there is always something new to discover. (As a side note, I need to give major props to both The Horror Tree and Dark Markets for being two of the venues where I often find submission calls to share on my monthly Submission Roundup. Did I mention I seriously love these sites?)

If you’ve finished your novel and are ready to seek out representation… will guide you through the process. With a customizable search, you can discover dozens of agents seeking books in your genre, and just to make the process even simpler, will also link you directly to the agency’s site. It doesn’t get much easier than this. A perfect place to start on your road to representation.

If you like online workshops and columns written by working authors…

LitReactor has got you covered. With cool classes and equally cool blogs from some of the best writers working today, there is always something on LitReactor that will not only entertain you but will also help guide your way through this capricious industry. Even a casual visit to the site can turn into a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole. There’s just so much to check out. Consider yourself warned.

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for your writing career…

Writer’s Digest is the gold standard, a total oldie but a total goodie. From workshops and tutorials to blogs with tips on writing and submitting to agents, there are few sites that can point you down the path on how to become a successful author as well as Writer’s Digest. The name isn’t synonymous with literary advice for nothing.

Did I miss your favorite writing site? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading!

Spectacular Horror: Interview with Eden Royce

Welcome to this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the amazing Eden Royce. Eden is an incredible author who has produced short stories, a novella, and a short fiction collection, and also worked as both an editor and interviewer at numerous venues. Her work is consistently captivating, so if you aren’t already reading her fiction, then remedy that promptly!

Recently, Eden and I discussed her genesis as a writer, her inspiration in Gothic horror, and her tips on time management for writers.

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

Eden RoyceI had a micro short story published in the local newspaper when I was about five. It was something along the lines of “Finish this story” and began with “You go into the attic of your house. What do you find?” I think my Mom still has a copy somewhere.

I got away from writing for several years, too long, but I eventually came back to writing and I think I always will.

Some of my favorite authors are J. California Cooper (a reviewer once compared my work to hers and I was beyond flattered), Daphne DuMaurier, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Tabitha King, Isabel Allende, Laura Joh Rowland, and Edgar Allan Poe.

You have been working with Kathryn Kulpa on the Spider’s Web Flash Fiction contest, which focuses on female protagonists. How did you get involved with the project, and what in particular are you looking for in the stories you read?

Spider Road was looking for judges for their flash fiction contest and I sent in my writer’s resume. I was actually surprised when they asked me to be a judge, as I’m sure they had many talented and knowledgeable authors to choose from. I didn’t question it, though; I was happy to be involved with an indie publisher that makes such efforts to invest in the local community and give back to those in need.

What am I looking for in a story for the flash fiction contest? First, a strong female protagonist with complexity to her character—she shouldn’t be one note or stereotypical—so I can root for her to succeed in whatever she’s doing. Next, I’d like a well-crafted story: a great opening line that makes me want to read more, a creative and original premise, and a clever ending that I didn’t expect. After I read it, I want to say, “Wow, that was good.” Not much, right?

Over the last few years, you’ve been a prolific fiction writer, releasing numerous short stories, a short story collection, and a novella. Do you have any specific writing habits (such as writing at the same time every day)? Also, do you have any tips for other writers on time management?

I still occasionally struggle with time management. I have to change my writing location from time to time, even if it’s a different room in the house. I’ll even go to the library. I can get easily distracted by the Internet or by what housework I think needs doing. If that’s your issue, try setting a timer for one hour—thirty minutes at first if you have to—and ignore everything else and write.

Other things that have worked for me:

Spook Lights: Southern Gothic HorrorFind an online writer buddy and schedule a writing sprint. For twenty or thirty minutes, write all you can, as if it’s a race to the finish. Don’t edit, don’t even think too hard about what you’re putting on the page. See what your word count is after that time. I can almost guarantee it will surprise you.

Have TV as a treat. I don’t watch much television, as it can be a huge time suck, but I have my favorite shows. (Yes, I’m looking at you, MasterChef.) Instead of watching your shows all evening, write first, then choose a show or two that you love and watch it afterward. Or go one evening without the TV on, you’ll get so much done.

Stop overthinking it. Just write, even if you think what you’re writing is insane or ridiculous, or you’re making more spelling mistakes than a drunk lemur with a laptop. None of that matters right now. That’s for when you edit later on. Get the ideas, the story, out first. This may be the hardest one, especially if you’re type A like me, but it is so freeing. And that’s what you want to be as an author.

Your stories often touch upon horror or other Gothic elements. What was it that first drew you to the genre?

I used to watch old black and white horror movies with my mother and grandmother: the mist-covered castle on the hill sort of films, with Bela Lugosi as Dracula. They weren’t bloody, but they were dark and sinister and creepy. Loved those! Even the day after watching those movies, I would hear a noise or a creak and I’d remember the look of panic on the heroine’s face. I knew I wanted to bring my experiences and culture to that type of story.

In addition to your writing and editing, you are also an interviewer! I loved your recent article with Miracle Austin! What inspired you to become an interviewer, and what has been the most surprising or interesting part of the process?

I was at a book event once, it may have been an anthology launch, where I mentioned that I was featured in the book, 60 Black Women in Horror Writing. Someone said they didn’t know there were sixty Black women who wrote horror. After that, I made it a point to find more women like me, so I reached out to the website Graveyard Shift Sisters and asked if they’d be interested in a series of reviews and interviews. They agreed and I started reaching out to other women horror authors. I also do the occasional interview on my blog and for Dirge Magazine.

The most interesting part of it is meeting the authors themselves. They are talented, driven artists, most of them indie authors who do it all: writing, book cover concepts, and marketing their work. It’s inspirational to see and to read.

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

“The Choking Kind,” which is the final story in my short story collection, Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror. I loved it from concept to completion, and there was never a time that I thought it might not work. It’s based on a story my grandmother used to tell me, and it always makes me think of her. As it has stuck with me so long, I thought it might stick with readers as well.

What upcoming projects are you currently working on?

I’ve just released part two of my dark fantasy/sci-fi series, “Containment”. I’ve been invited to submit stories to two different anthologies, both coming out this year. One is featuring Feast, the protagonist from the “Containment” series, so that will be fun to write. The other is small-town horror, so I hope the publisher will like what I’ve dreamed up. I’m planning to release another collection of my short stories in January 2017, titled Spook Lights 2.

Big thanks to Eden Royce for being part of this week’s author interview! Find her online at her author site and her blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Eden will also be appearing at Nine Worlds Con next month where she will be on a panel discussing race and class in horror, so be sure to meet her there if you can!

Happy reading!

Ancient Logic: Interview with Morgan Crooks

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to present author Morgan Crooks. Morgan’s work has appeared widely in publications including Daily Science Fiction and Cyclopean Press along with anthologies such as Mystery and Horror LLC’s History and Horror, Oh My! He also runs the awesome review and pop culture site, Ancient Logic.

Recently, Morgan and I discussed his genesis as a writer as well as his inspirations and upcoming publishing plans.

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

Morgan CrooksWriting chose me. I’ve always written, always told stories. One of my earliest memories is narrating a trip to Mars into my brown Fisher-Price tape recorder and I think I’ve been trying to retell that story ever since. I suppose there are plenty of ways to experience life, to make sense of the universe, but I’ve always relied on stories – mine or other people’s – to get through the rough spots.

As far as getting published, of being a writer, that happened a few years ago. I got sick of revising the same half dozen stories again and again, and decided to push a few of them out into the world. My wife Lauren had the patience to encourage me to keep trying and over time I’ve been able to find a few markets willing to publish my work. Writing is a lonely job made possible by the support of lots and lots of people.

Favorite authors? Early on Stephen King and Isaac Asimov. Nowadays I read everything published by Kim Stanley Robinson, Peter Watts, and Laird Barron. I could name plenty of other authors and works I find meaningful, but these five sketch out my interests pretty well. I respect the power of horror to make the familiar nightmarish, and science fiction’s ability to make the unimaginable inevitable. I haven’t quite figured out how to get my writing do both of these things but that’s my target.

The first story of yours I read was “What the Prodigy Learns,” from Mystery and Horror, LLC’s History and Horror, Oh My! How much research went into writing this Roman horror tale, and what else can you reveal about your process behind this story?

That story formed quickly. At the beginning of summer I jot down ideas for stories I’d like to bring to first draft. It occurred to me that although my day job is a history teacher, I hadn’t written anything actually set in the past. Roman history fascinates me and seemed a good starting place. At the outset, all I had was “Roman investigates town with bizarre rituals.” Not too promising. By the time I got to writing the story I had stumbled on to this book about the Roman Road and Inn system. I started thinking about a Patrician Fox Mulder, aware of himself living in a world already ancient, filled with age-old conspiracies. A few drafts later I understood what was threatening him and where it came from.

History and Horror, Oh My!As a speculative fiction author, was there a certain story or film that you saw when you were younger that inspired you to want to write science fiction and horror?

Oh yeah. The first movie I remember seeing was Ghostbusters. Oh okay, more accurately I remember seeing parts of the movie. The library scene nearly sent me fleeing the theater and I spent the rest of it with hands clamped firmly over eyes. The only ghost I remember seeing was Slimer so consequently that little spud played a starring role in my nightmares for the rest of my childhood. I still like how the movie, in addition to being hysterically funny, summoned into being an entire alternate reality; spectral eradication as a viable business plan and some moldy Babylonian threatening NYC. The mix of comedy, science fiction, and horror, all elements rubbing shoulders without stepping on each others’ toes, is probably one of my ideals as a writer.

For the record, I’m looking forward to the reboot. I like the cast and the feel is basically there. Maybe it will totally suck but I feel like the past couple of decades have been cruelly deprived of Ghostbusters.

Your site, Ancient Logic, is a wonderful mix of fiction and film reviews along with your insightful musings on all things publishing and pop culture. What initially drew you to blogging, and do you have a long-term plan for where you want to take the site?

Thank you very much! For better or worse, Ancient Logic is a pretty good reflection of my interests/obsessions. I read a lot, watch far too much TV, and work up considerable passion about movies and music. When my friends’ eyes glaze over, I know it’s time to write another post.

I started blogging as a way to make sense of what I was reading and seeing. I blog in a different voice than I tell stories but I think the two work hand in hand. What I blog is kind of the footnotes for what I’m writing.

I do have a longer term project planned for Ancient Logic over the summer. A while ago I wrote a novel called Agent Shield and Spaceman, a goofy riff on espionage thrillers, superhero teams, and nihilism. The idea was to serialize it as a podcast but I ran out of time. Since June I’ve been finally releasing it , three or so chapters a week.

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

My current favorite is “The Mystagogue,” which is available through Cyclopean Press, a longer work about subterranean elder races and outsider art. I’m shopping around a few recent stories that fall more on the science fiction side of things, hopefully they’ll be available soon.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

In addition to Agent Shield and Spaceman, I’m tinkering with a few more stories. I’ve been working through some nostalgia, and my recent work seems to revolve around the experience of growing up near the lakes and woods of Upstate New York. The Finger Lakes were gouged out by glaciers, bathed in blood and holy spirits, and left to rust. Sort of like rural Pennsylvania, it’s a fine setting for some quality terror.

Any links you’d like to share to other recommended sites?

You mean other than Reddit? I follow a few authors’ blogs: Peter Watts, and N.A. Ratnayake. For those interested in finding new awesome fiction and poetry, I’d recommend Gillian Daniels’ short fiction review column in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination and of course Charles Payseur for his Quick Sip Reviews. For all things nerdy and awesome, I follow my friend Dan Toland’s podcast (available on Earth-2) and Twitter.

Big thanks to Morgan Crooks for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him at his website, Ancient Logic!

Happy reading!