Author Corner–Max Booth III

E: Hey, Max!  Welcome back to the blog.  Of course, you had to bring me guacamole.  Why can’t you bring me pie like normal people?

M: It is pie. It just happens to be filled with guacamole. I don’t understand why you won’t just eat the damn thing. It’s delicious. This is what killed Hitler. It’s good for us. Trust me. One bite.

E:  You have a new book out, Toxicity.  When did it release and what can you tell us about it?

M: Toxicity was published by Post Mortem Press back in April. Post Mortem Press is probably best known for publishing the short fiction of Joe Hill and Clive Barker through various anthologies, along with the ongoing columns by Harlan Ellison in their quarterly dark fiction journal, Jamais Vu.

Toxicity is a dark comedy about drug addiction and dysfunctional families. It features three main characters and their individual stories, who all eventually clash together toward the end of the book. So, it’s kind of similar to certain Quentin Tarantino narrative techniques in that aspect. Many reviews actually have compared the book to Tarantino, as well as the Coen Brothers, Elmore Leonard, and Carl Hiaasen.

Toxicity Front Cover

E: Where did you get the idea for the book?  What’s the weirdest, or most unusual, thing that has inspired a story?

M: I grew up loving the hell out of films like Snatch and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. I wanted to write a humorous crime novel in the same sort of style. The actual idea? Man, I don’t know. I started off by writing about a dysfunctional family very similar to my own family, and allowed the craziest shit I could imagine to continue from there. After many rewrites, an actual novel had formed.

E: You’ve got some short story news recently.  What got accepted and where can we find it?

M: My short story “The Neighborhood has a Barbecue” was recently accepted in Michael Bailey’s psychological horror/science fiction anthology, Qualia Nous. He had previously published my story “Flowers Blooming in the Season of Atrophy” in his horror anthology, Chiral Mad 2. “The Neighborhood has a Barbecue” is written in the same style as old Twilight Zone episodes, so fans of that show will probably really dig my story. Well, that’s the idea, at least.

Vincenzo Bilof also accepted my short story “One Day I’ll Quit This Job and Rule the World” in his anthology, Surreal Worlds. My story is…surreal.

Both anthologies should be available sometime later this year.

E: You’ve got a fairly busy convention schedule this year.  In fact, didn’t you just get back from one?  Where else can we find you this year?

M: Indeed I did! I just returned home after a great convention at Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. I spent most of the time panhandling on the streets with Christian A. Larsen.

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The remaining conventions for this year all happen to fall on September. I will be at the following conventions, hosting a vendor table for my own small press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing: Monster-Con (San Antonio, TX – September 06-07), Enter the Imaginarium (Louisville, KY – September 19-21), and Alamo City Comic Con (San Antonio, TX – September 26-28).

Side note: I’ll also be attending Enter the Imaginarium in September.  If you’re in the surrounding area or you’re willing to drive and you’ve got a burning desire to meet us, that’s where we’ll be.  Charlie can’t come.  They said something about “biohazards” and “fumes.”  Bastards.

E: You have another book coming out this fall from Kraken Press.  What can you tell us about that one?

M: The Mind is a Razorblade will be published this September by Kraken Press. It’s a supernatural neo-noir horror novel of a man born into death. Drowning, he wakes beside two corpses. His memory has been wiped clean. He doesn’t know his name, what he’s doing here, who these people are, or even why one of them is a cop. Questions plague his mind like hellfire, questions that begin a journey leading into the rot of downtown America, a journey that will not end until every one of his questions have been answered, despite who has to die in the process. Even if those who have all the answers aren’t even human.

A story of identity and redemption, satanist cults and funny bunny slippers, The Mind is a Razorblade is the deformed lovechild of a lunatic raised on cheesy ‘80’s science fiction movies.

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E: You’ve also edited another tribute anthology.  What was behind choosing Charles Bukowski and what are your plans for future tribute anthologies?

M: I’ve done two tribute anthologies so far. Volume one focused on Kurt Vonnegut, and the second featured Charles Bukowski. Both of these authors inspired me both as a person and a writer. They affected not only me, but millions of fans. I’m currently putting together a new volume for Elmore Leonard, and if any writers are interested, they have until September 30 to submit something to me.

I am actually on the fence about continuing the tribute series after Elmore Leonard. If I do, I’ll either tackle Flannery O’Connor or Roald Dahl.

Roald Dahl sounds like a lot of fun, to be honest.

E: If you could change any part of the publishing industry, what would you change and why?

M: Besides all the ass kissing that’s involved, probably the really shitty “publishers” popping up every two seconds. You know the kind I’m talking about. The publishers that pretty much release only anthologies, offering zero payment or contributor copies, and exist solely to make money off of writers’ friends and families. I would love to see them all fall off the face of the earth.

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BIO:

Max Booth III is the author of two novels, TOXICITY and THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE, along with a collection of flash fiction called THEY MIGHT BE DEMONS. He is the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has studied under Craig Clevenger and award winning editor, Jennifer Brozek. He writes columns for Litreactor, Revolt Daily, and Zombie POP. Raised in Northern Indiana, Max currently works as a hotel night auditor somewhere in San Antonio with his dachshund and life partner.  You can find Max at his website  or on Twitter.

Recommend It Monday–Tears of Isis by James Dorr

I had the pleasure of interviewing James Dorr for Author Corner awhile back, and one of the things we discussed was his short story collection, The Tears of Isis.  I’ve finally been able to read it (I blame actual employment and graduate school for the delay), and the first thing I want to mention is how beautiful it is.  The language Dorr uses as he tells his stories is wonderful.  Some of the stories are his takes on fairy tales.  Cindy is the most obvious one, but others are Snow White and Sleeping Beauty told as River Red and The Ice Maiden, respectively.  What I enjoyed most about these stories is that they employ the same world dynamics.  It was nice to go back to this world and read other aspects of it.  His versions of the tales are unique and subtle.  In fact, with River Red and The Ice Maiden, I didn’t realize what they were until after I had finished reading the collection.  Some people may not like the delayed connection, and maybe those people who are smarter than I am will make the connection as they read these stories, but I rather enjoyed that I was still appreciating the collection and getting new things from it after the fact.  The final story, The Tears of Isis, was the most sublime (Burke) for me.  I had the most powerful reaction reading it, a mix of horror, disgust, and fascination, and I think it was well placed within the collection.

If you’re looking for some new reading material, I’d suggest grabbing a copy of this book.

Author Corner–A Year in Review

Author Corner will be taking a break for the holiday season and will return the first week of January with all new interviews.  I wanted to take a moment and say thank you to everyone who helped make this year a great one for Erindipity, from the authors who popped by for interviews and guest posts, to the people who stop by every week to read them.  Thank you.

Here are some of my favorite Erindipity moments from the past year:

  1. Charlie, because who doesn’t love a pet corpse.  Sure, he oozes on my furniture, eats the middles out of all my pies, and gets handsy with the guests, but he’s very loyal.  From taking him to the zoo to watching him chase the Evil Jester around the sitting room for violating my leg, he’s a great pet corpse.
  2. Cruel and Four Days.  No, no one is putting me up to this.  If you have not yet read these books, make it a resolution.  These were the two most memorable books I’ve read this year.  They are worth feeling the need to shower afterwards.
  3. Rafael Alvarez.  I love all my interviewees, but if I had to pick one interview to highlight, it would be this one.  He is a classy guy who was fantastic to work with.  His book, Tales from the Holy Land, is out now from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
  4. New Work Responses.  I don’t often post what I’m working on, but when I do, the reaction has been wonderful.  Thanks for letting me give you my words.  They’re the most precious things I have.  Well, besides my kids, but you can’t have them.
  5. The Authors.  This gig lets me meet so many different, wonderful people.  From Lehua Parker, who used pigeon in her books, to Charles Day, media kingpin, and everyone in between.  These people were kind enough to let me bug them for an afternoon and I took a little something away from every one of them.

If you have your own favorite moments, please feel free to share them.  I’d love to know.  Thanks again for a wonderful 2013, and here’s to making 2014 even better.

Author Corner–Matthew Dexter

E: Hail and well met, Matthew!  Thanks for popping in.  And you brought me pie!  I Knew I was going to like you.  Just put it up someplace high so Charlie doesn’t eat the middle out of it.  He only likes the middles.  Some corpses, I tell ya.

M: Gorgeous place. Thanks for having me. I heard about Charlie. The pie was from the forest, and the Ritalin was from Connecticut. Charlie don´t touch that.

Charlie did, in fact, touch the Ritalin.  Sweet mother of pie, if he wasn’t already dead I would have killed him.

E: You had a book come out earlier this year, The Ritalin Orgy from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  It’s the next book in my review pile, actually.  Once I get caught up on some of these papers, I plan to dive on in.  What can you tell us about it?

M: It’s a novel about a teacher losing his mind at a boarding school. It’s about the morons and rich snobs who bully and haze their way to fancy careers. It’s about the faculty who live amid the privileged and the scholarship students doing what they can to survive. The Orgy is not of a sexual nature. The Ritalin use is pervasive and now replaced with cocaine.

Ritalin Orgy

E: What made you write this particular book?

M: I had written a few manuscripts about this prep school and wanted to get it out of my system before dying. If I can save one life, it is worth it.

E: You have 10 stories coming out.  Can you tell us a little bit about those and what publications those will be in?

M: I have a novelette about a drug smuggler coming out with Sententia: The Journal: 6. I have narrative nonfiction forthcoming in Pea River Journal and Gravel. One piece is about a Mexican highway and the other is about getting high while working at National Rental Car. I have flash fiction and short stories coming out in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Adroit Journal, Vending Machine Press, and other venues. I have a restaurant review forthcoming from Sleet Magazine. I have more stories submitted but am trying to focus on starting a new novel. Sometimes such attempts turn into shorter pieces. These sometimes find homes and readers.

E: You have a substantial amount of story publications.  And by substantial, I mean holy crapballs, that’s a lot of stories!  What does your writing schedule look like?  Do you writer at the same time every day or do you grab time when you can?  Living in paradise, I imagine it would be easy to get distracted.

M: It is easy to get distracted. I try to write as soon as I wake up, but would be lying if I said I write thousands of words on end. There are days I do not write. These are the worst days. I am trying to eliminate these and bang out at least 500-1,000 words. When writing a novel, I typical write at least 2,000 words every day for a few months till I have enough pages for a first draft. Many things I write do not get published, either because they are terrible, I never finish them, or they get lost for another project.

E: You have a second novel coming out.  Can you tell us anything about it?

M: First, I have to write it.

E: You have a lot of Hunter S. Thompson quotes listed as inspirational.  What is it about him that draws you in?

M: I admire the prose and humor and recreational drug use. Also, the freelance writer mentality of living in a foreign country is something that I enjoy.

Interesting side note: Inspirare, in addition to meaning to inspire, can also mean to breathe or to inhale.  Or maybe it’s not that interesting and it’s just me being an English Major.  Carry on.

M: I think it is interesting. I was lost in Old English and Greek vernacular, and that caught my eye.

E:  There are a lot of conventions and such coming up.  Are you planning to attend any of them?  And are there any upcoming promotional dates for you?

M: I would be up for anything if the possibility existed. I am confined to Mexico with my son and wife and many of these things cost money, so I am not a conventional convention star. Put me at a bar in front of the ocean, and I will read you some stories, some Ritalin Orgy or other tales for your inebriated pleasures.

You can find Matthew on his website or on Facebook.

Author Corner–T. Fox Dunham

E: Hi, Fox!  Welcome to my humble blog.  Sorry for it being so cold in here.  I find the lower temperatures help keep Charlie from smelling so bad.  Do you need a blanket?

F: I have a gorgeous blanket, brown and covered in foxes, that Tara Fox Hall made for me. All my friends have seen it. I take it to Author’s Cons. She’s making me a bigger one too! I adore it. Who the hell is Charlie? The blanket is very small, but I will try to share.

He doesn’t know about Charlie?  Heh heh, he’s in for a treat.

E: You have a story coming out soon as part of the One Night Stands series from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing titled, “Doctor Kevorkian Goes to Heaven.”  What can you tell us about the story?

F: I’m a very sick man, and I should be locked up. The story is mostly about stasis, about standing still. Doc K wanted to free us from a painful afterlife, and in the book, he invents a cure for mortality, obviating euthanasia. Everything stops. And Gods is Doc K pissed when he goes to heaven. I wrote the story in a Vonnegut style but also my own literary voice. It’s one of my favorite pieces.  I’ve written so much for PMMP. I’m Max Booth III’s bitch.

E: You also had a book pre-release a few weeks ago from Gutter Books.  What can you tell us about The Street Martyr and do you know when it will be available for everyone?

F: The Street Martyr is my first novel, though several are following it up. Short fiction authors reach a plateau and must move to long fiction to further their careers. I am told through our distributor, IPGN, that it will be available by the holiday season, in book stores, libraries and online. It’s about two low-level drug dealers trying to survive in impoverished Philly.  When one of them is accused of the death of a pedophile priest, it becomes a fight for life against the city, the mob and police. Vincent will eventually expose a deep and depraved circle, protected by the system, that only a vigilante street hero can fight. And he will rise to the light.

E: You just finished up a trip to Anthocon.  You did a reading there, correct?  What was that like?

F: I read to friends and the dead. They scheduled me last, so we had a lot of shadows. Still, I blew the roof off the place with The Street Martyr. Cons are hit or miss. It’s nice to see friends, to make deals, but they’re not always helpful. But wow. Seven Jameson’s Whiskey for only 22 dollars? Dangerous Dangerous place, NH.

Word of caution: if you’d like to check out more about Anthocon, just click the link.  Don’t misspell it.  I misspelled it and got Anthrocon.  For the love of pie, don’t look that up!  You’re looking it up now, aren’t you?  

E: You’re also going to be a special guest author at Noircon this year.  What does that entail?

F: I’ll be doing special readings of the Street Martyr, signings, hanging at the Gutter Book table, sitting on panels and talking about my favorite subject: ME. I’m also doing a wild story for their anthology. The Con is in Philly, so I expect that my editor and several bum friends will be staying at my house. The bums!

E: Do you have any other events that you’re going to be a part of either at the end of this year or early next year?

F: I’m setting up several events around and in Philly over the next year. I plan to be reading from street corners, art galleries, coffee shops and lots of events in Lansdale have invited me to speak. The next reading is an event from Amy Rims, local artist in Lansdale PA, at the Water Gallery in Lansdale on the 22nd. You can find info for it on my author’s page

I will probably be at Texas Frightmare in Dallas, Texas with Max Booth III and Lori Michelle, both editors at PMMP, and I’m hoping to swing up to the WHC in Portland. It depends what’s being published at the time that requires promotion. I do nothing but travel anymore or sit at Molly’s and write.

E: You have a book coming out from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing this summer  with a very long title: DESTROYING THE TANGIBLE ILLUSION OF REALITY; OR, SEARCHING FOR ANDY KAUFMAN.  What can you tell us about this title?

F: That it’s officially the longest title they’ve ever published. I’m proud of that. I like making Max work. Well it’s all about dying of cancer and the way reality becomes an illusion. You realize that so much of what we call reality is tangible and an illusion—a construct of the mind. This is something that Andy Kaufman understood as reality bled for him. What is death and life? My characters seek to discover this as they head north, seeking proof that he is the lost son of Andy. That’s not implausible. Andy was a sexual addict.

E: You’ve written and published a lot of stories.  Do you have a favorite?

F: That’s difficult. I have parts of me scattered all over the field like I jumped into a helicopter blade. Still, the piece that comes to mind, the one I felt the best has to be The Unhappy Accident or Feelin’ Feel in the PMMP Vonnegut Anthology, So It Goes. If I had to throw a story at the Divine Creator like a bag full of burning shit on his lawn, it would be that one. I got to speak like truly me, from my own deep and natural voice as I wrote about what I loved. I am grateful to Max Booth III for seeking that voice out in me—ergo the Kevorkian piece and Andy and several other stories. He’s still a Lil’ Bastard, but I adore the guy.

MAX! MARRY ME!!!!! I Want to them babies of yours!!!

You can find Fox on his blog and on Twitter.

And now the age old question has been answered.  You know what the fox says.

Author Corner–James Dorr

E: Hi, James!  Welcome to Erindipity.  Would you care for refreshments?  Charlie wanted me to serve brains and threatened to go on a hunger strike until I did.  I told him to let me know how that works out for him, seeing as he’s dead and all.

J: Actually I’m more of a blood man myself.  Would Charlie mind if we just had drinks?  

E: You had a book come out this past May from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, The Tears of Isis.  It’s currently in my review stack and I can’t wait to get started on it.  What can you tell us about it?

J: The Tears of Isis is a collection of 17 stories and an opening poem beginning with the “sculptress” Medusa, and ending with the title story of another sculptress searching for inspiration through the Egyptian myth of the Weeping Isis.  These are dark stories for the most part and not all necessarily directly about art — along the way we meet vampires, insects, sea creatures, alien landscapes, people who make things from human bones, others who keep pets, even a dragon — but by the end, hopefully, all relating to a theme of beauty linked with destruction.  Creation and death.  For of course, without death, where would there be the need for new life?      

You can also find Tears of Isis on Barnes&Noble.

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E: I don’t usually spend a lot of time talking about cover art, but I’d love to know what inspired this cover.  It’s very striking, and as far as covers go, it’s one of my favorites.  What went into designing it?

J: I had sent some suggestions to the publisher, mainly several descriptive passages from the story “The Tears of Isis” along with some samples of Egyptian art showing Isis in her vulture-winged aspect, which were passed on to the artist, William Cook.  I was a bit surprised myself with what he came up with, having envisioned something perhaps more scene-like, and yet, with its strict bilateral symmetry evoking Egyptian motifs, yet not constrained by ancient Egyptian stylistic convention (the wings, for instance, perhaps more resembling an eagle’s than an Egyptian vulture’s — but most of the stories in the collection not on Egyptian motifs either), the design was, as you say, very striking.  Stark, almost, with its deep, dark background lit by the Isis-figure’s sun-disk headdress, and yet with other elements (the barely-seen eyes, for instance, peering out through the background darkness) pointing toward the book being about more than just Egypt.  From that, my only further suggestions had to do with where and how the lettering would be positioned, to reinforce the formal symmetry of the art.         

E: You also have two other book collections out.  What can you tell us about them? 

J: Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance and Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, published by Dark Regions Press in 2001 and 2007 respectively, are also short fiction collections, but each with a section of poetry at the end.  They differ in one way in that they are not as strongly themed as The Tears of Isis (although one reviewer has suggested a preponderance of strong female figures in Strange Mistresses in particular), reflecting, perhaps among other things, the way the collections were put together.  With these the publisher chose the stories from larger samplings that I provided, whereas, with The Tears of Isis, I had complete control in terms of both the material used and the order in which it would be presented.  That said, however, both are primarily fantasy collections leaning toward horror — including stories originally published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Gothic.Net, Short Story Digest, etc.,  as well as new material — with the second probably the darker of the two.     

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E: You just had a story accepted.  Your website calls it an “Eco-horror Veggie Anthology.”  That sounds fascinating.  What can you tell us about “Seeds” and about the anthology it will appear in? 

J:  The guidelines called for “any kind of story related to plants, nature, forests, gardens, or anything scary/dark/bizarre in relation to vegetable matter.”  In short, ecology gone wild — horribly wild.  In view of that, my story “Seeds” (a reprint, incidentally, originally from KEEN SCIENCE FICTION more than a decade ago) may seem almost tame, only having to do with a newly-planted backyard flower garden gone wrong.  But the story’s protagonist really didn’t want to plant it, it having been his wife’s idea, and the female assistant at the seed store shares with him a love of Chicago Cubs baseball. . . .  The anthology will be called GROWING CONCERNS, to be published by Chupa Cabra House 

E: You write poetry as well as prose.  For you, how do those genres influence each other in your writing?

J:  From writing poetry, I believe one gains a greater love for words and the way they sound, as well as using them concisely and, at least in formal verse, in a context where patterns (such as rhyme and meter) have to co-exist with meaning.  I’d like to think that poetry has had a great influence on my prose, making me pay more attention to structure and cadence, and to picking the exactly right word or phrase — to be hyper-aware of, as Mark Twain might say, “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”  It also heightens, I think, a sense of character and voice, how different people, or even different kinds of stories, will just sound different if done correctly.  And there’s a connection the other way too, that a sense of story in writing fiction can guide me in seeing an individual poem as possibly part of a greater concept.  To not-so-subtly sneak in a plug, a book we haven’t mentioned yet, Vamps (A Retrospective) published in 2011 by Sam’s Dot (now White Cat Publications), is my first book-length collection of poetry, in this case all having to do with vampires even if individually employing a variety of approaches and styles.    

E: Are you a plotter or a pantser, or some combination of the two? 

J:  The straightforward answer is a combination.  I usually will have a good idea of where a story will end — sometimes even writing out a tentative ending first, then struggling to find where the story begins.  However, I’m not sure there’s all that great a difference between these approaches insofar as, in my own case, when I was just starting out I often wrote out extensive notes on what sequence events would happen in and how each scene might act to advance a story, whereas now, once I’m properly started, I just let the words flow.  But doesn’t this simply mean that I’ve learned enough through sufficiently long experience that what I once had to work out consciously now just gets done on an unconscious level?  That is, that I’m still doing the same sorts of things, but now I don’t have to think about them (at least not as much).      

E: What has been the most valuable experience for you as a writer?

J:  It was through writing, a very long time ago, that I met The Woman Who Was To Become My Ex-Wife.  While I can joke about it now as well as harbor a few regrets, for a time there was, I believe, a genuine love between us.  And that is always a valuable thing.    

 Dorr2012

You can find James on his blog or on Facebook.

Recommend It Monday–Four Days by Eli Wilde and ‘Anna DeVine

Last time on RIM, I reviewed Cruel by Eli Wilde.  Today, I’m going to talk about the next book in the Strangers in Paradise Trilogy, Four Days.  When I talked about the first book, I compared it to the movie 8MM in that you only need to consume it once, and then never again.  For most people, I’d say this holds true with Four Days.  I just may pick this one up again sometime, though.

Four Days

This book is both horrible and beautiful.  What separates it from Cruel, for me, is that Emily is a grown woman when the events of the book takes place whereas Evan is a small child when his story begins.  For me, that makes it easier for me to handle Emily’s story.  This book is every bit as graphic as the last one, so if you have any triggers this is not the book for you.

What I appreciate the most about Wilde and DeVine is their ability to be graphic without being gratuitous.  Violence, especially sexual violence, serves a purpose.  It’s a horrible purpose, to be sure, but a purpose nonetheless.  The writing is captivating and skillfully done.  There’s also a commitment to the story.  If at any time Wilde and DeVine would have hesitated or faltered in any way, the whole thing would have imploded.

Like Cruel, Four Days is a shorter book and is meant to be read in a single afternoon.  This time, I devoured the book and was left wanting to know more.  Dublin is the final book in the trilogy, and I don’t have a release date on that yet, but I cannot wait to get my hands on it.  The first two books can be read as stand-alones, and they can be read in any order.  I read them in their proper order, and it was neat to see the way the authors wove in those intersections.  

If you read this book, or Cruel, stop back by and let me know what you thought.

Author Corner–Richard Thomas

E: Hi Richard, and welcome to Erindipity.  Charlie has a story idea he’d like to pitch you.  I mean, I already told him writers hate that sort of thing, and that the likelihood of you speaking corpse is probably low, but he threatened to pout until Christmas unless I brought it up.  Trust me, you don’t want to see him pout.  It’s not attractive.

R: Love to hear it. I’m sure he has some excellent insights he could share with me. Lay it on me.

E: You were included in the charity anthology Bleed from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What was it like writing for this project where the monsters being fought were metaphors for childhood cancers?  And which charity were you raising money for?

R: Of course I couldn’t say no when Lori Michelle approached me. We talked about a few different stories I had, and I sent her over “Death Knell.” It deals with a mother’s side of the grief after she loses her son to a random accident. It was a bit of flash I wrote later, in response to my original story, “Say Yes to Pleasure” which appeared in Warmed and Bound. There are always two sides to a coin, to a story, and it was interesting to explore both of them. There is a line in one of my stories that goes, “I was autistic with pain,” and that’s how I feel when I think about children and suffering. It’s so horrible. The charity is The National Children’s Cancer Society.

E: You had another anthology release earlier this month.  What’s the name of your story and what can you tell us about it?

R: I had two come out this month. Reloaded: Both Barrels, Volume 2 includes a bit of Southern gothic noir entitled, “Trinity” about three women who share a childhood secret, based on my time down in Conway, Arkansas. And there’s also my story “Victimized” collected in the anthology, The Best of the Horror Society 2013. This story came out a few years ago, originally in Murky Depths at 5,000 words, but later in its full version in my collection of stories Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press). It’s a story set in the near future where victims can find redemption in a boxing ring, fighting, and often killing, the men who raped and murdered their family members. It’s told from the POV of a female protagonist, Annabelle, and it’s a wild ride, for sure. And on Halloween, I have a story coming out in Fear the Reaper (Crystal Lake Publishing), “The Culling,” which is my homage to “The Lottery,” a tale about family and wolves and the choices you make to protect your own. October is definitely one of my favorite months.

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E: In addition to your short story writing, you also write columns for Storyville.  What can you tell us about the column?

R: It’s a lot of fun to write. It started as a way for me to share my experiences—you know, misery loves company. I talked about what I was going through, how I struggled, and eventually, how I was breaking through. I write about craft, process, submitting, the business, you name it. My hope is that it will help other authors with their own writing, to become better, more educated about the process, and to not give up hope, no matter how long they struggle to get their stories and novels out there.

E: You’ve also written a novel, TransubstantiateHow was that experience different for you than short story writing?  What do you like best and least about the novel length manuscript?

R: Well, the scope of it is just so much bigger. And for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take this neo-noir, speculative thriller, a mix of Lost, The Truman Show, and The Prisoner, and tell it from the POV of seven different people. It was a challenge, for sure. You have to stay focused, and think in terms of short arcs (scenes), medium arcs (chapters) and the big arc (the novel) with several different threads, plots and sub-plots, all meshing together. Hopefully, it’s cohesive and the audience can follow you. I want to entertain, but I also want it to stay with people, by using lyrical language, and emotions we can all relate to, whether good or bad, happy or sad, light or dark. The hardest part is staying with it, on task, and to keep the voice going. The best part is having the room to really expand the narrative, sit in those moments and scenes for pages and pages, really getting all of the details, and emotions, and impact that you can. My agent is currently shopping my second novel, Disintegration, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

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E: I’ve heard you offer editing services.  Is there anything you are unwilling to edit and what are your rates per service?

R: I try to work on writing where I feel I have something to say, some experience. And I’ve been lucky enough to write in many different genres—horror, fantasy, SF, crime, noir, neo-noir, transgressive, magical realism, surreal, bizarro—even literary. I probably wouldn’t take on romance, since I don’t write it or read it. I don’t write MUCH YA, but I’d read that, edit it—I’ve read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and Lemony Snicket. I’ve only turned down one client because he was SO BAD that I was nearly in tears trying to edit him. He had SO far to go. The formatting, the structure, it wasn’t really even a story. I suggested some books, and some classes, and refunded his money. He had a strong vision, but he wasn’t ready. I charge $1-3/page depending on the amount of editing, whether it’s big picture overall criticism, a closer edit, or a full on copy edit that covers everything. I’ve been really thrilled to see “my clients/students” go on to sell novels to Perfect Edge Books, Post Mortem Press, and Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, as well as short stories to places like Juked, Red Fez and the American Nightmare anthology (Kraken Press).

E: You’re insanely busy.  On top of everything else, you’re also the Editor-In-Chief of Dark House Press.  What’s the best thing about being in that position and what is the one thing you wish you could change?

R: It’s really a dream come true to be able to publish the voices I’ve been reading over the past 5-10 years, authors that have inspired me, and pushed me to write, to take risks, and get my writing out into the world. In addition to Letitia Trent’s Southern gothic supernatural horror novel, Echo Lake, the Joshua City fantasy trilogy by Okla Elliott and Raul Clement, and the literary horror collection by Stephen Graham Jones, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, we’ve got two excellent anthologies coming out. In 2014, our first book, is the “best of neo-noir” anthology, The New Black, with stories by Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger, Paul Tremblay, Lindsay Hunter, Roxane Gay, Kyle Minor, Micaela Morrissette, Benjamin Percy, Roy Kesey, Craig Davidson, Matt Bell, Richard Lange, Joe Meno, Vanessa Veselka, Nik Korpon, Antonia Crane, Rebecca Jones-Howe, Tara Laskowski, and Craig Wallwork. There’s also a foreword by Laird Barron. I’m really excited about this book. Exigencies in 2015 is all new stories, and a fantastic collection as well.

I only wish I had more time, more money, more resources, more staff, etc. We’re only doing 4 titles in 2014, and 5 in 2015, but I could easily accept 10 books a year, 20. There is just so much fantastic writing going on out there, and so many authors that deserve to be discovered.

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E: Clearly, you must be a master of time management.  What advice would you give new writers about effectively managing your time?

R: Well, I don’t know about that. I’m constantly struggling to meet deadlines, turn in blurbs, get my columns done, and I’ve been slacking on my own writing, too. I think the best thing you can do is to make a list, short-term and long-term goals, and check things off as you go. It’s always a good feeling to go, “DONE!” Otherwise, you can feel overwhelmed. Sometimes when that happens, I just turn off the technology, back away from the computer, and get some fresh air—asking my kids to take a walk with the dog, or I hop on my bike, or grab a bowl of ice cream and watch dumb tv with my wife. I have to remind myself why I’m doing all of this, and also, to enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, the process, the writing, the submitting, all of it, then maybe this isn’t what you should be doing. I have to remind myself that sometimes. It can be frustrating, sure, it can be a slow process, but really, it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done—writing, editing, teaching, and publishing. It gives me a lot of peace and joy. 

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When he’s not listening to my pet corpse pitch novel ideas (ideas about novels, not original and splendid ideas because lets face it, Charlie just isn’t that creative) he can be found on his website.

Author Corner–Rafael Alvarez

Rafael Alvarez, a writer for the HBO series The Wire, stopped by the blog today to talk about his new book.

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E: Greetings and welcome to Erindipity, Rafael!  I’m glad you could stop by.  Care for a refreshment?  Cookie?

R: Tap water is fine. Thanks.

E: You have a new book coming out in January 2014 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing called Tales from the Holy Land.  You’ve described it as a mural.  Can you tell us more about that?

R: Since about 1988 (in ficciones) I have been writing one huge book – a very marginal history of Baltimore across the 20th century – a single story at a time.

The setting is always Baltimore (the “Holy Land” of the title) and – like Altman or Woody Allen – I tend to work with a trusted troupe of characters, perhaps two dozen who appear over and again in the stories: fictionalized versions of myself, my family, friends of my grandparents when I was young, obscure local legends (eccentrics) who make Baltimore the goldmine of narrative that it is, along with completely fictional characters, best exemplified by Orlo the Salvage King and his young Greek lover, Leini Leftafkis.

Each story is a panel in the mural. I do not write these stories in chronological sequence. I wait for one of the two dozen characters – Basilio Boullosa or Cherry Triplett or Leini’s cross-eyed daughter Little Leini – to speak to me and then I step back from the mural and see where there might be a gap in the chronology.

E: You have several other books out.  Out of all the titles you’ve published, which one was the most fun to write?  Which one was the hardest to write?

R: Not sure fun is the right word to describe it. I was most thrilled when my first book – The Fountain of Highlandtown – was published in 1997 because I’d worked so long for a book and sometimes wondered if it would ever happen. Most fun is when I’m not thinking about publication, when I’m not thinking about the internal carpentry of the story, most fun is when I’m a kid again, taking my characters down from the shelf like puppets and playing with them for my own amusement.

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The hardest was First & Forever: A People’s History of the Archdiocese of Baltimore” because it covered 400 years of Maryland history – beginning with the Ark & the Dove (the Catholic Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria!) and going all the way through the election of Pope Benedict the XVI. But again, the subject matter was dear to me and I was able to combine a lot of my interests – such as faith and seafaring – in chapters on chapels in ships docked in the Port of Baltimore. It took me seven years to write and the pay was minimal at best.

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E: Your website is a place I could get lost in for hours.  I think my favorite part is all of the old black and white photographs of Baltimore.  What is it about these pictures that grabbed you?

R:  Those photographs evoke what I try to capture in the stories: a simple, working class enchantment (food, work, love, struggle), perhaps not so great to have lived through (though every octogenarian I’ve interviewed looks back on them fondly) but a time when there was work if you wanted it and the pay was enough to put a good meal on the table. 

E: The Aging Newspapermen’s Club is another fantastic section of the site.  How did working in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun shaped who you are as a writer?

R: I learned to write – basic construction, the carpentry I mentioned earlier – as a young man on the City Desk of a once-great newspaper, a room of mostly good souls and bosses who wouldn’t spare your feelings to make a story better. That was my MFA. I ornamented that carpentry with a poetic ear I acquired by listening to a lot of music: the British Invasion (Ray Davies of the Kinks is an extraordinary storyteller; the great bluesmen (I covered Muddy Waters’ funeral in 1983); glam-rock of the early 1970s (Bowie, Mott the Hoople); and listening to the Who’s Quadrophenia (1973) every day for about five years. The other aspect of the newsroom was I got paid to “study” the city I love. Not only was I learning to write but the subject matter was often lives that had taken place in those enchanting black and white photographs. I also wrote a lot of obituaries, which was great for getting to the nuance of relationships by talking to surviving family members. It’s fascinating the things people remember about loved ones or not-so-loved ones. 

E: Your website also lists The RosaryProject as a documentary you’re working on.  What inspired the project?

R: The Blessed Mother is very important to me, crucial to my daily life.

E: You make a lot of nautical references, from photographs to stories about the sea.  What was it like growing up in the second largest American seaport?

R: My Spanish grandfather was a marinero who landed in Baltimore on a ship in the 1920s; my father first went to sea at age 17 and spent most of his working life on tugboats in the Baltimore harbor and I worked on ships twice (two years right after high school and again two years after leaving The Sun in 2001. I draw on all of these experiences (those lived, those only heard about) in my fiction.  Seafarers are notoriously good storytellers. The old joke is: “What’s the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story?”

                Answer: “A fairy tale begins, ‘Once upon a time …’ and a sea story begins: ‘This ain’t no shit …’”

E: What has been the hardest thing about being a writer and what has been the most rewarding?

R: The hardest thing has been making a living. The most rewarding are the notes and conversations from people who say, “I was going through a hard time and your story made me feel better, helped me to get through it …”

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You can find out more about Rafael on his website.

Author Corner–Sue Lange

A few weeks ago, I had The Perpetual Motion Machine Club on Recommend It Monday.  Today, author Sue Lange joins us for Author Corner.

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E: Hi Sue, and welcome to Erindipity!  I made up some hot cocoa for us.  Care for a shot of peppermint schnapps for yours?

S: Funny you mention that. I just mixed up a Brandy Alexander for the occasion. Cheers!

E: Your book, The Perpetual Motion Club, just came out this summer.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  How did you come up with the idea for it?

S: I gave myself the challenge of writing something from the world of physics. Something that many people would consider too dry for a light novel. I wanted to make the topic entertaining, to prove that this stuff is interesting if only you’ll look at it the right way.

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E: My favorite part was the perpetual motion machines.  How much did you know about them going in and how much did you need to research?

S: I did a lot of research. When I first started, I kept the image of one of my high school teacher explaining why Villard de Honnecort’s overbalanced wheel wouldn’t work. He told us it was because of friction at the axle. When I did my research I disocovered that was totally wrong. The truth is much more complicated. So I had to go back and relearn physics that I thought I had left far behind. It was enlightening. The most interesting thing I discovered was this whole world of fanatics working tirelessly to invent a perpetual motion machine. It’s a cult actually and not much different from the way I depicted it in the book. It’s tied in with evangelism and God plays a really big role, because in the end you have to “believe.” There’s no other way to break the laws of thermodynamics. Fascinating.

E: Are you currently working on anything?

S: I’m working on a stageplay entitled “The Digital Divide.” It has a lot to do with the technological Singularity, a subject I’ve written a lot about. I wanted to get into writing plays and thought I’d start with something that didn’t require so much research. I’m almost done with my first rewrite and I’m hoping to find a theater group that would like to do a staged reading so I can figure out what works. It’s a new medium for me and I’m really excited about it.

E: What is the hardest thing for you, personally, about being a writer?

S: There’s a lot of emphasis on marketing nowadays. I don’t like to do it. In fact I’ve written a manifesto against social media. I love the world and intend to keep on living in it. Spending a lot of time in virtual reality, i.e. the Internet, takes me away from the world, so that part of being a writer is so adios.

 I like writing, I like the editing process. I like just about everything to do with the artistic end of writing. Selling my work? Not my bag.

E: Is there anything you won’t write?

S: I won’t write anything gratuitously exploitative of animals, people, or the planet. Try not to, anyway. When you write satire, you walk a fine line. I try not to hit someone when they’re down. Some people are so far up, though, that when they’re down, they still need to be drop kicked to the cheap seats.

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, etc?

S: I’m doing the Celebrate the Book event in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on October 19th. (85 Marsh Drive, 9am to 4pm)  I’ll be giving out freebies, holding sales, berating the passersby: the usual stuff.

E: Have you ever been tempted to give up writing?  Not the usual frustrations of writing, but an actual moment of wanting to walk away from it?  And if so,  what made you change your mind?

S: No, not really. I write all the time even if it’s not for public consumption. Even if I stopped writing novels, short stories, or stageplays, I’d still write something. I’ll write letters to my friends, blog posts, emails to the President. Something.

 

Thanks, Erin, for inviting me to Erindipity. Fun! Keep up the good work.

You can find Sue on Twitter or on her blog.

 

Recommend It Monday–Cruel by Eli Wilde

It’s time once again for RIM.  I wish I could do these more often than I do, but grad school makes outside reading problematic, so I do what I can when I can.  That said, I just finished Cruel by Eli Wilde.

There are certain things I feel that people should experience once because they need to.  One such example is the film 8MM.  These are things you should experience once, but once is enough.  Cruel is one of these experiences.

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The book is what its title suggests: it’s cruel.  Some passages gave me goosebumps from their unvarnished honesty.  Others made me feel slightly ill.  The novel is set up in cantos, short memory passages that make reading it a one evening experience.  That is, if you can take that much in one sitting.  I could not.  I found myself reading in chunks, letting parts digest and break down before going back for more.  The first half, for me, was harder to get through than the last half.  I guess it’s easier to distance yourself from a damaged man than it is to watch a child becoming damaged.

The prose is well crafted and that’s largely what makes the book work the way it does.  Less skill from the author would have left it feeling gratuitous.  There are jumps in time, but each canto is dated so its easy to keep track of the time.  The first person POV makes the novel uncomfortably intimate.  It’s wonderful.  It has a mostly linear progression, with acts of cruelty lining up like dominoes waiting for the push.

Read this book.  Take as much time as you need to in order to get through it, but do it.

Author Corner–Kurt Reichenbaugh

E: Hi, Kurt.  Welcome back to Erindipity.  How does it feel to be an interviewee instead of a commenter?  Wait.  You don’t have to answer that.  Pie?

K: Why, thank you, Erin. I love pie! Blueberry…my favorite for this week! As for being the interviewee? Well, for as many times as I’ve had to pound the pavement looking for a daytime job, it’s something you get used to.  But this is the first time I’ve been coerced with pie.

E: Your book Sirens came out earlier this year from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What can you tell us about it?

K: I think I took to heart the classic advice to writers. That is to write the kind of book you want to read. So, I took an idea I used for a short story, and rolled with it. It’s a book about four friends in the 1970s who, through a combination of boredom and bad instincts, get mixed up with an assortment of psychos, both of this Earth, and otherwise. I took common garden variety ingredients of lust and obsession, and threw the stew into it and Sirens was the result.

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E: How did you come up with the idea for it?  Who were your influences?

K: It’s the result of a youth spent reading noir paperbacks, books about UFOs, watching cheesy midnight movies and pining after girls who ignored me. You know, the kind of teenage life we all lived, right? Please tell me I’m right…Anyway, I had a number of influences. They range from Ray Bradbury to Blue Oyster Cult. A reader from Germany recently asked if I was influenced at all by David Lynch movies. I hadn’t thought about it, but I was thrilled that he saw those elements in the book. So there are probably more influences than I’m aware of, or could succinctly list.

E: In addition to the book, you’ve had work appear in Dark Eclipse.  What was featured?

K: I write a monthly column for Dark Eclipse that mainly features reviews of older books and stories that one would find haunting used bookstores. I admire today’s horror writers like Bentley Little and Tamara Thorne, to name two that immediately come to mind, but I like to write about the old stuff. Prior to that I’ve had a noir story in Phoenix Noir from Akashic Books. More recently a story in the Zombies Need Love, Too anthology from Dark Moon Books. And various dark and twisted stories in small press publications.

E: What are you currently working on?

K: I’ve recently completed a noir novel called Past Due that is prepped for shopping around. It’s based in contemporary Phoenix, with nary a zombie, vampire or extra-terrestrial alien in sight. It’s about a nine-to-six working stiff who, once again, lets bad instincts get him into trouble.  Also, I’ll be in a collection of graphic illustrated stories drawn by artist Vince Larue from authors based in the Southwest.  It’s planned for a 2014 publication.

E: Do you have any upcoming events, book signings, blog tours, giveaways, etc.?

K: No, I’m pretty much a home-body. I work full-time as a financial analyst so it doesn’t give me much time to get out there and tour. When not at work, or not festering on the sofa, I can be found sporadically posting to my blog The Ringer Files.

E: Is there any kind of writing that scares you (romance, MG, non-fiction, etc)?  I’d love to write a fantasy series, but it intimidates the crap out of me so I haven’t done it yet.

K: Yes. I don’t think I could reasonably pull off a Western or Science Fiction novel. I admire the folks that can do that.

E: If you could get advice from any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?

K: Hmm…that’s a tough one! I think I’d rather eat more pie. Writers are a curmudgeonly lot, in addition to being just downright weird sometimes. Ironically, it’s the advice from folks who don’t write that I have to deal with most often. Maybe we all can relate to that.

You can find Kurt writing up articles for Dark Eclipse or loitering on Twitter.

Author Corner–Craig Wallwork

Craig Wallwork stopped by to have a chat with me.  Charlie’s all a’titter.  I hate it when he gets like this.

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E: Hi, Craig.  Welcome to Erindipity!  I hope you’re not allergic to corpses.  Charlie!  Stop licking the man!  I’m really sorry about that.  Charlie’s something of an Anglophile.  I can pay for your dry cleaning.

C: Hi Erin, thanks for having me. Is it normal for a corpse to pay that much attention to a crotch?

Get a cat, they told me.  But no, I had to take in a corpse.  /facepalm

E: You have a new chapbook coming out soon from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.  What’s the title and what can you tell us about it?

C: It’s called, Gory Hole: A Horror Triple Bill by Craig Wallwork. I think that’s the full title. It all came about because I was hoping Max Booth, editor-in-chief over at PMMP, would have mercy and pity-publish something by me. I was envious of their back-catalogue, if truth be told. They have some great titles by authors like Eli Wilde, Anna DeVine, Jay Wilburn, and E.E. King, so I just wanted to be part of it all. I had to bedevil and stalk Max for months before he finally accepted my request. The result is three stories with a leaning toward bizzaro, and very tongue-in-cheek horror. Human Tenderloin is a about fine dining for Cannibals. Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters is about a group of friends who find themselves in the gay quarter of the city and everyone has turned into zombies. And Sicko is about a bachelor party that goes awry when mutant deer attack a quaint English hotel. I much prefer horror to be over the top and comical. Evil Dead, Braindead, Dog Soldiers, Severance, Return of Living Dead, these were great movies because they boiled the horror down and skimmed off the absurd. Gory Hole is what Sam Rami would write if he was an author. I think Charlie would love it.

This.  This is why I love horror people.  Sure, they’re usually a bit off, but they never judge you for having a pet corpse and now they write him bedtime stories.  I don’t care what they say about you, horror people, you’re OK in my book.

E: You write both novels and short fiction.  When you come up with a story idea, do you already know that it will be a long or short piece, or does that come later after some of the writing happens?

C: I always know what will be a novel and what will be a short story. But I can never estimate the word count because I’m terrible with numbers. It’s like I have dyscalculia or something. I’m always uncertain to when flash ventures into being a short story, and when a short story becomes a novella. I just write and see what happens. I think it’s important that a writer doesn’t really ration themselves, or get caught up with the word count. Unlike life, storytelling is not limited by science, physics or finance; the only limitation a writer has is their imagination. Just let the words pour out.

E: The Sound of Loneliness from Perfect Edge Books sounds like my worst nightmare as a writer.  What can you tell us about it?

C: I wrote it from a different place from where I am now. I guess what I mean by that is, if I sat down to write The Sound of Loneliness today, it would be completely different. At the time, I was reading a lot of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Dan Fante, Mark SaFranko and other Underbelly and Beat writers. I was caught up in the whimsy of suffering, the poor starving artist self-sacrificing everything in the hope to create a masterpiece. I loved, too, how those writers viewed the world, how brutally honest they were. They never held back, and when they threw their fist you felt it in your gut. Naturally, I wanted to write something similar, but I didn’t want it to just be a facsimile of those works. Then I stumbled on Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and it all made sense. Hamsun showed me a different way to write, more lyrically and less brutal. Poetic, you may say. It was important for me to capture the feel of those types of books, but also present humor in a tragic way, while still being true to the main character and the world he inhabited. You could say that The Sound of Loneliness grew out of envy and bitterness, and I sense that’s why the main character, Daniel Crabtree, is so unlikeable. He was my inner most secrets personified; angry, misanthropic, delusional and scared. His despair at not being recognized as a great writer was my despair. His indifference toward his hometown was mine. But more importantly, his vulnerability that he kept hid lest he get hurt was the same that held me back in life. Crabtree is your typical, naive writer struggling to understand why no one wants to read his work, or publish him. Writing that book, and committing that character to the page, helped me realize my own flaws and the flaws of many other young writers. Since its release, I’ve had a lot of people say how much they identified with Crabtree, how they felt the same way he did about the world, or love, or life. This assures me of two things; the first is that my perspective of the world was more universal that I first assumed, and the second is, I got it right.

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E: To Die Upon A Kiss is from Snubnose Press.  That’s a fabulous title.  What was your inspiration for the story and what can you tell us about it?

C: I was always interested in the idea of writing a story where love was doomed from the onset. I captured that mostly in The Sound of Loneliness with the relationship between Daniel, a young man in his early 20s, who becomes emotionally attached to a girl of 14. But where Daniel and Emma’s love could never begin, I wanted to explore a relationship that was not restricted by age, nor judged by society. But there had to be something that pulled them apart, something that inevitably would get in the way of love. It also had to be built upon unconventional beginnings. Much like Bonnie and Clyde, Wisdom with Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, and Romeo and Juliet, love is skewered by misfortune, and that interested me. So I set about writing the story of a man with a rare heart defect that means he will die within six months. To allow him to overcome his fear of death, he is embroiled in a sick game led by a strange, beautiful woman named Prudence. She allows the man to see death firsthand inducing overdoses in the elderly and manic depressives; the intention being that if he sees how peaceful death can be, it will pacify his own fears of mortality. So that was the seed, and from it grew this strange, existential story that deals with some weighty issues. But really, it is a love story, much the same way The Sound of Loneliness is a love story; flawed and broken.   

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E: On top of being an author, you’re also a fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine.  What is the one submission mistake you keep seeing that you wish everyone would stop making?

C: Not reading the submission guidelines is a big one. I can’t really chastise the writers because I’m a culprit of blind submitting in the past too, but only now do I realize how frustrating it is when the slush is inundated with stories that fall into genres that really turn me off. So yes, please read the submissions. They are there for a reason.

E: What was your journey as a writer like?  Was it something you always wanted to do or did it come later on?

C: I never wanted to be a writer. I’m still unsure about being one now. I think that’s why when people use the word author, or they praise my writing, I’m always looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking too. I much prefer pictures to words. It’s true. I can spend a good hour on Pinterest and it can seem like only 5 minutes has elapsed. I pull out a book, and invariably, time slows to a crawl. There are great novels out there, and when I find them, I realize how much I love literature again, but those moments are becoming few and far between. This is why I favor movies over books, music, art and photography too. They are less time consuming, and you gain instant gratification, or indifference, whereas books can take you days to reach that point. I’m more an anti-writer, a person who is somehow connected spiritually and has a vested interested, but whose destiny is to be banished to obscurity, but not before being publically ridiculed for their efforts.

E: What was the most helpful piece of writing advice that someone gave you?

C: Quit. You don’t need the hassle.

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Craig Wallwork is the pushcart nominated author of the short story collection Quintessence of Dust, and the novels To Die Upon a Kiss, and The Sound of Loneliness. His fiction has appeared in various anthologies, journals and magazines both in the US and UK. He is also the fiction editor at Menacing Hedge Magazine. Craig lives in West Yorkshire, England.  You can find him on his blog.

Author Corner–Eli Wilde

E: Good Morning, Eli, and welcome to Erindipity!  Charlie heard you were coming in from across the pond and got a bit excited.  He drooled a bit on your scones.  You don’t have to eat them.

EW: Good morning and thanks for inviting me along to Erindipity. If you spread strawberry jam on those scones and fresh cream, I won’t be able to resist them.

The man will eat corpse drool on scones with enough jam and cream.  I think I have a small author crush.

E: You have a trilogy in the works.  What can you tell us about the first two books, Cruel and Four Days?

EW: Cruel is Evan Jameson’s story, set in North East England. It’s a coming of age novel about a man who has hidden his past from himself. When he finds himself squeezing his baby son’s hand so hard that it makes his son scream, he has no choice but to confront his past in an attempt to try and understand what could have shaped him into a parent who could harm his own child. What he discovers when he re-lives his childhood not only shows him how he could so easily slip into monster parent clothes, but also, why he wakes up each day wanting to die.

Cruel

Four Days is Emily Cullen’s story. This one is set in Washington State. The monster in this story is a psychopathic meth head who abducts Emily over a four day period and submits her to his brutal rules. He thinks he can see ghosts. Emily knows he can’t. She is a clairvoyant and knows the spirits of those who The Monster has killed would never show themselves to him.

Four Days

The trilogy is written is such a way that you don’t have to read each book in sequence. Although the stories are connected, each book is also self-contained, so you can read one or all of the books.

E: What is the title of the last book and when can we expect that to become available?

EW: Dublin is the third part of the trilogy, it’s due for publication at the end of this year. It’s set in Ireland and brings together the two protagonists from Cruel and Four Days. I really wanted to see what would happen if I put two broken characters like Evan and Emily together and let them loose in a place like Dublin. Feeling like life has let both of them down, they decide to live without any rules and find themselves first squatting in Oscar Wilde’s family home in Merrion Square and later, a country mansion owned by someone called Mr. X. Emily always knew the psychopath who abducted her in Four Days would eventually find her in Ireland, what she didn’t know was how much like The Monster, Evan could become.    

Dublin

E: I’ve been told by more than one person that these books are almost unfit for human consumption, so of course I can’t wait to get my review copies and dig in.  What was your process like for these books?  What inspired you to write them?

EW: I guess my childhood inspired me to write Cruel (not sure if inspired is the right word). Four Days is something my writing partner (‘Anna Devine) first imagined. She was a volunteer at a drug rehabilitation centre and has firsthand experience of what one human can and does do to another. The writing process involved going into dark places, writing down the things I saw in these dark places and wondering afterwards what the hell I was doing. There are some graphic scenes in the books, but for me, the most disturbing parts are those which are hinted at, the ones where the imagination is left to fill in the gaps. The trilogy is not aimed at the mass market. It’s written for those who maybe don’t feel like they have to like main characters and the situations they find themselves in. It’s written for those who like something a little different, something honest.     

E: On your website, you have an article that explains some of your influences.  Raymond Carver features heavily in it.  What is the most valuable thing you’ve taken from him, whether it was advice given in an essay or something you’ve gleaned from his work?

EW: Unlike Mr. Carver’s short stories, I could go on forever talking about his influence on me. I won’t, though, I’ll keep this brief. I owe a lot to Mr. Carver. He was the first writer to show me that my main characters didn’t have to be heroes or necessary likeable. His simple writing style flowed easily through my mind and sparked so many more thoughts than just the words I was reading in front of me. There is so much depth to his writing, if you look between his simple lines. The most valuable thing I’ve taken from him is to always attempt to instill a sense of strangeness and mystery in my stories.

E: The website says you write children’s stories.  These also seem to have a darker flavor to them.  How similar are these stories to the ones you write for adults?

EW: I think you should write the same way for children as you do for adults. Of course, you’ve gotta leave out the gratuitous sex and violence, which adults crave, regardless of how much they deny it. So I guess the stories are similar. Napoleon Xylophone has its fair share of ghosts, odd characters and references to God. The main difference is that I substitute humour for sex and violence when I’m writing for children, although my adult sex scenes have been known to stir more than a few laughs!

E: What has been the most rewarding part of being a writer?

EW: From a personal point of view, the most rewarding part of my writing is that I get to write about disabled superheroes for my son. He has a walking disability and asked me why there were not many disabled superheroes in fiction. I couldn’t give him a good enough answer and decided to write Napoleon Xylophone and Witching Hole, instead, which both have disabled protagonists.  My son’s favourite superhero is Napoleon Xylophone. Damn, it feels good just writing that last sentence.

If I was to say one of the most rewarding things about being a writer that most other writers could also say then it would be that writing makes things right in the world no matter how bad things are at any one moment. I can be in a boring meeting at work, but in my mind I’m thinking about what my characters is going to do when a doppelganger pulls him into a mirror. Whenever I’m in the dentist seat (even for a simple check-up – I hate the dentist) I can imagine myself in an airship flying above my characters steampunk world, figuring out how to land the airship in the flames below. Writing is generally always on my mind. And generally when I am thinking about writing, I’m happy.

E: If you were speaking to a group of younger writers, what is the one thing you would advise them to look out for mistake-wise?

EW: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you follow all the advice you receive then you will write great stories. Don’t be like an artist who paints by numbers, you will end up writing unoriginal stories that no one wants to read. It is important to listen and learn from other writers, just like it is important to read a wide variety of books. More so, it’s important for a writer to find their own voice. Once you have a good understanding of the rules of writing, look for ways of changing or improving those rules. You do that by writing, experimenting and being open to good, honest feedback. Getting that feedback can hurt at times, and it is one of the hardest parts of writing. It takes time and effort building up a network of trusted reviewers. Once you have this network, look after it like a best friend and guard it like you would a precious secret.

Eli Wilde - Erindipity LR

You can find Eli on his website.  He writes under the name Frank Lambert for his children’s books.  CruelFour Days, and Dublin are published through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.