‘Ration’ Guest Post – It Starts With A Voice

It starts with a voice. The sound of the hollow throat of a building or the leaves left behind after the blast of a bomb shook them prematurely from their newly charred branches. It continues with the sensation of the wind chewing at the bones of the dead coyote in the ditch, fur scattered in the dirt ruts of a road freshly gutted by heavy tires and hard soled boots of hundreds of silent soldiers moving beneath a low moon. My senses are flooded with sound, sensation, even the taste ash and dust left behind in the shadow of violence that will never happen on the page of the story I am working on.

The process of building is remarkably similar to planting bean shoots and watching the green vines grow. The details are very rarely clear to me in the beginning. Like the bean, I start with something simple, something vaguely intentional. I spend far too much of my time as a writer day dreaming about places completely empty of characters, mental sketches of cities, mountain ranges, subway tunnels, all empty, all silent. These are the seeds of a world, waiting for me to lose focus enough for them to sprout.

Once I have imagined these places, which usually happens during a long commute or a long stretch working at my desk, I add the fertilizer necessary for my world to grow. I ask the terrible question that all world builders love to hate and hate to love: why? Why is there a dead coyote in the ditch of my mind? Why are the soldiers on the move in the middle of the night? Why is it Fall? The question of why is the single most dangerous question in world building. It opens a never-ending floodgate of information, one that can drown a writer and eventually drown their reader or one that can freeze a world solid before it begins to grow.

How many whys is too many? How much do I need to know before I start my story in the first place? This is the magic trick. In my own writing practice, I have discovered that you can’t know too much about your world but as a writer, you must share carefully with your reader. Your world is full of secrets. My coyote died of starvation because the war has bleached the land with hatred and fire. The soliders move at night because the balloons far above bristle with snipers wrapped in leather military coats lined in fur. The roads are worn things, army after army flowing back and forth over their churned bodies, ground lost and gained over months of death. How much of this does my reader need? This question is difficult to answer and in my experience is one driven by characters rather than the need for information. But how much of this does the writer need? The answer is easy, all of it. Every detail is necessary for the world to fill every paragraph.

Watching my worlds grow, asking why as each detail emerges is a meditative experience, a delicious form of daydreaming that feels a little like slipping down the rabbit hole but like all things creative it has its dangers. Filling my worlds with people requires I open these empty places to the emotions and needs that come from the histories generated by my why questions. Inviting the first character into my world requires that I speculate their place and the risks they must face. This is also the moment my story, much like the bean in my previous comparison, twists for the first time. Characters produce plot, a slightly toxic side effect of world building, a type of drug that is necessary for the consumption of stories.

Characters rarely arrive in my creative process as nebulous beings. They stride in and demand things. They might demand to put on a uniform and notice the dead coyote in the ditch and express their disgust, all the while worrying over their infant son back home, left with a grandparent to tend while the war spins on and on. They demand to see the things I have created and they demand to react to them, creating a disharmony that will eventually lead to my plot. The world itself will eventually harden around these invaders, reacting to them, growing with them and eventually becoming a character itself leaving me with another blank spot in my mind to fill with yet another seed. A cycle that is a little addictive and perhaps a more than a little strange. 

Cody Luff

Cody Luff

Cody’s stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, Cirque, KYSO Flash, Menda City Review, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, and others. He is fiction winner of the 2016 Montana Book Festival Regional Emerging Writers Contest and served as editor of the short fiction anthology Soul’s Road. Cody completed an intensive MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He teaches at Portland Community College and works as a story editor. Cody grew up listening to stories in his grandfather’s barbershop as he shined shoes, stories told to him at bedsides and on front porches, deep in his father’s favorite woods, and in the cabs of pickup trucks on lonely dirt roads. Cody’s work explores those things both small and wondrous that move the soul, whether they be deeply real or strikingly surreal.

Website: www.codytluff.com

The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Miracle Austin

Ruschelle: Welcome to the Tree. We’ve grown a twisted branch especially for you. Speaking of twisted, give us a little taste of your horror writer’s mind. What is a line from your works you are most proud and frightened of?

Miracle:

There are several, but I’m going to go with a short line from my short story, “Meat Lover’s Special” in Boundless:

“Get out now! You may have less than 15 minutes after consumption, before…” the rep replied, breathing hard and stuttering into the phone receiver.”

 

Ruschelle: By day, you don your glasses, Ala Clark Kent and ‘voila,’ you’re a mild mannered Social Worker. Has any of your experiences in social work, bled into your writing?

In my book, Social Workers are the ones that wears the cape and are quite heroic.

Miracle:

Absolutely, Ruschelle. Over the years, I’ve worked in various fields—mental health (adults/teens), domestic violence (victims/survivors), hospice, and currently geriatrics. Some of my work experiences have bled over to formulate some story ideas, while past and present personal encounters continue to inspire other ideas.

 

Ruschelle: Where do you mine your creativity? Books, movies, real life?

Miracle:

My mom has been a huge part of my creativity. She introduced me to horror via an AM radio horror show that aired on Friday nights, when I was in the fifth grade. My mom also told me some interesting stories about growing up in Crawford, Texas, and her personal journeys. Many books, movies, and personal experiences from my elementary to college years, also fuel my creative juices.

 

Ruschelle: You dove into the novel world with book one in your series, Doll. What challenges did you face while creating a new world with fantastic characters growing through multiple books?

Miracle:

I believe replacing my fears with procrastination was the biggest challenge for me to write my first novel, Doll. My self-confidence was poor, and I fed myself a lot of negativity, such as, “No one will like this… might as well stop writing…” Then, one day, I figured that I’m going to finish this story inside of me, no matter what. If one person enjoyed it, then I’ve succeeded, but most of all, I conquered my fear by completing it.

 

Ruschelle: Doll, takes place in halls of Frost High. Did you base any characters from your own high school classmates and experiences? Well, maybe not the witches and mayhem…

Miracle:

Ruschelle, some of my high school experiences assisted me to build my story. As we all know, mean girls existed way back when and will always, whether in an educational institution or any workplace. Being teased in junior high and high school, myself, and seeing others impacted way more than I had to deal with ignited part of this story. I wanted the underdogs to win and beat the main antagonists. Did they? Just have to read the Doll Trilogy to find out… wink… wink.

Since I mentioned the Doll Trilogy, I wanted to share a little more about it. It’s a coming of age supernatural love story, which deals with outcasts, friendships, family, sacrifices, free-will, bullying, romance, grief, new identity struggles, betrayal, making healthy/unhealthy choices, revenge, racism, and teen domestic violence with some unexpected twists and turns. At the end of each book, I give my readers an unrelated bonus short story and a little surprise in Doll 3: The Hunting.

Be Careful What You Wish For

 

Ruschelle: You won 2nd place in the Young Adult category for ‘Doll’ in the Purple Dragonfly Awards. Kudos! How did it feel to have your first novel written, recognized?

Miracle:

Thank you very much, Ruschelle. I was shocked and didn’t believe my little book stood a chance. I reviewed that email so many times, and once I received my certificate in the mail, I knew it was real. Ruschelle, it was and always will be an extreme honor to possess a Purple Dragonfly Award. It definitely boosted my self-confidence.

 

Ruschelle: You mention in your bio that the Cars song, Drive, was what helped inspire you to become a writer. This sounds like a great story, so please share.

Miracle:

Ruschelle, first of all, music is my natural therapy. I love listening to all kinds of music with the 80s—#StrangerThingsForever—being my favorite, especially love and soft rock songs, but I Iove everything! So, when I first heard Drive by the Cars, those lyrics really stuck with me. I wrote them down on a sheet of paper in my purple and white Trapper Keeper. This was probably the first time I really paid attention to how the words from a song told a story, and then boom, I started writing free-verse poems. This song led me off the dance floor to sit at a table with a typewriter, pen, paper, and a pocket dictionary.

 

Ruschelle: Love me some 70’s and early 80’s soft rock! You’re a girl after my own dark little heart.

As a horror writer who is a fan of the blood suckers of the night, aka. Vamps- if you could change anything from the vampire mythos, what would it be?

Miracle:

Ruschelle, this is a really hard question because vampires possess so many extraordinary abilities and powers. I’m a huge fan of many vampire stories/original movies, such as: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Fright Night,” “From Dusk til Dawn,” “The Lost Boys” “Blade,” “Salem’s Lot,” “Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals,” and “The Strain”

At this time, I wouldn’t change anything. The vampire world continues to evolve, and I’m anticipating to watch, read, and/or write the next vampire story.

 

Ruschelle: We are in the upswing into Fall, which means many things to us Horror Writers but to those of us with a sweet tooth, it means CANDY! So what is the scariest candy you ever received in your bag on Halloween?

Miracle:

I attended trick or treating in the neighborhood, once when I was maybe seven-years old, according to stories my mom has shared with me. My mom checked the candy before I was ready to consume it. Luckily, she did, because she found a sewing needle inside a Snickers Bar. To this very day, I’ll check any soft candy before I eat it. Honestly, I inspect everything.

 

Ruschelle: Holy cats! I thought the ‘needle in the candy bar’ was just an urban legend. Wow!

Most writers seek out and find their niche, be it horror, romance, non-fiction, children’s books etc. What drew you to writing Young Adult books?

Miracle:

Ruschelle, I never imagined that I would write stories for young adults. When I rediscovered my passion to write a few years ago, my mind was focused on writing for adults. A promising publisher in the past told me that the majority of my stories would fall into the young adult arena. So, I thought about what he told me and realized that he was right. Therefore, young and new adult became my arenas of focus. Plus, I absolutely love to reflect back on my teen years/struggles and/or read, hear, watch teen stories, which is why I enjoy writing young adult books and short stories.

 

Ruschelle: You have been a panelist at comic conventions and book festivals as well as a guest speaker for schools and writing inspired events. What topics do you enjoy discussing the most as an author? Which are your least?

Miracle:

I enjoy talking about everything, especially the ideas behind my stories, and inspired playlists.

 

Ruschelle: Do you find that there are certain questions and requests for pieces of advice that come up over and over again?

Miracle:

I love talking about this and, it comes up sometimes: What would you tell your younger self, right now?

I also like to share, if applicable: “Never allow anyone to tell you that you cannot do something or you’re not good enough because guess what? You can. You’re awesomeness, so soar. BOOM!”

One of my favorite quotations about believing in yourself and realizing your sparkly magic:

“Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”  ~Stephen King~

 

Ruschelle: Explain your ‘fan-girl’ status? DC? Marvel? Manga? Tell us more?

Miracle:

Marvel/DC/Horror/ComicCon Fan-Girl! I used to be a really shy person, especially in late elementary/junior high and high school. However, the Marvel/DC and horror universes allowed me to crawl out of my shyness cocoon, which helped me to develop my invisible confidence cape, it’s hot pink with silver and plum stars plastered all over.

Wonder Woman, Captain America, Blade, Squirrel Girl, Kevin Wendell Crumb, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers are a few of my faves! By the way, I love collecting T-shirts, mostly comic book related and horror. I also love to attend comic cons, when I can.

By the way, I love to watch all the cosplayers walk past me. I find their unique costumes, just mesmerizing and their energy, simply… magical. I believe people need to escape from their realities for a little bit and be whoever they desire to be. Comic cons allow them to do that.

I’ve seen this magic many times before with my sweet hubby, when he cosplays. It’s as if once the cosplayer takes on his or her character, then he or she can dwell in that extraordinary dimension and share it with others.

Plus, I think cosplaying boosts self-esteem for some, especially when others are watching that cosplayer and requesting to take selfies. Cosplayers are celebrities, and you never know who you may bump into!

 

Ruschelle: If you could be any superhero or gain fantastic superpowers to ‘save the day,’ who would you be or what powers would you have?

Miracle:

Definitely, the absorption of any super-power, as long as I desired, with incredible martial art skills to use for the good! My costume would be a fantastic mash-up of Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Blade gear.

 

Ruschelle: Blade gear? Awesome! 

Of all your projects was there one that was a particular, dare I say, monster? Yep, I dared.

Miracle:

WereVamCabra—part werewolf, vampire, and chupacabra—a trio hybrid. You can find an interesting short story in Boundless called “Study Break about this creature.

 

Ruschelle: Your newfound fans would love to hear about your next big projects. Could you, would you, share a little?

Miracle:

Of course, I’ll be attending a few exciting book related events in the fall. Please feel free to check out my website for locations and dates.

As for my current writing project, I’m working on my next Young Adult novel, Misties. I bet you’re wondering what in the heck is that about. I’ll give you a little hint—stake or not to stake

 

Ruschelle: Tell us all how we can follow you and your works on the www.

Miracle:

Ruschelle, I want to take this time to thank you for seeking me out and interviewing me for The Horror Tree—very grateful for this opportunity and your precious time. Awesome questions!

I love hearing from my fantastic readers, who already know me, and new ones, too!

Website: www.miracleaustin.com

Facebook: Miracle Austin Author   (black, crouching creature with wings is my symbol)

Instagram/Twitter: @MiracleAustin7

Thank you for reading…

 

Trajan’s Arch Blog Tour – On Mythic Fiction

On Mythic Fiction

Among the intriguing things said by my remarkable Classics professor back in grad school, the one that stuck with me the most was that Greek religion had been invented by poets.  The wedding of story with profound mysteries and truths makes for the best religion and best fiction, I think, and as a writer, even of more realistic (or quasi-realistic) fiction, I like for my work to have a kind of mythic resonance—a feel and structure that deepens the emotional and imaginative feel of a piece.

It’s a quality that I find as well in a lot of fiction I like to read.  Sometimes I can recognize the writing’s specific connection with ancient and powerful sources, but far more often it comes in the hint of the story’s connection to older stories, older patterns—a signal that its intent is to brush up against primal, eternal questions and truths, and more importantly, to treat those truths in all their nuance, complexity, and contradictions.

If part of fiction is, indeed, exploration (and I think it is), tapping into mythic suggestion and pattern can be part of the process of exploring.  Joyce’s Ulysses and George Lucas’s Star Wars films (the early trilogy, and I think the best of them) adopt the structure of myth in very different ways, but all of them brush against profound currents of story, letting us know that the issues they address are common to all of us, complex and deep in their experience.  I think that writers can ready their fiction to enter that kind of realm by listening to old stories, old patterns; so I like to play with myths and structures in the process of inventing stories of my own.

The easiest way to do this is to re-position or “translate” a myth from its world to the one in which your story is set.  I don’t mean a retelling of (or reflection on) the myths (though Canongate’s series contains some remarkable writers), nor do I mean Percy Jackson stories in which mythological figures appear as characters—the Riordan books may be good, but I haven’t read them.  I’m thinking of 20th century novelists like Joyce, Robertson Davies, John Banville, who use myth to underpin stories set in more contemporary realities, lending otherwise realistic stories a kind of evocative feel and intent.

How does a lesser writer get at these qualities?  How do I allow my stories to brush against mythic worlds, to allow opportunities for me to re-examine my otherwise simpler story with an eye toward its larger, wider, and deeper implications?  How do you bring the magic to the mundane, the profound to the everyday?

The easiest way is to “translate” the myth—reset the Odyssey in 20th century Dublin, as Joyce does in Ulysses, or the Orpheus story as that of an Indian rock star, as Salman Rushdie does in The Ground Beneath Her Feet.  This kind of activity asks you to consider everyday life as the stuff of myth, because modern people are still mythmakers, still hunger for rapt and meaningful story, and story set in our own surroundings. In my own novel, Vine: An Urban Legend, I recast Euripides’ Bacchae into a story about a group of amateur actors, working in a small mid-Southern city, set on performing…of all plays…Euripides’ Bacchae.  As the original Greek tragedy did millennia ago, my own story becomes dark and bloody, addressing issues that strike me as large and eternal questions.  Trajan’s Arch combines elements of The Odyssey and of the myth of Orpheus with archetypal patterns of coming-of-age, set in a plausible, even realistic span of the 1970s and 80s.

But the story doesn’t have to retell a myth to recapture the mythic.  There are famous maps and patterns, largely outlining the stages of a hero’s journey, which underlie a number of modern narratives.  Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, Vladimir Propp’s outline of Russian folk tale, Walter Otto’s hero’s journey, the Native American myths of immersion and concealment that are found in women’s rituals of initiation—all can be adopted as story patterns that, if used flexibly and inventively, can give a story depth and universality.

In short, read myths and books about myth.  I’d advise Campbell, Karen Armstrong’s Short History of Myth, and spending a week in the worlds of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  If you don’t emerge with new and transforming ideas for your stories, this exercise is not for you.  I know simply that it is for me, a never-ending and fascinating resource in the craft.

Book Synopsis for Trajan’s Arch:   Gabriel Rackett stands at the threshold of middle age. He lives north of Chicago and teaches at a small community college. He has written one novel and has no prospects of writing another, his powers stagnated by drink and loss. Into his possession comes a manuscript, written by a childhood friend and neighbor, which ignites his memory and takes him back to his mysterious mentor and the ghosts that haunted his own coming of age. Now, at the ebb of his resources, Gabriel returns to his old haunts through a series of fantastic stories spilling dangerously off the page–tales that will preoccupy and pursue him back to their dark and secret sources.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Over the past 25 years, Michael Williams has written a number of strange novels, from the early Weasel’s Luck and Galen Beknighted in the best-selling DRAGONLANCE series to the more recent lyrical and experimental Arcady, singled out for praise by Locus and Asimov’s magazines. In Trajan’s Arch, his eleventh novel, stories fold into stories and a boy grows up with ghostly mentors, and the recently published Vine mingles Greek tragedy and urban legend, as a local dramatic production in a small city goes humorously, then horrifically, awry.

Trajan’s Arch and Vine are two of the books in Williams’s highly anticipated City Quartet, to be joined in 2018 by Dominic’s Ghosts and Tattered Men.

Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent much of his childhood in the south central part of the state, the red-dirt gothic home of Appalachian foothills and stories of Confederate guerrillas. Through good luck and a roundabout journey he made his way through through New England, New York, Wisconsin, Britain and Ireland, and has ended up less than thirty miles from where he began. He has a Ph.D. in Humanities, and teaches at the University of Louisville, where he focuses on the he Modern Fantastic in fiction and film. He is married, and has two grown sons.

Prowling the Darkness Blog Tour – The Strengths of the Novella

When I embarked on the first Rayden Valkyrie Tales and Ragnar Stormbringer Tales, my desire was to create novella-length, stand-alone stories for my readers to enjoy on a regular basis as they awaited the longer novel releases.  Each of the stories ends up telling a part of the lives of the Rayden and Ragnar characters, and as more of them are created the reader will also discover there is interrelation between them and the novel-length stories. 

Having written many novels and short stories previously, these projects represented my first immersion into the novella format.  Looking back, I have to say that I have really come to enjoy writing novellas for a number of reasons. 

At around 20,000 words and higher, the novella format does take too much longer than a short story to create, but it still involves much less time than a novel project.  This allows me to write more stories from the lives of Rayden and Ragnar that I would not likely have been able to tell if I only stuck to short stories or large novel projects.

The novella allows for me to go a little farther beyond the limitations of most short stories.  There is more space for character development to take place.  An additional few scenes can make all the difference in bringing out the full scope of a given character.  For my purposes, that is a wonderful benefit as the novella being read could well be a reader’s first encounter with Rayden or Ragnar, and I do hope that the reader likes them enough to enjoy the other novellas, novels, and short stories involving them.  

Additionally, I have much more space for developing supporting characters, even to the extent that I can have a small and solid ensemble cast included in a given story.  This broadens my storytelling possibilities as I can have some of these characters appear in other tales, or even have a loved supporting character from novels like the Dark Sun Dawn titles be featured heavily in one of these novellas.  

A reader will also allow more room for a story to build in a longer format.  An effective short story must connect with a reader fast and there is not a lot of room to deviate from a core plot to reach a conclusion that is satisfying to a reader.  The novella, on the other hand, does allow for more of an expanded plot, and even subplots, along the way to the finish line. 

While having a longer format than short stories comes with some additional storytelling benefits as illustrated above, the novella also benefits from being smaller than a novel. 

A novella’s prose, versus that of a novel, cannot get away with a lot of fluff, resulting in a leaner economy of words and narrative.  This can be very beneficial for maintaining the kind of pace and hooks that will compel a reader to finish the story in one sitting. 

This is also helpful for the genre that these stories are in.  Being action-driven sword and sorcery, a faster pacing can strengthen the narrative.

The novella is a really wonderful format for storytelling in a genre like sword and sorcery or fantasy.  I can use many of the strengths of a novel in my storytelling while also being able to produce a larger number of tales for my readers. I am enabled to give them even more stories of characters they love and provide them with greater exploration of the world that they live in. 

It is a true win-win for the author and for the reader, and I look forward to writing many more of them in the future! 

Take a journey east with Rayden Valkyrie as she undertakes one of her most harrowing adventures yet! Prowling the Darkness is the latest release in the Rayden Valkyrie Tales!

A return to hard-hitting, gritty sword and sorcery with an iconic and inspiring main character, the Rayden Valkyrie Tales are a growing collection of stand-alone novellas that will elate fans of the genre!

The Prowling the Darkness Blog Tour features reviews, interviews, guest posts, video, and top ten lists!

About the author:  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

 

Book Synopsis for Prowling the Darkness:   Dark rumors and whisperings of unholy sorcery bring Rayden Valkyrie to the remote city of Sereth-Naga.

There she finds a populace cowering in fear of the city’s ruthless, mysterious rulers, who remain behind the high walls of their citadel.

An even greater mystery surrounds the city.

Something is prowling the darkness.

 

Something that has kept the enigmatic rulers for centuries from escaping Sereth-Naga to spread their wickedness to other lands.

Prowling the Darkness is a stand-alone novella that is part of the Rayden Valkyrie Tales.

 

Author Links:

 

Website: www.stephenzimmer.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7
Twitter: @sgzimmer
Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

 

 

Tour Schedule and Activities

8/7      Armed with a Book    http://www.armedwithabook.com Review

8/7      I Smell Sheep  http://www.ismellsheep.com/        Guest Post

8/7      Fragile Winds http://mariadkins.blogspot.com      Guest Post

8/8      The Most Sublime      http://www.themostsublime.com   Review

8/8      Breakeven Books       https://breakevenbooks.com           Guest Post

8/9      Armed with a Book    http://www.armedwithabook.com Interview      

8/10    Horror Tree    https://www.horrortree.com          Guest Post

8/10    Sheila’s Guests and Reviews http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com     Guest Post

8/11    Speculative Fiction Spot        http://specfictionspot.blogspot.com/         Guest Post

8/12    Literary Underworld http://www.literaryunderworld.com          Guest Post

8/13    Jazzy Book Reviews    http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com Video Interview

8/13    The Book Junkie Reads          https://thebookjunkiereadspromos.blogspot.com Guest Post

8/14    Stuart Conover’s Homepage https://www.stuartconover.com     Top Ten’s List

8/14    Bookish Valhalla  https://www.bookishvalhalla.com  Review

 

 

Links for Prowling the Darkness

Kindle Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Prowling-Darkness-Rayden-Valkyrie-Tale-ebook/dp/B07R75X26Z/

Barnes and Noble Link for Prowling the Darkness: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/prowling-the-darkness-stephen-zimmer/1131360526?ean=2940161456958

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/prowling-the-darkness

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/prowling-the-darkness/id1463010144

The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Misha Burnett


Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thanks for agreeing to an interview. Tell us a bit about yourself, namely what is New Wave (horror)? I’m familiar with “new wave” in other contexts (New Wave music of the 80s, French New Wave film, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal…), but not pertaining to horror.

Misha – I think that the spirit of New Wave is to embrace new techniques in order to go back to one’s roots, which sounds paradoxical, I know. But in the examples you cite—music and film—the idea was to recapture the power of earlier works using modern technology. While the instruments of  New Wave music—synthesizers and drum machines—were cutting edge at the time the rhythms and to a certain extent the lyrics were very much roots Rock’n’Roll, 4/4 time with a back beat. New Wave film used modern photographic techniques in order to reach back to the early days of cinema when filmmakers were making it up as they went along.

New Wave Horror is the same principle. I work to recapture the existential horror of the Weird Tales era—not the purple prose or the dated slang of that era, but the feel of a world that has gone off the rails. The core conceit of a universe that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.

 

Selene – In addition to horror, you have published many short stories in speculative and science fiction anthologies. What genre do you like best, and why?
Misha – I never know what genre I’m working in until the story is finished, and sometimes not even then. I see genres as toolboxes, with different tropes and themes. I’ll use whatever techniques I need to tell the story I want to tell. A little Mystery, a little Romance, some SF and Fantasy. If I had to pick one I’d say I have the most fun working in E C Comics Horror (is that a genre?) I like stories with poetic justice and a healthy dose of irony, that don’t explain or excuse the fantastic elements, just use them to set up the gotcha! at the end.

 

Selene – What are some of your influences, and what do you like to read?

Misha – Tim Powers is my idol. I’m also a huge fan of Samuel Delany, Philip Dick, George Alec Effinger, and Fredrick Brown. Right now I am listening to (I tend to do my pleasure reading by audiobook) a wonderful little novel by Drew Magary called The Hike. It’s a magical realism quest kind of thing, kind of like of The Phantom Tollbooth for middle-aged men.

 

Selene – In your blog post “The Dead Men’s Shoes Society,” you describe a pattern in storytelling wherein one man (emphasis on man) writes or films or creates something, then it becomes popular, then others follow in his shoes. Do you really believe there’s nothing new to be done creatively? Particularly since all the “innovators” you mention are white men of a certain class?

Misha – No, I didn’t mean to say at all that there was nothing new to do creatively, and the examples I gave were just those that came to mind. My point is that artist don’t have to imitate other artists. They can, and it’s certainly easier than blazing one’s own trail, but anyone can invent their own genre. I wish more people would.

 

Selene – You describe your Book Of Lost Doors series as “loosely based on Burroughs’ Nova Express books.” I’m not familiar with Burroughs books, but how do they relate?
Misha – In terms of cosmology. The basic conceit of William Burroughs’ work is that humanity has been influenced by alien intelligences—his famous line about language being a virus from outer space, for example.  I wanted to take that idea and run with it, to see if I could translate it into concrete, practical terms. The Lizard People of Omega IV have just started beaming messages into your head—what do you ask them for?  The other major influence from Burroughs is the idea that the Outsiders are essentially flimflam artists, they are running an intergalactic scam. They lie, cheat, and steal, and are never what they claim to be.

 

Selene – I read the first novel in the series, Catskinner’s Book. You’ve created a unique world and situation; how do you go about world-building?

Misha – I tend to take ideas that I like from as many different sources as I can and then toss them all in a blender and see what comes out. In The Book Of Lost Doors I did set out to create a new mythology—I didn’t want to use vampires or werewolves or faeries. The important thing for me is to present them as matter of fact as possible. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “good idea” in fiction—there are just dumb ideas done well.

 

Selene – Let’s talk about characters. Jim is sort of an anti-hero, a bit of a twist on a superhero (or super villain, if you look at him that way). How did you come up with the character, and what’s it like writing someone with such complex problems?

Misha – James and Catskinner are based on myself, actually. I have Disassociative Identity Disorder, and I wanted to try to capture the feeling of having an alternate personality take control. I tarted it up some, with the superspeed and all, but I pretty much wrote their interactions from my own life experience.

 

Selene – You’ve also created some memorable antagonists and foils for Jim. How do you build a believable antagonist?

Misha – A believable antagonist is a character that would be the protagonist except her or his goals are in opposition to the protagonist character. That is to say, what makes a villain isn’t who the character is, but what the character wants.

 

Selene – On another of your blog posts, you mentioned unlikeable characters, namely the protagonists from Camus’ The Stranger and Fowles’ The Collector, and you cautioned against a predictable character arc for them.  Characters in horror can often fall to this kind of simplistic arc. What are some important characteristics for drawing sympathy (or at least empathy) for a character that’s not immediately likeable?

Misha – I don’t know if I can answer that. I try to make everyone in my stories likeable—even those characters who really need to be put down for the good of humanity. I see a character’s first appearance in a story as a date or a job interview—put your best foot forward. And, I think that meeting someone you want to like and then finding out later that she eats live kittens has a lot more emotional impact.

 

Selene – The plot of Catskinner’s Book is full of twists and turns and the occasional deus ex machina. It also ends abruptly, just as the characters are about to confront another turn. How do you build suspense and avoid predictability?

Misha – I don’t really plot stories out in advance, so the events are frequently as much a surprise for me as they are for my readers. Mostly I try to figure out what would make sense to happen next, given who the character are and what the situation is. I think it comes across as unpredictable because readers are used to stories following a particular pattern which frequently wouldn’t make sense in the real world.

 

Selene – On your blog, you keep a sort of running tally of words written, stories published or submitted, and other writing accomplishments. Do you find this quantification helps your productivity?

Misha – Yes. Accountability is very important to me. It’s much harder for me to make excuses not to be productive when I know that other people are following my progress.

 

Selene – Speaking of productivity, how do you balance your writing with other aspects of your time, and balance one writing project against another?

Misha – I don’t really have any other aspects of my time. I get up, write for an hour, go to my day job, come home and write until I go to sleep. That’s my life. I have no social life at all. As far as balancing projects, I tend to work on one until I am done (or decide it needs to be shelved.) I am terrible at multitasking.

 

Selene – What advice would you give a writer just starting out?

Misha – Try as many different types of projects as you can. Set out to try to work in different forms and different genres. What you think you want to write may not be what you are really good at. Also, write sonnets. If you write a sonnet a day for thirty days your prose will improve markedly. I guarantee it.

 

Selene – In addition to novels, you also work in shorter stories and poetry. While each length of work has its challenges, what’s your favourite?

Misha – Short fiction. My sweet spot is around 10,000 words, give or take. Long enough to fully flesh out a story, but not so long that I (or my readers) get bored with it.

 

Selene – This is going to be a personal question, and I’ll accept if you’re not comfortable answering it. You mentioned working with mental illness. Many of our literary heroes have struggled with mental illness, and we live in a time where as a society we’re finally starting to overcome the stigma and be able to talk openly. How do you find your personal obstacles inform your writing?

Misha – I don’t romanticize insanity. Being crazy hurts. There’s more to that than meets the eye. I write characters who are happy and productive in direct proportion to the extent to which their comprehension of reality conforms to the real world—whatever “real” means in the context of the story. If I have a mission in my fiction (which I kind of hope I don’t) it is to put a stake through the heart of Elwood P Dowd.

 

Selene – A fun question, after a heavier question. If you were to have creative control over a movie of one of your stories, which one would you see made into a film, and who would be the star?

Misha – I think I’d go with “Black Dog” from Duel Visions, and I’d like to get David Morse to play the lead.

 

Selene – What projects do you have upcoming?

Misha – Right now I am focusing on Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, which is a short story collection coming out from Lagrange Books. The stories are all set in Dracoheim, which is a Fantasy world loosely based on 1960s Los Angeles, with magic and demons added. My main character is Erik Rugar, who is an agent of the department that regulates magic use. Think The Untouchables, only with unlawful spellcasters instead of bootleggers. I also have stories coming out in Storyhack, DimensionBucket, and Switchblade magazines, as well as three different anthologies.

 

Selene – Thank you again for agreeing to an interview. Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about?

Misha – I believe that art is a vital part of the human condition. It’s not something that some people do and those people are “artists”. Everybody needs to do it—your soul will shrivel up and die if you don’t create something. It doesn’t have to be something that anyone else will ever care about or even see. You need to do it for you. Finger paint, knit, sing in the shower, do something. It’s what we’re made for.

The Horror Tree Presents… an Interview with Ruschelle Dillon

Stacey – Hi Ruschelle, it’s great to have you here on the other side of the Horror Tree interviews! How’s it feel being the interviewee rather than the interviewer? Are you nervous?

Ruschelle – Ya know, when I interview authors, I can’t wait to see what well-crafted and thought-provoking answers they have for me and their fans. And I’m never disappointed. The authors we showcase here on the Horror Tree are so damn talented. So, when I am asked to give an interview, I do get a bit nervous because I think back to all my amazing interviewees and I hope I can sound as interesting and eloquent.  But unfortunately, this is never the case, so my main goal in every interview is to try not sound like a complete dipshit. And again…unfortunately…I can’t always help myself. Oh, and be forewarned…I make shit up.

 

Stacey – Alright, so in the spirit of getting the mundane questions out of the way first, tell our audience a little about yourself and where you’re from?

 

Ruschelle – I’m from Johnstown Pennsylvania, which is steeped in tragic history. Google the Great Johnstown Flood, 1889 or the one from 1936 or the most recent one in 1977. I garnered inspiration and penned a story entitled A Grand View, about the 1889 flood.  It appeared in the new Sanitarium Magazine this year.

I used to wrestle alligators for money but as you can probably guess, I had to quit. Alligators are notorious cheaters. Those dirty bastards grease up their scaly bodies! So not fair…

I have a day job that has nothing to do with the Bachelors and Masters in Education that I went to school for. Let’s see…I am a musician in a band or two as well as a writer which means I’m really broke. My husband, Ed plays in the bands with me. AND he’s usually the unwitting brunt of my rantings on Blogger’s, Puppets Don’t Wear Pants. He should have read the fine print when signing that marriage certificate. We are both animal advocates and rescuers with a house crammed full of critters, so to those of you who refuse to care for anything but your damn selves in this world, “yeah, you’re welcome.”

 

Stacey – When did the writing bug first bite?

Ruschelle – That little bastard bit me when I was in second grade. The horror bug bit me even younger. I loved reading scary stories, and I, as most kids are likely to do when they first learn to write, penned rip-offs of all the stories and poems I read! I still remember one of the first stories I ‘wrote.’ It was called The Mummy Brothers. That’s all I remember about it…other than it was written in number 2 pencil. I’m positive it was lifted from a paperback my folks let me pick out from the Scholastic Book orders we would get in school. Loved those books.

 

Stacey – You write dark humor, which is something I’ve not come across before. Do you find humor and horror compliment each other well?

Ruschelle – The only way one can get through something horrific, is with humor. It’s a coping mechanism. Gallows humor comes to mind. It may not be appropriate but it’s what’s needed to cope with a situation or it’ll swallow you up. When it comes to books and movies of the humor/horror vein, it’s the perfect combination. They’re two great tastes that taste great together, like a delicious chocolate peanut butter cup. Only with squishy brains and some giggles.

 

Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?

Ruschelle – It’s like birthing and raising a kid. You give it everything you believe it needs to grow-up and become a kick ass doctor or lawyer, but instead, it chooses its own path, quitting school, experimenting with drugs, and busking through Saudi Arabia knowing only one shitty song. But in the end, you’re still proud and love it to pieces, even though it’s not what you envisioned when you looked at that adorable little bundle of words.

AND…

The weirdo in me likes taking a sentence a seeing how many ways I can re-word it. Yeah. Weird.

 

Stacey – What scares you?

Ruschelle – Driving by myself at night on a long, lonely stretch of road, being unable to peek into the rearview mirror because of what might show up in my backseat. I blame Creepshow 2. “Thanks for the ride, Lady.”

 

Stacey – I was looking through your amazon titles and came across Bone-sai. Now I can’t get it out of my head. It’s quite clever really. What inspired the project?

Ruschelle – In 2011, a devastating tsunami brought on by a seismic earthquake disabled the nuclear reactor in Fukushima Japan. At the same time, I remember reading a story online about an ant in the rainforest zombified by a fungus. I decided to do a mash up of the two. But it became a body horror novelette- depicting the cataclysmic vacation of a nameless character, who, while traveling through Japan, gets bit on his…ahem…junk by an ant mutated but the radiation seeping around Fukushima. His ‘package’ takes on a ginormous life and murderous personality of its own and attempts to kill everyone it can get its newly sprouted teeth on- including its host! Horror and hilarity ensue! It’s pretty low-brow, but so am I. And guess what? It’s inspired a puppet! Wanna see my penis….puppet?

 

Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?

Ruschelle – The usual: Stephen King, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Anne Rice, Dean R Koontz. A very lack luster answer from me. Sorry about that.

 

Stacey – What’s your writing process like?

Ruschelle – I need a process???? Aww hell. I knew I was doing something wrong.

 

Stacey – Have you ever used a word or said a word aloud so many times it’s lost all meaning?

Ruschelle – Are you talking about my love of curse words? Because as far as I’m concerned, the ‘F-word’ can be a noun, verb, adverb or adjective and it still has meaning.  Unfortunately, police officers that pull you over for speeding don’t always feel that way….

 

Stacey – Why do you think horror and Halloween go together so well?

Ruschelle – How could they not? Halloween IS horror. It’s not fluffy bunnies and sappy rainbows. It’s about celebrating our darker bookmarks in history. And besides, any month where one can be weird, creepy and downright scary, and it’s CELEBRATED, is “Damn-Skippy” in my book!

 

Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?

Ruschelle – There have been many. A book needs to grab me in the first two chapters.  I don’t mind a slow build but there has to be SOMETHING that grabs my eyeballs and keeps the vitreous humor stuck to the page.

So in other words…yes…I’m a quitter.

 

Stacey – The first movie I saw at the cinemas as a child was Hocus Pocus. It’s stuck with me ever since. Name one horror movie that’s stuck with you?

Ruschelle – An American Werewolf in London had horror, gore and humor! Every time I hear Moondance by Van Morrison I think…werewolves…and sex. That tune jazzed up the shower scene. Some people wish they could be vampires, this movie made me wish for the ability to change into a werewolf. Yeah, it looked painful with bones cracking and skin ripping but… no pain no gain!

 

Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?

Ruschelle – Never meet your heroes. They will never be able to measure up to the person you believe they are in your mind.

 

Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?

Ruschelle – If you write because you have a soul satisfying NEED to constantly create other worlds and characters, then by the Shrubbery God, write. And never stop. But, if you do it because your ultimate take-away is to rake in the big bucks and buy a mansion next to Stephen King while beating off hordes of undead fans with an ill-gotten Bigfoot femur…let me ‘splain something to ya…DON’T.

 

Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

Ruschelle – Death turned his attention to Pestilence, who was furiously scratching his nether-region and investigating the myriad of insects adhering to his slight frame. They scurried and darted under his robe as if he were transforming into another sordid creature. Death slipped a skeletal finger under Pestilence’s robe and spoke in nothing more than a whisper.

“And what have we here brother? What makes your skin reject your infestation and has you clawing at your organ? Speak to us Pestilence. Better yet, show us. There are only your brothers present.”

Pestilence slapped Death’s invading finger, preventing him from further exploration under his robe.

“It is none of your concern brother. As Famine has affirmed,  these humans are a shrewd race, a curious race, a hearty race. Not the race we once knew.”

— Excerpt of Four Men On Horses from my collection entitled Arithmophobia. Check it out!

 

Thank you so much for your time Ruschelle! If you would like to find out more about the author, check out the links below.

https://www.facebook.com/ruschelledillon.author/

www.ruschelledillon.net  or ruschelledillon.blogspot.com

On Twitter — @RuschelleDillon

https://www.amazon.com/Ruschelle-Dillon/e/B0089LM1MC%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://youtu.be/nbq6hB_Jlu4

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