Tapping Into the Dark Side
Horror writer Willow Croft joins us today. Her short stories have appeared in Mad Scientist Journal, Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine, Speculative 66 Online Journal and Sirens Call eZine. She is represented in three horror anthologies. If you haven’t, take A Poetic Voyage Through Time and Space in Quantum Singularity. Add it to your reading list. Willow’s life is currently in redevelopment, but no doubt it will inspire her to write about the horrors of moving. Stay tuned.
As a horror writer, who inspired you? Have you read the books and stories of Shirley Jackson and Daphne de Maurier? Or someone more recent? What TV shows/movies did you like as a child?
Daphne de Maurier was among the writers/books I read as part of especially intense literary experience back when I was around ten or eleven and through most of my middle school. My immersion in books back then was incredibly vivid and three-dimensional. To this day, the line “Last night I returned to Manderley” still steals all the breath out of my chest. And the blood-red, tangled rhododendron thicket on either side as Maxim and the new Mrs. De Winter went up the drive to Manderley—it’s something that I can still see in my mind’s eye to this day. I have quite a few of de Maurier’s books still, including one of my favourites, Vanishing Cornwall. The day I got to visit Cornwall was among my top travel experiences on my journey abroad.
Even though I was reading Stephen King (The Dead Zone and Thinner remain all-time favs) and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood back then as well, I would claim Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange (Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo) Victoria Holt and V.C. Andrews as my early main influences. And the Cure, as they are not only both magical and mystical, but also have literary influences in many of their songs. As for TV/Movies, I’ll just quote the young C.G.B. Spender from the X-Files: “I’d rather read the worst book ever written then see the best movie ever made.” But, if I had to pick one movie, I’d say the black-and-white film Carnival of Souls.
Is your preference psychological horror or do you go straight to gore? Something in between?
I love it all. I’m excited to delve more into splatterpunk and even bizarro horror (which I have recently discovered thanks to a new writerly connection with Ben Fitts https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18261823.Ben_Fitts). No amount of gore in books and even in movies phases me much. Horror is sometimes my version of comedy. For example, I thought the first Ginger Snaps movie was hilarious!
You moderate a Goodreads group called Fear-minists: Women Horror Writers Around the Globe for writers and readers of horror and suspense. What are your goals?
Well, sadly, the lack of internet has put that on hold for the moment, but I would love to connect with more women writers, horror writers, and women horror writers. I’m an introvert, so I don’t have a lot of companions in day-to-day life, intentionally. I love my privacy and personal space. But I would like to have some more online friends. I miss the days of IRC/mIRC, that virtual WorldChat thingy back in the day, and even the “Lipstick Traces” chat board on the old Cure website. I would even love to have some “snail mail” penpals like I used to.
Your work tackles environmental issues. Why do you think it important to include these issues?
Oh, jeez, am I going to get on my activist soapbox, now! I love trees. Again, as an introvert, trees and animals are my best friends. I hate to see a tree cut down. I absolutely despise the sounds (and resultant tree and plant agony) of chainsaws and weedwhackers. I’ve attended “March Against Monsanto “protests back in my home town, and I feel very strongly that pesticides and Roundup should be universally banned, as well as GMO-based foods. Even though I routinely murder plants and vegetables on a regular basis for my diet (I’ve been vegetarian since 1992), I still cannot fathom eating an animal instead. And don’t get me started on the clearing of the Amazon rainforest and factory farms. I was just reading an article, too, in the Smithsonian magazine, about how a large portion of the fish that are eaten today come from pirates and illegal fishing practices. Horrifying article—things like that are the stuff of my nightmares–but a must-read all the same.
Someday, I hope I can buy lots of land and return it back to nature. Or as close as it might have originally been. At least let it go wild and tangled and free!
I notice your great love for animals. Do you believe organizations like Best Friends and the country can reach “No Kill” status by 2025?
Well, one can always hope. The term “No Kill” is a little misleading, though. A shelter can be designated “No Kill” but still not have a zero percent euthanasia rate. But I wouldn’t blame shelters. They are trying to do their best in a difficult, no-win situation. Primarily, because people still don’t get their pets spayed/neutered, and then they even let them run free. There’s absolutely no cause for it. Free/low-cost spay/neuter programs abound. I get so angry at that. So, then, we have an overpopulation of animals in shelters and so many people want kittens and puppies that the older animals get overlooked. I, myself, wish every cat and dog and house pet had a loving home, but I also know the reality of shelter overpopulation. There was a no-kill “cat shelter” back in my hometown, and the owner of the shelter had become a hoarder. I was there on a day the sheriff’s office animal services officers were on scene. The volunteer was not letting them in. But my friend and fellow animal rights worker got access to the shelter. We later wrote affidavits for the court case. And the animals were turned over to a private shelter that a local rescue group had set up. So, it’s a tough call. I don’t want any wonderful animal euthanized but I’ve seen the result of an overpopulated shelter turned hoarding situation firsthand. And that’s not something I wish on any animal.
So, spay/neuter your pets, adopt don’t shop, and please keep your cats indoor-only, and your dogs on a leash! And don’t buy pets from a breeder or a pet store. You can search by any animal, and can even find specific breeds through Petfinder.org.
And consider adopting an older animal from a shelter—they’re the greatest!
Has the isolation of COVID-19 invigorated your writing or has it made it more difficult to write?
Well, not really. I pretty much live in self-imposed quarantine as a writer and an introvert anyway. The thing that has impacted my writing and my writing career is that I cannot get reliable and fast internet in New Mexico. Where I’m at, I cannot get internet service, and barely any cell phone service. And, when the pandemic restrictions hit, most everything was closed down. But, hopefully, my looming relocation move will get me internet and cell phone service again! If you’re in Kansas, send me an email or message on Twitter! I’d love to hear from you!
Author Blog: https://willowcroft.blog
Don’t Go in the Basement!
Caution: Profanity if it offends you.
I “met” Michael Frost on Twitter. He’s noticeable because instead of hawking constantly for customers, he supports other writers through a #ShoutOut, #FollowFriday and #TerrorTuesday which he created. As a horror writer he has some scary pictures to go with his Tweets, but also a sense of humor about it all. You’ll love the last question about children and monsters in the closet.
1. First, the question you likely always get: Why write horror? What motivated you to take this direction in your writing?
For the amount of times I have been asked this, I should have mastered a simple and direct answer, but I find myself retreating back to the overly used factoid of ‘Kangaroo’; to be quite honest I really don’t know.
I didn’t seek it out that’s for sure. It more or less found me.
As a kid ANYTHING horror scared the piss out of me, and just catching a glimpse of the latest Friday the 13th commercial teaser would have me up all night watching the shadows that my small lamp didn’t fill. Yes, I slept with a light on religiously; damn near until I was thirteen.
When I started writing on the level of actually finishing a story I was eleven, and then until I was seventeen it was always fantasy having completed my first 389 paged book just shy of my 17th birthday. I was a big D&D and J.R.R. Tolkien fan long before any of the movies took to the screens (save the animated ones which were rather good and followed the books pretty well). Then, one day in March of 1990 while sitting in front of my typewriter and suffering from recently having my tonsils and adenoids removed, the horror in me just woke up. I know how it sounds, but I cannot be more honest and direct than that; the horror woke up and began to whisper to me, and boy did it had a lot to say.
Besides venturing across genres here and there depending on whatever story came to mind (of which many forming their own identities and voices in my noggin to suit those genres [and there are a few of those clamoring around in there]), I’ve never looked back.
2. Are you more King or Poe? What writers have influenced you?
Neither one or the other; a bit of each when it pleases me, but I have favorites from both of them. Older King stories of course; some, but not all of Poe. There were writers who influenced me, but not much in the guise of horror. Authors like Pearl S. Buck who wrote The Good Earth, Tolkien naturally for my pursuit at the time of fantasy and Shakespeare in my early years; Philip K. Dick and the works of Margaret Mead came later in my teens, with plenty of Terry Pratchett, Spider Robinson, Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams thrown in. However, when I consider the real Whom I would have to say my father who was a published author during the Civil Rights 60’s.
I know that’s an ‘Aww’ moment, but my father was both supportive and not all too supportive of my writing at the same time, taking a somewhat backwards approach to it. Sure he got me my first typewriter for me: a big, black and heavy Royal that strengthened the hell out of my fingers, but often when I asked about publishing I was just handed that years Writer’s Market Guide and a new box of carbon paper. He was obsessed with duplicates. I guess he encouraged me the most because I had something to prove, and once I got past trying to prove anything to anyone, then I truly started to write.
I miss the hell out him though.
3. “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand,” has been attributed to Raymond Chandler. He was talking about crime fiction.
Finish the sentence, as it applies to horror: “When in doubt . . .
When in doubt on whether or not you’ve killed the bogeyman, keep hacking away at the fucker until its head comes off. Then it’s dead, the nightmare’s over and you can go home.
4. How do you translate terror into words so the reader can feel the fear of your character? What is the difference in terror and horror?
Good one…favorite one…most hated question of all, so I will somewhat combine my answer. I have a usual response to this, one of which is in my blog under About Michael, and it’s one I have said for years now, but for this let me try a different approach.
Terror can be best expressed in a single thought, an idea which can invade every single person’s life and soul without will or want not of the reader. It can easily relate to the masses, and to the individual experiencing it, they can feel the breath of the beast on their neck.
A quick example of Terror would be: You are taking a shower and you live alone, keeping the bathroom door closed so to trap the heat and then suddenly, there’s a knock on the bathroom door.
To me that would be terrifying to say the very least, and you are in the perfect place if you wish to piss or shit yourself.
When one looks at Horror and Terror, they are relatively the same thing save the delivery. When writing Horror, I have pages upon pages to set the stage, to keep the reader on edge while dreading the very next line, however I want the reader terrified, so I deliver the blows which are either expected or not, but they last for a very long time. Sure the pages might be filled with some very horrifying stuff which makes the reader want to slam the book shut and go watch Babe so to clear the mind and spirit, but like a drug they cannot. When you as the author can feel it, damn near taste the terror’s climatic surge, you give the reader both barrels with extreme prejudice. This is not the climax of the story, no; you just keep delivering it over and over unexpectedly like a blindfolded roller coaster rider entering a loop.
I think that covers it, or I can revert to my usual response by stating:
To understand Horror is simplistic really. You never open the closet door…you never look under the bed…you never fall asleep in an unfamiliar place and you never get into a strangers car. Out of all of these I must add, you most certainly never—EVER—run into the woods.
To understand Terror, however, is much more far reaching; darker. That scratching you hear during the night at the window’s glasscould be nothing more than a branch in the breeze just as your mind has convinced you that it was, or, there really is something standing just on the other side of the glass with sharp claws and it’s watching you—only you—and come morning you never discover which one it ever was.
Old and new, new and old; same ice cream, just different flavors; take your pick of the one that suits you.
5. You are a great champion of writers. In a social medium like Twitter where most everyone is shouting “Look at Me!” you bring attention to writers over and over again through Tweets and Lists. What made you want to take this route?
I smile that you have noticed this about me, G.G, but in all truth I do this because I care; I truly care about each and every writer out there who is hunting for their voice, and if already found, to give them honest support if they are willing to take it.
I can honestly say that during my whole career of writing that no one ever stopped to help me; not a single one. Whether it was family or friends, significant others along the way, not any of them did. I envied all those around me who had family and friend support in their pursuits of their dreams, always wondering what that felt like…what it tasted like…was it real or Memorex or more like some Cosby Show episode.
I was completely alone in my pursuits to find my voice, and despite all the spite and rage of being ignored and left to fend for myself, I eventually did find it and came to peace in all my endeavors of doing so. I was used to people only noticing when I failed, when those rejection letters came one right after the other, and of course I would get the sympathetic comments followed by the soft murmurs of ‘I figured as much’or ‘I told you so’s once the back was turned. Screw that. That surmounting lack of support gave me all the strength I ever needed to keep on pushing, ignoring the odds of ever publishing a single thing, and I formed my steadfast motto: If you want Sympathy, just look in the dictionary between Shit and Syphilis and you’ll find it.
It was harder in many ways back then to engage in the act of writing and attempting to publish. There was no internet to speak of at the time; the world of the web was at its infancy with BBS’s (Bulletin Board Services) and basic dial-up through ISP’s like NetCom. Hell, AOL and CompuServe were still in their developmental programming stages with only the hopes that they would catch on. No, then it was query letters and submissions via snail-mail, the demand of Times New Roman 12pt font, double-spaced, proper surname with numbering in the upper right corner of each page following the first (you never numbered the your first page), and all your pages were secured by a small piece of paper in the upper left hand corner with a paper or binder clip so not to dent or crease the pages. And of course, there was the wait; that damn, damn, damn long wait. Six weeks if you were lucky to get a response, eight at max, and if accepted YAY, and if not, you were then able to submit elsewhere for there was no simultaneous submissions allowed (which thankfully is still the norm).
For all those on Twitter many have never experience this and see only the new age of writing and publishing, and to be very understanding of them, only the process has changed for the most part. It is still a very hard thing to do, writing is; to delve into your own soul and cleave it apart so to distribute it amongst the masses is a very hard thing to do. I still find it hard to do even to this day regardless of how long I’ve been at it. For this I commend each and every one of them, and if promoting them in lieu of promoting myself is what I have to do to show them that someone is behind them, then that’s what I will do. If I can be there for just one who is floating down that turbulent river alone in the dark, then I have redeemed my own demons in parting of such memories. Perhaps my support might very well be that light in their distance assuring me that despite all my struggling endeavors that I have earned my place to call myself a writer, and that I have truly learned to listen.
6. Many children see monsters in their closet or under their beds. As someone well-acquainted with monsters, do you have any tips for parents trying to reassure their little ones.
For this I have a fun and happy story to tell regarding my own daughter. When she was just a tot, she swore that there were monsters in our closet and under her bed, and although this story might be a little long-winded, there’s a solution within and a quick summary to follow.
When she was nearly five years old, there was a span of several weeks that she complained about monsters, and unlike her mother’s approach that there were no such things—I having been my daughter at her age in spirit before—I damned well believed her! So, each night I would do the daddy thing and check for her in all the places she pointed, and although I was brave for her in my searching, it was all a façade because I dreaded the idea of What if she’s right?!
Anyway, one day I got an idea. I got a box about the size one might get a new microwave oven in and I brought it into her room. I sat down on the edge of her bed and explained that I know the monsters seem scary and mean, but they are actually scared themselves.
“Why would monsters be scared of me?!” she questioned wholeheartedly with a doubtful undertone which I feared she figured me out before I began, but I continued bravely.
I had expressed that the reasons the monsters were scared is because they wandered too far away from Monster Land and didn’t know how to get back, and what seemed like big mean monsters were actually frightened creatures who just wanted to get back home hence why they hid in the closet and under her bed.
So, I showed her the box and said: “This is a magic box that can send all the lost monsters back to Monster Land.”
“How?” she asked with genuine wide-eyes of wonder and belief to my fatherly lies.
“Easy…magic,” I put on my show, standing while opening the closet which I had previously made sure the floor had space for the box. “See? We put this inside the closet and call out to the monsters that we have a magic box which will take them all home. We then leave the room because monsters are shy creatures and when we come back after a while, all the monsters should be inside the box with the lid closed.”
Let me tell you, she was very excited about the possibility of this, so I gave her the honor of sliding the box inside, then—by her good-natured insistence—we placed a pillow inside so that they would be comfortable. When I told her we were ready, she did the one thing I will always remember and get misty over. She told me to wait, little paws extended up to me, dashed off to her bed and collected up a little bear and placed it inside.
“This will make them feel safe,” she smiled and I nodded, wanting to pick her up and hug her.
Okay, back to my parental lies and deceit!
We left the room and shut the bedroom door behind us, moving to the living room to play her most favorite movie of all: Aladdin. After a few minutes and offering her Stix-Sticks (how my 4yr old pronounced fish sticks), I left her to play with her blocks as she sang along with the movie to heat them for her, but not before quietly sneaking into the bedroom. I quickly removed the little bear from the box and hid it, folded in the flaps and crossing them so they clocked together, quietly closed the closet door then exited away from the scene of deceit. Then, minutes later returned to the living room with her stick-sticks for her to munch away.
Oh she did inquire about the monsters and I insisted that we give them time which she simply nodded in-chew and back to the singing genie she went. After a little while, the true magic began.
“Did you hear that?” I quickly said after a little while, sounding excited above a whisper.
“What?!” she beamed just as excited.
“I think I heard the closet door shut!” and before I could breathe after the last word, she was up and dashing to the bedroom with me in pursuit.
“Hold on,” I slowed her as I took hold of the knob. “Now we have to be very quiet so we don’t scare them anymore than they are, okay?”
A nod and a ‘thumbs-up’ was my response and I slowly opened the door. There sat the closed box to her widening eyes as she slowly inhaled with excitement.
“They went inside!” she bounced wanting to scream it, but she mimicked me with a forefinger to pursed lips as I knelt.
“Alright, they’re all inside,” I whispered. “Now, there are some magical words we must say which will send them back to Monster Land, okay?”
“Okay, daddy,” she nodded her understanding.
“Okay, now repeat after me,” I did my best not to giggle as I held my hands over the box like some half-baked magician in a mall’s food court. “Monsters, monsters, go away; go back home where you can play.”
There in the mouth of the closet we repeatedly said the words I pulled out from thin air, her little palms circling over the top of the box as she copied the actions of her silly dad. I began chanting it louder with her in suit until we were nearly shouting it and then I slapped my hands down on the top followed by her mimicking and we knelt smiling at each other.
“Are they back home?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” I replied, leaning an ear towards the top. “I don’t hear anything, do you?”
She leaned in and listened with one finger up signalling for me to stand by, and then rose back to her kneeling posting with a shaking head.
“Well let’s open ‘er up and take a peek!”
Letting her do most of the work, the flaps were pried apart and there, in the glow of the overhead light of the closet sat the void of the box and the pillow. She squealed her joy and clapped, lunging into my chest for a vise-like hug and clapped some more.
“It worked, it worked!” she bounced on her knees repeatedly as I clapped and agreed.
“It sure did, baby,” I smiled and simply watched her pass the little milestone in her young life.
That night she climbed into her bed and got her hugs and kisses from her mother and me, never once asking for me to check under the bed or the closet or any of the darkened corners for any monsters.
We left her then, my then wife and I, leaving the door opened just enough to let some hallway light in and sat on the sofa for a little adult programming on the tube. A few minutes after we were settled on some show I don’t remember, I heard her little voice call out across the bedroom: “Goodnight monsters in Monster Land!”
I smiled…not feeling guilty in the least.
To summarize my long winded story? Well, we were them once—little and afraid—and if for one moment, just one itty-bitty moment we adults put ourselves back into their shoes we can see what they see and feel it as well. Sure it might be annoying because we know (think)nothing is under the bed, but taking a little effort to prove it and resolve it with their assistance can be the difference of a good night’s rest or bed-hogging toddlers in your bed later on because they can’t sleep.
Children are honest little-folk even if that honesty steams from the realms of imagination, and if they believe monsters are real then you better be damned-tooting they are real and you should feel just a little bit scared yourself! Yes, I know, you don’t want to humor such nonsense, but have you ever asked yourself this: If you tell them they are not real, and If they just so happen to be real, what then? Think on that the next time you turn off their light and close their door leaving them to fear the darkness without checking the nooks and the crannies. There might be something lurking there and now it knows exactly what you look and smell like.
OH! What happened to the little bear from the story you ask? Well, she was rather happy that they took her bear with them to Monster Land, but she also missed it that night come bedtime. That was quickly resolved by morning.
Early before she woke I retrieved the bear from behind some shoes along the base of the closet and placed it back inside the box. Before closing it up, I collected a sheet of paper and one of her Crayons and using my left hand—I’m a righty so I wanted it to look more ‘kid-speak’—I wrote a simple note and placed it inside with the bear. I woke her not too long afterwards saying that I heard something coming from the box in the closet that sounded like her bear. She dashed inside, pulling open the box, exclaimed “MY BEAR!” and I retrieved the note and read it to her.
Thank you for sharing your teddy!
It made us very happy during our trip!
We’ve sent it back to you so you can cuddle it.
Think of us when you do!
Seventeen years later, I still have the monster’s note and her bear.
♦ ♦ ♦
Keep up with Michael and his works on Twitter: @MichaelFrostChi and on his Frost Bitten Blog: http://michaelfrost.wordpress.com where you can sample his stories and poetry.
About Michael Frost: Before writing exclusively in late 2012, I was a senior Wide Area Network, Microwave and Satellite Platform Communications engineer who worked his way up from a lowly help desk geek from the 90’s before there were real degrees in Computer Science and mice were optional on computers (it was still a DOS and OS/2 Warp world for the most part then in the business environment with Windows 3.11 spread throughout).
Father of one fantastic multi-talented, multi-lingual senior University daughter who is my Light.
I have been writing for nearly 32 years (over 25 for horror) and currently write under 5 other published names which I will keep to myself their identities. Sorry for that, but they are rather selfish-folk inner writers are. I have published numerous stories over the years in regional magazines across the US, Canada, Australia and Europe, including visual flash fiction. I work for an educational publisher Nelson Education for digital supplements to their high school language arts printed books.
For horror books I dragged my feet to publish for reasons unknown, and although I have written 8 of them in the genre, the very first will be available in print early 2016 (announcement date will be available in October of this year): Eleanor’s Creek.
Did I mention the selfishness of those other inner-writers?
Michael Frost releases scheduled for 2016: Sowing Seeds, Murder Black, Staad and three novellas Bane of the Black Witch, When Madness Calls and The Fall of Illeana Dubois. And a collaboration with Canadian artist Carrion Trilevel; a “wicked vicious book of dark literary horror and stunning graphic art.” You can expect a “teaser” in the coming weeks.
Welcome to the World of Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe defines himself as a “first-generation Texan.” (His family had heretofore been staunch New Yorkers). After bouncing from one end of the country to the other, he finally returned to his beloved Lone Star state where he lives with wife and “two crazy dogs” (the crazy dogs’ response to their interview was “grrrr”). A software engineer by trade, he had long been a reader of fantasy. He founded a fantasy-science fiction ezine Pegasus Online and wrote a “terribly written story” (hey, we’ve all been there), but not so bad it wasn’t published. But writing books was on his horizon. He launched The Alchemancer, followed by A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name. He lives in a strange little world called Uhl, but they like him there. You’ll like him too. Read on.
(Copyright 2015, G G Collins)
How does a software engineer stray into the fantasy/sci-fi arena? Was it an escape from machines or a natural next step for you?
It actually was a first step. Like most authors, I was a reader long before I became a writer (or a software engineer). I started with such classics as The Chronicles of Prydain and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Also, I got hooked as a child on Harryhausen movies. Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans (the original, not that travesty of a re-make). Classic stuff which led me into the pulp works of Robert E. Howard, the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, and the sword and sorcery masterpieces penned by Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock.
Tell us how you add that touch of steampunk to your stories.
Coming from a fairly classic fantasy reading background, steampunk was something new for me. I liked reading it, but when it came time to get back to my own writing, it was back to the usual fantasy sorts of things. But then I started writing one book in particular and it just hit me that the story needed an infernal device of some sort. I already had the powerful magical device trope in there, but I started to think, what if this magical device was actually a mechanical device? Even better, what if it was a blend of science and sorcery? The story—and the series—took a completely different turn from there. I wound up incorporating these same technological elements into my other series; I kind of had to since they take place in the same world, albeit at different geographical locations.
So what started as a single infernal device prompted a certain proliferation of other technology: handheld devices to measure energy; mechanical, alchemically-driven carriages to whisk people around the larger, more modernized cities; and, of course, airships, some with specialized engines for high altitude travel.
Despite this, however, the overall feel of my stories remains fantasy. I didn’t want to stray too far from that, so it’s very much a pre-industrial world, where the overall presence and use of technology remains at the fringes, its potential benefits—and dangers—still looked upon with a skeptical, wary eye by many.
Introduce us to the World of Uhl and some of the “creatures” who reside there. I especially enjoy the cat-people. Me-ow!
Uhl (pronounced “ool”) is the world where my stories take place. It’s a world without gods—they destroyed themselves five hundred years ago—where science and sorcery have risen to fill the void left behind. It’s populated by a diverse group of races: humans, dwarves, eslar, skeva, krill, raspel, sitheri, and others.
Humans are what you might think. They’re spread out amongst the Four Fiefdoms, which is the remnants of a single kingdom, and the Freelands, which is a “lawless land of outlaws and bandits,” depending on who you talk to.
My dwarves are much like one might expect in fantasy, though mine are also raiders, a bit like Vikings.
Eslar are a blue-black skinned race that lives far to the east. They’re a bit of a mystery to readers because I’ve only dealt with them through three characters: one in The Hall of the Wood, a sorcerer, and the other two, Ensel Rhe and his daughter, Jakinda, in The Alchemancer series. But, in the next, upcoming book, I’ll deal with them some more and continue to reveal bits and piece of their society and way of life over time.
Skeva, or rat-men, live beneath other cities. They’re featured quite prominently in the second Alchemancer book, The Nullification Engine. I had a lot of fun writing them. The best part? Bringing out their human qualities.
Krill, or cat-people, most definitely do not make ‘meow’ sounds. They’re vicious hunters, strict xenophobes, and all-around mean people. That’s what they want the world to believe, anyway. Gerwyn, a krill character in The Nullification Engine, is actually quite friendly and a bit of a gentleman. He’s also weapons master to Jakinda Rhe, Ensel Rhe’s daughter.
Raspel are an insect-like race of traders and sitheri a tribal people who exile their warriors from their swamps, not allowing them to return until they’ve collected a certain number of scalps from their kills. They’re not a very friendly species.
When working with fantasy and science fiction subjects, how much research can you do and how much is left to imagination?
Because I’m primarily writing fantasy, I leave a lot of it to imagination. But I often start with a subject which is better served by science fiction, then bend and twist it to conform to more of a fantasy norm. It gives me free “reign” to play with things like negative energy, dark photons, anti-gravity, and other theoretical topics. I then research those topics as much as needed for the story or for whatever hokum I happen to need at the time. A lot of ideas on how to pull these concepts into a fantasy world come out of just the research itself.
You have two series: The Alchemancer and A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name. Describe your protagonist from each. What do they have in common? Or not?
Interesting question because the characters are almost complete opposites. The Alchemancer features Aaron Shepherd, a young sorcerer’s apprentice who finds himself in that role because of his intellectual abilities and not because he has any aptitude for magic. In fact, he has no skill with magic at all. Aaron is a selfless individual, always putting the problems of other people ahead of his own. He’s most definitely an intellectual character, so it’s not likely you’ll ever see him in a physical role.
The title character in the Assassin Without a Name, on the other hand, was called by one reader an “endearing sociopath.” Where Aaron often finds himself in situation where he is in over his head, my assassin character never does, simply because, in his mind, there is no situation he can’t handle. He is completely confident in his skill with weapons, his charm, his wit, and his cunning. Of course, this is only in his own mind. He often finds himself contending with situations where he has no choice but to rely on others to succeed or, even more fun as an author, where he simply falls flat on his face.
I think the only common ground between these two characters is that, ultimately, they both want to do the right thing. My favorite witty assassin may make sure his interests are taken care of in the process, but even he has others he cares about, so it becomes a question of eliminating the greater of two evils where he is concerned.
“Thief’s Gambit” is your forthcoming book, the 5th in the Assassin Without a Name series. Give us a sneak peak.
Thief’s Gambit is a rip-roaring escapade where readers find out why the Assassin Without a Name, well, doesn’t have a name. It’s much more revealing about the character than any of the previous stories, and it moves the overall storyline along nicely as we find out that the Warders, who have seemed benign up to this point, may not have the good people of Alchester’s best interests at heart after all. Elizabeth West, the title character’s love interest and the thief referred to in the title, is back, leveling insults at my main character while making sure he doesn’t get himself killed. The series has been a lot of fun to write and this story, I think, is the best yet.
An outdoor guy, how does your love of the great outdoors influence your stories or characters?
I think some of that came out in The Hall of the Wood, one of my earlier works, especially because most of the story takes place outdoors. But all of my work after that has been inside city walls mostly. It’s probably a good thing since a lot of people think The Hall of the Wood is “overly descriptive.” Oh well. What can you do?
Just for fun. I’m a dark beer fan too. What are your favorite 3 beers?
Only three? My favorites change, but right now I love a good Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale. The Sam Adams Octoberfest last season was a real good one, too. I love seasonal beers. Also, New Belgium has a black lager called 1554 that I never turn down. I generally go for stouts (Guinness was a favorite for a long time) and I’ve been on an IPA kick lately. New Belgium’s Ranger IPA is one of my current favorites.
Find Marlowe on Twitter: @scottmarlowe & Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScottMarloweAuthor. Also on Goodreads, Pinterest and Google+. His books are available on Amazon. Click on the book pictures above for a direct link.
Tags: author interview, Fantasy, G G Collins, interview Scott Marlowe, Reluctant Medium at Large, Science Fiction, Scott Marlowe, Steampunk, The Five Elements (The Alchemancer: Book One), The Hall of Wood, Thief's Gambit (A Tale of the Assassin Without a Name #5)
Welcome Author Patrick Parker
From GG: There’s no one better to tell a story than someone who has lived much of it. Patrick Parker’s military career took him to Southeast Asia, Europe and Panama. He drew from his defense experience and the many locales where he was stationed and fashioned them into fast-paced thrillers. His wife challenged him to write the his first book, Treasures of the Fourth Reich, and he was hooked. In his second novel, War Merchant, Parker wrote about a woman assassin and weapons broker. Let’s see what else he has to say.
You have written two suspense thrillers, Treasures of the Fourth Reich and your latest, War Merchant. What is your background and how did you come up with these two exciting books?
During my army career my family and I lived in Italy for five years and traveled extensively during my off duty time. We spent many hours visiting museums, castles, cathedrals, churches and historical sites in Europe. I was fascinated with the history. The Nazi lootings of treasures became the catalyst for Treasures of the Fourth Reich. I was sent to Panama before the invasion and, while there, I met a fascinating art dealer. She formed the basis for my character Maria in that story.
After retiring from the Army, I worked in the defense industry for fifteen years. I continued to pursue my writing and developed the concept of War Merchant. This story is taken from my corporate experience and coupled with my military background. After retiring a second time, War Merchant came to life.
Neither story is about war but about espionage, deception, betrayal, terrorism, and murder. All the elements to make a good story coupled with a real world environment.
As a man, what were the greatest challenges in writing your female lead character in War Merchant and why did you choose a female protagonist?
Dydre Rowyn, my female protagonist, is a combination of several women I knew from my corporate career. She was definitely a challenge as I wanted her to be smart, cunning, very attractive, and deadly. She also had to have a mother’s instinct. A woman can be more dangerous than a man which I knew. But it was her feelings, emotions, and knowing just how far a woman would really go to get her son back and protect him. That was the challenge.
I received counsel from several mothers and from my wife. I did drive my wife crazy trying to get it right.
In a story like War Merchant, people would typically expect this to be a male protagonist. I thought it would be a lot more fun and exciting to have a female protagonist.
You used several locales for War Merchant. These included Africa, Europe, Central America and the States. How do the varying countries contribute to the story? You live in the US, but have you traveled abroad?
In the real world of government contractors and arms brokers, it’s a world-wide business. Every country has a military of some type. Countries hire government contractors (mercenaries, trainers or contractors, they are all basically the same) when they don’t have an army large enough to fight the conflict; a government cannot garner the political nerve to answer the call; or simply don’t want to get their hands dirty.
Dydre works for a black arms dealer in Germany. Clay Zsigmond. Zsigmond, who became corrupted by money and power, is a consultant, supplier of arms, trainers, and services to the countries around the world. He brought a young defenseless and naïve Dydre into his business to do his dirty work. When she finally realized it, she was in so deep she became vulnerable if things went wrong or she crossed him.
I have traveled extensively internationally and believe it adds to the realism to incorporate international locations into the story as that is real world.
How has your military background helped you in your storytelling? Does it add depth to your story through shared experiences with your characters?
Yes, it gives it depth and adds realism. My characters and their environments are based on real places, people and events. Even my FBI agent is based on real female FBI agents—tough as woodpecker lips.
My military background and defense industry experience has given me insight as to how things really work. I want my stories to be plausible and based on real events.
What do you see as the essential elements of a good suspense thriller?
First of all it should be believable. The details make a difference and must be right. The protagonist should be faced with some sort of disaster or death and insurmountable odds. Just as in our real world, all choices have consequences based on current circumstances. The wrong decision can be disastrous.
I believe pacing is very important, use lots of action verbs and keep the story moving.
I like to use real events in the story. For example in War Merchant, the assassination of the President of Rwanda which sparked the Tutsi and Hutu war, was a real event. No one knows who was responsible for downing of his plane. This provides a glimpse of what Dydre does and what she is capable of doing. The action starts immediately.
In Treasures of the Fourth Reich I used the real events of Nazi looting as the basis for that story. We are still seeing today real stories related to the looting as I have shown in my blog (http://bit.ly/1tTUjjv).
My next book is based on current events, ISIL, terrorists, and a real man-packed nuclear bomb.
Real life can be stranger, more complicated and more amazing than fiction. This all makes for good story telling.
Why did you publish an e-book first instead of paper? What do you enjoy about self-publishing?
Once I received my manuscript back from the editor and finalized, it was very easy to publish as an e-book. The paperback edition required a little more work getting it into the format and the back cover completed.
Treasures of the Fourth Reich was first published by a royalty paying publisher. I didn’t have control and things I was promised never materialized. The publisher talked a big story and delivered a small package. Self-publishing gives me the freedom to do things that need to be done to market my books. If something isn’t done it is my fault and I have fewer frustrations. Although I am a lot busier, I am a lot happier. I am getting more done and making better progress now as a self-published author. My royalties are much higher as well.
For more information and updates, please see:
Amazon Author Page http://amzn.to/1izsnBH
Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1pnfAoM
Google + http://bit.ly/1xQof6e
Tags: action, adventure, Amazon author, Amazon eBook, author interview, espionage, Fourth Reich, G G Collins, monument men, Patrick Parker, Reluctant Medium at Large in Santa Fe, suspense thrillers, terrorists, Treasures of the Fourth Reich, War Merchant
G G Collins Talks Rachel Blackstone, Writing & Shoes
If you haven’t found OmniMystery News yet, click on their banner above and take a look. You’ll meet authors you love and find new ones who will become favorites. Check out book reviews, interviews, mystery blogs and the Mystery Event Calendar. Lance Wright, who must be an action hero to keep up with all the irons in the mystery fire, is the man behind it all. This includes Hidden Staircase Mystery Books and Mysterious Reviews.
Excerpt from interview with G G Collins:
OMN: If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research the setting for a book, where would it be?
GGC: Peru! I’d hike the Inca Trail, take photos and scribble notes in my sleeping bag via my headlamp. Rachel Blackstone would have yet another out-of-body experience ending at Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail has sheer cliffs to fall from (or be pushed) and caves to get lost in (or hide bodies); what a swell time she’d have. And maybe me too. To read the rest: http://www.omnimysterynews.com/2014/05/a-conversation-with-mystery-author-gg-collins-1405180800.html
Check out the Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mysteries only at Amazon. Just click on the book, and thanks for reading.
Tags: author interview, fiction mystery, G G Collins, Lemurian Medium, mystery thriller suspense, Native American spirit animal, Omnimystery News, paranormal & urban, Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mystery, Reluctant Medium, science fiction fantasy, series mysteries, women sleuths
Interview Posted at ScottMarlow.com
Find it at:
Thanks Scott. I appreciate it and the Reluctant Medium does too.
Collins Discusses Art & Writing
I’m delighted to take part in Destiny Allison’s “Women Artists and Writers.” Allison is running a series of interviews on her blog, “Shaping Destiny: A Quest for Meaning in Art and Life.”
Allison is an accomplished artist and writer. Because her questions are thoughtful, this was my first introspective interview since publishing my book. I appreciate being included in this look at women, art and writing, how we perceive our work and the world we work within.
To read the interview and check out Allison’s blog, art and book: