Interview with Jamie Mason, author of Kezzie of Babylon

I connected with Jamie Mason through Facebook last year, and he held my attention through his interesting viewpoints and unique perspective on the world. After awhile, I ended up exposed to his short work, which led me to his new release, Kezzie of Babylon, a rip-roaring zombie apocalypse adventure. I invited  him to virtually sit down with me, if you will, to discuss his fiction, his process, and the tumult that is life; welcome Jamie Mason to the blog.

Let’s give readers a little background on you. What should we know about Jamie Mason?

In broad strokes, the picture is pretty conventional. Born in Montreal, went to college in the States, returned to Canada 22 years later. It’s only in the details that a life becomes interesting. Such as, for instance, the fact that I grew up in a series of cult- and cult-like environments. Also, that my life became abruptly derailed when my parents went to prison and I lost more or less everything and was forced to start from scratch earning $4.75 per hour doing sales cold calls. I’ve been a professional musician, a self-defense instructor, a teacher, a security guard, a clerk/typist (I’m currently employed as a PI).

Throughout all of this, writing has been the one thread that’s tied everything together. It’s kept me sane. Without it, I’d probably have been one of those guys you read about in the news who walks into a shopping mall and starts gunning people down.

You’ve accumulated a large body of work in a few years time, consisting of two novels and forty plus stories. I want to talk to you about Kezzie of Babylon, but let’s rewind first. How’d you get started writing? How did you start as a writer seeking professional status?

The writing began sIMG_0380pontaneously at age 7. Whatever else my mother did wrong, she gave me a love of books. We had an electric typewriter at our house and I became fascinated by the challenge of creating things on it that resembled the pages in books I read (this was before I knew about typesetting). I wrote my first novel in seventh grade, handwritten in notebooks during math class. It was an espionage novel.

I don’t believe in “professional” writers. What the fuck is that, anyway? If you mean some guy who makes a living writing, you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Anyway, the term “literature” has been rendered more or less meaningless in the age of self-pubbing and Amazon direct-to-market vanity projects. What do you call someone who’s conscientiously devoted the past 25 years of his life to learning to write well (apart from “misguided”)? A writer. There are writers and non-writers. And wannabes. I suppose I’m a writer.

You’ve got a first novel, Echo, first published in 2011 from Drollerie Press, and more recently, about to be reissued by Permuted Press. A first novel marks an important stage in an author’s career. What did you learn? What would you have done different?

Echo was reviewed and accepted for publication fairly quickly by a publisher called Drollerie Press. Selena Green, their marketing VP, was very enthusiastic about the project. We had an uphill battle pushing the novel through the editorial process because, unbeknownst to us, the owner was planning to shut the press down. We pushed out an e-edition which reached an Amazon sales ranking of 14,000 or so before Drollerie’s owner vanished. I never saw a royalty check, although Selena and I remain friends. We collaborated on bringing out the current (second) edition and I still involve her in projects from time to time. I recommend her as a freelance editor and typesetter.

What would I do different? Nothing, really. There was no way to predict what happened. It just happened. It sucked, but I adapted. Like Master Kan counseled Grasshopper in Kung-Fu when asked whether or not to trust people: “Trust! But expect surprises.”

I read a synopsis of Echo, which is sci-fi, and you followed up with Kezzie, which is firmly in the zombie/horror camp. What inspired the transition, and do you prefer a particular genre?

It was a surprisingly easy transition. I’ve always straddled the sci-fi/fantasy fence quite comfortably, so writing a zombie story for Exile Edition’s Dead North zombie antho back in 2013 seemed like an easy way to make some bread. Well, I made more than that — I made an invaluable friend in the person of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a very fine Mexican-Canadian writer who edited the project. I’m very proud of our professional association. Have you read her new novel, Signal To Noise? You should …

For me, genre is a vehicle to convey stories I have experienced that would be otherwise impossible to share with people. For example, how do you explain what it’s like to be manipulated by a cult leader to someone whose entire experience of religion consists exclusively of Sunday trips to church? Or what it’s like to watch your parents dragged into a court-room handcuffed to prison trustees to someone who grew up in a conventional family environment? You can’t. But horror (and, to a lesser extent, sci-fi/fantasy) allows me to share my subjective experience of the world in a way that’s understandable to people with more conventional backgrounds. When Permuted Press bought my novel The Book of Ashes in May of last year, they asked if I had any other novels. I told them about my short story “Kezzie of Babylon” and said I could develop it into a zombie novel because Permuted likes those. And now here we are.

IMG_0380Zombie fiction has had quite a lot of staying power in the past ten years; even when a lot of people were saying the trend was dead, true to its spirit, it continues to shamble on good naturedly, from The Walking Dead to World War Z, from Jonathon Maberry to Joe McKinney and many more. Where do you see this trend/genre in ten years?

That’s hard to say, Martin. Honestly, I never expected the zombie craze to outlast one season of The Walking Dead. No here we are – what? Five? Six seasons in? There’s a whole raft of spin-offs TV, games, stories, novels, comics, the cultural phenomenon of zombie “walks” … Who could have predicted that surge in popularity? Not I.

For what it’s worth, my prediction. Ten years from now, the hot topic for PC/social justice warrior types will be zombie rights. The fact that zombies don’t exist won’t bother them. After all, neither does social justice. It’s a myth, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Ivory tower stuff. Like Dylan said: “This world is ruled by violence / but I guess that’s better left unsaid.”

Kezzie Of Babylon is a zombie, apocalyptic, horror novel, featuring a cast of characters with interesting histories, such as Zack, who ends up picking up a mysterious package for the local drug kingpin. Meanwhile, he tracks the footsteps of a girl he’s never met, but whose diary he’s been reading for years. This leads him to a ragtag fringe group living in a woodland, when all hell breaks loose. There, we meet Kezzie herself. At first glance, she’s a religious psychopath, but is also something much more than what she appears.

Can you share with us how the idea for Kezzie Of Babylon came about?

To return to what I said earlier: horror allows me to share my subjective experience of the world in a way that’s understandable to people from more mainstream backgrounds. Both as a young adult and middle-aged PI, I’ve come into a LOT of contact with the criminal element. Writing about druggies and assorted low-lifes is absurdly easy for me. The “Kezzie” short story was intended to be a romp, nothing more — a zombie shoot-em-up on a grow-op with an interesting character in Kezzie. With the novel, I went deeper, trying to offer an interesting REASON for the zombie outbreak (an influx of bad street drugs) and an answer as to how bikers and other marginal types might cope during a zombie apocalypse. Better than most, I suspect, simply because they’re accustomed to living high-risk lifestyles.

Kezzie herself is my first stab at writing a true “cult” leader and I modeled her on David Koresh. The cult experience is something I first addressed in ECHO and will continue to address going forward. It’s fundamental to my life. I’m good friends with Gina Catena, who works with cult survivors and writes about cult recovery issues. We’re both involved in the life-long process of PTSD and cult recovery. So writing this kind of stuff is therapeutic for me.

Did you do any research, any prep work for Kezzie Of Babylon that might be of interest?

Living it. I only write about things I’ve experienced personally. The old Chinese curse applies here: “May you live in interesting times”. My life has certainly been interesting. And quite often upsetting. I’m turning that to my advantage and putting all those bad experiences to work for me. It’s only in the past 3 years or so that I’ve moved beyond the very real consequences of things “people did to me” and began “doing unto others”. Like it says in the book: “Do unto others before they can do unto you”. I choose to inflict my stories on the world.

Scenes in Kezzie Of Babylon often reminded me of certain characters I’d run into in real life. Are you willing to talk about how observation informs your work, or the juxtaposition of reality in a fictional work?

I’m a total outsider. I’m one of those guys who won’t accept your invitation for drinks or dinner, doesn’t attend parties or social events like weddings or baptisms, doesn’t participate in group activities of any kind anymore (I trained in judo and BJJ for years but cut that cord in 2013). I live alone, I work more or less alone in my day-job and spend my days off at home with the door locked and the curtains drawn, hip-deep in my latest WIP. What does this leave?

Observation. I’m fascinated by the behavior of the human animal. One of my heroes is Dr. Jane Goodall, whose work I first encountered via National Geographic as a child. I take the same approach to human society she did with her chimps: approach stealthily, sit quietly and observe. Remember: I’m a trained investigator. I can size you up in three seconds flat — how you dress and cut your hair, whether you’re right or left handed, the way you walk, a smoker or non-smoker, the condition of your shoes … all these things tell a story. In my daily life, I’m constantly snapping pictures of people and engaging in analysis. It’s a habit I cultivated as a child in abusive family and cult environments. It was a prerequisite for survival. It kept me alive — literally. It’s a compulsive, learned behavior that I’ll never stop engaging in.

So. I observe. I extrapolate. I write.

Do you feel you learned anything about publishing your second novel you didn’t learn with your first?

Mostly, I learned what it was like to have a supportive publisher for a change. Permuted has taken a pounding in the public eye of late, but they’re a great environment. Very innovative and forward-thinking. And I have a great family of writers around me, many of whom are as deeply disturbed as myself. It’s such a relief to be able to shoot an e-mail off to a guy like Jeremiah Israel or Bill Vitka and say something like: “Hey guys! Break out the box-cutters and the chloroform! Time to find some some organ donors!” I love those guys. They get me.

Are you working on another project we can expect to see in the near future, or something you’re excited about?

Permuted is scheduled to publish my next novel in December of this year. The Book of Ashes takes place after a plague has more or less destroyed civilization, turning Vancouver Island into a feudal wasteland ruled by the Hell’s Angels. Cory O’Neal is a retired school-teacher who spends his days in a trailer on the edge of the forest, scavenging firewood, hunting for food and ducking attacks by gangs of marauding cannibals. In the evenings he composes a history of the plague. But what begins as a history soon begins to resemble a confession. His sole indiscretion as a teacher, forming a special bond with a troubled female student, ended his career. It may also end Mankind.

My ongoing major project is the republication of Echo and, afterwards, its four sequels: Echo Tribe, Echo Quest, Echo War and Echo Lord. This quintet is my life’ s work — a sci-fi epic that examines the religious experience from the point-of-view of the five principle figures of any faith: the prophet, the leader, the visionary, the warrior and the heretic. Permuted will republish Echo in 2016.

How can we keep up with you?

Catch me online at www.jamiescribbles.com

We thank Jamie Mason for taking the time to answer our questions, and Kezzie of Babylon is available from Permuted Press and Amazon.

Jamie Mason is a Canadian writer of dark fiction whose stories have appeared in On Spec, Abyss & Apex, White Cat and the Canadian Science Fiction Review. His zombie novel KEZZIE OF BABYLON was published by Permuted Press in March of this year. He lives on Vancouver Island. Learn more at www.jamiescribbles.com

Advertisements
Interview with Jamie Mason, author of Kezzie of Babylon

Interview with Maggie Slater

IMG_0380Maggie Slater is many things: accomplished writer, an experienced slusher, a parent. Today, she shares with us her take on the writing life and its many facets.

Do tell us your genesis as a writer. How did you become the writer you are now?

Although it probably sounds a bit cliche, I’ve been interested in telling stories since before I could write. In fact, my mother—saint that she was—used to write down stories I dictated to her when I was really little. I also told atrocious jokes that made no sense.

I started getting serious about writing—and by serious, I mean completing short stories and submitting them—my freshman year of college. I sent out my first short story to the Fantastical Visions new-writer contest, and wouldn’t you know it? The story was accepted! First thing I ever submitted! Wow, I thought, this is it! This is the start!

And then, although I did continue to write short stories and even submit some of them, I pretty much sat on my butt and waited for that story to come out in print. Fast forward five years later, after many delays, it finally did, but I’d been so hung up on that one publication, I hadn’t done much during the waiting time. I’d had one other short story published for no pay, but otherwise, I wasn’t much further than where I’d started.

But I’d done a lot of writing, so I had improved a lot. During that time, I’d completed what my mother and I call “The Chekhov Year” in which we both tried to write one short story a week for a year. In the end, I wound up with forty-two rough drafts, most of them crud on a stick, but I’d learned how to cull my ideas down to short story size. Since then, I’ve even sold a couple of those Chekhov Year stories, after some decent editing!

By that time, I was married, had a full-time job, and had started working for Apex (the anniversaries for both my marriage and Apex fall within a two-week period, actually). I wrote extensively during my hour lunch breaks, slushed for Apex in the evenings, and reviewed fiction for Tangent Online on the weekends. I even sold a couple other stories to Jason Sizemore on a pair of independent projects he was doing. Then I retreated into longer-form fiction for a while, and am just now—on the heels of Zombies: More Recent Dead reprinting my short story “A Shepherd of the Valley”—emerging back to short fiction again, and collecting those rejection slips!

Do you have any particular influences, or books that stand out?

Hmm, tough question. I am completely enamored with Edith Wharton’s ghost stories (and all her work, if I’m honest), and Roald Dahl’s adult dark fiction. Haruki Murakami has been a huge influence recently. Asimov’s short fiction was really what got me into the short-form, and Octavia Butler’s longer SF—it’s dedication and approachability—really rocks my socks.  Maureen McHugh is a huge favorite in the SF field, also, and I recently discovered Shirley Jackson’s longer fiction, particularly We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Jack London has always been a favorite, too. I read Martin Eden not that long ago, and honestly, it’s a book I think almost any aspiring writer ought to read. That, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (which has one of the best sequences discussing artistic talent I’ve ever read).

I think it takes a special kind of writer that wades into the slush pile. Is there anything you can share with us about the experience? Did the slush pile teach you anything about writing you wouldn’t have learned otherwise?

It was a wonderful learning experience. It’s one thing to read a market’s guidelines and guess at what they want. It’s another thing entirely to see the inner workings, how editors choose what stories to publish—and why or why not! I saw some really great stories get passed on because they just didn’t quite fit what we needed or wanted at the time; I’ve seen how badly authors can respond when given even a pleasant rejection. It taught me why most markets don’t offer feedback with rejections (in terms of time, author response, and clarity—sometimes a story just “doesn’t work” for you, and it may hit another editor at a different market just right). It also taught me how hard editors and slushers work behind the scenes, often just for the love of fiction. And it taught me how tough the competition for publishing slots really is: as a new author you’ve got to bring your A-game, because the other authors getting to the editor-in-chief’s desk are pros and you’ve got to be that much better to knock them out. It’s mortal combat!

Perhaps most importantly, slushing taught me why reading a market before submitting to them is important. When I was just starting out, I used to balk at a market suggesting that I buy a copy of their magazine to see what they publish. It struck me as a cheap way to make money off desperate writers. But the truth is, most submissions are rejected because they just don’t fit what the market publishes. A familiarity with a market guarantees you’ll be sending them stuff that at least generally fits the mood and tone of what they publish, and that’s bound to get you into the top 20-30% of submissions. Whether that helps you sell your story to them is another challenge entirely, but knowledge of the market will at least give you an edge-up on a vast majority of other submissions.

Slushing is an absolutely amazing way to learn about the industry and about writing short fiction. I’d recommend it to any aspiring author if they can make the time for it.

I admire that you’ve taken a leap into another arena involving a lot of hard work: motherhood. Is there anything you’d like to share about learning to balance the creative life alongside parenting responsibilities? Any advice for the many mothers and fathers who wear these different hats?

This is actually something I blog about quite a lot these days, maybe more for myself to keep track of the ebbs and flows of my current creative process. When I was pregnant, I looked around for information about how people dealt with babies and writing, and didn’t find a huge amount. Maybe I looked in the wrong places. But I wanted to be honest on my blog about how challenging this chunk of life can be, balancing kids and writing.

Having the Little Man around has certainly changed a lot in my writing life, mostly in terms of time and being able to sit down when I want to and write. When I worked full-time, I could brainstorm during the day and then come right home and write. Or I could write on the weekends. Now, there’s no guarantee I’ll get any time at all during the day to write, or in any of the days to follow. My husband is finishing med school, and for the last year has been rotating at a hospital a state away, so I’m pretty much on my own with the Little Man. No breaks for this lady! It’s made me much less of a procrastinator, because when I’ve got something I want to work on, when the Little Man’s eyes close, I’m writing! Now if only he’d nap more regularly…

I’ve also got some great friends and family who are willing to watch the Little Man for a half hour to two hours (if he lets them! Lately, we’ve been hitting a separation-anxiety wall, and a half-hour with someone else in a home not his own is about his limit). That’s been immensely helpful. Oddly, I’ve gotten a lot more fiction out in the eight months since he’s been born than I have ever previously. I think that comes from the perpetual distraction: I’m finding it much easier to edit than to compose new work, so I’ve been on an editing binge, getting things fixed and submitted. It’s been a nice change!

The main thing I would advise is something I’m still working on myself: cut yourself some slack and enjoy this time. Don’t guilt yourself. You’ve got enough on your plate. Babies disrupt everything, and if holding yourself to too-strict goals or timelines just makes you miserable, let the goals go for now. If you get time to read, read. If you have an idea you really want to work on that is burning a hole in your brain, see if there’s a family member or friend who can give you a little time to focus on that. But most importantly: just relax. You’re sleep-deprived, you’re worn out, you’re on this huge learning curve as a new parent (or new parent of two or more—gosh, they especially need to cut themselves some slack!): it’s okay to not write everyday if you can’t. Or write one sentence. There was a time even before the Little Man when I couldn’t get ten minutes to myself. I used the “write one sentence” goal to get a tiny bit of something done every day, and that assuaged a lot of guilt. And someday, the kiddo will nap again, or play at other kids’ houses, or go to school, and you’ll have a lot more time to get things done then.

Could you tell us about your short story appearing in the recent anthology edited by Paula Guran, Zombie: More Recent Dead?

Sure! “A Shepherd of the Valley” is a story about a man left completely alone after the zombie apocalypse, who is struggling to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. He’s lost and lonely, searching for a faith that left him long before the zombie uprising, something that can justify his existence and forgive his past. When an injured girl who reminds him of his long-lost teenage daughter enters his life, he comes face-to-face with the man he’s become, and reevaluate his new life’s ministry. Is it worth trying to save the souls of the already walking-dead?

I wanted to write a story that examined what happened after the apocalypse, after almost everyone was gone. What kind of life can one have in such isolation, when the only others around would be more than happy to chomp on your brains? What does that do to one’s faith in a higher power, or lack thereof? It’s a ships-in-the-night kind of story about two lost souls coping with a ruined world in very different ways.

Do you have anything you’re working on at the moment that you’re excited about?
LM_InstaPro_Product Photo4
Actually, with all that “free time” I have, I’ve recently started an Etsy shop selling “snake-oil” designed bottles for writerly ailments. I usually put Tic-Tacs in mine, and use them to “cure” writer’s block, the blues of rejection, and to spur productivity.

SocialEase_TPk_ProductImage2

Obviously, as placebos, the Tic-Tacs themselves don’t actually *do* anything, but it makes me laugh and they’re still tasty. They’re quite fun to design, and it’s a wonderful creative outlet for my graphic art interests.

DrE_RutRemedy_FrontI’m somewhat slow to get them listed, but I’ve got a whole line-up of them coming soon. You can see the current postings listed here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThePlaceboEmporium .

 We thank Maggie Slater for taking the time to share her insights and experience with us. She has a blog where you can keep up with the latest in Slater’s writing life.

Interview with Maggie Slater

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: John C. Foster

Everyone, welcome John C. Foster to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.

  Tell us aboJohn C Fosterut your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

Well, I was born in Sleepy Hollow but raised in a small New Hampshire town, and despite the fact   that any number of teachers told me (in so many words) that I was a writer, I never believed it to  be “real” until I hauled stakes for Los Angeles at age 20, determined to be a screenwriter despite never having seen a screenplay – or Los Angeles for that matter. I did write screenplays on the side while building up a PR and marketing career, but I discovered that I didn’t really want to write what my agents and managers wanted me to write – or what the studios wanted to make. It wasn’t until I got to New York City that I realized what my real problem was: I was focused on being a writer and all the accoutrements that come with it, not on the writing itself.

Boom, that epiphany (yeah, I said “epiphany”) was like a caveman discovering fire and I focused intently on my craft, reading everything I could get my hands on, learning about the myriad of small presses, and writing-writing-writing. I went from someone who could only write when I was alone, everything quiet and the muse upon me to a guy who could plant his ass on a loading dock and crack open his laptop with all of NYC squalling a few feet away.

Then I started getting my stories published and a few years back, wrote my first novel, Dead Men, which will be published in July of 2015 by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. If folks are interested in updates on that or the rest of my writing they can check me out on Facebook or my web site, www.johnfosterfiction.com.

deaths_realm_anthology_cover_front


Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “Burial Suit.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.

This is the second story I’ve done with Grey Matter Press and I’m ecstatic at how damned good the books look. The story in Death’s Realm is entitled “Burial Suit” and deals with a man recently released from prison who learns of his father’s death and sets off with his dad’s favorite suit for the burial. And because he has certain dark preparations in mind to care for old dad in the afterlife, he’s also carrying a pistol, electrician’s tape and his cat, The Loose.

There are so many good writers in this collection, I’m flattered to have “Burial Suit” nestled in with their work.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I don’t believe in any religious concept of an afterlife, although with half an hour and a pitcher of beer I can compose an argument in which various ideas might be “true” in a sense. I do believe that there is an energy to us that may move on to some other level of existence or perhaps return to the universe – much in the way our physical remains break down and return their constituent components to the earth. I also believe, particularly at night when I’m alone, that some of that energy may linger for a reason, perhaps a powerful trauma, and encountering such a lingering presence scares the hell out of me.

We thank John C. Foster for coming by to share his thoughts.
John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. A writer of thrillers and dark fiction, Foster spent many years in the ersatz glow of Los Angeles working in entertainment and marketing before relocating to the relative sanity of New York City where he lives with his lady, Linda, and their dog, Coraline.
 
Foster’s first novel, Dead Men, will be published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing in July, 2015.  His short stories can be found Death’s Realm (Grey Matter Press) as well as Shock Totem Magazine, Dark Visions Vol. 2 (Grey Matter Press), and anthologies such as Under the Stairs (Wicked East Press) and Big Book of New Short Horror (Pill Hill Press) among others. For more information, please visit www.johnfosterfiction.com.
Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: John C. Foster

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Gregory Norris

Everyone, welcome Gregory Norris to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.
deaths_realm_anthology_cover_front
Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

I grew up on a healthy dose of creature double-features and reruns of classic TV science and speculative fiction shows—Dark Shadows, Lost in Space, the original The Outer Limits, and especially first runs of Gerry Anderson’s brilliant outer space parable, Space:1999. I was raised in the lush, green veldt of Windham, New Hampshire. There weren’t a lot of other kids to play with, so one day my imagination, which was steeped in wonder over bases on the moon and haunted houses, began to invent stories. I still have all of my original short stories from boyhood. When I was fifteen, we had moved from rural Windham to a residential town that became my own version of Hell on Earth…I was a troubled teen and spiraling toward self-destruction, again without many friends. That summer, those I had saw me writing out what would amount to my first novel (a whopping 200 pages!) in which I cast them as the main characters. They all tried their hands at writing their own original tales, only to give up after a few pages. When I finished the novel, that same night I started another story. A light went off that summer—I loved to write and it was all that I wanted to do with my life. Writing saved me, I’m convinced. And the following autumn, I made a new friend as a result of writing, Tina Perry, who was writing poetry (and was/is very good at it!). She became one of the best influences of my life, and we’re still thick as thieves.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “Drowning.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.


My story featured in Death’s Realm is called “Drowning”. It’s a historical about a Swedish immigrant named Edgard Palmveist who survives the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 only to be haunted by the belief that not all of him came out of the Atlantic intact. The story owes to a trippy article a friend of mine cut out of the newspaper and handed to me not long before Grey Matter Press started reading for the anthology.

 The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

The afterlife? We bought an old New Englander house in New Hampshire’s remote north country in 2013. It has a zillion-dollar view, even though we got the place on the cheap because the economy here has never recovered and may never. By relocating here, we were able to own the house, as opposed to the other way around. We got a lot of house for very little money, and my Writing Room is bright, big, and filled with all of my favorite family heirlooms and talismans. I am happiest in that room, where I court the Muse daily. As I tell everybody, I plan to haunt this place for eternity!

We thank Gregory Norris for coming by to share his thoughts. You can keep up with him at his blog, here.
Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Gregory Norris

Interview: Ben Eads of Cracked Sky

Everyone, welcome Ben Eads to the blog. His novella Cracked Sky launches this month. From the synopsis:

Reeling from the loss of their only child, Stephen and Shelley Morrison learn that her killer has been found dead. What they don’t know is that his agenda goes far deeper than the grave. Beyond the storm, beyond the crack in the sky—where their daughter lies trapped with The Lost Ones—something is using Stephen and Shelley’s agony to fulfill its goals: Terrorize. Consume. Destroy.

I’ve known Ben awhile through the horror community, and when I heard he was venturing into publication with a novella, Cracked Sky, I couldn’t resist reading the story and then finding out more about Ben and his writing process.

omniumgatherumedia10414466_10153382425758356_1837254513023440345_n

Omnium Gatherum is releasing your novella, Cracked Sky. Congratulations! Tell us a little about the story without giving too much away.

BE: Thanks! I’m really excited about the release, and working with Kate Jonez was an absolute blast. Cracked Sky is a horror novella about a couple trying to cope with the loss of their only child, Allyson. Once they learn her murderer has been found dead, and that Allyson’s in a very bad place, they have to summon the courage, the hope, to heal themselves, as well as save their daughter from a nightmare-world, birthed from somewhere between the stars.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, either about writing in general or what’s involved in submitting to a publisher and making a sale?

BE: I’ll just say what other writers like Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, etc… have said: Read a lot and write a lot. It’s always worked for me. You have to be well read so that you can develop something unique. After all, it’s all about the story. Find beta-readers that are capable of constructive criticism. They’re worth their weight in gold. Trust that. It took me a few years to find only three individuals who are absolutely indispensable. Never stop growing; take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. Inspiration is bullshit—it’s everywhere and around you, always.

I’ve helped a few presses with submissions—still am!—and I find it always comes down to the story itself. What happens? What does it accomplish? Unless your work re-kindles the magic you felt from other magicians, then step it up! Use those as litmus tests. Oh! And emotions…especially horror. King advised in his book On Writing, you shouldn’t come to the blank page lightly. Submit your A+ work. Be professional. Be patient. Know the press you’re submitting to. Do they publish the kind of fiction you’ve written? You wouldn’t believe how many times I would read a story from the queue only to find another with the exact same premise. Be fast! If something news-worthy occurs that you could mine something from, write it as soon as possible and be the first to submit it. You must keep your finger on the pulse. Despite the hits the publishing industry has taken due to economic woes—turn a negative into a positive.

How did the idea for Cracked Sky come to you?

BE: I’m still trying to figure that one out. Ha! I noticed that the theme of loss kept cropping up in my short fiction. And when the concept, the “movie-trailer” of Cracked Sky played in my mind, I realized I needed a bigger canvas. That’s how it began. And, my oh, my, was it big!

One of the things that struck me, as a reader, was the realism of your characters. I wasn’t left with the impression they were cardboard cutouts, and I thought your handling of Stephen and Shelley’s troubled marriage was very genuine. Was that something you intended to come across for your characters or just a natural by-product of the story?

BE: Thanks for the kind words! I’m happy to say the advance praise and support has reflected this. It was both, actually. The strength these characters had in my imagination were easy to draw from, and take over the story. They really started writing themselves and showing me where they were going. However, it was very depressing getting into Stephen, Shelley and, especially Darrell’s head-space. So I developed a routine to keep a balance. Making each one’s speech unique, real. I recommend that aspiring writers read their character’s dialogue aloud.

The foundations of Stephen and Shelley’s relationship came about through trusting my characters. What’s their body language say? These were “tells” to me. I was still refining their relationship during the final edits, just to make sure the perfectionist inside me covered every base.

How long have you been writing, to get to this stage in your writing path?

BE: I wrote my first short story when I was ten. I wrote through high-school, and would write short fiction from time to time. I even submitted work I felt was great, at the time. Ha! But I wasn’t taking it seriously. In 2008, after I was laid off due to the economic disaster, I took it seriously. By seriously, I mean actually submitting my work and seeking help from others who could tear my work to shreds, so I could grow. So…about 6 years.

Do you draw from your experiences in real life at all?

BE: Sure. I think everyone does, to a certain extent. At this stage in my life, I don’t have any children. However, the loss of my career, my house, loved ones, etc… were anchors. There were a lot of emotions to pull from. Millions of Americans were affected by this crisis they had no part in. Many of whom are still affected, sadly. It was palpable. I recall neighbors trading services to fix their homes. One family needed a new tile floor, another needed a roof, so they bartered. It truly was inspiring to see everyone come together and find hope amidst great adversity. I also lost a dear friend due to suicide.

Are there writers who inspire you?

Oh, yeah! Too many to list, but I’ll indulge myself: Karen Russell—especially her novel, Swamplandia!—Lovecraft, Maugham, Barker, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gene O’Neill, Rena Mason, Fran Friel, Lucy Snyder, Lansdale, Philip K. Dick, Bradbury, Maupassant, Machen, Trumbo, Jorge Luis Borges, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Charles L. Grant, Theodore Sturgeon, O’Henry, etc…

How can interested readers connect and keep up with you?

BE: Thanks for asking! The Cracked Sky Newsletter is your one-stop-shop for everything Cracked Sky and, well, me. You can subscribe by going to my website www.beneadsfiction.com and entering your email address. I’m also heavily active on Facebook and Twitter. And you can always drop me a line: ben@beneadsfiction.com

Ben Eads has also recently become the marketing consultant at Crystal Lake Publishing, and we wish him success in this as well as his new novella.

You can find Cracked Sky through Amazon.

Interview: Ben Eads of Cracked Sky