News, 4 stories on the way

I’ve had fiction accepted at a couple of venues.

  • “Eyes or No Eyes” will appear in issue 30 of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Illustrated! When a knight is blinded in a jousting accident, the attendant wizard relates the unusual change of fortunes between the injured knight and a feckless prince.
  • “Death Run” will appear in issue 2 of Turn to Ash: Open Lines. A woman on the run from the consequences of her ex-husband’s conspiracy theory dabblings relates her tale to a radio talk show host. (This story features the appearance, albeit in the background, of a recurring character of mine who appears in “Code Name Trine” in the Insidious Assassins anthology.)
  • “Automatic Sherlock” will be published in an anthology slated for 2017, so far titled Baker Street Irregulars, with Jonathan Maberry and Michael A. Ventrella as editors. In my take on an alternate version of the Sherlock mythos, the detective is a robot built by the enterprising Dr. Watson, taking place in a near future Russia.
  • “Mirrorworld”, originally picked up by Grey Matter Press for their Death’s Realm anthology, will be reprinted in Momento Mori by Digital Fiction Publishing.

It’s been a busy year creatively speaking, and there is more to come before its close.

 

 

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News, 4 stories on the way

Appointment With Salazar

Allow me to introduce myself. You’ll know me as Salazar, and I’m led to understand I’m the resident villain in Martin Rose’s story, “Mirrorworld” from Death’s Realm, an anthology published by an enterprising company called Grey Matter Press. Not quite what I thought I’d be known for, given all the gossip and occult practices, but they say there’s no such thing as bad press.

When Martin Rose told me I’d have to write a blog post about death and dying, I thought of Samarra. And who better to instruct you on the nature of death, than an occultist such as myself?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

A servant runs errands for his employer in the city, where he runs into Death. Terrified, he races back to his master to beg him the use of his horse, so he can run to safety in Samarra. The employer agrees, and decides to demand answers from Death himself. When he gets there, Death explains it’s all a misunderstanding, he was just shocked to see his servant in the marketplace, when he has an appointment with him later that evening in Samarra.

Like the servant in Samarra, we are always headed to our appointment. This does not require a particular belief on your part. Like the laws of thermodynamics, death persists without your consent. And death is what I want to reveal to you now.

When we talk about death, the end point of our lives, we are talking about time.

When we talk about time, we talk about light.

When we talk about light, we talk about the sun.

When we talk about the sun, we talk about planets and stars, minutes, degrees, conjunctions and orbits, ellipses and occultations.

We see our time and our place here on earth as a straight line, a horizon. As we get older, we understand a straight line isn’t very accurate. More like a circle, right? That’s the thing I hear is all the rage these days, time being circular, or a figure 8, or some other such nonsense.

That’s not true, either. Time is more like a sphere. You forget there are stars underneath you as well as above you, and anywhere you stand on a sphere is always the highest point. On the horizon, stars align with you. Like the flower that grows in a clay pot, the soil is the matter that determines the majority of your life, your health, your longevity. That’s what the universe and its stars are – the very soil we germinate within. Like the flower, we think we have free will. And like the flower, for all our free will, we aren’t free to walk out of our clay pot any time we please.

This brings us right back around to death again. Death, which we pretend isn’t there, Death, which we pretend is nothing to fuss about. And we’re right – it isn’t something to spend your time worrying about. It will come when it’s damn good and ready, and until that point, it’s really the life that becomes the tragedy, not your imminent and assured ending.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few seconds in which you will become aware that you are dying. You will know it, not as an abstract concept you can put off with another cigarette, or that sugar coated donut, or a new car, a pair of shoes, another sexual conquest. All these things give the impression of life – but is it really living? Will it matter, once you reach the finish line?

You will know death as a reality.

Time will do something funny, then; it will simultaneously speed up and slow down. Time as you know it, is racing to an end. The planets, light years beneath you, and the stars and galaxies, light years around you, are all moving in concert and spelling out the time stamp of your demise. It’s a brilliant symphony, whose song resonates beyond our ken, our vision, our sight.

Your arrival at Samarra is assured. You know you are dying. You will feel the full spectrum of emotion – panic, regret, pleasure, euphoria, relief, frustration, rage. You imagine you’ll bust apart with all these emotions battering you from the inside, and then a remarkable thing will happen.

You’ll die.

Just like that.

It will be ordinary, and unremarkable, and anti-climactic. These senses, discriminations, biases, idiosyncrasies that came with your body and your body chemistry will fall away from you. When it does, you’ll achieve a razor sharp clarity you never had in life, in which you realize all the dumb shit you did that you should not have done. You’ll be there to see it elapse, but without panic or fear or love within you anymore, there isn’t much to do. For all intents and purposes, you’ve become a traveler at a bus station, holding a ticket in one hand, waiting.

Not very exciting, is it? That’s why I wouldn’t bother about it. All these religious wars and such that go on, you’d do much better concentrating on life itself. Because though you’ll be on that next bus out before long, the thing of it is, you only get this one particular life. You won’t even be able to take your memories with you. You have to leave your bags at the depot – even if those bags were packed with your salary, your spouse, your children, your titles, your education, your awards. All of it will be left behind.

It’s not the death we are fated to, but the life itself. The death is just incidental. You’ll forget about this blog post. Time will bury it. It will not raise a flicker in your thoughts when your appointment in Samarra comes. But you may – as you find yourself waiting at the depot – have a vague inkling that you were here before. You will be here again. And should you find that memory, time will take on a slinky effect, contracting through space to this very moment, with you poised above a screen, your finger on the button – yes, you! Right here, right now! — and you’ll realize that you are both dead and alive, at the station and right here, life and death occurring simultaneously at all points, like a turning wheel whose spokes spin so fast, each one occupies the space of the spoke before it effortlessly – like the hundred mile per hour revolutions of a planet, a star.

And then, you know what happens?

Some whiskey drinking asshole author tells you you’re fictitious character in a story, and they have a good laugh at your expense while they see the expression on your face.

Right up until you lean forward and ask, “Hey, Martin – do you ever think about who’s writing you?”

And together, we look up at the mighty and terrible stars, and wait our turn.

Appointment With Salazar

Death’s Realm Blog Tour – Day Two with John F. D. Taff

Grey Matter Press has initiated a blog tour for their anthology, Death’s Realm. Today is Day Two with John F.D. Taff. From the Grey Matter Press site:

Taff, author of the heartbreaking tale “Some Other Day,” featured in DEATH’S REALM: Where the Here and the Hereafter Collide,  knows a little something about death, as he shows us in “Some Other Day,” a story about a father and his son attempting to deal with the pain of their new lives following the death of their wife and mother.

Taff takes on the subject of reincarnation in Let’s Get Born Again!. Find out what this noted horror author believes will happen to us after we’re gone.

Let’s Get Born Again is available at Taff’s wordpress, here.

Death’s Realm Blog Tour – Day Two with John F. D. Taff

Death’s Realm Tour From Grey Matter Press Kicks Off Today

From Grey Matter Press’s website:

Author Jay Caselberg begins the 16-day DEATH’S REALM  Death and Dying Tour with a very special guest post on the Grey Matter Press website — his short story “Early,” based on a terrifying personal experience with the dead.

Caselberg’s “Early,” while a work of fiction, is based on a real-life encounter with a ghost. We greatly appreciate the fact that Jay was willing to give away this piece and thank him for sharing it with us to begin the tour.

Enjoy “Early” by Jay Caselberg, and make sure to check out his “Penumbra,” a tale of true love gone very, very wrong that is featured in DEATH’S REALM: Where the Here and the Hereafter Collide.

Check out Jay Caselberg’s story here.

Death’s Realm Tour From Grey Matter Press Kicks Off Today

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Everyone, welcome Jay Caselberg 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.

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

Me, I’m Australian, though I have lived in Europe for a number of years now, traveling around for day job related stuff. I spent time growing up in various countries as well. Despite all that, I still retain an essential component of the Australian psyche, or so I believe, and it tends to seep through into the fiction. Embedded in the Australian subconscious is the sense of removal, of separation from the rest of the world, because, you know, from most places, it is a long long way away. Anyway, I always thought I’d turn out to be a scribbler and I read and wrote as I was growing up. Then, at an impressionable age, I stumbled across a book on how to write a novel. Within those pages was a piece of the worst advice I have ever heard: you cannot write a book till you are over forty because you don’t have the life experience to make it real. What rubbish. Anyway, taking that to heart, it caused me to stumble. Much later, I happened across on online forum that acted as a kind of virtual critique group and suddenly, it was as if the world had opened up. I’d had no dealings with other aspirants until that stage and about then, I realised that I was probably good enough. I wrote a few stories, sent them out and the first one I sent out, a little science fiction tale with a pretty dark edge sold within a couple of months.

Although I write and have written novels, science fiction, horror, literary and even YA fantasy most of my work is short fiction and generally, it tends to be what I would characterise as soft horror, more the psychological, but none the less dark for that. Literature, ultimately, is about the human condition, and the inside of people’s heads is often a dark and squirmy place. I like playing with that.

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

The concept for “Penumbra” is what happens to someone who is deeply, madly in love, and they die. What efforts would one go to to keep that bond alive even though you may not be.

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’m not a great believer in a great beyond per se. I have no vision of heaven or hell. I do believe that there is something there. I have seen and experienced too many things to accept that there is simply nothing, things that defy normal everyday explanation. Despite that, I am not going to sign up to any orthodox set of rationalisations that make the less certain feel more certain. For me, it’s not about faith or anything else. Sure, there’s something going on there. You just need to be able to live with it.

We thank Jay Caselberg for coming by to share his thoughts. He’s got a web page here, and twitter account you can stalk him at here.

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg

Everyone, welcome Matthew Pegg 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.

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

I grew up in Staffordshire in England. We lived in an old farmhouse that had a cellar that filled up with water every so often, open fireplaces, no central heating and windows that got covered with ice on the inside in winter. My mother insisted that there was a ghost on the top landing. She never saw anything but she said she could sometimes smell a sweaty smell. It was probably just the drains, or our unwashed socks. I wrote a lot of stories when I was in primary school. I particularly remember writing an alternate version of ‘The Snow Queen’, which had some ideas and characters that I intend to reuse at some point. Then in secondary school I got put off writing fiction by my English teacher, who thought writing stories was kids stuff. How he got the job I don’t know.

I went to drama school and worked as an actor for a few years until I realised I wasn’t great at it and liked having an overview of a story rather than being responsible for just one character. So then I started writing plays.

I’ve written some odd stuff for theatre: a one man version of Twelfth Night, a play designed to be performed during a medieval banquet, an adaptation of the film ‘Onibaba’, a puppet show, street theatre, plays for young people to watch, plays for young people to perform and a version of Rumpelstiltskin that was rather too influenced by ‘Beetlejuice’. I also adapted M.R. James’s story ‘Lost Hearts’ for the stage and then as a short film. Writing for theatre has given me some useful skills: creating dialogue, developing dramatic tension and an awareness of structure but it’s very different from writing prose. A play is probably closer to sheet music than it is to a novel: it’s a set of instructions for actors, designer and director and an audience experience it collectively rather than in a one to one fashion.

I came to writing fiction quite late. I’d always wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the basic skills. Eventually I did an MA in Creative Writing which I completed in 2012. My fiction tutor was the greatly missed author Graham Joyce, who was really enthusiastic about the stuff I was writing. I came out of the course thinking, “Yes, I can do this after all!” It taught me a lot and gave me a big confidence boost. Since then I’ve completed a novel and I’ve been submitting short pieces to various publications.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “March Hays.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.
Sam Meacham is injured during WW2 and sent to March Hays, a stately home requisitioned as a hospital for servicemen. One of the nurses Lily, is the daughter of the house who Sam met when he was a child. As Sam recuperates he experiences some strange and disturbing events in the library of the house, but isn’t sure if they are real or just a side effect of his injuries. He also becomes increasingly attached to Lily and determined to protect her from her monstrous husband Edward, who seems to be a threat to her life.

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’ll be very surprised if there is anything, but then I like surprises! I suspect if there is anything it will be beyond the power of our imaginations to comprehend. Or it might be a bit like Milton Keynes.

We thank Matthew Pegg for coming by to share his thoughts. You can keep up with him at his website, here.

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg

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.

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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