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May. 30th, 2016

Brainstorming

As a writer, I absolutely love collaborating with other authors. It is a wonderful learning experience and I always feel I walk away from a collaboration a stronger writer. Also, there is a certain magic that happens when two writers come together and create something that neither of them could have created individually. A true collaboration is a co-mingling of the two authors’ literary DNA, producing a child that is a perfect blending of both of them.

And while the actual writing part of a collaboration is an absolute joy, one of my favorite parts of the process is the brainstorming. It’s an explosion of creativity that gets my juices flowing and leaves me feeling a bit exhilarated. Now, when I’m working on a solo project, brainstorming also occurs. Basically the voices in my head get together and start discussing aspects of the story idea, and that is also a lot of fun, but it doesn’t quite match the experience with another writer.

For example, I recently had a brainstorming session with another writer for a story we plan to collaborate on next year. It started out simply. We’ve collaborated in the past, and had said how much we wanted to do it again. One day recently he mentioned that he had the kernel of an idea he thought would be good for our next joint-project. I was, of course, eager to hear.

He told me the gist of the idea, which really appealed to me, and it instantly started inspiring some ideas of my own, so I shared them. And what resulted was a rapid-fire back and forth, each of us building on the other’s ideas, taking that kernel and growing it into a plant with branches and blossoms. We continued throwing out notions, some of them being rejected, some of them being expanded, one idea leading to another in a domino effect of imagination.

I don’t know how to adequately describe just how joyous such an experience is. Brainstorming with another writer that I admire and respect drives me to be better, to be more inventive, to reach for things that I might not have even thought to reach for on my own. And as I mentioned earlier, at the end what we have is something that isn’t his and isn’t mine, but something that is wholly and uniquely ours.

Of course, the brainstorming will lead to the writing, which contains its own set of joys and delights, but the euphoria from the brainstorming really pumps me up for the writing.

Not that I want to give the impression I don’t experience euphoria from my solo writing. The fact of the matter is storytelling brings me a pleasure like little else and I harbor a passion for it that is unparalleled. There’s just a certain special gratification that comes from working with another writer and creating something together.

Apr. 24th, 2016

Highlight from COMPANIONS IN RUIN--"Santa's Little Spy"

In an attempt to promote my newest short story collection, COMPANIONS IN RUIN from Sinister Grin Press, I've decided to highlight select stories from the book and talk about them.



Next up is "Santa's Little Spy," a bit of a Christmas horror tale. The inspiration came from a relatively new holiday tradition that most people find charming and delightful, but because my mind works the way it does, I just saw creepy and menacing.

What tradition am I talking about? The Elf on the Shelf! I have friends with children who have started doing this for their children every December, and all I could think was, "Hmm, a little doll that movies around on its own while you sleep, a little doll that watches your every move...sounds like the perfect set-up for a horror story."

And boom! Inspiration hit. I will admit to kind of liking the demonically animated doll sub-genre of horror but never having worked in it before. This was my opportunity. I instantly had the germ of an idea for it, though it felt a little too obvious. After giving it more thought, however, I thought of a way to possibly subvert expectations and give it a little of a nasty twist.

I started writing it just after Christmas, the first piece of fiction I wrote after finishing my novel OUTCAST (a book I am very proud of but the writing of which was a bit draining), and it was pure joy. I was just having fun and making myself happy with a tale that I thought really summed up what I like to do in horror fiction. Which is namely to work with existing tropes but put my own little spin on them, and above all deliver tales which are entertaining and fun.

After the story was done, I sort of put it aside figuring a Christmas-themed story wouldn't be easy to sell at the beginning of the year. As the year wore on, something unfortunate happened to my good friend James Newman. An accident landed in the hospital and though he recovered, it left him with a lot of hospital bills.

Enter Peter Kahle. He decided to put together and edit a charity anthology for James. WIDOWMAKERS--and I decided to send in "Santa's Little Spy." While there was no actual theme to the anthology, my main character was a widow so I kind of liked the play on the title.



James is by far one of the nicest, most generous folks in the genre, so a lot of people wanted to help, and WIDOWMAKERS became a doorstop of a book, over 700 pages and I think 40 or more stories. I was proud to be in it and do my own little small part to help out a friend.

When I was putting together my collection COMPANIONS IN RUIN for Sinister Grin, I knew I wanted to include a lot of previously published stories that had never been collected, and since "Santa's Little Spy" is one of my favorite pieces, it was a no-brainer to include it.

And that's the story in a nut-shell of "Santa's Little Spy."

You can purchase COMPANIONS IN RUIN here: http://www.amazon.com/Companions-Ruin-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B01BN7INXE/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461496285&sr=1-5
And WIDOWMAKERS here: http://www.amazon.com/Widowmakers-Benefit-Anthology-Dark-Fiction-ebook/dp/B00NN9G7U2/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461496285&sr=1-6

Mar. 27th, 2016

Praise for the Limestone Theater Department

Typically I reserve this blog for talk of all things horror literature. My own writing, the works of others I admire, that sort of thing. I've decided to do something a little different with this blog, though not that different as I'm still talking about art and storytelling. I want to talk about the theater department at my alma mater Limestone College.

When I was a student there (1995 to 1999), the school had no theater department. My senior year they started putting on productions again, I even had a small part in The Importance of Being Earnest, but there was still no official department and no theater major.

That all changed, apparently very shortly after I graduated from Limestone. In 2000, Tim Baxter-Ferguson came to Limestone. They were interested in him because he held degrees in both English and Theater. He took the position, against the judgement of the committee overseeing his doctorate. According to Baxter-Ferguson, "They very much wanted me to focus on English and give up that theatre foolishness."

His first production at Limestone was You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. "I wanted to do something very small just to get started. Which was a good decision because at the time, Limestone had no theatrical resources at all."

However, he was happy to discover that the Limestone administration was one hundred percent committed to developing the theater department. When he started, they were doing just two productions a year, had no theater majors, and no dedicated space on campus for the theater department.

A few years ago, the school was gifted a building, what was once an elementary school that had been closed down when several schools consolidated. It was decided that at least part of the building would become the theater department, complete with their own performance area.

Baxter-Ferguson says, "I got a call telling me that we had been gifted the building and that I would be overseeing the creation of our theatre space. I actually spent about sight months leading a small crew of workers (under the management of Jimmy Martin!) in restructuring the building. We tore out seats, installed a new stage, new proscenium, brand new lighting system, new wiring, new everything. I love our space, and it’s one of those chances you never expect to get."

I discovered just how good the Limestone theater had become nearly 4 years ago when my fiance Craig and I attended a Christmas production Limestone put on of White Christmas. It was a stunning play with impressive sets and elaborate dance numbers. For Baxter-Ferguson, the play was special for other, more personal reasons. "Our production of White Christmas was an amazing experience. I had the idea to let members of our armed forces and their families come see the production for free, but I wanted to have them stand up near the end of the show. There’s this moment, in the musical (the movie, too) where all of the members of the General’s (played by David Rilling) have come back to show the support of their former leader. Instead of unseen soldiers standing, we had our own men and women who had served our country stand and be recognized. It was one of the most beautiful moments in theatre I have yet to experience."

After getting a taste of what Limestone was offering, Craig and I started going regularly to see their production. Varied in tone and subject matter, comedies and dramas and musicals. One thing that has really struck us is that the plays chosen are often progressive and daring, dealing with adult themes in a frank and open manner. Being a college in a small southern town, that is quite impressive.

When asked about this, Baxter-Ferguson said, "I don’t shy away from controversial work if it serves our community in some way, but I’m just as likely to do a You Can't Take it With You as I am to do Avenue Q. I look for good work that has something to say. Period. But, most contemporary theatre deals with issues that might be uncomfortable to some of our more sensitive viewers. I hope we choose a season that has something for everyone’s tastes. Still, I’m always stunned by the irony that a community member will be much more upset that a play will feature two men kissing than it will be when Shakespeare’s Macbeth brutally murders a child. Still, Limestone College is fortunate to have an administration that supports a diverse season, so I feel very blessed that we have the opportunity to do some challenging work."

Avenue Q was my favorite of all the productions I've seen at Limestone. The play is funny and moving, the set gritty, and the performances top notch. The play incorporates a lot of puppetry, and the students did a fantastic job with this. I found out later that they actually were able to attend a workshop with folks involved with the original Broadway production.

When asked about how this came about, Baxter-Ferguson had this to say: "I graduated from the same theatre program (University of Oregon) as the book writer, Jeff Whitty, so that was part of it. Dr. David Thompson and I attended a workshop with John Tartaglia (the original Princeton/Rod on Broadway) and during the workshop, John mentioned that he did workshops with colleges. When I got back to Gaffney, I contacted his company and he agreed to come teach a weekend-long intensive for our students. He was so gracious, and funny, and had some truly heartwarming stories to tell about his time working on Sesame Street. The next summer I took another workshop with Bobby Lopez (music and lyrics)—so when we finally opened our own production of Avenue Q, we got congratulatory messages from all of the original creative team. John Tartaglia sent cupcakes!"



He also commented that he gets a lot of positive feedback from gay and minority populations that often feel underrepresented in the community, and I personally applaud that myself. While Baxter-Ferguson is interested in finding varied and quality productions for the department, he is more than willing to take on subversive or controversial material.

In the years since I was a student at Limestone, their theater, under the leadership of Tim Baxter-Ferguson with help from other including Dr. David Thompson, has become a thriving and brave department that produces plays of impressive quality that are as good as anything I've seen.

For my local blog readers, I highly recommend seeing one of the productions at Limestone College. They are always memorable and inspirational, as all good art is.

Mar. 6th, 2016

Highlight from COMPANIONS IN RUIN-"Before and Aftermath"

In an attempt to promote my newest short story collection, COMPANIONS IN RUIN from Sinister Grin Press, I've decided to highlight select stories from the book and talk about them.



First up will be "Before and Aftermath", a tale which attempts to take a look at school shootings which sadly have become epidemic in this country. I was thinking about these kind of tragedies, specifically the way the shooters were portrayed as almost inhuman monsters. And of course, what they did was inhuman and monstrous...but were they born monsters? If not, what made them into monsters? These are questions that make us uncomfortable and therefore we shy away from asking them.

So I got this notion to write a story that went back and forth between interviews with people who had survived the shooting and glimpses of the shooter's life leading up to the tragedy. With the intention of exploring what may have led the shooter to do this horrible thing.

I knew there was a chance the story could be misunderstood, that people might think I was trying to make excuses for school shooters or suggest the shootings were justified or blame the victims. That couldn't be further from the truth. There is no justification or excuse for someone who commits such horrible acts of violence and murder.

However, if we truly want to do something to stem such violence I think it's important--even imperative--that we try to understand what leads people to become "inhuman monsters." That was what I was trying to do with "Before and Aftermath".

I hope the story can generate discussion and thought.

COMPANIONS IN RUIN can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Companions-Ruin-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B01BN7INXE/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457270785&sr=1-2

Jan. 16th, 2016

Greg Chapman Talks the End of the World

I first discovered author Greg Chapman when I read his Halloween novella THE LAST NIGHT OF OCTOBER a few years back. I instantly knew he was a writer of great talent and vision. His newest book, THE ESCHATOLOGIST, deals with the end of the world. Greg was nice enough to stop by my blog to talk about it. Below is his guest blog.



When I decided my next book was going to be post-apocalyptic horror, one thing my black heart was set on was that my-end-of-the-world was not going to involve zombies.

>Insert gasp of shock<

It’s not that I don’t like zombie apocalypses in fiction, it’s more the fact that so many authors have already touched upon end-of-the-world zombie scenarios and I wanted to do something more, well, human.

To me, the end of the world is going to come about because of us. War, or bioterrorism, or earthquakes or disease are what’s more likely to claim us in the future. Ultimately I didn’t want to explore the cause of my apocalypse in The Eschatologist; instead I wanted to explore how humanity would act if such an event did occur.



Certainly, Richard Matheson’s I am Legend centres on a global outbreak of vampirism and the author uses it masterfully to explore themes of alienation and fear, but in The Eschatologist I wanted to turn faith into the threat, to see what would happen if it were used as a weapon.

I think it’s obvious that if the world does come crashing down, society as a whole is going to shatter right along with it. People will revert back to their basic instincts while others will look to their beliefs.

This is what drives my story in The Eschatologist – that clash between those who believe and those who don’t. There might not be any zombies in this tale, but there are numerous, human monsters, but one in particular is driven by belief – and his name is Amos.

Amos, the primary antagonist in The Eschatologist, is my way of exploring how faith in “God’s will” might turn people into monsters should an apocalypse occur. Throughout the tale you’ll wonder whether this so-called prophet’s wonders are real. For the Brewer family who cross his path, the apocalypse isn’t as “simple” as avoiding flesh-eating zombies. It’s a slow, steady dismantling of the human psyche; the snuffing out of any hope of survival. Something I feel is far more harrowing than a slow (or fast) horde of the undead.

http://youtu.be/xxKuPwiZePE

I want to thank Greg for stopping by and I encourage you all to check out his work here at his Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Greg-Chapman/e/B004Q7PCRE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Dec. 30th, 2015

My 2015

As a new year approaches, it is only natural for people to look back on the year about to depart and ruminate on what has transpired in one’s life over those twelve months. Since this blog is dedicated to my writerly pursuits, I thought I’d take a moment to share what I was up to in 2015.

As far as publishing, I had three books out from three different publishers at the end of the year. Bam bam bam, in rapid succession!

October saw the release of HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS from Great Old Ones Publishing. This was a collection of 19 Halloween themed short stories, and I was beyond ecstatic about this one. I’m a total geek when it comes to all things Halloween, and this marked my third Halloween-themed book. All the tales in this one revolved around Halloween, but I think they showed a nice range of subject matter and tone. Some of them weren’t even horror, and one was a children’s story.



In November, Sinister Grin Press put out my zombie novella FORT. This is a semi-sequel to my novella ASYLUM, taking place in the same fictional universe and featuring cameos from a couple of ASYLUM characters via flashback. I had a lot of fun writing this tale, and I was really happy to see it out in the world.



And finally, December was the release of FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER, my collection with Crystal Lake Publishing. This was probably my most successful launch of any book I’ve ever had out, and I owe it all to Joe Mynhardt and the Crystal Lake crew. They went above and beyond all reasonable measure helping me pimp the book. Secured some amazing pre-release blurbs, including from Mr. Ramsey Campbell. Got me interviews on podcasts and blogs. Created an events page that was well populated and we ran some cool giveaways. The book sold well, ranking as high as number 2 on the Amazon digital short story collections list, right behind the new Stephen King, and the reviews have been lovely.



I’ve also published a few other things here and there throughout the year, mostly nonfiction articles. Two of them appeared in Apex Magazine. An Article called “A Whole New World” about being an openly gay writer in the horror field, and another called “How Horror Made Me More Empathetic”, written to combat an online article that suggested fans of horror are less empathetic. I also had an article entitled “The Forgotten Art of Short Story” appear in Crystal Lake Publishing’s book WRITERS ON WRITING VOL. II. I was pleased to be in some great company there and to have the chance to talk about my passion, short story writing.



I also got to do some fun things this year related to my writing.

In early spring James Newman and I hosted an event at Joe’s Place in downtown Greenville, a writer’s workshop. James is a cool guy that I enjoy spending time with, and I was glad he wanted to do this with me. The event wasn’t a great success as far as attendance, but we had fun and had at least one eager young man who asked a lot of questions.



In the summer I was able to attend my first ever World Horror Convention in Atlanta. I was only able to go for one day, but I packed a lot in there and had a fabulous time. I got to hang out with cool people like James Newman, Donn Gash, John Boden, Kelly Laymon, Aaron Dries, attend some interesting panels and a fascinating interview with legend William F. Nolan. I got autographs from Jonathan Maberry, Jeff Strand, John Skipp, Jack Ketchem. And I was even allowed to speak on one of the panels, the one about zombie fiction. It was a real kick all the way around.



I held another event at Joe’s Place in October, a horror trivia contest with a prize of several books, DVDs, and a gift certificate to the store. Attendance was slightly better, though most of the attendees were friends, and I think everyone involved had a good time.



As for actual writing, I feel I had a fairly productive year. I spent the first quarter of the year finishing up my novel THE CULT OF OCASTA, which is a sequel to THE QUARRY. It isn’t exactly epic in length, but it does weigh in as my longest novel to date. I realized partway through that this would be my last story set at Limestone College, it just seemed an appropriate place to end that saga.

Once that was done, I began work on a novel called 432 ABERCORN, a story set in one of my favorite places on earth, Savannah Georgia. However, when I attended WHC and met Aaron Dries, we started talking about a possible collaboration and got so excited about it that I decided to put ABERCORN on hold and work on the project with Aaron.

The title of our piece is WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE, and originally we thought it was going to be a novella but it grew into an actual novel. It was a wonderful experience working with Aaron, he’s an immensely talented writer. I feel I learned a lot from him and grew as a writer. I hope this isn’t the last time we work together.



Here at the tail end of the year I have started a new novella called BOOK HAVEN, an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while and once actually started several years ago, but now just feels like the right time for me to get it down on paper. I hope to finish that up in the early part of next year.

In additional to all that, I’ve also been following my truest love, the short story. I’ve penned several short stories of various lengths throughout the year. I’ll never abandon the short story, and hope to have many new collections in the years to come.

And there you have it, my 2015. On a personal note, it was another wonderful year with my soul mate and best friend Craig. The year we finally set a date for our wedding, and have continued to build a warm and loving home together.

And that’s it. All in all, 2015 was very good to me, and I go into 2016 with excitement. How was your year?

Dec. 13th, 2015

Over-Saturation

I will start this blog with a disclaimer - this is not a complaint.

We writers struggle to get our work out there, to find publishers that believe in it and put in the time and effort to produce the books, so it would be totally inappropriate to complain about having too many books out at one time. That's the kind of problem a writer wants to have.

And it's the kind of problem I found I did have as this year wound down. I actually went the first nine months of 2015 without releasing a single book, then in the last three months I released three, one a month. October saw Great Old Ones Publishing releasing the Halloween collection HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS; in November Sinister Grin Press put out the zombie novella FORT, and in December the collection FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER was launched by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Again, the kind of problem a writer wants to have. I was incredibly proud of each of these books and so thrilled to have found homes for them and to be offering them to the public. It has actually been quite thrilling.

The only issue was promotion. In the small press, the author has to do a lot of self-promotion. Not that we don't get help from the publishers, Crystal Lake in particular went above and beyond in helping with that, but the truth is most small press publishers don't have huge promotion or advertising budgets so the author really has to shoulder some of the weight him or herself.

And I don't mind that, I really don't. It can actually be fun coming up with ideas to try to spread the word. Only when you have multiple books out in a relatively short period of time, it can become worrisome. There's always the danger of becoming obnoxious on social media, seeming as if all you do is toot your own horn and peddle your wares. This can become tiresome to people and actually turn them off.

So it's a fine line and you don't want to cross that line from informative into off-putting. Having three books out at once definitely puts me in danger of being in the off-putting category, and I fear I did cross that line from time to time.

However, I have a few tactics I try to keep me from becoming obnoxious with self-promotion. For one, I am a huge cheerleader for other writers I admire. When I discover a book or author I like, I want to tell everyone. Even I would get sick of me if all I talked about was myself, but I strive to give equal opportunity to talking of other things.

I also try to come up with interesting promotions, contests and giveaways and things like that. Things that get people to participate in conversation so it's a two-way street and not just me talking at people but actually engaging them.

Another thing I do is seek out other authors to do blog swaps with. That way each of us can reach people who maybe haven't heard about our work yet instead of reaching the same people over and over.

Self-promotion isn't a skill that comes naturally to me, it's definitely a challenge, but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.



You can find these books and all my others on my Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Allan-Gunnells/e/B005C18L7Q/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1381885926&sr=8-1

Dec. 6th, 2015

No Room For the Weak--by Simon Bestwick

I met Simon Bestwick on Facebook. A funny guy who was very supportive of my work. When he told me he was arranging a blog tour to promote his new book HELL'S DITCH, I told him he was cordially invited to make a stop here. He provided me with a short story, "No Room for the Weak", which is set in the world of the novel. I was blown away by its power, the tale packs major punch for a piece of flash fiction. Whets my appetite and I know I'll be reading the novel now. So without further ado, here you go, kiddies. Enjoy

NO ROOM FOR THE WEAK
by Simon Bestwick.

Half Noakes’ face had melted when he was five years old. That had been fifteen years ago, when the bombs had fallen. Luckily the eye hadn’t been damaged; his vision was clear as he climbed the wall, except for the rain.

The city wall was made of rubble, caged in wire mesh; he hooked his fingers into the gaps into the mesh, dug his toes into them, pulled himself up. Above him was night and wind and lashing rain and the beam of a searchlight, sweeping.

Noakes rolled onto the top of the wall, a knife between his teeth. Clear. He unwound the rope around his waist, tied it fast and let it drop.

Mary shinned up first – a thin pale woman, muscle and bone; a narrow face and black cropped hair. Darrow came up next: grey-haired, in his fifties, he was an old man by the standards of this world. But he was still strong and quick – in body and in mind.

Darrow had found Noakes after the bombs, when he was screaming in pain for his seared face and grief for his dead parents. Darrow had raised him, cared for him, taught him to survive. If Noakes loved anyone, it was Darrow. All else was indifference and hate.

“Pull her up,” Darrow said. “Quickly.”

Noakes and Mary hauled on the rope. Noakes’ lips peeled back from yellow, uneven teeth; one slip, and the bitch would fall. But would she die? He couldn’t be certain. And Darrow wouldn’t like it. A tough man, but he was soft on this.

Noakes bit down on the knife between his teeth. Soft, in this world, killed you.

Darrow had tied the rope around Alannah’s waist. She was mumbling to herself, as always. Darrow shushed her, stroked her hair. Noakes sheathed his knife, spat over the wall. Weak.

“Let’s go,” Darrow said.

*

They crept through the broken streets, keeping low and to the shadows; the buildings were broken, irregular stubs, like Noakes’ teeth. The roadways’ tarmac was cracked and fissured; weeds sprouted. Rain lashed down. In the distance, light gleamed through the buildings, shone on the wet black road: the searchlight on a Reaper landcruiser, patrolling the streets after curfew.

Noakes and Mary held submachine guns – Sterlings, old but reliable. Darrow’s was older still, a Thompson gun from the Second World War, but he was lethal with it. Alannah had nothing. There was no point.

Darrow held up a hand. “Here.”

Between two houses was a narrow, cobbled alleyway; a section of wall had fallen across the top but it but held, creating a tunnel.

Mary shone a clockwork torch on the floor to light their way. Rats skittered as they went in; Alannah whimpered and moaned. “Shut up,” Noakes hissed.

“Leave her,” Mary said.

“We should ditch her,” said Noakes. “Keep telling you.”

Mary glowered. “That’s enough.”

“She’s a fucking liability.”

Darrow wheeled. “She fought for us, long and well,” he said. “And when the Reapers tortured her, she kept her mouth shut. We owe her this much.”

“No we don’t. That’s how you get killed.”

Alannah mumbled; it echoed in the tunnel: Mary put an arm around her, spoke to her gently.

“I made a promise,” Darrow said.

Noakes sneered. “To Helen.”

“Yes. To Helen.”

“Helen’s dead.” Noakes nodded at Alannah. “She’s as good as. And she’ll get the rest of us killed too. We lost enough people at the Refuge. You can’t be weak, Darrow. You can’t. No room for it.”

“That’s enough.” Darrow sounded tired. Noakes couldn’t see his face properly, but the expression on it looked like pity. He turned away, angry.

“Come on,” said Darrow.

Past the heaps of fallen bricks at the far end of the tunnel was another street; across the way was a vacant lot where a building had stood. Beyond that, an old church. The top third of its spire had snapped off to leave a jagged stump.

“That’s the place,” Mary said. “Ashton said he’d meet us there.”

Ashton had gone ahead, to find them a place to hide; according to the message he’d sent back, he’d found them one. It would be good to be safe, even only sort-of safe, for a while. To stop running. But until then, death was everywhere for them. Noakes’ fingers were wet on the Sterling – sweat, despite the November cold, mingling with the rain. He wiped them on his coat. “Then let’s go,” he said.

“Wait,” Darrow said, and motioned them back into the alley.

A moment later Noakes heard what he’d heard; the hissing and clanking of the landcruiser. A moment after that, a searchlight beam flashed up the street, brightening as the ‘cruiser came closer.

“Shit,” he said.

“Here.” Mary slipped behind a heap of fallen bricks, motioned the others to another, larger pile. Noakes crouched behind it with Darrow, beside Alannah. He could smell the stink of her from here; since she’d been rescued, she couldn’t even keep herself clean. Weak. He clenched his teeth in disgust; as if sensing it, she moaned.

“Quiet,” Noakes snarled.

“Leave her,” said Darrow again. He murmured to her and she quieted a little. Noakes gripped his knife; he’d do it if he had to.

The light dimmed and brightened as it swept to and fro. The ‘cruiser engine was louder. Alannah was panting, whimpering in fright. Fear the Reaper. Wasn’t that a song? Noakes almost giggled.

The landcruiser was passing; the light flared down the alleyway. Alannah let out a muffled cry.

“Shut up!” hissed Noakes.

“What was that?” one of the Reapers in the ‘cruiser called. Movement. Were they getting down to investigate.

Darrow had a hand over Alannah’s mouth, but she was still making noise.

“You hear something?” said the Reaper.

Another noise from Alannah. Noakes drew the knife. “Quiet!”

“Noakes,” Darrow hissed.

But Noakes knew now what he had to do. Save Darrow from himself. In this one thing, the older man was weak, and that couldn’t be allowed. He raised the knife and moved: one quick thrust between the ribs and that’d be it – quick, silent, no pain –

Darrow pushed Alannah aside, caught Noakes’ knife wrist with one hand; with the other, Noakes thought at first, Darrow punched him in the chest. It was only when the weakness started seeping through him and he couldn’t breathe that he realised what he’d done. He looked at Darrow’s face, the one face he loved if he loved any, and thought that he’d been right before: that was pity he saw on it.

*

“Well?” said the second Reaper in the landcruiser.

“Nah,” said the first. “Nothing. Let’s go.”

When the ‘cruiser had rolled on and the darkness returned, Darrow withdrew the knife and let Noakes’ body slump backwards onto the cobbles. Rain fell on the scarred face, and in the open eyes.

Darrow cleaned the knife, looked down at the body.

“It had to be done,” Mary said. “He’d been losing it for ages.”

Darrow nodded, but didn’t speak. Mary touched his arm. “Come on,” she said. “Ashton’s waiting.”

Shelter. Sanctuary. When they had that, perhaps, they’d find others to join them. A new beginning.

They took Noakes’ gun and knife, and anything else they could use. Darrow covered the dead man’s eyes with a handful of alley muck; then they shepherded Alannah out of the alley and into the shadows of the vacant lot, towards the church.

Bringing up the rear, Darrow looked back once towards the alley, remembering the scarred, weeping boy he’d taken in.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “You deserved better.” Then he followed the others into the dark.



Simon Bestwick is the author of Tide Of Souls, The Faceless and Black Mountain. His short fiction has appeared in Black Static and Best Horror Of The Year, and been collected in A Hazy Shade Of Winter, Pictures Of The Dark, Let’s Drink To The Dead and The Condemned. This short story is set in the world of his new novel, Hell’s Ditch, which is available now. Order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Hells-Ditch-Black-Simon-Bestwick-ebook/dp/B018SIFQT0/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449403389&sr=1-4&keywords=simon+bestwick

Nov. 24th, 2015

The Joy of Working Together

I love writing...everything about it. The entire process is a joy to me. Not that I don't have rough days or frustrations, but overall nothing brings me more pleasure.

Typically writing is a solitary pursuit, just me and the page (or the screen as it were in this modern world). Although I never quite feel alone, I have all my characters to keep me company. Not in a schizophrenic way, but when I'm lost in a story the characters have life and are real to me. It's just me and them, sometimes me directing them but often the other way around.

And yet sometimes writing isn't just me and the screen, just me and the characters. Sometimes I am invited to play make-believe with a friend.

What am I talking about? Collaboration, of course. Sometimes two writers can get together to work on a story and create something wholly unique, something that truly neither of them could have produced on their own, a true melding of their talents to create something that is not one or the other but a product of both.

I love to collaborate with other authors. I go into it with no ego, just a desire to have fun. I love to work with authors who have different strengths than I do, so that we can learn from each other and I know personally that I've walked away with every collaboration a better writer for the time I've spent with the others. It's fun to brainstorm together, to see what exciting new directions we both discover during the writing.

Most recently I've been collaborating with the great Aaron Dries (if you haven't tried his stuff, you really must, go here immediately http://www.amazon.com/Aaron-Dries/e/B008GXNU64/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1448403510&sr=8-1). We met earlier this year at the World Horror Convention, hit it off, and he asked if I'd like to work on something together. I said yes immediately but figured it may or may not happen as schedules permitted. Yet shortly after that he ran an idea by me, I gave him my thoughts, and next thing you know, we were in the thick of it.

We came up with a zombie story that I think isn't your average zombie story. Something with a bit more heart and emotional weight. We developed a working relationship unlike any of the other collaborations I've ever done, with me doing a first draft of most chapters then Aaron going back over them to add, delete, embellish, then back to me for my thoughts and any changes I wanted to make. May sound strange, but I found it a rather exciting way to work and I enjoyed it very much.

I recently sent Aaron the final chapter, and he is doing his pass now. We'll do some polishing after that before sending it in for consideration to a publisher that is waiting on it, but the bulk of the work is done.

And I'm a bit sad, maybe sadder than I usually am at the end of a longer work because I'm going to miss the camaraderie, the education, and the fun of working with Aaron. But as always when I collaborate, I'm walking away a better writer for the experience.

I have a couple of solo project all set to go, but I'm always on the lookout for my next collaborative partner.

Oct. 17th, 2015

The Birth of HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS



Last year around this time, Philip Perron contacted me to ask if I might be interested in submitting something to his relatively new publishing company Great Old Ones Publishing. I’ve known Philip for a while, he has helped me promote some of my earlier books with Evil Jester Press, so I was excited by the prospect of working with him in this capacity. And when he said he was open to a short story collection, I jumped at the chance.

Short stories are my passion. At the time I had released 3 collections, and I was eager to do more. I immediately started thinking about what stories I might put together for Great Old Ones, making a list. However, since it was October I was also busy writing Halloween shorts, the way I do every year at this time.

And then it hit me…because it was such a tradition that I write Halloween tales in October, I had a ton of them. I had previously published a short Halloween-themed collection called DARK TREATS that contained just 5 stories. This might be the perfect opportunity to do a more expansive Halloween collection, I thought.



I ran the idea by Philip and he was enthusiastic, so I immediately started gathering my Halloween tales throughout the years. I delved back as far as 1998 for a story I wrote in college, and I knew I would want to include the tales I was writing that year, 2014.

Most of the stories were horror, but I had a few non-horror stories that were more dramatic types of tales, and even one children’s story. The only thing Philip said he didn’t want was outright humor, which did exclude a couple. There were also a few that I thought just weren’t good enough to be included. All told, I ended up with 19 stories I wanted to include.

But as I put them together in the order I wanted them to appear, I got to thinking that maybe I could do a little bit more. What if I loosely connected the pieces with a wrap-around story? I was envisioning a group of people in costume gathering for a Halloween party and a movie marathon, but then the power goes out and they decide instead to sit around and tell each other scary stories to pass the time. And the stories they tell would be the stories of the collection. When I got that idea, I instantly knew how I wanted to end the wrap-around story.

So I finished up the three stories I was writing at the time, added them into the line-up, then commenced on the wrap-around piece. I had so much fun with it, and felt very proud of the manuscript. I thought it really captured my love of the holiday, and even within the narrow theme showcased an eclectic group of stories.

Luckily, Philip agreed and came up with a really cool and Halloweeny cover, and set HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS loose on the world this year, almost exactly a year after I first approached him with the idea.



My hope for the collection is for people to settle down on a October night and read the tales, and really get into the spirit of the season. Which is about chills and thrills and fun.

And I hope people have fun with HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS.

The collection is available in print and ebook here: http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-House-Horrors-Mark-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B016C4GBS2/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445081748&sr=1-1

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