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Jul. 25th, 2015

Jason Sizemore Exposes Himself

Jason Sizemore and I share something in common. Social awkwardness. While Jason has largely overcome it, I’m still working on it. Which explains why the first time I met Jason face to face at WHC in Atlanta (after having been friends with him online for years, and the man even published one of my books) I just stood there like an idiot, shifting from one foot to the other like I had to go to the bathroom, thinking, “I should be saying something right now, making chitchat, you know, acting like a normal person.” Instead I think I made a few one to two word comments then scurried away like the socially inept freak I am.

To his credit, Jason doesn’t hold it against me.

But that’s not the only credit Jason has. In addition to being the founder of the well-respected (and deservedly so) Apex Publications, he’s a talented writer in his own right. His most recent work is the memoir For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, which details how he came to found Apex and build it into what it is today. The book is entertaining as hell, full of warmth and wit and charm.

Jason was kind enough to allow me to interview him for my little blog. So let’s get right to it.

MAG: For Exposure offers a unique and illuminating insight into the creation and running of a small press. What initially gave you the idea to write it?

JS: This is one of those situations where I would like to claim a brilliant insight. But credit where credit is due, the idea was pitched by the Joseph-Beth Booksellers marketing brain Patricia Murphy. She and I were talking after the completion of one of my workshops and asked me if Apex would be releasing anything special to celebrate its tenth anniversary. She tossed out the idea of a “personal memoir.”

Because I’m a bland, boring fellow, the idea transformed into an “Apex Memoir.” The rest is glorious history!

MAG: When you committed to writing the book, was there any one specific story that leapt out to you and made you think, “Oh yeah, that one definitely has to go in”?

JS: The honey baked ham. It’s so wild, so weird, and so sexy that not including it would have been a crime. Although the circumstances around the ham were probably a crime.

MAG: You’ve written fiction before, but did you find undergoing a lengthy nonfiction work like this provided unique challenges? Were you at all intimidated by the prospect?

JS: I found it to be easier than writing fiction. Creative nonfiction has always come easily to me (in relative terms). For Exposure is similar to creative nonfiction, except it has large kernels of truth embedded that form the nucleus of the work.

I did discover that doing a proper oral history is a challenge. Originally, the final chapter was going to be an oral history by some talented and funny people. But I had trouble making it interesting and presenting proper jumping points for my historians. I ditched the history for footnotes. In the end, I think the book is better for it. Yes another one of those serendipitous straw-to-gold situations I often encounter.

MAG: One thing that really stands out to me about the book is the abundance of humor. Some of the tales, such as your run-ins with Hickory Adams, the “ham incident” as I’ll call it, and your proximity to the Carnival Barker, are naturally funny, but you even managed to infused tales of food poisoning and kidney stones with wit. Did you find looking back at these stories you were able to laugh about them now? Did time and distance ease the pain, so to speak?

JS: Pain and humor come from the same emotional core. A common maxim is “I’d cry if I wasn’t laugh.” It’s kind of like that, especially with the kidney stones episode and food poisoning episodes.

Since I’m anything but normal, most interactions I have with people strike me as odd or funny in one way or another. Hickory Adams, the ham, the Carnival Barker…are highlights through my life goggles.

MAG: You describe yourself as a “geek”, so one geek to another, what were your favorite horror and sci-fi movies/books growing up?

JS: For horror, it all started with Alien. For non-scary science fiction, Star Wars (duh, what else?!) I was a huge book geek from an early age. I read nearly every book in the small library collection of Big Creek Elementary. My favorites then were the genre books such as A Wrinkle in Time and Jack Tales.

MAG: Did you read many genre magazines before starting Apex? If so, what were some of your favorites?

JS: I wasn’t a regular reader of genre magazine, but I definitely had read my share of them. I leaned toward publications that were a little bit off the straight and narrow. Weird Tales and F&SF were the two ‘large’ zines I read that occasionally offered strange fiction. I liked a couple of DIY saddle-stitched publications such as Say… (edited by Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond) and Electric Velocipede (edited by John Klima) that are, sadly, no longer around.

MAG: For Exposure really illustrates just how much of a family the speculative community can be. How much of a part would you say your friendships and partnerships with other writers and publishers have played in your success?

JS: It’s obviously played a huge role. Very few occupations are solitary efforts. One guy with a tin can bailing water out of a boat won’t keep you from sinking in a storm. A team of people with tin cans might keep you alive. I’m lucky to have a lot of people willing to bail.

MAG: One very clever and enjoyable device employed in the book is allowing folks that feature in your stories to make “rebuttals”, providing their memories of the events you describe. How did that idea come about?

JS: Ah…now I do get to claim a brilliant insight! Because the book is so much about those people who love Apex and those who have dedicated so much time and work into making Apex a success, I wanted to give them a voice in the narrative. My first idea was unremarkable—ask certain people to contribute essays about their Apex experiences—but didn’t fit with the tone of the book.

Then my beta readers started to (understandably) wonder how I was making all this stuff up. It occurred to me that everybody would ask the same question. Fortunately, a lot of my experiences are with talented authors like Geoffrey Girard, Sara M. Harvey, and Maurice Broaddus. I asked them if they would like to write their side of the stories I would tell about them.

To quote one of the rebuttal authors: “You’re giving me an opportunity to call you to task AND to make fun of you? Hell yes!”

MAG: Some of the rebuttals called into question the veracity of your accounts. Which story would you say had the greatest variance?

JS: I’m pleased that on a whole, the accounts match mine to some degree. Girard’s rebuttal varies the greatest…I don’t know what the dude was smoking when he wrote it. I can say with 100% certainty that we did not have a Zuni doll named “He Who Kills” at any of our Apex room parties.

MAG: You’ve been making the promotional rounds, and I know you’ve shared some tales that didn’t make it in the book. Are there any that you consider too outrageous to share anywhere? If so, can we expect an Unrated and Uncut version of the book somewhere down the road?

JS: There are countless tales that I can’t share in a book. Reader incredulity would soar off the charts. I would be fielding calls from the FBI. An uncut version is not in the works.

MAG: Does your family ever attend conventions with you? And were any of the stories in the book new to them?

JS: My wife’s interests lie in the field of software development, not publishing. My kids love the publishing stuff I do, but they’re still young to spend four days with genre fans.

MAG: What’s on the horizon for Apex? Any particular upcoming releases you want to tease us with?

JS: I’m really proud of the upcoming The Apex Book of World SF: Volume 4. You see zines and publishers receiving praise for translating the occasional fiction or doing a ‘groundbreaking’ anthology highlighting non-English authors. I can’t help but think “Big deal, we’ve been doing it since 2009.”

Of course, I’m delighted that more non-English spec-fic is finding its way to the United States. I love the voice and styles of work produced from non-English speaking countries.

MAG: Well, I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and think anyone who reads it will love it. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, and I wish you continued success.

Visit Jason Sizemore's website here: http://jason-sizemore.com/2015/03/17/for-exposure-the-life-and-times-of-a-small-press-publisher/

For Exposure can be purchased here http://www.amazon.com/Exposure-Times-Small-Press-Publisher/dp/1937009300/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1437866965&sr=8-1&keywords=For+Exposure+Jason+Sizemore&pebp=1437866981941&perid=1G5R1800238V7YR9RZNJ or here http://www.apexbookcompany.com/collections/all-books/products/for-exposure-the-life-and-times-of-a-small-press-publisher.

Jul. 1st, 2015

Interview with Aaron Dries

My first introduction to Aaron Dries was on Facebook, the way so many of us connect these days. He seemed a nice enough fellow, and I eventually decided to try one of his works. I picked up his debut novel House of Sighs for my Kindle…and that was it, instant fan! I then got to meet Aaron in person, and found him to be funny and charming and just an all around nice guy…and that was it, instant friend!

I’m happy to get to interview Aaron for my blog, because I think he has massive talent and a very bright future in the genre. More people should be reading him.

So Aaron, I know there’s a pretty interesting story behind the writing and selling of your first novel, House of Sighs. Why don’t you tell the folks at home about it?

A: Well, as they say, a story is best begun at the start. So let’s go back to when I was a pizza delivery boy. In that kind of job you come to know the regulars, some of whom you know by name, others just by face, and yet seeing them in the night’s crowd were a genuine perk. I had this one woman who I would deliver to every Friday. She had two young children. I never saw a husband. Week after week they got the same order: vegetarian pizzas. So many times I thought to myself, hey, she’s treating the kids, but she’s obviously conscientious enough to order something moderately healthy. They knew me by name. I came to know them. “Aaron’s here!” I’d hear from behind the door… Well, one day, the deliveries stopped coming. That woman killed her two children with a shotgun and then turned the gun on herself.

This incident shook me to my core. They were eventually buried in the same plot, which coincidentally was right next to where my grandfather was buried. What made this seemingly sane, polite, and generous woman do something so heinous? It was like she sucked all the answers out of my universe, leaving behind only questions. And those questions lead to a short screenplay called Placebo.

I shot that screenplay for my major work at University and it was extremely well received. It won top prizes at a number of festivals, sent me to the AFI awards, landed me future filmmaking gigs, and got me a full time job as a video editor/cameraman. My lecturer still teaches the short in her Video Production class; that humbles me greatly. The screenplay for Placebo is going to be released in Crystal Lake Publishing’s upcoming Horror 202: The Silver Screen later this year, which I’m excited about.

But my obsession with what happens behind closed doors, about the inexplicable violence people do to innocent people lingered on. I couldn’t shake it. These questions had me like a fever. I may have initially thought I was done with these themes, but as it turned out, they were not done with me. This coincided with another peculiar event.

I was traveling with a friend of mine from my home town in rural New South Wales, Australia to Sydney. We were actually going to a Neil Gaiman signing. Man, what a great day — to a point. My friend and I caught a Greyhound bus there and back, and it was on the return journey that something weird happened to me. There was this man (who, I kid you not, was a dead ringer for Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons) was sitting half way further down the bus from where we were in the back seat. For one reason or another (probably because I thought it was cool to do so) I was wearing a tie. Sideshow Bob kept on looking over his shoulder and glancing at us. No, scratch that. Me. This went on for about an hour, those glares of his growing more and more agitated. He eventually stood up, ran down the aisle, and snatched me out of my seat by my tie. “You think your so fucking cool with your fucking tie, you faggot!” he screamed. At which point he went on to accuse me of throwing ice cubes at the back of his head the entire trip. “Don’t deny it! You and your stupid tie!” I was frozen. My senses screamed at me to defend myself but I was just too shocked to do anything. Thankfully my friend came to the rescue and rescued Sideshow Bob off me, calling out for the driver to pull over immediately, which he did. The driver threatened to kick the man off right there and then in the middle of nowhere. But he didn’t. Sideshow Bob had to sit in the front seat within eyesight of the driver, like a scolded school boy. I hardly muttered a word the rest of the trip, my tie knotted tight under the collar of my shirt.

These two events, the man on the bus and the woman who killed her children, collided in my mind and became House of Sighs, which in and of itself was an extension of Placebo.

I didn’t write the book straight away. My husband-to-be and I went backpacking for three years (with one year of work in Canada). We were somewhere in the States when desperate for some R’n’R (not to mention some respite from the heat) we ventured into a Borders Bookstore. I grabbed a bunch of magazines off the shelf to browse through, including Rue Morgue Magazine. There I saw an advertisement for the Fresh Blood writing contest, which was being run by Rue Morgue/ChiZine Publications/and Leisure Books. The competition was for first time novelists to submit a completed manuscript, with ten contestants selected by (then) Leisure editor / industry heavyweight Don D’Auri whom would then go through elimination rounds based on public voting. Crikey, I thought. Sounds merciless. That was, of course, assuming I could make the deadline: in three months. I was determined. Using borrowed laptops, hostel and library computers all through the States, Europe, and South-East Asia I wrote the damn thing. I submitted it on the cut off date. It was literally down to the wire.

Despite the gods, I made it into the top ten. The winner would receive a limited edition hardcover release through ChiZine and a mass market paperback release through Dorchester. Did I stand a chance? I pushed on. Month after month. It was gruelling. But it toughened me up. I learned a hell of a lot. I rewrote all the way through. It was insane. And worth it. I won! But — here’s the catch. The moment I won, Dorchester went bust and my editor and confidant Don was let go from Leisure. The hardcover came out, but the paperback was in development hell.

A year passed. We kept on backpacking. But it was a year spent revising the manuscript as well as writing my second novel. The Fallen Boys. Don, it turns out, became the editor at Samhain Horror where he was hoping to build up a new line. I sent him The Fallen Boys. He recognised my name straight away and read the book in a day. He emailed me and said, “Aaron, this is great, but before I go any further, I just want to know … what ever happened with House of Sighs? Did it ever find a wide paperback release.” I told him no. He asked to read the revised manuscript. 24 hours later he got back to me. “Aaron, it’s better than I even remembered. I’m officially accepting both novels. Expect two contracts to come through within the next day.” Don lived up to his word, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I know you shoot all your book trailers yourself. What are the particular joys you find in filmmaking?

A: Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a film director. In the third grade I attempted to remake Jurassic Park with all of my classmates, some of whom would be dressed up in lizard-esque costumes made by my grandmother. I had toys. I had props. I had it all set to go. But then my cast, the clever little things, told me they wanted to get paid. Sadly, my lunch money could only stretch so far. But I had the storytelling bug. My parents got the family a video camera for Christmas. My brothers and I made home made films week after week. I literally thought myself the language of film at a young age by doing it, that and watching every film I could get my grubby little hands on. I always had a love for horror. I remember a parent of a friend of mine saying, “oh, he’ll grow out of it.” I knew I wouldn’t. My storytelling urges only became stronger, and were further sparked by, of all things, censorship. The dreaded R (restricted) rating on the boxes of all those movies I was dying to watch at my local video store. The covers were so enticing … Dawn of the Dead. Martin. The Omen. The Exorcist. A Nightmare on Elm Street. What were the stories behind the pictures? My imagination ran wild. I think that’s where I strengthened that horror storytelling muscle in my brain.

I studied film at University, worked in the television industry for a while, and all the while wrote screenplays. I continued making short films, racked up some more awards both in Australia and abroad. But travel stepped in, and I found my one true passion: exploring planet Earth. Film took the back seat for a while, and writing novels replaced it. This way I could be director, actor, producer, casting agent, and writer — and it didn’t cost a thing! I still love film though, and I will direct a feature one day, I guarantee it. Making my own book trailers is just a little something I do to keep my toes in the water. I love it. They’ve been well received and have even played in film festivals. I think they’re a cool marketing tool. And they were all made with virtually no money. A bit of creativity can go a long, long way. Shoot within your budget, not over it; use your imagination; tell a story succinctly. That’s the key to decent book trailers. I don’t think many people get that, though. Most are godawful. I’m proud of mine. House of Sighs was shot in my hometown (which was where the book was set, albeit thinly-veiled). The Fallen Boys was shot in both my living room and on a short trip I took to Seattle — I ducked out to North Bend, Washington State, where Twin Peaks was shot, and snuck some footage there. A Place For Sinners was shot on a holiday to Thailand and supplementary insert shots were grabbed at the Thai cultural food festival in my local city.

So far you’ve published three novels and one novella with Samhain. What has been the best part of your experience working with them?

A: Without a doubt the best part is working with Don D’Auria. He’s got an innate instinct for what’s hot and what’s not. He builds authors as well as promotes established gurus. It also helps that he’s a great guy, whom I finally managed to meet at World Horror Con in Atlanta this year. The man is elusive though — like the gopher from Caddyshack. He’s there and then BANG gone, popping up in another room. I almost had to tackle him to the ground. We caught up, and discussing the industry, plans, and pitches face-to-face was every bit as delightful as our email exchanges had been for the past five years. In addition to Don’s support, I love that royalties come on time, and that they encourage authors to be heavily involved in the creation of cover art.

You’ve had a few short stories appear in anthologies. Do you work in the short form much, and what is the likelihood of us ever seeing a Dries collection?

A: Hmmm. A collection is something I’d certainly be up for once I build up my catalogue. I’ve got a new short story, Love Amongst the Red Back Spiders coming out later this year in Tales from the Lake Volume 2. I’m stoked for that. I read the story at WHC to a live audience and the feedback was great. I’m working on more short stories at the moment too, so hopefully they find a home. I’ve had short-form work published over the years, some of which holds up well. I’d certainly love to release a collection someday. And of course, there are novellas in the works too, for those who want a little more meat on their bones.

What is your favorite type of scene to write? Dialogue, action, description, etc.?

A: That’s a hard one! My favourite part of the entire process is when two random ideas that have been floating around in my head like near-abandoned space ships suddenly veer close to one another, flirt with each other’s gravitational pull, and then suddenly dock! I love it when things click like that. I rarely think one idea on its own is enough to make me commit to writing.

But in terms of what kind of scenes I like to write … well, I do love the mechanics of description. I love looking for the beat and syntax, the natural rhythm of the sentence, the paragraph, the page. I like introducing some kind of emotional element in the initial stages that triggers a reader’s gratification in the final moments (this can be in the narrative itself, or just within the confines of a chapter — though often I attempt for both). Dialogue can be really fun though, especially when the characters just go off on their own and take care of things for you.

You’re also a talented artist. Have you ever done illustrations or covers for another author? If not, would you?

A: That’s very kind of you to say, Mark. I’ve drawn since I was a kid. I did art for hire work at University, plus paid storyboards here and there, but not really illustrations or covers. I certainly would though. And all going to plan, interior illustrations may be appearing in a couple of upcoming anthologies. Fingers crossed!

Of your published works, which was your favorite to write? Maybe not even the one you consider the best, but the experience that was the most satisfying.

A: That one’s easy. The Fallen Boys. By the time I’d come around to writing it I’d learned so damn much by going through the gruelling Fresh Blood contest. Month by month those peer and public eliminations etched into my brains the tools of my future trade, most learned through mistakes. The Fallen Boys just flowed out of me. On top of that, the novel featured subject matter that really angered me (internet bullying, the violation of children, people using religion as an excuse to get away with criminal acts), and that anger is evident on every page.

I hear you like to scare your husband sometimes, all in good fun. Can you share some of your best scares?

A: Crikey. That’s a loaded question. I’ve done it all. I’ve leapt out from behind doors, from under beds, over couches, through windows. I don’t know why I do it. I know he’ll only get the shits with me. But we both end up laughing about it afterwards. I think it’s really healthy — an opinion I know he does not share! Hahaha. He hates it. Also, he’s not a horror fan, but he does read the first draft of every novel. That actually works out great for me. Because he doesn’t fall for genre trappings, I’m forced to entertain him on a character-based level first, which only strengthens the book as a whole. But when the literary shit hits the fan, he will often write on the manuscript things like, “are you sure this is necessary”, or “you’ve gone too far.” Those suggestions I always leave untouched. I was actually lucky enough to in the same room as him when he was editing A Place for Sinners. He came to a particular scene I knew he was coming close to. The sequence in question completely changes everything that came before it, which was all a very long, dread-infused set up. I mean, it goes suddenly bonkers! I was on the bed with a book in hand, but was secretly peering at him reading on. And then BAM. He twirls around on his swivel chair and yells at me, “you did not just do that, you sick fuck.” That’s love, folks.

That’s love.

What is your favorite movie and book from childhood?

A: Film-wise from childhood is easy. The Wizard of Oz. I know every damn word. There are also a number of Oz references in all of my novels. When it comes to books … I really loved anything by R.L. Stine. I wasn’t a big reader in my early primary years, believe it or not. Goosebumps and Fear Street changed that. I’m an extraordinarily proud Second Generation Stiner, a sentiment I’ve told the man himself.

One thing that strikes me about your work is how unpredictable it is, how I can never quite guess where the story is going because you always throw some serious curveballs. Is that something you plan out meticulously, or does that just happen organically as you plot a story?

A: I think most people would say to you that it can either only be meticulous or entirely organic. For me, honestly, it’s both. My initial plotting is organic. I never really know how a book will end. I do sense the direction I want to go in, and that’s often an unexpected direction. But you can’t just cheat a reader into misdirection. It shows. A good curve ball must feel organic, though I’ll tell you, pulling it off is phenomenally meticulous. Anything less just does not do. For me, anyway. If there’s one thing I’m proud of with my novels, it’s that people think they’re unpredictable, that they say it’s impossible to tell what direction they’ll go in or how it will end. I’m very rarely caught off guard. So I’m writing these plot mechanics to satisfy the urge I have myself as a reader, I guess. It’s often about character though, about the suspension of disbelief, about timing. I love juggling all of those balls (and more) in the air at the same time. I think my organic/meticulous balance is best evidenced by The Fallen Boys. I defy readers to guess how that one will wrap up. And whilst I worked so damn hard at the jigsaw puzzle narrative of that one, not even I truly knew the resolution until I put my fingers to the keyboard.

You spent a lot of time in America recently, and I hear you visited the locations of some classic horror films. Can you tell us a little about that?

A: Dear world. You don’t have to listen to the travel guides if you don’t want to. You don’t have to listen to your boring aunt telling you where to go. Make your journey your own. Tailor it to your interests. Yes, I love to see some of the big sights, but I love seeing random things that only I would enjoy even more. So on my last trip to the States I went to some filming locations from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Phantasm. The trip before that I scoured Texas for locations from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I also dragged my poor husband through the most random places in Maine on a DIY Stephen King tour, which included visiting the approximate locations of towns that didn’t technically exist. I had a ball — though Maine does have mosquitos that would give the Australian variety a fair run for their money!

What can you tell us about current works in progress?

A: I’ve got a number of projects in the works, and of course, I’ve got more stored in the bank. I’ll be writing full time for a while, which will give me the opportunity to get a lot of these images and characters down on paper. I’m about a third of the way through a new novel, Lady Guillotine — the first in a projected trilogy. I’ve got two novellas in development, and a new idea that I’m aching to make happen. Expect more short stories here and there, too. Down the track I’d like to adapt a story of mine called Daddy into a short film. And finally, more as an experiment than anything else (although who knows?), I’m going to be adapting at least one of my novels into a feature screenplay sometime late this year. Busy times, indeed.

Where do you hope your career to be in ten years?

A: Crikey. I’ve got no idea! I just want to be healthy and happy. That’s all I ever want, really. Career-wise, I’d like to be more prolific, I guess. I’d love to get another few limited edition hardcovers out there, too. And yes … within ten years … yes. I want to tackle film full on.

Anything I haven’t covered you’re just dying to let people know?

A: Um. I think that’s about it. I’m so very honoured to be here, really. I’m a big fan of your work, Mark.

Thank you so much, Aaron, for taking the time to drop by my little blog and answer my questions. You’re a hell of a talented guy, and I predict big things for you in the future.

You can find Aaron's work on his Amazon page http://www.amazon.com/Aaron-Dries/e/B008GXNU64/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1435745524&sr=8-1 and visit his website at http://www.aarondries.com/.

Jun. 15th, 2015

Some Love for 4 the Love

There's been a lot of buzz going around the horror community about how horrible for the love and token markets are, how it hurts the publishing business, how they will publish anything and don't care about quality, and how the writers who publish in them are either talentless or have no respect for themselves or the worth of their work.

Well, I'm here to give a counter-argument, based upon my own experience.

When I was first starting out in publishing, I published a lot in the for the love and token markets, contributor copies or 5 to 10 dollars a pop. I was quite happy to be publishing in those markets, and I learned a lot. And because of that, I take exception to the point of being offended to the public shaming authors are giving newcomers who are publishing in these markets. I think there are a lot of fallacies being spread.

For starters, the idea that the people who run for the love or token markets don't care about quality and will just publish anything, thus polluting the market with substandard fiction. My personal experience did not find that to be the case at all. Are there bad for the love and token markets? Sure, just as there are pro markets that aren't that great or writer-friendly. You do you research and find the good ones.

Who did I meet in those markets? I met people who were passionate about horror and fantasy fiction, who wanted to put great stories out there, and who were willing to put in the work to help upcoming writers develop their talent and voices. They weren't just accepting anything and publishing as is. They were selective and worked with authors they accepted to make the stories the best they could be.

I received invaluable experience working one-on-one with editors that I could not have gotten at that point from the larger markets. It exposed me to extensive notes, line edits, and I learned how to communicate with editors, how to revise and strengthen my work. These are skills that I put to good use to break into larger markets down the road.

There's also the assumption that those who publish in these markets don't value their work because they aren't getting "paid" for it. Well, that all depends on how you define "payment." I think there are many ways to get paid for a story beyond just cash in my hand. When I was working with those markets, I was paid in experience, I was paid in the one-on-one time with editors, I was paid in the education I got that helped me with the larger markets. I would never have published the books I have without that start, without the knowledge I gleaned from the for the love and token markets.

That doesn't mean I think everyone should go that route. I'm not so arrogant as to think everyone needs to follow the path I did. But arrogance is what I'm seeing in some of the posts about these markets, and the shaming of writers who do follow that route. It's like what they call "slut shaming"...call it "exposure shaming." If you as a writer don't like those markets, don't publish in them. Even give your reasons why you don't like them. But what I'm seeing is writers telling others if they do publish in them that they are stupid and doing something horrible and ruining all that is good and holy! That bothers me.

Because I know from my own experience that those markets and the people who run them can help a writer who is so inclined to grow and develop and become a stronger writer. That's a payment worth more than 10 cents per word, if you ask me.

Jun. 7th, 2015

True Gentlemen

I still feel like a fanboy in the horror community. I've published several books with a variety of wonderful small-press publishers, and recently I fulfilled a dream by getting to attend and even speak on a panel at the World Horror Convention. But I still have trouble thinking of myself as really a part of the community, but that's just because the fan in me is so loud. It certainly isn't because I haven't been welcomed.

I wanted to use this blog to thank some of the writers out there who reached out to me when I was just starting out, a fledgling in the world of publishing, and really made me feel like "one of the gang," like I belonged.

The first writer I really remember reaching out to me was Brian Knight. I had just published my first book, A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, which was released as part of a set of chapbooks with works by three other writers, Knight among them. I had just read his novel BROKEN ANGEL and absolutely loved it, so it was quite a thrill when he extended a hand of friendship and offered me some advice. I won't go into the details, but I had emailed him about an issue and he actually gave me his number and allowed me to call him, talking to me at length and giving me the benefit of his experience and kindness. It meant a lot to someone just starting out.

Another writer who has been very good to me is James Newman. I was a fan before I was a friend, discovering his excellent coming of age novel MIDNIGHT RAIN. We started an online friendship, despite living only a few hours from one another. When I had a few books under my belt, I had my first "author event", the library in my hometown hosting local authors to come and talk about their books. I mentioned it to James, and he drove all the way down to attend because he knew those kinds of events didn't draw much of a crowd and he wanted me to have a friendly face there. And no one showed up for that event, but James was there offering encouragement and even bought a book of mine. I'll never forget that.

Gene O'Neill is another writer who very early on offered me advice and support, and treated me like I was just another writer. O'Neill has such an impressive resume and has been in the business for a while, he wrote the masterpiece THE BURDEN OF INDIGO for Christ's sake, so having someone like that actually taking the time to offer guidance...well, it was invaluable and so generous.

And I couldn't have a post like this without mentioning John R. Little. I had never met or read the man when he started saying lovely things about my first collection TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT. I was so touched by his kindness, and then I read some of his works--LITTLE THINGS, MIRANDA, SARAH's STORY--and realized he was not only kind but one hell of a massive talent. And the fact that he liked my work and treated me like an equal, it really did a lot to help boost my confidence.

There have been others along the way that have shown me generosity and kindness, but these four are the first to reach out to me when I was just starting out, the first to make me feel like I really was a part of the community. Now I've met some who have not been so kind, but there's no reason to dwell on those when there are fellas like this around.

True gentlemen!

May. 24th, 2015

World Horror Convention

It's been a few weeks since my experience at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, time for everything to settle and for me to really reflect on the experience, so I figure I should write about it now.

The first thing you should understand is that I have dreamed about going to a World Horror Convention for a couple of decades at least. And since joining Facebook a handful of years ago, that desire has grown. Every year when the convention rolls around, I see all the posts from those attending, the pictures, I watch the streaming of the Stoker awards...and I'm happy for all my friends having a great time there, and also so envious that it almost makes me ashamed.

And then I found out that for 2015 the Convention was going to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. Only a few short hours from me. I knew this was my shot, perhaps my one shot, and I was determined not to let it slip away. I knew I couldn't do the full con, work and finances wouldn't allow, but even one day would make me happy. So the question became, would I be able to buy a one-day pass? The answer was yes, and my dream was on the way to coming true.

I must admit something silly, but as the date got closer, I kept worrying that something would happen. I would get sick, I'd end up having to fill in for someone at work, all those worst-case-scenario type things. But none of those happened.

This time when friends started posting pictures and updates that Thursday about being there, I got a thrill because I knew I would soon be there myself. And not just as a fan.

To be clear, when I set about arranging this one day at the con, I only expected to be there as a fan, to sit in the audience at panels and interviews and readings, get autographs, just basically geek out. When I was asked if I wanted to participate in any panels, I was flabbergasted. I mean, yes, I've been publishing in the small press for a few years and am proud of what I've accomplished, but I never think of myself as sitting at the table with the Big Boys (and Gals).

I was nervous and excited, but the panel I was on--regarding zombie fiction--was truly one of the highlights. I got to sit at the table with Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, John Palisano, and Dana Fredsti, with Rachel Aukes moderating. Everyone was so kind to me, made me feel like I really belonged, and I think our panel was fun and lively and entertaining. For a moment, I felt like a REAL AUTHOR!

But everything about the day was wonderful. I attended several other great and informative panels, sat through a fascinating interview with legend William Nolan, got to see Aaron Dries deliver one of the most engaging readings I've ever seen.

And I got to meet SO MANY COOL PEOPLE! I got autographs from people I've long admired--John Skipp, Jeff Strand, Jack Ketchum, Jonathan Maberry, just to name a few. I got to see old friends like James Newman and Donn Gash, got to meet cool folks that before then I'd only had the pleasure of interacting with online, like John Boden and Kelly Laymon. And I got to connect with Aaron Dries, a hell of a talented writer whose work I think is outstanding.

Best of all, my Craig was right next to me, enriching the experience and helping make it a day I'll never forget.

It truly was a dream come true, and it lived up to all my expectations. I only wish I could have stayed longer and connected with more people, but even if I never get to attend another one, I know that I'll take the memories of my time at the 2015 WHC with me all through the rest of my life.

Apr. 27th, 2015

My Home Away from Home

For some reason lately I've been thinking about libraries. Particularly the library in my hometown, where I spent a great deal of time growing up. This was back in the day before the internet, before people used the library as a source of free web surfing, back when the card catalog was still a primarily feature.

I grew up in a family with little money, and this combined with the fact that my hometown had no bookstores meant that I had to get my book fix from the public library. I can remember going down there and just wandering the aisles, getting drunk almost on all the possibilities, all the fictional worlds waiting to be explored.

Many of the early Stephen King books I read I got from the library, and that's where I discovered Thomas Harris. Also, anytime I enjoyed a movie and discovered it was based on a book, I immediately went to the library to check out the source material.

I could never count the number of books I checked out over the years, but to say it was in the triple digits I don't think would be out of the realm of possibility. As I've gotten older, my book obsession leads me to buy the books I am interested in, but I will always harbor a deep love of libraries and the service they provide.

I like to think there are still kids out there like me, hungering for books but without the funds to buy, who go to the library and have new worlds opened up to them. I sometimes think we take libraries for granted and don't support them nearly enough.

They are magical places, and I always feel at home in them.

Apr. 4th, 2015

Nothing New Under the Sun

You've all heard the expression, "There's nothing new under the sun." As a writer, I've heard it and said it many times. Meaning that there are few ideas out there that haven't already been explored. You can be bold and original in how you approach that idea, that is true, but it's not uncommon to write a story and then find others that have a similar premise.

I've had a couple of memorable instances of this. Many years ago I wrote a short story called "Jumping" about a young man who can teleport. I had been submitting around for a while when a movie called Jumper was released...about a young man who can teleport. The way this premise was handled in the movie was vastly different from my story, but the surface similarities (not to mention similarities of title) were enough that I immediately stopped submitting it.

Also a few years ago I wrote a novel entitled The Exchange Student. The story involved time travel as well as a plot to stop the Kennedy assassination. I sent it to a few publishers who rejected it, then set it aside for a while. And then King's 11/22/63 came out, a novel that involves time travel as well as a plot to stop the Kennedy assassination. I thought all dreams of publishing my novel were over. The stories are actually nothing alike, mine was primarily a gay love story, but I felt any publisher who looked at it would immediately think of the King novel. Eventually I did find a home for it though, and I'm very grateful.

And I just had another experience, this time again with King. Probably five or so years ago I had an idea for a story about a college student who writes obituaries for the local paper as a part-time job, and he discovers that if he writes an obit for a living person, that person will die. I even wrote about five pages of it, calling it "The Obit Writer." I put it aside for other projects and never got back to it, but I always liked the idea and planned to finish it someday. And then I was reading up on King's upcoming collection and some of the stories included, one of which is called "Obits" and is about a columnist that kills people by writing obits for them.

I know now I will never finish "The Obit Writer." I'm sure I would handle it very differently than King, but the premise is specific enough that the similarities are insurmountable. It's disappointing, but it also just sort of goes with the territory. But in order to give life to some of these unusable and aborted projects, I'm posting here the short "Jumping" as well as what I had written on "The Obit Writer."


Age ten
Jon Humphries first manifested his unique ability at the age of ten, although he had no idea what was happening at the time.

He had asked his mother if he could ride his bike down to the park to meet his friend, Samantha, from down the block. “Have you cleaned your room like I told you to?” his mother asked.

“Not yet, but I’ll clean it when I get back.”

“I’ve heard that one before.”

“Please, Mom. I promise I’ll clean my room later.”

“I’m sorry, Jon, but the answer is no. I’ve been telling you to clean up that pigsty for a week now. You’re not leaving this house until your room is in order.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“Up to your room, young man. March.”

His lip stuck out in an exaggerated pout, Jon whirled around and bounded up the stairs, making as much noise as possible. His mother turned back to the table she was dusting, and behind her she heard Jon say, “I shouldn’t even have asked. I wish I’d just gone to the park.”

His mother turned to scold him, but Jon was gone.

At first she thought he was playing a game, hiding from her to teach her a lesson, but when she still hadn’t found him forty-five minutes later, she began to worry. She called her husband at his office, frantic, and he left early to look for his son. He drove around the neighborhood, finally locating Jon at the park, climbing the monkey bars with Samantha.

His father gave him a spanking, and his mother yelled at him while crying. Jon maintained that he didn’t know what happened. One second he was walking up the stairs to his room, the next he was standing in the park by the slide with no idea how he’d gotten there.

That story earned him another spanking.

Age seventeen
The next time Jon used his power, he was seventeen. The incident when he was ten had faded from his memory completely.

He and Samantha, still his best friend all these years later, had paid the janitor at their school to make them a couple of fake licenses, identifying them as twenty-one. They went to a local gay club and used the licenses to try to get in. The bouncer at the door wasn’t fooled and turned them away, confiscating the IDs.

“Damn it, I thought that was going to work,” Samantha said, her hair teased and her eyes caked with frosted blue eye shadow.

“Fifty bucks down the drain,” Jon said. He was wearing a pair of leather pants and one of Samantha’s sheer blouses.

“Wanna go back to my place and get wasted?” Samantha asked. “My old man’s probably passed out on the couch by now. We can finish off his booze, and in the morning he’ll think he drank it all himself.”

“I guess, there’s nothing better to do.”

“Come on,” Samantha said, turning her back on Jon and heading down the street.

“I really wanted to go to the club, though,” Jon said from behind her. “I wish I could get in there.”

Samantha turned back to her friend, but Jon was gone.

The next day, when she called him up to yell at him for ditching her, he told her a wild tale. He claimed he had gotten in the club after all, although he had no idea how. One second he was walking down the street behind her, the next he was standing in a bathroom stall inside the club.

Samantha hung up on him and didn’t speak to him for two weeks.

Age twenty
By the time Jon turned twenty, he had spent three years experimenting with his power—which he had come to call “jumping”—testing its scope, its limitations. Just by stating the destination aloud, he could instantaneously transport himself anywhere he desired. He always ended up in some secluded spot, somewhere his sudden appearance would go undetected. Jon had a lot of fun in those three years, jumping to locations all around the world, exotic vacations that required no bankroll. He kept his ability to himself, not even discussing it with Samantha. He feared being thought crazy, but also the notion that, if believed, he could end up in some government facility, being tested and prodded like a lab rat.

He had recently begun dating a young man named Bill, whom he’d met in his college Intro to Psych class. One night they went to see a movie they’d both been dying to see, but when they got to the theater, they discovered the film was sold-out.

“Too bad,” Bill said as they walked back to the car. “I’ve heard some really great things about the film. I was looking forward to seeing it.”

“Yeah, me too. Maybe we can get tickets tomorrow.”

“Maybe. I really had my heart set on seeing it.”

Jon stopped a few feet from the car, a strange smile curling his lips. “I’ve got an idea,” he said.


“Give me your hand.”


“Just do it.”

“Okay,” Bill said, laughing. “I didn’t know you were so big on public displays of affection.”

Once Bill had clasped his hand, Jon said, “I wish we were in the theater.”

“Yeah, well, if wishes were horses and all that,” Bill said. “But we’re just out of luck, I guess.”

Jon looked around the parking lot, the cars, the lamps, the people walking by. “Hmm,” he said, “I guess I can’t take anyone with me.”

“What are you talking about?” Bill said with a frown.

“Nothing,” Jon said, shrugging. “Let’s go grab a bite to eat.”

Age twenty-nine
By the age of twenty-nine, Jon’s ability to jump had become such a part of him that he rarely thought of it as special anymore. He used it for mundane things, like if he was running late for work or locked himself out of the house. Once he’d used his power to take a tour of the White House after hours, but he’d nearly been caught and hadn’t risked anything like that since.

On Christmas Eve, he and Bill—whom he’d been living with for the past six years—were driving to Bill’s parents for dinner. Bill was behind the wheel.

“I dread this,” Jon said irritably. “I hope you know that.”

“Of course I know that,” Bill said slowly, spitting the words out like chunks of glass. “You tell me every five minutes, so it would be hard for me to miss.”

“We could have accepted Samantha’s invitation to dinner, you know.”

“Jon, we haven’t been to see my parents since March.”

“I don’t even know why I’m going. Your mother hates me, she doesn’t even make an effort to hide it.”

“I think you give as good as you get. Need I remind you, last time you called her a shriveled-up old crone.”

“Hey, I was merely standing up for myself. God knows you don’t stand up for me.”

“She’s my mother, Jon. What do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing, I don’t expect anything from you.” And then, without thinking about the consequences, Jon said, “I wish I’d just stayed at home.”

After the funeral, Jon and Samantha stayed at the graveside long after everyone else had gone. Jon stood by the casket, crying silently.

“It’s all my fault,” Jon said, swallowing a sob. “I did this, I killed him.”

“Jon, don’t say that,” Samantha said, placing a hand on her friend’s arm. “You can’t blame yourself. It was an accident; you weren’t even in the car at the time.”

“I didn’t mean to do it,” Jon said softly, as if talking to himself. “It must have startled the hell out of him when I jumped, I bet that’s why he lost control of the car.”

“Jon, you’re not making any sense. Come on, let’s go.”

“Oh God, I’m sorry,” Jon moaned, leaning over and pressing his cheek against the coffin lid. “I’m sorry, Bill, please forgive me.”

Samantha turned away, giving her friend privacy for his grief. Behind her, she heard him murmur, “I wish I was where you are.”

And when she turned around, Jon was gone.


Kenny took the job because he thought it would be easy money. He’d been fired from his job bagging groceries at the supermarket when he’d gotten mad at his boss and called him a limp-dick fuck, and since then things had been tight. His folks sent him a monthly allowance, but that was hardly enough to keep him in booze. He’d been checking the want ads daily, but it was hard to find a part-time job that fit into his schedule with school and would still leave him time to party with his friends.

But this job was perfect. The local paper was looking for someone to write obituaries. He could work from his dorm room, no boss breathing down his neck, and the money wasn’t too bad. No experience was required, and the ad concluded with, “A great opportunity for students.” So Kenny had sent in an application, as well as an issue of the school’s literary magazine that featured some essays he’d written for English Comp. Two days later he got the call; he was hired.

“Sounds kind of morbid to me,” Kenny’s roommate, Evan, said one night while they were getting stoned.

“What’s so morbid about it? I mean, it’s not like I’m performing autopsies or something. I’m just writing up obits.”

“What do you say about the people? I mean, you don’t even know them.”

“The paper will send me some information given by the families of the deceased, and I’ll just write it all up with some snappy prose and a few standard phrases like, ‘Gone home to be with Jesus,’ and they’ll send me a check.”

Evan took a long toke on the fat joint they were sharing and said, “Man, what if one of ‘em doesn’t like what you say and comes back to haunt your ass.”

Kenny laughed so hard the joint slipped for his fingers, and he fumbled for it before it burned the carpet. “Dude, you’ve been watching too much Tales from the Crypt.”

“I’m just saying, it’s a lot of responsibility. You’re basically making the final statement for these people, summing up their lives in a few short lines, a memorial to who they were, setting the tone for how they’ll be remembered.”

“Jesus, Evan, how many joints did you smoke before I came in?”

“None. But I did have a couple of my special brownies.”

The two stared at one another for a moment then broke into high-pitched giggles. They finished the joint and then watched the musical version of Reefer Madness on cable.

* * *

Kenny’s first obit turned out to be harder than he was expecting. He had all the information he needed: date of birth, date of death, names of spouse and children, job, hobbies, even favorite song, but Kenny found it hard to put it all together in a way that was coherent and respectful. He’d figured he could bang the thing out in ten minutes or less, but it ended up taking him the better part of three hours to get the thing written. And that was after he’d looked up some obituaries online and used them as models.

When he was done, he emailed the finished obit to his contact at the paper and turned his attention to his World Civ book. His midterm was first thing in the morning, and he hadn’t done much studying at all. Okay, he hadn’t done any studying. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was approaching midnight. Evan was sleeping across the room, mouth wide open as snores burst from him like machine gun fire.

Kenny sat at his tiny desk in the corner, his book open in the circle of light thrown by the lamp, and tried to concentrate on the Fall of the Roman Empire. The names and dates were just a jumble of confusion to him, and he found it almost impossible to keep his eyes open. At quarter past one, he finally gave up and threw himself into bed fully clothed.

* * *


It was Kenny’s Junior year of college, and this was the worst grade he’d ever made. He’d made some bad grades, sure, but a 26. That was just pathetic. The red F mocked him from the front page of the test. F, for “Fucking Imbecile.”

After the class was dismissed for the day, Kenny stayed behind and approached Professor Wyndam. The old man’s glasses were perched on the tip of his nose, and he glanced up at Kenny as if the student were something unpleasant he’d stepped in.

“Uh, Mr. Wyndam,” Kenny started.

“That’s Dr. Wyndam, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh yeah, sorry. Well, Dr. Wyndam, the thing is…I was just wondering, is there any way I can maybe do some extra credit to bring my grade up?”

The left corner of Wyndam’s mouth rose in a smirk. “What do you think this is, Junior High? This is university, you either do the work or you don’t. You obviously haven’t been doing the work, and your grade reflects that.”

“Yeah, but—“

“Enough,” Wyndam said, rising and heading for the door. “I told you at the beginning of the semester that I don’t do extra credit. I don’t grade on a curve. You make the grade you earn, end of discussion.”

“But if I flunk this class, I’ll lose my scholarship.”

Wyndam stopped and turned back. “And how is that my problem?”

Kenny floundered for a moment, not sure what to say. “If I lose my scholarship I won’t be able to finish school,” he said, his voice a pleading whine that drilled into his own brain.

“Then I guess you should have worked harder,” Wyndam said then walked out of the classroom, leaving Kenny alone with his F.

* * *

When Kenny sat down in front of his computer that evening, he was still fuming. Evan had gone out with Kyra, the chick he was dating, and Kenny had the dorm room to himself for a few hours. Which usually meant he’d be breaking out the magazines and Vaseline and giving himself a little happy, but he wasn’t in the mood tonight. He couldn’t stop thinking of that asshole Wyndam.

Wasn’t it the professor’s job to help his students learn all they could? Okay, yeah, Kenny had flunked the midterm, but shouldn’t Wyndam be encouraging him to improve his score? Shouldn’t the professor be doing everything in his power to make sure Kenny left the class with more knowledge than when he’d arrived? Hell, if Wyndam really cared about his job, he’d have offered to let Kenny retake the exam.

Wyndam stared down at the information he’d been given for his latest obit. One Mrs. Beulah Myers, an eighty-three year old retired schoolteacher who had died from an aneurysm. Kenny tried to get to work, but he just couldn’t concentrate. His mind kept returning to the big fat F, to Wyndam’s smug dismissive attitude, to the possibility of losing his scholarship and having to leave school. Wouldn’t that just thrill Kenny’s father? The old man had always said his son was a good for nothing, and getting kicked out of school would sure prove him right.

If only Wyndam wasn’t such a prick. Kenny wished like hell he had taken World Civ last year when it was offered by Dr. Phelps, who everyone said was a piece of cake. But no, instead he’d taken Abnormal Psych during the time World Civ was offered, and only because he’d known Amanda Vine was taking Abnormal Psych and he’d been trying his damndest to get into her panties. Amanda had resolutely ignored him, he’d barely squeaked by Abnormal Psych with a C, and he’d gotten stuck with Wyndam this semester.

Kenny tried to push all that out of his mind and get back to Beulah’s obituary, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Now maybe if he was writing an obit for that bastard Wyndam…maybe then he could be loquacious and inspiring. Maybe that was the motivation he needed.

With a twisted smile, he deleted the few lines he’d written for Beulah and started anew.

Mar. 29th, 2015

An Ending...and A Beginning

Just this past Friday I wrote "The End" at the bottom of my first draft for THE CULT OF OCASTA, my latest novel. As I neared the end of it, I realized this wasn't just going to be the end of the novel, which effectively closes out the story started in my earlier novel THE QUARRY, but this was also going to be my last Limestone story.

Limestone College is a real place, my alma mater, and over the years I've written numerous stories set there. THE QUARRY, WHISONANT, OCTOBER ROSES, FORT, THE CULT OF OCASTA, as well as numerous short stories like "The Ghost of Winnie Davis Hall" and "Big Dog." I sometimes joke that Limestone is my own personal Castle Rock.

But OCASTA seemed like a good place to end it. I referenced several of these other stories in this novel, in fact I think I referenced ALL of them, and insinuated without coming right out and saying that the reason so many weird happenings take place on campus is directly related to the events of THE QUARRY/THE CULT OF OCASTA. So as I bring that saga to a close, it just seems appropriate to let the college rest in peace.

I still have a few things still to come out that feature the school. FORT, a zombie novella about a group of college kids trapped in a dorm by the undead, and my Halloween collection HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS will contain "Spook House" and "Tricks", both of which take place at the school. Then will come OCASTA, and that chapter will be closed.

But there are new and exciting stories yet to come. My mind is brimming with ideas. And my next novel is already in the works, 432 ABERCORN, about a writer who buys a reputedly haunted house in Savannah,GA, reputedly one of the most haunted houses in the world, not believing a word of the stories. Then strange things start to happen, but is it a real haunting or is something even more sinister going on? I'm excited about this one, it's a chance to explore a lot of the familiar tropes of the haunted house subgenre while hopefully giving it my own unique spin. Plus I adore Savannah. In fact, tomorrow we head off for an annual vacation there, and I plan to walk around taking notes like a doofus.

I also have many new short stories in the offing, and a project with a fellow writer that I think could be something very special.

So fare thee well to Limestone, but hello to all the new worlds I've yet to explore.

Mar. 17th, 2015


I set a lot of my stories in real places, typically the areas around which I live. I know the geography well, and I like exploring familiar settings in my fictional situations.

And another perk of doing this is that I get to pop people I actually know into some of my stories. Not just using certain traits as inspiration for characters, which I've done plenty, but putting the actual people in the stories, names and descriptions and personalities and all.

Typically these aren't main characters. Though I've done that a couple of times. My short story "The Hunt" was actually the product of a contest, the winner of which had an original story built around him. Steven Souza was nice enough to answer a full questionnaire about his life and starred in the short. Another short story, "Table of Contents", saw me actually putting in several real writers I know and actually having them killed off. I got their permission to use them, and the portrayals were exaggerations of their personalities.

But what I love to do is pop people I know into stories in cameo roles. The novel I'm just finishing up now, THE CULT OF OCASTA, is a prime example. A couple I know, Charles and Dawn Wyatt, got to attend a dinner party in the novel, and two local news anchors who have been nice enough to interview me a few times also show up in a scene. For my next novel, I'm already planning cameos for a writer couple I know.

Recently I also wrote a short that takes place at a local theater, and I had great fun inserting the Educational Director from the theater. I always try to treat these real people making cameos in my fictional works as respectfully as possible, and it helps that I tend to choose people I really respect and admire.

I just have a lot of fun doing this sort of thing, and I like to think that those that make these cameos get a kick out it as well.

Feb. 11th, 2015

The Power of Fiction

Recently I saw a post that gave me pause. An author of inspirational nonfiction making a post about how important reading is, but she made a point of saying she didn't mean "fantasy and fiction." Not that she was dissing fiction per se, but she thought that "escapist" reading couldn't really help you grow as a person and determine what kind of person you want to be.

I understand what she's saying...but I don't agree. Fiction and fantasy can be escapist, but that doesn't mean there's not transformative power there at the same time. I do believe that fiction and fantasy can help shape a person's world view, help them establish who they are and who they want to be.

I think back to me as a child. I grew up dirt poor and was a social outcast, and my home life was not the best, so I did need some escape. And I found it at the local public library in a variety of fiction and fantasy books. Books that did in face provide me with escape...but also provided so much more.

These books helped open my eyes and my mind, revealing to me that there was a whole wide diverse world other than just the one that I knew. This gave me both comfort and hope. These books also helped me imagine another life, other ways of living, other ways of thinking. They encouraged me to dream, planting the seeds of future ambition and determination. In short, these books were my salvation.

So fiction and fantasy I think can be quite powerful tools to help people discover deeper truths about the world and themselves. Fiction can change people's lives, change their perspective, and at times even be the catalyst for saving someone from depression and hopelessness.

All while being damn entertaining.

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