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Oct. 15th, 2016


The next title I will discuss in my ongoing series about how each of my books came to be published is my digital collection GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC.

I have said before that short fiction is truly my passion, and my dream has always been to have multiple collections on the market. I decided that I couldn't wait around for publishers to approach me, I needed to take the initiative and and seek out places to submit. So I did a little research to find publishers that were open to the idea of collections with authors that weren't "names."

One such publisher was Bad Moon Books, headed up by Roy Robinson. I was friends with him on Facebook, and I decided to just take a risk and send him a message. I talked of my passion for short fiction, my belief that there was an audience for it, and how I thought together we could create a special collection. He responded very kindly, informing me that he was interested in collections but they had so much in the pipeline that he couldn't fit me into the schedule for possibly two years.

So I had an idea...I had noticed Bad Moon was starting to get into the buisness of digital reprints of previously published work. I have a love of digital books as well as print books, so I suggested we do a collection as a digital original. Bad Moon's first in fact. Roy was open to the idea, told me to put together a manuscript and send it his way.

And so I began pouring through my literally hundreds of stories, selecting pieces that I thought would be fun and entertaining and show a range. I selected a few more reprints than I had with TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT, pieces that had appeared in small ezines and magazines over the years. I made a list, marked some stories off, added others, and ultimately came up with a Table of Contents that consisted of 14 short stories.

Next I had to come up with a title. While looking over the stories I'd selected, I noticed I had quite a few ghost tales, so I figured it should have something to do with that. GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC is what I came up with, my hope that it would be simple yet evocative and descriptive.

I sent the manuscript to Roy and waited with crossed fingers, and I was beyond ecstatic when he accepted the collection for publication. For the cover, I went back to my friend Tom Moran and enlisted his help. He created something with an E.C. Comics feel.

The collection was released in the summer of 2011 and remains available even now. I love all my books, but I have a real soft spot GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC. It was the first time I ever approached a publisher I had no history with and pitched an idea, and I am very proud of the stories within. In some ways, while I still think there is a lot of chilling and scary stuff here, it is a "gentler" collection, showing my admiration for subtlety and ambiguity in horror.

You can purchase GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC here: https://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Attic-Mark-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B0059JHU64/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_37?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476537582&sr=1-37&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Oct. 2nd, 2016

Origin Stories: DARK TREATS

Continuing my series on how each of my books came to be published, next I’ll talk about my short Halloween collection DARK TREATS. Very appropriate considering the time of year.

This book was one I actually pitched to the publisher, Sideshow Press. The reason I brought them the idea was partially because I adore Halloween, and partially an attempt to get something new out on the market. Right after Sideshow published A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, they had talked about getting something else out relatively quickly to ride the wave since that book sold fairly well (for someone at my level, anyway), but for a myriad of reasons, that didn’t seem possible. It looked like I may not get my next book out with them for well over a year.

So I had the idea to do a digital Halloween collection of four stories. Because it would be a digital exclusive, it wouldn’t require as much time or resources to produce, and people could order it leading up to Halloween and have it immediately to read and enjoy. It would keep my name out there, and I’d get to have my very own Halloween book.

I’ve never outgrown the joys of Halloween, and every October I have a tradition of writing Halloween themed stories and reading Halloween themed books. I was very enthusiastic about being a part of that.

Tom over at Sideshow Press seemed enthusiastic too. He created the cover for the collection, and we started brainstorming a title. It didn’t come easily, actually. It took quite a while and several tries before we settled on DARK TREATS.

October 2010 got closer and closer, and I got more and more excited…but then, at the last minute, it was decided to pull the book. I won’t go into the reason, it had to do with business and distribution platforms, but the end result was the book wasn’t going to happen. However, Tom assured me that next year, October 2011, Sideshow would put the book out as a paperback.

Shortly after that I sold and published ASYLUM, then WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT came out in the early part of 2011, and true to his word, in October Tom put out DARK TREATS as a paperback from Sideshow. It came out a little closer to Halloween than I would have liked (I wanted people to have time to order it and get it before the holiday), but I was beyond thrilled to have the book out there. For the paperback, I even added a fifth story so that the final TOC contained “Halloween Returns to Bradbury”, “The Town that Halloween Forgot”, “Treats”, “My Halloween”, and “Family Plot.” The book didn’t exactly burn up the sales chart, seasonal books are maybe a harder sell, but I remain very proud of it.

In 2012, Tom rereleased DARK TREATS through Gallow’s Press in paperback, and the following year a digital edition became available. I have such an abiding love for autumn and especially Halloween, and I tried to imbue these stories with a little bit of that love.

DARK TREATS is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Treats-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00EUIFBM0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1475442473&sr=1-1

Sep. 26th, 2016


Continuing my blog series about how each of my books came to be published, next up is my first full-length short story collection, Tales from the Midnight Shift.

Tom Moran, who owned and ran Sideshow Press, had already published two books with me, A Laymon Kind of Night and Whisonant/Creatures of the Light, in paperback. He knew that my true passion has always been short fiction, and he approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a short story collection as their first trade hardcover.

Needless to say, I wasted no time answering in the affirmative. The way we went about it was I sent Tom about two dozen short stories, and he read through them all and selected the ones he thought were strongest. I pretty much went along with his thinking, except there were two stories he did not choose that I felt strongly should appear. "Out of Print" had appeared in the very limited hardcover edition of A Laymon Kind of Night, and I wanted it to have a chance at a wider readership; Tom agreed to that right away. The other was a tale entitled "The More Things Change", and Tom wasn't so sure about including that one. He felt the message of the piece might be misinterpreted, but I'm not really a message author. I write a story because an idea interests me and I want to entertain. Doesn't mean a message might not emerge, but that is honestly secondary to me. It took a bit of convincing, but finally Tom agreed to add that story into the table of contents.

Next I had to come up with a title...which wasn't that hard. I had been dreaming of having my own short story collection for many years. I wanted to write novels and novellas, yes, but short stories are my first and most abiding love, so a collection was really my ultimate dream. And when I worked as third shift security, midnight to 8 a.m., for several years, writing on my shabby used laptop in the wee hours of the morning while on duty, I would envision finally having my own collection and I thought I would call it Tales from the Midnight Shift. It felt very appropriate. Now was my chance, so I ran the title by Tom and he agreed.

Tom also provided the stunning cover, which is one of my favorites. He used not any particular story for the imagery, but a certain mood and the fact that I was a security guard that had worked on third shift.

The book was released as a trade hardcover, 100 copies, which did eventually sell out. A handful of years later, after Tom had started up Sideshow's sister publishing company Gallows Press, he re-released Tales from the Midnight Shift in paperback and ebook. Those are still available. You can get the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Midnight-Shift-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00DPLTMYQ/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474925927&sr=1-20&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Sep. 18th, 2016


I continue my new blog series in which I discuss the road I traveled to get each of my books published with my two novella collection WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT.

After Sideshow Press published my chapbook A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, they told me they wanted to put out some longer works by me. I decided to send them some novellas I had written. They were instantly taken with CREATURES OF THE LIGHT, and suggested that we could pair two novellas together into one book. My first choice for the second novella was ASYLUM, but for a few reasons detailed in my last blog they were not keen on that one. However, I sent them a strange ghost story set at Limestone College, my alma mater, entitled WHISONANT.

Tom at Sideshow responded very positively to this story, though he said the ending didn't work for him. He asked if I would consider coming up with an entirely new ending. I was open for that because, truth be told, the ending never worked for me either. It felt too cartoonish and tonally too different from what had come before it.

So I set about trying to figure out what the new ending would be, and once I hit on the right idea, I went about crafting the new ending which necessitated some changes throughout and the addition of several flashbacks interspersed throughout the story.

It was actually the first time I made that an extensive of a revision to a piece for publication, and I actually enjoyed the process very much. I definitely ended up with a story that was stronger than the original version. And I was excited to be publishing a story set at Limestone, a place I love so very much. Anyone who follows my work (all 2 of you) knows that Limestone became a frequent setting for my tales.

Tom came up with the great design idea of doing a "flip book." Each novella would have its own cover, and you would hold the book in your hand and have one cover and the novella then flip the book over and turn it upside down and have another cover and the other novella. I loved that idea and was very happy with the two covers.

Michael Moran did the classically gothic cover for WHISONANT.

Tom Moran himself did the vibrant, colorful cover for CREATURES OF THE LIGHT.

I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of the two very different covers, and just loved the flip book design.

The book was released in paperback and limited hardcover editions. Eventually I self-published a digital edition that is still available. I am disappointed that these two novellas haven't garnered as much attention as I would have liked. I'm a writer who lives and breaths for feedback.

The digital edition is still available here: https://www.amazon.com/WHISONANT-CREATURES-LIGHT-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00I0JRXVW/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_32?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474222466&sr=1-32&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q#nav-subnav

Sep. 6th, 2016

Origin Stories: ASYLUM

I continue my series of origin story blogs, detailing how each of my books came to be published, with my second book, Asylum.

After Sideshow Press released A Laymon Kind of Night, they were interested in publishing some of my longer works. They suggested a two-novella collection and had already chosen a novella of mine entitled Creatures of the Light, they just needed another to pair with it.

I had recently finished Asylum, a zombie tale about a group of characters trapped inside a gay nightclub when the dead arise. I was very proud of it, and sent it to them right away.

Sideshow rejected the novella for a couple of reasons. One, it had a post-apocalyptic feel as did Creatures of the Light and they wanted something with a different vibe. Two, they felt the setup for the story was too traditional. Ultimately they went with another story for the novella collection.

But that left me with Asylum which I very much wanted to publish. I started looking for another publisher that would be willing to take a chance on it. The length was a little too short for most publishers. The ones I did submit to rejected it for one reason or another. I was at told by at least one that the primarily gay characters and gay subject matter would not be of interest to the fan base of horror and that I should look at finding a publisher that focused on exclusively gay fiction. Nothing against those publishers but I felt strongly that this was a horror story and I wanted to go with a horror publisher.

I started to think seriously about self-publishing the novella when I randomly found online a call for zombie novellas from Apex Publishing. They were starting an imprint called Zombie Feed that would focus on zombie tales. I wasted no time submitting Asylum to them.

I would say it took less than a month to hear back from Jason Sizemore, letting me know they Apex would be publishing Asylum. I was over the moon, and things moved very quickly from there. Jason sent me his editorial notes, I did a revision and polish, and it was only a matter of months before the book was released with the very cool cover.

I have to say, Apex went above and beyond in the promotions department. They secured a lot of interviews, sent out ample review copies that resulted in a great deal of reviews, most of them positive. They even created a book trailer for it.

I was gratified at the response, especially from heterosexual male readers, proving that a book with gay characters and some gay themes could appeal to the horror audience.

The book has been good to me, I even managed to get on a couple of panels on zombie literature because of it, including one at the World Horror Convention. Tony Karnes was nice enough to create some promotional art for it as well.

So that my friends is the story of how Asylum came to be published. If you want to check it out, you can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Asylum-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B004GEAMOA/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473196713&sr=1-15&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q#nav-subnav

Aug. 25th, 2016

Two Tales from the Lake

I'm beyond ecstatic to have a story in the new Crystal Lake anthology TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3.

One reason is that I love Crystal Lake, and was so pleased to be working with them again. Another reason is that I finally get to share a TOC with my friend Harper Hull, a very talented writer I admire a lot. And a writer that also inspired my story in the anthology. I'm going to talk about my tale, and then turn it over to Harper to talk about his.

Harper Hull is the first person to turn me on to this phenomenon where people believe that the children books THE BERENSTAIN BEARS used be spelled BERENSTEIN, though there is no record anywhere that this was the case. Many have posited that it suggests the existence of parallel worlds and alternate realities. It's rather fascinating, and got me to thinking that I could do something with it.

So I started a tale entitled "The Pigmalion Pigs", very excited about the idea. I had gotten about halfway through it when Crystal Lake posted the guidelines for TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3. The loose theme was urban legends, and while this wasn't a traditional urban legend, I thought it could be interpreted as a modern one. I mentioned this to the editor, Monique Snyman, and she seemed excited.

Then I hit a roadblock in that the story ended up being longer than I anticipated, and it exceeded the word limit for the anthology. I contacted Monique again, and she gave me permission to submit anyway. I wasn't sure how much the length would count against me, but I was just happy to be considered.

And even happier when I got that acceptance letter! The same day Harper emailed to tell me he got in as well with his excellent "The Cruel." I was just so thrilled, and can't for people to read my story, as well as Harper's.

Speaking of Harper, let's here from him:

Firstly, let me thank Mark for letting me ride sidecar on his blog this week. We're good friends and talk about writing all the time so it was a genuine delight to share a TOC with him in TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3. The first but hopefully not the last.

The idea for my story 'The Cruel' came about in the same way as most ideas for stories seem to - a moment of "ooh, that could be interesting" during a completely normal conversation. I was discussing stupid trends and ideas we fell for back in high school with some friends - I grew up in England so these probably won't resonate with you foreign types, fair warning. We used to tuck our school ties inside our shirts to look like Duran Duran in their 'Is There Something I Should Know?' video. Some of us would wear the intricate bottle-tops from Grolsch beer bottles in the tops of our shoes like the pop band Bros. We discussed the best ways to make conkers battle-worthy. (If you don't know what conkers is, basically you have a horse chestnut seed on a piece of string and take it in turns bashing your opponent's conker until one smashes apart. Every time your conker wins it gets a number, so if you have smashed 5 other conkers yours is now a 'fiver.' Simpler times!) It was a split decision between baking them on a low heat and soaking them in vinegar. (As an aside, I was once photographed for the local paper as a wee lad for losing my King of the Conkers title to a good friend of mine named David. It was a complete fabrication; the journo turned up and the teachers picked out two kids to take part in this charade of a story, if I remember correctly David and I were picked because we had done the best in French class that week. And were extremely cute, of course.)

One of the lads in this conversation then said "do you lot remember the sound?" None of us had a clue what he was on about. The only sound that has stuck with me from high school was the nuclear attack sirens at the RAF base down the road going off at regular intervals for test purposes. Back then it was the height of the cold war and the idea of nuclear armageddon was very, very real - TV shows like 'Threads' didn't help which showed in graphic detail what would happen if the city of Sheffield was struck by bombs. Anyway, he explained to us about this sound thing. Apparently some lads started making this awful whining sound at the school he went to over a period of weeks and soon almost every kid in the school was imitating it at inconvenient moments (mid-class, morning assembly, lunch hour.) It got so bad the headmaster had to send a letter home to the parents banning it and threatening expulsion to anyone who kept it up. It stopped after that letter, surprisingly. It resonated with me, that anecdote, and the idea for 'The Cruel' was born.

I actually set the story in my old high school - the village is the exact village the school was located in, the teachers are loosely based on actual teachers I had - I find it far easier to track locations in my mind when it's somewhere I know like the back of my hand, of course. It's probably one of my favourite stories because of that intimacy, and I am ecstatic that it made the cut for this book. Go pick it up! Also, Mark's story 'Pigmalion Pigs' is one of the best I've read by him, it's a fascinating subject and will probably send you tumbling down a very, very deep rabbit hole after you have read it.

You guys can check out TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL. 3 here: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Lake-Vol-3-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B01KBTEKKA/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1472163257&sr=8-3-fkmr0&keywords=tales+from+the+lake+vol.+3#nav-subnav

Aug. 21st, 2016


I've decided to start a series of blogs in which I talk about the origins of my books. Not the ideas behind them, but how they came to be published. Thought it might be interesting for the twos of threes of you that read this (and I'm being optimistic here). ha ha

I'm going to go in order of publication so we'll start with my first published book, the chapbook A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, published by Sideshow Press.

The path to my first published book started a year and a half earlier when I published a short story, "God Doesn't Follow You into the Bathroom", in a magazine called Black Ink Horror. Tom Moran, who published the magazine, also did original artwork to go along with the story.

Shortly after that story appeared in Black Ink, I submitted another story to them entitled "The Snoop." Tom kept the story for a while before ultimately passing on it. He said he liked it, but it just didn't quite fit. I was disappointed, but I understood and moved on.

Maybe a year passed, and I had joined an online message board called The Haunt. One day I started chatting with another poster about, of all things, the 80s horror film FINAL EXAM. We were both using online handles at the time, so neither of us really knew who the other was. I mentioned I had written a short story where that movie featured as a plot device, and he asked if he could read it. I sent it to him, and that was when he realized who I was. He revealed himself as Tom Moran, who had published "God Doesn't Follow You..."

He specifically asked about my story "The Snoop", saying that even though he didn't publish it, the story still resonated with him and he hadn't forgotten it. He asked if I had sold it elsewhere. I told him I had not and he expressed interest in publishing it.

I was very excited, even more so when he asked me to send him a sampling of stories because he might like to pick another. I sent him five or six stories, thinking I might get a couple of magazine appearances out of this.

I was flabbergasted when he responded that he was starting his own publishing company, Sideshow Press, and to start they were rolling out four chapbooks by four different authors that could be bought separately or as a set. They had already signed Brian Knight, Kurt Newton, and Edward Lee. He offered me the chance to be the fourth author.

I had been publishing short fiction and essays in magazines and ezines for several years by that point, and I had been trying to get an actual book out there with no success. And here was an offer to publish my first book just falling into my lap. Talk about right place at the right time.

The other three authors were doing novellas, but since I'm such a short story lover, my chapbook was to be a short collection. Ultimately Tom picked three stories ("Van People", "The Snoop", and "A Laymon Kind of Night") to appear in the paperback edition, with a fourth story ("Out of Print") appearing in the hardcover as a bonus tale. For the title, Tom picked A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT because that story, an homage to the late Richard Laymon, he felt encapsulated the feel of the tales within the chapbook.

Even after I signed the contract, part of me was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'd been trying so hard to get a book published with my name on the cover with no luck, I just couldn't believe it was about to finally happen. When it really started to feel real was when Tom sent me the signature sheets and I was signing my name about a hundred times.

One of the greatest joys of my writing career came the day my author copies arrived in the mail and I got a look at my very first book and held it in my hands. The cover art by Tom was wonderful, as were the interior illustrations from Tony Karnes. And that was my name, right up there on the cover.

The book sold well, actually sold out. I didn't kid myself that I was suddenly the next Stephen King, I kept things in perspective, but it was an accomplishment and I embraced it and enjoyed it. Though the Sideshow edition is long out of print, I put out a digital version just to keep it out there.

A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT will always have a very special place in my heart. It was my first baby, my first experience of having a book all my own with my name on the cover. When I look back at the stories now, they are a little rough around the edges but they were true to the writer I was then. I'm proud of the book.

The digital edition is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Laymon-Kind-Night-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B005C1NQV2/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_18?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471788857&sr=1-18&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q#nav-subnav

Aug. 10th, 2016

What's In a Name?

Today I was pondering titles. I think titles are a very important part of a story. It sets the tone, is one of the first thing to capture the readers interest or not. As a reader, I have sometimes read a novel and at the end sat staring at the cover, thinking, "What the hell does this title have to do with the story I just read?" I wouldn't say a title is a make or break type of thing, but it can enhance a story.

I tend to like titles with personality. Nothing wrong with a simple straight-forward title (such as almost any title by John Grisham), but I like titles that grab your attention and make you curious. An example, several years ago F. Paul Wilson announced a novel he was calling WELCOME TO NEW YORK, NOW GO HOME. I thought that was a great and attention-grabbing title. The publisher wanted something more generic, and it became COLD CITY. I don't know, to each his own, but the original title would have made me stop at the bookstore and pick up that book. The second one I would have walked right past.

So for the titles of my own stories, I try to pick titles that are reflective of the story but also interesting. I will say, my favorite titles I've come up with are often the ones that have come to me rather spontaneously, as opposed to a lot of thought.

I have some that are very simple and straightforward--THE QUARRY, SEQUEL, OUTCAST--but sometimes I like to take these simple straightforward titles and give them dual meanings. My zombie novellas ASYLUM and FORT are perfect examples of this.

My favorite of my titles, however, I feel are more evocative and atmospheric. If I had to pick my all-time favorite titles of mine they would be THE SUMMER OF WINTERS, OCTOBER ROSES, WELCOME TO THE GRAVEYARD, FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER and COMPANIONS IN RUIN.

I would love to hear from you guys, what are your favorite titles? Of mine or other authors?

Jul. 24th, 2016

Revisiting The Summer of Winters

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the coming of age subgenre. And during the summer months, I always have a hankering to read books in that vein. Though not exclusively, summer just seems the domain of coming of age. When young people have adventures and learn universal truths of life and mortality and friendship and strength. Therefore, seems the perfect time to delve into the genre. This summer I've already read two excellent entries--Jedi Summer by John Boden (https://www.amazon.com/JEDI-Summer-Magnetic-John-Boden-ebook/dp/B01I27IOQY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469368243&sr=8-1&keywords=John+Boden+Jedi+SUmmer#nav-subnav) and Of Foster Homes and Flies by Chad Lutzke (https://www.amazon.com/Foster-Homes-Flies-Chad-Lutzke-ebook/dp/B01IEAN0AO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469368311&sr=1-1&keywords=of+foster+homes+and+flies#nav-subnav).

Being such a fan of coming of age, I always wanted to write something along those lines, recreating the world I knew in the 1980s in my hometown of Gaffney. However, I didn't want to write something just to be writing it, I wanted a real story to hang it on. For a while nothing came.

Until something did. I hit on an idea of a horrible crime committed, and a young boy who thought he knew who might have done it. He wasn't sure, and if he was wrong he could ruin someone's life by accusing him. But if he was right and said nothing, even more horrible things could happen. The crux of the story would be about what this boy would do, and how his decisions would effect others. This main plot was fictional, and yet everything else I built up around it came from my own childhood. Names were changes, events altered and placed out of sequences, some things embellished while others omitted, but I used my past as the building blocks to create this world. Capturing like a snapshot a place and time that no longer exists.

This short novel was The Summer of Winters.

I put a lot of myself into this book, possibly more than in any other book I've ever written. I also tried to make an engaging and compelling story that would keep the reader hooked. I wasn't sure if I'd succeeded, especially after two rejections from publishers I respected.

I let the novel sit for a while before polishing it up and trying it again, this time with Evil Jester Press. I was beyond ecstatic when they agreed to publish The Summer of Winters.

I don't know if this is my best work, but it's one of my sentimental favorites. Not just because of how personal the story is in many ways, but because I finally got to be a part of a subgenre I've always loved.

The Summer of Winters can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Winters-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00AW0MVHS/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469369381&sr=1-12&keywords=The+Summer+of+Winters#nav-subnav

Jul. 17th, 2016

Coming of Age with Chad Lutzke

From time to time I like to give over my blog to a fellow writer to promote their work. I got to pre-read Chad Lutzke's lovely and unique coming of age tale, OF FOSTER HOME AND FLIES, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I am happy to have him here to talk about it.

When We’re Reminded of Us: A Love for Coming-of-Age Fiction

Over the past few years or so I’ve discovered something very comforting. An area where I once felt alone is filled with an abundance of like-minded individuals, ones who share my love for coming-of-age literature. Better yet, I’ve found there are many more books available than I thought there were that scratch that particular itch.

For those unfamiliar with the coming-of-age (COA) subgenre (though my bet is most of you don’t need an explanation), coming-of-age is a day, a week, a summer, or even years in the life of a child or children between the age of pre-teen and young adulthood.

To better explain (and by sparing you more description), I’ll give examples. Films like River’s Edge, Stand by Me, Ghost World, Suburbia, The Breakfast Club, Goonies, and The Sandlot all fall under the coming-of-age category. Popular literary examples would be Bradbury’s DANDELION WINE, King’s IT, Dan Simmons’ SUMMER OF NIGHT and of course Robert McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE. The tales can be dark and brooding with underlying themes that strike close to home, or it can be lighthearted, filled with hope and adventure from beginning to end.

Now, I knew I wasn’t completely alone in my love for books like BOY’S LIFE, but I didn’t realize just how many other authors were following the path that McCammon helped pave--telling their own fictional childhoods; authors like James Newman, John Boden, Stephen Graham Jones, and of course Mark Allan Gunnells. Writers who are providing more than adequate material for those on the hunt for digestible COA.

This month I’m releasing my novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES. It’s the story of a neglected 12-year-old boy who finds his abusive mother dead and decides to carry on with life despite her rotting in the living room. There is both tragedy and hope. Obstacles are faced, self inventory is taken, and discoveries are made. And it’s my hope that readers will find the same kind of magic in it that I’ve found in some of the COA I’ve read.

With many COA pieces, I think there’s a lot to learn from the characters--about love, life, fear, and gratitude. We hear their inner most thoughts. We’re on the outside looking in, a whole other perspective. We’re in their young, worn and dirty shoes. And I think that those of us who appreciate the subgenre tend to easily toss our judgments aside and watch with empathic hearts.

Without doing it on purpose, over the past few years much of what I’ve written has been coming-of-age; be it a young boy taking care of his undead grandfather in the attic, the victim of a rape being saved by an urban legend, a birthday party stayover gone wrong, or two boys desperately trying to prove to loved ones there’s a vampire in their midst. Not until this year did it occur to me just how much of my inner child (or past child) comes out in my work. This came to my attention at the same time I realized my most popular pieces have been the COA; those stories that speak to the inner child of the reader, tapping that part of their brain that takes them back, but with a headful of adult wisdom. This tells me one of two things. Either I write best when doing coming-of-age, or there are far more people who appreciate the subgenre than I thought.

I’m not sure what’s more fun. Reading COA or writing it. When writing, while the characters and situations most definitely can lead to unexpected places, you’re not driving blindly. There’s a map there on your lap you’re following, occasionally taking little detours that lead back to Main Street. But it’s not quite as unpredictable as turning the next page of a brand new read, enjoying a small bit of that excitement the young protagonist feels. Still, with writing you get to deliberately dig up a bit of your own childhood you may consider golden--people from your past, situations, events, maybe even dialogue. Then you get to share that all with the public, with the nail-biting hope that they’ll love it. John Boden’s JEDI SUMMER comes to mind. He bares it all, and fortunately for him, people love it.

There are two reasons I wrote this article; one is the selfish and shameless plugging of my new novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES, and the other is to invite you, the reader, to cast your own opinion on why we love COA as much as we do. Is it purely nostalgic? Is it because it safely takes us back to carefree days void of the responsibilities that now plague us daily? Bills, extra mouths to feed, work to show up for, and houses/apartments to upkeep. Or is it because as adventurous as we’d like to think our younger years were, we never did get to stumble across a dead body or single-handedly solve a murder or partake in a life-threatening treasure hunt, but at our leisure, in the comfort of our bed or favorite reading chair, we can. And we do.

Whatever the reason we’re drawn to it, I’m glad to see there’s an abundance. But like your favorite genre of music, film, or book, there is always more out there waiting to be discovered. I’d love to hear your favorites. Turn me onto something I haven’t heard of that meets the coming-of-age criteria.

Author Bio: Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife and children where he works as a medical language specialist. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene including articles, reviews, and artwork. Chad loves music, rain, sarcasm, dry humor, and cheese. He has a strong disdain for dishonesty and hard-boiled eggs. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue and Scream magazine. He is a regular contributor to Horror Novel Reviews, Halloween Forevermore and Heavy Planet. His fictional work can be found in several magazines and anthologies including, Great British Horror's What Goes Around, Devolution Z Magazine, Straight to Video II: The Sequel, Straight to Video III: Conquest of the Planet of the Tapes, Toys in the Attic: A Collection of Evil Playthings and many more. He has released three Double Feature Collections with books I, II, & III: TWO BEFORE DAWN, LITTLE ONES OF WOOD & HAIR, and DEATH DEALERS: AID FROM THE ELDERLY, as well as his 18-story horror anthology, NIGHT AS A CATALYST. He has written a collaborative effort with horror author Terry M. West, THE HIM DEEP DOWN. And early 2016 he released a book through Black Bed Sheet Books where Chad acted as editor/compiler for the BUMPS IN THE ROAD anthology. Later in 2016, several more releases will be added to Lutzke's body of work, including CAR NEX: FROM HELL THEY CAME, 47-16, A David Bowie Literary Tribute and two secret projects. Stay tuned!

Check out his website here: http://chadlutzke.weebly.com/

Buy his work here: http://www.amazon.com/Chad-Lutzke/e/B00L81FK9Q/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1468784018&sr=8-1

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