Here There Be Monsters

Barbara Custer included lots of zombies in When Blood Reigns.The traditional zombie is a mindless creature that knows nothing except an insatiable craving for human flesh. Perhaps a virus or chemical destroyed key brain cells, the ones that control reason and decision-making abilities. Perhaps a robotic implant causes a dead body to get up and attack. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series features a killer virus that turns the victim’s skin gray. He wakes up from the dead and goes after humans. I read all the books in the series and loved them. Now I’m contemplating books from other authors.

Stephen King knows how to turn the most ordinary things into monsters. If not a monster, it becomes a tool. The beloved balloons I can’t resist turn into a monster’s tool under the influence of King in his story It. Pennywise the clown uses balloons to entice children to the graveyard.

When I was younger, I thrived on the Hammer films, but now, vampires are portrayed as another race of people with good and bad in them. This is good because the old-time vampire meets human-vampire drinks his blood tales have gotten ancient. Woe betide the person who crosses a villain vampire. He’s got fangs, strength, and brains to go with his blood lust. Books featuring great vampire tales include Passion in the Blood and Bloodstorm.

Some people return from the dead to terrorize the living, as in City of Brotherly Death and Blue Plate Special. They might look like shambling zombies, but they know full well what they’re doing and why. They’ve got scores to settle with people who didn’t treat them right. These zombies—a better term would be revenants—are particularly dangerous because they crave flesh and blood, and they’re able to plot and scheme to get it.

The human monsters (Reapers) in Maberry’s Rot & Ruin series frightened me a lot more than the zombies did. Like the traditional beasts, they delight in the thrill of the kill. What’s more, they can scheme, use sophisticated weapons, and employ muscle power to wax people they consider liabilities. A love triangle might incite a psychotic human killer, as in JoAnna Senger’s Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood. The Mob breeds and trains assassins who thrive on the kill, especially in Tom Johnson’s The Spider’s Web and Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4.

The vampire, revenant, and zombie are monsters to be reckoned with, but humans can be the most dangerous killers of all.

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One randomly drawn commenter will receive a signed copy of Steel Rose and a $10 GC for Starbucks.

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www.coffinhop.com

Also click on the red links on the bottom – these are the links to fellow members of the Coffinhop.  This Coffinhop will run October 24 to 31, including the release of Coffinhop: Death by Drive-in to benefit Litworld.org.

  

 

Interview with Author Michelle Hoefle

Interview:

Barbara: Hi, Michelle! It’s great to have you with us. Can you tell us a little something about your book?

Michelle: Carpathian Blood: A Carpathian Blood Novel follows Mackenzie into a Terranian vs. Vampyre War…Will Vlad be her salvation or her damnation?

Mackenzie travels to Romania to begin a new life with her younger brother, Alain. She doesn’t plan on being a meal for a vampire. When her rescuer reveals himself, she wants no part of his life or his war, but her traitorous heart has other ideas. The dark and dangerous Vlad wants her for himself and will stop at nothing to possess her heart and soul. However, after a brutal attack can their love conquer the challenges that face them?

Barbara: What was the inspiration for Carpathian Blood?

Michelle: I have always enjoyed reading paranormal romance novels and have been waiting for a book or series about an extraterrestrial race of beings that are very similar to humans, but have to ingest blood to survive. Lara Adrian (one my favourite authors) came close, but I envisioned a world totally different from her creations. When other popular authors did not come up with a book like I had envisioned, I created one myself. From there, the series was born.

Barbara: What characters were the most interesting to write?

Michelle: Vlad was the most interesting of the characters in the first book. The amount of research that I did to incorporate the history of Vlad Tepes was the reason he was so interesting. Of course I played with history for his role, but thoroughly enjoyed reading about the real “Vlad.”

Barbara: Which characters can you identify with?

Michelle: Mackenzie has to live through a series of bad events. First, losing her parents, then a vicious attack. I haven’t lived through anything quite like that, but I have definitely had my fair share of life altering events happen. So I identify with her the most, at least from the first book’s characters (you’ll have to continue reading the series to know which character mirrors me…hehehehe).

Barbara: If Carpathian Blood were made into a movie, which actor / actress would you want to play your main characters (Vlad and Mackenzie)?

Michelle: I definitely see Vlad’s character as being portrayed by someone who is devastatingly handsome, but rugged…Hugh Jackman. He’s well built (to say the least) and his accent fits the bill, not to mention he is one hell of an actor. Oh, and did I mention that he is dreamily sexy? “Purrrrrrrrrfectly so”

Mackenzie is young in the book, so her face should be fresh and young, but filled with life experience. Jordana Brewster would be a fresh face and a good choice I think. She has proven to be beautiful under fire so to speak in her action roles.

Barbara: What kind of challenges did you have, if any, writing this book?

Michelle: Carpathian Blood came very easily actually. My daughters are grown, so I have plenty of time to write. The difficulties did not come until I began book four. My muse took an extended vacation, so I ended up deleting more than half of what I wrote and had to rewrite it. I hate it when that happens, don’t you?

Barbara: I can relate to the frustration of a muse that takes a vacation. Tell us a little something about yourself that’s not in your biography.

Michelle: I was a fingernail biter until just a few years ago. Oh, and I love thunderstorms.

Barbara: What are some of your favorite reads about vampires and aliens?

Michelle: That would be Lara Adrian in her Breed Series. Hands down the best Alien Vampire novels to date. Okay, except mine (of course I have to say that, I am the author…hehehe)

Barbara: Describe the ultimate supernatural / paranormal man.

Michelle: At least six feet tall, broad shoulders, defined muscles, dark eyes, long black hair, and a libido that would put Casanova to shame! Oh, and did I mention that he had to be a vampire/werewolf hybrid?

Barbara: Will Carpathian Blood have a sequel? Any other projects in the works?

Michelle: Oh yes, the series will be at least seven books long, possibly more if the series is well received. I am working on book five now.

Barbara: Where can your readers find you on the Internet?

Michelle: I have a Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/michellehoefleauthor?ref=hl

My Amazon page is at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00BAH9O90

Barbara: Any sage advice for aspiring authors out there?

Michelle: Write because you love it, not to get famous or rich. If you have a story to tell, tell it no matter how long it takes you to tell it. Do not listen to negativity and take constructive criticism to heart only to make your craft better. Never mourn the past. Leave it where it is, in the past. Last but not least, always…ALWAYS add the words “in bed” after every fortune cookie fortune.

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Biography:

I live in Lake Panasoffkee, FL with my mother, my brother, my two aunts, our four dogs, and three cats. I have two beautiful daughters that currently live in Michigan and are now on their own journeys in life. I am 45 years young and my hobbies include reading and woodcarving.

My inspiration for reading and writing comes from my mother. She used to read me bedtime stories when I was little, but she also read me works of Steven King and Dean Koontz when I got older. It was our special time together away from reality. So I have always enjoyed reading and thought about trying my hand at writing many times, but I just never sat down to do it. With my daughters now grown and my life a bit more settled, I revisited my love of writing with my brother’s encouragement. It is turning out to be an exciting and fun journey to write the books and now see them published.

Some of my favorite authors include Steven King, Dean Koontz, J.R. Ward, Jeaniene Frost, Lynsay Sands, Lara Adrian, and Christine Feehan. They are my favorites, but I love reading just about anything. I generally try to stay in Romantic Paranormal Fiction, but of course there are some non-fiction works that I have read.

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Excerpt:

Chapter One: Carpathian Mountains, Romania Present day

Mackenzie and Alain Hilton hiked through the woods outside of the Romanian Village of Aninoasa. The hills here at the base of the Carpathian Mountains were extraordinarily beautiful. The trees and the meadows were different shades of bright green with the tall majestic pines and the birch and the oak. Here in late August, it was already chilly during the later part of the day. The terrain was rugged and completely natural, the villages were all widely spaced apart, and there was not a lot of technology to get in the way of Mother Nature. Mack looked to her brother knowing that they really needed this move. Romania was a world away from the flat, humid, sandiness of Florida.

They were crossing a meadow of tall grass that still held blooms of multi-colored wildflowers. They followed a path that looked to eventually lead higher into the hills and bluffs at the southern base of the central Carpathian Mountains. “Are you ready to go back to the inn yet? It’s getting late, almost four o’clock,” she asked her brother as she looked at her watch.

He smiled up at her, “No sis, not yet, k? I want to make it to those rocks up ahead.”

“I don’t know Alain, they are pretty far still and we have to make it back to the inn before dusk. I’ll compromise, we turn back now and tomorrow we’ll make a day out of hiking back up here to the bluffs. Have the cook make us a picnic with snacks and everything,” Mackenzie put her hand on his small shoulders and then tousled his spiky brown hair.

Alain was nine years old going on thirty. It was not his fault that life got in the way of his childhood. Mackenzie was twenty-three and had been raising Alain on her own since she was sixteen and he was two. Their parents died as a result of a drunk driver. Mack was able to get her GED at the age of sixteen and become an emancipated minor. She got a job as a bike courier and, after a short stay in the foster care system, was able to keep custody of Alain due to a good-hearted social worker.

The reason they were in Romania of all places? Mackenzie would start her new job as a travel consultant in Bucharest the following week. She had worked hard the last two years completing a hospitality management course at the community college in her home town of Sumterville, FL. She and Alain had spun their old globe, closed their eyes and blindly picked where to begin their new life together. Hands clasped, fingers pointed, they had landed on Bucharest, Romania. Now here they were with a new life, a new adventure, and a fresh start for them both.

A cold wind breezed through her, chilling her bones through her jean jacket. She looked around, suddenly becoming uneasy. “Okay bubby, let’s head back, I’ll race you,” she suggested, wanting to get out of the meadow now, right now.

Alain took up the challenge as she knew he would, “I’ll beat you Mack, I always beat you!”

They began jogging back down the path, making it to the border of woods. Headed back in the direction of the village inn, she thought the uneasy feeling would pass, but the inner chill increased sharply as they entered the forest. She had just opened her mouth to call out to Alain when out of the woods to her right, a large black shape came hurtling toward her, knocking her to the ground. Her breath exploded out of her lungs as she hit the ground hard. A heavy weight was pinning her down and she screamed as she felt a piercing pain in her neck. The pain was beyond anything she had felt before, the burning was intense. The creature’s weight was suddenly gone and sounds of grunts, cursing, and of fighting came to her. Alain was beside her crying and screaming her name, she tried to tell him that everything was ok, but her throat would not form the words. Why wouldn’t her throat work? She was cold, so cold…

Vlad stood over the shriveling corpse of the vampire, aware of the boy’s crying and screaming, he quickly turned his attention to the woman lying prone on the forest floor. She was bleeding profusely from the tear in her throat. He bent over her on the opposite side of the young male. Vlad took precious seconds to quickly read the boy’s mind, his name was Alain Hilton and the woman was Mackenzie, his older sister. They were here in the village on holiday before she was to begin a job in Bucharest the following week. He turned his attention to the woman lying sprawled on the ground, a thought foremost in his mind: Brousha! The thought came to him in his own language out of nowhere. It translated to roughly soul mate here on Earth.

Pushing that thought aside, he concentrated on healing the female. With only minutes available to him, he leaned over her throat, his tongue sealing her torn flesh. He then brought his wrist to his mouth and tore the skin away with his fangs. He pressed his bleeding wound to her still seeping throat, his healing purple blood mixing with her red cells. Her brother was in mild shock and lifted large, fearful blue eyes to his, “W-w-what are y-you doing to her?”

He replied very softly, very calmly, “I am saving her lad, I am saving her. My name is Vlad Romaninsky and you and I are going to great friends Alain Hilton.” He lifted his bleeding wrist to her mouth and began to massage her healing throat so that she would swallow his blood. Vlad knew that he was performing an unforgivable sin against this innocent woman. However, he could not let her die, especially knowing that she was the only relative of young Alain, reading the knowledge from the youth’s thoughts. With his free hand he brought his satellite phone out and pressed the number for the compound.

Lot’s voice answered, “Hello my fearless leader!”

“I have a wounded civilian, human, and her younger brother with me. She was attacked. I am giving her blood now, but we will need a pick up ASAP. Get my GPS from the phone, I am outside the Village of Aninoasa, the Northeast sector. Tell Heltra to hurry Lotris, there was another with the vampire that I dusted, he is still out here,” he rambled off the orders.

“You got it boss man. Heltra is leaving now with your coordinates and will be at your location in twenty minutes. Meet her on the lane due west of your location. Hey, is the human pretty by the way? I only ask because now that you have given her your blood she’s a keeper.” Lotris’ humor knew no bounds.

Vlad growled menacingly into the phone, Brousha! The thought slid through his mind again. “Whoa there good buddy, only joking,” Lotris could be a real comedian at times. He was also a good friend and brother in arms, as well as a genius with Earth’s technology so Vlad could not kill him, not really.

Mackenzie came back to awareness with a wonderful, rich flavor in her mouth. She thought perhaps a rich Porte? Where was she and why was she so cold? She moved her fingers feeling the ground with one hand. Well that explained the cold, after all one does not lie on the ground in the woods of the Carpathian Mountains in late August and not expect to be cold. She remembers being in the woods…the creature…Alain!

Her eyes flew open looking around wildly, spotting Alain, she breathed out in relief, he looked to be alright. She then noticed the man bending over her. Her eyes widened, wow, Fabian had nothing on this guy. His hair was a rich dark brown and was pulled back from his strong features with a leather thong. His black brows slashed over cold black obsidian eyes, framed by long eyelashes. His cheekbones were high and pronounced. His nose was straight and proud, his jaw was squared and strong, with a five o’clock shadow. But his lips…his lips were full, sensual. He had very broad shoulders encased in a leather trench coat and black tee-shirt.

All of this took only seconds to sink in as she became aware that this stranger’s wrist was pressed to her mouth. Blood? Blood! That wonderful taste was blood! Her stomach heaved and she brought her hands up weakly to try to fend him away. What kind of sicko was he? Thinking that she had just entered the Twilight Zone or a Dracula role playing game that had gone terribly wrong, she looked again at Alain. Fear and adrenaline making her strong, she pushed the stranger’s arm away and sat up clutching Alain to her. The man brought his wrist to his mouth and licked the wound. Curiously that action made her insides clench.

“Who are you and what do you want?” Her voice croaked out, her throat was very sore. While scooting backwards along the ground, she tried to drag Alain away from the man. She knew some self-defense, but this guy was huge and could break her like a twig. Crouched on the ground as he was, he reminded her of a large jungle cat, a deadly predator.

“I know that you are scared, Mackenzie. I am Vlad Romaninsky and I mean you no harm.” His voice was velvety soft, a low base.

“Yeah riiiight, is that why you almost tore out my throat?!” She tried to yell, it came out hoarse whisper.

“Umm, Mack?” she looked at Alain, “Vlad didn’t hurt you. That man over there did, Vlad saved you, he saved us.”

Mack looked in the direction that Alain had pointed, there on the ground was a mummified body that lay in black clothes. She started to tremble, her hand going to her neck, feeling the roughened, raised scars, “What the hell!” she croaked out.

“I know that you are frightened, however, as this one was not alone when I was hunting him,” Vlad nodded back towards the body, “I want to get you and young Alain out of these woods as soon as possible.” Vlad stood and offered her his hand.

She stared at his hand then met his eyes, “You swear that you aren’t going to hurt us?” She thought, stupid Mackstupid, like he would admit it if he was planning on committing harry carry all over her ass?

“I swear on my life, that no harm will come to you or young Alain from me or my people,” Vlad placed his right fist over his heart and bowed slightly.

It was an old world courtly gesture, how odd. He held out his hand to her again and she slowly took it. He helped her to stand, then held her by the arm to steady her when she swayed. After making sure she would stay upright he turned his attention to the body. He pulled a pack of matches from his pocket, lit the packet and dropped it on the body. The flames roared to life and almost immediately turned the remains to grayish ash. He turned back to Mackenzie, scooping her into his arms he started into the woods heading west. “Stay close by me Alain,” he ordered the boy. Alain jogged beside his longed legged gait.

“What do you think you are doing?! Put me down this instant,” Mack’s throat was still raw and sore so her demands came out as whispers. “I can walk you know, besides we are going the wrong way. The village inn is back that way!”

“We are meeting one of my people to the west of here, she will have a vehicle for us.” Vlad explained, “Besides if I put you down you may try to run, and Mackenzie, I will catch you if you try. We have many things to discuss you and I,” his dark eyes glittered ominously.

Interview with Sam’s Dot Publishing Editor Cathy Buburuz

NightCathy BuburuzA lot of writers (I know I did) have groaned over the frustration of rejected submissions. What catches an editor’s eye? What are publishers and readers looking for? And so tonight, I will be chatting with SDP editor Cathy Buburuz. Cathy has been sending poetry, fiction, and art to Night to Dawn since I became editor in 2004. Her work has appeared in magazines across the USA, Canada, Australia, England, Romania, Japan, Yugoslavia, and other countries. Along with her horror writing and illustration, she edits Champagne Shivers and other magazines for Sam’s Dot Publishing. Cathy’s got some interesting insights on the industry, so let’s hear what she has to say.

BARBARA: You wear several hats – editor, illustrator, fiction writer, and poet. Do you have any one favourite?

CATHY: I don’t have a favourite task and I’ve always enjoyed that luxury of going from one creative project to another. Doing all four keeps things fresh and interesting. To me, all four are meaningful and fulfilling forms of creativity, but it’s the writing of fiction that helps me work off the anger and frustrations associated with the aches and pains of our society and everyday life.

Right here in my hometown there was a news story about a man who beat his toddler to death for touching the family’s television. The story stayed with me far too long and writing was a way to deal with it. I wanted to draw attention to the problem and promote the idea that as parents we need to pay more attention to our children, our own little world, and the world around us. We often forget how important love and kindness are to a child and how easily they can fall prey to sly monsters that single them out because they’re starved for affection, or even a little attention. This thought resulted in my story Jesus God in Heaven, about a little girl who falls victim to the least expected villain. The story has seen publication no less than six times in three different countries, so I have to believe it succeeds in its intent and purpose which is to make a solid connection and to awaken readers’ emotions.

I don’t always write with a serious goal or purpose in mind. Most times I write for the natural high that it brings. When you’re on a roll with a great idea, it’s an unequalled magic, a thing that has a way of blocking out all else, taking you to places you wouldn’t otherwise explore.

BARBARA: Some folks say Stephen’s King’s writing has changed since his accident. I beg to differ, although I couldn’t get into the Dark Tower Series like the others. In particular, I enjoyed Duma Key. What say you?

CATHY: Stephen King’s earlier novels were his most impressive, and his short story collections were outstanding. His sense of humour and his ability to connect with readers through convincing fiction are his charm. I loved Carrie, Salem’s Lot, Misery, and Dolores Claiborne, and I thought Nightshift, Skeleton Crew, Nightmares & Dreamscapes, and Everything’s Eventual were fantastic. King writes for the common man and in doing so he’s gained the world as his audience because, when you cut it to the bone, we’re all emotional beings faced with everyday decisions and dilemmas that could change the course of our lives in a flash.

My first experience with Stephen King was a well worn copy of Salem’s Lot, probably read by a dozen others before I discovered it. I own a lot of his books, and movies based on his books, and I still enjoy going back to these year after year. The movie Stand by Me (based on his short story, The Body) is among my favourites. In so many ways, that story reflected my own childhood and the things that were going on in my head at the time. I loved Dolores Claiborne for its high level of believability and the authenticity of its characters. King’s characters are always memorable.

Years ago, Inscriptions held a poetry contest. To enter, all you had to do was submit a poem by e-mail about Stephen King. My short tribute won the contest and netted me the prizes, $50 and a hardcover copy of King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have won because I enjoyed that book immensely. The poem that won went something like this:

Ink is blood

the thought, an artery

as psychotic razors

slash his creativity

gushing a story

on a winter white page.

Do I admire the man and his work? Most definitely.

Am I awestruck by every word he has ever written? No, I am not.

For a writer to please every reader 100% of the time is an impossible, unattainable task, simply because we all have different tastes in fiction and in writing styles. Still, when you look at the man’s career, it’d be impossible to deny that he’s done an amazing job, is envied by many, and ultimately deserves respect.

BARBARA: The economy has hurt paperback sales in the USA. Have you noticed any of this in Canada?

CATHY: Chapters is my favourite Canadian bookstore because you can enjoy a Starbucks coffee while cruising its many bookshelves for the latest releases. There’s something special about the aroma of coffee in a bookstore. Whether it’s the sale of books or the sale of coffee, or a combination of the two, this phenomenal bookstore has survived despite the challenges. I can’t deny that the cover price of a book is downright depressing sometimes, but a book is a unique form of entertainment, a journey, an often intimate experience between writer and reader that opens minds, changes minds, and expands minds. To me, it’s worth the price of admission.

Despite harsh economic times, book lovers continue to read. The only difference now is that more and more used books are being traded or sold, and that’s having a negative impact on sales of new books. More and more avid readers are turning to garage sales, yard sales, flea markets, libraries and used bookstores to fill the need.

BARBARA: What advice would you give writers hoping to get into Sam’s Dot Publishing’s books and magazines?

CATHY: All it takes is a well written story that’s in harmony with each publication’s guidelines.

It’s important for writers to know that an editor can read just a few paragraphs of your story and know whether or not you’ve bothered to read the guidelines, whether or not you’re a professional or an amateur. The opening paragraphs of your story send signals about whether or not you’re serious about your craft, or whether you’re just another wannabe. The great thing about Sam’s Dot Publishing is that we take pride in publishing stories and art by new and upcoming writers as well as the seasoned pros, but you have to be willing to perfect your manuscript, to work with us on it if it needs work. If your manuscript needs a major rewrite, chances are we’ll decline it, not because we don’t want to help, but because we believe it’s your responsibility to learn the rules of good writing and submission beforehand, and our time is just as valuable as yours.

BARBARA: I notice a lot of writers/illustrators promote their work through www.cafeshops.com. How does that work for you?

CATHY: I believe that self-promotion that could fill an ocean is the key to success.

If you type your name into a search engine and only about a hundred web pages come up, you’ve failed miserably in online promotion. Getting your name and your product all over cyberspace is time-consuming but it can be done. Work toward a presence on as many websites as possible, preferably reputable websites that have their origins in several different countries. If your work is leaving an impression on those who experience it, typing your name into a search engine will help you locate those comments. Although reviewers are fast becoming a rarity, they can be found, but searches do take time. Not so long ago, there were many more science fiction, fantasy and horror magazines with review columns – even entire magazines dedicated to reviews – but the world is ever-changing and good reviewers are few.

If you’re an illustrator, focus on what counts. Paint, market, and sell. If you sell your art on products, strive for representation by many different companies and galleries, preferably those who take advertising and promotion of their artists seriously.

If you’re a writer, the same applies. Write, market, and sell. Seek out reputable publishers who go the extra mile to promote the work of their contributors.

If you’re an editor, you have to take the time to comment on manuscripts and work with potential contributors to perfect their craft so that you can produce a noteworthy and memorable publication.

There are hundreds of writers out there who relentlessly market the same old manuscript to dozens of editors, sometimes simultaneously, instead of admitting to themselves that their manuscript needs work before it will sell. The only way they’re going to know that is if the editor they submit to makes the decision to offer an honest assessment of the manuscript, even if that honesty comes in the form of a single sentence. Don’t look at it as rejection; look at it as constructive criticism. When an editor takes the time to point out the problems with your manuscript, learn from that. Do not continue to make the same mistakes over and over ’til death do us part.

BARBARA: Could you talk a little about Sam’s Dot Publishing (SDP) and its current projects?

CATHY: Sam’s Dot Publishing (SDP) is owned and operated by Tyree Campbell, who took over all responsibilities and changed the company name when James B. Baker of ProMart Publishing passed away. Mr. Baker had many admirable goals, but the one that meant the most to him was to publish and promote new talent. Mr. Campbell has carried on in this tradition and has expanded the numbers and the kinds of publications produced each year. He publishes upcoming artists and writers alongside the pros. We have several editors on staff, and we take pride in the publications we produce. The novels, anthologies, and magazines have in recent years progressed to perfect bound publications, most with full colour covers. I’m responsible for the editing of Champagne Shivers, Expressions, the Potter’s Field anthologies, and the Side Show 2: Tales of the Big Top and the Bizarre anthologies.

Our publications are sold in the electronic store on the SDP website, in a couple of brick and mortar bookstores, and in The Genre Mall. Mr. Campbell also travels across the USA each summer to promote and sell SDP publications at many conventions.

BARBARA: Where do you see the publishing industry five years from now? Do you think e-book sales will outrun those of paperbacks?

CATHY: I love paperbacks. I don’t read e-books. I’ve paid $35+ for a book written by someone whose work I admire, yet I decline the generosity when writers and publishers offer free e-books. In my line of work I spend anywhere from six to fourteen hours a day looking at a computer screen, so a paperback will always win me over. And for the record, that goes for review copies as well; especially review copies.

BARBARA: Your illustrations have drawn many compliments from NTD readers. What do you find most enjoyable about the work in process? The most challenging?

CATHY: All art is a challenge for me, simply because I’m one of the slowest artists on the planet. It takes me two to five hours to design a piece of filler art, and a minimum of ten hours to complete a full page artwork. For some, art comes easy. For me, it does not. I’m hard on myself as an artist and because I have a deep love for the physical aspects of drawing, I never want the painting to end.

 

I’m not as flexible as most artists, nor am I as talented, and it just blows me away when I receive a compliment, a kind review, a fan letter, or someone actually takes the time to hunt me down to ask if they can buy one of my originals. The truth be known, the reason why I became an artist in the first place was because I dared to send a small piece of filler art to an editor and he published it on his cover. That editor changed my life because he gave me the confidence to continue, to experiment, and to submit more of my work to other publications. American artist Marge Simon saw that very first cover and invited me to collaborate with her. At the time, she was the most published artist I was aware of – she’d won great recognition and awards for her art and her cartoons – so I was as nervous as hell about working with her. I gave collaboration a shot. I loved it, and I learned from it. Over the years I’ve worked on art collaborations with more than a dozen artists and illustrators, and I’ll always be grateful for that experience because it served as an education in its purist form.

BARBARA: Could you describe what a typical work day is like?

CATHY: My typical work day is spent multi-tasking. One day never resembles another. I chose to work on what I’m interested in at the time, what my mood or creative energy dictates, and the job I feel I’m best suited for on any given day. I might spend three or four hours reading and responding to submissions to my projects or spend an hour researching potential markets for my own work and my online monthly newsletter, Expressions. Every now and then, to give my work variety, I take on a private job editing a novel or a chapbook.

I tend to do artwork during the day because I prefer natural light. I write the majority of my stories, poems, and reviews in the evening because that just happens to be the time when I’m the most creative and productive, and it’s also a time when the phone or the doorbell is less likely to ring. When I need a break, I wander out into my flower garden and pull weeds or water the lawn, or go on facebook to play a few rounds of Word Twist or to learn more about what other creative people are working on. To dump the junk in my head, I read a good book or magazine, watch a movie or an episode of North of 60, Bones, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, or CSI Las Vegas.

No matter what I’m working on, I like to take breaks every three or four hours. The only exception to that rule is when the writing is going well. I never stop writing when the words are coming faster than I can type them. I’ve also been known to dive out of bed at five in the morning because of an idea I fear losing. I’ve also been known to work until six in the morning because I’m on a roll.

I seem to thrive on maximum overload so, in an effort to hang on to my own sanity and stay grounded, I try to spend as much down time as possible with my family, and I always shoot for one to three short vacations each year.

BARBARA: Which forums would you recommend to authors hoping to promote their work? Any other advice?

CATHY: I choose forums that suit my particular wants and needs, places where my levels of privacy and comfort aren’t in jeopardy, a forum that feels like home. While I believe that a writer can’t spend too much time on promotion, I think writers have to allot a fair amount of time to their craft. In fact, most of us work so long and hard at our chosen professions, we wish we had more time for self-promotion. There are those of us who would much rather work on an illustration, a short story, or a novel than tackle the chore of marketing and promoting ourselves.

Still, I’d have to say that the absolute best form of self-promotion is publication. The more you’re published in reputable books and magazines, the wider your audience, and the more likely you’ll be acknowledged as someone who’s serious about their craft.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to remember that readers don’t admire you because you’ve had 500 or 600 illustrations, poems or stories published. The reality is, truckloads of crap are published each year. Readers admire writers simply because they enjoyed their work, they could relate to it, and it lit an emotion in them.

It’ll always be quality, not quantity that counts most in this business. If you can accomplish both of these simultaneously, you’ve more than done your job.

Interview with Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon

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Marge Simon has mastered many talents – poetry, art, editing, short stories, and…cooking. She edits the journal Star*Line. Her collaboration on Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob won a Bram Stoker Award in 2008. She has received the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and the James award for her illustrations. When she’s not writing or painting, she enjoys catering to the monsters we know and love and will be happy to share her recipe for Zombie’s Delight. So tonight, I will chat with Marge about her writing and other talents.

BARBARA: That meal you’ve got going is a zombie’s delight. So yes, you’ve got me curious about the recipe.

MARGE: All right, Barbara, Zombie’s Delight is a secret family recipe which I’ve been given permission to reveal only once:

Purchase hand fresh from your local Hand Stand. Make sure it is tender by pinching the skin. A male hand, bone in, is best; some female hands, if adequate, will suffice.

Prep hand with garlic salt. Boil five minutes on medium heat. Drain juice, put aside.

Place in large kettle. Combine 2 cups chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced liverwurst, 6 used bandages (preferably gauze), 1/3 cup toenail clippings, 1 egg, slightly beaten, 5 cups watery plasma, 2 tbsp. Saki, 1 cup wallpaper paste. Pour over hand. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. You’ll know when it has the right consistency. Remove from heat. Chill one hour. Pour or scrape into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 hours, or until the aroma becomes overwhelming.

Serve warm with the au jus you set aside and probably forgot about.

BARBARA: Moving onto writing – I noticed you used your own illustrations for Vectors as you did with Artist of Antithesis. Many publishers prefer to assign their own cover art to their books. How did you approach the publisher about using your own?

MARGE: In both cases you mention, the editor/publisher knew I was/am an artist. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with providing cover art for my collections. As fate may bring luck, I’ve also illustrated five Bram Stoker winners. But I don’t for a minute think that it was on the strength of my art that the publication won.

BARBARA: How did collaborating work out for you and Charlee Jacob during your work on Vectors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?

MARGE: Here’s how it happened. Charlee had written a series of poems about an apocalyptic virus that went global, infecting every mortal on this planet. In May of 2007, she invited me to join her as a kindred voice in this collection, as I have written numerous poems along the same lines.

Problems with collaborations? Charlee and I had no problems between us. If you want me to make this more exciting, Charlee and I had crazed fits and vowed to never to speak to each other again. I refused to change a single word, and so did she. But that isn’t so.

BARBARA: From what I’ve seen in Night to Dawn, you wear several hats: illustrator, poet, and fiction writer. Which one do you like best?

MARGE: I like them all. I also wear an editor’s hat (for Star*Line, digest for the SF Poetry Association). Then there is my TV talk show: DEADLY SURVIVORS and my Food Channel show: DYING TO EAT.

Oh, as for the other hats–I love multitasking. I’m happiest having something going in all departments.

BARBARA: I notice that you’ve collaborated with other artists for the Night to Dawn illustrations. How does collaborating work for illustrations, especially if you and the other artist live miles apart?

MARGE: Cathy Buburuz (Saskatchewan, Canada) and I “met” thanks to ETOU magazine, about 1989. I was so intrigued by a cover she did, I had to get acquainted. We started collaborating long distance snail mail in the 90’s. I thought her excellent designs would work well with my (then) stylized pen/ink line and vice versa. She agreed, and for about a decade, we continued to work on art–mostly dark fantasy. She would send me about five or more unfinished compositions or vice versa. Cathy marketed our collaborations both in the USA and abroad. It was a wonderful experience, which continues with our work that she still has available.

Today, you don’t need to wait weeks to do collaborations, thanks to the Internet. I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve collaborated with in a long time, and I don’t do digital art, though I now use Photoshop for enhancing my paintings/illustrations.

BARBARA: What has been the most challenging part of the writing/illustration process?

MARGE: Leaping off very small buildings (outhouses) to get attention on U-Tube. Singing shocking songs in London Square. Pointing at my own paintings/book display, saying, “OMG!!”

Seriously, “challenging” is a personal word for me. I challenge myself. I know what I think I can do. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. Other times, I see I’ve gone over the top and need to scrap it.

Writing a novel would be a real challenge for me. But I’ve always tended to write flash fiction–that’s a fun challenge. A book would be too much like work, and besides, I’ve a short attention span. (That is my excuse, anyway!)

BARBARA: When did you first get into writing? Where did you get your first credit?

MARGE: If you mean professionally, that’s hard to say. I’d guess somewhere in the mid-80’s. Which makes me old enough to be a witch. My first big (to me) credit was Bradley Strahan’s Visions, Black Buzzard Press. It was an all SF theme, and I’d never written a SF poem until that time –never even heard of one. Wrote one anyway. He took it. After that, I got into Amazing Stories with poetry. Around the same time, I started doing pen/ink stylized art –mostly dark which was well-accepted. My style and media are constantly evolving; I prefer watercolor with oil or watercolor pencils nowadays.

BARBARA: Which contemporary authors would you recommend to readers who love dark fantasy?

MARGE: Peter Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ted Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Boston, Gene O’Neill, Stephen King, Elizabeth Massie, Cormac McCarthy, to name a few writers of dark sf and fantasy. I know this may be contradictory, considering my recipe and lifestyle, but horror per se doesn’t appeal to me.

BARBARA: What do you believe the future holds for dark fantasy and supernatural thrillers? Will ebooks replace paperbacks, do you think?

MARGE: Don’t know. But as for what I hope–NO. A book is to be held and cradled, if you will. A book can be laid down on a surface where you know what it is by the cover and then you pick it up and start reading it again. You can have a personal relationship while reading it. A book has its own smell. It gives you secrets.

BARBARA: What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?

MARGE: Never marry a musician.

 

 

Interview with Prolific Author Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has published over thirty books with publishers like Filament Books, Altus Press, and now Night to Dawn Books. Characters like the Black Ghost and Masked Avenger has provided grist for his pulp fiction, and Tom has drawn on his experiences in the Army as well. Tom and his wife Ginger helped edit the Fading Shadows magazines and Tales of Mask & Mayhem. Their efforts on keeping pulp alive earned them the Lamont award in 1991, and in 2005, Johnson became among Preditors & Editors’ top ten finalists for Jur: a Story of Pre-Dawn Earth. During the past year, he has created a new science fiction series with Pangaea: Eden’s Planet, and now his sequel, Pangaea: Eden’s Children. His upcoming SF novel, Tunnel through Space, will come out later this summer.

BARBARA CUSTER: When did you first begin writing?

TOM JOHNSON: I was a Desk Sergeant for the Army MPs in France when I first started writing fiction, sometime around 1964 or ’65. On slow nights, when there wasn’t much activity going on, I got awfully bored while my units were out on patrol, and I enjoyed working out plots and creating characters, then coming up with situations to move the stories along. Unfortunately, I never pursued my interest in writing until after Vietnam. In 1970, I wrote the first two novels in the Jur series in long hand, and hired a professional typist to put the first one into manuscript form. But when the first novel didn’t sell right away, I left the second one in long hand and that’s where they stayed for thirty years.

BARBARA CUSTER: How did your experiences in Vietnam affect your writing process?

TOM JOHNSON: I think the jungles of Vietnam inspired me more than anything. The setting was perfect for an action adventure novel; and we had a few real adventures ourselves over there! Every day was a story, and for anyone as impressionable as me, I could see dinosaurs or ancient civilizations everywhere I looked. When I returned to the States, I had to put my stories on paper. Those lonely nights back in France resurfaced, and I remembered some of those plots and characters I had created, and before I knew it, the stories began unraveling as fast as my pen could move across the page.

BARBARA CUSTER: You enjoyed a great run on Echoes, Detective Mystery Stories, and your other magazines. Do you have any back copies available?

TOM JOHNSON: Yes, Echoes ran from 1982 until we retired in 2004; 100 issues in magazine form, then another 57 issues as a newsletter. In 1995, we started a string of fiction magazines, which included Detective Mystery Stories and others. I think we published over 300 issues of the fiction magazines, and probably had a hundred writers and a dozen artists contributing to the titles. We started a trend that is still going today, although the quality of the publications has improved greatly since the advent of POD (publish on demand) technology. When we retired, we stored a lot of back issues, and occasionally still sell copies.

BARBARA CUSTER: How did you come up with the idea for your Pangaea tales?

TOM JOHNSON: In the Jur novels, there is an ancient civilization called the Gen-sis, or First Ones, that existed with the dinosaurs. However, with Jur, the stories centered around people from the twenty-first century accidentally falling through time portals and finding themselves in the Jurassic Period. But I never really explained who this ancient civilization was, or where they come from. Pangaea begins sixty million years before the Jurassic Period, and tells the story of the First Ones. So, though Pangaea and Jur are connected in that respect, they are two different series; one following the First Ones, the other following people from our own time who encounter the Gen-sis.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you find most difficult about your work-in-progress?

TOM JOHNSON: That’s easy. Wordage. When I studied in school, we were taught to use all the little helpers available to a writer: adverbs, adjectives, and a lot of passive voice. Today, publishers and editors want shorter sentences, tighter, and less little helpers. Absolutely no passive voice. So, for someone coming from a period when it was all right to use them, to a period in which they are avoided like the plague, I’ve got to add more story in shorter sentences. Sometimes, it is completely alien to me.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

TOM JOHNSON: Creating characters and plots. I won’t start a story until I have the plot, and I must be happy with my characters in order for the story to work. I want them to be real, not just names on paper. They become someone I know, someone I can connect to. Basically, they are my friends. No matter how flowery the language of the story, if your characters don’t feel real, you won’t pull the reader into the adventure.

BARBARA CUSTER: Your “soul stealer” short stories have gone well for NTD and now for your anthology Blood Moons and Nightscapes. Where did you get your idea for these tales?

TOM JOHNSON: As an accident investigator in law enforcement, as well as a soldier in Vietnam, I saw violent death. A car slams head on into a tree, and what’s left of the driver and passengers can be scrapped off the windshield. Maybe there was a baby, or young child in the front seat. Or a bullet bows a soldier’s face half off or worse. Death can come when we don’t expect it, and it may be very violent. I would like to think that there are angels or soul stealers out there, who could help those victims meet that sudden, violent death and cross over. That’s why I created the soul stealer stories, I think.

BARBARA CUSTER: Tell the readers about your latest release.

TOM JOHNSON: Pangaea: Eden’s Children is the sequel to last year’s Pangaea: Eden’s Planet. In Eden’s Planet, a rocket ship from 2023 crashes back to Earth after going through a time warp in space. But the planet they land on is Earth 250 million years in the past, known as the Permian Period, sixty million years before the dinosaurs. However, there are terrible reptiles and other denizens in this period just as awesome as T-Rex. Plus, the crew is aware of a coming catastrophe that will wipe out all living creatures in this period. The story is about their survival. Then, in Eden’s Children, I had to fast forward the scene sixty million years, when the descendants of that rocket ship have resettled the Earth, and the problems they are facing. Pangaea, by the way, refers to the super continent, before it broke apart to form the continents that we are familiar with today. Imagine a world with one continent and one ocean. That was Pangaea, the world as it was then.

BARBARA CUSTER: What advice would you give to a person trying to get their short story / novel published?

TOM JOHNSON: Never give up. It was 32 years from the time I wrote my first novel in 1970 to when it was finally published in 2002. Since then, I’ve written seven fiction novels and numerous anthologies of short stories, as well as nonfiction books. All published. So if your heart is really into writing, then stick with it. The greatest reward is not in the money you make, but the pleasure of creating something others will enjoy. Write every day, as the experience will improve your abilities. And read the current genre of books you prefer, so you will know what the publishers are looking for. But above all, unless your aim is that of becoming a writer-for-hire, don’t compromise your goals just for the sake of being published. Write what YOU are interested in, not what someone else wants you to write.

 

Interview with Eppie Award Winning Author Margaret L. Carter

An Eppie award winner, Margaret Carter is the author of Sealed In Blood, Crimson Dreams, The Vampire In Literature, Dark Changeling, Different Blood, and many other dark works, both fiction and nonfiction. Some of her stories have appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthologies. She received her MA in University of Hawaii and Ph. D. from the University of California, both in English. Her magazine, The Vampire’s Crypt, enjoyed a long run. When she isn’t creating nightmares, she works part time as a proofreader for the Maryland General Assembly.

Visit her website at www.margaretlcarter.com

BARBARA CUSTER: Margaret, thank you for being the first to join the NTD blog. Could you tell me when you first began writing?

MARGARET L. CARTER: At the age of thirteen. I was inspired by DRACULA, which I read for the first time when I was twelve. The public library didn’t have enough readily available horror fiction for my taste, and I had trouble finding any of the kind I wanted — sympathetic to and from the viewpoint of the “monster.”

BARBARA CUSTER: The Vampire’s Crypt enjoyed a healthy run. Any chance of revisiting the Crypt in the future?

MARGARET L. CARTER: Not a chance — too much work! Fortunately, NIGHT TO DAWN fills the same niche.

BARBARA CUSTER: Where may the readers order back copies?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The top page of my website, www.margaretlcarter.com, has a link for THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT. It leads to the distributor’s website and also to my own pages listing tables of contents for each issue and summaries of the book review columns.

BARBARA CUSTER: What is your favorite theme as a writer?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The Ugly Duckling — the misfit whose apparent defects turn out to be gifts when he or she finds where he or she truly belongs. My other favorite theme is the allure of the Other, expressed in relationships between human and nonhuman characters.

BARBARA CUSTER: How did you come up with the idea for your particular vampire species?

MARGARET L. CARTER: My husband, Leslie Roy Carter (see his page on my website), wrote a story, “Vanishing Breed,” for my first book, an anthology of vampire fiction. (This story is still available in the SF vampire anthology TOMORROW SUCKS, edited by Greg Cox.) Although extraterrestrial vampires had existed in movies and fiction for a long time, this is the first story I know of to use the premise that the vampires who’ve lived among for thousands of years originated on another world. I was excited by the idea of vampires as a naturally evolved species and began transforming the characters I’d already created into natural rather than supernatural blood-drinkers. As my fictional universe developed,the biology of my species was influenced by other authors such as Suzy McKee Charnas, George R. R. Martin, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Elaine Bergstrom, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (although her Count Saint-Germain is, of course, traditionally supernatural). My website link labeled “Vanishing Breed” lists all the available stories and novels in my vampire universe in internal chronological order.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you find most difficult about your work-in-progress?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The first-draft writing process. I feel anxiety when facing a blank screen, and I’m a very slow writer compared to what I’d like to be.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

MARGARET L. CARTER: Outlining. I love conceiving the characters and planning the story in detail. It’s the *execution* that gives me trouble.

BARBARA CUSTER: I notice that you also teach and proofread. How do you budget time for your writing?

MARGARET L. CARTER: I work as a legislative proofreader only two days a week during the nine-month interim and a heavier part-time schedule during the annual 90-day session. I try to get in at least a few hours every week on my days off. I haven’t taught any classes in many years.

BARBARA CUSTER:Tell the readers about your current work in process / latest release.

MARGRET L. CARTER: In May, Ellora’s Cave (www.ellorascave.com — or google Jasmine-Jade for their new website, if the forwarding doesn’t work to bring up the latest books) released a “Quickie,” a short erotic paranormal romance, called “Lion’s Bower.” It’s a Beauty and the Beast type of story, in which a maiden desperate to help her brother get a potion to heal his sick daughter finds forbidden fruit in a catlike sorcerer’s secret garden. I’ve just sold Ellora’s Cave a short ghost romance set at a bed and breakfast in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Virginia.

BARBARA CUSTER:What advice would you give to a person trying to get their short story / novel published?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The annual WRITER’S MARKET always contains many useful articles on how to get published. WRITER’S DIGEST magazine is a good resource, too. A writer could also look into Internet resources, starting with the website of the professional organization in whatever genre one is interested in, e.g., Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, SFWA. Polish your craft, of course, and seek a good critique group or critique partner to give feedback before submitting a story or novel. Never give up.

BARBARA CUSTER: Where may someone order a copy of your books?

MARGARET L. CARTER: My website has links to purchasing pages for each book listed. To buy directly from my publishers, go to Amber Quill Press (amberquill.com), Hard Shell Word Factory (hardshell.com), Ellora’s Cave
(ellorascave.com), and Cerridwen Press (cerridwenpress.com). Also, I have many books and short stories on Fictionwise (fictionwise.com). Search “Margaret Carter” with no middle initial to bring up all of them, including stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s SF anthologies and the e-book version of my Silhouette vampire romance, EMBRACING DARKNESS.

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