Archive for January, 2011
Exciting news for Niteblade authors who love podcasts. Jason Warden of ShadowCast Audio Anthology has generously offered to produce one Niteblade story a month as a podcast and share it with his audience. Beginning in March I will have the difficult task of choosing one story from a current, or archived Niteblade issue to be recorded as a podcast and shared with the ShadowCast Audio audience.
Niteblade writers get greater exposure for thier work. Win.
ShadowCast Audio gets high quality fantasy and horror stories to publish. Win.
Niteblade and ShadowCast audiences can enjoy an increased awareness of one another. Win.
It’s pretty much win all around 🙂
What’s more is that Niteblade is not the only magazine that will be providing ShadowCast with fantastic stories to record. House of Horror and SNM Magazine will also be teaming up with ShadowCast in this endevour.
To quote Jason:
Important notes for Niteblade authors:
- Participation in this project is strictly voluntary. If I choose one of your pieces to be used for this project I will contact you directly in order to get your permission. You are welcome to say ‘No, thank you’.
- Some amazing stories just aren’t appropriate to translate to audio format because of their format or length. I will not be choosing based solely on a ‘Best of…’ but also for what will work best as an audio podcast
Today’s Niteblade Contributor Interview is with William C. Burns Jr. I hope you enjoy it!
When did you first recognize yourself as a writer?
I’ve been a poet forever. My mom tells a story of when I was four and we were going past my favorite drive in restaurant, the Gold Dome, named such because of the Gold Dome of the capitol building in Charleston WV. Mom is driving our two tone Ford and I asked if we could stop for a hotdog. She said, “Not today, its the day before payday.” To which I apparently replied; “The day before payday / not a penny to spend / wait til tomorrow and we’ll all eat again.” She tells me she had to pull off the road.
Pablo Neruda says that poetry found him one afternoon. It found me in the pre-air conditioned, cinder block hardwood floored terrain of post sputnik American education, Mrs. Wolfitt’s class to be specific. We were studying chapter 14, poetry, and she hated poetry.
I’ve always had a knack for song lyrics and music was one of my windows on the world outside the hollow where I was raised (the other was Chiller theater on channel 13).
What draws you to speculative poetry?
What can be more alien than poetry? The xeno aspect of speculative fiction seems to fit so nicely with the often mythic and sometimes wonky mechanisms of poetic expression.
Is there a piece of writing advice you’ve never followed?
Yes, at a reading in November of this year, a former teacher advised me to start writing my poetry in ways that are more accessible to the general public. I asked that she elaborate. She explained that my craft was good, but too much of my content was buried in my work, and the average reader would never exert themselves enough to uncover it. As she went on it became clear that she has a very low opinion of the comprehension of most of the American public.
I’m sorry but I can’t take her advice. I think it best to continue working my craft in a way that never ‘talks down’ to my reader. It may sound trite, but I love my readers, and I shall never intentionally insult their intelligence by offering them less than my best work.
In the March 2010 issue of Niteblade, Rhonda chose to publish your poem, “Goddess in Training“. Is there a story behind how the poem came about?
I was working with a protegee (who has asked to remain unnamed). She had asked me to teach her poetry. The shear impossibility of the task appealed to me. How do you teach someone poetry?
It came to me that it was a lot like teaching demis and goddesses. So in true Neil Gaiman style, I set out to build a series of poems around the idea of training gods and goddesses.
What have you been working on lately?
I am working on ‘The Nine Strange Muses of Regwin’ (alternate universe with a higher predisposition for magic), ‘The Museum of Arcane Objects’ (kinda Merlin and Nimue thing) and ‘The Wholly Visible Man’. Honest I have lots of projects at any time, but there are always a few in the process of precipitating out.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Niteblade’s readers?
My turn to give advice to spec/fic poetic types. Learn the rules before you break them so that you know what you’re doing. Write, right now. Don’t wait for the lightning bolt of inspiration to strike you. To badly paraphrase Louis Pasteur, ‘Inspiration favors the prepared pen and journal’. Get one of those Moleskine Notebooks or Journals, a good G4 Pilot Pen (no endorsements intended) and set aside at least an hour a day to use them.
Find your favorite author and read everything they ever wrote, but don’t try to copy them. Don’t try to be a Freudian, be the next Sigmund Freud.
I would like to thank Niteblade for existing. They way you folk love the written word is reflected in every aspect of your publications.
Ian Graham wrote his first novel, Monument, in 2002. The prequel is currently in the works. He resides in Manchester, England. Ian has First Class BA (Hons) in Literature from Bolton Institute and an MA in British Romanticism from the University of Manchester.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where are you from? How has your background influenced your writing style?
I grew up in Bury, in the northwest of England. Nowadays, I live a couple of miles up the road in Ramsbottom, a small town crouching at the edge of the West Pennine Moors. After leaving comprehensive school, I pretty much failed my A-levels, then had an abortive attempt at becoming a computer programmer. During this time, I began to read, primarily for escapism; gradually, I realised that I would like to try my hand at writing. I set about getting a literary education, studying Literature at Bolton Institute, then moving on to a Master of Arts at the University of Manchester. The Masters in particular was hard work. But incredibly nourishing.
Since childhood, I’ve lived in areas that are fairly green and, if not directly rural, were at least in close proximity to areas of farmland. This, I am certain, has had an impact: I suspect that I was drawn to the fantasy idiom because of the vast natural landscapes popular within the genre. I walked to and from school through farmland every day during my adolescence. During my dinner break, I’d wander through the overgrown ruins of the local cotton mills which, reduced to rubble, struck me as being less the residue of an industrial age as something leftover from a far more distant era – an era existing before electrical gadgets, street lighting and other modern day paraphernalia. No doubt, this got my imagination working. I think, too, there was something in the air where I was raised: for many years, my next door neighbour was the artist Vinnie Chong and, unbeknownst to me, the SF/F writer Andy Remic lived a few hundred yards down the road.
When did you first become interested in writing?
The creative writing classes were the only remotely pleasurable lessons at school; yet I never considered writing with any dedication until much later. I spent my teenage years attempting – and failing – to learn to play the guitar. I rarely read; I rarely watched television, or did anything other than make a ghastly, ear-popping racket with my electric guitar and deeply unimpressive 5 watt amplifier. When it became apparent that I was never going to give Ritchie Blackmore a run for his money, I tried to find something else to do. Computer programming seemed the sensible choice at the time but I hated the subject and the jobs it led to. As I mentioned above, I began reading earnestly at this time, primarily to take my mind off the dissatisfying aspects of my life. The more I read, the more I gave thought to writing. In December 1992, I attended a 5 day creative writing course, in which the writer-in-residence was the late great David Gemmell. He said that I showed some promise, and took me under his wing. From then on, writing was a serious concern.
What was the first story you ever wrote?
Like many writers, I began innumerable stories that never reached a conclusion. The first story I finished, and submitted, was a short horror/fantasy piece, whose name I cannot recall. I sent it to Interzone; they replied with a courteous, and encouraging, rejection letter. After the David Gemmell course, I dashed out a 250,000 word novel in about three months. It was written with more vigour than ability, but it was a start. The book, incidentally, was called Monument – though it bears no resemblance to the published novel of the same name.
Do you have any advice to offer others who would like to pursue a career as an author?
Brace yourself! Most writers, when describing their writing lives with complete honesty, sound as if they are whingeing. But, in truth, it is incredibly hard work. You’ve got to be resilient, self-disciplined, self-critical and generally quite tough. As a breed, writers tend to be sensitive and neurotic; these may well be the traits that drive a writer to write. But they also lead to much agonising, self-doubt, sleepless nights and host of other self-inflicted woes. The key is to be persistent, I think. Labour on, day after day, no matter how low your confidence is or how badly the writing seems to be going. Encouragement from others can be helpful; but ultimately, it’s all down to you.
Certain practical things are important. To begin with, read. A lot. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose; consume as much as you can, think about what you’ve read, pay attention to the techniques other writers employ. And read beyond your chosen genre, too. If you write fantasy, don’t read only fantasy; gobble up the classics and stuff from other genres. The most unexpected sources can provide some of the best inspiration. You mustn’t be afraid of rewriting, either; first drafts rarely emerge fully formed. They usually need revising, to various degrees. Don’t expect to enjoy writing as you would, say, watching a movie or going on holiday; it tends to provide long-term gratification rather than short-term thrills – though they do crop up from time to time.
Can you tell our readers a little about Monument?
Monument is set in the medieval world of Druine. Politically, Druine is a theocracy, governed by the Pilgrim Church. On the whole, it is a thoroughly unpleasant place, and getting worse by the day. Anhaga Ballas, the story’s protagonist, is a drunk, vagrant and thief. When he steals an unusual gemstone-encrusted oddment from a museum, he suddenly finds himself pursued by the Church for reasons he cannot fully comprehend. He decides to take refuge in Belthirran, the fabled Land Beyond the Mountains. But the journey there is long and Ballas, never the most wholesome of fellows, gets up to some very nasty things indeed . . .
You are currently working on the prequel. What can your readers expect from that? When do you think it will be available?
In the prequel Ballas is, of course, much younger. He is yet to acquire the potentially murderous alcoholism of his later years; consequently, he is stronger, faster and more quick-witted. He also exhibits a few faint traces of decency, which seldom appear in Monument. But I must be careful: if I say too much, I might reveal information best disclosed after having read Monument . . .
Who are some of your favorite authors? Why?
Crikey. There are so many! Within the genre, David Gemmell was a huge influence. I don’t know of any writer who can write a fast-paced, emotionally engaging story as well as David could. Tad Williams is also an influence: his prose style is amongst the powerfully evocative I’ve encountered. Philip K Dick is consistently mind-bending; he had a rare knack of changing the way a reader views the world.
Amongst the current crop of genre writers, I have an (albeit grudging!) admiration for my friend, Andy Remic. He produces first rate fiction, in several genres, and has a workrate that is simply astonishing. The horror writer Gary McMahon is dazzling; his debut, Pretty Little Dead Things, is one of my favourite horror novels of all time and has an emotional impact seldom found in fiction of any sort.
Outside the genre, I have too many favourites to list. Dostoevsky, Graham Greene, Dickens, Shakespeare, Conrad, Nabokov, Cormac McCarthy . . . I also read a lot of poetry. Ted Hughes’ work was particularly affecting. So too Wordsworth and Keats . . .
What one subject that you have yet to cover would you most like to bring the public next?
Oh gosh! There’s a question . . .! For myself, writing tends to be a largely instinctive endeavour, and the subject – that is, the theme underpinning the narrative – only becomes apparent during the latter stages of writing any piece. There tends to be a moment when the clouds part, the sun shines, and I think, Ah, that’s what I meant! So don’t have any predetermined subjects as such. I just plod on and see what emerges . . .
Are you yourself a fan of the horror/sci fi genres? Did you have any favorite monsters as a kid?
When I was growing up, I devoured pretty much any horror VHS I could get my hands on. And during the summer holidays, I ploughed through James Herbert’s works at a rate of knots. I was inordinately fond of the movie Hawk the Slayer too. At primary school, I manufactured little Hawk comic books on pink paper towels plundered from the toilets. Nowadays, I read a lot less fantasy than I used to. No doubt, this is because I spend so much time writing it. And I don’t tend to read a huge amount of fiction, at least when I’m working on my own stuff. I like to keep my head clear, as far as I can; I suspect I am missing out on a great deal of excellent material, which saddens me a little. At present, I tend to read non-fiction, either for research or general enlightenment!
I can’t recall having a favourite monster. But I do remember being chilled by a trailer for The Blob. The thought of being smothered by that ghastly ooze was intolerable; maybe it connected with my childhood fears of drowning and asphyxiation . . .
What is the best advice anyone has ever offered you?
As hackneyed as it may be, Work hard, play hard is a pretty sound philosophy. If you work too hard for too long, you dry up; the joy vanishes, and the work itself suffers. So you have to cut loose now and again. Equally, you must know when the time for play has stopped and the hard graft must resume . . .
What are you planning to work on after the prequel to Monument?
There will be another fantasy novel, set in a different world to Druine. Also, I am working on a piece of contemporary fantasy/horror; a bit of a departure, but we’ll see how it goes . . .
It’s Rhysling nomination time. The Rhysling award is presented anually by by Science Fiction Poetry Association and any member can nominate poetry for consideration (details for this year’s nomination process are here). Niteblade has a large number of poems which are eligible for nomination this year, check this out:
- Winter Wonder (2) by James Dorr
- The Book of Goodnight Stories by F. J. Bergmann
- The Cheater by Stephanie Wytovich
- Baby Doll by Sandy DeLuca
- Finicky by Francis W. Alexander
- Red Star Line by Jennifer Crow
- Dreaming in MSG by Helen R. Peterson
- Better Than The Real Thing by Mark Evans
- Aitvaras by Lee Clark Zumpe
- Mid-City Amusements by Alec B. Kowalczyk
- Flea Market Zombies by Brian Rosenberger
- Star Seed’s Arietta by Linda D. Addison
- Lycanthropia by Simon A. Thalmann
- My Own Ending by Michael Fosburg
- Newport Memorial by Jason L. Huskey
- The Note Found on the Person of the Dead Wizard Skewered From Above by Alexandra Seidel
- Second Chance by James Dorr
- Words of the Unprofound Joseph M. Gant
- The Marionette by Jason L. Huskey
Cathy Miller Burgoyne, a freelance Alaskan artist working in both digital and traditional media, composes both sci-fi imagery and illustrations of horror. Fans of the fantastic may catch sight of far-off planets and spy traces of beings from beyond our world in Cathy’s Polaria Series. Lovers of horror may glimpse surreal scenes of terror and witness ghostly manifestations in her Polar Twilight Series. Some of Cathy’s art begs the viewer to take more than one look. Look again, and you may see something you didn’t see before!
In addition to sci-fi and horror imagery, Cathy’s artwork also features images of animals (Polar Bear Garden) and arctic landscapes (Walrussia). More of Cathy’s work can be found here:
Book review by Sarah Hayes
The headlines read of six-month old triplets kidnapped, bloodied. The small town where they live is under a literal lockdown, and the sheriff is hell bent on finding the babies’ kidnappers, merrily abusing his powers as he goes. Having recently moved into town, Coren Raines finds himself in a hellish world of panic rooms and dead girls springing out of a well smelling of oranges. The deeper he falls down the bloody rabbit hole, the more Raines learns that this town is brimming with secrets better left buried.
In 1993, a terrible team of blondes bullied the town, beating on the young and the old alike. No one ever dared touch them, as they were the sheriff’s children. They called them the Blondies, and their favorite target was one Francine Heller. When the opportunity for a bit of revenge falls into Francine’s lap, she falls into some bad company in order to make the Blondies feel the same pain she has. But vengeance doesn’t sleep and the town will soon smell of blood and oranges once again.
Blood Orchard is a visceral mess of carnage and cusses and little else. I can handle gore and violence done right; this is gore and violence done wrong. All of the horror elements fall flat due to Hintz’s continual abuse of the “show, don’t tell” rule. None of the characters involved have any redeeming factors to them. There’s a difference between having a cast of gritty flawed characters and having a cast of utterly hateable characters, and Blood Orchard seems to gleefully drop itself into the later category. I’d be more forgiving of Blood Orchard if it had a decent story or even decent writing, but no, the story is lackluster and the writing lazy. But give Hintz credit: it’s a story you’d be hard-pressed to pull away from before the book’s end. It pulls you in and demands that you finish it, like it or not, and that is a compliment that is hard to earn.
Stephen Graham Jones doesn’t limit his writing. He writes short stories, novels and screenplays. You can learn more about him at http://www.demontheory.net/.
When did you first recognize yourself as a writer?
The easy answer’s the first time I got a check for something I’d written. Which would have been a contest I won in undergrad days, I guess. But, really, the next check, it was for a story I actually submitted, an unlikely story that had to fight its way upstream, find some room in the Black Warrior Review. Too, when that editor called, I distinctly remember there was a full moon, and my hand was still on the phone then—this was 1995, when my phone had a cord—because I’d just got news that my mom had been in a head-on crash right in front of the hospital I was born at. So then, this editor talking to me, saying he liked the story could he have it we can pay, all that, it was like he was at the end of some long tunnel. But I said yes. However, my first publication, I remember that too. I was in elementary, fourth or fifth or sixth grade, and my little brother had forgot to do his homework, so I did it for him over cereal: make up a myth, an origin story. Seemed like nothing, except then he won some contest with that, got published in the paper. His name on it, not mine, but so it goes. About that same time, too, I read Where the Red Fern Grows—this is probably the real answer—and the way that rusted axe head’s planted in that tree at the end, that lantern hanging from it, I remember I closed the book, nodded, said to myself that I can do that. I think that’s when it started.
What draws you to speculative fiction?
It’s that it can make the reader feel like she’s ten years old. Some stories, they’re so alien, so out there, yet so easy to identify with, so hard not to engage, that at the same time you’re seeing yourself in the story and wondering if this story’s even remotely possible. The world becomes bigger, I guess I’m saying. Speculative stuff can make it bigger, make you feel like you’re in a balloon that’s being inflated. Everything’s changing all around you. It’s the best feeling, I think. And, man, to share that with a reader, to get the chance of sharing that with thousands of readers, some themselves remote in time already, centuries away still—if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
Is there a piece of writing advice you’ve never followed?
Yeah, that ‘make a schedule and stick to it’-one. But all the established writers seems to make it work, I guess. Maybe I should get established too. I guess I also suck at the ‘write what you know’-one. I mean, I like to write about werewolves, about civilizations in other galaxies, and, got to say, I’m making some of it up, anyway. But, too, I firmly believe the writer can render no emotional landscape he hasn’t to some degree walked through himself. So, no, I’ve never been nor never known—so far as I know—a werewolf, but I have gone through several transformations, I suppose. As we all have. From kid to not-kid. From son to dad. From lost to found. But those stories tend to be completely boring to listen to, as we all start overwriting them with our own halfway through, so just really needed the story as a triggering device, not as something to lose ourselves in. Condense that experience down, though, give it fur and fangs, and then you’ve got something. And, if you’re lucky, it’ll make you reluctant to turn the lights off at night. The best stories make you feel the most alive, and you’re never more alive than when you’re terrified.
In the June 2009 issue of Niteblade, Rhonda chose to publish your story, “Monsters.” Is there a story behind how the story came about?
That’s one (more) of the stories I sat down to write with the stupid, destructive, shoot-myself-in-the-foot pie-in-the-sky idea that I was just going to do something small and Chekhov. That, since I so resist kiddie first-kiss stories—which really probably means I love them, I know—I should crawl inside one, see what the allure is, and try try try to keep it as boring (and Chekhov) as possible. So I could do characters instead of ‘cool stuff,’ which, cool stuff, that’s always my first impulse. Why write about a cousin when you can write about a pirate, right? Why set it on Earth when you can float it off into time? So, with “Monsters,” I tried, anyway. But then there was this dog that could smell dead people, and, I mean, what use is a dog in a story like that if there’s no dead people to smell, right? Story kind of just wrote itself after that.
What have you been working on lately?
Just had two books come out. It Came from Del Rio(Trapdoor Books), a bunny-headed zombie novel (with chupacabras, of course; they’re the essence of ‘cool stuff’) and a collection of horror stories from Prime, The Ones That Got Away (“Monsters” is in it). Each beautiful books, anyway, though of course you can’t trust what I might try to say about the writing. And, now: just wrote a short film script this weekend for a director friend, to make the festival circuit. It’s horror, of course. Way bloody. Why write something if there’s not a knife in it, right? And why have a knife if it’s not going to cut just a lot of people? It’s simple, yet so many people keep missing it. And, I got hit up to do a baseball story, so I’m doing a baseball zombie story, because zombies make everything better. And, I’m currently on draft three of this zombie novel I love love love, The Gospel of Z. Trying to make it perfect. We’ll see. Then have a couple more novels coming out (from Dzanc), Flushboy—lonely kid working the window of his dad’s drive-thru urinal place—and Not for Nothing, a small-town, second-person noir. Hopefully a book or two before them, though. I need to kick out the second Del Rio, really.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Niteblade’s readers?
Just that they’re reading the good stuff, the stuff that matters. And probably writing some of it as well. But they don’t need me to tell them that. Um, um, I know: Engage. Make it so. First star on the left and straight on till morning.