The Elementals: Timber Philips interview

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In case you may have missed it on the many times I mentioned it already, The Elementals comes out on the 28th November – this coming Saturday! To celebrate this release I have interviews with some of the authors who have stories in the anthology. We are kicking things off with Timber Philips!

Things I learned from this interview – I was not the only one in this anthology to use characters from an existing series and there are now two characters called Ashlyn or Ash in this book. Great minds think alike…

An author photo of Timber PhillipsTimber Philips hails from a land filled with beauty and steeped in magic; the Pacific Northwest. She swears you can see fairies and goblins, magic and promise around every tree and in every drop of water and she shares that magic whenever she can. She loves welcoming everyone to her worlds of romance rooted in fable and fantasy.

The anthology theme is ‘Elementals’, what does this mean to you and how did you interpret it in your story?

I interpreted it as just what it is, the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. I already have a witch series that the four of them each have been born with an affinity for a particular element. I decided to focus on Water for this anthology piece, and thus decided to focus on the back story of my water witch Ashlyn Tremblay.

 Where is your story set? Is it a real world location or one you made up? What drove you to set your story there?

All of my witches are from the fictional small town of Loving, Massachusetts. Ashlyn has since moved on from Loving and so I have her and this particular story set in the nearest big city which is Boston.

 Are there any personal experiences in your story? Things you have done, people you have met etc.?An image of the Elementals cover in a setting representing water

LOL no. I used a friend of mine’s name for the lead bad guy in this story, but there is in no way any other resemblance to the actual person.

 What drives the main characters of your story?

Loss, grief, and the need to be the good guy. Ash is a very mixed up character. A good person who has just suffered a pretty tremendous personal loss. She is trying to find her way in the world, just like everyone else, she just has the added complication of being a water witch.

What was your writing ‘method’ for this anthology? How did you progress from initial idea to the final, published story?

You know, I always get this question, and I never have a good answer. I don’t know how I do it. I just sit myself down and write. I just do it.

Describe the premise of your story.

 Ashlyn Tremblay is a mess. Her twin sister has died, her circle is broken, and she has taken to reckless behaviors in order to mask her pain. Her boss, Hatchet, is less than thrilled, and though Ashlyn knows she’s ready to go solo in their bounty hunting endeavor, Hatchet’s saddled her with a babysitter for her next job… his son, Stone.

Release date for The Elementals is 28th November 2020.

You can pre-order (or buy if its past the 28th!) on Kindle from this link:

SRFC – Interview with Russell Smith and F.D Lee

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So, on Friday, 20th November the Super Relaxed Fantasy club (a London based group that used to meet in physical space but during the Pandemic has been doing virtual events instead) played host to myself, Russell Smith and F.D Lee while we promoted The Elementals and discussed random stuff about Urban Fantasy and History. The video is above for you to watch.

I had great fun doing this but it was very nerve wracking. I much prefer doing things like readings and Q&As in person and this was the first time I had done anything like it on video. Turned out it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be…

The Elementals is released this coming Saturday on the 28th November. You can pre-order the Kindle edition now by following this link:

It includes a selection of 13 stories by different authors, all on the theme of ‘Elemental magic’. It includes my entry – ‘Transgressions’ – and Russell’s ‘The Social Contract’ as well as stories by Liz Knox, Timber Phillips, Heather Young Nichols and others.

Starting this week I am going to be hosting interviews with some of the authors so keep an eye out for those…

Photo-editing

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Triggered by a recent Facebook group post, I’m going to talk about something that seems to be a really controversial thing in photography – editing.

There is such a lot to unpack with this and everyone seems to have an opinion. There are those, for example, who claim you ‘should just get it right in camera’ or say they ‘never edit’. Others edit liberally to the extent you can sometimes not see the original image under the processing. And, just as in the aforementioned Facebook group post, it seems to polarise the community.

I guess there is good reason why it does. After all, there are often celebrity controversies about it. Claims that they present an unrealistic body image are justified. In a recent (September 2020) government survey (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmwomeq/805/80502.html) the following question was asked:

This indicates that social media images (mostly edited with filters and similar) and celebrity images (both on TV and in social media) are huge influences on how many feel about their appearance. The use of photoshop style editing is part of that.

However, my opinion is that this is a more nuanced issue.

First of all, those who claim they never edit or ‘they didn’t edit back in the days of film’ are a little misled. Back in the day of film a hell of a lot of editing did occur. The very act of processing film required making decisions about exposure and timing the developing process to suit and many of the features of Photoshop (layers, dodging, burning) are based on activities that used to occur all the time in dark rooms. For example, photographers would use acetate sheets with different elements layered over an image in the same way a modern editor will copy and paste layers of image to make a composite.

As for ‘I don’t edit my digital images’, it has to be understood here that every digital camera – whether it is your camera phone, a compact ‘point and click’, a DSLR or a mirrorless – edits the image before it shows it to you. All digital cameras will record the data of the image taken as a RAW file – usually a huge file that takes up a lot of storage space – and will convert that into a more compressed jpeg or similar so you can view it on the screen. In making this compressed file, the computer in the camera uses algorithms to make decisions about the exposure etc. based on what it thinks you want to see in that image. Some cameras (e.g. DSLRs or mirrorless set to ‘manual mode’) store the RAW file so you can do your edits. Others (such as most camera phones) delete the RAW file after it has made the conversion.

Now, in my opinion, the issue should not be so polarised. We can accept that editing can be used in a way that causes harm to others. We can also accept that all images need some editing, even if that is achieved by an algorithm. What we actually need to be considering is not ‘whether editing should be done at all’ but rather ‘editing should be done as appropriate for the image’. Journalistic or sports photography is always going to need less editing than high art. The trick is deciding where you feel your image fits and how much editing it needs as a result and whether that editing is ethical. This can be a very personal decision.

I do a lot of fantasy and SF themed photography. While you can do a lot with make up and special effects on the set, there will inevitably need to be some form of edit in photoshop to give the images oomph. This might be changing the background to a fantasy scene instead of the studio backdrop or plain brick wall of the original. It might be replacing a bland sky with something with storm clouds. It could be adding lightning flashes or other things to make a character look like they are doing magic. All of these are changes that an editing critic might say were deviating from the original image too much. However, in these specific examples, I would argue they are essential to create the image. The two images below are an example from a trip out with a vampire a few years ago…

Before
After

Missed Opportunities: An obituary for Rachel Caine

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I recieved the sad news today via both Facebook and email that Rachel Caine, author of the Morganville Vampires among other tales, had sadly passed away. She had been battling with a particularly rare and aggressive soft tissue sarcoma and had announced not too long ago that it had become impossible to treat and it was only a matter of time. The full announcement can be seen here on her fan page.

I never met Roxanne Conrad, the author who used the name Rachel CaineRachel Caine - Home as her pen name, but she had an influence on my life and my writing work in more than one way. In the height of ‘Twilightmania’, she was publishing novels about vampires that were refreshing and unique. The town of Morganville was something akin to what could exist in White Wolf’s World of Darkness – a place ruled by vampires – and it contained a bunch of entertaining characters and stories that I could not stop reading. It represented for me the epitome of urban fantasy writing. Few authors have the nounce to not only make Oliver Cromwell a character but also to hide him under an assumed name and leave it up to readers to work out who he actually is (by working it out from his birth date given in one of the books…). Oh and not to mention one of the characters might possibly be Merlin… sort of…

I read some of her other works (Ink and Bone, the Weather Warden Series and the Revivalist series) and saw a great talent in her work. She twisted tropes, played with concepts and seemed to have a never ending pool of great ideas that she seemed to churn out at an alarming rate compared to my pedestrian writing speed. However, it was always the Morganville series for which I will always remember and thank her for.

In the past year, I had become aware of her on Quora where, like Mercedes Lackey, she had been making a name for herself as someone who gave sensible advice to upcoming writers. I was even honoured on a number of occasions to have had an upvote from her on some of my answers. For a fan that is an epic form of recognition.

Glass Houses: The bestselling action-packed series (Morganville Vampires)  eBook: Caine, Rachel: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle StoreThe missed opportunity I mentioned in the title was that I have always said that I would have loved to have had her doing a piece for Vampire month. Sharing her ideas about vampires and urban fantasy in general. I never had the guts to ask and now I will never get the chance. I guess this is an appropriate time to remind you all to carpe diem while you can because things can change so quickly and chances disappear.

Anyway, I urge you to check out her books if you haven’t already. You can find them all on Goodreads/Amazon right here… And if you have any interest in Vampires at all and are sick of all the many tropes about them, I strongly suggest you check out Glass Houses, the Morganville Vampires book 1.

 

Interview: Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

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In the final (for now) Vampire month style interview in celebration of the release of Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, we have Nigerian author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki talking to us about Anne Rice and other aspects of writing about vampires.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is an African speculative fiction writer, slush reader and editor. He was awarded an honourable mention, twice in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. His short story won the Nommo award for best short story by an African. He has been published in African Writer, Omenana magazine, Selene Quarterly, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Tor.  

He co-edited the Invictus Quarterly, Selene Quarterly, and the Dominion Anthology

He also happens to be a member of the African Speculative Fiction Society, Codex, BFA, BSFA, HWA and the SFWA.

You can find him on the following social media links:

Twitter www.twitter.com/penprince_

Facebook www.facebook.com/penprince

Instagram www.instagram.com/penprince

What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

I would say I was writing since I could write. I always used to make up my own version of the stories I read as early as I could read. About the same time I could write. Then I started to actually write it down a bit later, before I was a teenager. Mostly fight scenes with made up characters but having the abilities of the ones in stories I read. I did try my hand at original stories too as a teenager. I even have this novella/novel about ancient Egypt. Which no, you won’t be seeing. Lol.

When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

Well, professional. I’ll say that was much later when I discovered literary mags and selling of stories. That was much later on in life. My mid 20s. By then I had given up on writing for like half a decade. Sold my first spec fic story to a pro market in 2018. Published in a couple places before then in like 2015.

What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

Greatest strength, I would say is my experience as a reader. I think it influences my writing and gives it the quality or feel that it has. Weakness, I’ll say is my stamina. I’m not very prolific. I wrote in short bursts and not as often as I would like. There’s no magic cure. I just have to motivate myself daily to work at it. Food helps as a motivating factor. *smile*

Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

I currently live in Lagos, Nigeria. And move around a bit. I can’t say that my place or abode has influenced me so much. I tend to live in my head, and Carry my home with me. Although the times I’ve been in a location that’s been really bad, it’s affected my writing, negatively. But other than that, a few creature comforts, and I and my writing are good.

Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

There’s so many books, it would be hard to say. But it would be a tie between the DragonLance Chronicles and Legends by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and the Dark Elf Trilogy/Icewindale Trilogy by RA Silvatore. You can toss in the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, and the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. We can also add the Sword of Truth series. Bless Terry Goodkind.

What drove you to write about Vampires?

Anne Rice. And the fact that they are sleek, sexy, powerful, immortal, dark creaturse. What’s not to love about them?

What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

I think it’s the dangerous elegance of it. The danger is exciting. The beauty is alluring. Must be why we keep going back to them so many times, no matter how much they have been explored.

In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

Lestat de Lioncourt.

What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

Tie between the count Dracula and Queen Akansha. They are royalty afteral. Come on.

How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

Pretty well. Considering my characters are mainly gods, devils and geniuses.

Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.

In a post apocalyptic world where a third world war has wiped out nearly all life on the African continent, the survivors gather in Ife-Iyoku, the spiritual capital of the ancient Oyo empire and birth place of all life, where they evolve due to the magic and power of the place and gain powers to survive the radiation and twisted environs they find themselves.

Interview: Jessica Cage

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For our third special October Vampire month interview to support the release of Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, we have Jessica Cage.

Jessica Cage is an International  Award Winning, and USA Today Best Selling Headshot of Jessica Cage, AuthorAuthor. Born and raised in Chicago, IL, writing has always been a passion for her. As a girl, Jessica enjoyed reading tales of fantasy and mystery but she always hoped to find characters that looked like her. Those characters came few and far in between. When they did appear they often played a minor role and were background figures. This is the inspiration for her writing today and the reason why she focuses on writing Characters of Color in Fantasy.  Representation matters in all mediums and Jessica is determined to give the young girl who looks like her, a story full of characters that she can relate to.

What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

My earliest memory of writing is my grandmother handing me a pen and paper and telling me to write down the story I was dying to tell her. She was a total book nerd and I was interrupting what I can only imagine was a steamy Harlequin novel. From that moment on, I would write her tall tales that only she would read.

When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

I chose to become a professional writer when I was pregnant. I wanted to set an example for my son. How could I encourage him to go after his dreams while being too afraid to chase my own?

What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

My greatest strength is my ability to give the reader an almost cinematic experience. I love for the reader to feel like they are not only reading the book but as if they are a part of it. Its one of the most common compliments I receive about my work. My weakness… commas. Darn those commas. No, I’m still not over it. I struggle with understanding where they go. They will either be all over the place or nowhere to be found. Thank the stars for my editors!

Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

I live in the Windy City, Chicago and yes. I have absolutely put pieces of my home in nearly every story I’ve written. I’ll take you into the nightlife or describe one of my favorite spots to eat. Chicago is more than just the downtown most tourist see so I try to weave in my personal experiences with the city in the stories.

Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

Can I just say L.A. Banks? Is that an option. I love her books. It was one of my first experiences with a woman of color witing the kind of high energy fantasy stories I wanted that also had a POC cast. I felt so empowered to do the same. Outside of her works, I find myself falling in love with any book that dares to test the limits of what has already been written. I love pushing boundaries and creating new concepts.

What drove you to write about Vampires?

A childhood obsession with Lestat and a questioning mind. I LOVED vampires but it didn’t feel right that they were human evolved (or devolved depending on who is writing the story). The first book I ever wrote depicted vampires as alien lifeforms who fled their home world to escape a darkness that was taking over. It was a blend of vampires and sci-fi and it was my dream come true.

What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

Immortality. At least that what it is for me. Its the question of what would you do, who would you be if you knew you could live forever? For humans, life is fleeting. Its not promised to us. Through these stories we get to take risks and life a life that is uninhibited by the constructs of time and that is exciting and intoxicating.

In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

Akasha. I choose her because she is a badass woman and ruthless. Even Dracula had a soft spot and she would have exploited that to no end. Second to her, Selene. Women rule.

What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

I’d have to say for sexiness Eric Northman or Gerad Butler’s Dracula 2000. For dress, I’m going with Blade! I loved his gear!

High Arc Vampires Series by Jessica Cage In Order — Monster Complex

How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

Alexa (my first vampire) could kick some ass. Not only is she a vampire, but she has magical powers. Kyla (my vampire in the Slay Anthology) would compete for style. Mara (vampire in The Alpha’s) would take the gold for dress hands down!

Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.

My latest novel is about Sierra Grey who is a conjurn (or witch) who was chosen for darkness. In her world that means she will never know love or any of the joys of a human relationship. However, she is special, marked at birth as someone would change her world. After a chance encounter with a yummy guy, she starts experiencing emotions and powers that she shouldn’t have. The powers that be thinks that she is an anomaly that must be eradicated. She is forced to flee her home and find a way to save not only herself but her people.

You can learn more about Jessica on the following links:

You can buy Jessica’s books at the following links:

Website – www.jessicacage.com/shop

Amazon- https://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cage/e/B00CNTUBGO/

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) A tongue-in-cheek analysis by Steve Van Samson



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Amazon.com: The Last Man on Earth [VHS]: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia,  Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Umberto Raho, Christi Courtland,  Antonio Corevi, Ettore Ribotta, Carolyn De Fonseca, Rolando De Rossi,  Giuseppe Mattei,First, a little history…

These days, the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse can hardly be considered jaw droppingly original. With such beloved properties such as THE WALKING DEAD (2010), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and about a million in between, the zombie hoard concept has staggered and moaned its way into our hearts. Funny thing is, boil ‘em down to their component parts and you’ll find there are essentially two types of zombie films: Pre-Apocalypse and Post. But in the early 1950s, the idea of a world where mankind had been put on the endangered species list was unheard of. Lucky for us that in 1954, genre master Richard Matheson penned a novel that changed all of that.
In the world of Science Fiction and Horror, “I Am Legend” is kind of an important book. It inspired not only what is considered by many to be the quintessential zombie film (Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1968), but also three direct adaptations (including THE OMEGA MAN, 1971 & I AM LEGEND, 2007) and essentially an entire subgenre of horror. In other words, if the Zombie Apocalypse compels you to write a thank you note, it should probably be addressed to Richard Matheson.
But enough of that…
Tonight’s film is not only the first to adapt the story “I Am Legend”, it also happens to be the most faithful to the source material.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) is constructed of three distinct acts, beginning with a series of aerial shots depicting a sprawling, if barren metropolis. As these progress, the shots become more and more grim, eventually depicting dead bodies strewn over sidewalks, streets and stairs as well as a church’s marquee which boldly proclaims that THE END HAS COME. The sequence comes to its conclusion on a sleepy street, which would surely be charming if not for all the bodies.
It is here that through a broken and boarded window, we catch the first glimpse of our hero. Starring as Dr. Robert Morgan we have the great Vincent Price (HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, 1959, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, 1971). Initially asleep, Robert is jarred awake to the shrill sound of an alarm clock. And like many of us are apt to, he greets the morning with all the excitement of getting a root canal, as he shuffles off and into the business of the day.
“Another day to live through. Better get started.”
With this haunting line, so begins the film’s first act.
For quite a while, the movie trudges along as a sort of one man show–depicting a typical day in the life of the titular LAST MAN ON EARTH. Initially, all of the film’s dialog is delivered via an inner monologue–providing vital insight into the mind of our protagonist, as well as establishing the ins and outs of this post-apocalyptic world. Apparently it has been three years since Morgan inherited the Earth, though by his own account if feels quite a bit longer.
After checking his calendar and adding oil to the ole’ generator, Morgan steps outside to greet the morning sun as well as some fresh dead folk on his lawn. These he regards with all the awe one typically reserves for the first glimpse of the morning paper. It is about this time that we begin to learn about the film’s so-called monsters. Though I have thus far likened these infected humans to “zombies”, this is not entirely accurate. While the infecteds are certainly zombie-esque (given their apparent penchant for moaning, shuffling, blank stares, etc.) they also share quite a few similarities with another classic monster–the vampire.
We soon learn that Morgan has fortified his home with such oddities as strands of garlic and mirrors. According to this film’s mythology, mirrors can be used to repel the infecteds who have a serious hate-on for their own hideous reflections. Of course later when we are treated to the limits of the makeup department, this fact becomes quite silly since the monsters (zompires?) look about as monstrous as the average post-bender collegiate.
But I digress…
After a few more steps in the morning routine, Morgan packs his kit with some freshly made stakes, loads up the car with two bodies from the lawn and hits the road. Better get a move on, Morgan–you’ve got a full day of errands ahead of you and daylight, she’s a burnin’.
After a quick fill-up, the good doctor’s first stop is “the pit”. Basically a perpetually burning gorge of insinuated bodies (insinuated since we never actually see any besides the ones Morgan tosses in). Admittedly, out of the many daily functions we have seen Dr. Robert Morgan perform so far, throwing dead zompires into the mouth of hell is probably the most exciting. The sequence ends with Morgan chasing the bodies with a whole can of petrol and a jumbo novelty torch–just to let the we the audience know that they the filmmakers were also wondering what was keeping this pit thing going.BlueisKewl: The Last Man on Earth 1964
Stop number two on Morgan’s crazy Saturday adventure is a visit to the local supermarket. Surprisingly, he passes through aisles stocked with cans and boxes of viable food, ignoring the lot. The item he’s after today is garlic since his home supply has apparently lost its potency. A good thing indeed that the market’s freezer is still working and there is a large supply of the stinky vampire repelling bulb inside. After stocking up on all the garlic he can carry, Morgan moves on to the really fun part of the day… FULL THROTTLE ZOMPIRE KILLING SPREE!!!
The score blares, all brass and swagger as we are treated to a montage of Vincent Price kicking in doors, hammering down stakes and feeding “the pit” with some freshly slain zompire folk. Then wash, rinse, repeat–it’s all very exciting. Eventually though, the sun starts to get low in that western sky. Noticing this, Morgan decides he had better head home, batten down the hatches and hunker in for another long night. And so he does. One safely settled in, the zompires appear almost at once, planks of wood in hand–they assault the doctor’s home, even calling him by name!
“Morgan… Come out Morgan…”
Fortunately for the good doctor, his zompire assailants have the approximate upper body strength of Spongebob Squarepants. After three years of nightly onslaughts, they have yet to set as much as one wormy toe into his fine, upper middle class home.
At its core, the point of act 1 is to show us a typical day in the life of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. The mundanities feel mundane for a very good reason–Morgan is running on fumes. He exists simply to exist. Filling his time with the self appointed purpose of exterminating as many zompires as possible–making sure not to die in the process so he can do it all over again the next day, and the next… and the next.
The Last Man on Earth 1964: 15 things you didn't know! | Spooky Isles
Act 2 appears pretty much out of nowhere and is basically one big flashback. In it, we are able to glimpse a portion of Morgan’s life prior to the human race’s nigh-extinction. We get to meet his lovely wife and adorable young daughter, as well as his best friend Ben (who we’ve already met as the hero zompire who endlessly calls Morgan by name). These are the early days of the disease and they aren’t pretty–what with all the panic and hazmat suits and dead kids getting hauled away in trucks. The sequence is certainly interesting enough and adds some depth to our main character.
With the flashback over, we smack headlong into act 3. The final portion of the film takes what we think we know about the world and turns it on its head. Without giving too much away, I will say that the conclusion does a good job of providing an alternate look at Morgan’s unique outlook and situation.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) is admittedly something of a sluggish affair. It’s production is low and it features some seriously terrible audio quality as well as glaringly looped voice overs.–however, the film is certainly not without its charm. Price’s character, while incredibly disillusioned and apathetic, is fascinating when juxtaposed against the dystopian world just outside his door. We come to understand that Dr. Robert Morgan is a shell of his former self. A man resigned to continue the business of living–somehow finding balance in day to day survival, but perhaps without knowing why. And somewhere along the way, he became something unrecognizable.
I think Nietzsche probably said it best.

Interview: Steve Van Samson

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Our second interview for our series celebrating the release of Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire is with Steve Van Samson. Here he describes himself in his own words:

I’m the author of the “Predator World” novels (The Bone Eater King and Picture of Steve Van SamsonMarrow Dust) as well as numerous short stories which all tend to be on the pulpy, adventure side of horror, with an eye on character diversity. Aside from writing, I have also sung lead vocals on 2 albums with the band Enchanted Exile and co-host a fun nostalgia podcast on The Dorkening Network, called Retro Ridoctopus!

You can find him in these places:

Amazon

Facebook: Steve Van Samson 

Twitter: @SteveVansamson

Publisher for press releases: www.roughhousepublishing.com

 

What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

Though I didn’t think of it as a form of writing then, when 10 year old me would come up with characters and scenarios to pretend and play through with my friends, I think I was actually world building. Later, I also recall writing down (and improving on) certain weird dreams that I had at the time, for use as fodder for assignments in high school. There was one involving being invited over to a teacher’s house and discovering a pocket dimension beneath their swimming pool. That one was my mom’s favorite.

When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

I’m just a huge fan of creating and meeting/interacting with new people. Writing allows me to do both in spades. I also really like the idea that by putting out books, I’m leaving something behind that my kids can always look back to and (hopefully) be proud of!

What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

I love it when long-running TV shows reference specific scenes from earlier seasons. Buffy did this masterfully and so does Supernatural. It’s the sort of thing both that can both reward long-time fans while breathing new life to something they’ve already experienced. Possibly spurring new interest into seeking out and re-watching the old episodes that were just brought up. I try to do the same thing with my writing by always leaving little seeds throughout. Even if these details are glossed over initially, they may just bloom in subsequent readings. I also take great pride in my endings, which my readers consistently point out as being fulfilling and exciting.

I became interested in writing long after college and, unfortunately, do not have an English degree. As such, my grammar and punctuation tend to be a bit on the spotty side. It’s a weakness for sure, but I am always learning and improving!

Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

I live in the USA. In a quiet, very old town in Massachusetts called Lancaster. As such, history is all around and I drink it in constantly. As far as settings for stories go, I generally like to write about varied places and people. That said, my story “The Root of All Noise” (which appears in More Lore From The Mythos Volume 2) does actually take place in MA and features many actual features of the hiking trails around Mount Greylock.

Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

I don’t think there is one specific book, but rather certain authors whom I am consistently in awe over. Somewhere between the no nonsense, everyman prose of Joe R. Lansdale and the fairy-tale magic of Neil Gaiman is generally where I generally hope to land.

What drove you to write about Vampires?

There is a story called “The Hills of the Dead” by Robert E. Howard that I absolutely love. It has the roving Puritan evil fighter, Solomon Kane, travelling to Africa and battling a very unique breed of vampires. Everything about this story was exciting and new to me. Not only was this a very different take on vampires as creatures, but Howard placed them in an atypical setting. These decisions encapsulate pretty much everything I try to accomplish in writing. Give the reader something familiar and a whole lot of “holy crap, I’ve never seen that before”!

What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

Vampires are a very diverse monster. They can be sexy, dangerous or a combination of the two and no matter what the genre (horror, romance, sci-fi, weird westerns) if one of the characters is a vampire, it becomes a vampire story!

In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

As much as I love Carmilla, Dracula and Blade, I really enjoyed the Alpha Vampire from Supernatural. Rick Worthy played him as a quiet, restrained threat. As a character who had mastered his beast, but was keeping it by his side rather than in a cage. I really wish we got to see more of him.

What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

Oh, definitely Selene from Underworld. Who can say no to Kate Beckinsale in all that skin tight leather?

How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

I would love to see the Bone Eater King take on the Alpha Vampire. And while Supernatural’s Alpha definitely has the age advantage, I think the King’s raw power and size would ensure that he’d keep his crown. Selene would probably take him down though.

Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.

I know we’re doing vampire stuff here, but my latest is actually a bit of a departure. Mark of the Witchwyrm presents a father’s journey through a very cold, very grounded fantasy-type landscape.
Rander Belmorn is far from home. He searches tirelessly for the one man who might be able to cure his dying son, but time is running out. The road has led to a frozen waste at the very edge of the world. But what Rander Belmorn never learned on that long, lonely road was the answer to the last question. The only question. How do you kill a witch?
Mark of the Witchwyrm drops January 2021 from Rough House Publishing!

Interview: L. Marie Wood

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In our first special ‘itinerant Vampire Month’ post, we welcome L. Marie Wood into the special vampire interrogation chair (the one with all the gothic skulls and weird spikes) to answer questions about herself, her work and in particular her story in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire.Picture of L. Marie Wood

L. Marie Wood is an award-winning author and screenwriter. She is the recipient of the Golden Stake Award for her novel The Promise Keeper, as well as the Harold L. Brown Award for her screenplay Home Party. Her short story, “The Ever After” is part of the Bram Stoker Award Finalist anthology Sycorax’s Daughters.  Wood was recognized in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Vol. 15 and as one of the 100+ Black Women in Horror Fiction.  

The questions…

What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?

I was 5 years old and I wrote a horror story about a woman who was being chased.  She encountered all kinds of things that were creepy to my young mind and then, at the moment when she would either have to fight or die trying, she woke up!

When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?

In the middle of that very first story – yes, at age 5 – I decide that writing was what I wanted to do forever.  Writing is something that is as much a part of me as my eye color or my height.  I truly feel that I was born to do this and to ignore that would be to live life unrealized.

What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?

My greatest strength is that I can find ideas anywhere and everywhere.  Considering that my genre is psychological horror, I often am intrigued by what could be going on in someone’s head.  That allows for an endless supply of material – ideas can be generated by taking a walk or waiting at a stop light in the car.  Cover of The Realm by L. Marie Wood

My greatest weakness is the concept of boundaries – though, not the way you might think.  I used to not read when I was writing.  When I was working on my first novel, I thought that was the best way to keep other people’s ideas out of my head and keep my writing pure.  I found that limited the amount of reading I did in a year and if you are like me, the consumption of fiction is as important to you as air or water – well, almost.  😊  Because I write a lot, I found that I read less and less and that just bothered me.  So, I tried writing a few short stories while reading a novel that had been on my list for some time… and it worked!  I found that I didn’t actually need to keep the two separate at all – that I can actually walk and chew gum at the same time.  I take this approach with all boundaries, whether within the writing or from my daily life.  The way I overcame the weakness was simply to try it and see what happened. 

Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?

My town is like any other suburban town – same stores, same restaurants… some streets even look like ones in neighbouring states.  This is the perfect place to get inspiration.  I write about the lived experience – the mundane is my playground.

Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?

Not a book, but an author.  Ira Levin’s comfortable flow really spoke to me wheIra Levin (Playwright, Author) | StageAgentn I was trying to find my own voice.  He connects with readers in a way that makes you feel like you are chatting with him over a drink on a casual Sunday afternoon.  That ability to engage readers, to unsuspectingly get into their space and under their skin, has influenced my style considerably.

What drove you to write about Vampires?

They are the most human of the horror antagonists and their motivations just make sense to me.  The embodiment of excess regardless of what emotion is being displayed, vampires are excellent antagonists to use in psychological horror.

What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?

Vampires are sexy!  Vampires are misunderstood.  Vampires do what we wish we could and dare someone to levy a consequence.  Vampires are who want to be times 1000.

In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?

The smart ones.  The Lestats of the genre, impetuous as he is.  The Armands.  The ones who know there is more to the whole thing than just the taking of blood.  If I had to pick one, I’ll say Lestat.

What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?

Same… I mean, just look at Lestat!

How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?

Nah, there’s no competition in dress and style.  My characters are nowhere near as flashy as Lestat, however, they would give him a run for his money once he turned a little catty!

Tell us the basic premise behind your story in this anthology.

The short story in SLAY is a discovery tale that happens in a contemporary setting.  It is fast-paced and really dives into the internal turmoil that can exist when one’s humanity is staring back at them in the mirror.

You can find out more about L, Marie Wood on the following links:

Website:  www.lmariewood.com

Twitter: @LMarieWood1

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/lmariewood

Amazon Author Page

 

 

Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire.

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What’s this? A title mentioning vampires on this blog and it isn’t March?

Yes, it is true. I am breaking the usual rules of this site by not saving vampire month until March. However, if you noticed, we didn’t have a Vampire Month this March so I feel perfectly justified in running a sort of itinerant Vampire Month in October.

Besides, it makes a hell of a lot more sense to have it in October. What with Halloween and all…

Plus, this is an exciting prospect. On October 13th this year, Mocha Memoirs Press is releasing a vampire themed anthology that has been funded on Kickstarter. The aim was Mocha Memoir press’s usual mission statement which is to ‘amplify marginalized voices in the areas of speculative fiction (science fiction, horror, and fantasy).’ In particular, to explore the black diaspora in Vampire fiction.

So, Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, edited by my old Worldcon panel buddy Nicole Givens Kurtz, will soon be available from the usual booksellers and contains stories from a range of talented writers including:

L. Marie Wood

Steve Van Samson

Jessica Cage

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Over the next few weeks, we will have interviews with all these authors so you can have a chance to get to know them better…