Interview: Christopher Conlon Releases ANNABEL LEE

I recently interviewed Christopher Conlon, prolific author, poet, and winner of the Bram Stoker Award.

Christoper, tell us about your new novel, Annabel Lee.
Annabel Lee stems from my lifelong love of Edgar Allan Poe. He was my first favorite writer, from virtually the moment I discovered his work when I was eleven or twelve. For several years I was all but obsessed with him, reading every word of his I could find—even things like his literary criticism, which I couldn’t really understand, and yet I loved the way he used words. “Annabel Lee” was my first favorite poem, which ignited a love of poetry I still have more than forty years later. My novel is narrated by Annabel Lee herself—telling her own story, in her own words. It turns out that Poe got a lot of things wrong! My Annabel tells the true tale.

What have you published so far, and where?Annabel Lee by Christopher Conlon
Lee, I have a website at http://www.christopherconlon.com, where interested parties can check out my bibliography. I’ve done something north of twenty books, the best known of which are He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson, which was a genre bestseller and won the Stoker Award, and my novel Savaging the Dark, which Booklist placed in their list of the ten best horror books of the year and Paste Magazine called one of the fifty best horror books of all time. I’ve worked with a lot of the major players in the horror field—Tor, Cemetery Dance, Dark Regions—and had work in anthologies like Masques V and magazines like Dark Discoveries. So I’ve been around for a while.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how long you’ve been writing, what kind of fiction you like to write.
I’m from the Central Coast of California originally, but I’ve lived in the Washington DC area for the past twenty-nine years. In all that time I’ve been writing. I began with my own homemade comic books when I was five or six and graduated to prose fiction around the time I discovered Poe and then The Twilight Zone, my other great formative influence. Most of my fiction has a “weird” edge as a result, though I’ve written mainstream and literary fiction too, not to mention poetry.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’d have to say the eighty dollars or so that I used to by a Sears portable typewriter when I joined the Peace Corps in 1988. It caused some problems occasionally with airport security people, but I used that little machine all throughout my time in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. I wrote all my first published poems on it. I was the only Peace Corps Volunteer in the entire country with his own typewriter—it just wasn’t something people brought along from the U.S. But it kept me writing throughout the whole experience.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Well, this answer could go into some dark places, since both my parents were drunks—my mother died of cirrhosis when she was forty-nine and my dad was arrested for driving under the influence at least twice that I know of. They certainly said any number of things to me that proved language had power, and in a way I think I’m still recovering from some of them. But I discovered that I could also fight back with words—and I did so, through my writing. Maybe I’m still doing that, I don’t know.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I’ve never based a character on a real person. I might use some aspect of a real person as part of a character—a habit of speech they have, say. But why base characters on people I know instead of using the most powerful tool in the whole writer’s toolkit—my imagination?

What does literary success look like to you? Do you think you’ve attained it?
Hmmm. Interesting question. There are the obvious material signs of success, which for the most part I have not attained. My income as a writer isn’t large, nor is my readership. On the other hand, my books get published, they’re generally very well reviewed, and I’ve even received an award or two. Is that success? Some days it feels like it is. Other days, no.

Have you read anything that really made you think differently about fiction?
When I was in my early twenties I discovered the fiction of Truman Capote, who definitely made me rethink the possibilities of fiction. I’d never read any of the so-called Southern Gothic writers, and his way with language was almost as potent, and as revelatory, as Poe had been for me a decade earlier. Any horror reader should be familiar with Capote’s stories “The Headless Hawk,” “Miriam,” “Shut a Final Door,” “A Tree of Night”… and of course his great nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

What was your hardest scene to write?
Generally speaking, I don’t find writing hard. Once I’m going on a project I rarely get stuck for any significant period of time. But I’ll admit that there was one scene in Annabel Lee that caused me fits because I simply couldn’t figure it out. I had my heroine in a dramatic situation from which she needed to escape, but I just could not figure out any way for her to do it. I was writing on the book day after day, coming closer and closer to that pivotal scene and still not knowing what would happen! Well, the clouds parted at last, and it came to me in a rush only a day or two before I had to write it. The writing itself, once I had the approach to the scene, wasn’t difficult.

Does your family support your career as a writer, Chris?
Oh, sure. My wife reads all my work. It was a different story when I was young—my parents definitely did not support the idea of this weird kid writing all these stories and sending them off to magazines that always rejected them. I got no support at all from them. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?
I’m not sure what a grammar Nazi is. Is someone who points out an error a Nazi? I don’t know. I try the best I can with grammar, but I make mistakes—which I usually discover upon reading through a brand-new printed and bound copy of one of my books!

How often do you write?
Not as often as I used to. When I was in the Kalahari Desert thirty years ago I wrote every morning in the pre-dawn hours, before I went off to my job teaching at a secondary school there. Now it’s more sporadic. Most of my writing nowadays I do in the summertime.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
The same thing that’s the hardest about any regular disciplined activity—getting started each day. Once I’m going, though, I just go.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
Having ideas. People who aren’t writers always think that ideas are the big thing. They come to somebody like me and say, “I have this great idea for a story!” and generally want me to write it and for us to split the proceeds. But any idiot can have an idea, and many idiots do. The idea is the least of it. It’s how the idea is fleshed-out, developed, written. That’s the real work.

Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Lee, I would be extremely dubious of any “writer” who said that he or she didn’t read much. Reading is all! It’s everything. It’s the foundation of all the writing any writer will ever do. For me it’s Poe, as I’ve mentioned, and Capote, and Tennessee Williams, all the Southern Gothics, along with the Twilight Zone crew—Serling, Matheson, Beaumont and the rest. Joyce Carol Oates. The early Bradbury. But also different types of writers—I’ve read all twenty-three of Anita Brookner’s quietly beautiful novels of British middle-class life. H.G. Wells, George Gissing, W. Somerset Maugham. James Baldwin. Proust, Turgenev, Chekhov. Science fiction guys—Asimov, Pohl, Clarke, Simak. Just all sorts of things, really. And I haven’t even mentioned poetry! But that’s what I’d tell anyone who wants to be a writer: Write, yes, but for God’s sake read. Start reading and never, ever stop.

I had to agree with Chris on this reading point, and I enjoyed hearing all his answers.

Get Annabel Lee here:

REVIEWS APPRECIATED!

You can connect with Chris at:


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Demain Publishing Releases Short Sharp Shocks! Series

Writer and editor Dean M. Drinkel recently opened a horror press called Demain Publishing. On March 1 they launched the Short Sharp Shocks! Series with the first six ebooks on Amazon. Six more will be published by the end of March with another twelve coming in April. Drinkel’s been busy!

The first six books out now are:

Short Sharp Shocks! Series 1-6

Amazon is doing a deal on Books 1–5 at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NZXH9B3/.

Books 6–11 will be released March 29 and are available for pre-sales on Amazon:

Short Sharp Shocks! Series

All covers are by Adrian Baldwin.

You can learn more about Demain, submission calls, interviews with all the authors, and up-to-date news at https://demainpublishingblog.weebly.com/.


Interview: Brian J. Smith

Brian J. SmithI recently interviewed Brian J. Smith, who lives in southeastern Ohio with four dogs that he treat like his children. Brian has been writing since he was thirteen because, he says, “I didn’t have many friends because I was the quiet ‘Stephen King geek.'”

Brian loves horror fiction because he grew up watching slasher movies like Jason and Freddy, but his favorites were always the “bugs-gone-bad” flicks such as Kingdom of the Spiders, Island Claws, and Slugs.

He admits, “I fed myself on a smorgasbord of Tales From the Darkside, Twilight Zone (black-and-white and the mid-90’s), Tales From the Crypt, and Stephen King movies.”

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I want to be original. I’ve always tried to think outside of the box when it comes to my writing. I’ve written a few unfinished novels about zombies and other terrifying things but not vampires and werewolves like writers who came before me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep going no matter what anyone tells you. It’ll take you a long time but you’ve got to keep going. Stay strong and be patient.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When I published my first Kindle book, Dark Avenues (more about this later), I realized that the process takes a lot of time and patience to perfect. Short-hand first, then pounding it out on my computer, and then the long process of reading it out loud while editing.

What’s your favorite novel that you think is under-appreciated?
A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson. Thompson is known for other novels such as The Killer Inside Me, Pop. 1280, The Grifters and Nothing More Than Murder, but I feel like that A Hell of a Woman doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Those novels are good, but if I hadn’t read A Hell of a Woman, I wouldn’t have been inspired to write my own noir crime novel.

What is your favorite childhood book?
The Berenstain Bears. I also read a lot of comic books, too.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Off Season by Jack Ketchum. His novels were such an inspiration to me. They opened my eyes to a version of horror fiction I never knew existed. Off Season was the visceral, gritty horror novel that got to the core of its subject matter and left a lot of blood on the walls.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
When my sixth-grade teacher told me I gave him nightmares and my parents were telling me to stop.

What inspires you to write?
Anything really. A lot of my short stories have been inspired by something that occurred in my past, whether during my childhood or my teenage years, or between myself and a family member.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I’ve done outlines in the past but I’ve never stuck to them. I end up going off and adding something else later that I wish I’d included the first time. I like this. I’ve been told when you do outlines you put your characters on a leash. Life is full of challenges, and I like challenges.

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?
No. I had doubts about starting with a short story collection but then considered that many other authors had started out like this as well.

Three O'Clock by Brian J. SmithHave you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
A lot of times. I went to summer camp when I was ten, and we did all kinds of activities such as fishing and tubing, but one thing I really enjoyed was when we did “headstone rubbings”—putting paper on a tombstone and rubbing with a charcoal stick to get the text. I hope to pick this back up sometime in the future. When I set about writing my novella Dark Avenues, I used headstone rubbings in it, and it worked out perfectly.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?
No. I’m a homebody so I don’t even leave the house unless it’s really necessary.

What books and stories have you published, and where?
I’ve published many pieces of short and flash fiction in multiple anthologies and e-zines, two with The Horror Zine, one with Metahuman Press, and I’ve even had a western horror story published as well. My other Kindle books are Three O’ Clock and The Tuckers. My publications are listed on my Amazon author page (see below).

Dark Avenues by Brian J. SmithWhat project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short story collection that will be released in the fall. Dark Avenues will include the novella of the same name along with eighteen other stories that range from dark horror and other genres. There’s a haunted house story, a zombie story, and a post-apocalyptic story about how love triumphs over death.

You can find Brian’s publications on his Amazon author page at http://amazon.com/author/brianjsmith. Brian is on Facebook under Brian Smith and on Twitter @BrianJSmith13. Visit his website at http://brianjsmith468368465.wordpress.com.

Book Release: PSYCHONAUT by Carmilla Voiez

Psychonaut coverSatori is caught between two worlds. There is something he needs in one, but the other keeps drawing him back. However, he is in love and he isn’t going to let a little thing like death get in his way. To reach his goal, he must face unimaginable horrors, not least of which is his true self.

Star’s tortured and broken body awaits Satori, but does she really need him to save her? His rival, a rage-filled young woman, grows more powerful and becomes as twisted as the ribbons in her hair while the demon, Lilith, draws each of them inexorably towards her. Who will survive the coming battle?

Full of sex and magic, PSYCHONAUT is an exploration into the human psyche and the second book in Voiez’s STARBLOOD trilogy.

Carmilla Voiez is more of a singer than a writer. She tells her compelling story in a hypnotic, distinctive voice that brings her eerie world vividly to life.
—Graham Masterton

PSYCHONAUT is a book of mad impulses, inner vision, sadism, escape and belief. You feel uncomfortable reading it, like Alex strapped to the chair in Clockwork Orange being taught to feel sick at atrocity. Rather than leave us crippled by response, though, Psychonaut bears you through the hurt towards the only paradise we can be assured of…a love past fault.
—Jef Withonef, Houston Press

Carmilla VoiezPSYCHONAUT is the second book in Carmilla Voiez’s STARBLOOD series. It’s a relaunch of the novel by American indie Vamptasy Publishing. The series contains four books and follows the lives of a group of friends: Star, Satori, Freya, Donna, Raven, and Ivan, young Goths living in Bristol, England.

In the first book, STARBLOOD, Star breaks up with her lover, Satori, but he is unwilling to let her go. Satori is an adept chaos magician and decides to cast a spell to keep Star by his side, but because of competing forces Lilith, mother of demons, uses this moment to come to Earth and enter their lives. The result is a tangled web of murder, madness and betrayal.

You can find the first book at Amazon and other retailers: http://smarturl.it/Starblood.

PSYCHONAUT takes us beyond the urban lives of these ill-fated Goths and into other worlds full of demons, gods, magic, and monsters.

PSYCHONAUT is available now at http://smarturl.it/PsychonautVoiez.

Simple and Easy Way to Write a Book Review

writing a book reviewLike any other writer, I live or die by reviews of my books. However, while many people say they love my books or admire my writing, very few write book reviews—even if I ask them.

Perhaps it’s because readers aren’t sure how to write a review. Let’s solve that problem.

Here’s a simple and easy way to write a one-paragraph fiction book review.

1. Take notes as you read

The best way to remember what you liked (or didn’t like) about a book is to jot down your observations as you read, as well as any great quotes you’d like to mention.

I keep an index card handy as I’m reading a book. You can too. Make notes about:

  • Characters—Who were the main characters? Were they credible? Properly motivated? Did you sympathize with them? Who was your favorite character, and why?
  • Dialogue—Was it realistic? Revealing? Humorous? Engaging?
  • Genre—Did this book fit a particular genre, such as horror? Or was it a mash-up of several genres? Do you think the author did a good job of conforming to or breaking out of genre categories?
  • Plot—What was the story about? Did the series of events make sense? Any great twists?
  • Writing style—Does the writer write like another author you like?

2. Summarize your opinions

Jot some notes about your views (yes, it’s okay to express your opinions about the book):

  • Did you like the book?
  • What was your favorite part?
  • What did you like least about the book?
  • If you wish something were different in the book, what is it?

3. Make your recommendation

Would you recommend this book to other readers? If so, what type of readers would like the book? People who dig H.P. Lovecraft? Lovers of ghost stories?

Remember that a writer has spent a lot of time and effort in producing his or her labor of love. Although you may criticize, don’t forget to be constructive and kind. If you mention the author’s name, use his or her last name.

Writing the Review

A book review is not a long summary of the book, rather your brief commentary on it. Here’s the how-to of writing your paragraph review.

  1. Start with an interesting sentence that grabs the reader’s attention. You could make it a question: “Have you ever wondered…,” “Ever wish you could….”
  2. Introduce the subject of the book. What’s the genre? (horror, crime, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) “Book Title is a horror novel about…” Then write a one- or two-sentence summary. Be careful not to give away the ending!
  3. Do you think the book measures up to the goals the author set out to achieve? Be honest yet tactful. Include some examples supporting your opinion.
  4. Who will enjoy this book? “If you like early Stephen King, you’ll love this book.”

Book review paragraph template

If you’re having trouble getting started, use this paragraph as a template:

Have you ever wondered _______________ (hook). Book Title is a ____________ (genre) novel about ______________ (subject matter). In it, _____________ (main character) tries to _____________ (main story goal) but encounters trouble when _______________ (some complications or opposition). The characters were realistic, and I especially related to ___________ (character name). My favorite part of the book was ________________. [Optional: But the author could have done a better job at _________________ (something that needs improvement). For example…] The dialogue was excellent and moved the story forward. It was fast-paced (or something else you liked). I really liked this book because ______________ (your opinion about it). If you like reading early Stephen King (a comparison), this one’s for you.

Example review

Here’s an example book review of Samantha Lienhard’s novella THE BOOK AT DERNIER.

The Book at Dernier is about a young man’s obsessive quest to learn about the dark and mysterious Marcus Phineas and his arcane rituals that led to past deaths in the superstitious town of Dernier.

Protagonist Paul finds a book by the late Phineas full of symbols and secret writing. Determined to crack the code, Paul succumbs to the thrall of bloody rituals. I feared for him and dreaded the results his search would lead to. As he descends into madness and the death toll mounts, can Paul solve the mystery? Will he escape a devastating fate?

Lienhard’s skillful writing drew me in and led me quickly to the chilling conclusion. Recommended for appreciators of Lovecraftian fiction.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it.

Proof your review and post it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you bought the book, Goodreads, Facebook, and on your blog.

Be generous with the stars: starred reviews encourage other readers to buy and read.

And why not let the author know you’ve written a review? It will probably make their day. I know it would make mine.

Dark Fiction by Lee Allen Howard

Sign Up for The Bedwetter Blog Hop & Advance Review

I’m seeking bloggers and readers to help me launch The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath on May 1, 2019.

If you’re willing to help, please fill out the following form and click Submit. Choose if you’re willing to:

  • Advertise the release with links on your blog on May 1 or shortly thereafter
  • Read a free copy of the book and write an advance review, posting it on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere
  • Both

Thanks for your help. I appreciate it!