Sunday, 31 July 2011

Open House Day 61 - Sandy Auden

Talking Heads

It's fun being a freelance writer, but it isn't always easy. Like all jobs, a freelancer is faced with a range of challenges to overcome in their day-to-day business and for Steve's blog, I wanted to share a few tips on my favourite aspect of the job: interviewing.

I've lost count how many interviews I've done over the last decade or so but I've certainly chatted to hundreds of authors; several actors; and handful of directors and props crew; and one lovely Canadian Visual Effects Supervisor. And all of them have been different.

Each interview has delighted or surprised me in some way with an interesting point of creativity or personal background or opinion. We're all multi-layered characters, diverse in so many ways and yet also very, very similar. No two writers develop their stories in the same way, yet they all share the same passion to write their adventures down and take others along on the ride with them. The ideas writers have could be about any topic on earth but all of them report that they have ideas coming up almost all the time. And many writers agree that often their ideas arrive when water is involved (like in a shower), or when they're driving (which probably has something to do with the conscious mind being occupied while the sub-conscious is chugging away generating stuff I expect).

Sharing an interviewee's experiences with others in an article can be very satisfying and here's a few pointers to help you get the quotes you need…

Preparation is key

A good interview starts a long time before you get to face to face (or email to email).

Who Are They?

Always do your research about your candidate and their work. Yes, you can walk in and blag it but the best interviews come from knowing your interviewee's background.

What To Ask?

Get your questions ready in advance, always have more questions than you think you'll need and keep them open questions as much as possible (ones that can't be answered with a yes or no).

When building your question list, curiosity is an important trait. Ask about what you're interested in because that's probably what other people want to know too. Having a theme for your interview will help provoke questions out of your head, but I always find this part of the preparation works like any other creative task in that the sub-conscious will work on them in the background until its ready to share. Keep pen and paper with you at all times because you don't know when those questions will arrive – you could be on the toilet, driving, waiting to tee off on the first hole, on a particularly boring training course or in the middle of a movie. If you don't get them on paper straight away you'll probably not be able to remember them all at a later time and lose out on some really good questions.

Face To Face At Last

These days there are all kinds of ways to do an interview – email, phone, skype, in person, or instant messaging – but some tips apply regardless of the medium used.

Listen, React and Go With the Flow

One of the most well known tips is to listen to your interviewee and react to their answers. If you're asking what they remember about their last night with their partner and they suddenly drop in the surprise confession, "just before bed, I sunk an axe into her head" then don't doggedly follow your original line of questions, ok?

In The Blink Of An Eye

There will be times when you aren't going to get very long to do an interview. The shortest one I've ever done is eight minutes and forty two seconds (according to the dictaphone). In these situations good preparation will pay off and make the difference between getting juicy answers or vague quotes.

Not Answering the Question

There's two scenarios here. First up, the interviewee does not want to answer your question and how you deal with that is up to your own requirements. If you need the outrageous or sensational quote or want to dish the dirt that's being withheld, then you'll need to find a way to wheedle it out of the interviewee. Personally, I respect their boundaries and find that way I get a lot of repeat interviews when future projects arrive.

The second situation is that the interviewee answers the question they think you have asked. This happens most often with frequently interviewed candidates who are expecting a standard question when you ask something similar but with an extra twist. Observation is essential here and it ties in with listening to the interviewee and your preparation. It's far easier to listen to your interviewee (and spot the misleading answer) if you know your questions and article theme well.

Location, location, location

Environment is also essential for both you and your interviewee. If you can find a quiet place to talk, then all the better. However, there can still be some distractions. I once took an interviewee out on the hotel stairs (between floors) to sit down for a quiet chat. What we didn't expect was that the hotel's head waiter would be up and down those same stairs like a demented hamster. Maintaining focus on what you're talking about can be tough for both of you with someone else running past shouting "Sorry!" every two minutes.

Keep Calm and Carry On

This single skill has got me through several difficult interviews. One interviewee opened our session with, "I doubt you can ask me anything that I haven't been asked before". There's nothing quite like being judged as unoriginal before you start but instead of taking offense I just acknowledged the comment and cracked on politely. At the end of that interview, they did concede that I'd come up with a new angle on their work. For another interviewee, I explained the theme of the article up front, to be told that it "was a crap theme". At yet another, the interviewee repeatedly told me I was barking up the wrong tree and took considerable delight in trying to sabotage my questions.

But I respected their opinions and did the interview anyway.

There is, of course, a limit. When you ask someone if they want coverage on their latest project and they get angry, start shouting and being generally abusive - walk away politely. They're probably just having a bad day and there's always the next time (they were and there was).

Getting It Down On Paper After A Face To Face

The last aspect I want to cover is transcription, a big part of the process when you're interviewing in person. I've always found transcribing very time consuming and a bit of a grind to be honest but there are a couple of ways to make the task a little easier on yourself.

Background Noises

Quite a few years ago, I did an interview over lunch in a Pizza Hut. Yes, I expected background people noise but what I hadn't realised was that Pizza Hut actually ran a constant muzak track in their restaurants. It was so innocuous that you didn't consciously register it when you were there, but the dictaphone picked it up in glorious clarity and its irritating presence made the transcription all that much harder.

That day, the dictaphone also managed to pick up something else unexpected – the low key bitchy argument taking place between the couple at the next table. With three levels of background noise to cope with (general talking, argument and muzak), it took a long time to transcribe that interview.

So as you can see, sitting around having a nice little chat with someone for an article may not be as easy as it looks but it is damn good fun and I've been lucky to talk to some very talented and creative people in the last ten years or so. Using the tips above, you should get some usable quotes for your article then all you've got to do is write it and that is a topic for another day…

Sandy Auden is a freelance writer with SFX magazine, Interzone magazine and She loves sunsets, walking on the beach and talking to people.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Open House Day 59 - Sam Stone

The Changing Face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Series

Science Fiction and Fantasy Series’ have been popular for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a huge fan of science fiction on television since I first began watching Star Trek in the mid-seventies. This was rapidly followed by shows like Blake’s 7, The Tomorrow People and The Prisoner. In latter years, through the power of DVD, I have discovered classic Doctor Who and also Lost In Space. Revisiting these old series’ I became aware of the dramatic change of pace and plot lines over the years. The humble ‘television series’ has evolved, becoming something far different from its predecessors and in order to illustrate this I’ve chosen a few old and new series’ to briefly discuss the changing face of Science Fiction and Fantasy on television and its evolution into the mode of ‘serial’.

I’ve never really thought of Star Trek: The Next Generation as Star Trek. The original series had some great characters and the stories and special effects, sets and formula still hold up today. I think this is because Star Trek is easy viewing. You don’t need to have followed the entire series to enjoy watching any single episode and because the characters don’t carry emotional baggage from one story to another, the series can be viewed in any order. Each episode is an individual adventure. They are fun, the characters’ relationships are established by their behaviour to each other (we are ‘shown’ what they are like in every episode) and the best bit of all – there is very little angst. I have to marvel at how good the set and effects were for the day. With the exception of the very sixties hairdos it still stands the test of time. They did a lot with very little without the technology of CGI and it has been more than rumoured that some of the gadgets featured in the show have been the inspiration for the technology that we take for granted today.

I spent many years enjoying Next Generation, even though I feel it’s a different series entirely. Next Generation worked well for me because it introduced some new and interesting characters and the writing was generally good. It makes great use of CGI in many ways, but still had excellent sets, and the holo-deck was a marvellous invention that lends itself to some of the more interesting stories. This series mostly kept to the formula of one story per episode, and with the exception of some blossoming love relationships, it rarely lost its way by becoming subservient to its own history. Even so, is this series as accessible as the original series? I’m not so sure. And that might be because of the ever changing cast, a rare occurrence in Star Trek, and their equally evolving roles on board the Enterprise. Unlike Next Generation, Star Trek’s cast had a specific role and personalities which were maintained throughout the series.

The stories in Next Generation are far more complex than in Star Trek, perhaps to suit the modern audience, but this does again necessitate a regular audience who are following the series from start to finish. I recently watched one episode out of context and found the characterisation of Natasha Yar (Chief of Security aboard the Enterprise) hard to fathom. This seemingly tough character was kidnapped by a chieftain and admits to being ‘flattered’ by his interest in her. The character, I believe, would have killed him the first chance she got. Her actions in this situation weren’t believable. In Star Trek, however, we knew how all of the characters would behave in any given situation. Spock will always be logical, Kirk honourable, Bones, a caring doctor, will always try to get a rise out of Spock and the characters maintain these roles. They are always consistent. Ergo – Believable. This is perhaps a quality that has been sacrificed in some present day shows. The characters change to suit the story, not to react in the way that you would expect from your burgeoning knowledge of them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer started life as a sequence of one-off episodes, and presented a set of fairly consistent characters that naturally evolved throughout the series. Each week there was a new demon, vampire or werewolf to slay and Buffy would literarily kick ass. We had humour that softened the impact of the violence, but by about season three you can begin to discern a change in the way the season’s storylines developed. A whole season became focused on one climactic event and within the stories that led to this conclusion we had the torturous anguish of the characters as they argued, loved, hated and ultimately worried their way through whatever incidental events made up the individual episode. Often regurgitating issues carried over from previous episodes, sometimes even from previous seasons. The angst was ramped up to exaggerated proportions.

Perhaps this was the start of the phenomena that has since swept American tele-fantasy? In some ways it is almost as though soap opera was brought to the genre and the two mingled and became indistinguishable except for the bizarre monsters and creatures that would inhabit a science fiction, fantasy or horror series. Buffy was able to get away with much more than the average series because it initially didn’t take itself too seriously. The humour lightened the mood – until season seven, which was by far the darkest. By then, however, the show lacked focus, starting with one ongoing storyline and ending with a completely different one. It also relied heavily on the viewer’s prior knowledge of the characters: thus alienating anyone who wanted to ‘try’ just one episode. A series these days, it seems, requires the viewer to buy into the whole season and not just one episode at a time; needing the audience to be dedicated to the ongoing story over and above whatever an individual episode might present. And more often than not, individual episodes contained nothing stand-alone, being just a small part of the whole season arc.

This is when a ‘series’ becomes a ‘serial’. The characters evolved and mostly they were believable – if you’d watched the whole series and understood their motivations that is. But if you hadn’t then some of their actions may seem a little unrealistic.

Recently I watched the entire run of the new Battlestar Galactica, which ran for five seasons. I remember the original series well, and was expecting some rollicking adventures through space, though maybe a bit more high tech. However I couldn’t recognise this series as a descendent of the original Battlestar Galactica. There were a few similarities in the use of names of characters, but the characterisations were completely different from the original. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course, but it is something of a cheat – and I felt the same about Next Generation. The fact is, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica were hugely successful shows in their day and, with the modern preference for regurgitation rather than originality, their names were tagged onto something that had similarities but which were in fact entirely different stories, or as in Next Generation, a spin-off. Again, this wasn’t a bad thing. The series’ themselves were executed for the most part with fantastic efficiency. However there were flaws. There was an attempt to make the new series of Battlestar Galactica follow the old format, with individual stories, weaved into the overall story arc. Relationships were complex – and sometimes characters were not believable. For example the steady and strong commander suddenly, in the final season, turned into a drunk and had tantrums where he would throw paint around and smash glasses. Adama’s son, Apollo, betrayed his father, went against orders and at one time, piled on excessive weight because he was depressed. The most convincing character was that of Gaius Baltar, who was contradictory from the start and so anything he did seemed appropriate. It could be the curse of multiple writers somehow missing the point that caused some of these inconsistencies to occur. I watched the whole series and didn’t feel that there really was any reason why some of the characters acted in such a way that was ‘out of character’. The show was also steeped in religious and philosophical references – which I felt they managed to hold together effectively until the end, but the angst grew tiresome at times and the show appeared to be far more a soap opera than an adventure series at times.

Perhaps this is the curse of a long running series, that in order to maintain its audience, there is perceived to be a need to increase the angst and to decrease the standalone episodes. Battlestar Galactica did try to maintain the ‘one-story per episode’ theme but in later seasons this actually was to the detriment of the series. Often you saw one story end at a point where you wanted to know more, but the next episode had no bearing on the previous one and made no reference to it. The previous plot was therefore left hanging for an episode or more.

Supernatural is another long running series that has evolved. It worked better for me when the stories were individual adventures – even though there was a back story about the death of Sam and Dean’s mother and its connection to the death of Sam’s girlfriend via a yellow-eyed demon. I wanted to watch a programme that I could enjoy in any order like the original Star Trek. You didn’t really miss anything major if you skipped an episode here and there and watching was always fun. Around season three – you sense a theme developing here – the series became too self-aware and as a result it became less enjoyable to watch. It relied too much on events that had happened previously and the interplay and angst of the main characters rather than focusing on a current storyline. From season three onwards I would say that it would be difficult for a new audience to understand any of the previous references that were made.

Doctor Who does this too sometimes. It’s been said that the series was better when the stories were done on a weekly basis. But there has always been a variety of lengths of story, some were two episodes long, others eight – I think of them as more mini-series (even though technically they were one story told in half an hour slots). In recent years with the revival of the series by Russell T Davies, Doctor Who changed dramatically (mostly for the better). We had a surge of one-off adventures that would maybe stretch to two parts but no longer. The new audience could access the series easily and although there was a foregone conclusion that the Doctor had lived a long life there was very little ‘telling’ of this past. We just accepted that he and other characters knew about the Daleks, or the Cybermen. The reinvented series was given a loose back story, a warning of ‘Bad Wolf’ that gave this often fun romp through time and space an ominous quality that was brought together at the end of the season. Unfortunately though, this idea that a season has to have an arc, has resulted in more and more backstory becoming the fore-story. In the last two seasons, beginning with ‘Amy’s crack’ – initially used as a way to introduce a new character – then continuing with (and I’m not sure about this actually as I found the first half of the current season incredibly confusing) the ‘Doctor’s death’ being a focus of this current season. Every other story in the season so far has made some reference to this event, and tentatively hangs around it. But why does there need to be an arc at all? Why can’t all the adventures be stand-alone without them all joining up in some wider jigsaw puzzle which only the truly dedicated will appreciate? My favourite episodes have been the standalones – Blink is the obvious one to come to mind. For all that, Doctor Who has changed for the better in many ways. The stories are more grown up (sometimes a bit too much so), have more complex plots, and have even greater, scarier monsters.

Science fiction and fantasy on television continues to evolve. This ever-changing formula is reactive. The writers, producers and networks are all looking for the next big thing, even when they hang it onto a previously successful series and call it by the same name. It doesn’t make it the same series and in fact it is often something similar or a spin-off. It still feels to me that there is too much angst used to hook the viewer, when I’d prefer more adventure, but I think this is deliberately aimed at gathering long-term audiences that will watch the series to the bitter end if they engage enough with the characters. Perhaps this is akin to the way that people relate to soap characters, and is introduced for the same reasons. This also tends to mean that the characters can be warped to suit the mood of audience, or the plot, unlike the series of old which gave you consistency of a character’s personality, and adversity only brought out those traits, rather than resulting in them behaving in a way that is alien to the character you’ve grown to understand. The old ways aren’t necessarily the best, but sometimes I feel we’re in danger of forgetting what drew us to the series in the first place: stand alone stories.

Sam's latest novel Hateful Heart can be ordered here


Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. "I'd never read anything like it. It was terrifying – but so exciting … that’s when I realised I liked to be scared," she admits.

Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.

The youngest of seven children, Sam struggled to find her own space and is a self-confessed bookworm. "I always have a book on the go," says Sam. "It's my time. Life wouldn’t be the same if I couldn’t chill sometimes with a good book. It's where I learnt about life, long before I lived it."

Sam's writing has appeared in nine anthologies for poetry and prose. Her first novel was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Like all good authors she drew on her own knowledge and passions to write it. The novel won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine's book of the year awards in 2007.

In September 2008 the novel was re-edited and republished by The House of Murky Depths as Killing Kiss. The sequel, Futile Flame, went on to become a finalist in the same awards for 2009. Futile Flame was later Shortlisted for The British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel 2010.

An eclectic and skilled prose writer Sam also has a BA (Hons) in English and Writing for Performance and an MA in Creative Writing, which means that she is frequently invited to talk about writing in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. She is said to be an ‘inspirational’ speaker.




Killing Kiss, Book 1 The Vampire Gene, (The House of Murky Depths – Sept 2008)
Futile Flame, Book 2 The Vampire Gene, (The House of Murky Depths - July 2009)
Demon Dance, Book 3 The Vampire Gene, (The House of Murky Depths – September 2010)
Hateful Heart, A Vampire Gene Novel, (The House of Murky Depths – September 2011)


Zombies in New York & Other Bloody Jottings, (Telos Publishing Feb 2011)

Short Ficton

Fool's Gold Short Fiction Contribution - The Bitten Word (NewCon Press - March 2010)
Walking the Dead – BFS Journal Spring 2011, (British Fantasy Society – March 2011)
The Toymaker’s House, Full Fathom Forty, (British Fantasy Society – August 2011)

Editorial Credits:

Editor - Rules of Duel by Graham Masterton with William S Burroughs (Telos Publishing -July 2010)
Editor - Hines Sight (The autobiography of one of Britain's Favourite Sons) by Frazer Hines. (December 2009)
Editor – Dark Horizons, BFS Journal Winter 2010 (British Fantasy Society – December 2010

Open House Day 58 - The Swansea Comics Collective

The Swansea Comics Collective

There came a day, in late 2008, when the world needed heroes. The call went out and a handful of brave men, and Anna Thomas, answered that call. Oh, yeah, and Maggs was there too, I think.

They weren’t the heroes the world wanted, needed, or even really cared about that much; but they’d be damned if they were going to give up their seats at the pub for anyone.

So, anyway…

The Swansea Comics Collective began life as an idea; an idea created out of a want. Pete ‘Meanwhile’ Taylor and Mark ‘Son of Ken’ Hughes wanted to create comics, they wanted to write and draw them and they wanted there to be a good local comics group for them to join. But, alas, there wasn’t; so they made one. Following in the footsteps of the Midlands based, Lottery funded, MC2 comics group, Pete and Mark put the word out, calling on any artists and/or writers who wanted to be involved in the creative process to sign up. Not long after we were regularly meeting at The Brunswick, discussing ideas and showing off our works. Unlike MC2, we hadn’t any outside aid, in the ‘early days’ we had the good ol’ subs box, which we regularly dumped any spare change into which funded our Ashcan issue of works in progress.

From these Humble beginnings we started to become more active within the Swansea area firstly running creating comics workshops for Swansea museum where we debuted our now ever popular ideas machine (three cardboard boxes one with animals, one with job titles and one with descriptive words to spark ideas amongst the kids, which even survived Waggy’s randomness like the amazing blue red) and our famous wall comic. As a result of this endeavour we published our ashcan issue with previews of our work in progress, which first went on sale at our first convention Heroes and Legends 3. These events made us flourish as a group as we produced our first issue of complete works; followed by the running of more workshops, in Port Tennant and a return to the Museum, as well as conventions including Cardiff, where SFX magazine mentioned our wall comic as being the highlight, and our recent adventure to Wales Comic Con in Wrexham.

With these successes in mind we have taken on our biggest task to date as we construct our own shared universe in ‘Copperopolis‘. The germ of the idea stared in a few places; one of our regular members, Moe, suggested a world of his making which, perhaps, some of our characters would also inhabit. The idea was a good one, but didn’t come to realisation until during our second workshop at Swansea Museum. The workshop was based around the Swansea Three Night Blitz of 1941. The workshop was quite a big success and brought us to the attention of the local press again for Pete’s and my (Adam) creation of short strips based on Elaine Kidwell’s experiences as a young Air Raid Warden at the time. From this point on the groups previously discussed shared universe started to take shape as piece by piece our members started to suggest ideas specifically for this shared world.

Here’s a little local knowledge, between the 16th and 19th centuries, Swansea had a booming copper trade; one of the biggest in the world at one time. So much so Swansea was dubbed Copperopolis. Pete explained this to us, and the name stuck. Shortly after the Museum workshop the time had come, and since then it has been going from strength to strength. Ricky and I have been ‘trusted’ with the creation of the world, as well as the plotting and writing of the main story line (and possible follow-ons), whilst the artists, and some of the other writers busy themselves with coming up with character designs, concepts for the various timelines etc.

Copperopolis (our Copperopolis) will be set in a world infused with semi-sentient ‘Cosmic Energy’ (WoOoOoOo!), an energy source that is attracted/conductive with copper. As expected with any ‘Cosmic Energy’ infused worlds ours will be fill with adventure, tragedy, laughs and of course Heroes and Villains and as diverse a range of genres and ideas that can be thought of. So to find out more about all of this as it happens follow our blog ( and our social media pages ( twitter @sccassemble and facebook!/groups/146259738719281 ) to see designs of characters and the city as they are developed.

Copperopolis Character designs

Bard Ass - Mark Hughes

Coal - Lee Philips

Nails - Lee Philips

Squid Eye Guy - Pete Taylor

                                                                The Eel - Mark Trantor

So let the call go out; whenever a geek is needed, whenever there are comics to be read, or whenever an argument about who Cyclops’ younger brother is; cry ‘it’s Havok’, and let slip the Comics Collective of Swansea!


By Ricky ‘Webberhead’ Webber and Adam ‘Waggy’ Wilmot

Monday, 25 July 2011

Open House Day 56 - Juliet E McKenna

Do you ever get writer’s block? No, but I do get stopped dead.

Writer’s block. It’s one of those questions we all get asked, those of us sitting up at the front on panels at conventions, libraries and literary festivals.

To be honest, no, I just don’t have time. With two teenage sons at school and college and a husband whose (very) full-time job keeps us all fed and sheltered, holding up my end of the family deal by running this household means my writing time is precious and I’m not about to waste any of it. Okay, there are days when the writing goes more smoothly than others but that’s different.

But some things stop me dead in my writing. Death. Real world death. There’s the personal. Last year my father in law died. In this past month two friends have died. Other years saw other losses. There will be more to come. I have learned that trying to set such things aside and apply myself to the book in progress simply doesn’t work. Sod the mandatory daily word count. I need to take the time to look squarely at such loss, to pay tribute to the departed through the rituals of such occurrences and with private recollection and appreciation of the part they played in my life. Then I can move on, knowing that I have given them their due.

Then there’s the kind of death that makes global headlines. Specifically the death wrought by human malice. Famine in Africa, the ongoing plagues of malaria and HIV, multiple fatalities in a Chinese train crash. These all give me pause for thought, and prompt donations to appeals as appropriate but they don’t stop me writing.

The Norway bomb and shootings stop me. The July 7th 2005 attacks in London. The Madrid train bombings 2004. The World Trade Centre 2001. The Admiral Duncan nail bombing 1999. Oklahoma City 1995. No, that’s not a comprehensive list but you know what I mean.

It’s not grief that stops me writing. Thanks to all the powers that be, I lost no one in any of these atrocities, though a couple of pals came frighteningly close. So claiming any sort of personal anguish is wholly inappropriate and frankly, in my opinion, insulting to those so appallingly bereaved and whose lives are truly changed. Those of us beyond the immediate impact can only offer sincere and honest condolence.

But every time, I have to stop and look at what has happened and then stop and look at my writing. Because I write about people killing each other, whether with swords or sorcery. Sometimes it’s up close and personal with a dagger or a wizardly duel. Then there’s the big-picture stuff when I sit down and draw up an order of battle, work out what twists deliver the outcome which I want and then calculate the losses on each side for the effect on the ongoing plot. Yes, really. I have the casualty numbers (killed/wounded) for every battle in ‘Blood in the Water,’ the second of the Lescari Revolution books. I’m currently looking at forthcoming events in ‘Darkening Skies,’ second of the Hadrumal Crisis trilogy, and working out who will die amid the sort of violent magic which would blow a summer blockbuster movie’s sfx budget. Even Harry Potter.*

And I’m doing all that for the sake of entertainment. I’m killing fictional people off, right, left and centre, in the service of a thrilling story. But real world death isn’t thrilling or entertaining. It’s heart-breaking, infuriating, frightening. It has real world implications for our security, our laws, our freedoms, for the abuse of ‘others’ by the prejudiced and the opportunist in this age of global media and social networking. This stuff matters.

So I need to know that my writing matters. I need to be certain that my characters suffer loss in a way that doesn’t belittle a real bereavement. That the effects persist as they do in real life – or if they don’t, I need to be clear why that might be. When high heroic deeds deliver triumphant outcomes, I must always make sure that I acknowledge the cost to those who had no choice or chance to opt out. Not to the detriment of the story overall but just using enough light and shade to paint a realistic picture.

When I’m creating a villain, whether a loner or a leader, I must know and I must show what drives a man or woman to such corrosive spite, treachery, brutality or murder. In the context of my story at least. I cannot hope to uncover any universal truths of the human psyche that might explain such headline-grabbing carnage.

Then maybe, just maybe, I can leave my readers with something to think on, once they’ve closed the book? Something to help their own understanding of entitlement, arrogance, hatred, bigotry, the myriad impulses and experiences that result in a mindset that sees violence as some sort of valid solution? Something to help inform their opinions and their actions when politicians and special interests try to use these abominations to advance their own agenda?

To help to show, to quote Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister “... that the answer to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, but never naïveté. That is what we owe to the victims and to those they hold dear.”

Then I can start writing again.

Juliet E McKenna

*This may or may not turn out to be true. I’m still writing the book.

Juliet E McKenna’s love of fantasy, myth and history led naturally to studying Greek and Roman history and literature at Oxford University. After a career change from personnel management to combine motherhood and book-selling, her debut novel, The Thief’s Gamble, was published in 1999. This was the first of The Tales of Einarinn. That series was followed by The Aldabreshin Compass sequence, beginning with Southern Fire and The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution, starting with Irons in the Fire.

The Hadrumal Crisis: Dangerous Waters (The Hardrumal Crisis)She writes diverse shorter fiction which has included tie-in stories for Doctor Who, Torchwood and Warhammer 40K. She works from time to time as a creative writing tutor as well as reviewing books for print and online magazines, notably Interzone and Albedo One. She also works with other fantasy authors, promoting the breadth and depth of speculative fiction through The Write Fantastic.

Living in Oxfordshire with her teenage sons and husband, she fits in her writing around her family and vice versa. Her fourth fantasy series, The Hadrumal Crisis, is published by Solaris in the UK and the US beginning with Dangerous Waters in July 2011.

Open House Day 55 - Helen Grant

Authors are always being asked "Where do you get your ideas?“ I go out and find mine. I found one in a Flemish bell-tower, and one in a ruined castle in a German forest, and a really good (if slightly niffy) one in the Brussels sewers.

I’ve always been inspired by my environment, the things I see around me. My first forays into fiction were short supernatural stories set in Slovakia (where we holidayed with German friends), Germany (where we were living at the time) and Scotland (land of my husband’s fathers). My first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, is set in and inspired by Bad Münstereifel, my home for seven wonderful years. Bad Münstereifel is a town simply bursting with bizarre old legends: the Burning Man who lives in a cave in a hill, the spectral cats who haunted a lonely mill, the ghostly huntsman who rides to hounds through the pine forests. The town itself is over a thousand years old and has cobbled streets, black and white half-timbered houses, not one but two castles, and an ancient church with a carved box full of the bones of saints in the crypt. It’s a town to make any author’s pulse beat faster and their imagination run riot.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A NovelI wrote my first book for love; I adored Bad Münstereifel and it broke my heart to think that we would have to leave one day. I wrote The Vanishing of Katharina Linden as a tribute to the place I still love more than any other. A strange kind of tribute, you might say, since I’ve peopled the town with evil gossips and stalking serial killers, but a tribute nevertheless! If I had not been lucky enough to find a mainstream publisher (Penguin UK) for the book, I would have striven to publish it by some other means.

The Glass Demon: A NovelSince then I have written two more books (The Glass Demon and Wish Me Dead) and am currently working on a fourth. Not every book can be a tribute to somewhere I have lived for a long time – since we left Germany in 2008 we have lived in Flanders and now in Scotland - so lately, rather than waiting for ideas to seep into my imagination, I have gone out looking for them.

This is not as daft as it sounds. Many books are based on the writer asking themself a "what if?“ question. What if there were still a place on earth where dinosaurs had not died out? What if 99% of the population died of superflu? Hell, I expect chick lit authors ask themselves "What if my boyfriend ran off with my mother?“ etc. I go to the kinds of places that inspire me and then ask myself some of those questions.

Recently I climbed the bell-tower of a village church in Flanders. I don’t think I was meant to do it; the stairs were worn and unlit and the bell-tower itself full of bird droppings. I went up anyway; I can’t resist creepy old places, especially if I’m not really supposed to be there. I looked out of one of the louvred windows and asked myself, "What if I saw something terrible from here?“ and "Supposing I wasn’t an adult; supposing I were a child; how would I react then to the thing I can see from the window?“ Ultimately what I really saw from the window was a cracking idea which came striding across the fields towards me, shiny with Flemish rain and carrying a terrible burden in its arms.

Since then I’ve hunted down some other ideas, in the sewers under Brussels and the Paris catacombs. Visiting these places is great for generating ideas; it also helps me to keep the details of my stories right. If I had never been up the bell-tower, I would not have known how very windy it is up there. There is no glass in those windows, just louvres, which let in a lot of freezing air. Details like that can make a story come to life.

It’s also fun, if you like your fun dark and creepy. Who wouldn’t want to see the Paris catacombs, where the bones of six million Parisians are arranged in elegant patterns? Or the mossy remains of a castle a millennium old, haunted by a Carolingian ghost? So when people ask me whether I do a lot of research for my books, I’m hard put to know how to reply. I do the legwork, yes, but it’s so fascinating, so compulsive, that it doesn’t feel like "research“, and I’d do it anyway, even if I never wrote a word about any of it. I suppose I’m still doing what I set out to do at the beginning; writing for love.

Helen was born in London in 1964. She showed an early leaning towards the arts, having been told off for writing stories under the desk in maths lessons at school. She went on to read Classics at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, and then worked in marketing for ten years to fund her love of travelling. In 2001, she and her family moved to Bad Münstereifel in Germany. It was exploring the legends of this beautiful old town that inspired her to write her first novel. Helen now lives in Scotland with her husband, her two children and her two cats.

Twitter @helengrantsays

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Open House Day 53 - Hollie Snider

When Steve first opened up his blog to guest hijackers, I figured it would be fun. Then I started thinking about what I was going to write. I don't blog well. I express my opinion. Often. But not in long blog posts. I save my creativity for my stories. Which got me thinking about questions, and how they get under my skin in some cases.

At some point in their careers, most writers get asked,”Where do you get your ideas?” And quite a few get annoyed at it. After all, where do most creative people get their ideas? From the world around, of course. Be it a strange cloud shape over the mountains, a misunderstood snippet of conversation, an odd what-if question, or even reading stories from other writers. This question doesn't bother me nearly as much as the “why do you write” question.

My first answer? “So I won't kill you.” That response makes people very uneasy. Some will move away, never turning their back on me, while others just laugh nervously, trying to figure out if I'm joking or not. The funny responses though, are those who actually get offended. “Why would you want to kill me?”

Um, because I can and won't go to jail. Seems obvious to me.

My second answer, if I can turn on my internal filter fast enough and keep the first choice from jumping out unsupervised, is to turn the question back on them. That's usually enough to make their next question, “What do you write?” That one, I don't mind so much. More on that in a bit.

Of course, then there's the ever annoying, “Will you write a story about me?” or “Can I be a character in your next story?” Um, no. I have no intention of purposely opening myself up for a libel lawsuit. No matter how I create the character, “you” will be pissed off at me because I didn't write about you how you really are. And chances are, I did capture the real “you” which is why you're pissed off at me. This is why books have disclaimers at the beginning stating that characters in the book are fictitious and any resemblance to anyone, living or dead, is coincidental. Or something to that effect.

Now, what do I write? A little of everything. I write whatever falls out of my brain onto the paper. Most of my work tends toward dark fantasy, horror and cracked fairy tales, but I don't limit myself to genres. Right now, I'm working on the sequel to my first novel, two novellas, and several short stories. I even have a children's story taking shape. (No, it's not horror.) All while I'm finishing up the final edits on an anthology titled, “Live and Let Undead” from Twisted Library Press, starting final edits on an anthology titled, “The Wickeds” from Horror Addicts and awaiting submissions for another anthology tentatively titled, “Tabernus Libri” from The Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. That title may change though – we'll see.

I'm also a founding member of The Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group and a member of the Wicked Women Writers. Speaking of which, the 2011 Wicked Women Writers contest is live and I have a story entered. Have you listened and voted yet? Voters have a chance to win prizes from all the ladies entered. Go to to listen and vote for your favorite story. Ten tales from ten wicked women!

When I'm not writing, I'm at the park with the dogs or going on long drives through the mountains of Colorado finding inspiration for new stories. I like to paint, though I'm not very good, and I like quilting. I'm better at that. However, no matter what I'm doing, paper and some sort of writing instrument are always with me just waiting for ideas to fall out of my brain. I have even been known to write on napkins if I have to.

If you want to know more about me, visit my website at or my member page on I can also be found on Twitter as hollie_snider and on Facebook. I will be at AnthoCon 2011 too.  If you make it to the Con, stop by and say, “Hi.” Just don't ask me why I write – I may have to kill you.

Hollie Snider is the Executive Editor for Hidden Thought Press ( and She is a founding member of The Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group and a member of the Wicked Women Writers. She is a full time writer and editor, spending her days making stuff up. She is often described as odd, or off her rocker, and she's good with that.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Open House Day 52 - Sandra Norval

Finding my place

Oh my God!!

I can’t help but ask myself what I’m doing here, having read all the other guest blogs. I seem to be surrounded by an array of serious talent, a digital who’s who in speculative fiction and peeking through the legs of the crowd is little ol’ me.

It’s been quite a journey so far and I’m really only just beginning. I started writing when I was a child, hiding away in my bedroom pretending I hadn’t been bullied all day. I would lose myself in a woodland fantasy world where everyone was kind to everyone else and the worst that would happen was a rainstorm at a party.

I wrote through my teens, on and off, by then being inspired by the likes of Alan Garner, CS Lewis and my first reading of The Hobbit. All that time I dreamt of being ‘Someone’ other than who I was right then.

I continued writing in my early twenties, hugely influenced by the suicide of a dear friend. The style had changed, the emotion had become raw but it was powerful stuff according to all those that were allowed to read it.

Then I started studying. My writing ground to a halt, unless you count essays of course.


It was around ten years before I started writing fiction again but it was, for me, like a cork popping from a bottle of bubbly. All of a sudden the ideas were jostling around my head desperately looking for a way out.

Now I’m rarely seen without some way of writing, whether it’s notebooks, laptop, any old scrap of paper those ideas just have to take shape.

I’m starting to find my place, slowly but surely, taking inspiration from other writers and always looking for new opportunities to develop my writing skills.

I do consider myself very lucky. I joined a fantastic writers’ circle back in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. I attended their conference, called Get Writing and attended workshops with John Jarrold, Barry Cunningham and Toby Frost and learnt how much work I needed to do. Now here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how far down the line you get, there is always scope for improvement.

I’ve met many writers who are convinced they can’t learn anything from anyone, their WIP is the bees knees and nothing will sway their opinion. I think that is such a shame. Sometimes you hear a gem of an idea, all boxed up in writing that needs some work. Sometimes the writer will put that work in and you will see the piece grow and become the story it deserves to be. Sometimes that story will sink without trace.

I never want to be a writer that doesn’t try. I believe in my characters. I believe in the worlds that they live in. I want them to find their way in the world and to do that they must be nurtured, cared for, encouraged and eventually released.

Two years ago I had an article published called Don’t Revere The Peer. It’s been republished in the Verulam Writers’ Circle anthology called ‘The Archangel and The White Hart’ and I read it at the launch party earlier this month.

As I read I couldn’t help but remember just how far I’d come in those two years. My confidence has grown enough to stand up there in front of an audience reading my own work. I’ve had a couple of pieces published, my novel is nearing completion and I write once a month for Fantasy Faction.

To cap it all, I’m now the organiser of Get Writing 2012. I’ve got some great writers, editors and agents pencilled in, several from the speculative genre. There’s a lot of work to do but it’s something I couldn’t have imagined I would be doing back in the early days.

Somewhere inside of me there is still a little girl who shuts herself away in a room. On the outside though, is a strong woman, determined to take a well earned place in publishing and equally determined to help others to find their place too.

I say again, OH MY GOD!!!

Sandra Norval writes fantasy with a dark, supernatural and urban twist, or maybe that should be plait? She has written a selection of short stories and is working on her first novel ‘Libertine’, plus she writes articles for the website Fantasy Faction.

Having started writing as a child her stories and outlandish ideas have often resulted in her being described as ‘odd’. She likes that.

Verulam Writers Circle

Get Writing and @GetWriting2012 on twitter

Sandra Norval’s website (Including the first two chapters of her first novel, Libertine and links to all her Fantasy Faction articles)

You can also follow Sandra on twitter on @sandranorval or @enterthetwixt

Open House Day 51 - Sylvia Shults

I’m weird, I’ll freely admit it. Okay, yes, I know, all writers are at least a little bit weird. But horror writers are stranger than most. (I like to joke that you can always tell the horror writer in the workplace, because she’s the one sitting at the break room table reading Merck’s Manual of Infectious Diseases on her lunch break.) And when that same horror writer also writes romance, oh my, some VERY strange dynamics can develop.

I have many other hobbies besides writing, too. I make wine and cheese, I ride a motorcycle, I garden, I do lots of wild-food foraging. I’m especially fond of mulberries and elderberries, when they’re in season. Our neighbors have gotten used to the sight of me sitting on the porch swing, doing inscrutable things with small fruit, a stick of incense burning to keep the skeeters away, our two dogs sitting placidly at my feet.

Of course, even though they’re used to it doesn’t mean they LIKE it. In fact, our neighbors on both sides pretty much hate us. I have no idea why, but my husband has equally odd hobbies, and I think the combination of our comings and goings, and the fact that we lead a remarkable rich and full life without the distraction of television, just cheese them off. (Personally, I think it’s actually repressed jealousy, but what do I know?) At any rate, yes, our neighbors loathe us. We’d had our suspicions for years – the neighbors to the east never, ever talk to us, and the neighbors to the west “accidentally-on-purpose” mowed down my blackberry canes one year. But one incident in particular revealed their true feelings about us.

The neighbors to the west are an older couple, with children and grandchildren in nearly-constant residence. The kids love to swim in the pool in the backyard. (Oh yes, we’re also the only house on the block that doesn’t have a pool. Yet one more thing that sets us apart.) The kids, all of them under ten years old, think it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to shriek and splash and duck each other and NONE of them have a volume control. You know the sounds kids make when they’re playing happily, right? You also know the sounds a kid makes when he has his foot caught under a lawn mower? These kids make the lawn mower kind of screams ALL THE TIME. Super annoying.

So anyway, one summer afternoon I was out in the front yard weeding the peas underneath the cherry tree. I’d been vaguely aware that there was a running battle going on next door between a couple of the kids. I wasn’t paying much attention, because that sort of thing is constant over there. But then one of the boys ran out the front door and down the sidewalk. At the end of the walk, almost to the street, he turned and faced the house, still fuming at his sister or cousin, whomever he was squabbling with. His face was red with anger, his fists were clenched, and I could tell he was wracking his brain for the most cutting, vitriolic insult he could possibly manage to sling at the victim of his fury. He opened his mouth and let fly.

“Dirty HIPPIE!”

I stifled a snort of laughter. Children mimic their elders, and in that moment, I knew exactly what our neighbors really thought of us. I’d bet my next royalty check that those kids had grown up hearing their grandmother complaining about “those dirty hippies next door”. So when the time came to hurl insults, that’s what leaped to the kid’s mind.

So I’m a dirty hippie. I can live with that.

Sylvia Shults lives in Illinois, where the mulberries come ripe at the end of June. She picked three gallons of sour cherries from her tree this year, which are waiting to be turned into wine (when she can find the time). She is the Publicity Director for Dark Continents Publishing. She is the author of Price of Admission, a supernatural romance, and The Taming of the Werewolf, a Shakespeare mashup, both of which were released under the Dark Continents label at the World Horror Convention in 2011. She is also the author of the forthcoming humorous romance Double Double Love and Trouble, which will help launch the company’s non-horror imprint, Dark Light, on May 1, 2012. In addition to the hobbies mentioned above, she also loves listening to classical music (she has a serious weakness for Mozart, Telemann, and anything Baroque) and reading (it’s an addiction). She is a librarian and an art model for life drawing classes. She loves hearing from readers, so please feel free to visit her at any of her Facebook pages (Dark Continents, Darkheart for horror, Sparkleheart for romance, and Ghosts of the Illinois River). She can also be found at,, and, where you can learn about her other works.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Open House Day 50 - Tracie McBride

I used to think that everybody thought like me. I used to think that everybody had dark, twisted, or just plain weird thoughts, and that they simply chose not to discuss them in polite society.

Then I started writing down my weird thoughts. I showed my work to some of my family and friends. Some backed slowly away from me with a funny look on their faces. My husband says that after reading one of my earlier stories, he was afraid to fall asleep in case I stabbed him in the night. My daughters never get to read my stories, as they are still too young, but occasionally I’ll let my twelve year old son, a budding horror aficionado, read a work in progress. The last time I did that, he responded with the kind of bluntness that only the very young or very old can get away with – “What the hell is wrong with you?!?”

What the hell is wrong with me, indeed…

These weird ideas don’t spring up out of nowhere, although sometimes it seems like it; Life itself is weird, and dishes up sights, sounds and experiences to be noted, forgotten, processed by the subconscious and filtered back up through layers of more formal thought until the origins of the concept are nigh-on impossible to identify. By way of example, here is a series of snapshots from a recent family holiday that may or may not end up in a story or two:

Driving past a sign post that says “Deception Bay”. What’s so deceptive about it? Is it not a bay at all? Was some heinous act of deception committed there in the past? Are all the residents masters of dishonesty? Or is it like some modern day Land of the Lotus Eaters, where the very environment beguiles visitors into losing all sense of time, location or common sense?

Listening to a cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” on the radio. Twelve year old son starts giggling. “I was just thinking of that game,” he says, “where you change the word ‘heart’ in a song to ‘arse’.” I sing along in my head. “La la la la exploded in my...” Oh. Cue series of deeply disturbing mental images (and I really hope my subconscious keeps that one to itself).

At Sea World, perched in a gondola thirty-odd feet above the dolphin pools. Below me, a couple of dickheads throw rocks at the dolphins. With their tormentors safely on land, the dolphins’ only means of retaliation is to splash them with their tails. Rocks vs. water – hardly a fair fight. I indulge in a little revenge fantasy on their behalf, wondering how different the picture would look if the dolphins were genetically engineered to sprout opposable thumbs on the ends of their flippers, and equipped with waterproof semi-automatic weapons…

Our fifteen year old niece tells us of some of her classmates’ (pardon the pun) misconceptions about sex. No, if sperm fails to unite with egg, it does not hang around in the womb for months afterwards waiting for another shot, nor does it turn around and swim back to where it came from. Which got me thinking – but what if it did? And what if the nearest appendage was not the one from which it originated?

We return from our holiday. We’d asked a neighbour’s teenaged daughter to look after our cat while we were away, but it appears our definition of ‘look after’ and hers is somewhat different; the cat has one front leg hooked through her flea collar, and by the looks of the bloody, pus-riddled mess across her chest and under her leg where the collar has rubbed, she’s been tangled up like that the entire ten days we were away. And the stench…she gives off a foetid, oddly fishy odour that has me gagging. Once I get past the initial “Panic, panic, panic, oh I can’t look, oh I have to look, ewww gross, you poor cat, holy crap do you stink….”, then a little further past the vet’s “it looks worse than it is, although she’ll be left with a scar, here’s some antibiotics and antiseptic spray, that’ll be $90 thanks”, then that little deviant voice in my head starts up. “Hmmm…what would a similar injury look like on a human? Smell like? How would it happen? Why would it happen? Self inflicted? A product of ignorance and neglect? Or even more sinister reasons?”
By the way, if any of you happen to know what the hell is wrong with me, stop by at and let me know.

Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 70 print and electronic publications, including Horror Library Vol 4, Abyss and Apex, Space & Time, Dead Red Heart and Electric Velocipede. She won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent for 2007. Her short story and poetry collection “Ghosts Can Bleed” was released in April 2011 by the writer's co-operative Dark Continents Publishing, of which she is vice president.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Open House Day 49 - Chantal Boudreau

The Element of Fear
There is not a single self-respecting horror writer who doesn’t have at least a rudimentary understanding of the element of fear. I’m not just talking about graphic gore or general creepiness, I’m referring to the psychological aspect of fear that is an essential part of all horror. It is a focus on that element that can transform startling to downright bone-chilling.

Some people consider the “gross-out” factor the most significant part of horror, or even the air of evil, but if you look at the true masters of the horror genre, their expertise lies in their methods of building suspense and tapping into the more deep-rooted fears of the reader. The most common type of fear you’ll find in horror is the universal fear of death, be it a fear of dying, perhaps at the hands of a serial killer or the claws of some terrible monster, or the fear of things already dead, like ghosts, ghouls or zombies (my favourite, and something you’ll find in several of my published tales). These often tie in easily with the element of gore and shock value, so they tend to be the fears that most novice writer will use.

The more creative tales dig a little deeper, and target other basic fears, common but not all pervasive – claustrophobia, being trapped in a confined space, maybe being buried alive as one possibility, is a situation you might expect to find, fearing heights is another, and fearing for the safety of your loved ones rather than your own personal safety (I used this fear in my story “Silence in the Court”, which appears in May December Publications’ anthology Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy) is another. The majority of readers can relate to these fears and they are fairly easy to introduce into a believable plot.

The stories I find really intriguing are the ones that play off of the more unusual phobias: a fear of clowns, for example, or a fear of the water. These are selective individual fears, and incorporating them into a horror story is more of a challenge because even if the reader does not fear these things him or herself, you need to draw them into that mindset and have them share in the protagonist’s terror. It can be done, and done well, but it’s a tricky endeavour. You have to get under the character’s skin and into their head. You need to make someone who wouldn’t normally fear those things see what would frighten someone who is subject to the phobia. I’ve been trying to capture that feeling in one of my short stories, Driven (I have an excerpt from the story on my account, chantal_boudreau) that explores a scenario from the perspective of a woman afraid of driving who is caught in a traffic jam.

The point is that the element of fear is relative, and the horror writer can either take an easier route and choose a fear common to all, or go with something more obscure and have to work to make it real for the reader. Personally, I like a challenge, so I’ll be trying to write more tales like Driven, and hopefully I can make them just as scary as my others. What puts the fear in you?

Chantal Boudreau is an accountant by day and an author/illustrator during evenings and weekends, who lives by the ocean in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband and two children. In addition to being a CMA-MBA, she has a BA with a major in English from Dalhousie University. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she writes and illustrates predominantly horror, dark fantasy and fantasy and has had several of her short stories published, including her tales “Palliative,” “Just Another Day,” “Waking the Dead,” “Silence in the Court,” “What a Man’s Gotta Do,” “Dry Heat,” all appearing in horror anthologies, her paranormal fable, “The Ghost in the Mirror,” and her novelette “Shear Terror”. Fervor, her debut novel, a dystopian science fantasy tale, was released in March of 2011 by May December Publications (MDP).  Other releases contracted for this year include her novel, Magic University, the first in her fantasy series, Masters & Renegades, to be released in September, and her monster horror tale, “The Lure” that will be appearing in MDP’s anthology Midnight Movie Creature Feature. Check out her podcast tale, “Rats!” on, part of the Wicked Women Writers challenge – listen to all of the stories and vote for your favourite before August 1.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Open House Day 47 - Arlene Radasky

Grandma Moses. Yes, Grandma Moses, do you remember her? Anna Mary Robertson Moses started painting when she was in her seventies. I wrote my first novel, The Fox, in my fifties. Don't get me wrong; the desire has always been there. I would sit and watch people and create lives for them, stories.

I finally got the courage to do it after completing a sprint triathlon. I poked myself in the chest and said, "Self, if you can do that and all the other things you have done in this life then WHY can't you write? Or at least try?" I didn't start with something easy, I started with a novel, a story that had been sitting in my mind for years. It's a historical novel, filled with facts; just what I love to read.

The FoxAfter completing it, I thought about marketing, did a bit of exploring and made the decision to give it away. I knew that I would have to edit the heart out of it, to even have a slight chance for a mainline publisher to pick it up and could not do that to my characters and the story. So I chose to record it and put it into and on one other free site. This was 2008, just as the publishing world was starting to explode into an acceptance of the ebook. Some of my first readers read a PDF copy of The Fox on their computer. Now The Fox is available in many sites, downloadable to all readers for free, two being and It is also available in as a paperback and Kindle download and It has been translated into Farsi and is being distributed in Iran. The last count of free and paid downloads was over 31,500.

I had no idea how dark a lot of my other projects would be after I finished The Fox. I had written a very dark poem about an abused wife who couldn't escape her husband, even in death, "Forever". My fiendish friend Emerian Rich of was hosting a horror festival on Second Life and she asked me to come on to read it live. I did and had such a good time there with her that I decided to make Second Life a part of my writing experience. I have met and become friends with worldwide authors who share skills, information, poetry and short stories on Second Life. Emerian has also included" Forever" in a HorrorAddicts anthology. This picture is me, chained in Emerian Rich's coffin in her Second Life home, Quills. She records her podcast there. I host an Open Mic and anyone can read their work to others. I also teach about recording and podcasting to writers with questions in Second Life. If you are interested in coming on, let me know and I will help.

I joined Wicked Women Writers hosted by Emerian Rich and , the first year it was formed and our first prompt for a short story contest was how to kill our husbands. "Tired" was the result of that contest. I have been challenged by Emerian several times to write horror short stories and I find that I love it. She has challenged me again. I wrote "The Circle's End" for the Wicked Women Writers' contest this year and recorded it for her podcast. Be sure and go to to listen to all the entries and vote for the story you liked the best in July, 2011.

I am most impressed and frightened by psychological horror and ghosts, blood and guts not needed. I am writing my second historical novel, while I'm also having fun watching my darker side come out to play.

Bunny Guard

"Dark little bunny, dark and darting.
Why doest thou carry a weapon?"

“I pray, My Lady", he answered in a whisper,
“Not to find the need to use it.”

"But why, little bunny
Would you fear so?"

“Ah, My Lady,
‘tis the shadow of the moon.

You hear her creeping
And crawling through your thoughts.

She steals the sound of the spiders.”

"But, little bunny, I do not wish
To hear the sounds of spiders!"

“My Lady, ‘tis the whisper of spiders which warn us.
Gives us time to gird ourselves to fight.

We need the silken scream of the spiders,
To get us safely through the night.”

"But, my gun carrying little bunny,
Have you seen her in our midst?"

“No, My Lady. But the spiders were silent last night.”

It's never too late to try new things. Find out more about me and my work at