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41  Strange 2Title: 41 Strange
Author: Diane Doniol-Valcroze & Arthur K. Flam
Publisher: Diane Doniol-Valcroze & Arthur K. Flam
Pages: 150
Genre: Short Story Anthology
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

41 STRANGE, a first-of-its-kind e-book anthology devoted exclusively to “short-short stories of the strange and horrifying,” awaits just a couple of clicks away for Kindle readers who enjoy a good shiver up their spines.

41 STRANGE is the bizarre debut collection of authors/screenwriters Diane Doniol-Valcroze and Arthur K. Flam, who deliver a reading experience in the spirit of such masters of the macabre as Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rod Serling. As Doniol-Valcroze and Flam put it, the tales were written “in the lonely hour of the wolf … in the pre-dawn darkness when you get those ‘waking nightmares.’”

Doniol-Valcroze and Flam are screenwriters working in Los Angeles. They met at New YorkUniversity’s film school and started collaborating, first on short films and then on screenplays. That working relationship forged a natural path to writing stories.

“We’re both very passionate about short fiction,” says Flam. “It’s our favorite form to read and write. After working together for many years on film projects, we realized we had a lot of ideas … that could only be done as short stories, so we decided to finally pull the trigger.”

The short-short story format makes a perfect fit for the authors’ strange visions. They immediately set up surreal and terrifying situations, which lead to even stranger conclusions. The stories can be read in their entirety in the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee and settle in with the book.

“Neal Edelstein (producer, MULHOLLAND DRIVE) has endorsed the book, and we’re excited because his new horror app HAUNTING MELISSA was the main inspiration for us to release the stories direct-to-audience,” says Doniol-Valcroze.

One of the authors’ favorite stories in 41 STRANGE is “Frank’s Wash,” in which a man finds himself stuck on the conveyor belt of a car wash. All attempts to get the car wash operator’s attention fail. Where Frank finally ends up becomes a chilling dissection of the parent-child relationship.

“We think (the stories) all embody that unnerving atmosphere,” Doniol-Valcroze and Flam say. “You’re not quite sure if the events unfolding around the character are happening for real, or are they just a figment of the character’s overactive imagination. We love that ambiguity.”

Doniol-Valcroze and Flam believe that 41 STRANGE will appeal to a general audience of film lovers and short story readers, as well as fans of science-fiction, horror and crime, and readers looking “for a quick dose of strange stories for commuting, or just curling up for a chilling night read before bed.”

Book Excerpt:

Staircase Man

THERE WAS A STAIRCASE MAN outside my peephole. Standing still. That much I knew.

I’m not making this story up…

Why would I say there was a Staircase Man outside my peephole if there wasn’t? What reason could I have?

His face was very close to the peephole glass, distorting his grotesque features and giving the single rectangular “step-hump” on his upper back a gigantic contour in the doorway. I saw him amble back to the old creaky maple staircase in the hallway. He squatted. Slowly, his body sunk into the vacancy of a missing step in the staircase, the step-hump on his back serving to fill in the step. He was faultlessly, perfectly camouflaged. No one could ever tell he lurked within the staircase, as they ascended, descended the flight… as their hands innocently squeezed the banisters. I tried to identify his presence. At night, with the aid of a flashlight and magnifying glass, scanning the tread and rise of the steps for hours, I could not detect the hairline seams that distinguished his wedged-in body from the real steps. That’s how insidiously disguised he was. How seamlessly he fit interlocked into the “stairwell jigsaw puzzle.”

Frankly, I was petrified.

The former tenant had warned me, but I’d dismissed her words as the ranting of an unstable woman. Out of pure fright, she’d painted the peephole’s lens with red nail polish—to block out the view of The Man Rising From The Stairs. She said nobody believed her. Not the neighbors. Not the doorman. Not the janitor. Not a soul.

She was taken to a mental asylum.

How could I take her words seriously?

But right she was…

This Staircase Man was beckoning me at my door each and every night. He would rise from his “hibernation cubbyhole” like a vampire rose from his coffin for a midnight excursion. I could see his malevolent shrunken eyes hover behind the warped peephole glass. His pupils were like the round flat heads of wrought iron nails.

Sometimes… he softly knocked. By morning, he’d left a lingering odor of musty wood drifting in my nostrils through the keyhole.

I inquired about him all around the building. Then I stopped inquiring when the neighbors began to give me strange looks. The last thing I wanted was to be sent to the asylum too. So I clammed up.

But at night, in bed… I trembled.

Who was this bizarre inexplicable man? Where did he come from? Why was he in the staircase adjacent to my door? Why was I chosen? What did he want from me?

Sleepless nights became the routine. I was sick with fever round the clock. It got to the point, I wanted to destroy that evil presence outside my door more than anything else I ever wanted in the world.

One cold November, I resolved to kill the staircase spawn, rid it from my life once and for all. I’d had enough stalling… Soon I’d be too ill and weak to fight. The day of reckoning was now at hand… I readied myself. I selected a distinctly long, sharp hunting knife with an ivory handle from my tool kit. I had bought it from a shaman on a safari expedition in Tanzania. It might serve me well, I reflected. Perhaps its blade would possess some special power to annihilate my night terror.

And so I waited.

My ears on the stretch with expectation.

Then the faint knocks came—

At 3:08 in the morning.

knock… knock… knock…

I tiptoed to the door. Silently, ever so… so… so… silent I was. My eye widened in horror as it pressed into the peephole glass. Sure enough, outside the door—there was the living-moving segment of the staircase. Right on time. He would not miss his appointment with fate. Yes. Now… Now was the perfect moment to murder him.

I unlatched the door. I creaked it open warily… ever so warily… Before I knew it, his long wooden fingers with splinter-like nails clawed at my soft throat…

“… Call the police!” I shouted, hoping a neighbor would come to my rescue; none did.

I stabbed and stabbed his thick wooden step-hump—the blade broke! At that precise moment, the Staircase Man squeezed his slanted baluster-like shoulder through the door gap and flung the security chain open, knocking me backwards across the vestibule. The snapping door chain gave off a noise like a rattlesnake. The odious Staircase Man stood in the wide-open doorway, laughing. That’s when I froze in the utmost state of shock. Filled with nausea. His laugh—was the exact same as mine.

In a voice that sounded entirely like my own, he ordered me to get out of the apartment at once. Before I could get on my feet, he threw me out like a vagrant, slamming the door on my face. I was left alone out in the dark hallway. Terrified, I gathered myself together. I regained my balance and dusted off my pajamas.

I touched the new step-hump that was growing fast like a rugged mountain on my back. I ran my hand along its cold, weather-beaten, calloused slope. It smelled of mold and mildew. Oddly, it felt like it had always been there. I got used to it quickly. It felt right.

I retreated and hid, taking refuge in the cavity—the dingy nook—of the deeply shadowed stairs, where no neighbors could look at me with their inquisitive stares.

Ah, I thought long and hard. Yes, me, the Staircase Man. Have I always been? I don’t know; I can’t say. My head throbs ceaselessly. It aches till it breaks. But I’m not insane! That much I know!

That night… and every night afterwards… I stand motionless in front of my old door. From time to time I knock softly. I wait for my old frightened eye… to appear behind the peephole… and see what I turned into…

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earp1While most people go to Disneyland while in Southern California, Jeani Rector went to the Fangoria Weekend of Horror there instead. She grew up watching the Bob Wilkins Creature Feature on television and lived in a house that had the walls covered with framed Universal Monsters posters. It is all in good fun and actually, most people who know Jeani personally are of the opinion that she is a very normal person. She just writes abnormal stories. Doesn’t everybody?

Jeani Rector is the founder and editor of The Horror Zine and has had her stories featured in magazines such as Aphelion, Midnight Street, Strange Weird and Wonderful, Dark River Press, Macabre Cadaver, Ax Wound, Horrormasters, Morbid Outlook, Horror in Words, Black Petals, 63Channels, Death Head Grin, Hackwriters, Bewildering Stories, Ultraverse, and others.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest anthology, SHADOW MASTERS: AN ANTHOLOGY FROM THE HORROR ZINE. When did you start writing and what got you into horror?

A: When I was a little girl, I spent nearly every Saturday night at my best friend’s house. We would try to stay up late and watch the Bob Wilkin’s Creature Feature here in Sacramento. (I say try because we always fell asleep on the floor in front of the TV). Wilkins always showed gothic vampire films and B-grade monster mashes.

That started my love of the genre…and then came Carrie by Stephen King. Need I say more?

Q: Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?

A: It’s always a teacher, isn’t it? My fifth-grade teacher told my mother: “Encourage her writing and discourage her artwork.” Ha! That says something about my drawing ability.

Q: Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?

A: Oh god, yes. Before computers, there was the typewriter and gobs of White Out. Then technology advanced, making writing better for everyone. Embrace technology! The “good old days” are really the “difficult old days.”

11736839-22769210-thumbnailQ: What was your inspiration for putting together SHADOW MASTERS?

A: My inspiration is to combine best-selling writers with the talented lesser-knowns. SHADOW MASTERS is the first time The Horror Zine has compiled original, never-before seen works from horror greats such as Bentley Little, Yvonne Navarro, Scott Nicholson, Melanie Tem, Elizabeth Massie, Earl Hamner, Simon Clark, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Ronald Malfi, Lisa Morton, Jeff Bennington, JG Faherty and many others; this amazing collection of works also includes a Foreword from Joe R. Lansdale.

Q: Do you have any short story plotting secrets? Do you use index cards or special software?

A: I have written the “secrets” for short story writing that can be found in the June issue of The Horror Zine (under TIPS) available now at http://www.thehorrorzine.com.

Q: What do you tell your muse when she refuses to collaborate?

A: I say “I’ll be back” and file it in my “unfinished” folder. Then I work on something else. Or go out and enjoy the day. The point is, you cannot force your muse. She comes to you.

Q: Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?

A: Not really. Writing is like your job: you set aside a certain amount of time each day. If your muse is uncooperative, then you can always do edits on what you have previously written.

Q: How do you celebrate the completion of an anthology?

A: Splash it all over The Horror Zine, Facebook, and Shocklines!

Q: What do you love most about the writer’s life?

A: Well, you have to understand that I am also an editor. I think I like that best, because I get opportunities to work with the most talented (and nicest) people in the world.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: The Horror Zine is always seeking fiction, poetry and art from morbidly creative people. Come visit us at http://www.thehorrorzine.com.

Purchase SHADOW MASTERS from Amazon (paperback) and on Kindle.

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I’m sure that it differs for each writer. We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies, but for me, the poetry writing process is quite different than the fiction one. With fiction, it’s much more craft than art—with deliberate plotting, careful construction, character spreadsheets, and timelines. I’ve got to have a pretty clear outline before I start and tend to work in quite a regular, linear way, focusing primarily on the storyline and the character development as I progress. With such a long term process, discipline and scheduling is the only way to get on. With poetry, it’s very different.

I usually start with a concept or theme. I know, for example, that my topic will be Christmas. I need to write Christmas themed poems for a collection I’m pulling together with my writing partner Carolyn Howard-Johnson. But it’s May for crying outloud, and I’m so not in the mood to write about Christmas (not sure I was in the mood in December either!), so I need to find some twist or inspirational hit that will give my work something fresh and interesting to engage my muse. So I’ll go exploring. Usually, in my case, somewhere sciency like Scientific American, NASA, or New Scientist (the quality of their writing is excellent, and inspiration is always easy to find there).

Other pretty regular sources of inspiration for me are Seth Godin’s blog, where he recently did a post on The Levy Flight – about the random but regular patterns that animals take when foraging and how that might apply to marketing. This may not sound very Christmassy to you, but because poetry must be fresh, the combination of an idea like the Levy Flight and Christmas can often spark some fairly original thinking. I found a recent article on New Scientist about some new thoughts on a Theory of Everything, and began a piece titled The matrix, with its opening lines “Stuck in the attic, behind retired lights, cracked ornaments, and threadbare tinsel” and then let the images work almost intuitively, moving the poem into a region that develops as I begin playing with the images until there’s a very clear picture that I’ve presented. Once I’ve got it – the overall picture, then the revision begins, and like all writing, that’s where the real change happens. You must revise, and change and tighten, and eliminate superfluous words or any concept that isn’t crystal clear. With poetry, I would say that revision is even more important than other forms of writing because you only have a few words to convey a huge amount of meaning. It has to be perfect, tight, and evocative without being either too obscure, or too overt/trite.

That’s a balancing act that only comes with a lot of work on finding the perfect, exact word or image to illuminate what you’re trying to say. Nearly every decent poem I’ve written has been revised many times, and often (possibly always) with the help of someone objective.


Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. She is the author of the poetry book Repulsion Thrust, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything and four other poetry chapbooks Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and the newly released Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks.

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Dark and poignant, Down to a Sunless Sea is a short story anthology that takes us inside the minds of various disturbed, lost souls. Freese is not afraid to show us the harsh reality and emptiness of the characters’ mediocre, dysfunctional lives, and he does it with insight and his unique sense of literary style.

My favorite stories were “Little Errands,” “Herbie,” and “Juan Peron’s Hands.”

In “Little Errands,” an obsessed man is tormented because he can’t remember if he mailed two letters, or if the letters were properly placed in the mailbox.

I mailed the two letters, one is a parking ticket, the other partial payment for new carpeting. Or so I thought. I’m not sure that I mailed them, although I did close the slot and opened it again to check. The letters were not there, or so I thought. I was in a rush. I opened and close the tray again. The letters were gone. When I returned to my car, I felt sure that I had mailed them. I think I mailed them. I was unsure and uncertain. I’m sure the letters didn’t fall outside the mailbox.

And so it goes on for a number of paragraphs. Readers will learn what it’s like to be inside a troubled mind.

In “Herbie,” a young boy tries to stand up to his abusive father. This is a heart-wrenching glimpse into psychological and physical abuse that almost brought tears to my eyes. In this segment, Herbie snaps after his father tells him, yet again, “You’re a shit.”

Herbie felt his heart beat against his chest as if it had been thrown against a stoop. He imagined himself a circus geek, like Tyrone Power in the movie Nightmare Alley, ripping apart live pigeons, chomping upon their plump bodies as reddened sparkles of feathers stuck out like stars from his bloodied mouth. Herbie stalked out of his bedroom with an add gait, having lost one slipper. He chased his father into the kitchen like a geek on the spoor of a half-devoured pigeon. He spied his father, bent over, his hands wiping the back seams of his shoes with a dishrag, his body looking now like that of a small animal, perhaps a bird.

Herbie lunged at his father’s throat with both hands and as he was pushed off he slid down to his father’s leg, grabbed it, and gnashed his teeth into his thigh and bit down as hard as he could. Having a rubbery consistency, the flesh made a strange appeal and he opened his mouth wider in order to effect a deeper and wider bite, and in the process his father smashed the shoe brush down upon his head repeatedly as if beating a snake to death.

“Juan Peron’s Hands” is nothing short of macabre. The narrator breaks into the crypt of the famous politician and, with a machete, cuts off the corpse’s hands, wraps them in foil, and puts each one inside a trouser pocket. Later on, at home, he places them on the kitchen table.

Placing both hands before me, I uncurled the gnarled fingers, so that each hand was like the hand of Jesus, our savior, in church, frozen in stained glass. I grabbed each hand individually with my own, an intense and prolonged grasp, my eyes closed, my arm and living fingers intertwined with Peron’s steely cold, and papery digits, once magically unavailable. And I was in control—of myself, as, at last. I was complete, in possession. I had regained me.

These are not traditional stories with a beginning, middle, and end; instead, they are keen snapshots of the characters—their troubled psyches, their trapped lives; yet we as readers are still able to form a complete picture of the characters. In this sense, the collection is a fine example of character studies. The author worked as a clinical social worker and a psychotherapist for twenty-five years, and this becomes evident when you read his work. Another aspect of the book which stands out is that it is versatile, in the sense that the fifteen stories are written in different styles: lyrical, journalistic, satiric, and morbid.

Down to a Sunless Sea offers a sad, if not cynical, dark view of humanity, so if you’re looking for a collection of light, upbeat tales, this isn’t the book for you. Also, in spite of being a short little book, I found it quite profound and in fact had to read some of the stories twice to grasp their full meaning. Because of this, I would say this is also a demanding read.

If you enjoy serious literary fiction that is insightful, emotionally touching, and intellectually challenging, I recommend you give this book a try.

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Stopping by the Dark Phantom this weekend is Karina Fabian, whose book, Infinite Space, Infinite God, just earned her an EPPIE Award this year. Welcome to The Dark Phantom, Karina! It’s nice to have you here. How is your virtual tour going so far?

Hi, Mayra! I’m laughing, because I’m writing the answers to your interview in June! That’s the beauty of a virtual book tour—you can get so much of it done ahead, and then the month runs on automatic. I am pleased to report, however, that at this time, I have scheduled 25 blogs, two podcasts, and two live chats, covering a wide range of interests from science fiction to literature to religion. Many of the blogs are interviewing me or reviewing the book. I can’t even imagine getting this kind of participation from print magazines and radio. And I can do it all in my pajamas!

Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

infinitespace_e_cover.jpgOur anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God is thought-provoking science fiction with a Catholic twist. Readers will find just about every SF approach from space opera to dystopia to SF mystery. The topics span time and space travel, genetic engineering and animal/human hybrids, alien encounters and interplanetary colonization. The slant, however, is exploring how the Catholic faith will play and be defined by all of these developments. We have Catholics leaning on their faith, physically and mentally, to survive incredible catastrophes. We have Catholic traditions challenged by dystrophic environments and priests and nuns living and working in space. The book however, is an exploration of possibilities, not an evangelization piece for the Catholic Church. The best of SF asks, “What if?” and that’s what ISIG does.

The contributors span a wide range of experience, but all have incredible storytelling talent, which is why ISIG won the EPPIE award for best electronically-published science fiction of 2006. It’s also gotten some terrific reviews from people of all or no faith. I’m so tickled it’s gotten so much acclaim—and it’s only just coming into print! August 15 is the launch date. The inspiration for ISIG comes from Rob’s and my faith and our love for science fiction. We actually met because of our love of Star Trek. However, most science fiction completely ignores faith, and that bothered us. Humankind will not outgrow a need to love God anymore than we will outgrow a need to think or imagine or create. As Catholics, we also didn’t believe it likely that a faith that has survived essentially theologically unchanged over two millennia of change would die out because humans get new tech toys or meet an interstellar neighbor.

In 1996, Rob and I had developed a near-future universe in which humans were just starting to colonize the solar system, and group of nuns, the sisters of Our Lady of the Rescue, conducted search and rescue operations for the spacers. When a friend on the Catholic Writers Online started an e-book press, we suggested a story collection, but she wanted a broader-reaching anthology. Leaps of Faith was born, and became an EPPIE finalist. It caught the attention of a Catholic publisher—a big one—who suggested a Catholic-exclusive anthology. We put together Infinite Space, Infinite God, but they decided against taking a chance on genre fiction. A year or so later, Twilight Times picked it up and we’re so glad!

There’s been a great rise in Christian literature these past few years. To what do you attribute this?

I think folks are coming around to our way of thinking. (Wink) I believe readers are looking for books that don’t ignore or brush off the faith aspect of the human condition. I don’t know for certain about fiction for other religions, whether it ever died out or if it is now resurging as well, but as the future brings more wonders—and more uncertainties—we are finding a need to recall and cling to our Creator, in all aspects of our lives.

Christian literature as a subgenre itself is very specific, sometimes heavy-handed approach. Certainly it has its place; readers want, and at times need, that kind of affirmation. Personally, I don’t want ISIG pigeon-holed into that genre. This is mainstream SF with a Catholic theme.

I think, though, that the rise of Christian literature has opened the eyes of publishers, and that means good things for books like ISIG that acknowledge faith without evangelizing. We’ve seen it in the music industry; Christian rock has become very popular, but if you listen to country music, you’ll find significantly more references to God and church and prayer than you would have a decade ago.

Is Christian SF something new? Who started it? If you go to a bookstore, do you find them in the Christian section or the SF section?

C.S. Lewis wrote Christian SF; it’s been around as long as the genre. But you wouldn’t call it by that name. I’ve never looked for “Christian SF” in the bookstore, so I have no idea where or if you’d find it. Frankly, I think folks would have better luck on the Internet. If ISIG gets into the brick-and-mortar bookstores, we want it in the mainstream. That’s really our audience. However, we’re also working with Catholic and Christian bookstores to try to get them to include Christian genre fiction (beyond romance, which is big already.) After all, Christians enjoy science fiction, fantasy, even horror. They don’t look for them in a Christian bookstore because no one expects to find them in a Christian bookstore, but if owners stocked them and let people know, I think a following would develop. It’s about trying to reach everyone rather than pigeon-holing.

Right now, however, if you want to find Christian science fiction, you’re better off looking on-line. Here are a few I recommend:
Infinite Space, Infinite God (Twillight Times Books) (http://isigsf.tripod.com): but of course!
Light at the Edge of Darkness (The Writer’s Café): a heavier-handed but entertaining sampler of Biblical speculative fiction. These stories cover SF, fantasy, and horror and have strong sometimes evangelical Christian messages.
Flashpoint (The Writer’s Café): Biblical cyberpunk, but good enough to be mainstreamed.
Faith Awakened (www.faithawakened.com): Christian SF involving virtual reality as an escape from dystopia
Dragons, Knights and Angels; The Sword Review; Raygun Revival, and Wayfarer’s Journal: Christian SF and fantasy magazines.

Also check out the Christian Fiction Review Blog (www.cfrblog.blogspot.com) the first Sunday of every month to see what’s touring.
The Lost Genre Guild is dedicated to promoting quality Christian speculative fiction. Check out their blog as well.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

It’s an anthology rather than a novel, so I can’t speak for all our contributors. Since we were mostly editing, we let the stories determine the flow of the book. We tried something a little different, as well, and put in some essays about the current Catholic Church to introduce the sections. It was done with the Catholic publisher in mind, but we kept them in. We hope that some Catholic literature courses will pick it up. In all, it took about a year and a half to gather stories, select them, edit them (some needed re-writes), write the introductions, and polish the manuscript.
For our own stories, they usually start out with an idea or a character. Rob and I will go out to dinner, discuss the idea and hash out the details. Then I go home and SOTP (seat-of-the-pants) write. I haven’t outlined a novel since my first one in college, and then I only outlined because the story was coming so fast, I couldn’t keep up if I wrote each word down. I’m also a character-driven writer, so they need to reveal their story to me. When I’m done with a story, Rob will go over it, redirect and edit, and I do the next draft. Until Rob retires, I’m the writer on the team and he’s the idea man. I think that will change when he has time and mental energy for writing fiction—then watch out!

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

My writer’s block usually involves transitions. I’ve accomplished a task or finished a scene and since I don’t outline, my characters want to go out for coffee or take a nap and that really translates into *** or a chapter break. So I either take a shower and get into my character’s (awake and active) head, do something manual and mindless like clean house, or IM a friend and whine that I’m stuck. I love Yahoo! IM. I probably waste a lot of time on it, but I’ve also made some terrific friends and gotten some fantastic ideas, especially for my latest novel. (If you pick up Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem and love the cowbell scene, thank Ann Lewis.)
Rob and I had writers’ block on another Rescue Sisters story, but we hit on an idea while on the road to Colorado for a working vacation. To break past it we asked ourselves what hadn’t been done yet and how could we do it. In this case, it’s a story where a young man gets his Calling to the priesthood.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

First the advice. KEEP LOOKING! Rejection is seldom personal: often the book doesn’t meet their needs, or is too far out to be worth the risk, or just not click with the editor. If you actually get back a useful rejection (“Couldn’t identify with the character,” “quality of writing not up to ours”) consider it carefully, make changes if you agree, but KEEP LOOKING!

Let you own goals dictate where you send it. For example, with ISIG, we went to some pretty big publishers first and worked down in size. In all ISIG took a year and a half to find a publisher. I’m doing the same with my trilogy The Miscria, and that one has been three years in the search, but mostly because DAW held onto it for two. However, for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem (a fantasy noir comedy), I went straight to a small press. That’s because I knew the publisher and she liked my characters, and I knew this book has a large but potentially limited audience: Mensa members. I think it will appeal to anyone who likes twisted cliché and fantasy humor, but I also recognized that most big publishers probably would not see it my way. Besides, this one is pure fun.
Overall, I advise against self-publishing, esp. for fiction. I also advise you to check out potential publishers. Even some self-proclaimed “traditional” presses are really more vanity press. Predators and Editors is a good place to look. Do a Google search on the publisher—folks with bad experiences will post. Also, pick a name or two out of their book list (not the ones who may have put “testimonials” on their website—that in itself is a warning sign), and e-mail them. Someone had told me about Twilight Times, and I knew one of their authors from a group, so I asked her about it before submitting. She loved TTB, and I am pleased with everything so far, too.
Incidentally, looking for a publisher is my least favorite part of writing. This is where it becomes a job rather than a vocation.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Infinite Space, Infinite God – (http://isigsf.tripod.com): This is the dedicated site for the book: events, interviews, story synopses, reviews, book trailers. Its there for the curious to learn more about ISIG and for the press to get information for articles.
FabianSpace – (www.fabianspace.com): My personal website. It has my blog, a list of my works, descriptions of the universes I play in, a media room for the press, and my chat room FabChat, where I host live chats with authors and their fans every Thursday night.
Dragon Eye, PI – (www.freewebs.com/dragoneyepi/index.htm): The universe of Dragon Eye, PI. Usually, this is written in the character of Vern, the cynical “Sam Spade” of the dragon world. It has a list of stories, the link to the serial mystery I’m writing for The Prairie Dawg, and Vern’s own blog. I’ve got dragon and St. George stories and art from others, too.
I’m also on MySpace: www.myspace.com/karinafabian and ShoutLife www.shoutlife.com/karinafabian

Do you have another novel on the works? Tell us about your current and/or future projects.

Right now, I’m working on a fantasy noir comedy, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. Vern, a dragon from the Faerie universe, and his partner, Sister Grace, a mage in the Faerie Catholic Church, are eeking out a living in the Mundane universe as private detectives for the particularly desperate. Bishop Aiden, however, sends them to a Mensa convention to chaperone the Faerie guests. It should be a cushy job, but when the Valkyrie Brunhilde goes on the prowl for men who don’t smell of mead, a dwarf heads to BillyBeaver™’s Fantasyland to “get discovered,” and elves high on aspartame want to declare war on Florida , their job goes from Chaperone to Supernatural Haz-Mat.
Next in line is to finish my SF novel, Discovery. This one involves the Rescue Sisters, assisting a mission to explore the first-discovered alien spaceship, which has been found crashed and abandoned in the Kuiper belt beyond Pluto. When Sr. Rita’s old flame shows up as part of the expedition, she can no longer run from her feelings. Will she forsake her vows for a human love? What discoveries does an ages-old alien ship hold for her—and how do they affect her faith?
We’ll also be collecting stories for ISIG II. If you’re a writer, look for an announcement in January!
In addition, I have regular author interviews in Hereditas Magazine, and host a live chat every Thursday 8-10 PM EST (9-11 PM after Sept 13). Go to www.fabianspace.com and click on FabChat. Hope to see you there.

Thanks for stopping by, Karina! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thank you! I love virtual interviews, and you’ve been a terrific host. After all, you didn’t mind my being in my pajamas. 😉

Please remember that Infinite Space, Infinite God is out in print from Twilight Times Books August 15. (www.twilighttimesbooks.com) You’ll also be able to order it from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble online, or from your favorite bookstore

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Please tell us about Infinite Space, Infinite God, and how you came up with the idea to edit and put this Catholic SF anthology together. First off, Infinite Space, Infinite God is great science fiction. You’ll find exciting adventures in time and space with characters, settings, and technologies that feel real. You’ll read about clone slaves seeking their freedom, an interstellar travelr stumbling upon a lost generation ship, a mind-destroying device from another dimension, a mind-altering device created to punish criminals, cultural dystopias, asteroid mining, even an alien abduction.
The twist is, each story deals with the practice of the Catholic faith in overcoming the problems of the story. When a Catholic terrorist undergoes the mind-altering treatment, it’s the Sacrament of Reconciliation that saves his sanity. Fr. Heidler uses the power of meditative prayer to overcome an alien artefact’s dangerous psychic effects. A lapsed Catholic is challenged to find the meaning of the Crucifixion when his crazy boss sends him back in time to take a photo of the Via Dolorosa. Interstellar evangelists find themselves in the middle of an interplanetary war. Two stories feature new religious orders: the Joans are religious sisters/bodyguards for priests in dangerous areas, while the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue is devoted to space search and rescue.
Put together, Infinite Space, Infinite God is a fun yet thought-provoking read about the expression of faith in the future.
Rob and I had long been somewhat annoyed at the absence of faith in so much SF. Characters live out every other aspect of current society–from work to entertainment–express every emotion from love to hate, do everything from fighting to making love to going to the commode. Yet how often do you read one praying? Or hear them discuss their faith? Or attend church? Not just as a symbol (the emotional preacher vs. the rational scientist), but as their everyday, natural part of who they are? How often do the policies or doctrines of a faith affect the story? Those are the kinds of stories we wanted to see–and that’s what we looked for with Infinite Space, Infinite God and its (currently unpublished) Christian “sister book,” Leaps of Faith.

What are some of the religious or moral issues explored in the stories?
Can clones have souls? How far can someone be genetically altered before they lose their humanity? How do our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to the expression of faith? How will technological advances alter the work and doctrines of the Catholic Church? Can technology lead to a deeper understanding of faith–and can faith heal us from the damage inflicted on us by technology? Why is it important for people to be knowledgeable in their faith and to pass on their faith? What place have miracles in a world replete with the miracles of technology?

During the last few years there’s been a rise in Christian books. To what do you attribute this?
The market is there. Folks are looking for entertainment that more closely corresponds to their own ideals. And we’ve re-discovered that we can write entertaining, escapist fiction that is nonetheless moral and even explicitly Christian–and publishers have found that people will buy it.
People, especially in the US, are looking for Christian or inspirational fiction because they know they’ll find clean, uplifting stories that may touch their souls. The challenge for us writers is to make sure that they are also well-crafted and exciting and will touch their minds (and maybe their adrenal glands!) There’s nothing worse than spending $13.50 for a thinly disguised sermon.
Personally, I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction. I like fantasy and sci-fi, mystery, and some historical fiction. Nonetheless, as a writer, I find my characters insist on expressing their faith. I hope, however, that as those books get published, they end up in the sci-fi section and not the Christian section.

Please tell us about Karina, the author.
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school–stories for class, a few journals at critical points in my life, fanfict…whatever struck my fancy. In 1996, I started seriously making a career of it, writing articles for pay and adult conversation (I had two toddlers at the time). In the last couple of years, I’ve backed off the nonfiction, however. I’m lucky in that my husband makes enough money to keep us comfortable, so I can spend my time writing what’s fun.
And, boy! Do I have fun! I’m shopping a trilogy about a psychic teenager. Deryl is trapped between three worlds: Kanaan thinks he’s some kind of psychic angelic supercomputer from which their people can download information (and leave him with the compulsion to research everything from fortress building to triage). Barin thinks he’s some kind of avenging spirit that will smote their enemies telepathically. Naturally, his family and friends on Earth think he’s nuts–and they commit him until he escapes to Kanaan. There the real fun begins, for he discovers Kanaan and Barin are on collision course–and he’s got to stop it somehow.
I have another novel I started with NaNoWriMo about a group of researchers, asteroid miners, and a trio of nuns who are sent to explore the first-discovered alien ship. The sisters of Our Lady of the Rescue are to oversee safety on the mission, but find they have to overcome rivalry and animosity between the “proffs” and the “rockjacks” before someone gets hurt. Even more, Sister Rita’s old love interest is on the mission, re-awakening her feelings and causing her to doubt her calling as a religious. Can the discovery of the alien ship help her discover the true path of her life?
I also have a terrific Faerie/Mundane multiverse I play in. A terribly cliché combination of nuclear accident and magical mishap interact to create a gap between our dimension (forever known a Mundane) and a magical one (dubbed Faerie). Keeping the universes safe is the team of Dragon Eye, PI: Vern d/Wyvern (don’t call him that) and Sister Grace of Our Lady of the Miracles.
Vern is your average North African Faerie Wyvern with a not-so average problem: since he cannot be killed, St. George put a holy spell on him, removing everything that made him a great dragon–size, flight, fire, healing…you name it, he lost it. To earn his greatness back, he must serve God and Man. Sister Grace is a Catholic Mage with a secret and a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome that brings her to the Mundane dimension.
All the stories are told first-person and in the noir style. (If Vern had been an egg, he’d have been 20 minutes.) I play with clichés and standard fairy tales, Native American legends, whatever I can mix in. I even have one story that mixes an Irish legend with the Biblical Plague of Locusts. I’m shopping several of their cases around right now and working on a novel. I also have a fun, fun website where I channel Vern. I love being funny and sarcastic and blaming it all on him!
I just finished a hilarious romance staring Coyote the Trickster from my Mundane/Faerie universe. Nothing like having your exciting new romantic hero stop just as he’s leaning in to kiss you so he can scratch off a flea! The “Perfect 10”–but on what scale?

What are your working habits?
Erratic. In addition to writing (which is my sanity maintenance program), I homeschool four kids (ages 6, 8, 11, and 13), teach religious education, and am in charge of two Catholic writers’ groups, and I’m a military wife. Thus, I’ll have months (like November) where I’ll get done 50,000 words for National Novel Writer’s Month, plus a short story, two features, an instalment to my Dragon Eye murder mystery series, two new websites and several interviews. Then I’ll have a month (like December) where I’m lucky to get through my e-mail!
One thing I try to do, however, is write something every day. My first novel was written by refusing to allow myself to sleep until I’d written just one sentence. Sometimes, I’d be able to get whole chapters done, but if not, I’d at least moved forward. In a year, it was ready to shop around. It might never have gotten done if I’d waited for large chunks of time.
I work better with deadlines and others’ expectations on me, as well. When DAW asked to see the second book in my trilogy, it took a month to write. Since I still haven’t heard from them, however, the third one is languishing as other things take my attention. NaNo is great for me.

What do you find most effective when marketing and promoting books? Any secrets you’d like to share? To be honest, I’m very new at marketing myself. Infinite Space, Infinite God is out in e-book right now, so I’m doing my best to create the buzz before the print version comes out in August.
I created a website using tripod. http://isigsf.tripod.com It’s free and easy. In 6 weeks, it’s gotten about 430 hits. The site has story synopses, bios, press releases, reviews, photos–anything someone needs to learn about or write about Infinite Space, Infinite God.
I went on a virtual book tour this December, which has been great fun. You can find the schedule on the Infinite Space, Infinite God website.
If any of your readers are in the Los Angeles, I invite you to see Infinite Space, Infinite God on display at the LA Times Book Fair April 28, 29. We’re sharing a booth with the Authors’ Coalition.
I’m working on getting reviews. “Chewing the Bone” gave us a terrific review, and we’re waiting for others.
Next, I need to start working on media releases to newspapers, print magazines, and radio stations. However, my eye for these is more toward the August print date.

Do you have a website where readers may learn more about your work? For me and my writing, plus my blog: www.fabianspace.com
For Infinite Space, Infinite God: http://isigsf.tripod.com
For Vern and Dragon Eye, PI: www.freewebs.com/dragoneyepi

I understand you’re compiling another anthology at the moment. Would you like to tell our readers about this? Oh, goodness, no. Not yet. I’m hoping to do another Catholic or Christian SF anthology, but that’ll depend on the sales of Infinite Space, Infinite God.

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