Archive for the ‘Novellas’ Category

CS DeWildt lives in Tucson Arizona with his wife and sons. His novella Candy and Cigarettes was recently released by Vagabondage Press as an ebook. His short stories can be found online at Bartleby Snopes, Word Riot, The Bicycle Review, Foundling Review, and Writers Bloc.

About the book

In the face of revenge, innocence is meaningless.

Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no exception. After being attacked yet again by a pair of sociopaths who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?


Thanks for stopping by The Dark Phantom. Tell us a bit about your novella, Candy and Cigarettes, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The setting initially. I wanted to set something in a fictionalized version of the town I grew up in, something dark, something that explored the nature of revenge and redemption. So I got to work and put my main character, Lloyd Bizbang, on shoulder of the main highway that ran through town and the story just took over from there.

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

I don’t outline. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me. I work better without a plan so I start with a vague idea of where I’m going and then take the scenic route. I find interesting stuff along the way and if I get lost it doesn’t matter, I always end up someplace.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

Ah, the muse. So easy to dismiss unless you’ve really tried to create something true.
I wait, plain and simple. My muse is wild and runs out on me often, like a bad-for-you lover you just can’t break free from. She’s high maintenance, but she’s mine and I know she’ll come back to me eventually. She knows I’m faithful to her. I just keep at it and she returns, tearful, remorseful, and full of sweet surprises.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

I spent two months getting a quality draft together. Then I submitted it to a few appropriate small presses, waited for the rejections, got them, and then finally received word Vagabondage Press was interested about nine months after I finished it. From there it was almost another year for editing and finally publication.

Describe your working environment.

I try to keep it sparse with as little distraction as possible. I try. But most of the time it’s a mess. I just moved to a bigger place and now I have a room just devoted to my writing. It’s the first time I haven’t had to share my space with a houseguest or washing machine or the accumulated crap of my three plus decades as a good consumer.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

It goes with the territory, so you better get used to it. If someone says something especially spiteful, well that says more about them than the work. And you just have to realize that writing is a highly subjective art form. Take any great work of literature and read the reviews on Amazon.com. No matter what it is some people will love it and some people will hate it. That said, I take constructive feedback, but in the end it’s my party and if you don’t like it, you can go someplace else.

Are you a disciplined writer?

More than most, less than some. It’s tough to say. My goal is to get something on paper every day and most days I succeed. But I’m sure there are other writers who would consider me lazy if we’re talking word count only.

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

I solved that problem by waking up earlier than everyone else. I love to write in the early morning, when it’s still dark and the world is quiet. It’s as if I’m the only person alive and I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

You can’t be a writer if you don’t write, so put in the time.
I think I saw that on the television.

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Multi-genre author, photographer, and fiber artist Kim McDougall enjoys writing for adults, young adults and children. She's the author of the novellas, Angel Venom and The Stone Beach, as well as various short stories in the dark fantasy and horror categories.  Kim is also the founder of the new, growingly popular Blazing Trailers, a site featuring book trailers and previews.

Thanks for this interview, Kim. You write both adult horror and sweet picture books for children. How do you switch modes when writing in these so totally very different genres? 

Well, I like to think that my 'voice' doesn't change much, even if the subject matter does. My stories tend to have a lyrical or old-fashioned tone. I've always been fascinated by the darker side of emotions and what drives people to extremes. This is how I started writing. But I'm a curious person by nature and I love animals, so children's fiction gives me an outlet for these types of stories. 

Tell us a bit about your horror and dark fantasy stories and novels? 

I read a lot of submissions guidelines for magazines and it struck me as odd that many fantasy editors say "No vampire stories." I love vampires, but I realize that they have been done to death (pardon the pun). Still, this inspired me to write a series of vampire stories that I could slip by those editors. I've written four so far, and they've all been picked up for publication. The most recent one is "Black Bet's Home for Toothless Vampires," a dark, humorous tale in this month's Necrotic Tissue Magazine. The editor of Necrotic tissue said he didn't even like vampire stories, so he was impressed with this one. 

The others are "Luminari" which is an exploration of how far one man will sink for the love of a vampire. This is available at Eternal Press.

"The Raft" is a psychological fantasy in the old-style, about a two men adrift at sea. One of them believes the other is a vampire. This is in the latest Twisted Tails III anthology, Pure Fear from Double Dragon. The last one is coming out in 2009 in the next Twisted Tails anthology. It's called "Megan's Baby," and is the darkest of all. I also have a novella from Double Dragon called Angel Venom. This is a dark fantasy about man who goes into the wilds of Frontier to convert the savages to his religion, but finds his faith under fire instead. It has all the grandest themes: Love, war, religion and angels that bite. You can read excerpts and see the trailers for all my stories at my site www.kimmcdougall.com 

Do you read horror? Who are your favorite authors? 

I read more dark fantasy than horror, but I like Clive Barker. My favorite would be Neil Gaiman. His children's fiction is quite frightening too. Coraline was a great novel, but too scary for my daughter so I read it myself. I also love Edgar Allen Poe. When I read his stories, I can imagine him next to the fire, reading them aloud to a rapt audience. 

What is the scariest novel you've ever read? 

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. I read it as a teen and I couldn't sleep for weeks. I reread it later, and thought it wasn't so scary after all. Perhaps, it was because this was my first exposure to horror fiction. The scariest movie I ever saw was Pan's Labyrinth. A wonderful story, but shockingly violent and frightening. The violence is not random, however. It is inherent to the plot and the character development.  

How much violence is too much violence in a YA horror novel? 

In any story, violence needs to be relevant to the story, or it's too much. I'm not a fan of "splatterpunk" or violence for the sake of violence. There needs to be purpose and redemption behind the violence to keep my attention This is even more important for YA fiction. Being a writer of children's fiction is a great responsibility. I would never write a story that I wouldn't want my daughter to read some day. 

How do you celebrate Halloween? 

Halloween around here is all about the candy! A few days before Halloween we make 100 candy bags to give away. We also like to carve elaborate pumpkins. And roasted pumpkin seeds is a yearly treat. Our pumpkins are hand picked from the pumpkin patch (no grocery pumpkins for us!) and we always get lost in the corn maze. My eight-year-old daughter doesn't like anything scary, which is strange since she was nursed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But that means we don't do haunted houses yet. 

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers? 

I invite you to visit my three sites: 

www.kimchatel.com is my children's site, with fun and games and a writing contest for kids. You will also find information on my YA paranormal novella The Stone Beach.

 www.kimmcdougall.com is my adult fiction site, with information on all me releases as well as trailers and some poetry. 

www.blazingtrailers.com is my new endeavor. This site is dedicated to book trailers. Here you can easily browse for books, watch trailers, read excerpts and reviews. 

Thanks, Kim! 

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Started in 2009, Echelon Press publishes short stories, novellas and novels in various genres. Under their new imprint 'Quake', they also publish fiction for middle graders and young adults. At present, Echelon publishes two paperback novels a month as well as one or two of their popular short story and novella downloads. Here to talk about the company and how it was created is owner Karen L. Syed. If you want to know what a publisher blog is about, visit Karen at The Life of a Publisher.

Thanks for being here today, Karen. Why don't you begin by telling us a bit about Echelon Press? When did it get started?

Echelon will be eight years old in February 2009. We started the company to make a place for writers to make a name for themselves. People seem to confuse that with not wanting to be successful. It has ALWAYS been my goal for any author at Echelon to go onto bigger and better things. If that means many books with Echelon, great! If that means one or two with us and then a contract with a bigger house, awesome. We are definitely not just a playground for writers who want to be published. I have recently discovered that there is a difference being an author and being a published writer.

You publish a fair amount of horror, both short stories and novels. What type of horror do you publish?

So far it hasn't been as much as I would like. I love the horror genre. What I'd like to see more of is the types written by John Saul or Douglas Clegg. I don't mean alien horror, they are more thrillers. I love the stuff that presents the unknown and grabs you by the throat and holds on tight without letting you immediately know what 'it' is.

What you do not like to see in a horror story and what are the most common mistakes horror writers make?

I am not a big fan of the total gore scene. I love the unknown. Knowing something is right around the corner, your skin crawling with apprehension and fear, while adrenaline rushes through you, leaving you breathless and unable to move. So many of the horror stories I read focus so much on the shock value that they don't give their stories a chance to develop fully. They spew slime and blood all over everything and think that this makes it spooky. It just makes it gross. Why can't authors rely on their senses to indulge the fear gene instead of just wanting to make people sick?

What makes a horror novel or story truly compelling?

The only thing compelling is the unknown. To recognize danger and fear and not know where that danger comes from. To feel the presence of an unknown entity so close that it's putrid breath blows across your cheek. To shiver against the chill of dread caused by words so powerful and explosive you have to close your eyes against the next phrase.

How do you see the state of the horror fiction market at the moment? Is it thriving or declining?

I don't know that it is declining, but neither is it thriving. I think so many authors in the genre have resorted to the shock value of the gruesome. The movie industry has made that so glamorous that authors feel the need to "keep up." This is not the case. Books are not the same as movies. Some people say that Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies are horror, but in fact I think they are more thrillers or gore flicks. Keep in mind this is just my idea, and many others may disagree.

What types horror books do you think are most popular with readers?

I can't even begin to answer that question. Different readers like different books.

You also publish horror for young adults. How much horror is too much horror in a young adult book?

I'll take a stab at this one, but let's be clear on one thing. How much is too much is up to the reader and their parents. For Quake, our new young reader line we like to keep things in the head. We aren't going to go out on a limb and offer gratuitous gore just to sell books. We all know that kids love all that blood and guts spurting here and there, but perhaps it's because it's all we offer them. When you present something as cool then what do you expect? A dude running around chopping off heads is not cool. A cloud of mist that sweeps into a room and envelops a sleeping girl while whispering secrets of evil, a little cooler.

On average, how many submissions do you receive in a month? Of those submissions, what percentage you end up accepting for publication?

Our paperback submissions are closed except for invitations and referrals, and eBooks, but we still get at least a dozen or so unsolicited submissions per week for paperback. Writers seem to ignore the potential for eBook sales and all want paper publication. eBooks have such great potential to build a readership, and if an author can build a readership with an eBook they can do anything.

As for acceptance, we do only twelve titles per year in paperback and right now aren't even getting enough submissions for eBook to do one per month. Did you know that tens of millions of dollars are spent on eBooks each year? Why wouldn’t an author want their share of that?

What tips would you offer authors who are doing book signings this Halloween?

Make them fun! They have to be fun. Don't let the readers wonder why they even bothered to come to your event. Show them with your words, you attitude, and your books that they are important to you. Don't make them wonder. And by all means get into the spirit! A little bit of spook goes a long way!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

This industry is one of the greatest. Don't take it for granted, whether you are a reader or a writer. Writers, don't ever forget why you sell your books for publication. It's all about your readers. You can write all you want, but if you are serious about being a solid published author, don't ever forget how you get there.

And readers, let the authors know what you like and don't like. Your opinion matters. If you don't like something, don't buy it, be honest and be open about your favorite authors. If the last five books you read by your favorite best seller stunk, then why keep buying them? Don't be afraid to try new authors, they are the future of the industry, and you might be surprised!

Thanks, Karen!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Gail Smith is the pen name of romance author Linda Mooney.  She likes to combine elements of urban fantasy and science fiction in her sensuous romance novels. Her horror novellas, CODE 30 and Journal, are available in ebook formats from Tease Publishing. In this interview, Gail talks about her work, what's inside the mind of a horror author, and some of her favorite horror books.

Thanks for the interview, Gail. What got you into writing horror?

When I was very young, my parents would travel to a tiny town outside of San Antonio to visit my grandparents, I would spend hours in the living room watching the Saturday afternoon horror movies on Channel 5. Of course, back then, the worse ones were the original Frankenstein, the Mummy movies, and so forth. I loved them. They never scared me, but I was fascinated by them. As I got older and was flexing my writing chops in school, I would write ghost stories, mostly. Some bloody, but not that much. Not until I discovered Lovecraft and Poe. And Hammer horror films. I'm still a HUGE horror buff.

What types of horror books do you enjoy reading? Any favorite authors?

Oh, wow. My favorite all-time horror writer is Jack Ketcham. His stuff gives Stephen King nightmares. And in the "graphic novel" writers, I love Steve Niles. Give me the gross, the groady, the dripping with decay any day.

Tell us a bit about your horror books, Journal and Code 30.

I write all my romances in 3rd person, but I write my horror in 1st person, because I think it gets across the absolute depravity of the situation a lot better. Journal is a different slant on the zombie genre. It's one woman's account of trying to survive right after a major cataclysmic event has occurred, and when people die as a result, they're resurrected as the living dead. I will warn you now — my stuff does not always have a Happily Ever After. In fact, one reviewer was thrown for a total loop when she got to the end of Journal. She never saw it coming.

CODE 30 is perhaps my favorite novella I've written to date. The heroine is a street cop, and she and her partner come across some serial killers who are not your "typical" hack-and-slashers. There are strong paranormal elements to each of the three chapters, which are three separate series of events which all tie together. The title refers to the police call sign for Officer Needs Assistance.

What's inside the mind of the horror writer?

I think a horror writer disassociates himself from the true, vile nature of the beast. I do know that, if I hadn't been such a horror fan, and learned all the tricks used in horror movies and such by reading up on them via magazines such as FANGORIA, that a lot of what I see (and write) would turn my stomach. The stories I tell I do from the mind of the person directly involved. That way I can step back later and "not be" that person whom I left hanging on page 26, LOL!

What don't you like to see in a horror book?

Torture rape. Degradation of a child. I believe these are some of the boundaries NO writer should cross.

Do you think horror has changed a lot in the last 20 years?

Definitely! Over the years, horror movies and stories have de-sensitized a lot of people, so Hollywood and writers have had to up the ante to get the same chills and screams as before. Then again, there are some classics like The Exorcist that continue to terrify today. It's the only movie I've never been able to watch all the way through in one sitting.

What's the scariest book you've ever read?

Off Season by Jack Ketcham tore me up the first time I read it. And Salem's Lot, when King's book originally premiered back in the 70s, gave me nightmares. More recently? Hmm…that still remains to be seen.

To be honest, I get more goosebumps watching The Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi Channel!

Do you get scared while writing your own horror fiction?

No. However, I will admit that I tend to have "dreams" whenever I'm deep into writing a book. Nightmares? Sure! Write 'em down!

What's your favorite fictional horror fiend? Why?

I don't have one, can you believe it? Neither the classics, like Frankenstein or Dracula, or the more Holly-weirdish types like Freddy or Jason, made me a fan. But there are certain series that I adore. Like the Alien movies. The 28 Days Later series. The SAW series. Anything by Romero with the Dead series.

What do you plan to do this Halloween?

I teach Kindergarten, and I always dress up. Of course, I don't go for the really scary stuff. Not for my wee ones. But if I dress up goofy, it's a fun day for all. Then, as I have in the past, I'll sit inside my house on Halloween night, watch what's on cable, and let my youngest son dole out the candy. He's seven foot two, and just appearing at the front door makes the trick-or-treaters scream!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Three Novellas
By Sandra Shwayder Sanchez
Wessex Collective
ISBN: 978 0 9797516 0 8
Copyright 2007
Paperback, 154 pages, $15.00

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez continues to prove herself as a powerful voice in the serious, literary scene. Her latest book, a collection of three novellas, is a darkly compelling work filled with complex characters, vibrant images, and sparklingly insightful prose.

Each novella depicts the lives of various characters and their connections to one another. Sometimes the connections are because of family ties, sometimes because fate ironically brings their lives together. The novellas are about the journeys, either conscious or unconscious, that the characters take, while seemingly they roam aimlessly, lost in a vastness that’s too large for them to figure out.

In The Last Long Walk of Noah Brown, we meet Noah, a kind, innocent soul in a world of evil. Though he’s not aware of it, Noah is developmentally disabled. In other words, a person who is “too innocent for the guilty world.” (29) Noah is the product of incest, a fact he learns from his mother later in life. He begins his journey in Annapolis in 1965 and we go through his ups and downs (a lot more downs than ups) all the way to New Orleans in 2007. During his journey he meets many people, some good, other evil. He learns and experiences many things, including the carnal love of a woman. He develops a close, warm relationship with his mother, whom he had always believed to be his sister. Most intriguing of all, Noah has an ambitious dream—to build an ark (he sees this as his destiny, having being named ‘Noah’) and save people and animals from a flood. And, in New Orleans, he finally lives to see his dream come true.

The Last Long Walk of Noah Brown is filled with vivid images, at times touching, at times dark. All throughout, however, there is a quiet atmosphere of sadness and doom, of helplessness. The story has the tone of a fable and some segments are dream-like and sparkle with beautiful, sensuous writing.

“Noah started walking to the water, watching its oily darkness, the soft sound of it lapping up against the sides of the boat. The moon glimmered on the water, a mother watching him, and he stared at it for hours mesmerized and soothed. Eventually he had to leave, go back home, he couldn’t stay here forever, watching the moon’s reflection on the water…unless… he did nothing that first night by the water. He returned every night and stared at the moon until it had grown from a silver crescent to a large full round moon and it was simply too lovely to leave so he looked for a way into the water, and finally jumped, shocked by the coldness of it, the breath knocked out of him and he let himself sink, stopped breathing even before he was completely under and passed out.” (34-35)

Sanchez accomplishes a marvelous rhythm and cadence by combining short sentences with very long, run-on ones. At times her paragraphs are made up of only one long sentence, a la Garcia Marquez. Although this can be annoying with some writers, Sanchez seems to have a talent for it.

In The King and the Clockmaker, the author examines the origins of evil and the meaning of time. The story itself is a nightmarish dream, a dream the narrator consciously has in order to avoid the pain of loss, and the random, senseless violence of the real world. In this dream, which reads like a sinister fairytale, there are two main characters—the king and the clockmaker. The clockmaker builds the most magnificent clock for the king, who’s always been obsessed with time. Afterwards, however, the king sears the clockmaker’s eyes with molten iron. Thus begins their disturbing relationship, for the kind clockmaker is set on getting his revenge, and the terrible king, in some ill way, seeks his forgiveness. As they come to know each other, bonded by the infamous clock, truths emerge about the king, his childhood, and his gruesome nature. They become oddly dependant on one another until the king’s demise. Afterwards the clockmaker’s journey continues, a journey that takes him through many pathways.

This novella in particular is filled with complex metaphors and allegories, and some scenes shine with vivid, haunting imagery. More poignant segments include the king killing a bird, then impaling it to bury it; or another even more lingering, the king happily lying under the bleeding body of his servant, whom he has just stabbed to death, and afterwards needing three bronze tubs of fresh water to cleanse himself of all the blood.

Sanchez also uses elements of magical realism to add intricacy and symbolism to the writing, like in the scene where a woman is turned into a stone and later on, when someone splits the stone, the woman’s heart is found inside it. She also gives forest animals preternatural attributes, as in the case of the buck and the mountain lion, thus adding to the magical realism effect.

The dream in this novella is an allegory of the perverse cruelty of the world, of “the accumulation of violence that is everywhere around us.” (109) “ However vast the expanse of time and space that surrounds us,” reflects the narrator, “every soul entrapped in a human body is trapped in a cell with the poisonous snake of violence coiled in a corner ready to strike.” (109)

In the last novella, The Vast Darkness, we meet Sara, a young student of anthropology who, temporarily, takes residence in the mountains to study the influence of isolated mountain living upon its residents. She soon becomes acquainted with Robert, a sinister young man who arouses fear in people and who enjoys manipulating them into committing ‘evil’ acts. In fact, he’s like the devil himself, whispering words into the characters’ ears, tempting, gently provoking, until murder and violence ensue. Without meaning to, Sara causes a man—a good man who’s committed murder to avenge the crime committed against his young, innocent daughter—to go to prison. Afterwards, Robert softly coaxes this man to take revenge against Sara.

As with the other novellas, this one also deals with the concepts of evil and violence and how they are inherent in all of us, a theme that often surfaces in Sanchez’s works. “I think God made us in his image and God has a mean streak a mile wide is what I think,” (131) says Robert to Sara.

Dreams, often violent, are always an element used by this author to add insight and symbolism to the writing. Sanchez also enjoys including wild animals in the story, not only as tools for magical realism, but to somehow show the paradox of the beauty and brutality that is nature—another one of her recurrent themes.

Three Novellas isn’t an easy read. For the average reader, it is a challenge. For the sophisticated booklover, it is a tasty morsel to be savored slowly and patiently in order to absorb all it has to offer. What stands out, above all, is the purity and splendor of the writing. Sanchez’s works are rare delicacies.

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