Sins of the Past – Cleve Sylcox

Cleve

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born the youngest of thirteen children. My mother was pure Irish. Her father was a Newell and her mother a Sample. She had pure hazel eyes and temper to match. My father was from a line of tough rugged country folk who were self-reliant but bonded in tight family clusters. Ironically, my father was born on 12/13/12. I was his thirteenth child, born 2/9/58. We were not rich, but not dirt poor. My father by the time I was born worked at McDonald Douglas in St. Louis working as an assembler. We didn’t have a lot of anything, but what we did have was a lot of was books. There were all kinds and I loved reading Life and Time magazines along with the encyclopedias given to us from various families. I fell in love with Sci-Fi and Mysteries. No particular author. My bedtime was ten o’clock on school nights and I slept in a corner of the basement containing a bed, chest of drawers, and nightstand with a light. I would stay up for hours reading whatever I could find. I wrote most of my earlier stories in school, and did not publish a book until 2004. Scants (later to become Nucor) was 526 pages of Sci-Fi excitement. Since then I have written sixteen more in various genres. 

  1. Who are your favorite authors?

 I do not have a favorite author. I’ve read many from Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and many other popular authors. I read like to read in various genres.

 If I had to choose one over them all it would be M.J. Pike. She writes romantic ghost stories with an elegant twist.

 Sci-Fi I like, Saxton Andrew, T.R. Harris, Suzy Stewart Dubolt, and Michael Thomas.

Detective Mystery Noir – Russell Blake, Billy Kring, Donna Blanchard McNicol, Stephen Thomas, Kathleen Steed, Nick Russell, George Weir, and Jason Deas.

Fantasy – Robert Thomas, John Daulton, Randall Morris, C. Crag Colman, and John Salter.

Horror— Brandon Hale, Corrie Fischer Stout, Shaorn Delarosa, Kate Aaron, Chris Ward, and Andy Downs.

 And this list is the tip of the ice berg- AJ Rose, Valrie Chandler, Steven Hammond, Nick Pesci, Cameron Lowe, Ella Medler, KS Haigwood, Holli Marie Spaulding, Jay Allan, Michael Edwards, Nick Thomas, Robbie Taylor, Miranda Stork, Ben Cassidy, Beck Bee, Sam Neumann, Pinkston, Eddie Boggs, Jess Mountifield, Colleen Hoover, Dale Roberts, Karen Davison, Mike Meyer, Len Du Randt, Albert Benson, Liz Miller, James Rozoff, Molly Pendelton, Carol Cadoo, Mona Mellissa, Jacques Duvoisin, Stephen Arsenault, Suzie O’Connell, Scott Langrel, Lindsay Sabbarton, Shirley Bouget, Nancy Furner, Elizabeth Moore, Stephen Scott, Newsome, Debbie Manber Kupfer, and so many others.

 If you write it, I will read it. 

  1. Tell us a bit about your story, The Innocent?

The Innocent is about a returning Vietnam War hero who finds home not so different from the jungles of Southeast Asia. A mob awaits his return and seeks revenge for the massacre of My Lai. It is a first person narrative in the voice of the returning GI. The first draft contained a lot of cursing in an attempt to express a true representation of a battle harden soldier returning home. The language was toned down for the sake of the anthology. I enjoyed the research and learned far more than I wished too and even though this was a short piece, I hold it dear to my heart. 

  1. If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

If I could go undetectable from those I was observing, then break out the cart-blanche and take me back to all the events with a brief rest bit to research and chronologically record each event free from government or scholarly scrutiny. If I had to choose one though, it would be, beyond a doubt, the time of Jesus, from birth until the day of ascension.  

  1. What attracts you to writing horror?

Back in the days of black and white television, vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein ruled the night. Sometimes, I would sneak upstairs and flip on the TV to watch the late, late show on our local CBS channel. They always had something exciting like The Blob, The Thing, The Mummy, The Hand, The Fly, and of course the before mentioned staples. I was addicted to being scared and in turn wanted everyone to be scared just like me. Boo…  

  1. Tell us a little about your books. I see you like to delve into many different genres.

Yes, I like writing in various forms. I am hyperactive and have a habit of wandering from one genre to another. I get bored easily. So, I write some on Nucor and finish the saga, then write on David Winter Mysteries, then on another project. It is a constant cycle of writing and creativity. I am never bored with writing, but with the story line and switching from one to another helps me to maintain focus and my writing is always fresh and clean, rather than becoming old and stagnant. I never want to become someone who writes just for the sake of completing a series or because he feels he has to. I love writing and hope that alongside me on my deathbed there is my laptop opened to a story requiring my attention. Of course my wife and sons would there be too, I hope. 

  1. Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

No, I have three projects in the works and I have very little time to devote to any anthology. However, I will be making the cover. 

  1. What do you like to do to relax?

I watch Jeopardy, read, do yard work, cook, take long drives, fish, walk along the rivers, pet my dog, talk with my wife and make love to her. I have also been known to go up on the roof at night and just lay there looking up at the stars. I dislike television but love movies. 

  1. What are you currently working on?

I have several projects at various stages of completion.

One is the fourth book of the Nucor series called, Nucor—Season of the Androids. I am five chapters into it and I am so excited and anxious to see this saga unfold. Really is a thriller. 

 The first book of the David Winters Mystery series, Fly Paper Soup is in edit with outstanding reviews from all who have beta read it. (I’m one of those beta readers, and confirm it’s a wonderful story – DMK) The second book, Recluse is in production and it promises to be a great companion to book one.

  Then there is Cern – The God Particle. I cannot tell you how enthusiastic I am about this story. It has everything from espionage, to demon elfs, LSD, ENT, Et’s, So much coming at me so fast that sometimes I can’t pull myself away from it.

 I just launched Nucor-Invasion in Audiobook form. Soon, I will have Death in Gravely Falls on Audiobook.

At the moment that is all I have going.  

CleveBooks

 

  1. How can readers connect with you?

There are several ways.

My Blog— http://www.csylcox.com

Facebook— https://www.facebook.com/clevesylcoxauthor?ref=bookmarks

Twitter— @csylcox

Amazon— http://www.amazon.com/Cleve-Sylcox/e/B00GW8AECS

Banes and Noble— http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/cleve+sylcox/_/N-8q8/?No=0&Nrpp=40

Itunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/cleve-sylcox/id509703132?mt=11

 

Or you can email me for a signed copy cssylcox@charter.net

Want to read a little of Cleve’s story, The Innocent? Sure you do!

November 1969

A plane lands at LAX on a cool November morning. GIs are returning home after fighting in Vietnam. They look forward to home cooked meals, seeing love ones, and sleeping on a soft mattress. To some though, returning home is nothing more than a continuation of a war they hate. Take Reuben Weston for instance. He served his country well from his enlistment in Nov. 1966 to his discharge in Nov. 1969. In that stretch he was wounded three times in Vietnam, rose to Platoon Sergeant, saved countless lives, and was well respected among the troops despite his rough and tough attitude. This story could very well be titled, “In the wrong place at the wrong time.” For Sergeant Weston, it is just that.

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The wind whips at my back as I debark the 707 at LAX. I wear khakis. It is the uniform of the day, my last day, because as soon as my foot touches the asphalt I will be a civilian. My name tag above my right pocket reflects the sun. Reuben Weston, it reads. A damn good name. Two of my three medals, Distinguished Service, and a Purple Heart, flop around beneath my service ribbons above my left pocket as I make my way down the ramp.

I am the first black soldier ever awarded the third medal, the prestigious medal of Blackism – made from a beer can top cut into the shape of a middle finger with a makeshift pin glued to the back. It would be the last beer I’d drink in the bush. My platoon gave it to me the last night I was with ’em, in Damn Nam. It means more to me than the other two put together. Blackism, I must’ve been pretty drunk to come up with that.

To say I’m glad to be off that rotten plane is an understatement. Civilian jets suck. I’m a GI, oval drab to the bone. Why they flew me home in one of those is beyond me. Meat job General’s idea I bet, maybe some congressmen’s idea of rewarding our fine soldiers for a job well done? Well, screw’em! I’m home now and they can have their uniform.

I earned my stripes, every last stinking one of ’em. Arrived in Nam as a, ‘right off the farm, piece of know-nothing crap.’ I was green but learned quick. No thanks to those politicians in D.C. What’s the matter with all those morons in DC?  Really, what isn’t wrong with ’em?

They sent us off to the land of the gooks, and we got our ass kicked because of bureaucratic bull. Don’t fire until fired upon, don’t cross this line and that. Stay put until we tell you to advance. Who the hell is ‘we’, anyhow?

Wasn’t like that in the jungle, no sir. We were the judge and jury of the gooks. The giants rule the land. We are the conquering heroes who drove the black pajamas across the DMZ into Laos and Cambodia. The south was clean in ‘66. Then those cameras started following us around. Hell, we tossed one camera man and his gear into the swamps. None of those gooks were ever gonna escape back north, at least not on our watch.

In ‘67 those regulations came down and tied our hands. We couldn’t fight like aggressors anymore. We couldn’t fight like we had too. They stuck us in camps deep in the jungle and on top of hills. Nothing happened for weeks at a time, nothing. We smoked pot, and screwed every whore we could, some of the guys were bangin’ each other. We called ’em Jill’s, and the name stuck.

Some of the lucky units saw some action. They pushed the gooks to the DMZ and our armors pounded them for three straight days. The Ho Chi Min trail across the DMZ was blown to bits, and then the aerial attacks bombed them everyday for weeks. I saw a tank bounce three feet off the ground two miles away from the damn trail. Three feet! It didn’t matter. At night those little bush babies were filling in the holes.

Our patrols reported large movements of men and ammo to the south along the trail. By the time we got there, they were gone. They crawled into their holes like rats or vanished into the jungle like ghosts.

Jan of ’68, the Tet Offensive…gooks were all around us and we didn’t even know it. All hell broke loose on January 30, 1968. The Tet Offensive began.

Early in the morning they attacked everywhere in South Vietnam. There was supposed to be a cease-fire ’cause of New Year or some crap. I don’t know. We got our butts handed to us. Those bastards were in the wire…in the wire! All over us. I fought till early morning, hand to hand. I had blood all over me and none of it mine.

A lot of good soldiers died that night. It didn’t stop there. In some areas their attacks were like bugs hitting a windshield, they didn’t make a dent. Other places they were fleas on a hound’s back. Saigon and Hue, those two took a long time, nearly a month, to clean out. The Cong even held the US Embassy in Saigon for eight hours.

Near the end of February, they assigned me to a bunch of greenhorn rookies. Charlie Company arrived in theater, December of ‘67, they hadn’t seen any action. Tet was popping all over the country in Jan of ’68 and this unit missed out, lucky dicks. I was assigned as a Platoon Sergeant and given orders to sweep the jungles west of a group of villages near Mai Lai.

I looked at this ragtag group of potheads and said move out. Worst bunch I had ever seen. Simple shit-like quiet maneuvers, securing gun straps and no smoking, they couldn’t do. Drunk, high, they were the walking dead and didn’t know it.

War has a way of cleaning the gunk out of the can. By mid-March, 28 of em’ were wounded because of mines or booby-traps, and five dead.

Cong never came knocking. That’s what frustrated us and made us angry. Charlie Company was sent to find gooks and Cong, and kill as many of the black pajama’s as we could. All we found were tunnels and villages that we knew, we just knew, were Cong but we couldn’t prove it, and we moved on. These villages, our intelligence said, had VC crawling all over them but we found nothing. Not even a dirty black pajama.

Then intelligence told us of a hold-up of Viet Cong in and around a tiny village of Mai Lai. We were given orders like I had never seen before. They said kill all suspected Viet Cong. Even civilians, if they ran, would be considered hostile. Our unit would follow the main assault. We swept the countryside first clearing out huts and setting them afire. Anyone we suspected of being VC, we rounded up and pushed forward. No shooting, just simple snatch and burn. As we got closer to the village, we could hear gun fire and see smoke rising. The radio was going crazy with talk of Cong all over the place. Several of our prisoners took off and we dropped them before they made it ten feet. Before I knew it, I saw soldiers from a different outfit shooting civilians and raping women. I ordered my men to stand down. I even threatened to blow their heads off if they started that. They listened alright, because they knew I wasn’t bluffing.

As we advanced through the village, we witnessed huts set on fire with civilians still inside. We saw whole families shot to hell. In a ditch we passed countless men and women dead or dying. I sent our medic to care for the wounded, but they were pushed back at gun point and told to back off. A lieutenant and sergeant fired into the ditch with .45s.

At another ditch, a helicopter landed and its gunner stared down a squad who were going to kill the men, women, and children. We helped the helicopter crew load as many wounded aboard as possible, and then we held our position protecting those still alive. A helicopter gunship forced its way between fleeing refugees and their American pursuers to end the carnage.

We heard rumors of hundreds dead and even more wounded. I don’t know how many died. The military doesn’t even know. All I know is many were killed and the rest will never forget. To top it all off, they only found two AK47s. Two. With maybe three Viet Cong identified.

As George Carlin said, ‘Military intelligence is an oxymoron.’ Military intelligence got us into it, but it cried foul and played dead when their house of cards tumbled.

Read more in Sins of the Past – pick up your copy today!

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – Misha Burnett

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m nearly 52 years old, divorced with three grown children, and I work in the maintenance department of a small university.  I have been writing and self-publishing for about four years, and have four novels published, a series collectively called The Book Of Lost Doors.

Who are your favorite authors?

Mostly New Wave Science Fiction.  Tim Powers, Phillip Dick, George Alec Effinger, Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, William Burroughs.  I am also a huge fan of G K Chesterton, and have a weakness for Romantic poets.

Tell us a bit about your story, We Pass From View

I love the schlock drive-in cinema of the 1960s and 1970s and wanted to write about a film crew making a low budget horror movie.  I am also fascinated by the Lovecraftian concept of books that are so horrible that they drive you insane if you read them.  “We Pass From View” combines those two ideas.  I also sneaked in a few references to my main series, but you don’t need to catch them to enjoy the story.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

Honestly, I don’t think I would—I kind of like it right now.  I think sometimes about being able to travel back and talk to myself in, say, 1973, and explain a lot of the facts of life to the younger me, give some stern warnings and some advice, but knowing who I was then I wouldn’t have listened anyway.

What attracts you to writing horror?

The freedom.  Horror is supposed to be socially unacceptable. When readers pick up a horror story, they know that are going to be shocked, frightened, disconcerted, and maybe even grossed out.  That’s what they are there for. I get to make people really uncomfortable and get paid for it?  What’s not to love?

Tell us a little about your series, The Book of Lost Doors.

Recently I came across the phrase “slipstream fiction”, which seems to fit my work better than any conventional genre designation.  I use elements from science fiction, fantasy, horror, and psychological fiction.  It’s set in a world that looks like ours on the surface, but has a lot of odd little corners and hidden passageways where strange things from strange other places lurk. My main character, James, has an alien intelligence called Catskinner in his head and the two of them encounter a lot of other people with alien things about them.

Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future?

I’ve written it and sent it off.  Fingers crossed.

Any hints about your story?

It’s actually quite a departure from my usual style.  I tend to avoid moralizing in fiction—I go with the credo that if you want to send a message, call Western Union.  However, in this one case I am very troubled by a particular trend in technology and I set out to write a story specifically to point out some problems that no one else seems to be thinking about.  I think the story works but it’s very much a cautionary tale and that’s new territory for me.  I’d like to think that it would fit in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions.

What do you like to do to relax?

Movies, television, and wine, mostly.  I’m very plebeian.

What are you currently working on?

I’m taking a bit of a vacation from writing, although I am noodling around ideas for the next novel in my series, World Edgewise. Right now my day job is very demanding—the students will be returning to campus in just a couple of weeks—and I am making preparations for Archon, a local science fiction convention that I’ll be attending in the fall.

How can readers connect with you?

My blog on WordPress is the easist—it has links to everything else and a page for sending me e-mail.  I do love hearing from readers and I try to reply to any mail I get.

http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/

Ready to read a little from We Pass From View?

Josef Naamaire directed 47 films, beginning with The Congo Gunman in 1955 and ending with Mission: Asteroid in 1974.  All of his films were made for B-movie mill Spectacular Studios, mostly produced by Hymie Greenbaum. While several of his movies—notably Hellcats In High Heels (1964), and The Room Without A Door (1966)—enjoyed  a brief cult status for what were, for the time, shockingly explicit scenes of lesbianism, Naamaire is best known for a film that, it is said, no living person has ever seen.

We Pass From View was filmed in July and August of 1963, with principal photography on location in what is now Wildwood Canyon Park, outside of Burbank, CA.  The script was based on the book of the same name, written by a young man named Michael Chase, who would go on to found the cult, Clear Vision World.  Chase and his followers—including four children—were brutally murdered on April 23, 1982, by persons unknown.

How Chase’s book became the basis of a Spectacular film is an interesting story in itself.  In 1961 Robert Sterling, at the time the chairman of the studio’s board of directors, made arrangements to purchase the film rights for the entire catalog of the paperback original publisher Cupid’s Bow Press.  As a condition of the purchase, Spectacular was required to film We Pass From View.  It is believed that this unusual clause was made a condition of the deal by Cupid’s Bow publisher, Sabrina Erikovitch, who went on to join Michael Chase’s organization, and eventually to die with him.

Since Cupid’s Bow owned the rights to the popular Code Name: Hangman spy thriller series, Sterling agreed to the terms, and gave studio staff writer, Robin Wilde, the task of converting Chase’s book into a screenplay. (Spectacular went on to film six Code Name:Hangman movies, which were among the studio’s most lucrative films.)

No known copies of Michael Chase’s original book exist.  By all accounts it did not sell—only one edition was printed and the majority of it was likely sent back to be pulped.  Robin Wilde, in a letter to his longtime companion, actress Ellie Vance, called it, “this unreadable pile of shit.”

Even the Cupid’s Bow catalog entry is uncharacteristically terse. We Pass From View appears in only one edition, Fall, 1960.  The entry reads: “A fascinating look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying, by professor of philosophy, Dr. Michael Chase.”  Michael Chase, it should be noted, often claimed a doctorate, sometimes in physics, sometimes in philosophy, however there are no records of him completing an advanced degree at any of the schools that he claimed to have attended.

Faced with the daunting task of transforming a “look at the myths and realities surrounding death and dying”, fascinating or otherwise, into a screenplay suitable for the drive-in movie market, Wilde chose to pen a tale of a group of college students who go camping in the woods and die from mysterious causes, one by one. (It will be remembered that Wilde is also responsible for the screenplay of Spectacular’s “adaptation” of Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil that contained, among other things, vegetable creatures from Venus who had come to Earth to harvest human males’ “vital fluids”.)

Since neither the book nor the screenplay is available for comparison, the question of how faithful the latter is to the former must remain unanswered.  Given what we do know of both works, however, the probable answer is “not very.”

There is, however, one section of the screenplay that seems to have been lifted directly from Chase’s book.  Shortly before her death from bone cancer in 1987, Bette Blowe, (born Elizabeth Tucker) the lead actress in We Pass From View and Josef Naamaire’s wife was interviewed in Playboy magazine.  While most of the article is concerned with her claims that she carried on numerous homosexual affairs with various female celebrities, towards the end of the interview she was asked about We Pass From View and the film’s alleged effect on the test audiences.  Her reply follows:

“It was that fucking Appendix B. They made me read the whole thing aloud. Robin refused to transcribe it—he just told me to read it out of the book. He said Bob [Sterling] told him that had to be in the movie.  That’s the part that made everybody go apeshit. It was bad.  I don’t remember what it said—I don’t remember reading it at all. It was like I was in a trance.  But I know it was some serious bad shit.  Joe didn’t let anybody watch the dailies of that scene, he just shipped it straight off.”

It was a very small crew who traveled to the campsite north of Burbank to film We Pass From View. Most accounts report that Naamaire operated the cameras himself (he had begun his film career as a camera operator, and frequently chose to run the cameras, both to keep costs low and to control the specifics of his shots.)  The sound technician was one Greg Donnely, who committed suicide in May of 1970.  It is likely, although employment records are unclear, that Alice Monroe served as assistant director on the film.  She worked with Naamaire on many of his other films, and at least one account of the location shooting refers to “Alice” setting marks during the shoot.  Alice Monroe died in September of 1968, also a suicide. Although there were almost certainly other crew members, no one else associated with the location shooting has been identified.

The cast was also small.  In addition to Bette Blowe (first billed on the released material), Ellie Vance (billed as Esther Vance for contractual reasons), Eve Eden, Neville Brook, and Hank Renck comprised the company. Bette Blowe’s sole published remarks regarding the film are referenced above.  Neville Brook is on record threatening the life of a reporter who asked him about the film.  None of the other cast members are believed to have commented about the film in print at all.

Eve Eden vanished without a trace in late 1965.  She had reportedly incurred very large debts to Las Vegas casinos, and it is believed that she either vanished to avoid her creditors or was murdered by them and her body hidden.  Rumors have circulated regarding her reappearance since then, but none have been confirmed.

All of the other cast members are now dead.

Ellie Vance was murdered in February of 1972 by Robin Wilde, who then killed himself.

Hank Renck died of complications from syphilis in November of 1975.

Neville Brook was found in a hotel room in Tijuana, in June of 1980, shot in the head.  The case is still unsolved.

At the time that the following interview was conducted, January 17th, 2014, Josef Naamaire was the only living person who could be reliably placed at the campsite north of Burbank during the filming of We Pass From View. He was 83 years old, and had recently been diagnosed with latestage pancreatic cancer. He would die within the month, on February 12th.

The interview was conducted by Aaron Tellman, a graduate student in film history at UCLA. Naamaire was residing at the time in a managed care facility in Anaheim, CA.  Tellman contacted the notoriously reclusive Naamaire without much hope that permission for an interview would be granted. The director agreed to talk, however.  It is likely that news of his impending death induced him to tell his story.

The transcript that follows is unedited …

To read this exclusive interview pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

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And don’t forget to check out the book of lost doors series – on sale today in honor of Misha’s bithday for just 99 cents a piece – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Sins of the Past – Meet Jen Ponce

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Today on the Paws 4 Thought we welcome fantasy and horror writer, Jen Ponce. Jen is the author of several novels including Blood Curse, The Bazaar and Bug Queen. She has a story in the Dragon’s Rocketship fantasy anthology, The Scribes Journal and in Sins of the Past. Welcome Jen. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My mom taught me the most important thing I’ve ever learned: to love books. For me, loving books also means writing them, so that I can share my passion with others. Books mean escape, emotion, adventure, learning, and open-minds to me.

In addition to reading and writing, I work as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I am a feminist who is learning more about what that means every day. I have three amazing boys who teach me a lot about love and life and laughter, and I have a great extended family. I’m also very lucky to have great writer friends who I’ve learned so much from.

When did you start writing?

I started writing in sixth grade with my friends Kathy and Becky. Kathy and I wrote an eclectic mix of sci-fi and absurdity: My Science Teacher is an Alien was one. Becky and I wrote romances, often featuring rakish pirates and heroines who seemed an awful lot like their authors. The coolest thing is I’ve taken some of those early characters and rewritten them into current projects. Patrick, aka Patch, was my pirate character and you can find him in my vampire novel Blood Curse (along with his brothers.) Sam, the hardboiled detective I wrote with Kathy, has his own small place as a reporter in an unfinished novel of mine. Remembering those past stories helps honor who I was as a writer. (Plus it’s fun.)

Who are your favorite authors?

That’s a hard one because I read in so many genres. What one author does well in horror, another does equally well in fantasy. Stephen King is always a favorite because his stories talk to my soul. Faith Hunter is another fave because her Jane Yellowrock series is so engrossing and features a kick ass woman main character. My fellow authors in the Scriptorium are also favorites of mine because they are each brilliant in their own way.

What attracts you to horror and fantasy?

Horror and fantasy both hold terrors, but they are the manageable kind. I can control those experiences. It’s the real world that is truly scary, in that it is utterly mundane and full of insanity all at the same time. In horror, there’s meaning behind the violence—if it’s good horror. In real life, there’s often no meaning at all, or none that can be easily extrapolated. In fantasy, there’s always hope, even in the darkest stories: hope for a savior, hope for a magical solution, hope for redemption. In real life, there are no guarantees for a happy ending. There are no magical fixes. I’m drawn to horror and fantasy because it gives me a place to scream, to cry, to be scared, to be joyful, in the safety of the story.

What is your favorite of your books?

This is so hard. They each have taught me a lot about being a writer. If I pick one, will the characters from my other books rebel? If they rebel, what happens to my brain? If I die of an aneurysm, I am totally coming back to haunt you. Just saying.

With that caveat, I’m going to say my favorite book is the one I haven’t written yet. The ones I’ve written sit on spotlighted podiums in a vast display area in my head. They have been formed and shaped and are now real. I love them but now that they have “The End” written in them, they are finite. The books I haven’t yet written expand like the universe in my head. They are potential and possibility. They are what-may-be. Grabbing the ideas out of the ether, pinning them, squirming, to the page. Shaping their glistening bodies, paring off a bit of flesh here and sewing on an appendage there, that’s what I love. Once they are done, someone else can adore them or hate them as they wish.

Tell us a bit about your story in The Scribe’s Journal?

You’re So Vein is a silly little confection about a narcissist named Jack who is in a relationship with a vampire named Molly. She wants him because he’s pretty and he wants her because she thinks he’s pretty. It’s a match made in heaven, eh? At least until Molly confesses her vampirism and gives Jack a demonstration that changes him forever.

What do you like to do to relax?

I read or crochet. Sometimes I take long baths because they help me tease free story ideas and help me mend plot holes.

Tell us about your story in Sins of the Past?

The Beast of Alkali Lake centers around a woman named Honoria who married without her father’s permission. She and her husband fled West and settled in the Panhandle of Nebraska. The Beast of Alkali Lake is based on the legend of the monster that allegedly dwells in what’s now called Walgren Lake near Hay Springs, (the town I grew up in.) The story was going to be a psychological piece about a woman being driven mad by the wind—a distinct possibility in Western Nebraska, let me tell you. Then her husband opened his mouth and began talking, and I heard the reckless disdain in his voice, and the Beast raised its hoary head and wanted a piece of the action. Since I like oogy monsters, I obliged.

So what’s next? What are you currently working on?

I’m almost finished with book three of my urban fantasy series. I’m editing another urban fantasy that I plan to release in four parts, a light romance, and a steampunk sexy-adventure-time novel that’s going to be part of a mixed-author boxed set. Finally, I’m writing a series of spidery short stories full of horror and silliness and fantasy that I will publish as a collection later on this year/early next year.

How can readers connect with you?

People can find me in lots of different places. The easiest thing to do would be to visit my website at: www.JenniferPonce.com. You can find links for Facebook and Twitter there, as well as find updates about the books I’m working on or those I have available for purchase.

Want to read a little of The Beast of Alkali Lake? Sure you do!

The lake’s surface rippled, water choppy from the push of the ever-present wind. Honoria held her palms flat against her skirts as she stood near her husband and wondered, not for the first time, why she had followed him into the wilderness west of the Mississippi.

“See, Honoria, darling? There is a place for us to swim here.” Donovan looped his arm around her shoulder and smiled down at her, memories in his eyes of their illicit meetings at the lake back east. Warm summer nights and clear water. His hands on her in ways that made her blush to think on it.

“It’s not the same.”

“Nothing is the same, my sweet. That’s why it’s all so wonderful.” He nuzzled at her neck, obviously wanting her to forget the tiny dwelling made of dirt that they would be living in for the next five years and the work it would take to ready the land for planting. Wanting to forget her father’s threats to kill him.

“The smell is atrocious,” she said, wrinkling her nose at the rotting vegetal smell. “I wouldn’t put a toe in that dirty water.” Besides the smell of decay, there was something about the place that made Honoria shiver. Which was ridiculous. The lake was banded by cottonwood trees and, beyond, the rolling grasslands of the plains. Nothing sinister, nothing shadowed or hidden. Just water, sand, and trees. Still. She didn’t like being near the water and knew she would never get in it and said so.

“You might change your mind in the heat of the summer.”

A gust of wind tossed her skirts, nearly knocking her sideways and tearing her hair from under her bonnet. The bonnet itself fluttered and flapped, its pretty laces and bows already fraying from the blasted breeze. “I won’t change my mind,” she said, realizing it was the same thing she’d said when she first told Donovan she wouldn’t leave everything behind to stake a claim in the middle of nowhere and look where she was now. “I mean it,” she added, as if that would make all the difference.

“We’re free, here.” He tapped her chin with his knuckle. “Eh?”

She hated when he treated her like a child and she jerked her chin away. A brief flash of temper between his eyebrows, quickly gone.

A sharp smile. “Fine,” he said and stripped off his shirt.

“What are you doing?”

“Showing you there’s nothing to fear.”

Shoes next, then pants, until he stood naked as the day he was born. Her cheeks heated as she watched him stride to the water and hesitate at the edge. “You’ll catch your death.”

He tossed her a grin over his shoulder then into the water he went, gasping at the chill. “It feels like a thousand hands are grasping at my legs.”

Her stomach twisted. “Donovan, this has gone far enough.”

He didn’t listen. Of course he didn’t. When did her impetuous, beautiful husband ever listen to reason? When he was up to his waist in the murk, he dove under. Honoria’s heart leaped into her throat and stayed there, pounding, choking her as time passed and he did not surface. He was playing a trick. She knew that much. Knew he could hold his breath for a long period.

A bird called off to her right, singing to its absent mate. Honoria didn’t know how birds made nests here. Why their mud and wattle homes weren’t tossed out of the trees and dashed to the ground, broken.

It had been too long. She strode to the water, careful not to let it lap over her toes, and stared hard at the place he’d gone under. “Donovan!”

A thrash of water to her left. Then Donovan broke free, blowing water from his mouth, coughing. She stood trembling in fear and anger as he waded to shore. Lake weed clung to him, wrapped around his neck, his arms. One piece tangled about his ankle. She kept herself from going to him, wanting him to explain himself, wanting him to struggle free himself and admit his wrong to her.
He stood shivering on the bank. She asked, “What happened?”

“Tangled. Damn lake bottom is a forest of growth.” He coughed and then spit, a brown, phlegmy wad that made Honoria sick to look at. “Sorry, wife. I guess you were right. I almost did catch my death, though not in the way you meant.”

They went home, Donovan still shivering despite having his dry clothes back on his body and that night she nursed his fever that burned bright and hot through him. Later, as she wrung out cool water from the bucket she’d drawn from their well earlier that day, drawn by hand using muscles she’d never used that way before, she heard a sound that chilled her blood. She’d left him to go outside the tiny sod structure they called home and saw that the stars were gone. A low rumble of thunder hailed an early spring storm and wind tugged incessantly at her hair. To the east, in the direction of the damnable lake, rose a thick, dense fog. It steamed into the air like a living thing and from its depths, she heard a roar. Seconds later, the ground shook, knocking her off her feet to tumble against the rough sod bricks.

A louder crack of thunder and then it began to rain. The wet chased her inside, cold, afraid, and grateful for the thick walls of the soddy.

She prayed that whatever it was roaring from the lake stayed there and she vowed to make sure Donovan never visited again.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past.

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Sins of the Past – Introducing Kristin Roahrig

Kristin

It’s Sunday and that means it’s time for our weekly Sins of the Past interview. Today we talk to Kristin Roahrig, author of the story, Melusina. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Kristin.

Generally my days are spent either chasing toddlers or dusting off old records in the archives of a courthouse.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a small list which includes Leo Tolstoy, Elizabeth Hand, and Nathaniel Hawthorne to name a few.

Tell us a bit about your story, Melusina?

The story is a mixture of revenge and a ghost tale. It centers around a Swiss soldier in Paris during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

Either England or Italy during the Renaissance era.

What attracts you to writing horror?

I enjoy the subtle unexpectedness to be found in many horror stories.

What are you currently reading?

Samurai-The Last Warrior by John Man

What do you like to do to relax?

I do either meditation or practice playing my cello.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a young adult novel, Afflicted. The novel is about the Salem Witch Trials. The story is inspired by events in my family history where one of my ancestors was a juryman of the trials.

Read an excerpt from Melusina:

I had just shot a rabbit dead when I first saw her. I was ten years old, struggling to fit most of the animal into a sack, its hind feet dangling out.  A river rushed nearby. The sky showed only winter, but the air and bright colors promisedspring. The dry leaves left from last autumn crackled under my feet while I breathed in the air that smelled faintly of burning logs and the recent discharge of gunpowder from the rifle Father had lent me.

To take my kill home I needed to find a place to cross the river. The waters swelled with snow melting in the mountains, and today they rushed past me with no rhythm.

I spotted a section of the river where the water appeared green. Near the edge I could make out sand lines overlapping each other, and the dark water showed the mountains in a fuzzy image. They were mirrors of a landscape I already knew too well in the limited world in which I lived.

The wind began to blow along the ground through the leaves around me. The sky changed to a pale violet, unusual for an afternoon. I continued on my way, the rabbit’s feet hitting against my back with each step I took. A strong wind came out of nowhere and stung my face.

Jerking away from the blast, I saw the figure of a woman walking ahead in the distance.She was on the other side of the river and moved in a stooped manner. I didn’t recognize her, and would have thought her just a passing traveler or beggar, only our region in Switzerland seldom received either. Our town was too far from any important destination for a traveler to pass through, and the roads, difficult even in the summer, were impossible in winter. I crossed the river, paying little attention to the stranger ahead. But whenever I happened to notice her, the woman was always the same distance away. If I walked faster, the stranger would not be any nearer than before. If I stopped and stood still for a few moments, she would be no further ahead. Her pace never quickened or slackened.

I ran ahead, only to find her no closer than before.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today.

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Sins of the Past – Say Hello to N.M. Scuri

NancyScuri

  1. Today on Paws 4 Thought we welcome N.M. Scuri. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve always loved books and stories. I grew up on Hammer films, Dark Shadows, and Stephen King. Everything pretty much came from that.

  1. Who are your favorite authors?

In addition to Mr. King, I tend to run the gamut. Right now, I’m reading the Brontë sisters. I wrote my dissertation on Oscar Wilde and James Joyce.

  1. Tell us a bit about your story, It’s All Good News?

I was inspired by the story of Preston Castle. It’s also known as the Preston School of Industry and is located in California. It was a reform school that is alleged to be haunted due to the violence that occurred there over the years. I set my story during the Great Depression. It was a dark time in America, and I could see people clutching for hope in pretty much any form. I see Dr. Weatherbee as a man with a vision for the future, but no humanity.

  1. If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

An interesting question! It’s easy to romanticize things. We’ve struggled in one way or another throughout history, so wanting to go back to the days of chivalry, or whatever, would probably be disappointing to some. So, what experience would I want? Would I go back and watch Shakespeare act in one of his plays at the Globe? Would I wander through da Vinci’s work room? Maybe watch my grandparents make their way to America, or tell my younger self that I shouldn’t let negativity get to me, and let my light shine? To (finally) answer your question: I honestly don’t know.

  1. What attracts you to writing horror?

It’s just how my mind works, to be honest. We could all be sitting on the beach, watching the sun rise, and I’d be imagining sea monsters coming up for a snack. I’ve learned to embrace it.

  1. What are you currently reading?

I’m editing a lot these days. Right now I’m reading a collection of short fiction from Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m also going back and forth between Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman; Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, and World War Z by Max Brooks. Thank the heavens for e-readers.

  1. Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

I wrote some short fiction for a collection with illustrator Byron Rempel called Thirteen Stories and Paintings. In it, you’ll find a story called “Debbie Does the Apocalypse.” I’ve been playing around in that universe for a while. It’s fun seeing where all this goes.

  1. What do you like to do to relax?

As the spring is slowly breaking winter’s death grip on the North-Eastern US, I’m trying to get outside with my dog. I like seeing the world shake off the ice and snow.

  1. What are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing Two Sentence Horrors project with Byron. We produce two illustrated stories per week. He’s amazing. Please check out his work.

  1. How can readers connect with you?

I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. You can find the links, as well as Two Sentence Horrors, on my website: www.nmscuri.com

Read a snippet from It’s All Good News:

He wanted us to put him to work. I’d been here a week, sent away for breaking windows, when we were brought into the courtyard to hear the doctor. They call it the Gladston School of Industry, but they have walls and guards like any other jail. It was early, before breakfast, but it was going to be as hot as a fire, and dark circles were already set into the warden’s white shirt. Not the doctor, though. He was dressed in his gray suit and hat. His tie was set so nice, and not a lick of sweat was on him. We were all dying out there. It just wasn’t natural. The rumble in the yard got louder the longer we all stood. A few of us had a smoke, and I was missing mine. Rules say no smokes for new boys, so I stood and sweated and waited.

Finally, the warden put his hand up, and everything got real quiet. “Boys, you are all very fortunate. Very fortunate indeed. For the benefit of the new boys, I introduce Doctor Weatherbee. I expect your undivided attention.” A few of us shuffled uneasy in the dust, but the screws saw to it that no one interrupted the doctor. His voice carried like the preachers my mam would take me to see when I wore short britches, not that it did any good, mind.

“What fine young men,” the doctor started. His eyes were closed, and he took a deep breath in, like he meant to suck us all up. “Boys, today is a great day. We live in an age of wonders. There will come a time when we will transport people across this great land of ours in a day! Do not be fooled by appearances or the ignorant mumblings of naysayers. We await our deliverance from the old, my boys. Remember, it is all good news!” I didn’t know about any of this. I wouldn’t turn down good news, though. I remember the look in Mam’s eyes when the big dust came to Kansas. Weren’t no good news then.

Want to read more? Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today.

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – Meet Sugar Weasel Wrangler Don Miskel

DeadAssets

 Tell us a little bit about yourself, Don.

Well, Debbie, I am a wrangler of sugar weasels and a writer of tall tales. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Actually, the former is a running joke and the latter is a lot closer to the truth! Add to that, I am obviously a joker.

On a more serious note, I like writing horror, though I am not stuck to any single genre. When I was a kid, my father used to watch a show called Creature Feature, which played classic horror movies. As it came on, Henry Mancini’s creepy, electric-guitar-driven theme from Experiment in Terror played. Though the images of Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff were scary enough, the music alone was enough to make me want to jump out of my skin with fright. My father thought this was funny.

In my teenage years, I became fascinated with the same types of monster flicks, which played on The Son of Svengoolie television program (I grew up in Chicago) every Saturday afternoon. I guess I was more like my dear old dad than I thought.

As an adult, I took to writing like a fish to water. Up until my mid-twenties, I’d done more drawing than writing. I decided to change filling my sketchbooks to transcribing the short stories I’d handwritten in dozens of spiral notebooks. That was the beginning (though my mother says I was trying to manipulate language to tell stories before most babies could even speak, so I guess I was born to this!) of me getting serious about writing.

Once, I wrote a story that featured a very surprising and disturbing twist ending. The folks who’d read it were in awe. I got more questions about how I’d come up with that tale than any other I’d penned up to that point. The horror bug had bitten and the rest, as they say, is history.

Who are your favorite authors?

Though I think I’ve read more Stephen King than any other novelist, I also love Elmore Leonard and Walter Mosley’s crime fiction offerings. I also love Octavia Butler’s take on sci fi. However, it is the drive, determination and great storytelling by my fellow scribblers in the Fiction Writers, Scribbling Siblings, and Authorpreneur’s Corner groups that keep me inspired and let me know I’m not completely crazy. I have much respect for established authors, but the independent ones deserve special recognition.

Tell us a bit about your Sins of the Past story, Blood Tribe.

Gladly. There is imagined horror and real horror. I took the realistic monsters of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and added a creature of my own. Nameless and vengeful, she metes out some much-needed justice.

As a kid, I remember seeing the Roots miniseries and was mentally blown out the water. How human beings could kidnap, enslave, and dominate other humans was beyond me. As I considered writing, I wondered what would happen if the slavers never got the chance to leave the harbor in one piece. After that, the story just wrote itself.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

In a romantic sense, I’d like to travel back to the times of the Malian Empire, the glory of Timbuktu, and witness the marvel of the Great Pyramid right after the beaten gold had been applied to its capstone. I’ve been to Rome in modern times and would be interested in spending a few days in the Eternal City in its heyday. I’d check out Greece, Babylon, and the Olmecs in Central America. I’d spend a few days in each place, so I could have some questions answered. When my time machine was done with seeing the ancient world, I’d probably just go back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, when I was a kid and play that on a continuous loop. I had a happy childhood, for the most part. But there were even some real monsters to be found there…

Tell us a bit about your novel, Dead Assets.

Ah, good ol’ Assets. I wrote the original, eponymous story while on holiday break from a crazy college class schedule. When I showed the story to my wife (who is NOT into horror at all), she challenged me to expand the entire thing into a full-fledged novel. I decided to create a book that told several stories of an introduction of zombies to a metropolitan area. Turns out, the city still finds a way to function under quarantine, though the undead are not the worst monsters on the block…

I released my book quickly—maybe a bit too quickly. When I reread it, I found that it needed editing (Note to Independent Authors: GET YOUR WORK PROFESSIONALLY EDITED IF YOU WANNA BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!!!).

A few months later, I was nearly jumped at a function where a certain former classmate stalked me, demanding to know when a sequel was going to be produced. She was one of the first to purchase a copy and give a review, not long after it debuted. I pay homage by immortalizing Rhonda when I released the expanded second edition; she is the basis of the main character in a wraparound story I added to the mix during the next go-round.

When I entered my book into Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, I was surprised that it made it through the first round of eliminations and began hoping I would win the grand prize. When it didn’t make the next cut, I was almost devastated. My darling wife, ever bluntly supportive, asked if I thought it would really be that easy. She told me to pick up my bottom lip, learn the lesson, and continue forward motion. I haven’t looked back since.

Oh, and the rather handsome, though blood-splattered ghoul on the second edition cover is none other than Yours Truly!

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a wonderful independent novel called Anchors No More by David Edward Wagner. There are two problems with that: (1) I am, by nature, a slow reader; (2) I have so much other stuff going on in my little world that it’s hard to find time to read in the first place. Crazy, right? Anyway, his sci fi novel is about two time travelers who take a leap with some rather interesting and potentially deadly results. Good stuff and I suggest that everyone check it out! Next up will be Fatima Stephens’ Doppelganger. I have a serious backlog going on…

Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

I am going to contribute to Sins of the Future, though I am not sure what I will cook up for it yet. I promise you it will be good, though!

What do you like to do to relax?

I rarely have time to relax. I think it’s unfair that I am forced to sleep each night. That’s four or five hours (because I never sleep long—a holdout from my past military career) I could be doing something else. I am a family man, so I spend much of my spare time in direct support of that. I occasionally get to do something fun, like play a video game or watch a really interesting TV series. Currently, The Walking Dead and Empire have my undivided attention, whenever I can sit still long enough.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently compiling several of my horror stories to release in an anthology of my own. I have several other projects in development, including a detective series and two YA storylines. Also, if I can ever finish it, I also have a sci fi novel I’m coauthoring. All this while on the verge of pursuing higher education, setting a new career path, and possibly relocating. As I said, not enough time to get it all done.

DonMiskel

How can readers connect with you?

Even with my busy schedule, I check my Facebook account throughout the week. I am ALWAYS eager to hear from my readers, as I wouldn’t be a storyteller without an audience! To find out what crazy little story ideas I come up with, check out my blog (www.donmiskel.wordpress.com). That’s where many potential projects of mine will get their start. Fans should feel free to share their thoughts and opinions. As I said, I love hearing from my readers!

Want to read a little Blood Tribe? Sure you do!

I was perched atop my favorite palm tree, basking in the glow of a bright moon, sampling the different scents on the salty coastal breeze.  What came to me nearly singed my nose hairs with a sharp, long-forgotten stench.  The tribal members in my village were too caught up in their activities which focused on sitting around a fire and listening raptly to the griot’s tale.  The children guffawed and hung onto every word that filtered through his cola-nut-stained teeth as he spun tales of the trickster spider god, Anansi, and of creatures like me…

But I’m getting too far ahead too quickly.

It is true that I am not quite human, but you’ll learn more about that as I unravel the tale.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the smell that hung in the air…  The villagers were more concerned with libations brought in calabashes by beautiful dark ladies whose breasts hung free.  The men stood around in the background, also bare-chested, sharing rumors and tales of their own.  Nobody else had picked up on that smell.

My senses are keener than those of humans.  Not to say that I am not human at all.  I am just something…more.

Want to read more? Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – Say Hello to Kerry E.B. Black

Kerry

Today on Paws4Thought I continue our series of Sins of the Past interviews with author Kerry E.B. Black.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Kerry. 

I live in a little town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a little sunshiny house stuffed with a very funny spouse, amazing kids, two dogs, a soft cat, and two fish. The house is too small for all of us, but it is ours.

I come from a line of talented storytellers. My mom remains an inspiration. She tells amazing tales.

Who are your favorite authors?  

Good heavens, there are so many! I am an eclectic reader. If I have to choose but one author, though, I adore Neil Gaiman.

Tell us a bit about your story Maleficium?

My story in the Sins of the Past came from a document, a surviving letter from Anne of Cleves’ brother, requesting of King Henry Tudor a change in her household. I quote the letter at the end of the story. It fired my imagination, and that is how the story came to be.

Did you do any research for your story?

Of course!

What inspires you to write?

Writing is a way of being. It is a necessary creative expression and a skill to be honed. I enjoy the work. What inspires my stories? All manner of things inspire my stories. Some spring from my unhealthy array of fears. Others come from personal experiences and observations. I love to share my take on the world. I hope that readers like what I see.

If you could go back to any time period and place, when and where would you go?

I’m a bit of a history nut. I would love to visit much of our past, including Tudor England. However I’m also a wimp and really appreciate our modern conveniences.

When did you first start writing?

My first stories were written for underclassmen at my elementary school. I illustrated and wrote stories, bound them on oversized pages, and presented them. I was ten I think when I started these undertakings. Writing has nearly always been a part of my life. I write short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I’ve published creative non-fiction and journalistic pieces as well. It is my dearest desire that my stories find homes within the imaginations of my readers.

What do you like to do to relax?

Reading, of course, or spending time with my family and friends. My life is quite hectic, so sometimes stealing a few moments for a hot cup of tea is the best that can be managed. I paint or sketch sometimes, too.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on short stories for an anthology called Forever Red. The one that I’ve submitted is also historic in nature.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a Twitter account (KerryBlack@BlackKerryblick), Goodreads author’s page, and WordPress Blog (http://kerrylizblack.wordpress.com/)

Time for some Tudor terror – read a little of Kerry’s story Maleficium:

Something haunted the garden path. It was difficult to identify the cause of my unease. Certainly, another of the household could be enjoying the pathways. Something about the charge of the air, though, set my hair on end beneath my clothing. My eyes strained as I sought to identify the figures approaching.

Two people, a man and a woman, in proper, courtly attire strolled, but something in their movements betrayed them. The woman walked too free of confinement, and the man stalked like one of the panthers in the tower. Their heads jerked at odd angles, and their hushed tones carried alarming messages.

“Princess pudding is mighty nice!”

“I like royal flesh the best, but I am angry enough to eat the inferiors in there. How dare that flame-haired brat not show? Without a note of explanation, too.”

“I can braid her hair into falls. Red is much in favor these days. Red falls to sell in market when the meat is gone.”

With quiet care, I pulled my feet under the bench. The sulfuric stench choked me, but I held my breath to keep from coughing. They stood within ten feet of my hiding place, conversing as they stripped a thin branch of its leaves.

Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today.

Sins Of The Past

Sins of the Past – The Mysterious Matt Lovell

MattLovell2

It’s Sunday, and Sunday on Paws 4 Thought means Sins of the Past. Today we introduce the second author in the book, Matt Lovell. Tell us a little bit about yourself Matt.

I’m an insomniac writer, actor, director, puzzle-maker, computer geek, music and TV aficionado, cat-lover, night owl, and internet addict.

Who are your favorite authors?

I’d have to say Douglas Adams and Ray Bradbury are at the top of the list. This list changes of course.  But really anyone that is very clever with words. Both of those authors were amazing wordsmiths in different ways. Adams was a master at taking words and overanalyzing them from a satirical point of view until you forgot what his main point was. That’s pure comedy gold. I’ve seen authors try to write comedy before in genre fiction(fantasy, sci-fi, etc). And they end up just falling flat. They made likable characters but their comedy just wasn’t funny. That takes a special gift really I think. I don’t really think you can teach someone to write comedy. It’s something you have…and absorb from other comedians (whether authors or actors or comics, etc). Anyway he’s a huge influence on fusing comedy into stories, even serious ones. As his stories are usually ABOUT something serious, which makes the comedy work even more.

(Totally agree about Adams and comedy writing. He’s up there in my top writers list too, DMK)

Bradbury on the other hand…every time I read a Bradbury book or short story I feel like I’m reading a free verse poem. Look at things like The Halloween Tree. There is more imagery in one page of that than a whole book of poetry. And even though he is “sci-fi”, most of his stories really are incredibly grounded in reality. No aliens or star wars stuff. A lot of “what if” future sci-fi. And really he melds sci-fi and horror quite seamlessly as many of his stories do NOT have a happy ending. Another thing I learned from him is not to over-explain things. He simply acts as if everything in his little world is common knowledge until suddenly while you reading, it IS! He doesn’t write down to people but assumes they are intelligent. I really like writers like that.

Tell me a little about your story Sic Semper Susurrus.

The first thing that came to my head for a historical time period was Julius Caesar with vampires. Sic Semper Susurrus is what came out of that. It’s about a bored Roman senator who suddenly gets in the middle of a treacherous conspiracy. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean something’s not out to get you. For research of course I watched Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I’. Treasure Bath!

What inspires you to write?

Everything. Absolutely everything. However it’s a matter of whether I’m actually aware and ambitious enough to catch hold of that story idea that comes floating into my life and lasso it to the page. Usually I just absentmindedly let it float by in my laziness and go back to humming tunes stuck in my head. There are a couple of things I do that help me develop ideas. One is taking a shower and the other is going for a walk. In both cases there is just me. I am isolated. There are no distractions. No internet, no computer, no TV.  Just me and my thoughts. And I just force myself to think about my story issues and suddenly other ideas join together until I have a solution.

Let’s talk puzzles – tell us a little bit about the interactive stories and puzzles you’ve created?

Oh wow. I’ve been doing puzzles for several years now. I got involved in helping with various puzzle events at Microsoft. Seattle has quite a thriving puzzle community. Think crossword and word search puzzles on acid. The types of crazy things you found in Games Magazine (or today Games World of Puzzles). That magazine started my love of them. So I started making puzzles for these events. Usually relatively simple puzzles, but they’d always have a twist. My favorite is doing weird things with word searches. I created a word search that was crossed with a cryptogram that got all its clues from music files once.  I love music and like to inject my music favorites onto other people whenever possible. Some of my puzzles have actually been huge undertakings and were very interactive. I made a 4-part adventure puzzle which forced competitors to run to different parts of the Microsoft campus while having to solve four different puzzles based on Rush songs.

What do you like to do to relax?

I watch TV. Yeah, yeah I know. Lots of people say “OMG TV is so bad for you! I never watch TV!” I love TV. Wonderful stories are told on television. In fact it’s probably the number one source of comedy there is. I don’t take TV seriously. In fact I try to learn from it. I often come across a series that does things with a story in ways I never expected. It is great finding a great original new show. Of course if it’s that good of an idea it will probably be cancelled. Ha! I also like listening to music. Again for the same reasons. My favorite is 70s progressive rock. Lots of wonderful musical stories they are.

I’m a big fan of TV sitcoms too – do you have an all-time favorite?

Whoa, that will require a list for sure. Most of my all-time favorites were not exactly standard sitcoms. Topping that list I think is Futurama. The satire and stories are just brilliant. Sometimes really scifirific, sometimes very poignent, sometimes very biting, and usually hilarious.  (Great choice, DMK.)

Others on the all-time list are M*A*S*H, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, Blackadder (yes the British do comedy better). For more standard sitcom fair, I always really liked NewsRadio, Frasier, The Office (the Brit version is brilliant but the American version, once it found its own voice, was flat out uberbrilliant and hysterical to boot), Night Court, Seinfeld, and the original Bob Newhart Show…and how could I forget Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. So most of my favorites are odd in their own way. I think you need that unusual setting or style in order to be really funny.

So music, what are your favorite bands and artists?

I so adore the stories and music landscapes of progressive 70s rock. Rush is my favorite. From 2112 and Hemispheres Grace Under Pressure, science fiction worlds are explored, philosophies pondered, and musical masterpiece achieved. You would really think Bradbury were writing the lyrics to so many of these gems. Also in that list are Genesis and Yes.

Genesis told more fantasy and dark stories with both humor and pathos. More briliant playing and tons of atmosphere. Steve Hackett’s swirling acoustic guitar really takes you on a journey. Yes, is like a bite of poetry that you taste that lifts you up and lets you float away on it. It is a bumpy ride, but at their best there was magic in their sound.

Pink Floyd – another seminal group. Everyone knows them, sure. I think their early middle period was best The Meddle/Dark SIde Stuff. Of course Wish You Were Here is also brilliant. (My favorite, DMK) These are groups really that every time I listen to their songs, there is an entire story playing out in my head to match, and oftentimes a different one than the last time I heard it. Can’t forget Beatles and Bowie of course….but there are tons of others I like. Too many. I must go listen to them all now.

Oh and one more thing .  I got a stereo for Christmas when I was young. I had it into adulthood. It was a very cheap and nothing stereo, but it had a turntable on top. One day I was listening to “Welcome to the Machine” by Pink Floyd, you know the song that starts with this robotic motor sound winding up and has this thump all through it…well at the end, once it is through (listen to it on youtube to hear what I mean), at the end, the song literally winds down. The wind up from the beginning is reversed, the synthesizer pitches up like an alarm sound and then winds all the way down to a low note and a last thump…when it got to that part….my stereo….stopped beating forever…and died. Was the most wondrous and sad music moment ever.

So the question I’m asking everyone in these interviews. If you could travel to any time and place in the past where and when would you go?

Probably wherever Doctor Who is so I can stow away and become the next companion. Then find a way to go back to the period where Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee were the Doctor. I liked them. I’d steal the scarf for sure. Somewhere in Europe would be nice though. Middle Ages maybe. I’d make sure I was aristocracy of course so I could wear all the cool clothes and not be gawked at and called a mere cosplayer. Live in a castle or manor house. Of course I’d get all the vaccinations I could first…and bring my computer. Do you think castles had wifi?

(Love it – I want to be Tom Baker’s companion too, DMK)

So what’s next from Matt Lovell. What are you currently working on?

Working on a few word puzzle projects right now. Unfortunately the letters don’t always cooperate and I have to keep yelling at the screen to get them to line up properly. As for writing I am going back through a number of short stories which I’m compiling into a YA horror anthology book. I probably have a couple more to write to get it complete. Maybe something about zombie fish or wereflamingoes. The world needs more of them. No wait. Wereunicorns! I hear they are fabulously scary!

(I’d go with the wereflamingoes – definitely – actually I kind of had one of those in Argentum, hmmm … DMK)

How can readers connect with you?

They can pick up the nearest object and throw it at me. Once I turn and shout things at them, we can then have what’s called a conversation. Of course, the days of throwing rocks at each other is a bit passé. I suppose most folks are on Facebook. Here’s a link that I THINK works, although they just YET AGAIN changed how Facebook is displayed so who knows?

Want to read a sample of Matt’s story? Sure you do:

I paid little attention to the orations today.

“And let us send this to another vote shall we, Senators? But first…discussion.”

Same dull lot blathering on. Persuvius….Glomus….Horatius… Dullus, dullus, dullus. They may as well ALL be called Dullus. What are they saying? I don’t know and I don’t care.

“And the temple gates need replacing…”

The hard stonework of the benches did little to improve my mood. Oh, my gluteus maximus.

“There is an ink shortage. Perhaps we can send an expedition to capture a creature called an octopus…”

Oh good, Carius Litus, he of the flashy purple toga. That’s all I need.

“The toga weaver requires yet more cloth and dye to make our new togas…”

I think I moaned.

I could use some mulled wine about now. Maybe I could chat up that fellow Homer and see if he has a new play to boost my spirits. The one about that captain that sailed away and lost most of his crew fighting monsters was a good one. That was exciting. He should write another of those. Things with monsters.

“-alus?”

Everyone is looking at me. Why is that?

“Galus?”

“Uh…what?” I replied.

“Galus, is something wrong? It is your turn to speak.”

“Monsters?” I said.

The onlookers and gawkers chuckled at me.

“Galus, are you feeling all right? You look…”

“How do I look?”

“You look…sad.”

“Sad,” I replied sitting back down, “I look sad. Sad hail Caesar.”

I stared at my sandals. Grey. Like my heart. I didn’t need to look up again to know they were still staring at me. Leaning into one another, covering their mouths with the sides of their hands. As if that hid their gossip from me. Their words were of a poison proportional to the number of teeth they showed. Thankfully, it didn’t last long. They quickly went back to business, i.e. talking at length about themselves to make themselves look good. I left before they finished. I really needed to get out of there.

To read more pick up a copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins

Sins of the Past – Introducing Sunila Vig

Sunila

Today on Paws 4 Thought we begin a special series of interviews with the authors of the historical horror anthology, Sins of the Past. Our first author is Sunila Vig. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Sunila.

I am from India and deeply connected to my land, its history, colours, food, culture and chaos. Today I live in Australia and enjoy the nature, calm and all that it has to offer. I teach yoga, write and sing amidst other things and try to stay open to the experiences and people that come to me.

Who are your favorite authors?

Hard to put them all down here, but a few are Tolstoy, Hardy, Shakespeare, Gorki, J. Krishnamurthy, Donna Farhi, Amitabh Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri and P.G. Wodehouse.

Tell us a bit about your story VishKanya (The Poison Maiden)?

It is about a young woman who is accursed to be a poison maiden and used by her masters as a tool to decimate their rivals. She falls in love and yet can only love from afar.

If you could travel back in time to any place and period in the past where and when would you go?

I would travel back in India to Buddha’s time, a few centuries before Christ.

What attracts you to writing horror?

I enjoy writing horror only when I can intersperse it with other elements like love-suspense-mystery, so that the end result is not gory but humane.

What are you currently reading?

Life. I just moved back to Australia and I’m in the throes of a variety of activity.

Are you planning to write a story for Sins of the Future? Any hints about your story?

Yes, I certainly am going to write a story for Sins of the Future. It will be unique. That is all I can say at this point.

What do you like to do to relax?

Play with my little one, teach a Yoga class, watch TV, read, write, walk, meet like-minded people, indulge in any art form….

What are you currently working on?

On sprucing up a novella I’ve written.

Read a little from Sunila’s story, VishKanya (The Poison Maiden) here:

She ran her chocolate brown fingers through his hair. In an hour his body would turn blue and stiff, her poison washing through his every cell.

Two hours back the body had a name – a handsome nobleman she’d enticed in his own chambers in the dead of night. It had been easy, too easy, and now he lay on his carved bed, oblivious to life.

She looked bored. This was number hundred-and-two. She kept count by chopping off the little toe from each victim. She wasn’t finicky like that. A string angled from one of the rafters in her attic holding one hundred and one shriveled toes, embalmed with herbs to ward off the stench.

Vishkanya was her name. Actually it was the name of every poison maiden. She wrinkled her long nose, how about a special name just for me? But when she voiced her thoughts she received a rap on the head and was told crisply that she talked too much. The purpose of her life was to be efficient and lethal.

Connect with Sunila

Via email sunila108@yahoo.com

Twitter @whitefielder

Facebook page

Pick up your copy of Sins of the Past today!

Sins Of The Past

Also available in Amazon UK, Amazon India, and Amazon Australia.