Friday, February 06, 2015

History and Mystery, Oh My: T. Lee Harris and the Seer

I've done some research on the Bronze Age, but it is mostly confined to Greece and Turkey. When I received T. Lee Harris' story, I had to look up a few things. I learned about the Burnt City - but, more importantly, what had recently been discovered there. I'll let her tell you about the discovery, and I think you'll understand why it inspired a story!

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

That would be in the second grade when the teacher caught me writing and illustrating poems during a lesson in another subject. Thought I was dead because she was sort of strict -- well -- okay VERY strict. Actually, we kids firmly believed she was an escaped Nazi SS commander. Anyway, instead of putting me in front of a firing squad, she stapled the poems into book form and put it on the classroom reading table. Suddenly, kids who had been bullying me and calling me names were telling me how much they liked the poems. What? People actually LIKED what I did? I was doomed then and there.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Mystery, Oh My?

I read archaeological news stories every morning and frequently, one of the articles will really grab my attention. One item that I've been following with great interest is the excavation at Shahr-e Sukhteh in present day Iran. The Persian name roughly translates to the Burnt City. It was a bronze age settlement that was burnt to the ground three times. It was rebuilt after the first two fires, but was abandoned after the third. It seems all the archaeologists have to do is stick a trowel into the ground and something amazing pops up like a 10-centimeter ruler with an accuracy of half a millimeter and a painted bowl that might be the world's oldest example of animation.

Many of the burials at Shahr-e Sukhteh were unusual, too -- including that of a very tall, muscular woman who wore her hair in beaded braids. She also had the oldest known artificial eye: a bitumen orb, covered in gold and held in place with fine gold threads. Her grave goods indicated she might have been a seer. Close by were the graves of an archer and a professional rider -- likely a courier. That was all my storytelling gland needed to kick into gear.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I'm working on finishing up the first full Josh Katzen novel. Josh is a former military intelligence agent who is trying his best to retire. Josh is an artist and photographer who specializes in ancient art and artifacts -- I just can't seem to get away from history even in my work set in present day. After that, it'll be back into the past for the first full-length Sitehuti and Nefer-Djenou-Bastet mystery. Sitehuti is a scribe at the time of Ramesses II and Neffi is a rather opinionated temple cat who has adopted him and drags him into all sorts of trouble.

You can read T. Lee Harris' story, "The Scent of Anger", in History and Mystery, Oh My!, now available at Smashwords and Amazon. I think you'll find K'Natu Golden Eye as interesting as I did. 

You may also enjoy her most recent release, New York Nights, Book 2 in the Miller & Peale Series. The series is a paranormal thriller -- think Lethal Weapon meets Dark Shadows.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ahimsa Kerp's Trial of Socrates

Yet again, it is my pleasure to present an author writing in a time period I enjoy. I got to translate sections of Plato's Apology in college, but Ahimsa Kerp presents a very different view of the Trial of Socrates. Kerp is the author of the historical horror novel Empire of the Undead from Severed Press and co-author of the mosaic fantasy novel The Roads to Baldairn Motte from Reputation Books, as well as a contributor to many anthologies including Cthulhurotica, Tales of the Talisman, and Dead Harvest. Ahimsa hails from the Pacific Northwest but has been living overseas since the aughts.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I don't know exactly. But since I learned how to read, I've always been fascinated with stories. And you can only read so many before you want to start telling your own. I was writing stories about orcs living in Mordor when I was 8, though I'm not sure if I could have articulated that I wanted to be a writer at that age.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
It just depends. Each story needs a different setting and that's part of the initial process. When is best to tell this story?  I one story set in 1920's New Zealand, because a lot was going on in the country then. Another is set during 1890's China, with some of the events right before the Boxer Rebellion. Others are near future, or set ancient Rome or Greece.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Horror, Oh My?
I always thought there was something fishy about Socrates. Why didn't he leave anything recorded? What was his part in the war with Sparta? It's hard to trust Plato and Xenophon, as both clearly had vested interests in his martyrdom. Once I started thinking about the Lovecraftian angles with the worship of new gods, the corruption of youth, and of course Atlantis as a briefly sited R'lyeh, it was hard not to write.

Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
I re-read the respective Apologies by Plato and Xenophon but frankly not much of that made it in. I realized this story could either be 12,000 words long and have all kinds of historical elements that might not be exciting to anyone other than history geeks, or 2000 words and do a similar job. So in the end I didn't use most of my research.

Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
For reading, I don't have a preference. I love the breadth of history (up unto about the 19th century when it's a bit too modern.) Give me medieval castles, Mongol hordes, Janissary soldiers, intrepid Vikings, solitary Ronin, and the redoubtable Praetorian Guard.

Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work? 
Zoinks; tough question.  I suppose my current favorite is China MiĆ©ville. His prose is poetic and I don't think anyone else is as good at boiling "big ideas" down into pulpy adventure.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
For those who like historical specfic, Tim Powers is super duper incredible. Books like The Anubis Gates, On Stranger Tides, and Declare all use real history but postulate supernatural reasons for unexplained phenomena. It's really cool.

Read Ahimsa Kerp's story for yourself!
History and Horror, Oh My! is now available in ebook formats on Smashwords and in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

History and Horror, Oh My: Morgan Crooks

The pics _I_ take when I visit Lido Key.
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a few years studying Greco-Roman history. I'm accustomed to being the only person in the room who likes that stuff, so it was a real pleasure to read stories from professionals in the area. Morgan Crooks grew up in a hamlet in Upstate New York and now teaches ancient history in Massachusetts. His story, “What the Prodigy Learns," is his fourth published work. He lives with his wife, Lauren, near Boston with one professional cat and one amateur dog.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
When I was about five or six I got this brown Fisher Price tape recorder. After I had listened to all of the Berenstain Bear and American History cassettes that came with it, I start recording my own stories. I remember this one where I took a vacation to Mars, which in a weird way feels like the story I've wanted to tell ever since.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Horror, Oh My?
Roman history, particularly the transition from the Republic to the Empire, has always been fascinating to me and I got interested by the idea  a horror story set in that time, focused on Roman characters facing Roman nightmares. Then during my research, I read about wandering scholars like Strabo collecting information for vast encyclopedias. That pretty much gave me the character of Marius and once he started talking the rest of the story seemed to fit together.

Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
I found a wealth of information about Rome, Roman Daily Life, and social classes but nothing that brought the idea of Roman horror alive. To me this is one of those topics that I’ll never tire of, so I guess the biggest challenge was deciding when enough was enough. Eventually I started reading The Inns of Greece and Rome, and a history of Hospitality from the Dawn of Time to the Middle Ages, by W.C. Firebaugh. Firebaugh describes this system of post-houses that sprung up alongside the Roman road system. Basically with a writ from the government an upper class Roman could make use of these houses anywhere in the Empire. A sort of unofficial pilgrimage existed in the Eastern Half of the Empire, as young Romans saw the splendors of the ancient world as they traveled from inn to inn. That gave me the setting and the impulse to just start writing the first draft already.

Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
That’s a tough question. Being an ancient history teacher, I’d say just about everything I cover - Stone Ages right on through to the Fall of Rome - is incredibly interesting. Late Republican Rome is probably my all-time favorite historical period, though.

Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work? 
Kim Stanley Robinson. In addition to having some of the best depictions of realistic space travel committed to print, he also has a really amazing sense of scale and history. He does what I think every great writer should do - hold up something familiar and boring and show you how it’s the weirdest, most interesting thing in the universe.

What are you working on now?
I’ve got a longer horror novella I’m editing as well as a few flash pieces.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I try my best to keep up with what’s going on in short fiction by reading Apex, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and This year I spent catching up on weird fiction: Laird Barron, John Langan, and Thomas Ligotti but I also found time to read Gibson’s latest, The Peripheral. I’d recommend it.

Do you have any other works out right now?
My flash science fiction story, “Belongings," came out on the Theme of Absence website on December 12th. I’ve also got a science fiction story about drones that will be appearing in this month’s The New Accelerator anthology. I’d check out my blog at to see what other work I’ve got out there.

Read Morgan's story for Yourself!
History and Horror, Oh My! is now available in ebook formats on Smashwords and in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Interview with Jonah Buck

Most of my friends know that I am a Lovecraft fan. Some of them also know I spent several years studying Greek, Latin, and Greco-Roman history in college. How could I not fall for a story like “And if Thine Eye Offend Thee”, written by Jonah Buck?

Jonah splits his time between studying law at the University of Oregon, performing stage magic, writing horror, and other disreputable pursuits. He is an avid historian, exotic poultry fancier, fossil hunter, and B-grade monster movie enthusiast.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Horror, Oh My?
Being the scintillating personality that I am, I got the first kernel of my story from reading about the legal aspects of the Byzantine Empire’s guild system in the 11th century. While this topic might sound “boring” or “mega-crazy-turbo boring” to most, it’s actually quite interesting. The Byzantines built this whole elaborate, state-sponsored guild system for certain industries, and they enforced it through some pretty horrific violence.

Gouging someone’s eyes out with hot stakes was a popular method of dealing with troublemakers, and that’s where my story “And if Thine Eye Offend Thee” got its start. There’s already a bracing shot of horror there. Just toss in some demons, mix well, and SHAZZAM. Who needs the latest slasher movie when you have the Byzantine penal code?

Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
Most of my stories take place in the 1920s. There’s a few reasons for that. It’s a really interesting era. On the one hand, you have the rise of radio as mass media, the Prohibition experiment, and women’s suffrage. On the other hand, you have the blight of the Klan, Tommy gun toting gangsters, and geopolitical upheaval. It’s the age of Lovecraft, Ford, Houdini, and Rockefeller. There are a lot of really colorful ideas to play with that are still relevant today.

What are you working on now?
In the near future, I’ll be appearing in Attack! of the B-Movie Monsters: Alien Encounters. I also have a story in the original B-Movie Monster anthology, Night of Gigantis, which you can buy right now. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but along with History and Horror, Oh My!, it’s pretty much the pinnacle of all western literature.

Read Jonah Buck's story for Yourself!
History and Horror, Oh My! is now available in ebook formats on Smashwords and in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

History and Horror, Oh My: Scott T. Barnes

Scott T. Barnes writes primarily science fiction and fantasy. His short story "Insect Sculptor" won second place in the Writers of the Future Contest, 2011. Since graduating Odyssey, the Fantasy Writing Workshop in 2008, Scott's short fiction has appeared in over a dozen magazines and anthologies. A country boy at heart, having grown up on a California farm and cattle ranch, Scott adores the history of the West with passion that can be plainly seen in "The China Queen." His fourth-grade reader Rancho San Felipe—A Story of California One Hundred Years Ago, coauthored and illustrated by Sarah Duque and published in conjunction with the Olaf Wieghorst Western Heritage Center, is used as a textbook in several Southern California schools.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I remember wanting to become a writer from the age of 11 years old. A couple of years ago when I won the Writers of the Future Award knowing if that memory were accurate or not became important to me. I went back through my mom’s old photos and found a shot of me banging away at our manual typewriter on my first book. It was about skeletons with flaming heads (walking dead) and a flaming sword. As I recall I wrote 65 pages on it. It was called The Fire Skeletons. I would give much to find the original manuscript.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
My first love has always been fantasy followed by science fiction. When I was young, early elementary school, my mom would leave me at the bookstore in the mall, go shopping, and return to collect me 3-4 hours later. She knew right where to find me—in the science fiction and fantasy section of B. Dalton. And so I write mostly fantasy with the occasional science fiction piece. Since I grew up on a farm with a family much concerned about its history in farming and cattle ranching, I am also passionate about Western Americana. Both of these loves, speculative fiction and Western Americana, can readily be seen in “The China Queen” in History and Horror, Oh My!

How did you come up with the idea for your story in History and Horror, Oh My?
The original seed for this came from a “24 hour” story assignment at the Writers of the Future event. The winners of that award get treated to a week of education by some of the best writers in the field. The two lead teachers when I was there were Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates) and Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Permeable Borders). They assigned everyone the task writing a story in 24 hours after 1) picking a random book from the library, 2) interviewing a random person on Hollywood Blvd., and 3) picking a random object from a hat. All of these writing prompts had to be used in the story.

From the library I grabbed a book on sheep ranching, from the hat I picked some sort of object that might have been a miniature bracelet, and on the street I ran into an honest-to-goodness world-class magician. From there grew “The China Queen.” While I had the draft done in 24 hours, it took me a couple of years to dust it off, polish it up, and submit it here.

Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
It took some research to get the 1860s era correct. I’m a stickler for detail so I had to place my imaginary sheep ranch on a real map from the era. I had to know what guns people would be carrying, what clothes they would be wearing, what books they would be reading and so forth. It helps that I raised sheep to show at the local fair every year and so I had some background on that already.

Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
Probably my favorite era to read about is the 1840s when fur trappers were wandering the west. It was really a wild place. Unfortunately, very few of them wrote down their adventures, and fewer still did so without exaggerating outrageously. George Frederick Ruxton is the best of the writers from that period, in my opinion.

Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work? 
I wish I could surprise you here, but the authors I like are the same ones everyone likes. Ursula K. LeGuin and J.R.R. Tolkien are probably the top two. I flatter myself in thinking that my prose is not dissimilar to Neil Gaiman’s in terms of style. I would also like to emulate Roger Zelazny and Barry B. Longyear. I love lush prose (think Isak Dinesen), a tight plot and complex characters (Barry B. Longyear), and soaring feats of imagination (Ray Bradbury). Each of the authors I cited above, LeGuin, Tolkien, Gaiman, Longyear and Zelazny, carries off all three remarkably well. Bradbury and Dinesen sometimes fall short on plot.

What are you working on now?
I have finished the first draft of a story much like Watership Down except with salmon as the protagonists. That has taken A LOT of research to get right. I’ve read books and spent hours on the internet. I have interviewed biologists, ichthyologists, sailors and fishermen. I have hiked the Hoh River valley in Olympic National Park.

The research is done, the photos taken and resources studied, the story spread across the canvas--now the revision begins. I hope to have the final draft done by this summer.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, about a book every two weeks, but I force myself to read outside of genre for every third book. That has broadened my horizons considerably. I read biographies, histories, romance, mysteries, you name it. The best books I have read recently were Roger Zelazny’s Amber series. I get the most story ideas from nonfiction. In fact, I forgot to mention a fourth source for “The China Queen”: My Wicked, Wicked Ways, the autobiography of Errol Flynn. One incident in that book also lent an idea to this story. What an interesting read. Did you know Flynn was a slave trader before getting into movies?

Read Scott's story for yourself!
History and Horror, Oh My! is now available in ebook formats on Smashwords and in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.

If you'd like to read more of his work, Scott also edits the online magazine His website is

Saturday, December 13, 2014

History and Horror, Oh My! - Henry Snider

Henry Snider is a founding member of Fiction Foundry and the award-winning Colorado Springs Fiction Writer’s Group. During the last two decades he’s dedicated his time to helping others tighten their writing through critique groups, classes, lectures, prison prose programs, and high school fiction contests. Thirteen years to the month from founding the group, he retired from the CSFWG presidency in January, 2009. After a much needed vacation, he returned to the literary world.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I blame my parents for this one. In 1975 my parents took me to see the tender age of five. What I remember, more than staring at the screen, was the number of people who were terrified. The responses the audience gave started me looking for thrills, first in comics, then in novels. By middle school I was working on writing about what scared me, then a few years later I began sharing the works with others.

How do you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
I tend to focus first on the story I want to tell, then work on figuring out what would be the best location and time to place them in. This is the answer most "want" to hear. The truth is I don't pick anything. I could be perusing antiques with the missus and see an old inkwell and suddenly I'm pounding the keys about an introvert actually penning someone's life.

How did you come up with the idea for your "Someone to Watch Over Me"?
I was actually researching the first flapper, Olive Thomas, for another project. The story just seemed to grow from there. The burial mound in the story is an actual mound there, as is the island and general setting descriptions and locations.

Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
Not as many as I expected. History's been a passion of pretty much everyone in my family.

Do you have a favorite historical period you enjoy reading or writing about?
No, not really. I come from a history-heavy household. Both my parents strived to enrich my youth with adventures of eras-gone-by.

Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work?
Oh, this isn't a fair question. To me it's like asking which breath of air did you prefer. How about I answer "What authors' works do you read more than once?" That answer would be - in no particular order - Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, William W. Johnstone (his pulp horror, not the westerns), Joe Lansdale, H.P. Lovecraft, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Amanda Quick...wait...did I just include a romance author? A strong author brings me back, but it really depends on the story the wordspinners are weaving.

What are you working on now?
Earlier this year Evil Jester Press released Carnival of the Damned, which I edited. At the moment I'm finishing off the final edits for my novel, Drive-In Feature, which is due out in February, 2015 from Great Old Ones Publishing. After that I'll be completing a novel entitled Rising Water. A baker's dozen-or-so stories are currently out and under consideration.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
Everything I can get my hands on. Articles, non-fiction, stories, novels, name it. My reading list covers everything from horror (obviously) and romance to biographies and history in general.

Thanks for talking with us!
Learn more about Henry Snider at

History and Horror, Oh My! is now available in ebook formats on Smashwords and in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Current Distraction: Comedy

Some introductory bullshit: it was a stressful summer. We moved to Safety Harbor, which is a wonderful place, but we have to support ourselves now – not just lot fees and monthly expenses, but debts accrued during our years in Kentucky. You know, back when Gwen and I both had full-time jobs and where the cost of living was so much lower? I enjoy having our own place again so much it’s embarrassing, but I also worry a lot. This is an insecure job market.

Then, Robin Williams killed himself. I didn't expect it to hit me as hard as it did, but I'm still sad about it. His work was so full of zaniness and optimism, which was a tonic to my Eeyore-like nature. So, I decided to see if I could hear some of his bits on Pandora. Yes, I could, and was introduced to a large number of other comedians, too. Below are some of my current favorite tracks. If you listen to comedy,feel free to comment or make suggestions.

Dan Cummins – Here Come the Spoons
Jeff Dunham – Buddy the Peeping Dog
-          Not part of his puppet act, just a great story.
John Pinette – France and Italy
-          Also died far too young.
Craig Gass – Gene Simmons is Going to Kill Me
-          I wouldn’t want to hear this track over and over, but it is horribly funny the first time.
Louis CK – The Time I Thought I Was Going To Die
-          Bad airplane landing story #1
Gabriel Iglesias – Magic Mike Story
-          I love Fluffy!
Matt Braunger – Clown Pub Crawl
Bobcat Goldthwait – The Voice of Death
-          Bad airplane landing story #2.
Ben Bailey – Road Rage
Craig Ferguson – Hotel Porn
Robert Schimmel – My Daughter’s Computer
-          Funnier if you remember the early days of AOL.