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.


Friday, November 07, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

I usually participate in NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the 2% of people reading this post that are probably my relatives.

Basically, people across the country – and the world – try to write a 50,000 word book during the month of November. Why? Because writing. No, seriously, that’s the answer. In order to write. Together. Yes, it’s a social activity. I’m apparently a gregarious writer, too. I get more done during most NaNos than I do the rest of the year.

Not last year. Last year, I had a new job and a slew of personal problems, including a depressed spouse. Didn’t get shit done during NaNo, haven’t gotten much done since. My writing, since we moved down here, has taken a serious hit. I always had problems with my existential angst where writing was concerned, but my brain went on strike. I signed up, but didn’t really participate.

This year, I have a different problem: no mental energy because I have too much to do.

You see, during the day I work for a telephone book company. I handle government listings assigned to me and do quality checks on other people’s work. When I get home, all I want to do is play Criminal Case and watch Untold Stories of the ER. But I have a second job I do, one I’ve chosen for myself: book editor. Right now, I’m dealing with three anthologies, one (possibly two) novels, and a couple of story collections I haven’t received yet. And I’m waaaaaaayyyy behind.

So, I’m logged into the NaNoWriMo site this year, but I am doing a real rebel mission this year: editing books for print. I’ve already done more words than I normally write during NaNo on my personal fiction. Still isn’t enough. I need to hit 50,000 or better this year, or be killed by other writers. They write horror and mystery stories, too, which means I will suffer greatly and no evidence of whodunit will be left behind.

Wish me luck.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Lady or the Tiger

The place where I work had a movie day recently. The film they chose was The Life of Pi. It made me cry, but not for the reasons my co-workers had.

The last two years have been the most hellish ones of my life. My wife and I left our home and jobs in Kentucky when my father collapsed in early 2012. We moved into my parents’ house and lived up close and personal while my father made his death spiral, complete with raised and dashed hopes. Anyone who knows me knows what a daddy’s girl I was. It was awful, and once he was gone I appreciated not only the love and guidance I’d gotten from him, but also the security I felt knowing he was there.

For the first few months after his death, I helped settle his affairs. I also sought work, not realizing what a difficult job market the Tampa Bay area was. The search became more desperate because the purpose that kept my mother and I working in unison – keeping Dad alive – no longer existed. He was gone, and now there was no buffer between us. My mother is a wonderful person, but we were not meant to live together. She has no sense of boundaries and wants constant socialization. I am as introverted and territorial as a hornet on the rag.

After five months of searching, I got a temp job. It got me out of the house, but it was a long commute and I was away 11 hours each day – leaving my wife at the house with my mother. No friends, no car, no reliable time to herself. When I got home, it became a war zone. Gwen’s antidepressant failed and she went into her own emotional downspiral. I will not go into further depth about this because I still feel responsible in many ways and it is too painful to write about. For the first time in my life, though, I had to truly be the strong one, the support, the one who had to hold things together because there was no fallback person.

In a stroke of belated but appreciated good fortune, I was taken on as a permanent employee. A few months later, we moved into our own place. Despite the fact that our new home is cheaper than any of the apartments we’ve seen, I still can’t afford to cover our costs on what I make. So Gwen and I frantically sought to find her a job that paid better than the crossing guard position she held. Did I mention that this was a hard place to find work?

My wife finally has a temp job lined up (only three months of searching=better economy?) that should help with the bills. I hope she eventually gets a permanent one so we can be secure in our new home. Right now, I can’t decide if our place is the carnivorous island or the coast of Mexico. If you've seen The Life of Pi, you know what I mean. All I know for sure is that I want the hell off the boat, because I’m not sure if I’m Pi or the tiger any more.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet John Lemut!

John Lemut, author of “Labor Eco-nom-nom-ics” lives in Wisconsin. He spends his time watching too much TV, brewing and drinking beer, writing, editing, and marrying people. In addition to showing us how zombies can improve the economy, his short stories appear in the anthologies First Time Dead, Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy, Vampires Aren’t Pretty, and Night Gypsy: Journey into Darkness. His website is

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was in the 4th grade. I didn’t think, “I can do that…” I thought, “I want to do that…”

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II?
I first intended “Labor Eco-nom-nom-ics” as a fairly direct homage to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” – one of my favorite short stories. I thought the concept of a zombie nobody cared about, in place of an angel, had potential. As I developed it, my preconceptions of what I wanted to happen in my story changed significantly, and while it may no longer bear much of a resemblance to Marquez’s story, I certainly owe its existence to the Marquez story.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?
I definitely think some of the horror sub-genres (zombie and vampire fiction, in particular) are rife with potential for humor. In all honesty, zombies are pretty absurd. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them, but it also doesn’t take much of a tilt in perspective to find the humor there. I have a sardonic way of looking at most things in the real world. I find mixing zombies in there actually helps mask my attitude a bit.

Plotter or pantser?
I’m a little of both. Usually I’ll work from at least a basic outline, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing is a story taking shape in ways you didn’t anticipate. Then I’ll completely ignore the outline where appropriate.

Which author do you most admire, and why?
I swear this isn’t a shameless plug for a friend, but I most admire Eric Pollarine, a self-published author I’ve done some editing for. First off, Eric writes stories that he wants to write, and I admire that confidence. His ability to write – to push through all the mental blocks and doubts, and get words on the screen – is a gift. I have been fortunate to have been a small part of his process and have learned so much from that. I take inspiration from his work ethic, and value the opportunities I’ve had to work with him.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I broke the habit of only reading authors with names everyone recognizes several years ago. Now I enjoy finding stories from independent publishers and self-published authors that I think will interest me. They aren’t necessarily going to be the most polished books you’ll find, but for originality, edge, and sensibility, few bestsellers compare. Genre-wise I tend to read horror (mostly zombie horror), sci-fi, bizarro, humor, and thrillers – usually my favorite books have been blends of more than one of these. Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series is an excellent example.

Thank you for talking with us!

Strangely Funny II is now available in print or Kindle from Amazon, plus it is also available on Smashwords. Our Goodreads Giveaway only has a couples of days left, so if you want in, now's the time to enter!