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 johnrambles.com.

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!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet Omar Sakr!

Omar J. Sakr is an Australian writer and poet with a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Sydney. His short story 'Aftertweet' was selected as part of the Twitter Fiction Festival, and his poetry has featured on Cordite Poetry Review, as well as the ABC. He has poetry forthcoming in Meanjin and Carve Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @OmarjSakr or on his website http://omarsakr.wordpress.com .

His story in Strangely Funny II, "Caryard Jack", tells the story of a necromancer awakened after several centuries into the modern world. Unfortunately, his ex still remembers him, and not fondly.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I first tried my hand at writing when I was about 11, and I’d just finished reading Lord of the Rings. I can’t remember what I wrote, except that it was undoubtedly pure plagiarism. Put off by that, it wasn’t until I was 15 that I wrote again. I was hit by a story out of the blue, and sat down to write it.  I finished it in one sitting, hand cramped, page full of my ungainly blue scrawl, and that’s when I knew.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
I like to think I didn’t choose it at all – that it chose me. Truthfully, I had the choice all but dictated to me. When I was about 10, my step-father bet me $10 I couldn’t sit through an entire novel. The novel he chose was King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green. It had magic, kings, queens, knights and witches, and from then, I was lost to this world, and always in another. The next few books I read were largely picked by my mother, in Harry Potter, and Stephen King’s Rose Madder. These are the books which shaped my imagination, a mix of magic, medieval England, and horror.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II?
I was at work, drudging away, trying to overcome a mental block to a story I was in the middle of writing. I loved the concept, and thought the beginning of it was some of the best writing I’d done. Consequently, I began to treat it too preciously,  and was worried about ruining it. I was stuck – doubly so by being at work – but had the writing itch, so I opened up a page and just started writing the first thing that came to my head. It says a whole lot about me that the first thing I thought of was an ancient murderous bisexual necromancer, but there you have it.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?

Life lends itself to humour; I don’t think there’s a single genre or medium out there that shouldn’t be layered with humour. The universe is an enormous cosmic joke and if I wasn’t able to laugh at it every day, I don’t think I’d manage to get by. That said, any subject dealt with pompously – my dear beloved fantasy, I’m looking at you – ought to have the mickey taken out of it, and no one is more conscious of that then fantasy writers today.

Plotter or pantser?
Pantser. I write as it comes to me, in flashes of inspiration (read: delusion), otherwise I’d likely be too bored if I knew the entirety of it from the outset.

Which author do you most admire, and why?
This is an impossible question to answer. I admire different authors for different things – their prose, mastery of structure, brilliant concepts, etc. If we’re talking in general, I’d say right now the author I admire most is Patrick Rothfuss, for his inspiring charitable work with Worldbuilders.

Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to go?
Turkey, my ancestral homeland.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror predominantly, although if the past year or two is any indication, my current loves are poetry and literary fiction. Above and beyond everything else, short stories remain my favourite reading type. I also love graphic novels and comic books.

Thanks for talking with us!

Be sure to check out Omar's story in Strangely Funny II, now available in print and e-book formats on Amazon and Smashwords. And don't forget - we're also giving away three free copies of the book on Smashwords! The deadline is August 31, so don't delay!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet F.R. Michaels!

Today, we say 'hello' to F.R. Michaels, author of "Dead People, Seriously". He's a multitalented guy. His first short story, “Mrs. Edgecliff”, appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and received an honorable mention in The Year’s Finest Fantasy and Horror Sixth Annual Collection by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Another short story, “Fluf”, appeared in Haunts magazine and was made into a short film that was shown at the Sundance film festival. He also does artwork and illustrations that have appeared in various fan publications and small press works.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Ever since I found out that no one was writing the stories I wanted to read. I think I was 8.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
Nothing gives a person the same thrill as a good scary story. As for the setting, I have a collection of fictional towns based on Long Island's north shore where I grew up; "Dead People, Seriously" takes place there.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II?
There are a lot of zombie stories out there where the undead are a plague of mindless relentless monsters... but what if a zombie was raised from the dead and was the same person he was during his life? Multiply that by a whole graveyard full of people, throw in a couple of college frat boys who should not be playing with black magic, shake vigorously, and "Dead People, Seriously" is what came out.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?
I think you can inject humor into any genre. What I like about humor in a horror setting is the horror can build such a storm head of tension and the humor can release it. Think American Werewolf in London.

Plotter or pantser?
Oh, I'm not nearly organized enough to be a plotter. Come to think, I'm not even organized enough to be a pantser. But closer to pantser than plotter, definitely.

Which author do you most admire, and why?
Mary Wollstonecraft "Scary Mary" Shelley. She wrote Frankenstein when she was 19, on a bet, published it anonymously, and wrote the very first science fiction novel and one of the scariest stories in existence even today, back in a time when women weren't even considered writers. That's hardcore.

Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to go?
I'm not that much of a traveler. There are places in my own head I don't like to go.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I love old school: Poe, Stoker, Shelley, LeFanu, Saki, Bierce, Machen, Blackwood, Lovecraft, Robert Louis Stevenson, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc - and fall back to them periodically. That being said, I think there's a small renaissance going on right now in modern speculative fiction, with small press and e-book publishers leading the way. There is an entire roster of new and emergent authors who are breaking some exciting new ground. I'm gobbling up as much of that as I can, and liking what I find.

Thanks for your time!!!
You're welcome. Can you untie me now...?

Frank Raymond Michaels (F. R. Michaels) is actually a very nice, normal person who happens to like weird stories and scary artwork. No, seriously. He lives on Long Island with his wife, daughter, several cats, a small dog, a big dog, and whoever happens to be in his basement at the time. He writes horror and dark fantasy. He is currently working on several short horror fiction and artwork projects and a Swords and Sorcery novel.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy "Dead People, Seriously" in Strangely Funny II, now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet B. David Spicer!

Today, we meet B. David Spicer, author of "Two Martini Lunch", which appears in Strangely Funny II. Mr. Spicer writes crime fiction, science fiction and horror fiction and occasionally writes scripts for independent comic book publishers. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and journals throughout the country and overseas. In "Two Martini Lunch", we meet a vampire who prefers a specific... taste to his blood.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
By the time I turned twelve I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, and after that I knew I wanted to write. Unfortunately, it took over twenty years from that point for me to get serious about writing.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II?
When I was in high school I played a role-playing game with my friends called Vampire: The Masquerade. One of the characters I played was an alcoholic who got turned into a vampire, but still wanted to get drunk, which led to some hilarious situations. Something my dad said reminded me of that character, and I knew right then what I wanted to write about.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?
Absolutely, especially horror. The things that scare us are often patently ridiculous when you look at them closely. Take zombie movies for instance. Why would a dead person, even one who could still walk around, need to eat? Are they digesting all those brains? Do they use ketchup or mustard? What would a zombie do if it got an upset stomach?

Plotter or pantser?
Definitely a pantser. I start with an idea and let the story grow organically. I think trying to force a story to fit inside a pre-plotted framework hampers the growth of the story. If I’m writing a scene and get a great idea for a plot-twist that’ll take the story off in a completely different direction, I run with it. Tolkien once said that The Lord of the Rings “grew in the telling,” which I’ve always taken to mean that it grew well beyond his original conception of the story and went off in a direction he hadn’t thought of at the beginning. That’s how I write, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Which author do you most admire, and why?
Well, I’ve already mentioned how Tolkien influenced me from a young age. Reading The Hobbit for the first time was a turning point for me, one that changed me forever. Reading went from being a fun hobby to an outright obsession, and I began to create stories of my own in my mind, and it wasn’t long before I wanted to write them down. Tolkien instilled in me a love of fantasy and the fantastic, and more importantly a love of reading, and eventually writing. I wouldn’t be a writer today if it hadn’t been for Tolkien.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
During my formative years I read mostly fantasy series, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, David Eddings, Tad Williams and the like. In high school I found Stephen King and read him obsessively for a few years. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found myself drawn to Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Charles Dickens. Within just the last five years I’ve read almost all of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayer’s mysteries. Likewise I’ve delved into the hardboiled style mysteries of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I think my future holds a few mystery stories.

We'll be looking forward to those! Thanks for talking with us!

Be sure to check out B. David Spicer's contribution to Strangely Funny II. He also has several other stories out now: the Torched anthology by Nocturnal Press Publications, Dark Light Book Four by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Press, and The RudderHaven Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology II by RudderHaven Publications.







Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet DJ Tyrer!

Once again, we invite DJ Tyrer to an interview. When we last met him, he had a story in All Hallows' Evil. We learned then about his fascination with the King in Yellow and his involvement with The Yellow Site wikia. This time, he's come to the funny side and joined us for Strangely Funny II!

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I've always wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember and have written stories ever since I could write. I grew up surrounded by books, so writing has always been part of my life.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
A lot of my fiction falls within the boundaries of horror and I also write quite a bit of humour (because if you push horror too far it becomes comedic and if you push humour too far it becomes horrific). However, I've never consciously chosen to write in a specific genre or style, as I like to experiment and prefer to let my writing go where it will rather than force it to conform. I think I've confused a people when they discover that I write quite divergent fare!

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II? 
The idea for Costumed Hero popped into my head when I was attempting to come up with a horror story for a Hallowe'en-themed anthology. As I thought through all the aspects of the holiday the title for this story came to me. Initially, I played with various permutations of partygoers dressing up as superheroes to no success when the plot just came from nowhere.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?
Horror is easy to blend into humour, as they are effectively either ends of a sliding scale. If you push horror too far it ceases to be scary and becomes humorous in its grotesque absurdity, whilst humour pushed too far ceases to be funny and becomes horrific. Paranormal fiction that isn't intended to be horror per se (such as that which my story draws upon) is also ripe for humour as it can easily be pushed into absurdity. It's much the same for other genres – push them through the unpleasant until you find yourself laughing rather than crying or cringing – it's just that the darker genres are already close to that point.

Plotter or pantser?
In almost every area of my life I like to have everything planned out. However, when it comes to plots, that's not generally true. Even when I write a plot down I usually treat it as an aide memoir of points to include rather than a map – when I have crafted a detailed plan, it usually gets binned before the halfway point as developments render it irrelevant! However, whilst I sometimes go into a story 'blind' having no idea where it's going – or perhaps knowing how it should end but having no idea how it'll get there – I frequently have a constantly-changing mental map of the plot. Or, to be it another way, a bit of both!

Which author do you most admire, and why?
I struggle with requests for my top ten favourite authors/books, let alone whittling them all down to one! Different authors have different strengths, so it's difficult to put one above the other in terms of quality or importance.

Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to go?
I would love to visit the archaeological sites of Egypt and the Middle East, as the ancient world is one of my passions.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
I read a wide variety of fiction from different genres, but the authors I return to most often are the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Robert W. Chambers, HP Lovecraft, JRR Tolkien, Weis & Hickman, Arthur Machen, Clarke Ashton Smith, CS Lewis, Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde. Other Cthulhu Mythos fiction and the various Doctor Who novels also feature regularly and I also enjoy reading JK Rowling, Clive Cussler and James Patterson. A nostalgic fondness for the Nancy Drew series and the Worst Witch stories of Jill Murphy never fails to baffle some!

I also read a lot of non-fiction, especially history, which has always been an obsession of mine.

Thanks for talking with us!

DJ Tyrer's story The Promised Messiah can be found in the new Steampunk Cthulhu anthology from Chaosium, whilst his sorcerous fantasy Kamilda of Ys can be found in the new Tales of the Black Arts anthology from Hazardous Press, both of which are available now from Amazon. You can learn more about DJ and his publications from his blog at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Strangely Funny II is now available in print or Kindle from Amazon, plus it is also available on Smashwords. You can also get a shot at a free copy right now via our giveaways!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Strangely Funny II Authors: Meet Marc Sorondo!

Today, I introduce you to Marc Sorondo, author of "The Trouble with Decorations". The story involves a decorative item/toy that didn't exist when I was young (I would have flushed that ratfink). This particular specimen, however, is more gifted than the ones available in stores.

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I started writing stories when I was a kid. I want to say junior high, but it could have been freshman year of high school. I was hooked right away and based my college choice on the writing program it offered.

How did you pick the genre/setting/era you (usually) write in?
My stories are all over the place: distant past to sci-fi future, and all over the world (and universe in some of the science fiction). I go where the stories seem to want to go, but I do get some extra enjoyment out of setting stories in places I’ve actually been and know. I love adding little details about settings that are completely accurate but that only someone who has been to a place would recognize as being real.

How did you come up with the idea for your story in Strangely Funny II?
The toy “Elf on a Shelf”…it creeps me out. A little elf doll that comes alive and spies on you. Come on, that thing is a horror tale already without knowing it.

Do you think certain genres lend themselves to a humorous twist?
I think a humorous twist can work with any genre.

Plotter or pantser?
Hybrid. I tend to let ideas marinate for a long time in my head before I actually sit down to write them. I’ll spend months or even years letting an idea ripen and jotting down notes on scraps of paper. Then, when I write a story, I've got some scenes that are already written and vaguely in order, but with a bunch of emptiness in between that I fill in as I go.

Which author do you most admire, and why?
I’m going to cheat a bit and name two. For pure storytelling skill, I love Stephen King. The man can weave an insanely layered and complicated story without it ever lagging for a paragraph, but he can also compose a short tale that packs a tremendous punch. He’s a master of both the long and short form. For the poetic nature of his prose, I envy Ray Bradbury. There is a quality to his writing that is unique to Bradbury…it’s got a haunting simplicity and a rhythmic aspect. His shorts and his novels all feel like long narrative poems.

Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to go?
I’ve got a long list of places that I’d like to see. At the top, battling for primacy are Spain and Germany.

Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
Right now I’m working on a Ph.D. in History, so I read a lot of history and science history. In between semesters, I load up on fiction. I’ve already mentioned my love of King and Bradbury. Some of my other favorites are Clive Barker, Dan Simmons, Joe Hill, and Robert McCammon. There are a million others who I admire and probably should name, but I’m trying to keep this short.

Thanks for talking to us today!

Marc Sorondo lives with his wife and children in New York. He loves to read, and his interests range from fiction to comic books, physics to history, oceanography to cryptozoology, and just about everything in between. He's a long time student and occasional teacher. To learn more about Marc's fiction, including his novella Aurora: Dawn of a New Era, visit his site at:

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