I’ve always been a lover of short story collections. Even more so than novels perhaps. I find something infinitely satisfying about the short form, and I think a single author collection is a great way to introduce yourself to a writer, the range of which he or she is capable. Multiple author anthologies can provide of smorgasbord of different talent, introducing me to writers I may have missed otherwise.
The first short story collection that really grabbed my attention was The Twilight Zone. I know what you’re thinking – that wasn’t a collection but a television show. Well, yes, but it was an anthologytelevision show. Instead of providing one continuous story with recurring characters, instead it offered the TV equivalent of short stories. Each episode was a self-contained tale with a beginning, middle, and end. One week I might get science fiction, another suspense, another horror. It was my first experience with that sort of storytelling, and I instantly fell in love with it.
So when I got older and became a voracious reader, it is not at all surprising that I would be drawn to short story collections. One of the first books I ever read by Stephen King was his first collection Night Shift, and I delighted in all the different tales I found between the covers. To this day, I get excited when I find out a writer I like is coming out with a new collection. And I love writers who release multiple collections. King, Gaiman, Lansdale, Hodge, etc.
I also became a huge fan of anthologies. In my formative years, I remember devouring anthologies with titles like Under the Fang, Prime Evil, Book of the Dead, Shock Rock…eclectic collections of stories by some of the top talent in the horror genre of the day. Every new anthology was like a trip to heaven for me. So much treasure in one book.
As a writer, I enjoy writing novellas and novels and even the occasional poem, but short fiction has always been my truest love and greatest passion. And I dreamed of having multiple collections out there, just like my favorite writers.
And I’m thrilled that I have made that dream come true. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the privilege of working with a myriad of wonderful publishers who also believe in the power of short fiction.
My latest collection is BOOK HAVEN AND OTHER CURIOSITIES (April 26th) from Crystal Lake Publishing. I published a previous collection with them, and what really impressed me about them is that they promote a collection as hard as a novel. BOOK HAVEN contains the title novella as well as 20 short stories of various lengths. I touch on different subjects, different tones and themes. A lot of horror, some straight dramatic pieces, and even a few poems. The reader will definitely see the Twilight Zoneinfluence in a couple of the pieces.
I am beyond ecstatic to have a new collection coming out into the world. I think this is an assembly of strong stories, and I look forward to getting feedback from writers.
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Stop by Mark’s Amazon page and keep an eye out for the book: https://amzn.to/2OCdVva
chapter 3 | exit light, enter Rizzo
“Oh my God, turn that fucking thing off!” Joshua shouted over the Obliterator.
“What’s the matter, tough guy?” Morgan chided.
Jamal leaned forward, his head between the front seats, to address Josh and Morgan. “Tell me you have an ETA on your unit.”
“Aren’t you having fun? It’s like Camp of the Damned.” Joshua laughed at his attempted humor.
“Yeah, I’ve seen that film; it doesn’t end well—at least not for us.”
Morgan leaned over and smacked the back of Joshua’s head. “Stop being such a goofball, Josh. Tell the poor man how soon the cavalry will arrive.”
Josh laughed and glanced at his watch. “They should be here any minute.”
The distant sound of moans wafted up from the darkening sky.
“Please don’t get dark yet,” Echo whispered, as if to hide her plea. I wrapped my arms around her tiny frame and pulled her into me.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let anything hurt you.”
The words took me back to broken promises from the past. Susan—another young girl I’d promised to protect. That failure would eat at my heart for eternity. The only thing to be done was to finally make good on a similar promise and ensure nothing happened to Echo.
So far, so good.
“By the way, what’s the plan once we’re gassed up and on the road?” Jamal spoke softly. I loved that about him, how he always knew when to effect peace in a room—one of his many gifts.
“The plan hasn’t changed,” I started. “We hunt down and kill the Zero Day Collective and reclaim Jacob.”
Echo shuddered. “Jesus, when you put it that way it makes Jacob seem more property than prophet.”
The sentiment cut sharply. The thought that Jacob would ever be seen as a commodity to be tossed back and forth between enemy lines was insane. He was my baby, my joy, my hope for life. The idea threatened to spiral me down into emotional withdrawal. I had to change the subject before I reached critical psychological mass.
“Speaking of which,” I added, as I focused my attention back to the laptop, “I need to see if the tracker has any hits.”
It has always been rumored that technology would eventually be the ultimate demise of man. The singularity would occur and machines would take over. The tiniest fragment of my intelligence begged me to consider it possible the singularity had finally arrived—in human form. The lowest common denominator had won out and would overtake the planet with predictable stupidity and greed. Ignorance and power were the new currency.
I propped the laptop back on my lap and minimized the Obliterator application. In its place came the tracker. The application ran in the background, collecting tons of data from the network at large. Any time specific suspect words were captured, traveling across the global network of connected computers and communication satellites, a flag would be raised and the data packets logged. Once the tracker had collected enough data, I could sift through the information and begin piecing together the location of the Zero Day Collective and Jacob. It was only a matter of time before they appeared on my radar. The NSA and Sherlock Holmes had nothing on me.
As soon as the tracker window was open, Jamal peered over my shoulder, his eyes wide and his mouth agape. I could feel his warm breath on my neck as my eyes ripped through the information. A pattern started to develop.
Zero Day Collective.
40.0176 degrees North.
105.2797 degrees West.
“Bethany,” Jamal whispered, “that’s Boulder, Colorado. But what does it mean by “Mobile unit”?”
“Well, Jamal, I would assume it means that whoever is sending out these communications happens to be on some sort of mobile Zero Day Collective biological unit. In other words, it’s moving.”
Jamal sighed. “So getting a fixed location isn’t likely.”
Jamal grinned. “Yes, but…if you get a number of consecutive coordinates, you can at least predict where the unit will be at a given time. Of course, that would require knowing what type of unit and at what speed they were traveling.”
Before Jamal could continue, I silenced him with a palm to the lips.
“Joshua, how quickly can you get us to Boulder?”
Josh laughed. “At this rate it’ll take, oh, forever!”
Again, Morgan smacked Josh across the back of the head.
“I’m just fucking with you. We get back up to speed soon, and I can have you there in a day…tops.”
“B, what do you have in mind?”
Before I could answer Jamal, a soul-destroying roar ripped through the truck. The prehistoric release was followed by the shattering of glass and a pale arm reaching into the truck. Dirty, blood-soaked fingers tangled deep into Echo’s hair and yanked hard. Echo released a cry that was almost too high in pitch to hear as the arm pulled her head toward the shattered glass.
“What the hell? The Obliterator is running strong.” Josh shouted, as he gave the volume knob for the Obliterator one last turn.
“Oh my God, look at its ears,” was all Morgan needed to say.
Blood was caked around both ears. A thick, viscous liquid bubbled from the holes on the side of his head.
“The fucker cracked his skull on the cement until he went deaf,” Joshua added. “Perfect immunity to the power of the Obliterator.”
The beast gave another tug that pulled Echo’s head nearer the shattered window. Echo’s arms flailed outward to thwart the thing’s attempts at commandeering her skull.
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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014
AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list, updated daily:
All stories have a genesis, a birthing into the world from writers’ minds, through their fingertips and into their computer (or onto paper for those who still write first drafts longhand). In part one of this essay I wrote about how I came up with the idea for my novel People of the Ethereal Realm and a bit about the writing process. If you haven’t done so already, you can read part one at Craig Saunders’ blog. I’ll be here waiting for you when you’re finished.
People of the Ethereal Realm was published as my second novel, however it was the first novel I’d written. That’s not to say that I didn’t have opportunities for the book to be published before Post Mortem Press released it in July. Bringing this book into the world began with several years of false alarms and disappointments that taught me a lot about the small press in the process.
So, after selling a number of short stories, I’d written my first novel, and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. I hit the Web and searched for viable publishers to send my manuscript. This was before Post Mortem Press had opened for business, so they weren’t yet on my radar. I’d sent the manuscript to a number of publishers, some of whom I had short stories published with, others with a sparkling clean reputation, and yet others I had little knowledge of. The first thing I learned (something I should have learned from submitting short stories) was that research, particularly concerning unknown publishers, is a must. I also learned to go with my gut, to listen to my heart. To ignore intuition is a fool’s game.
So I had several poles in the water and I got a bite from a publisher—whose name will remain concealed—that I had no prior experience with. They emailed a contract that could have been an offer on a new house it was so big. I read every word of it, mostly the same jargon typical of a publishing contract. They offered a twenty-five dollar advance, and then later in the contract I was given the option to have my advance applied to the cost of the twenty books I was required to purchase at full price within a certain number of days after publication.
Let that sink in for a second. How much is the average price for a trade paperback? Somewhere around fifteen dollars give or take a buck.
I was shocked, so I ran a Google search (yep, should have done that first!), and found a great deal of bitching and complaining about this publisher. They were a pay-to-play gig, and from what I read, they didn’t put much force behind their horror titles, as evidenced on their website where there were plenty of thriller and romance but no horror novels to be seen. This is what I mean about following intuition. That had struck me as strange from the get go.
Needless to say, I politely rejected the contract and waited for bites from the other poles I had in the great pond of small press publishing.
Soon enough another publisher emailed me with an acceptance letter, contract to follow. The contract never showed up and they were unresponsive to my emails. As of this writing, they seemed to have fallen off the face of the planet. Dodged a bullet there, I suppose.
I was beginning to think that this book was destined for disaster.
Next I sent the manuscript to Twisted Library Press. I’d had many a story published in their anthologies and even edited two of them (was taking submissions for a third anthology at the time). I could see the signs on the wall, beginning with so many anthology submission calls that there would be no way for a publisher to possibly follow through with each one. I also saw that there was what seemed like an equal number of novels to be published by an ever-growing list of imprints. But still I submitted my novel when I should have taken a moment to realize what was very clear.
The book sat in limbo for a year. The cover had been designed, it had gone through an editing process, and I had even started promoting it. The contract expired and soon after Twisted Library Press became defunct.
So People of the Ethereal Realm was destined for disaster … or maybe not.
During the period of time that I had edited anthologies for Twisted Library, I discovered a brand new publisher: Post Mortem Press. I sent Eric Beebe a story and it was published in their debut anthology Uncanny Allegories. My novella “Cemetery Tour” was included in the PMP release The Road to Hell, as well as a few more shorts in other anthologies.
Having been with PMP from the beginning, I’d watched them grow. It was all the research I needed. In Eric Beebe I found a trusting publisher and a man of determination and dedication. I submitted my manuscript, and when I received the acceptance letter, I knew that People of the Ethereal Realm was finally destined for something good.
I learned a lot during the process of getting this book published, but I am no fool and realize that there is so much more to be learned in the strange and sometimes discouraging world of publishing.
On a final note, I would like to thank Ken Cain for being gracious enough to allow me the use of his blog. I appreciate it, man!
What is the anatomy of a solid character?
Generally, that depends on the character, but every solid character must have a few basic things in common.
First and foremost, a solid character needs mass.
For example, ghosts, while they can certainly be well-rounded, entertaining, scary, or sympathetic, just aren’t solid. They walk through walls, fall through floors, disappear in sunlight. It makes them very hard to grab on to, you know, very hard to pin down for anything necessary. As a matter of fact, I don’t think you could put a pin in a ghost because there’s nothing solid to stick!
Actual mass will depend on a variety of factors, but mainly the size of your character. Large characters take up more physical space than, say, small characters. Be sure you remain consistent when writing kids, too. Smaller = less space, but if you’re writing about a juvenile bigfoot, for instance, its mass will be more than a juvenile human of the same age. Cuz, you know, it’s a BIGFOOT.
So, after adding the proper mass, you’ve got a pretty solid character on your hands. But solid doesn’t just mean owning a physical space, having some sort of cosmic address where a body is parked. No, it’s also about the correct bits & pieces being in place. So that means if you’re writing about an alien with three eyes and a tail, you need to make sure those are present and accounted for, always. Tails swish, they flick, people trip over them. While some people trip over nothing, or their own feet, it’s much more likely they’re going to trip over something solid. Everyone knows this.
This same rules apply for writing humans. The women and men characters need to have the proper parts. If needed, switch these parts around, of course, but they need still be present. And switched around means women can have male parts and vice versa, just tucked away where they should be, not, say, sprouting from their foreheads like a unicorn’s horn or reminiscent of a porcupine joke I once heard.
So we’ve covered mass and each character having the proper pieces for what they are. We’ve also seen that you’re allowed to shuffle them around when needed. Think of each character like a Potato Head doll: holes in the arms, legs, head, face, eyes. Put things where they need to go to fit your story.
Seriously, folks, it’s that easy to have proper anatomy on a solid character.
My serious answer to this question, which certainly includes all of the above, is that the anatomy of a solid character is quite simple.
It boils down to duality.
I’ve never known a single person who is all good or all bad (and I use those terms relatively) and that’s what you have to bring to the table when you write characters. You have to recognize that while this character is certainly the baddie, there’s a reason for that. Just like every super hero has an origin story, so does every villain. The villain may very well like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, which aren’t very villainous things at all. But if the villain is nothing but mean and vile, then some of the mass is lost, some of those solid bits you want to stick a pin in.
Conversely, your good guy may shoot a kid in the face and then go home and hug his own.
If you know the goals, motivations, and loves of both your antagonist and protagonist, you essentially have a story tree with two thick, healthy, branches. You can use the leaves from either branch to tell a damn good story. Now, apply the goals, motivations, and loves to your secondary players, give them the same treatment. Now your story tree grows more branches that produce more and more leaves until you have a natural, beautiful canopy through which to stream the sunlight of your story.
***You can pick up Chris’ books through AMAZON.
(Want to take part in a single question interview? Contact me for your question.)