“In the Bloodstream” Interview with Mark Taylor

I’m hopping across the pond to do my first international interview with Mark Taylor, one of the authors featured in the horror and dark fantasy anthology, “In the Bloodstream”, now available in eBook and paperback from Mocha Memoirs Press.

ER: Welcome to the blog, Mark. Tell us about yourself and your “Bloodstream” story.

MT: Well, I’m a writer from the south of England. I’ve been writing for some time now. I started with short work and have now moved on to longer projects as a whole. I’ve got my first novel coming out in a couple of months. But I still write shorts…love writing shorts.

I found, when writing The Risen Within, that the story changed. It grew as I wrote. I never intended for it to be the way it was, but I can’t say too much more. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

ER: Is writing horror different from other genres? What makes a great horror (or dark fantasy) tale?

MT: Horror is a whole different ball game to other genres. Heck, all genres are different to others in one way or another. Horror doesn’t need to be say, plot heavy, like a thriller. It needs only to draw in the reader, chew them up, and spit them out again, leaving them dribbling in the corner.

Full of terror.

But hey, plot’s a bonus, right? (ER: A pretty nice one, I think.)

ER: Do you have a day job or do you write full time? Would we be surprised by what you do for a living?

MT: Full time elsewhere, I’m afraid. Boring old office job. I dream about killing customers quite often though.

ER: What scares you?

MT: I’m afraid of the breakdown of society, the underlying turbulence that uneasy governments hide from us, the constant threat of war, and the denial of basic human rights to those that need help most.

And spiders. (ER: They are terrifying. All those legs…)

ER: How do you stay motivated to finish projects? How do you stay inspired to create new ideas?

MT: I find that if a story has characters I like, or like to hate, the story pretty much bursts out of me. My biggest problem is re-starting if I have to stop. Life sometimes gets in the way and I’ve had to stop for a couple of weeks. Then I’m reticent to start again. Afraid that I won’t ‘have’ it anymore. Then I wonder what ‘it’ is. And if I’m not careful I spend six months procrastinating on those questions while staring at a blank page.

My inspiration? It is all around me. (Insert: I see dead people reference).

ER: You’re going to the gallows. What’s your last meal?

MT: Fried Chicken/Chicken Kebab/Roast Chicken. It’s chicken, all right?

Who, me?
Who, me?

ER: Tell us something unusual or interesting about yourself.

MT: I once misplaced my bathrobe for three weeks and was utterly lost without it. We have since been reunited and have never been happier.

(ER: I’m happy for you both.)

ER: What’s your next project? Will you share with us?

MT: Argh! Where to start? I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. Next will be more from The Devil’s Hand series, and then I’ve got an anthology of my own work in editing which I intend to self pub, and my second novel, Vampire Blue, is about halfway through.

Cover for Book One of  Mark's The Devil's Hand series, Crossing Guard.
Cover for Book One of
Mark’s The Devil’s Hand
series, Crossing Guard.

ER: What’s missing in fiction?  What (and who) do you like to read?

MT: Oddities. Bizzaro. I like literary fiction, really, but every now again I like to read something that’s so way out I can’t tear my eyes from it. I just don’t think there is enough of it out there.

ER: Do you research your topics?

MT: I always research that which other people know. For example, if I’m setting a part of a story in a real place, I’ll always do some research so I know where I’m at. You can’t do it all on the Internet, but at least you can get a feel for a place, if not a smell.

ER: What’s your biggest vice?

MT: Beer.

ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?

MT: I’m a film aficionado. Love film.

And beer.

ER: I always picture writers with a beverage close at hand.  What’s your poison?

MT: Did I mention beer?

ER: Any suggestions for aspiring writers out there?

MT: Don’t aspire. Be.

ER: Excellent advice! For more on Mark Taylor’s work, views on writing, and favorite beer selections, visit him at:

Mark author pic

http://www.facebook.com/Mark.Taylor.Author

http://www.authormarktaylor.com

All Hallows Read

I’m sad to say I wasn’t more on the front end of this movement, but now that I know about All Hallows Read, I’m definitely pushing it. Thanks to the talented author and editor, Jeri Walker-Bickett I am up to date on this phenomenon.

Here’s a clip of Author Neil Gaiman explaining AHR for those that don’t know.  (I didn’t.) http://www.allhallowsread.com/

So, if you were too busy to watch the clip, here’s the gritty: Give a scary book to someone for Halloween.

(Age appropriate, of course.)

What book, you ask? Here is a list of creepy titles from my personal collection:

The Tell Tale Heart and Other Writings – Edgar Allan Poe

Classic. Enough said. Get a copy. Or give it.

Well worn. Well loved.  I like this cover better than the one up on Amazon.
Well worn.
Well loved.
I like this cover better than the one up on Amazon.

My Soul to Keep – Tananarive Due

Stephen King loved this novel, calling it an eerie epic.  Can’t say it better than that.

Nightmares in Dixie: 13 Horror Tales from the American South – Various authors

Still reading this one. (Read “The Wait” by Kit Reed.  Chilling.)  A treat to myself from a local bookstore, The Last Word.

Soul Temple – Stephen Lee Climer

I think this title is out of print, so if you see it used, get it.  I got it from a bookstore that is no longer in business.

Summer Chills – Various authors

Lots of tales that will have you rethinking that vacation.

Hall of Twelve – Rebecca Besser

Think women don’t write gory, visceral horror?  Meet Rebecca.

Lord Loss: The Demonata #1 – Darren Shan

YA that doesn’t read like YA. Shan has a creepy imagination and a way of describing things what makes your skin crawl. And he’s a nice guy. I met him at a signing at Park Road Books.  (Yeah, I love indie bookstores.)

Halloween Horrors  – Various authors

Short stories by some of the masters along with true Halloween tales that let you know how these authors get their inspiration.

So celebrate All Hallows Read and give someone a scary book to read this Halloween.  And candy.  Don’t forget the candy.

“In the Bloodstream” Interview with John F. Allen

Now available in eBook and paperback, “In the Bloodstream” is an anthology of 31 short stories of dark fantasy and horror available from Mocha Memoirs Press.

Next on the list of authors visiting the blog is John F. Allen.

ER: Hi, John. Welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself and your “Bloodstream” story.

JA: I was born, raised and currently reside in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’m married with two children and I’m also a visual artist as well as an author. My story is titled, “HoodRatz” and is my first foray into dark horror. It is a cautionary tale about a young woman who wants to escape the life she has for a better one. She doesn’t appreciate what she has and ends up getting a bit more than she bargained for. It’s in the, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it” vein.

ER: Why did you start writing? What drew you specifically to horror?

JA: I began writing in second grade. I am a HUGE fan of comic books and adventure stories. What I read in those comics and novels, sparked a creative vibe in me that led me to creating my own characters and my own worlds. I liked to read as an escape from the confines of my reality. Certain unpleasant events occurred during my childhood and I used writing as a tool to focus my imagination and escape to another world where I was in control.

I think I have been drawn to horror mainly due to the Universal Monster Movies such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc… My earliest inspirations came from those films/stories. I also became a fan of Stephen King, John Saul and Dean Koontz early on.

ER: Do you have a day job or do you write full time? Would we be surprised by what you do for a living? 

JA: I do have a day job, I work at a book store. I don’t think that this will be surprising to anyone. I also work in business writing, sell my artwork on commission and draw caricatures at events.

ER: What scares you?

JA: Losing the ones I love.

ER: What’s your next project? Will you share with us?

JA: I’m currently working on the follow up to my debut novel, The God Killers. Book II in the Ivory Blaque urban fantasy series is titled “The Conclave.” I also have a couple of novella series and short stories in the works.

Take a gander at the  cover art for Book One  of John's Ivory Blaque series
Take a gander at the
cover art for Book One
of John’s Ivory Blaque series

ER: Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist?

JA: Yes, I always listen to music while I’m writing. It helps to keep me company and ease tension. My playlist is very eclectic to say the least. There are far too many individual artists to name, but the following is a music genre list:

  • Pop/Light Rock
  • R&B
  • Old School Hip Hop
  • Disco
  • Jazz
  • Blues

ER: What authors/artists inspire you?

JA: Here’s the short list:

  • Robert B. Parker
  • Terri McMillan
  • Walter Mosley
  • Toni Morrison
  • Eric Jerome Dickey
  • L.A. Banks
  • Stephen King

◦        Laurell K. Hamilton

◦        Tom Clancy

  • Boris Vallejo
  • George R.R. Martin
  • Faith Hunter (ER: I know Faith!)
  • Ben Bova
  • Louis L’Amour

ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing? What do you love most?

JA: I’d say for me, the most difficult part of writing is having more ideas/stories to tell than time. I often have to sit months, years even, on story ideas that I’m truly excited about, due to time constraints.

What I love most about writing is that I can express myself and live vicariously through my characters. I also love the idea that I can possibly give my readers an avenue of escape and exploration through reading my work.

ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?

JA: I draw and paint, spend time with my family & friends, work at a bookstore and most importantly, I sleep.

ER: Any suggestions for aspiring writers out there?

JA: Follow your dreams and don’t let the world or anyone in it deter you from them. I’d also say that aspiring writer should heed the advice in the following quotes, which are two of my favorites.

“There’s way too much pain in this business (writing) for anyone who doesn’t have to write. I always tell beginning writers, ‘If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.'”

                                                        ~ R.A. Salvatore

If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

~ Toni Morrison

ER: Thanks for sharing your work and your views on writing, John. If you’d like to know more about John, try connecting with him using these links:

John Allen Pic

http://johnfallenwriter.com/blog/

https://twitter.com/johnfallen1970

https://www.facebook.com/johnfallenwriter

“In the Bloodstream” Interview with Tom Olbert

Next up on my list of interviews with the authors of “In the Bloodstream: An Anthology of Dark Fantasy and Horror” is Thomas Olbert.

ER: Tom, welcome. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me on the blog. Tell us a bit about yourself and your “Bloodstream” story.

TO: Thank you.  I’ve been writing science fiction and dark fantasy pretty much my whole life.  My “Bloodstream” story is “Blood of the Chosen.”  It’s a short supernatural shocker that takes place in a hospital on a dark, rainy Halloween night in a small American town.  To fit in with the anthology and the time of year, I just had to write a story that centered around blood transfusions and Halloween.  I confess I go for visceral effects when writing a story like this.  If you like movies like “Alien” or John Carpenter’s “The Thing” you’ll probably like this one.

Sigourney Weaver is one bad...                ::Shut your mouth::     I'm just talking about Alien...
Sigourney Weaver is one bad…          ::Shut your mouth:                            I’m just talking about Alien…

ER: Why did you start writing?  What drew you specifically to horror?

TO: I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer since my earliest memories of childhood.  I had no choice, really.  I was drawn more to sci-fi than horror, but as a kid, I liked both.  I guess most kids do.  I always watched those old Universal horror classics (I still do, even now being aware of how hokey they were.)  I was also crazy about the TV show “Dark Shadows.”  There’s just something compelling about the dark unknown and about stepping beyond established reality.

ER: Is writing horror different from other genres? What makes a great horror (or dark fantasy) tale?

TO: The really great ones are the ones that tap into your most primal fears and keep you looking into the closet for the next few nights.  If that can be combined with the added element of a true human connection or heartfelt message within the story, then even better.  I guess horror is unique in that its primary goal is to make the reader face his or her own mortality.

ER: What scares you?

TO: There’s plenty out there to scare everybody (or should.)  There’s the everyday horror of being robbed or murdered.  There’s the distant (but fast approaching) apocalyptic horror that comes every time you hear about another flood or storm or wildfire.  And, there’s the irrational fear of the dark and the creaking floorboards at night that remains a part of us, however rationally our minds function in the light of day.

ER: How do you stay motivated to finish projects? How do you stay inspired to create new ideas?

TO: Once you’ve invested a lot of time and sweat into a project, you know you have to finish it.  You owe that to yourself.  You want to find out if the idea was valid.  (And, hopefully, to learn from it if it wasn’t.)  Ideas come on their own.  Like germs, they can come from anywhere, infect and spread.  Unlike germs, you just keep hoping you never develop an immunity.

I thought this was a good  place to show the cover. Rather shamelessly, I might add...
I think this is a good
place to show the cover.
Rather shamelessly, I might add…

ER: What’s your next project?  Can you share with us?

TO:  I’m currently working on a novella-length science fiction called “Wages of Truth.”  It deals with science vs. religion in a new dark age of the very distant future.  The protagonist is a soldier in a time of sectarian war.  He has to complete a personal journey that takes him from blind adherence to religious dogma toward rational enlightenment and freedom.  He tries to make his world a better place, but his hardest fight is with himself.  It’s very action-oriented, plenty of high-octane, big-screen type sci-fi but its purpose is introspection and character development.

ER: What authors/artists inspire you?

TO: I grew up reading Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Stanislaw Lem.  Three authors of science fiction, but with styles as different as you could imagine.  I always loved the worlds they took me to and longed for more. Orwell’s “1984” and Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” – now, those were scary visions of the future.  More recently, I’ve tried the old masters, like Dickens and Hemmingway, and Kafka.  (The ones I can’t ever measure up to, but always dream of trying.)

ER: What’s the most difficult part of writing? What do you love most?

TO: The most difficult part is getting inside the character’s skin and letting the reader feel everything he or she feels, doing it convincingly, knowing the character deeply enough to make his or her growth through the course of the journey both believable and worth the trip.  When I can pull that off, that’s what I love most.

ER: Do you research your topics?

TO: When necessary, absolutely.

  • (ER: Succinct. I like it!)

ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?

TO: Working.  Looking for work.  Volunteering for candidates and/or causes I care about.

ER: And we’re glad that writing is one of those things.  Check out Tom’s story, “Blood of The Chosen” one of the 31 short horrors you’ll find in MMP’s (Mocha Memoirs Press) anthology “In the Bloodstream” available on Amazon.

Tom’s blog: http://tomolbert.blogspot.com

Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomas.olbert.5

Great British Horror Volume One: A Review

Not just a great read with profits benefitting a worthwhile charity.

A great horror read with profits benefitting a worthwhile charity.  (I haven’t typed that sentence before.)

Great British Horror Volume One is an omnibus of eight complete novellas, featuring some of the strongest voices in UK horror.

"Hey you!"  I mean, "Oi!" Eight novellas. Eight UK authors. Too easy...
“Hey you!” I mean, “Oi!”
Eight novellas.
Eight UK authors.
Too right…

Read the entire review here.

“In the Bloodstream” Interview with Marcia Colette

To celebrate the release of Mocha Memoirs Press’s newest horror offering, I’m interviewing some of the talented authors whose work is featured in the dark fantasy and horror anthology, “In the Bloodstream”, available now at Amazon.

Take a look at the fabulous eBook cover art by Nancy Schuetz:

31 authors, 5 countries, and 31 tales of dark fantasy and horror
31 authors,
5 countries,
and 31 tales of dark fantasy and horror

My first brave soul (read: guinea pig) is the delightfully creepy Marcia Colette, author of “The House on the Corner of Brim and Stone”.

ER:  Marcia, thanks for being here today. Tell us a bit about yourself and your “Bloodstream” story.

MC: I wrote it a while back because my mother asked me to write something nice and sweet like butterflies and angels. Well, I did. Sort of. Minus the butterflies, of course. Anyway, that so-called series didn’t get as far as I had hoped, although I found myself really liking my main character, Yvette, and her backstory.

ER: Is writing horror different from other genres? What makes a great horror (or dark fantasy) tale?

MC: For me, it’s the edge-of-your-seat feel. Like you don’t know what’s going to happen next and want to look away, but can’t. But give me a good twist at the end, and it’s like the nail in the coffin. I guess that’s why I always liked shows like Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. (ER: Two of my favorites!)

ER: Do you have a day job or do you write full time? Would we be surprised by what you do for a living?

MC: I have a full-time job as an IT manager. The places I’ve worked and stories I could tell would probably be the things that surprise you the most. And before you ask, yes, I model my characters after people I’ve worked with. The only rule I have is that I can’t model them after anyone I currently work with. Anyone from my past is fair game.

ER: What scares you?

MC: Ghosts. I can take anything else, but ghosts will have me running faster than a legion of starved-out zombies at a pig pickin’.  (ER: LOL!)

ER: You’re going to the gallows. What’s your last meal?

MC: Something with GHB in it. I don’t want to feel or know a thing.

ER: What’s your next project? Will you share with us?

MC: I’m actually working on a follow-up story called The Light at the End of Judgement and Day. It picks up a few weeks after Yvette has moved into her new home.

ER: What authors/artists inspire you?

MC: I’m a huge fan of Kelly Armstrong and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Also, I’ve recently discovered Richelle Mead. But, I pretty much cut my teeth on John Saul and Bentley Little. They were my first loves.

ER: What do you do when you’re not writing?

MC: I’m playing with my three-year-old daughter who shocks me from time to time with words that are bigger than her. And she actually uses them in the right context, which is scarier. Perhaps my next horror story needs to feature scary toddler.  (ER:  I’d be scared.)

ER: I always picture writers with a beverage close at hand.  What’s your poison?

MC: General Foods International French Vanilla Cafe. Either that or a cup of French Vanilla Cappuccino. But the GFI is easier to make. Oh, and during winter, I tend to sway more toward hot chocolate made with warm milk and whip cream. Yeah, no alcoholic beverages in my future, although I don’t let that hold my characters back.

For those chilly mornings, I tend to be more of a soy cappuccino girl, myself.
For those chilly mornings,
I tend to be more of a
soy cappuccino girl, myself.

ER: What’s your goal for your writing?

MC: To reach as many people as possible and pick up a few million fans so I can quit my day job. It’s really cutting into my writing time.

ER: Marcia, thank you so much for being in the blog today.  And for being my first blog interview. I wish you the best with reaching your goal.

If you’d like to know more about Marcia’s other work or want her hot chocolate recipe, visit her at:

Website: www.marciacolette.com

Blog: http://marciacolette.wordpress.com

Follow her! http://twitter.com/MarciaColette

Friend her! https://www.facebook.com/marciacolette

Increase your Chances of Getting Published

Most new authors try to make a good impression on publishers. It’s important to put your work in the best light before you send it out into the world.

When I took on the task of submissions editor for a press, I was looking forward to the job: reading the stories, possibly giving someone their first publication. It was exciting to find an avenue of the writing game that I hadn’t yet experienced.

But those highs came with some low lows. Like Barry White with a chest cold low.

I found that not all writers put their best foot forward.  Now that may be lack of knowledge or experience. We’ve all been there.

So I decided to write this post. While it contains my (somewhat strong) opinions on how to submit your work to a publisher, I’ve decided to soften it with pictures of kittens.

There are some situations where writers kill their chances of getting published before the editor or slush reader even looks at their story.  A large part of that is completely preventable. Always make sure that you (trumpet fanfare):

Read the submission information closely.

Read it closely. Read it again.  Read it again before you hit "Send".
Read it closely.
Read it again.
Read it again before you hit “Send”.

It should be all there. What the publisher is looking for in a story. The genre. How it should be formatted. And there is usually a place to ask questions, if you find something hasn’t been addressed in the call for submissions. If you’re already a famous author, you may not have to make as significant an impression as the author trying to make a name in the industry.

Editors get an enormous amount of submissions and they—like everyone else—hate for their time to be wasted.

Here are a few more things I came across while compiling my first anthology that I ask you NEVER EVER do when sending in your work to a publisher.

Don’t: Send in a story that is outside of the genre the publisher wants. Most publishers are extremely clear on this point.

Don’t: Send in a story that is outside of the publisher’s word count, even if it is by 100 words. Some publishers will have wiggle room and ask that you send in a query if your tale is longer (or shorter) than their stated requirements. In this case, asking permission is better than asking forgiveness.

Don’t: Send in previously published work unless the publisher states they are accepting reprints. If your story has already been published (even if it’s on your blog or self-published) don’t send it in if you see “no reprints” listed.

Don’t: Send the same story to multiple publishers unless it is stated that “simultaneous submissions” are accepted.

             Reason: Publishers don’t like it if you tell them another publisher has already accepted a story they have offered to publish. (It’s kind of like offering to save a seat for someone but it’s gone when the person comes back.) Don’t think they’ll remember? Chances are they will.

Don’t: Give the editor a lot of choices. It makes you look unsure about your work. (Which you may be, but they don’t need to know that.)

             For example: Don’t send in three versions of the same story or five different titles for one story because “they all sounded good”. Many times, the slush reader will pass on all of them.  When submitting, choose one version of your piece and one title. It may take some time, but it’s the most professional way to do things and publishers like to work with authors that take their work seriously.

I want to end on a positive note so I’d like to list one DO:

Have confidence when you send in your writing. Don’t tell the publisher that you don’t have much faith or hope that your story will get accepted. Instead, share your concerns with a friend or family member. Better yet, get a Beta reader to give you feedback on your story so you can make changes if need be.

What do you think of this part? Does it make sense? How about the dialogue?
What do you think of this part?
Does it make sense?
How about the dialogue?

Perhaps the most important suggestion of all is to keep trying! Understand that you will face obstacles and continue to push through them. Learn to love writing, being a writer and all that comes with it.

Almost there... Almost... I've got it.

Almost there…
Almost…
I’ve got it.

Happy writing (and submitting)!