Nightmare Magazine Launched Today!

While many of you may be aware of this new venture from John Joseph Adams and Creeping Hemlock Press, I wanted to share a little about the magazine for those who love horror and hasn’t yet heard about it.

From the official press release:

Nightmare is an online horror and dark fantasy magazine. In Nightmare’s pages, you will find all kinds of horror fiction, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror.

Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Nightmare will bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Nightmare, it is our hope that you’ll see where horror comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.

Nightmare will also include nonfiction, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories. The publication schedule each month will include two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with a feature interview, an artist gallery showcasing our cover artist, and our monthly column about horror, “The H Word.” We will publish ebook issues on the first of every month, which will be available for sale in ePub format via our website and also available in other formats such as Kindle and Nook. We will also offer subscriptions to our ebook edition in a variety of formats. Each issue’s contents will be serialized on our website throughout the month, with new features publishing on the first four Wednesdays of every month.

To find out more:

Subscribe: www.nightmare-magazine.com/subscribe

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Haunted House Virtual Tour: V.R. Christensen & B. Lloyd

Here we are on our next stop on the Haunted House Virtual Tour (by kind permisson of Gwen Perkins), to promote our ghost novellas Blind and Ungentle Sleep (by V.R.Christensen and B.Lloyd respectively), where we ‘visit’ one of the famous houses in ‘mock’ gothic literature: this time, you can try guessing the place from the anagram at the beginning, or wait until you have read to the end …

The Anagram: Cats rant foot to heel

***

ImageGrunt, umph, ouch.

Bump.

Scritch, scratch, rumph,umph.

Bump.

‘Right lads,’ said Geremia, standing back and wiping the sweat from his brow, ‘I think that will do. The Master didn’t specify exactly which way it should be facing.’

‘Hideous great thing it is, too,’ puffed one of the workmen, bending over with hands on hips.

‘Ay, it is – what passes for taste among the gentry, so keep a civil tongue in your head and there’ll be food and drink in the kitchen for you.’

Geremia turned and led the way to well-earned refreshments, and they left the giant suit of armour in the hall. It squeaked a little as its components settled back into position …

Hooves clattered across cobbles, wheels squealed and coachmen cursed – guests had arrived at the castle and there was a deal of running about, shouting and expletives before normality was in any way regained. Late morning and half the rooms not made ready yet: servants rushed about with coal scuttles, jugs and brooms, colliding into the furniture while the new arrivals struggled up and downstairs in search of their allotted chambers.

Geremia had thought it prudent to stand on the upper landing with notice boards indicating the directions to be followed:

‘Lord Fontana, straight ahead, turn left at end of corridor’

‘Sir Montague and Lady Montague, turn right at top of stairs and proceed to the third door on the left’

‘Duke Saltimbocca, other wing, directly over the kitchens for your olefactory delight’

and so forth – yet despite this attention to detail, the guests still managed to lose their way and generally ended up wandering disconsolately along the winding corridors, coming upon each other in alcoves and balconies and apologising at the same time.

‘After you,’

‘No,no, pray, after you,’

‘Not at all – after you …’

Come afternoon and confusion had given way to chaos as preparations were made for the dinner: ‘Who is the dinner for, again?’ asked Lady Montague of her spouse. ‘Blessed if I can remember,’ he replied, and hallooed Lord Fontana. ‘Any idea what the do is for?’

‘I believe there is a wedding in the offing,’ replied that gentleman, taking a pinch of snuff.

‘Ah of course it is – old whathisname’s daughter – or niece, was it? No, daughter, I think – to er, that, er, . . .thingummy . .’

‘I believe you are correct,’ replied the Lord, before sneezing into a huge handkerchief.

A gong was sounded as a reminder for the dinner and there was a general hasty rush to find best seats at table; after some scrambling and contesting over napkins and goblets, guests were seated, Duke Saltimbocca nearest to the roast beef, cutlery at the ready.

‘A toast ! A toast to the happy couple!’ cried out the host, raising a glass when he was interrupted by his butler, footmen and maids, who came running into the hall in a state of wild disarray.Image

‘Why, what has happened? Has there been an accident? Is the kitchen?’

‘Miscreants! Have you burned the dinner?!’ exclaimed Saltimbocca, much disturbed at the thought.

‘Nay, ‘tis a great deal worse –’

‘Worse?’ remonstrated Saltrimbocca.

‘Come, come,’ said their host, ‘explain please –’

‘Why sir,’ said the butler, ‘there is a mighty monstrous creature a clanging and a banging about the castle hall – we none of us dare approach it for fear it should crush us – look – and listen – it approacheth!’

Indeed, as everyone stopped to listen, there was an eery, metallic, rasping sound in the distance, magnified and distorted by the stone walls of the ancient castle, accompanied by mournful cries of an inhuman quality most chilling to the blood.

Closer and closer came the steps –

‘Mercy me, are we to be murdered as we eat?’ gasped Lady Montague.

There was a great din, a shouting and screaming and a knocking over of dishes and glasses – as all ran pell-mell from the hall to stand quavering in the courtyard, gasping and muffling their cries as the sound of the footsteps approached, nearer and nearer . . .

On and on they came, clamp, clump, clamp, accompanied by a mild squeaking of rusty metal; the armour had not been oiled these many years and added a certain tortured element to the general atmosphere of horror.

‘Oh my dear, I shall faint…’ murmured Lady Montague, and prepared to fall.

‘Eh?’ replied her Lord, and failed quite completely to catch her, for which she duly reprimanded him afterwards.

‘Hush! It will hear us!’

‘Too late!’

‘It’s coming! It’s coming!’

A monstrous suit of armour clanked on into the courtyard, waving its arms in a most threatening manner, emitting awful, chilling moans and groans, barely audible under the wave of terrified cries emitted by the crowd.

‘Pshaw!’ finally said Duke Saltimbocca, who had only consumed barely half his dinner and was still peckish – he stood forward and drew his sword.

‘Speak, phantom!’ he addressed the suit of armour. ‘Tell us your business with us mortals!’

The suit of armour stood still, and waved its arms weakly about, letting out another foreboding ululation.

‘Speak the language of mortals, dammit!’ shouted the choleric Saltimbocca, impatient to return indoors to finish his dinner; he stamped forward and brandished his sword at the monstrous apparition – which appeared to be taken somewhat aback, indeed, staggered a little, then pointed upwards – to its own helmeted head.

‘Muffuffle whuffle phummple,’ came the dolorous tones.

‘Incoherent apparition – what would you have of us?’

‘Whiumple grumble flooble,’ continued the apparition, still moving its arms in windmill action.

‘Hah!’ responded the Duke, now thoroughly incandescent, and swiped at the creature’s helmet with his sword, admidst shrieks and shouts from the rest of the gathering. He managed only to topple the helmet from its moorings atop the breastplate, revealing . . . revealing . . .

‘Oh my dear sir, I am much obliged.’ A longish, pale, narrowish face, with wavy hair somewhat untidily held by a black ribbon, managed barely to peer out from the depths of the armour. ‘And now, if you will assist me with the removal of these gauntlets – and the greaves – most kind …’

‘But – but – but – ’ Lord Montague began.

‘You sir! Who are you ?’ demanded the Duke,

‘And how did you come to be inside that wretched thing?’

‘Ah, now, as to that . . . curiosity must take the blame – curiosity in the name of research; I have often wondered how the knights of old managed to move in combat in these harnesses, and on espying the prime example placed on display in the hall, I endeavoured to try it on; only, once tested, I found it less easy to divest, and my valet, less studied in these matters than even I, was unable to let me out again – so I have been obliged to wander these walls in search of someone to assist me.’

‘Pah!’ went the Duke, and stormed off in direction of the dining hall – ‘the roast beef will be cold by now!’ and he growled as he went.

‘Dear, dear,’ said the gentleman, now half out of the armour, ‘I fear I may have interrupted your dinner – my apologies.’

‘Not at all – it is, after all, in the name of scientific research: but might we have the pleasure of your acquaintance?’ Once the initial shock had dispersed, Lord Fontana regained his normal aplomb and was intrigued to know more.

‘Ah – my pardon, sir; -’ The gentleman whisked out a card and presented it to the Lord. Across it was emblazoned the name: Walpole, H. 4th Earl of Orford.

‘Ah – the man of letters – and on the Tour?’

‘Indeed yes, so my curiosity is even more boundless. This castle, for instance – such a very magnificent building – so very atmospheric – it has quite taken my fancy… I think I might write of my experiences about it . .  although not, perhaps in such an undignified manner as being stuck in a suit of armour . .  let me see . . .’

‘What shall you call it, dear sir?’

‘Why, I might as well call it after the name of this place . . .where are we, by the by?’

‘Allow me to call my servant – Grenouille? Grenouille!’

‘Milord?’

‘Where are we? ‘

‘Milord?’

‘Zis place – vot name?’

‘Milord?’

‘Doh!’

‘Allow me, I shall call mine – Mitraille!’

‘At once, milord!’

‘What is the name of this chateau, Mitraille?’

‘This chateau, milord? Why, it is the chateau d’Otranto, milord.’

‘Capital! That will do! I shall call it The Castle of Otranto . . .’

They continued to chatter amiably as they wandered indoors to the tune of forks and knives already being plied on well-laden plates as the dinner, finally, and to the Duke Saltimbocca’s delight, continued.

Out in the courtyard, the helmet lay in the moonlight, its visor open, for all the world like a monstrous mouth laughing at the night sky. It rolled a little from side to side, caught in a whisper of wind that scurried around, chasing the odd leaf out of corners.

***

This was one ‘visit’ to a gothic place from literature; we hope you enjoyed it – and that you will think about your favourite gothic place in literature; what it would be like to visit, meeting the inhabitants …

And now, two new places on the gothic lit scene await you in Ungentle Sleep by B.Lloyd and Blind by V.R. Christensen –

Links :

Blind : US

http://www.amazon.com/Blind-a-novella-ebook/dp/B007E3SNJ6

Blind : UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blind-V-R-Christensen/dp/0615598005/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347371543&sr=1-1

Ungentle Sleep UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI

Ungentle Sleep US

http://www.amazon.com/Ungentle-Sleep-ebook/dp/B008VIJFLI

Author Interview: Sumiko Saulson

It’s an honor today to welcome Sumiko Saulson to the blog.  Sumiko’s novel, Solitude, is a fascinating examination of the lives of diverse individuals isolated in a San Francisco seemingly void of all other human life. In the absence of others, each journeys into personal web of beliefs and perceptions as they try to determine what happened to them, and the world around them.  I’m happy to have Sumiko here as we delve into some of the concepts and personal histories behind her novel.

Gwen: You open this story with a powerful scene–that of young Margo folding a paper crane with the knowledge that “only a few, martyred youngsters were able to have their stories told.” She folds the crane not because she believes that she’ll save a life but because she empathizes with the Sadako story and the rough life that the girl had. What inspired you to begin here?

Sumiko: Originally, the story didn’t start with that scene, but with the next scene, which establishes another character Angela’s extreme and catalytic resentment towards her ex-husband. I have a tendency to imagine my books as a movie: I blame film school for that, because I spent a year at Film Arts Foundation’s “STAND” program for first time directors learning about story arch and character development. In the little movie “Solitude” I was imagining in my head, where Gerry is being played by a 1990s version of Bruce Willis, the story needed to begin with a lot more character connectedness than Angela’s two-dimensional hatred. Her pain was a bit too forcefully expressed to allow the reader to relate to her very well. I needed a softer touch at the beginning.

I went back and inserted the prologue about half way through the story, when I was in the middle of explaining Margo’s relationship to Josette and her Chihuahua, Crazy. I realized that because she was written as an agoraphobic shut in, Margo was a character with whom people would relate primarily through her internal life. Giving her rich and interesting internal dialog would make her interesting. That was important because she refuses to leave the house: she is a character for whom a decision to go outside is a tremendously big deal. I was a very introverted child, but I became a lot more outgoing as I matured. That is why I decided to make the reader’s connection to Margo begin in her childhood. You could say that Margo is a character with whom I have certain things in common but whose life takes a divergent course from my own. I felt I could write a more convincing narrative by starting at the period in life when Margo and I would have been the most alike. I used books I read as a child to make this connection.

Gwen: There are a number of perspectives that you use to tell this story which makes the world of Solitude incredibly rich with diversity, both in terms of your cast and the scope of the novel. Did you find it challenging to weave a narrative with so many voices? How did you select the voices that you finally used?

Sumiko: The greatest difficulty was in keeping the timeline consistent, because when the narrative switches from one character point of view to another, especially at the beginning of the book, it is talking about something that happens in more or less the same period of time. In the first draft of the book, I switched from perspective to perspective too quickly for some readers to follow. They found it confusing. I was writing these quick-switch edits as an almost reflexive response to my history as a video editor. When you want to show action and excitement in a video or a film, you go back and forth fast, like in a music video. That doesn’t work as well in a novel. The other reason I kept changing points of view quickly was because I hadn’t mastered a way to keep time moving forward when these incidents were occurring at or near the same time. That issue was eventually resolved with the help of the book’s editor, Stephen Douglas.

We worked together to identify a few pieces of writing that would be more effective put together. He had me do a series of re-writes connecting the action during the initial event. For instance, the scene where Shane is on the Bay Bridge when people start disappearing is considerably more action packed than it was the first time around. The same can be said with the scene involving Gerry and the newly feral dogs circling him at Safeway. By the time we were finished with re-writes, the book was 50-pages longer, and the timeline was consistent. Switching character voices in the middle of a major catastrophe such as the event these individuals experience does require a lot of attention to detail with regards to the consistent movement of time. The character voices themselves were not difficult for me: I have been good with characters for quite some time now, but I spent over a decade with great characters that had no story to tell.

Having a story was the hard part.

I’d written a number of shorter works prior to writing Solitude, my first novel. I also attempted to write a novel many years ago, and found myself “stuck” in the middle of it. To avoid getting “stuck” in the middle of Solitude, I developed a rough mental map of where I was going, and how to get to the end. This was my substitute for an outline. It was a notebook filled with character sketches, and I used the traits of any given character to determine how she or he would react in a given situation. That made it easier for me, because when the story wasn’t moving forward, I could switch to a character that would be most likely to react in a way that would cause things to progress and keep me on course.

Gwen: As I was reading, I felt a connection with Margo almost immediately, one that deepened as we progressed into the novel and saw her at an older age. There’s a couple lines that just really hit home for me in particular: “None of these challenges stopped her from making something of her life. In a way, they formed her, created for her a sense of direction.” When I read that, it just resonated. Are there characters that you discovered you had more affinity with as Solitude unfolded?

Sumiko: I am happy to hear that. Margo is a character with whom I have a personal connection due to my own anxiety issues. In a way, I used the character to process a lot of feelings I’ve had related to my disability, and while we are definitely not the same person, we have some challenges in common. I think that my own history deepened my understanding of the character’s challenges. I am not agoraphobic but I do have post traumatic stress disorder and I suffer from social anxiety in crowded places, sort of a lesser version of what she’s dealing with. I wrote her as someone I could relate to, with the hope that the reader might feel the same way. She is not me, but there is enough of me in her for me to feel happy when a reader likes her.

The character I became increasingly connected to throughout the course of the story was Gerry, the homeless guy. He more than makes the most of a bad situation: he acts like a guy who was born to play this role. He’s already used to facing challenges, and he adapts to this situation heroically. The bad situation just happens to have the proper sort of alchemy to bring out the best of him. He’s a diamond formed under pressure.

I also really, really like Rosalind. She was a character I wrote into the story later for continuity, and to keep things moving forward. She is from my parents’ generation, and she sort of embodies everything I have come to love about Baby Boomer chutzpah. She is protective and maternal, but liberated and vital at the same time.

Gwen: Sumiko, I think as authors, we often incorporate small pieces of our own lives into the stories that we tell but they often appear in unusual or surprising ways that are not obvious to anyone who doesn’t know us. Do you agree with me here? Is there a scene with a connection like this that you’d like to tell us about?

Sumiko: Yes. It’s true. The strangest and certainly least obvious connection is between the Chihuahua, Crazy and my calico cat, Marla. I didn’t write the dog as her own character, but readers related to her as such. The dog ended up with her own kind of little fan club – but the dog is based on my cat, Marla. Margo is also named after Marla, and Margo as seen through the eyes of Crazy is exactly as I imagine my cats view me. The sort of impatient affection she has for the dog is similar to my attitude towards my cat: I love her, but sometimes she gets on my nerves, and she was an especially large pain in the butt during the time I was writing the novel Solitude. She was a nine month old feral who had been abandoned by the previous tenant of my apartment. By the time I convinced her to move in she was a year old, which is the age at which the SPCA will formally consider them feral and spay for the catch-and-release program. They said that cats can usually be redomesticated during the first year of life. Almost a year on the dot, she decided to move in. I got her spayed. That didn’t change the fact that she’d started to mark territory, and especially my things because I was “her” human and there is another cat in the home. I got advice from animal experts and they told me to use a spray bottle, so I did. Marla is probably the inspiration for the number of wild evil animals roaming around the San Francisco of Solitude.

When Crazy calls Margo the “Okay Lady” it’s precisely how I thought that Marla felt about me: I mean, I fed her and petted her, but I also let this other cat live in “her” house, and how dare I? I took her to get surgery, and I sprayed her with the water bottle for trying to pee on my blanket, so she might have had mixed feelings about me. Anyway, I think that’s pretty random, and most people wouldn’t make the Crazy/Marla connection even if they knew me.

Angela’s rage over her childless state is more than a nod to my own struggles with fertility. I noticed infertile women or women who regretted not having children showed up on all three of my novels, so I guess that’s something I’ve tried to process through writing.

Gwen: Science fiction can be a powerful medium with which to examine contemporary issues. What influenced your choice to tell this story in that way rather than going with another genre? Do you think that there were particular strengths and/or weaknesses in this choice? Did you ever consider telling it in a different way?

Sumiko: I didn’t set out to write a science-fiction novel. I intended to write horror, but the novel has been categorized in either genre or more frequently, in both. I agree, science fiction has been a popular platform for issues that people are better equipped to face when they involve alien life or robots. Gene Roddenberry practically made a career out of inserting modern political struggles and wars into “Star Trek”, and a lot of the original series episodes deal with civil rights issues regarding both race and feminism. I take up a lot of these issues, but I would be doing so even if I weren’t writing science fiction because I am a woman of color and we all write what we know.

When I first began to shop it around locally, I found myself in a number of conversations about Octavia Butler, because I’m African American and Russian-Jewish American, and I write multicultural characters. I found the comparison both flattering and intimidating: Ms. Butler is largely responsible for the fact that it is becoming increasingly acceptable for women of color to write genre fiction. For a long time, if you were a black woman, you were expected to only write very serious literary fiction. There was an unspoken rule that we all were going to write like Toni Morrison. It wasn’t okay to write fantasy, or romance.

But the day I decided I was going to write a novel I was reading two books, The California Book of the Dead, by Tim Farrington, an old friend of mine: a work of literary fiction taking place in San Francisco, and Forsaken by L.A. Banks*, an extremely prolific African American paranormal romance writer. The book was number seven in her Vampire Huntress series, so you know: this woman writes a lot. I got about half way through the book before someone stole it off the bar at a karaoke club, but it was one of the two books that inspired me to believe that someone like me could write horror.

And I did. But it looked a lot like science fiction.

Being categorized as science fiction is definitely a boon, horror being a maligned genre. Saying you write horror is almost like saying you write erotica: a bunch of people are going to decide from day one that they are not going to give your work a chance. Anne Rice said that your readers define your genre for you. I think she’s right.

Gwen: If readers want to find out more about you and your work, what’s the best way for them to do so?

Sumiko: I have a website and blog at http://www.sumikosaulson.com. From there, you can learn just about all there is to know about me as an author. I’m also on Facebook, and Twitter, and you can find me there and all other places Internet via my website.


* Editor’s Note: We regret to note that LA Banks has since passed away. Her death is a great loss to the speculative fiction community but she lives on in the wonderful body of literature that she left behind.  Sumiko writes of this loss on her blog.

Author Interview with Jason Christie

I’d like to welcome Jason Z. Christie to the blog. Jason has written a number of e-books currently available through Amazon. He is probably best known as High-C, the nerdcore rapper, in the documentary “Nerdcore For Life”. In metal act Gortician, he was drummer Jason Gortician. He’s here today to talk about his most recent release, Zombie Killa.

High C

High C

Gwen: So tell me, Jason, you’re not only a writer but a musician as well. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into music and whether or not that led to writing novels (or vice versa)?

Jason:I think one thing definitely led to the other. Songs are little stories, right? I’ve always been interested in music, but the internet really enabled me to do things that weren’t possible before. I got to cut tracks and perform with a bunch of people from all over the U.S., then I wrote a novella about them. A clear example of music leading to literature.

I notice that a lot of my books have musical themes to them. Hurricane Regina is a Bjork/Sugarcubes novel. Radar Love is an Eagles novel. I’m working on another set in the 80s that has a thrash metal background. As a musician you can explore lots of dark concepts which you can then have fun with as a writer.

Gwen: Some readers may not be familiar with the term “nerdcore,” a genre of music that is the basis of Zombie Killa’s plot. Can you define it for us?

Jason: Nerdcore hip-hop is rap music written by and for nerds. They put out tracks about video games and comic books, math jokes, animated girlfriends. It’s really a lot more akin to the golden era of rap than anything mainstream you might hear today. The best of it combines the heart and soul of hip-hop with ultramodern song topics and wordplay, without being too self-conscious about the subject matter.

Gwen: What gave you the inspiration to combine zombies and nerdcore into this novel?

Jason: Well, all rappers are sort of actors already, aren’t they? I wrote this with the intention of making a screenplay out of it, and it’s really easy to visualize characters that are already fully realized. But zombie themes are common in nerdcore, not to mention Zealous1 has a track called “Zombie Killa”.

At A Comic Shop in Florida, they have Z.E.D. meetings, and go out to a shooting range monthly to shoot at paper zombie targets in preparation for the zombie apocalypse…

Gwen: Tell us about one of your favorite characters in the book. What makes him or her unique?

Jason: They’re all really unique, but I think I like Myf the best because he is the furthest from his character in the novella. For all of the other characters, I tried to find their voices and really capture their personalities. For Myf, I just let it all hang out. He’s probably horrified and delighted.

Gwen: If you were to create a soundtrack for Zombie Killa, what would be on it? (Bonus points for giving our readers a couple of links!)

Zealous1 – “Zombie Killa”
Nursehella – “Nursehellamentary”
YTCracker – “In My Time”
Benjamin Bear & Betty Rebel – “Beetlejuice and Metroid”

Gwen: What do you hope your readers will get out of the book?

Jason: A fun ride. I’d like to think that people will see enough depth in Zombie Killa, even though it’s sort of pop art, to want to read my more involved works. High-C is also in Perfect Me, so I’m hoping he’s a gateway character. And perhaps a few people will discover a new song they like.

Gwen: What’s next on the horizon? Any good projects coming up in either your writing or musical career?

Zombie Killa

Zombie Killa

Jason: It’s funny. There’s a lot more interest in my music, of late. Once I stopped focusing on that and devoted my time to writing novels, the music thing has sort of picked up a following on its own. So I’m pleased to announce I’m working with producer Kid Charlamaign on a split e.p. with MC Inadequate.

I’m currently about a third of the way done with three more novels, a construction murder mystery, a funny fantasy title, and Cure for Sanity, another novel in the Perfect Me universe. Penultimate Hustle, the mammoth sequel to Radar Love, is due to be released on March 23rd. Beyond that, I have about ten thousand words or so of poetry that I’m trying to edit into something nice.

Thanks for the great interview.


Zombie Killa is currently available in e-edition at Amazon. You can find out more about Jason and his work at his blog, Write to Life.