Author Interview, Charles Muir

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Interview #70, with “compelled misfit” and horror/dark fantasy writer, Charles Muir!

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Describe yourself in 5 words:

Compelled. Hungry. Misfit. Persistent. Transmuting.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

hollywood

From my story in Hell Comes to Hollywood, “Alone and Palely Loitering”:

Knight had a friend, a writer, who soared to dazzling descriptive heights when it came to women’s breasts. Ample ones, especially. On paper, they quivered and beckoned as a succulent feast of edibles, their “creamy mounds” and “Hershey’s kisses” in contrast to Knight’s lens-like assessment, all dimensions appreciable in his worldview. The woman before him was more than a feast, she was a gateway to gluttony, her breasts densely spheroid with long, shadowed cleavage lines, mounted over the proud breastbone of a Valkyrie. And hips, high-velocity curves like a wildfire along twin hummocks, hips that blazed their own sexual lights against the bosom’s fearful symmetry. A tigress, Knight thought, like that Amazonian knockout in those cannibal horror films he watched with the sound down when his wife wasn’t around, he forgot the actress’s name just now.

“Um,” was all he said…

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

A bright light, like a hot, flickering, yellow star, burned through the ghostly mesh of his death dreams. He looked over and she was standing sideward to the fireplace, holding a burning brand outthrust toward it in her hand. Yet not a stick or twig; it was a scroll of tightly furled paper. And as the flame slowly slanted upward toward her hand, she deftly reversed it, taking it now by the charred end that had already been consumed and allowing the other to burn.

— Cornell Woolrich

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

It took me five years to relearn how to write. I don’t mean writing as a craft, but as an act of putting words on paper without college-grafted perfectionism killing your first thoughts. With my stories I now try to emulate Ray Bradbury’s “seven drafts in seven days” approach (or seven sessions at the computer in my case) allowing my conscious thoughts to take over gradually in the last two or three drafts in a more natural arc. It’s fun and healthy for me, seeing as I’m a solitary doer and prefer to keep my studio closed off until I send out the end-product.

As for publishing, all my work has been in short fiction, which out of long habit I continue to submit individually to the small presses, hoping to find an indie publisher who will be interested in anthologizing my stories someday. This means the usual confetti of rejection letters and the sense of climbing a ladder with only two rungs. But I absolutely see the value of self-publishing these days. The technology is in place, the stigma is (rightly) going away, and emerging writers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to self-promote in a dismal marketplace.

As a side note, the Internet can be terrible for a neurotic person like me. There is a metrical side to seeing your work in print in the form of online feedback and statistics that didn’t exist when all you got was a check and contributor’s copy. Still, the Internet has given me relationships and opportunities I never would have dreamed of otherwise, and is giving artists a chance to get their work out there despite the stagnant commercialism and elitism of big publishing.

What is your definition of “good writing”?

I personally prefer narration that transforms the mundane into the strange, even nightmarish. It wakes you up for a moment. I remember very little about even crucial plot points, but I’ll recall a certain shadow, or a flight of stairs, or the way a character resembles a puppet for just an instant. That transformative vision is what gets me as close to the writer’s mind as I will ever get.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

You will get better if you love what you do, because you will do it a lot and for as long as it takes to achieve the desired effect.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

My personal website: www.charlesaustinmuir.com

My article on “How to Submit Short Fiction for Publication”: http://tinyurl.com/submittingshortfiction

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Much thanks to Charles Muir for stopping by — do visit Charle’s Website for more info on him and his projects!

CHARLE’S BIO (in his own words):

I’m a writer, primarily in the horror genre. I’ve appeared most recently in the U.K. magazine, Morpheus Tales, and the Stoker-nominated horror anthology, Hell Comes to Hollywood.

I was born on the Oregon Coast but have lived all my life in Portland.

I’ve written psychological horror, splatterpunk, dark fantasy, flash fiction, slipstream, squishy-soft sf, and experimental. Some of my favorite themes include alienation, disease, hunger and metamorphosis.

My aim is to bend reality, skew the mundane, and broadcast my personal horrors. At the same time I don’t take myself too seriously.

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Author Interview, Tony Healey

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Interview #69, with writer and Kindle All-Stars contributor, Tony Healey!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Blood, Sugar, Sex, Majik, Ha!

OMG I *love* that RHCP album (lol!). Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

From my short story ABC featured in the upcoming anthology CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS:

KAS2

I checked my watch again. “I’m sorry to push you, but I’m really pressed for time. I’ve got to–”

He laid a hand on my wrist. His eyes were fixed on the horizon, on the line of the sea beyond the boats in the harbour. Those little black eyes peered through time as he spoke. “This happened about twenty years ago. There’s a long stretch of woodland lies above the cove, between the farms and the moors.”

“I’ve seen it,” I said, mystified.

“Every man I ever told this story to has just laughed at me. Called me a drunk. Called me a senile old man. But with you I think it’s different. I think you’ll listen and understand what I’m telling you,” he said. “I think you’ll have an open mind.”

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

I think my favorite author is Arthur C Clarke. He’s not the best writer I’ve read, but there’s something about his singular vision of our future I find enlightening and hopeful. This is a quote from his novel THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH:

“The lives of men, and all their hopes and fears, were so little against the inconceivable immensities that they dared to challenge.”

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

I don’t really have a problem with the publication process. It’s always an interesting and fulfilling experience. To write something, have it edited, polish it and then simply click a button and PUBLISH it is quite mind-blowing when you think about it. It can be frustrating when something of yours doesn’t quite hit a chord with readers, but like a writer friend of mine said: “Forget the haters. If they don’t like your book, write another one. Write ten more.”

I think that as self-publishers we should be working on that next project. We can’t sit on our hands and rest. The BIG 6 sure aren’t going to cut us a break. It’s a battle of the old world versus the new.

Yes to productivity ;) What is your definition of “good writing”?

Writing that isn’t up its own arse. There are writers putting work out, and I won’t mention names, but they seem more concerned with WORDS than telling a story. These people are so filled with their importance as WRITERS that they forget people don’t want to sit through that. I may be punching above my weight in saying this, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend 100,000 words telling a story you could tell in 60,000 words. I love pulp fiction, and although I know it’s not to everyone’s taste it can teach writers some valuable lessons. The same could be said of reading bestsellers. You know, your Dan Browns and James Pattersons (shudder!). Although they’re not great books, they are fast paced and well-plotted. I love writers like Michael Chabon, John Irving, people like that who can spend 600 pages or more meandering back and forth within their story. Their books are a joy. But not everybody can be the next Chabon or Irving.

Good writing for me, at the moment, means brevity where possible and for the author of the work to remember they’re a storyteller first, and a high and mighty writer second.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Get a pair of headphones. And Led Zeppelin.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

http://www.tonyhealey.com

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Much thanks to Tony Healey for stopping by — do visit Tony’s Website for more info on him and his projects! And do check out the Kindle All-Stars FB page too.

Tony has a free eBook on Amazon too that you can check out!

tony_healey

TONY’S BIO (in his own words):

Tony Healey is a Sussex-based writer and a born-and-bred Brightonian. He is the author of the best-selling Far From Home series.

He was a contributor to the first Kindle All-Stars short story anthology, Resistance Front, along with award-winning authors Alan Dean Foster, Harlan Ellison and 30 others.Tony has also contributed a piece of flash fiction to the anthology 100 Horrors.

As well as his writing, he’s interviewed numerous figures in the publishing world for his site, including Bernard Schaffer, Meg Gardiner, Alan Dean Foster, Debbi Mack, Russell Brooks and many, many more.

Tony can be contacted via tonyleehealeyATgmailDOTcom and at his personal site, http://www.tonyhealey.com

Author Interview, Douglas Edward Glassford

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Interview #68, with writer and Kindle All-Stars contributor, Douglas Edward Glassford!

Describe yourself in 5 words:

Husband, father, grandfather, son, brother.

Share a short excerpt and blurb of your work (10-100 words):

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Oh My Darling of the Deep Blue Sea:

It is time, but could this really be happening?

He sensed a figure in the mist, just beyond recognition; a shape mostly, accompanied by the sweetest singing voice.  She sang to him in words he did not recognize; yet did not fear.  They whirled and swirled within him as warm and welcome to his heart as his heavy woolen snorkel and bottle of Scotch Whiskey were to his chilled body.

Share an excerpt of your favorite author’s work (10-100 words):

Bernard J. Schaffer – GUNS OF SENECA 6 – Opening paragraph of Chapter 2:

He hadn’t practiced medicine since acquiring a nasty ailment that ended his career in Seneca 6 forever. His wracking cough had a way of erupting out whenever he leaned over a patient’s mouth.  Blood mixed with saliva, horked into the unsuspecting face of a man saying “Ah” or a woman asking him to inspect a suspicious lump, had a way of determining the finality of their patronage.  Even Doctor Royce Halladay’s most loyal patients found other doctors.  Ones who didn’t fold up like a chair and clutch their stomachs like their guts were about to uncoil.

Comment on the writing versus publication process, in your experience:

Since I am a newbie, a neophyte to commercial publishing, the story that is in this wonderful anthology of cryptozoology (rhyming unintended), is my first. Bernard Schaffer and Laurie Laliberte who are in charge of the Kindle All-Star projects are handling the business end. For now, I am just along for the ride seeking to promote CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS as I can… as I am doing now, by your grace, on your website.

The writing process itself is not that complex for me. Perhaps it is because most of my writing is non-fiction, and the fiction I do write tends to be short. I can just sit down with a blank page before me and… just start writing. It does not matter what I write at first. It only matters what I write by intent and purpose. I know that your good friend Matt Posner and the other brilliant authors in our anthology have all written novels or full-length books. So, their process might be very much different than mine. I have thought about writing novels, or screenplays — I see my stories in the cinema of my mind.

Always good to keep in mind intent and purpose ;) What is your definition of “good writing”?

Good writing to me is clean, uncomplicated, and honest. From the opening hook through the course of the piece, story, poem, essay, or book, there must be a flow feeds, teases out, my empathetic interest, forming an immediate identification bond between me, as the reader, and with either the narrative message, characters, or situations. I have to believe it is possible, even if it is not probable. Use of inappropriate wording, such as obscure colloquialisms, jargon, or overuse of vulgarity or unnecessary profanity tends to make me think of the author instead of what the author has written. Within character, most everything is allowable. But, like the overuse of adjectives or adverbs, lazy writing as this practice is often called, the opacity of the author increases while the transparency that suspends disbelief and makes the story real fades. If I have to jump in and out of a work, specifically fiction, that I am reading for entertainment to look up a word or jarred out of the illusion of the story-world for any reason, I will most likely stop reading.

Please share your #1 tip for writers:

Do what you love and allow fame and fortune to follow. Don’t worry about what is popular, focus your energy and time on writing a good story. A story you would want to read. Because if you are not excited about your story or book, no one else will be either. Who you are will flow onto the page as if the ink was tinged in your blood. What is popular now may not be by the time you get your book to the publisher. Remember, everything you do is like signing your name to it. So, write like you want… it is your passion for your story that will carry you through the toughest of writing times.

Your websites/blogs/etc:

http://about.me/douglasglassford

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Much thanks to Douglas Edward Glassford for stopping by — do visit Doug’s Website for more info on him and his projects! And do check out the Kindle All-Stars FB page too.

DOUG’S BIO (in his own words): “I am a writer who favors short stories… they make me feel taller, with a particular fondness for flash fiction because it suits my ADD functionality… I am blessed that I never get bored, but I do get impatient. When I am not spending time with my beloved wife, family, and friends, you will find me reading, writing, proof-reading & editing, tinkering, or teaching kids how to find their innate genius through drawing and storytelling.”

Interview, Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic

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Author Interview #37, with multi-genre writer (and NYC teacher), Matt Posner!

This is a customized Q&A in line with the author’s latest eBook: “Tales of Christmas Magic.”

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[Q&A with Matt Posner / Tales of Christmas Magic (7 questions)]

Jess: I like how the collection presents the magic that features in School of the Ages (magic which is based on the mind and spirit). What was the inspiration for presenting magic this way (realistically in “our world”)?

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Matt: I have read a lot about magic and the paranormal. Although I was interested in the subject from childhood, I took up the study more systematically when I was 21 as a result of feeling turmoil in my life. Learning to read tarot and understand Hermeticism gave me some structure at a time when other things weren’t helping.

Shortly I discovered the writing of Colin Wilson, beginning with The Occult and moving on to various other similar books, like Mysteries, Poltergeist!, and Beyond the Occult, and from these I became aware of how many amazing phenomena there were in the world that could be incorporated into fiction.

At first I tried to put them into an epic fantasy novel, which was agented for a while in New York around 1993, but then I left the subject alone for a while. When it came time to return to writing about magic, I used all that I had studied and learned to create the School of the Ages magical system.

Jess: Epic fantasy is a great foundation ;) I thought the underlying theme(s) in the story “Goldberry vs. Santa Claus” were very smoothly handled. Incidentally, the characters featured on the cover are from this story. Any reason for this? :)

Matt: I consider this the centerpiece story of the collection. It’s the one that is most Christmas-themed and has the strongest dramatic tension. Having a teen girl magician fight Santa Claus makes a good blurb also. Using that story enables me to get the school (actually Toronto’s Casa Loma castle) and Santa on the cover. Adding to that, my cover artist Eric Henty found a girl on a stock photo site who looks perfect as Goldberry, and then a boy on the same site who looks perfect for Simon.

What luck: the resulting image is just great!

Jess: Your School of the Ages project contains a very unique blend of elements (ranging from history, to religion, spirituality, and education!). Does it get confusing at times or does working with these themes come very naturally to you as a writer?

Matt: It comes naturally to me because of my multicultural past. My parents socialized with Indian immigrants beginning when I was a small child, and I read Amar Chitra Katha comics about the Ramayana and other Indian mythology.

In high school, I focused on Spanish classes as much as English. In college, I took a course in ethnomusicology and listened to world music while getting my bachelor’s in Humanities. It was one of my favorite courses.

Years later, getting married to Julie, who is from India, really strongly activated my desire to know more about non-Western cultures. Working in yeshiva high schools caused me to build some Jewish cultural identity (what they call Yiddishkeit).

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly taught a college course called World Civilizations (shoutout to my students!) which caused me to reflect on the vast range of cultural heritages there are and fed me ideas. I taught some art history in college too. I’ve been to some of Europe’s greatest art museums, although not enough of them yet in my opinion, and not to mention the great ones in New York City, where I live. These things have only whetted my appetite for multiculturalism.

Jess: Speaking about multiculturalism — something that I (and many other readers) like about the STA series is how it is multiculturally-inclusive. How would you define multiculturalism (along with its strengths and disadvantages, to be more specific)?

Matt: I define multiculturalism as the view that the world is made up of many traditions, faiths, arts, languages, societies, and that all of them are interesting and have some way to contribute to the lives of other human beings. I want to write about the interaction of these cultures and I want to draw cool stuff from all of them to make the School of the Ages books distinctive.

I’ll give you an example. In Level Three’s Dream, the students go to Paris where they have an unexpected battle with a group of older students from Paris’ magic school, Citadel d’If. Some of them are fairly unsurprising French ruffians, based loosely on the gang in the original La Femme Nikita, but pumped up with magic powers. However, one is distinctive: Arnaud le Vampire is an Algerian Arab. I know from studying history about the long and uncomfortable connection between France and Algeria, which was so severe that it nearly caused a civil war in France, and I wanted to reflect this history by putting a French-speaking Algerian into the school. He’s not a typical undead vampire, either; he’s fully alive, about 18 years old, and has the abilities of a psychic vampire, who can drain your energy by staring at you. (Many people believe this type of vampire actually exists!) When he fights, Arnaud shouts the Takbir, an expression used by Muslims for both prayer and battle: “Allahu Akbar!”

There are loads of vampires in the books these days, but I feel sure that there are no others like mine, and that readers will be excited by Arnaud’s contradictions and want to read his future appearances in my narrative.

Jess: I wouldn’t doubt the existence of such vampires either :P. I enjoyed “The Sphinx” (the last story in the collection, written when Matt Posner was 16 and bored in Honors English!). What are some of the things you notice with regards to your writing at that age, and in the years thereafter?

Matt: When I go back to my much older writing, my juvenilia such as “The Sphinx,” I’m struck by the fact that my prose style — sentence construction and such — has not changed tremendously. That’s why you can read “The Sphinx” in the same book as stories I wrote in 2011. The themes and meaning are immature, but the quality of the prose is much the same.

Maybe I should feel bad that my style hasn’t advanced as much as my content has, but I’d rather say that I knew very long ago what kind of writer I wanted to be. The truth is that I wrote more fluidly and confidently then, when the troubles of the world and the brutal pressures of limited time to work didn’t distract me from my voice and ideas. I put this story into the collection for a lot of reasons, but one of them was to show that not only do I have it, but I always had it.

Like Lady Gaga, “I’m on the right track, baby. I was born this way.”

6. Excellent! Writers/creative types have to have confidence in their own work :) Please share your favorite excerpt from this collection:

How about this:

Santa Claus had stopped laughing and was now closing in on Simon, who was between them. “Out of the way, or I’ll feed you to Mrs. Claus,” he said, not very jovially. “She gains about ten pounds a year from eating children on the naughty list, you know.”
Tales of Christmas Magic, Matt Posner

7. Comment on writing versus teaching, in your experience (Matt is a teacher in NYC):

Teaching has made me a better writer in that I understand better what goes into literature structurally. I have gotten more out of teaching literature than having it taught to me, or studying writing in graduate school, where I found that my experience was more about politics and personality, both of which I wasn’t good at then. I use writing skills in teaching. The other day I needed a simple example of an ironic poem, so I wrote one myself and then put a fake author’s name on it*.

Writing is solitary, teaching very public, and I need to be public part of the time, or else I will become too self-centered; it’s the phenomenon of the only child at work there. All this said, I feel that if I could only do one of the two, I would much prefer to write. If I were suddenly wealthy enough to quit working a teaching job and focus on writing, I would still want to teach, but I would just be more selective about it: do less of it and exercise more control over the details of the job than I can at present. As a teacher, I work with special education students, who are needy in a lot of ways, and often, though not always, difficult. It’s important to me to feel I’m the kind of person who can love those who are hard to love and who can make a difference in the lives of those who are hard to help. I want to test myself that way and I want to prove to myself day by day that I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t think I should give up doing this, but I wouldn’t mind if I did it a little less…

* My Dog
by Alan Smithee

My dog smells sour.
My dog has fleas.
She barks at night.
On the floor she pees.
She’s the best dog
I ever had.
For how could such
A dog be bad?

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Now go check out some of Matt’s work(s) — after reading his eclectic bio!

Author Bio + Website Links:

Matt Posner is a writer and teacher from New York City. Originally from Miami, FL, Matt lives in Queens with Julie, his wife of more than ten years, and works in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Matt is also the Dean of School of the Ages, America’s greatest magic school, located on a secret island in New York Harbor, and is pleased to tell stories about its people in the five-book series School of the Ages, which will be published between 2010 and 2015.

As the child of classically trained musicians, Matt is a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York’s premier avant-garde multimedia club band, along with the painter Eric Henty and founding musician and impresario Scott Rifkin. Matt teaches high school English, with a fondness for special education students, and teaches world civilizations at Metropolitan College of New York. His interests include magic and the paranormal, literature, movies, history and culture, visual arts, world music, religion, photography, and professional wrestling history.

Website: www.schooloftheages.webs.com

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