Friday, November 18, 2011

Steamy Screams

My short story "The Libidonomicon" recently appeared in the decadently wicked release from Blood Bound Books, Steamy Screams.  The fantastic collection also features great stories by the always-engaging Tonia Brown, Eden Royce, and Lawrence Conquest, whose brilliant offering in the press's Night Terrors left me haunted for days.  The Steamy Screams premise is fairly simple -- tales of sweat, lust, and horror; the story behind my tale, not so straightforward.

In "Libidonomicon," a man who buys an old New Englander discovers a collection of rare books in the attic.  The books unleash wanton impulses within him, which get explored when a handsome and mysterious expert on the true nature of the grimoires appears at his front door, just after sunset. Writing the longhand draft of the story on my lap desk in June of 2010, in a different house, on a former sofa, was great fun -- "The Libidonomicon" dashed itself off over the course of one humid, rainy weekday afternoon.  Flashback to 2008, same sofa, when the phone jolted me and my small family up as we were snunkered down watching Thirty Days of Night.  Curiously enough, the phone call was from an actress who'd starred on one of my favorite science fiction series in the 1980s.  Her identity unknown to me at that time, earlier that day I'd blindly answered her ad for a capable screenwriter to do a fierce rewrite on a script that would go into production once its issues -- and there were many -- were ironed out.  I would have to fight for this job, apparently; the things we writers will do to get our work in print, our names on the screen.  After signing a confidentiality promise, I read the script, which was an absolute mess.  I took its good bones, streamlined the train wreck into an actual story with a beginning, middle, end, and actual characters with motives, sent back my notes, and was promptly told thanks, but no thanks -- the original writer was outraged at what I had done to his baby.  Wasn't paid a cent and, to my knowledge, the movie has never gone past that original script.

In late 2009, after many such brushes with near-fame and fortune in Hollywood, I started culling what I thought were ideas too smart for that sector of the writing industry and turning them into finished, completed short and long stories (I had, after all, created an episode pitch for Star Trek: Voyager called "The Sword" -- about the character of Neelix unwittingly using the ship's replicators to reproduce a dangerous 'weapon.'  The weapon was banned literature that led to Neelix going on trial and to a book burning, a direct nod to the concept of censorship.  That idea, when pitched to the producers, was received as a solid gold hit...only to be canned by the Powers-That-Be in favor of the infamous wrestling episode with the Rock.  Still...).  The ideas were mine; it was time to own them and give them a chance to be.

Part of what I brought to the table with the rewritten script was the notion of a cursed book -- cursed, because it contained the skin and bones and residue of a man unwillingly transformed -- and of a lover who'd sought the book for centuries in order to bring back his lost paramour through dark spells.  I loved the image of the book 'breathing' and ultimately putting forth limbs, coming back to life even at the cost of another man's.  "Libidonomicon" utilized the best ideas of the hard work I did that otherwise might have gone nowhere.  Putting the same focus to use, last month I pulled "Grinn" from my folder of Star Trek: Enterprise pitch printouts and began writing a short story based upon the idea, in which alien delegates present the ship's navigator with a ceremonial doll that comes alive and takes on his characteristics (the doll, Grinn, is actually symbiotic and is designed to bond with Travis Mayweather, thus able to access the ship's command codes and other technical information). My short story "Grinn" will appear in my forthcoming short and long story collection by EJP, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse.

Back to Steamy Screams, which is quite steamy...and screamy.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Blood Bound Books' Publisher, the wonderful Marc Ciccarone, about the company's near and future plans.


How did Blood Bound Books become?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to write. Dark fantasy, mysteries and horror always fascinated me. Even as a child I used to watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Twilight Zone reruns. I wrote every day, but I had no idea how to submit anything. I just read and wrote. Finally, after high school, when I started understanding the internet better—my tech knowledge is scarier than any story I could conjure up—I started submitting to small presses. Over the years, I got some good publishing credits, but too many times, the venues—magazines/anthologies— I appeared in featured maybe three or four really good stories and that was it. Or, they would accept the stories I was least proud of. . . they liked the ones that I felt were clich√© and not as well written as my other stories. I wanted to be in a collection that was really solid and those were hard to find. Even some of the big name author collections were starting to fall flat. Just because someone is famous, doesn’t make everything they write gold. I decided that I wanted to make a company for readers/writers like me. I wanted intense stories with graphic and edgy ideas, but still well written. After getting the groundwork laid out, I approached Joseph Spagnola, my friend of fourteen years, and of course he was on board. Graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and dear friend as well, Theresa Dillon, agreed to not only help us with the reading and editing aspect, but to teach us how to be better editors. Being good at writing and flow and content editing, does not make you a good copy editor. Karen Fierro, retired English and Math teacher also came on board to help and Blood Bound Books was born.

What does the publisher specialize in -- and do you have a wishlist of books you'd like to see come in, but aren't?
We are primarily a horror publishing company, however we’re looking to break into more than just horror. We want to be a source for all dark and twisted fiction! With our novel submissions, we’re looking at crime fiction and thrillers, science fiction, dark fantasy, erotica, suspense and any other uncategorized genres. Just as long as it’s dark. We want to find some books that explore the horror in everyday situations. We like the extraordinary events, but it’s nice to read about things that could really happen. Those are extra scary and one of the reasons we did Steamy Screams. We were looking for dark fetishes and back alley clubs where anything goes and everything can be bought for a price. We don’t need monsters when Man is the most dangerous beast of all. We also like stories that are a blending of fact and fiction. Stories like the Da Vinci Code; Brown used real places and organizations, but put his own take on them. I won't argue religion with anyone, but I found the book interesting. Work ancient Egyptian beliefs into a story, the mysteries of Machu Picchu, secret experiments of WWII, Nazis and their belief in the occult, whatever. History and your imagination are your only limits. For lots of tips, visit our forum at http://bloodboundbooksforum.lefora.com/2011/07/26/new-guidelines/

Please talk about Steamy Screams--what a great book!  Who came up with the idea?  Did you get a lot of submissions?  What has the response thus far been to the book?
Thank you for the praise! The idea was both Joe’s and mine, but the title was all Joey. As good as sex is, you have to admit, it can be very horrifying. People are at their most vulnerable during sex. You are trusting your life—in a manner of speaking—to the hands of someone else. Especially when it comes to fetishes. I think all our staff is fascinated by the various fetishes out there—one of the reasons we recently published a book called Monster Porn by KJ Moore—and Steamy Screams was a way to shed light on a few of those. Writers explored such themes as voyeurism, erotic asphyxiation, and sub/dom relations. The response has been mixed so far. I think erotica makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They don’t mind people being killed and eaten in gory ways, but throw in some non-traditional sex ideas and people get scared. We’re still looking for some places to read it and give an honest review, but because of the extreme nature of a few stories, some refuse to review it. Same problem we had with D.O.A. I cite "Second Hand Goods" by Natalie Sin and "The Club" by Brad Hunter as two of the stories in particular that turn horror reviewers away. If there is anyone out there who wants to review some horrotica for their website, let me know. I’ll send you a digital copy of Steamy Screams.

What are some of the common mistakes you're seeing in rejections, and what are you seeing done right in the work you're accepting?
The biggest mistake is people just not following guidelines or proper formatting. We’re pretty lenient, but it’s hard to read when the story is single spaced with no indents. When it comes to the actual story though, we’re seeing some great ideas however the common mistake is poor execution. The best ideas seem to becoming from new writers, however, their writing feels very rushed. They just tell about the action that is happening; they fail to paint a vivid picture, or create character development necessary to make the reader interested in the action that’s taking place. On the flip side of that coin, the stories that come in with great writing too often have very generic plots. The ones that are succeeding with us right now have a good blend of action and character development. Those authors are taking the time to craft characters that are believable and the reader will care about, while putting them into suspenseful scenarios so that there isn’t too much boring exposition. Also, the plots are unique. We literally get emails all day about vampire, ghosts and other classic monsters. We usually won’t request those manuscripts unless the query is amazing. My best advice is to really think outside the box.

Please talk about your own writing -- what do you write?  Where have you been published?  What are you working on now?
My own writing, eh? Something I need to get back to more often. I only have one story published under my real name and truthfully, I feel it’s not one of my best. It was sort of an homage to an old Twilight Zone episode I like, but it was fun to write. That one appeared in Macabre Cadaver. As a teacher however, I learned early on that I needed to use pen names when I write the bulk of my stories. As illogical as it sounds, having my name associated with a publishing company, regardless of the books, has been ok. But to have my name as the actual creator of an extreme, taboo story, not okay. So, under my various pseudonyms, I’ve won a monthly contest at SNM Horror Mag, as well as appearing in anthologies by Pill Hill Press, House of Horror, Elements of Horror and various small presses. I had fun with a couple zombie stories that found a home at Living Dead Press. Unfortunately, one of my favorite stories was accepted by an anthology that fell through. Dreams and Screams was supposed to be a collaborative project of three or four different publishers featuring both Sci-fi and Horror stories. The publisher who accepted me ended up having to pull out of the anthology—can’t remember the reason why. So, the book came to be but my story was not in it. Since starting Blood Bound Books, I haven’t been able to submit to other venues. The time just hasn’t been there. I’ve got this crazy idea though, that next year, I’m gonna do Blood Bound Books full time. I think that’s the only way for us to reach our full potential and truly be one of the best sources for all things dark…although I think we’re still pretty damn good now.

3 comments:

  1. Great interview, gregory. Now I've learned a bit more about this great small press publisher. I hope to do more with them as an author!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "I think erotica makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They don’t mind people being killed and eaten in gory ways, but throw in some non-traditional sex ideas and people get scared."

    ...I can't begin to tell you how true this rings out for me. Some of the interests that I have are the inspirations behind a lot of my more uh...private writings. People who are into fetishes/kink or "non-traditional" relationships are looked upon as freaks and deviants or are considered abnormal. It's one of the many reasons why people who are into these kind of relationships make sure it stays a well-kept secret.

    This is also what made me choose to abandon my fetish-themed erotica novel.

    Excellent interview! While I love all things steamy, I am not a big fan of things that make people scream. My already overactive imagination goes into hyper drive the ending result is a sleepless night for both me and the unfortunate friend who saw the movie with me. Never read a scary book though...

    ReplyDelete