Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I first met Evil Jester Press publisher Charles Day and his alter ego, the Evil Little Jester, through the virtual realm of email and various forums for writers.  When he approached me about contributing to a new project he planned to put plenty of sweat and equal parts soul into, I was thrilled -- Charlie is one of the true passionate gentlemen in the industry, and his idea was to gather together some of his favorite contemporary authors within the covers of a standout collection of terrifying original short stories.  Among them would also be the Jester's secret back story.

Tales of Terror and Mayhem From Deep Within the Box, which contains my short story "Material Possession" about one man's obsession with the objects that share his living space, was recently unleashed upon an unsuspecting public in both e- and print formats.  Mustering my bravery, I dared to give the Jester's box a few turns of the crank and ventured deep within for a better look at the many gems featured in the collection's Table of Contents.  But first up, I spoke with the man behind the mayhem, the inimitable Charles Day.

Share with us the deets of your association with the Evil Little Jester—how did the two of you meet?
Well, I was walking through the woods one eerie and foggy night, and I happened to trip upon a small box, and….Hehehe! Just kidding my jesterly friends! Actually, the two of us met a few years back when I was first frequenting the small press forums, when submission calls for their anthologies were on fire. So, so many small presses to choose from, not enough time to write. Anyway, I needed a picture, an avatar of sorts, and I found the evil dude posing in a photo. And soon after it was love at first sight. From there, we bonded almost instantly. He became my alter ego, my muse, my best friend. I do have to add that it’s been a terrifying ride for me, but the stories my pal and I've created together have been worth it. Many times while reaching down into his box for a story, I was either bitten in the arm, the wrists, or a finger, until finally he warmed up to me. Well, that and because he began to recognize my aroma.  Nonetheless, today we are inseparable, two peas in the same pod you might say. 

Each of the stories in Tales of Terror and Mayhem From Deep Within the Box is prefaced by an introductory micro-story about how your alter ego came to know the author, which is fairly cool and original. Have any of the details been fictionalized?  Or are those introductions completely straightforward nonfiction about meetings and greetings between editor and author?
First I have to say, I’m so damn proud of this book, all the authors, Jessica Weiss, and Wicked East Press for helping me bring my idea to fruition. And I feel the story written by the evil Jester and I, titled "The Gift," has got to be the best short story I’ve written to date. When you read it, you’ll see that our hearts and soul are in this one. 

Getting back to your question, dear Gregory, I’d say some of the introductions are fictional, while others were from true experiences with a few authors who I was friends with early on. Now…the Evil Jester and I consider all the authors inside our collection writer friends. I’ve had the admirable opportunity to meet some at a few  writer’s conferences, and now many will be attending the upcoming Anthocon, to be held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire this coming November 9-11.  Hell, we’re all going to crash the Jester’s hotel room and bathe him in stinky beer and have a kick-ass Tales of Terror and Mayhem party. What, you don’t believe me? Well, just keep an eye out for the photos to appear on Facebook, shortly after the conference.

This seems a fitting one year anniversary hallmark for Evil Jester Press -- to release this particular book on your One Year Mark (the traditional one year anniversary gift is paper, you know). What have been some of the downs over the past year of being a publisher, and share with us the ups.
To be honest, there really isn’t that much on the “downs.” As with any business, the first year is all about sacrifices, investments, securing capital, throwing whatever profits and some of my own income I make back into the business so it can continue to grow. I’m fortunate to have a full-time day job and loving wife, otherwise, my wife may have changed the locks on the doors by now. But the biggest thing for me these last six months, and I know it’s personal, but I’ve been very limited on finishing up my own writing. My novel Deep Within is almost done. I’m applying the final edits from my editor Henry Snider, and then it needs to find a home.  I currently have four publishers interested in it.  So… talk about pressure. Yikes!

I also have some other projects, mostly Young Adult fiction that’s nearing completion. So, it’s been tough to get ample time to devote to getting these writing projects done. Nevertheless, they will eventually be done and off to find a publisher soon. No worries. I have more than enough accumulated vacation time from my day job, and I plan on using it. And I’ve started to apply the first round edits on my new YA western horror trilogy, Kyle McGertt, Destroyer of the Indian Curses: Book 1 the Hunt for the Ghoulish Bartender, which is being published with Blood Bound Books, Winter 2013. I’m real excited to get this first in the trilogy out. On the upside, being a publisher is rewarding because I get to work with so many authors and editors, meet new authors, and share some good times at conferences. I’m honored to have two great editors in charge, Peter Giglio and Eric Shapiro, and equally grateful for all the contributing editors and authors who are now, or soon to be a part of our jesterly crew. I’m also thrilled that in one year, we have not stopped in our growth or forward momentum, bringing out quality books and increasing our readership each month.

What’s next for EJP? 
Well, I’ll need to go knock on the Evil Jester’s lid and let him tell you what he’s doing. I’ll be right back! He’s a freaking work horse, to say the least.

Evil Jester here. Hello my jesterly friends. Where to start? Okay! We have more great titles on the way, and of course many are aware that we are humbly honored to have Joe McKinney doing a novel with us. Inheritance is due out in November, but the buzz around this book is incredible. Not only are our devoted readers and fans of the Evil Jester excited to get a copy, we have noticed many new readers are waiting. And then of course there’s Joe’s loving fans that can’t wait to read this.

Charles Day and I have always been comic enthusiasts as a kids, especially the EC comics and Tales from the Crypt, and Vault of Horror, and so much more. Well, I’m excited to announce that we’ve started a new division under the Evil Jester Press publishing company, helmed by David C. Hayes, who is both knowledgeable and a lover of comics as well. He’s also a damn great professional when it comes to script-writing, and he’s got the eye for artistic talent, and so together Charles, David, and I as co-creators are going to bring you the most amazing new series of graphic novels in the near future. You are in for a real treat. Evil Jester Presents Vol #1 will be filled with great stories from the big names you’ve come to love and respect, to the rising stars. Their stories will be adapted into comic form and our artists will have you fully engaged in the superior, full color art work. Now, bear in mind, the sky’s the limit on what we are going to do with this new division. Do I want to see more comic series develop? Hell yeah! Are we going to offer more variety in our choices? Yes. Stay tuned. The Evil Jester is building a bigger box and you’re all invited to come on in and play. 

When next the Jester's box opens, the authors in Tales of Terror and Mayhem share a bit of backstory behind their stories.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writer's Retreat on Star Island, Part 2

The lighthouse on Lunging Island
Every twenty-two seconds, the lighthouse on nearby Lunging Island sounds a melancholy note.  From my room on the second floor of Cottage B on Star Island, the elegy crept in at night from the open window that faced the Oceanic Hotel and the small, ancient graveyard and gazebo house overlooking the Atlantic. Between Star Island and Lunging, a notorious landmark known as Halfway Rock is marked by a buoy that rings in counterpoint.  Halfway Rock is an unforgiving outcrop known to feast upon the keels of vessels, some as recently as the summer of 2012.  Very late at nights in my room, my mind fixated on the melodies, leading me to close that one window through which the ocean breeze swept.  Mornings were a symphony of gulls and crashing waves, the ever-present lighthouse, and, on one morning, a bit of spirited and colorful dialogue from fishermen on the decks of boats anchored in the harbor directly across from my front window.

On the second day of the Writelines workshop conducted by Dale Finley-Slongwhite, particular prompts led to the openings of three short and long stories.  The prompts and these starts fueled my inspiration into the stratosphere -- Dale presented us with such great challenges!  One of the biggest Writelines policies is that what happens inside the workshop stays within the workshop, so I've respectfully agreed not to discuss the specific prompts.  I will, however, say they were all great.  By Wednesday, one in particular put high octane ink in my fountain pen and I began work on a novella near and dear to me that had stalled, despite a publisher's interest in contracting for the project.  I placed the nib to the page and by day's end had another 3,000 quality words.  By the workshop's conclusion, I'd written forty-one pages of "The Ferry," taking it past the halfway point.  En route to the island, hoping for such a breakthrough, I'd interviewed the First Officer onboard the Thomas Laighton, who was gracious and giving about the daily operations on board the ferry. Once moving again, my pen never stilled.

The ancient graveyard and gazebo house on Star Island
When not workshopping -- and Dale kept us beautifully busy -- I communed with the Muse and thoughts of stories waiting to be penned. One new project in particular shadowed me about the island, filling me with enthusiasm.  I read a Space:1999 paperback novel I'd snagged at 2008's Camp NECon writer's conference, and could not put it down. I rocked in one of dozens of rattan rockers lined along the Oceanic's vast front veranda, flipped through the latest issue of Poets and Writers Magazine, dreamed.  But more than anything, I wrote. Through a moody, misty-gray Tuesday. Through a humid Wednesday.  Through bright and warm Thursday and Friday.  I wrote and recaptured much of the depleted energy I've expended during this incredible year of 2012.  In all, I put down nearly 16,000 words of fresh copy -- three story starts, all keepers, my pages of "The Ferry," and a complete new short story.

Me and MUSE on the Oceanic veranda, Credit: Frank Hochreiter
Meals at the Oceanic were amazing, most of the vegetables in salads, soups, and stews originating in the lush gardens tended on Star Island.  Rooms in the cottages and hotel lack air conditioning and fans but mostly I never noticed -- the Atlantic provided constant breezes. Everywhere one turns, views are spectacular. Dale really pushed us and kept us writing.  The constant momentum, near boot-camp in delivery, tapped into reserves.  The results were fantastic.  As for my fellow conferees, I could not have been surrounded by lovelier folk.

As the ferry again appeared, ready to return me to home and family, my backpack filled to capacity, my creativity fueled, I thanked my lucky stars that, long last, I took the plunge and committed to the Writelines retreat on Star Island.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Writer's Retreat on Star Island, Part 1

Welcome to the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island, complete with Writing Room!
My five-day adventure to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals began well before last January, when I committed to the September writer's retreat offered by Dale Finley Slongwhite, a gifted writer and passionate facilitator who first fell in love with the venue following a summer cruise where paths crossed and the Fates were generous. In 2009, after leaving the writer's group I had been an integral part of for nearly sixteen years, I went in search of other retreats, other destinations, and read of Dale's annual pilgrimage for storytellers to the second largest of the islands in the archipelago, some ten miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  This year in which I've traveled extensively, attended writing conferences, and retreated to places near, dear, and far, I gave myself the gift of Star Island and Dale's retreat for writers.  The result was beyond fantastic -- dare I believe miraculous? One thing is for certain: the past five days will stay with me for the rest of my life.

But first, let me preface by saying I took lots of pictures.  Lots and lots, on the new digital camera I purchased two days before sojourning to the Isles of Shoals Shipping Company's dock, where I would ride Thomas Laighton to Star Island.  I have very little interest in photography and, as most know, a huge resistance to complicated technological advances.  Give me one or two buttons and I'm fine. Scrolling through numerous screens and multiple steps can send my blood pressure skyrocketing. My darling Bruce, who loves photography and his digital camera -- a Christmas gift in 2005 that still rates, according to him, as the best ever -- completely understands the procedure and gave me an excellent tutorial to keep my pulse slow and steady during the operation of my sweet little Vivitar.  If only he'd told me to download all those many lovely photographs before changing batteries to avoid wiping out the memory card.  Oh well, live and learn.

(The Oceanic Hotel as seen from the deck of the ferry)
I boarded the ferry with Dale and several of my fellow retreaters, all of whom seemed genuinely lovely (and, as our days and workshopping commenced, proved that my first impressions were indeed correct).  A bright Monday afternoon ride across the Atlantic set the stage for a unique adventure.

As the Thomas Laighton charged and rolled forward, the islands appeared, rising up from the blue.  My pulse quickened; the grand old hotel, The Oceanic, materialized.  In 1995, I wrote a novel set on these very islands, a modern Gothic tale of suspense and intrigue called The Strange Goings-on at Brathemore Hall.  My screenplay-in-progress, Agatha Christie, is also set here as well.  I'd never visited Star Island before but in a way I had, numerous times, through my Muse.

I stepped off the ferry, my big backpack stuffed to capacity with everything from my stapler, plenty of blank note pads, and several note cards on manuscripts I hoped to work on to my new laptop and backup pens.  We took in a mandatory orientation on the island and its gestalt -- recycling, water use, fire safety -- and then found our luggage and moseyed to our rooms.  Ours were housed in one of the 'cottages' that run in a line along the hotel, all connected by a boardwalk whose details I memorized and whose route I must have walked a thousand times during workshop breaks. Though set up for a bunk mate, I lucked out again and got private accommodations, my room on the second floor consisting of two basic single beds set beneath the eaves and whose windows gazed out at the island and its two nearest neighbors. A delicious dinner welcomed us -- all of our meals were rustic yet exquisite (apart from the proliferation of black beans that found their way into eggs at breakfast, luscious homemade soups at lunch, and salads at dinner), and then we six writers gathered in the library room with its long writing table, chairs with tufted cushions, and stunning views of both Appledore and Smuttynose Islands.  The first of what would amount to twenty writing prompts in total challenged us to create.  We put pens to paper and, though mostly strangers until our arrival to Star Island, soon formed a bond of respect for one another, creating the first unforgettable memories.

And some damn fine writing.

To be continued.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Meet Abe Spinney, A Reeler Movie Reviewer

(Abe with the legendary George A. Romero)
A little over a year and a half ago, I moseyed into my then-new writer's group and took to the big table, excited to read the opening to my steampunk short story, "The End of an Era." Among the unfamiliar faces that night was a talented young man named Abram Spinney who was in the thick of crafting a movie review of a flick memorable for all the wrong reasons, a 1980s Gremlins knockoff. Abe's love-hate relationship with the material was so hilarious in its delivery that I nearly spilled out of my seat, making me an instant fan -- and eager for his future takes on cinema's best and worst.

Abe's passion for film inspired him to create A Reeler Movie Reviewer, where some flicks are exulted while others get skewered in his inimitable style.  It was my great pleasure to sit down and talk with Abe about his celluloid dreams...and nightmares.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen and why does it hold that distinction for stink-tion? 
Wow, that is quite the question! Since I started doing this I have encountered only a few movies that define the very definition of pain and misery, mostly just pain. Three films stick out among all the contenders I have seen so far. The first is The Lost Continent, one of my earlier reviews which is well known for its agonizing twenty-minute rock climbing sequence. The second would definitely have to be Monster A Go Go, an abomination of spliced-together footage, boring and pointless sequences that go nowhere, and an ending so bad that it's practically a middle finger to anyone who watched it to the end. The third is one I am still preparing a review for -- I don’t know if you have heard of The Garbage Pail Kids, a film adaptation based on a series of trading cards.  To this day I’ve been mustering up the courage to tackle it.

What's the best/your favorite flick of all time? 
That’s a really broad question, actually, as there are so many movies that I enjoy, each for different reasons.  Here is my list of favorite movies based on their genres:

Horror: Dawn Of The Dead (the original) and The Host
Fantasy: The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad
Science Fiction: John Carpenter’s The Thing and Alien
Comedy: Monty Python And The Holy Grail
Crime Thriller: The Chaser and Red Dragon
Action: The Dark Knight and Predator

Your film reviews are hilarious! What got you started writing summaries of bad cinema? 
Mystery ScienceTheater 3000 is one inspiration, but also the website That Guy With The Glasses, where some of my favorite web shows are. My three favorite shows are The Nostalgia Critic, The Cinema Snob, and Linkara. Watching their shows got me interested in the idea of doing my own reviews, so here I am!

Take us into your process -- do you sit down with a particular movie, take notes as you watch, or handcuff your arms behind your back to prevent you gouging your own eyes out?
First I have coffee. Lots and lots of coffee -- and I always have a cup on standby. Only a few movies have really driven me to the brink of insanity, but the worst that most others movies can do to me is cause me to fall asleep. It usually takes a second viewing of my topic before I know what I want to do for my article. I also learn about the movie or show's production history and how its was recieved by general audiences, whether it be good or bad. I try to be both humorous and informative in my reviews to give a sort of balance.

If you could interview anybody for your blog, who would it be and why?
If I had the opportunity to interview anyone it would be the cast from Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Michael Nelson, the original host Joel Hodgson, and everyone else on that show, especially the “Mads“. I absolutely loved that show! It was one of the factors that really pushed me to start reviewing movies, especially the bad ones. I still follow the trio on Rifftrax looking forward to what they’ll riff on next.

So why not microwave some popcorn, log onto A Reeler Movie Reviewer, put your feet up, and enjoy the show!