Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Writers' Group Christmas Party

(O Tannenbaum)
For a few years now, we've hosted an annual Christmas party, usually near the start of December because the month grows more hectic the deeper it gets.  This year's gathering was all the more celebratory as it was the first held in our new home in the North Country, Xanadu. Christmas for us actually started last March 4, the day we closed on the property.  By Saturday, the 7th of December, we were more than ready to open the house to writer friends from the wonderful Nashua Writers' Group and its offshoot here in our new home base. Being part of the Berlin Writers' group, like living in our house, feels like a gift, one I've enjoyed since five of us gathered in the downtown to read our writing so many months ago.

By noon, a monstrous ham was out of the oven and ready to be carved, homemade fruit punch filled the big drinks dispenser, and I had spinach salad in the antique bowl and cheese and crackers ready on the platter. As guests arrived, a scrumptious buffet materialized: chicken cacciatore, stuffed mushrooms, chips and dips, taco salad made famous from one of my friends from the southern part of the state, more cheese varieties and pepperoni to choose from, baskets filled with homemade cookies, peanut butter truffles rolled in coconut, pumpkin roll, brownies, a 'deconstructed' cherry pie that earned total thumbs up, sodas, coffee, and tea.  It was, as usual, amazing.  So, too, the spirited game of Yankee Swap (briefly, I held onto a year's subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine).

(the talented two: Judi Calhoun and Launa Keenan)
After the sometimes hilarious goings-on, we settled down with beverages of choice to read.  We were fifteen in all, and fit quite comfortably into the new living room (last year and the previous Christmas in our apartment in Milford, we had writers stacked up like cords of firewood).  Unlike 2012's theme, in which attendees chose a sealed envelope months and weeks earlier to know their individual topic, this time around I urged folks to write based upon the time of year.  Basic, I know, however what resulted was anything but, and offerings ran the emotional gamut from light poetry and short stories to heartbreaking holiday tales. There was mystery and murder, speculative takes on ancient mythological figures, and visitors from outer space. My original short story, "Homeless for the Holidays", is a visceral and grisly tale about two men who find themselves on the streets and taken under the roof of a couple they assume are concerned friends, only to learn that once inside their house, facades don't hold up, and lives are in jeopardy.  It's not an easy story to listen to (it wasn't easy to pen and left me visibly shaken when I reached The End).  I felt liberated, however, once I concluded, and will shop the story around when appropriate markets appear.

The first guests arrived at 10:30 in the morning; the last departed just after 6 p.m.  After cleaning, I moseyed upstairs with leftover cookies to snuggle with the cats and husband, and to watch a movie, one of our Saturday night weekly joys.  The tree was lit, the house bright and energized with good emotion, and we basked in the fun from our third big writers' group(s) party in our home since the move.  Our next gathering is scheduled for May of 2014 when the snow has melted and our beautiful corner of New Hampshire dons its greenery once more.

Friday, November 22, 2013

CANOPIC JARS: Tales of Mummies and Mummification

(Behold -- Canopic Jars!)
I love creature features.  Creature double-features even more.  Along with giant rubber suit monsters of the Japanese variety, mummies have always ranked among my favorite things that creep, crawl, and create terror from the television set. Those desiccated former Pharaohs and doomed princes occupy a unique place in my heart, ever since my Uncle Jimmy and his pal Warren, tasked with babysitting me as a young boy, switched the dial to WLVI-Channel 56, and Boris Karloff's Imhotep dragged his dusty bandages across the snowy screen. Mummies trigger a unique brand of fear within me.  In high school, when I was just starting to write and tap into my imagination, I woke from a nightmare about being pursued by a mummy and jotted the dream down on a note card as a potential story idea. Not long after, I wrote it out and, these many years later, the tale, "That Which Must Be Confronted", still resides in my file system, and I vividly remember the raw nerves of the original dream, which translated onto the page.

Late last year, two friends planning to open a new press approached me about editing an anthology of short stories and asked me about ideas on a theme.  I instantly tossed out the notion of mummies -- the original zombies, and an icon that doesn't get nearly as much play.  I suggested a fresh approach from the expected Egyptian landscape: bog mummies, mummies from outer space, and also the all-important element of the jars in which organs were preserved and stored for future use by the embalmed upon their return from the dead. And thus, Canopic Jars: Tales of Mummies and Mummification was born, the first project by the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing.

Over the course of the summer and into the early autumn, publishers Philip Perron (who runs the fantastic Dark Discussions Podcast) and Douglas Poirier invited writers they respected to submit stories for consideration.  I, too, sent out a handful of invitations, and was blown away by the brilliance and variety that resulted. Rejecting stories was difficult; accepting those that made it into the book, a whopping twenty-nine (including a reprint of H.P. Lovecraft's classic, "Under the Pyramids") proved fairly easy.  T. G. Arsenault unleashes evil on an unsuspecting town in "Symphony of the Ancient Gods".  David C. Hayes explores the history of the genre from an actor's POV in "That's a Wrap". Suzanne Robb's heartbreaking "Portraits of the Dead" tackles the loss of loved ones and the belief in their resurrection, the fundamental basis for Egyptian mummification.  The menu's unique in my tawdry tale set at a society party, "Mummy Chips", and Karen Dent embalms the entire Earth in the outstanding "Walking White Death". In addition to fantastic fiction that spans the globe from Egypt to Ireland, New York City penthouses to digs in remote China, from France to the far reaches of the cosmos, Canopic Jars also features poetry by Esther M. Leiper-Estabrooks and a foreword from Patrick Rhea, screenwriter and director behind Lionsgate's Nailbiter film.

Canopic Jars went to press in record time and debuted at Anthocon in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where fifteen of the anthology's contributors were in attendance.  Copies of the book flew off the Great Old Ones Publishing table in the dealer's room, and energy and excitement for the project was everywhere you turned.  A fantastic roster of authors, a beautiful layout (Egyptian hieroglyphs and ankhs detail the scene breaks and end pages), and a classic horror trope given a fresh dusting off, if you will, have resulted in a book I am supremely proud of.  Next up: Great Old Ones have asked me to edit their new anthology, based upon another idea I suggested: Bugs!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New Release Flash Flood

On March 3, 2013 our small family ventured north to our new house (actually, Xanadu's almost a century old) in the mountains. Before the week was through, my soon-to-be-new writing room on the ground floor was being pulled apart so that it could be redesigned to my specifications, and I had claimed office space at our dining table in our new kitchen as temporary accommodations (also the sofa in Xanadu's living room for afternoon work sessions). There wasn't much of a lull between our old digs and new -- I wrote on the long drive up here and through the morning of closing, the stress of which should have driven me to distraction but didn't.

During those kitchen table and living room sofa spells, I penned quite a few flash fiction stories inspired by our adventure to this mysterious and magical town.  One morning soon after landing, the Eureka! moment struck, and I collected together twenty of my wee stories into Shrunken Heads: Twenty Tiny Tales of Mystery and Terror.  I wrote up a proposal, fired it off, and in record time my wonderful editor, Angela Craig at Elektrik Milk Bath Press, requested a read.  The book was turned in, and this past September my terrible infant was born. Petite in size (it's smaller than a paperback and weighs in at only 106 pages), Shrunken Heads is a miniature monster that packs -- I hope -- plenty of bite!

I've also enjoyed several exciting new releases in addition to my short fiction collection.  Over the summer, editor Shawna Bernard approached me about writing for her new project, Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror V1.  Cellar Door contains two of my original short stories -- "Stray Cat" and "November Comes Too Early" (formerly titled "There's Someone in the Basement").  In the first, a shady apartment dweller mistakes noises in the hallway for a stray cat and devises a violent solution, while in the latter, a woman wakes each night, convinced there's someone moving around down in the basement as the autumn days grow shorter and colder.  I had a great time writing both stories; "Cat" tested me and made me feel quite dirty, truth be told.  On the afternoon I hit 'send' from my laptop, my good pal Esther M. Leiper-Estabrooks, read the guidelines and was instantly inspired. Esther is one of many wonderful new friends I've made since moving north, and a powerhouse poet, columnist, and fiction writer.  We were enjoying a big Sunday dinner and, by dinner's end, she had a draft of "Behind the Cellar Door", a wonderfully creepy epic poem, which also appears in the collection. Rounding out the Table of Contents are such luminous authors as Tracy L. Carbone, J. Daniel Stone, K. Trap Jones, and David North-Martino.  It's always a pleasure to have my work included among such wonderful scribes.

Late last winter, right before the move, I was contacted by the brilliant minds behind the Gay City series of books, which featured my story "The End of an Era" in Volume 4. Editors Vincent Kovar and Evan J. Peterson invited me to submit to their newest, which would pay homage to monsters -- one of my favorite writing subjects! While waiting to close on Xanadu and packing up our lives for the new adventure, I got lost in my longish short story "B.E.M.s", which came to me during a visit to Los Angeles, circa 1999.  In my story, a hardened he-man actor starring in the lead role on a spooky network TV show lives a secret life fighting the Bug-Eyed Monsters that lurk and slither in the back lots and back alleys of Tinseltown, preying upon dreams and the innocent. I had more fun than should be legal writing the story, enjoyed sharing it with my southern NH writers' group in those final weeks leading up to the big move, and fired it off to patient editors who made it very clear that they wanted my work included in the collection. On the first Saturday in our new home, I woke and moseyed downstairs to find the acceptance for "B.E.M.s" waiting in my email.  The end result of the book -- like the previous volume -- is visually stunning, from cover to contents.  "B.E.M.s" appears alongside work by heavy hitters like Steve Berman and Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison.

In November 2012 at Anthocon, I met the brilliant Dr. Alex Scully, who approached me about contributing quite a unique story to a new project in the works at her press, Firbolg Publishing, for their Enter at Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences. I was tasked with telling the story of H.P. Lovecraft's classic "The Call of Cthulhu" from the perspective of the author's most famous baddy himself. Talk about a challenge -- and a rare treat! I immersed myself in the original story, got into Cthulhu's head space as best as I could, and penned "The Whisper of Cthulhu", in which the cosmic giant wakes early from his eons-old slumber to find himself in a reality he never dreamed possible.  Not only does Dark Muses, Spoken Silences include a reprint of Lovecraft's tale, the book also features Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", Polidori's "The Vampyre: A Tale", and Edgar Allen Poe's "The Black Cat", each classic bookended with alternate takes from different perspectives as penned by some of today's most exciting literary voices.  Poe is my favorite author of all time, and to be included in a book with him is a dream made manifest.  My contributor copy arrived recently late one gloomy, cold afternoon -- mail delivery in our neighborhood switched from mid-morning to seemingly mid-night -- and my hands trembled as I opened the package, knowing what it contained.  A stunning and humbling collection to have a story in, truly.

Four books of more than a dozen I've had stories published in since the summer, each one is a reminder of how lucky I am to be living the writing life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Three Days of Heaven in Xanadu

(Life without makeup)
For the past two months, I haven't felt much like my usual sunny self.  I can blame it on the Second Coming of that horror from the spring, Jurassic Cyst (which landed me in the hospital for nearly five full days in April and left a divot in my scalp big enough to fly a Saturn 5 rocket through).  The loss of our beloved eldest cat, Chicken. A great deal of writing work that, while wonderful and exciting, is far from what I planned to delve into this waning Summer 2013. Perhaps it was that oft-lamented Mercury Retrograde I've heard spoken of so frequently, but never gave much of a second thought. Who knows?  Not I.  Maybe it was all of these things, a personal perfect storm that wove together into a shroud that smothered my love for my new home and the writing life.  Whatever the cause, I knew the effect and, focused on recharging batteries seriously depleted, I took three days to get centered. The results were quite spectacular.  They were, in fact, examples of the way I'm used to living my life. Maybe two lackluster months were meant to remind me of how good I've got it.

Despite a lot of recent attention toward my career in newspaper interviews and even TV, I've become a bit of a hermit in these, my late middle years, loving my alone time (never truly alone, with my small and wonderful family and a very grabby Muse).  So on Friday morning, feeling the need to nest, I made a point that these three days, from Friday to Sunday as I type this blog entry, were to be spent at home, without external contact.  I would get off the grid...or as far from it as possible.  I needed to get centered.

Regarding Jurassic Cyst Part Deux: thanks to a wonderful friend in my writers' group and desperate to avoid another lengthy and expensive hospital stay, I began taking a holistic remedy called Chaga, a repellent-looking fungus-among-us that apparently is growing all over the woods in my backyard. When mashed and then boiled, it makes a lovely tea.  My friend urged me to give it a try and I found it not only delicious, but within one week's time (the Friday start to my nesting period), Jurassic Cyst became extinct.  In feeling physically better, I also began to improve in the spiritual sense.  I woke up on Day One and resumed working on numerous projects that have been shuffled to the side -- completion of a short story started in Vermont last December while attending When Words Count Retreat Center for Writers called "The Honeysuckle Snow" and submission of my novelette, "The Arsonist", to a market I'd love to crack.  I worked on keystroking a novel from longhand draft onto the computer for my German Publisher, who requested a look at what could amount to a full series commitment.  I listened to music I love, played a few favorite movies I haven't seen in a while (Blue Velvet, Day of the Triffids), sipped coffee, walked around my yard and along my road with its stunning mountain views, read for fun (a wonderful old paperback with a tawdry cover, the Ellery Queen mystery The Origin of Evil), and indulged in some online soap operatic episodes of the ABC daytime drama Loving -- later The City -- which I used to watch being taped in New York City and covered for various industry publications, way-back-when.  I recharged those dead batteries.

(Sunday on the sun porch with Ozzie)
Most of all, I remembered.

I remembered that, twenty years ago, I reached the second-biggest turning point in my life, right after that which first inspired me to write.  Late summer of 1993 into the fall, I made a very conscious decision to be a writer, and only a writer because, simply, I love to write.  Not that I forgot this basic yet all-important truth.  I think I needed reminding, however.

Over the past twenty years, my career's enjoyed plenty of highlights and just as many low marks to keep me grounded.  On Halloween weekend in October of '93, I stood atop Wentworth Mountain at my very first writing retreat and, as wet autumn snow began to fall from a gray sky, asked the Muse for a sign, and I sure got it upon my return home -- in the form of my first professional sale to a national magazine, a writing award, and my first book deal.  The message was that if I gave myself completely to that which I love, it would keep me protected, provided for, and supremely happy.  It has.  I may have overlooked the interoffice memo regarding this truth these past two months, but I remembered where to look over the course of the past three days.  And I finished a particularly disturbing little tale of some 4,000 words on Day Three, "Thumbling", after bringing my current novel, which got lost in the muddle of the summer's demands, to its halfway point.  It didn't feel like work, not one bit.  It was fun.  The purest.

Tomorrow is Monday, and regardless of what the morning brings, I plan to wake up with a smile, pour my first coffee of the day, uncap my pen, and remember how lucky I am to be right where I am, doing what I love most.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Experience the Magic of Arthurian!

(Poster art by Judi Calhoun)
Mysterious signs began to appear across the northern hamlet of Berlin, New Hampshire.  Even greater mysteries were hinted at through portents, word of mouth, short feature articles in The Berlin Daily Sun, and the Internet destination the curious were directed to, Arthurian. Ancient secrets are about to be revealed, thanks to the luminous Jonathan Dubey, playwright and driving force behind the two-hour theater production set in pre-Camelot England, which takes to the stage starting this week in a venue unlike any other, in a region famous for -- and in desperate need of -- a healthy and thriving theater scene.

It was my pleasure to sit down with Jonathan, a talented scribe from my wonderful Berlin Writers' Group who pens poetry, short fiction, and memoir in addition to writing phenomenal plays (he's also hard at work on a murder mystery for the local dinner theater circuit), about Arthurian, which invites the audience meet a young Arthur, positing the details that created one of history's most beloved legends.

Talk me through the play's genesis.
With a low-budget theater company, I was looking for something that we could do with very inexpensive rights -- or for free.  And I thought that something written locally would be the best way to go.  I had difficulty finding the right project to work on, so I decided why not try writing something myself?  Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with King Arthur legends, in all the various forms -- books, movies, cartoons.  And I realized that classic literature is free to adapt, and because there are so many different interpretations that contradict, I could just about do anything I wanted with the story. But I tried to keep as true as possible to the classic fantasy of Sir Thomas Malory. Sir Thomas took all these legends and myths passed down through oral tradition and put them to paper.  They got nabbed and rewritten -- still under his name, but making it very Christian and religious.  The church pulled a lot of the mysticism, paganism, sex, and magic out of it.  And now we're putting this show on in a church!

(Arthurian Playwright/Director Jonathan Dubey)
You don't appear in Arthurian but are its director.  Still, you have a lot of history with the local theater scene in this section of the great northern chimney of New Hampshire.
When  I was a teenager, I was involved in a couple of shows in Middle School, High School, and the local community theater, Theatre North.  I then took fifteen years off to grow up, get married, have a career, and buy a house, but returned to community theater five years ago.  I found it to be an organization with goodhearted people but not enough of them, and cursed by the burden of serious financial problems. That theater organization recently disbanded and Arthurian is our attempt to bring something positive out of the ashes -- and to keep the spirit of Theatre North alive as something new.

Local theater in Northern New Hampshire has something of a storied history.  Why is it so important to keep the spirit and magic alive?
It's important to know about local community theater in this area in that there isn't any here anymore. One can travel over an hour to see community theater or summer stock, but art and culture is desperately lacking in this and other economically-depressed regions.  There are artists here, and good ones.  There are writers and other talented people in Berlin and the surrounding communities, and the public needs to know they're here and to celebrate with us.

(Mario Molina as Sir Pellinore in Arthurian)
Arthurian takes a unique glimpse into the King Arthur Legend by showing his life before he was king.  What can the audience expect?
It's a real 'King Arthur Begins' bent, an origin story, starting with Arthur's heritage when his blood father, Uther Pendragon, and Merlin set in motion the events leading to the boy's destiny.  Mostly, it details the difficulties of growing up where he's so different from his adoptive family. We, the audience, steal a glimpse into the workings within the walls of Sir Ector's estate, and come to understand these legendary characters in an intimate and unexpected manner.  Arthur is tempted to make the same mistakes as his blood father, but ultimately makes the correct though difficult choices that eventually shape his fate.

(Arthurian's cast and crew)
You have an amazing cast of local actors!
We have a varied yet talented cast: young Tanner Cote, in his first performance as "Kay"; June Desmond as "Mim", the Head of the Household -- she runs the house, really! -- has over twenty-five years of stage experience; Zachary Boucher as Arthur has some theater experience, but this is his first lead role; after performing the titular role in The Diary of Anne Frank, Samantha Kilbride changes it up as "Sir Ector"; Tyler Fowler and Miranda Braziere play multiple roles, most notably the devious "Scrounger" and the sinister "Larcena"; Mario Molina commands the stage as "Sir Pellinore"; Corey Shaink brings us a quirky and mercurial new take on "Merlin"; and Mary Champlin as the ingenue "Andrivete".  Ramona Dube handles the props as well as the small but important role as "Taubitha", a servant.  Amelia Kendall deftly handles the lights and sounds, and first time Assistant Director Danielle Robichaud also serves as Stage Manager.  The entire cast and crew are local, all living within twenty miles of retrofitted church venue.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meet the Talented and Luminous Judi Calhoun

One of the many blessings of our new life North of the Notches is the fabulous creative community we've met and been welcomed by.  Early on, Judi Calhoun (who is as gifted an artist as she is a writer) impressed me with her creative passion -- and her brilliance in delivering a great read in both short and long story format.  A member of my Berlin Writers' Group, Judi's latest release is the engaging novel Ancient Fire in which a demon-slayer armed with a blessed weapon is tested not only in battle against the dark forces seeking to devour her family, but in matters of the heart when she meets a fellow warrior. Judi's prose is crisp, and her world building abilities top notch. Fire is a page-turner in the truest sense, and it was my delight to speak with the author about her exciting literary vision.

Your journey is as interesting as that of Shonna Wells, your heroine in Fire.
Even at a young age, adults labeled me a dreamer and made it sound like a bad word. Perhaps I was living in a dream world…retreating into my fantasies while my parents battled through an ugly divorce. I was constantly creating new fantasy realms and mysterious characters arriving on the scene in ballgowns, masks, and top hats with antenna…all to accompany my artwork. I once whimsically illustrated an entire cast of characters before I even wrote one line to my story. 

This combination I call visual writing was perhaps the best brainstorming contrivance I had in my toolbox as a child. At the time, I was not aware just how important this tool would become in my writing and art. When my husband and I moved to California in 1979, I started a photography business while attending classes at Palomar College, as an Art and English major. I also worked on the school newspaper and magazine and held an office in two major honor societies. Yet, it wasn’t until my husband suffered a major stroke that I donned my top hat, mask and scurried down the rabbit hole…back into my wonderland dream world. That’s when I really began to explore writing at a different magical level.

I love Fire -- is this part of a series and, if so, what's next for Shonna and Company?
Yes, I consider Ancient Fire, The Chronicles of Shonna Wells the first book. However, I wrote another smaller book about the younger Shonna, when she first received the power. It sold roughly 300 copies before going out of print. It’s not my best work. I wrote Ancient Fire, Book 2 in less than two months. It was the easiest book to write. I thought I must have done something wrong, so I kept going back over it, only to discover it was exactly how it should be.

This next volume picks up after Jake has graduated and is leaving for Colorado. While Shonna starts her senior year and struggles to exist without Jake, Rick Steel returns to New Bedford with motivations that are even more mysterious and perhaps still connected with the occult. Shonna’s battle is beyond psychological facing an enemy she cannot kill with her sword, learning the truth about her father and the business he was tangled up in that connects him to the house on Pine Street. The same house that Rick had taken her to the night of the fight with her mother.  

What other projects are you presently working on?
I find myself writing more and more short stories between novel projects. I never considered the possibility it would open up for me. I feel as if I’m acquiring a wealth of knowledge, priceless guidance that people like you, Gregory, offer without veiled motivation. Currently, I’m working on five novels and six short stories, as well as designing book covers for the next installment of Chronicles of Shonna Wells and a middle grade chapter book titled Leaving Holland Glen.

You're also quite the accomplished artist -- what's the Judi Calhoun method?
Other than the visual writing I mentioned earlier, I find self-disciplined, self-motivation to be key factors I believe I’ve got going for myself. I’m up at 4:00 or slightly later every morning, grabbing my cup of tea (me and Captain Picard) and I'm off to my work space to start writing or painting. Sure, I’m passionate about what I’m doing and that is what drives me.

I’ve heard people say they cannot create artwork without being inspired. I have to shake my head when I hear that kind of crap, because as a human being you have this incredible imagination to draw from, everyone does, unless you’re my third grade teacher, who stifled all artistic expression -- she claimed art was a waste of good paper. Not true of course. We are creative beings and we can create anything. Art is a learned process, like learning to play an instrument. Sure, there are people born with gifts, and everything comes natural to them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to develop it and it also doesn’t mean you have to be born with abilities in order to follow creative dreams. That’s like saying that because you are not gifted you can never play the violin.

I don’t really have a set process in writing or art other than what I’ve already mentioned. Most artists see beauty in almost everything, even a dead leaf floating in a puddle, just as most writers see a story in faces they pass by on the street. We draw from our inner resource, our pain, our suffering, and our life experiences. We might identify with our characters without making every protagonist and antagonist carbon copies of ourselves. When I wrote Ian Corbet, the evil, demonic familiar spirit in Ancient Fire, I had to think about soulless creatures and what motivates them to hurt and destroy. How could I make Shonna’s life a living hell? Of course I included my own personal pain somewhat contrived. I’ve had a lot of pain in my life, which helps me to understand the human condition. I want my reader to identify with Shonna’s pain, disappointments and sorrow. No doubt, you’ve heard it said that writers spend far too much time in isolation, and need some social aspect. While that is very true, I find I have this wonderful time with my believable characters. You can try to label me crazy, but I enjoy being with my characters almost as much as being with friends. To me, they are just as real and the more time I spend with them, the more I know about their habits and what makes them tick.

Judi, you and I share a mutual love of '60s classic Science Fiction TV -- particularly, Lost in Space.  How has that love influenced your work?
I have always loved classic fantasy and most all Science Fiction. Television was a new medium when I was a kid. It quickly became the family thing to do, watching shows like The Twilight Zone and later on Lost in Space and the original Star TrekThey not only inspired me on so many levels, but as much as I enjoyed them, they caused me to ponder the possibilities. Lost in Space had some unbelievably complicated plots, sure many offered predictable outcomes, but a few caused me loss of sleep.  I would get frustrated with the plots and think I could have ended this differently. I would grab my journal and write a new ending; one I thought mirrored the beginning, giving the story more strength. I did this all in secret, because I didn’t want to suffer ridicule. According to my teachers I was astutely a lost cause.   

One particular episode of Lost in Space, "The Golden Man", stayed with me for years; I couldn’t get it out of my mind. This may sound completely unrelated, but it really isn’t…one day standing in the flower fields in Carlsbad, California near my former hometown of Oceanside, I was staring transfixed at flowers. Row after row of beautiful flowers and my imagination went back to that episode. I began to develop a plot for my story, which later on, much later, developed into a book, one of those novels currently in the process of truncation wonderfully titled, The Andalorian Bloodstone. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My New Hampshire Chronicle

(Miked for the camera -- and showing plenty of sweaty nostril on a day so
humid it was nearly impossible to breathe)
It started two weeks ago, when I gave an interview to our local newspaper, The Berlin Daily Sun (an abbreviated version of the article can be found here).  The feature, splashed over the front page and accompanied by a vibrant full-color photograph of me seated at my desk, eldest cat keeping company, circulated around our new home town -- and far beyond. So far, in fact, that on the following Tuesday, I received an email from Sean Mcdonald, a newscaster on WMUR-Channel 9/ABC in Manchester.  Sean pulls double-duty as host of our wonderful all-things-Granite-State lifestyle program, New Hampshire Chronicle.  He'd read the article on our move north to Xanadu, my body of work, and the founding of our new Berlin Writers' Group, and felt I would be a good subject for a Chronicle segment.  I was thrilled.  And a bag of nerves, which is so unlike me.

I've worked for Paramount Studios as a freelance writer, covered The X-Games, building demolition, and written a bazillion feature articles in which I've interviewed celebrities -- all of my childhood icons, in fact.  And though I rarely get star-struck or nervous anymore, I didn't sleep for more than a few minutes at a time the night prior to the day of taping.  Adding to the mix of nerves and exhaustion was the weather's shift from Arctic (it snowed up here the last week of May!) to Okefenokee.  Miserable humidity swamped our fair mountain town, making even the simplest of movements like wading through neck-deep water.

(With Chris, Chronicle cameraman extra-ordinaire, and the luminous
Sean Mcdonald)
As the Tuesday night writers' group has been such a dynamic part of life's new chapter here North of the Notches, at the last instant we pulled together an impromptu Monday meeting of the talented folks I count as friends and blessings. The first to arrive, Kyle Newton, helped set an energetic and uplifting tone that only grew as the rest of the gang wandered in, most with luscious desserts and finger foods in hand.  To commemorate the day, talented pal Judi Calhoun -- the next author feature to grace my blog -- not only brought brownies, but gorgeous hand-crafted journals for Bruce and me, and two silkscreened tees to enhance my literary couture wardrobe.  I'm wearing the one that proudly says, "Gregory Norris, Writer" as I write this post.  You couldn't meet nicer or read better than Judi-Beauty Calhoun!

Through the heat barrier, Sean Macdonald and Chris the Cameraman arrived, and from the start I knew the day would forever be memorable for many wonderful reasons.  The camera was set up, writers settled down in our volcanic living room, and we were asked to hold an impromptu version of our Tuesday night meeting some twenty-four hours early.  We went around the room and read short stories, synopsi, and back covers.  The camera recorded all of it.  Seated among us and soaking up the very good vibe, Sean conducted spot interviews.  Then good pal Jonathan Dubey, whose brilliant play Arthurian is being staged this summer, made a nifty suggestion: we all lined up with our published books in hand and, together in unison, said, "We're the Berlin Writers' Group -- and we'll tell you the story" for the camera.  It may or may not make it into the final cut.  Either way, it punctuated a wonderful dialogue between this vibrant creative community and our visitors.

(Taping Chronicle in my Writing Room)
Soaked in sweat, we then retired to my beautiful Writing Room, where we covered the full range of my life and career up until that balmy afternoon, June 24, 2013.  We discussed my humble beginnings as a strange and imaginative boy in Windham, New Hampshire, through my even stranger adulthood/second childhood here, in Berlin. We talked Space:1999 and Xanadu, Star Trek and Star Trek: Voyager; Sci Fi Channel, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse and my newest book contract, its far-smaller sibling, Shrunken Heads: Twenty Tiny Tales of Mystery and Terror, forthcoming at the end of summer.  I showed him my files, shooting scripts (we improved a reading from the Voyager episode "Gravity" with he playing Tom Paris, me in the role of Tuvok; Sean aced it while I, clearly, need to stick to the writing side of the business).  At one point, I was asked to write on the spot.  I uncapped my favorite cobalt blue fountain pen, put it to paper, and spontaneously created a few powerful paragraphs that, later the same afternoon, got married to a project I'm working on behind-the-scenes.  And then they taped me standing outside in front of our beautiful new-old home among the hills, for a Trek-style beam-down, complete in post-production with strobing special effects.

This short documentary on my literary odyssey is scheduled to run in the not-too-distant future (updates to follow).  It was a lovely experience, the latest in a long list of fun and exciting adventures since uncapping my pen some thirty-three years ago when I first dared to dream big dreams -- and, more important, to chronicle them on paper.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Where I Write: 2013...and Beyond!

(seated at desk, with cat and the Summer 2013 copy of NH WRITER,
containing my feature article, "Dream On!")
Long ago, in a humorless house, I began to dream big dreams about bases on the moon and adventures far across the galaxy (and in the Inner Limits of my own backyard).  I dreamed about a 'Writing Room', where I would be surrounded by shelves filled with books, favorite artwork, and beloved family relics -- talismans, as I've since come to think of them.  That room, as imagined, was made reality in our first home, Blueberry Corners (a house based upon an enchanted cottage in the woods, from a novel I wrote when I was eighteen...a very long time ago!).  It emerged again in our next home, and the apartment we rented until March 2, 2013.  But until our arrival at the grand old lady in the White Mountains we purchased earlier this year, my home office always seemed a work-in-progress.  Not so now.  I have landed in my dream home, with its vast, ideal Writing Room.  Even in that far-ago time, I could not have dreamed of the inspiring work space I now enter daily, coffee cup in hand, Muse leaning over my shoulder.

The name on the door says it all.  "Writer" is one of the most powerful sobriquets a human being can claim.  The nameplate on the door was a gift from friends way-back-when, and while it has graced previous Writing Rooms, I never glued it in place.  I did so here.

We love bright colors, and after almost two years of builder beige and white walls, one of the first projects in our new home was to pull out the color wheel.  The cheerful, beachy-blue on the walls of my new home office is an homage to the bedroom in the house where I grew up -- and perfect for setting a happy and welcoming tone.   From the day I officially moved into my new Writing Room, it and I have enjoyed something of a renaissance.  Or a honeymoon.

The cabinet at left contains several thousand contributor copies -- mostly print magazines and binders filled with digital publications bearing my byline.  The comic book series I wrote for and some print anthologies share space behind the glass. The antique bronze horses are among the priceless family talismans that infuse the space with positive energy -- they occupy a mythological space in my formative years, as do my stuffed animals, many of which were crafted by my grandmother.  The book clock on top of the cabinet was a gift from three of the lovely ladies in my beloved Wednesday night writers' group.

The floor in this room is an antique knotty pine.  Another strange coincidence in that the same boyhood home with the blue bedroom walls (the predecessor to the miserable house of my teen years, when writing saved me) boasted knotty pine walls in the main part of the house.  When I was young, I would gaze into the knots, see faces, and my imagination wandered.  Four decades later, it hasn't ceased meandering.

At right, a section of the 'Muse Wall' -- autographs and photos of the many celebrities I've interacted with in my professional writing career.  Behind sliding glass doors and in various drawers and cubbies are my books, novels, collections, and anthologies containing my short fiction.  One drawer contains copies of my TV work, on VHS and DVD.

The Muse Wall.

An old telephone table, re-purposed to become home for the new printer, adds to the ease and functionality of the perfect literary Command Center.

The wall above my filing cabinets is covered with awards and mementos of my writing career.  Over the card catalog of as-yet-unwritten story ideas (which howl at me in the night to complete them!) is my letter of recommendation from Star Trek Voyager Creator and Executive Producer Jeri Taylor.

More of my favorite things -- press kits, almost a hundred press passes from events I covered, business cards, fountain pens, and objects that add to the ambiance of a creative destination that has seen an upsurge of energy and joy for writing since we landed in our beautiful new home, Xanadu.  One of our big house rules has always been to edit out anything that doesn't make us happy, anything we don't need or, most important of all, love.  And nowhere in Xanadu is this more apparent than my Writing Room where, in three short months, I have seen over twenty short stories, a novella, and a book accepted; where my pen has moved across the page and my fingers over the keyboard nonstop. Where new ideas and old get completed, and the dreams I dream are bigger and bolder than I thought possible.

To quote the movie from which our house earned her name, and my career sprung on a tempestuous August Saturday night in the summer of 1980, "Aah, inspiration...sounds perfect!"

I hope this tour of my Writing Room inspires you to keep creating!

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 2013 Writers Group Party

(with the brilliant poet/writer Esther Leiper-Estabrooks)
So much has changed in recent months.  Not taking into the equation the lurking malevolence of a cranial cyst that landed me in the hospital for four-plus days, those changes have been mostly for the better. We love our new life up here in the Great White North of New Hampshire, our beautiful new-old house, Xanadu, and the many new friends we've made -- not a full day in town, and I was seated at the monthly meeting of the local writers' group, where it was my pleasure to meet the legendary Esther Leiper-Estabrooks, who has since become a vibrant source of inspiration. And one of the things that remains the same in this new life is a love for breaking bread and sharing stories with my creative comrades, and so a week after my release from the hospital, we hosted our first writers' group(s) open house, and seventeen lovely scribes -- faces both familiar and new -- graced us with sumptuous offerings of food and fresh pages.  It was, in a word, spectacular!

The theme for the day's readings was 'Rebirth' (or variations: 'Spring', 'Resurrection', 'Renewal').  A week after our momentous move north from our former world to this big, bright new adventure, I sat in our living room and wrote a shiny, fresh idea based upon the cobalt blue lamp in our bay window.  The story, "Occupy Maple Street", inspired the theme, which seemed appropriate given our renewal here in a formerly sad old house that rises daily from neglect, and now -- dare I think it? -- smiles as a result of the happiness of its occupants.

The buffet was incredible. Among the many offerings, which stretched around our kitchen (you grabbed a plate, hopped in line, and traveled along counters, stove top, table, and finally the drinks station set up atop our big antique server with the marble top) were: maple-glazed pork roast, baby sausage torts, stacked, stuffed sandwiches, salads (potato, pasta, and green leaf), baby rolls and butter, perhaps the best dip for chips I've ever tasted, creamy mac & cheese, and an assortment of desserts almost too sinful to imagine -- berry pie, pineapple upside-down cake, and delicious little vegan-friendly coconut cupcakes by the fabulous Judi Calhoun, author of the Ancient Fire series.  In honor of the last big writers party we hosted, I made the same chocolate coconut cake, which suffered a bit of a volcanic meltdown during the baking process.  However, there's no cake snafu that frosting can't correct, and it was scrumptious.

While a warm, sunny day blossomed outside the house, and a sweet green breeze stirred the living room curtains, we read our stories, novel excerpts, poetry, and even staged part of a play penned by the brilliant Jonathan Dubey, Arthurian, which is being performed in town this coming August.  Six of us assumed roles and the results were delightful!

(Writers Kyle Newton and Lorrie Lee O'Neill)
Five of my favorite writers from my beloved Southern group made the long trek north -- the lovely and talented Lorrie Lee-O'Neill, with whom I share cover space in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction series; Philip Perron, who runs the Dark Discussions podcast; the luminous Brad Younie and Ralph Mack, and Douglas Poirier, who always surprises and amazes me with his creativity.  The fit with the many creative geniuses from my new home realm was seamless, and many new friendships resulted.  The day was about celebrating the writing, and we did so with verve!

And we'll do it all again in September -- if not before!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Recently, we bought our dream house, far from the familiar, high in the hills of New Hampshire's White Mountains.  Before the momentous move (which tabled most other responsibilities, like updating my beloved blog) we rented a vast, two-bedroom apartment in the very house where local favorite son and native legend Fritz Wetherbee grew up (I interviewed Fritz in 2008 for a regional magazine, and found it somewhat neat that my now-former office was located in his then-former bedroom).

In the master bedroom of our previous home, placement of my antique dresser with its beautiful mirror and our gigantic antique oval mirror on a corresponding length of wall created an eerie multiplicative effect when viewed from certain angles.  It struck me that my reflection was performing a modern version of that old stage schtick where two actors ham it up in front of a mock mirror, one pretending to be the other's reflection.  Until, of course, the fake reflection messes up, and the game is revealed.  This concept dogged me until Thanksgiving Day of 2011, when I sat down to write a story's longhand draft based on some very bare bones. Thanksgivings are a special time in our home.  We always host an open house and a monstrous meal, with more side dishes and homemade pies than our guests can fathom or devour.  Since I was a teenager, I've also had the running tradition of penning a complete short story in honor of the day -- thanks offered up to the Muse, as it were.  I dashed off most of the first draft of my story "Phantomime" before dinner got served, finished it after dessert and the departure of our guests, and then filed it away until a personal invitation arrived from visionary publisher Marc Ciccarone and the fine editorial staff at Blood Bound Books, who'd previously featured my story "The Libidonomicon" in their brilliant erotic horror anthology, Steamy Screams.  A select list of writers were being given a shot at appearing in a new project, one which would literally drip with pedigree.  I fired off an edited draft of "Phantomime", which made it into an impressive Table of Contents in the stunning end result, Blood Rites: An Invitation to Horror.

Many of my fellow luminaries within the covers of this incredible book shared the back stories behind their stories.

Mark C. Scioneaux on "The Lady with Teeth Like Knives": "I had just watched the movie Insidious, and there is a part where it focuses on this horrific ghost lady, smiling with a row of sharp teeth.  That image stuck with me the most from the movie, and I decided to make a story around it.  In fact, I wrote the entire story while sitting in my truck at work one day.  Just penned it out quick on a yellow paper tablet, went home, and then typed it up.  The tale is simple, and follows the story of a man who thinks he got away with murder.  However, he finds himself haunted by a sinister ghoul, a lady whose teeth resemble knives."

Lisa Morton on "The True Worth of Orthography": "The idea behind ‘The True Worth of Orthography’ -- that the actual practice of writing is a magical act -- stems from my love of a series of books called the Abrams Discoveries series. These are beautifully designed little non-fiction books that cover everything from the history of rock music to the Aztecs to vampires, and they did one on the history of writing that was especially good. While I was reading it, I had this thought that writing is like telepathy -- we exchange thoughts without speaking - and that led to the notion that it's essentially a form of magic. The story, which centers on a magician who enacts spells by the physical act of writing them, grew out of that."

Maria Alexander on "Saturnalia": "In 1999, I had a really effed-up dream.  The dream was not only scary as hell, but extremely detailed and well plotted. It included an entire ensemble of strangers, a brother named Joshua who had died, and a town with a secret so dark it could only hide in a Louisiana swamp. The details of the dream were so deeply carved into my memory and psyche that I even named the main character after myself. I didn’t act like myself in the dream, though. I was naive, trusting, religious, forgiving…a person sure to find trouble."

Aric Sundquist on "The Candle and the Darkness": "This story originated from a central image of a mother and daughter fending off a growing darkness with nothing but a candle's flame.  For three months, I pondered where the story would go, until one day while doing research online for another story, I came across an old Roman Catholic prophecy called 'The Three Days of Darkness'.  The content fit perfectly with the story, so I infused the two together, added a bit of creepy back story, and completed a rough draft within a week."

John McNee on "The Lullaby Man": "The Lullaby Man was the title of the first horror story I ever wrote, back in 2006.  At the time, I wasn't sure if I was even capable of writing a real horror story, so I challenged myself to come up with the darkest concept I could.  What I arrived at  was the notion of a supernaturally-gifted pedophile who masquerades as the imaginary friend of his young victims to gain their trust.  That original draft (which took the form of a patient-psychiatrist confessional), is completely unpublishable, but the central idea stayed in the back of my head and, when Blood Bound Books invited me to submit to Blood Rites, I decided to revisit it and try to do it justice.  By this point, I'd developed the idea of telling the tale from the perspective of an adult survivor who had written her experiences off as childhood nightmares.  When she discovers the Lullaby Man really exists, she feels compelled to seek him out, whatever the risks."

Chad McKee on "Sleep Grins": "The source of inspiration for this story was, at least indirectly, my newborn daughter.  The whole process of having a child was fascinating.  As a biologist by training, I took that sometimes-irritating habit of close observation home with me and basically studied my child. The way she slept was especially interesting -- the little mannerisms and ticks and so on.  One thing was the way she made occasional smiles while napping -- the neurologist will tell you that it's not intentional, just the brain processing something, making more connections.  Totally subconscious. Yet, she also sometimes screamed and thrashed about as if in a nightmare prior to those grins.  It got me thinking: what was deep in your mind, even as a baby?  Memories or even memories of feelings?  As an adult, maybe you could have those little grins in your sleep, too. Maybe even when your subconscious mind is plotting revenge."

Daniel O'Connor on "The Binding": "I like things.  Real things -- books, vinyl albums, CDs, DVDs. Things we can hold., smell, and put on shelves.  Not a fan of downloads of any kind.  I also love classic rock, mystery, and horror.  I wanted to meld all of that into a story that could evoke past, present, and future, so I came up with this: 'Every Thursday night, four guys would meet at a local bar.  Watch some football.  Play some darts.  This Thursday, the fate of the entire human race rests in their hands. They also enjoy the jukebox.'  Astute rock n' roll fans might notice that, in a way, the entire story was inspired by a certain classic album.  Let me know if you get it!  My email address is"

Douglas J. Lane on "The Trapdoor":  I live in a pier-and-beam house like the one in the story, which is how many of the older bungalow homes in Houston are constructed.  Because it sits on pylons a couple of feet off the ground instead of a foundation, I hear house-settling noises in the night -- thumps, pops, creaks -- or animals in the crawlspace or, occasionally, in a wall.  One night, I heard what sounded like a door closing, and started thinking: what if there was a way to get inside from under the house that I'd never noticed?  But nothing interesting came through the door when I imagined it.  So I flipped it around: what if there was a trapdoor in the floor that led somewhere other than the crawlspace under the house?  Where would it go?  And as I wrote, I understood it went to the place of my characters' secrets and guilt.  Once I discovered what was waiting for them, the story came together quite quickly."

K. Trap Jones on:"The Butterfly": "To me, there's nothing scarier than the unknown.  True fear happens during a situation that is uncontrollable.  'The Butterfly' is a narrative told through the eyes of a common villager who is caught within the path of God's fury.  With no remorse and no sympathy towards those it devours, a mysterious storm barrels through a peaceful village.  I chose to wrap this horrific tale with imagery of a beautiful butterfly, which symbolizes the good in life even within times of death and decay.  There are events that we humans will never be able to explain and never be able to outrun.  'The Butterfly' was inspired by the song, 'Creeping Death' by Metallica."

Matt Moore on "The Leaving": "Sometimes, we don't know why, just what is.  This could be the friendship that's lasted decades.  Or, for the people of Jefferson Hollow, you don't go out after dark when a barnyard stink pervades the small town.  As a small town boy, I watched box stores force mom-and-pop shops to close, local restaurants fold while chains sprung up, and woodlands cut down for cookie-cutter developments.  Replacing centuries-old Yankee traditions with cultural homogeny was itself a horror story.  For years, I've wanted to explore these themes.  Good horror needs to be grounded in reality, providing an accessible and emotional anchor for the reader.  'The Leaving' was the perfect story for this.  And I wanted to explore one more idea: small town legends.  As a horror story, the legend needed to conceal something monstrous.  Haunted houses and the boogeyman have been done, so I turned to something innocuous into a deadly object of terror.  'The Leaving,' set in a grown town thanks to a new highway, balances secrets the locals keep from new arrivals with the secrets we keep from the people we love.  We tend to believe that concealing an awful truth will hurt less than revealing it -- this rarely ends well."

Desmond Warzel on "The Final One Percent": "I recently had another story ('Cosmetic Procedures') performed on an episode of  Cast of Wonders, the fabulous young-adult-oriented podcast featuring stories of the fantastic.  I took the opportunity to dispense a small bit of advice for would-be writers: 'Don't waste time being bored.  Look around.  The pieces of your stories are everywhere, and only you can make the connections.'  'The Final One Percent' is one example of such a story; its inspiration lay in a single observation, made in passing and then stored away for mulling over at leisure: a book review website titled Blood of the Muse.  The site ceased updating nearly two years ago, but the name has always stuck with me.  The Muses are classical goddesses; I'm no expert on mythology, but I know that Greek gods perform human biological functions (such as eating), and they also possess bodily fluids.  What, I wondered, would the blood of a muse be like?  If it could be extracted, would it retain the essence of its former owner, and how might it be put to use?  Interestingly, one major online magazine includes 'Muse' stories in a lengthy list of fictional topics they see too often among their submissions.  Certainly my memory is not beyond question, but I'm well-read enough to have encountered most major cliches at least once, and I'm almost positive I've never actually seen such a story.  Perhaps writers and editors shy away because it seems as though it ought to have been done before.  In any case, I'm rather pleased with my interpretation of the idea, and its appearance in Blood Rites is a welcome vindication."

Nathan Crowder on "Cold Comfort of Silver Lake": "The story comes from an unexpected list of influences.  The primary one is a long-established dislike of swimming in lakes.  The dream in the story is a dream that I had as my last marriage went through an especially rocky patch.  The setting is loosely modeled on the small mining town I grew up in -- and who knows what's lurking in the water there?"

Adrian Ludens on "Life and Limb": I enjoy researching and writing weird western stories.  That research naturally led to the topic of the Civil War.  I had published a story a couple of years ago that involved Confederate zombies and I had so much fun that I wanted to revisit the era.  That period in history lends itself well to supernatural/horror fiction, in my opinion.  I read that the term 'Sawbones' originated during the Civil War.  Thanks to a combination of projectiles (not bullets but mini-balls) that did a lot of physical damage, and the lack of cleanliness and hygiene in the tent hospitals, many a soldier lost his life -- or at least a limb.  Doctors found it easier to actually saw the limb off rather than try to repair the extensive damage.  The title and the final sentence of the story popped into my head first, and from there I hammered out the rest of the tale with zeal.  My local critique group suggested some minor revisions, and the Blood Bound Books editors (who are always excellent about offering helpful critiques) asked me to clarify one key point.  I hope readers enjoy the end result."

Brad C. Hodson on "The Philosopher's Grove": "Ancient Greece and Rome have always been obsessions of mine.  I've also always been interested in the origin of words and concepts.  Reading about how our modern idea of 'demon' was just a corruption of the Greek idea of 'daemon' (a corruption that happened largely through an misinterpretation of the Bible when translated from Greek to Latin to Englilsh), I started to wonder what it would have been like if the corruption of the concept had been a very real thing.  Xenocrates (and later Aristotle) both wrote about evil spirits and how the daemon could be subverted, so it seemed a natural fit.  Plus I love the idea of taking famous figures like Aristotle and Menander that we think of as stuffy old men in pristine robes standing around all day and showing how they really were: lustful, arrogant, raging drunkards.  In other words, they were just like us."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From the Bookshelf: The Jesus Injection by Eric Andrews-Katz

One of my happiest acceptances in late 2011 (and contributor copy arrivals in early 2012) was for a short, dark steampunk tale submitted to the brilliant editing team of Eric Andrews-Katz and Vince Kovar -- the latter, the driving force behind the Gay City series of speculative anthologies, the former a respected journalist and new novelist, both fiercely talented powerhouse scribes in their own rights. The fourth Gay City volume, containing my short story "The End of an Era", posited alternate histories (the latest, presently reading, will be chock full of creature features and things that go bump in the night). In notching the acceptance, my experience was further heightened by my introduction to their writing.  I've gotten to know both through our wonderful interactions following the book's release and via their work.  It is my pleasure to welcome back Eric Andrews-Katz, author of the engaging novel, The Jesus Injection, in which a hunky gay spy faces off against a host of threats, the personal, political, and potentially world-shattering.

Eric, The Jesus Injection is bold writing! Please share its genesis with us.
I wanted to write a parody of something meshing two genres that would normally not be mixed -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer was already written, and so I settled on a story about a secret agent that was gay. My partner and I were feeling very giddy and started coming up with names of characters. 'Agent Buck 98' was first, and then came Noxia von Tussell, and eventually Dr. Raven Evangelista. Everything snowballed from there.

The funniest thing is the title itself -- The Jesus Injection. I’ve gotten quite the uproar because people have assumed that somehow it’s going to be sacrilegious material. One person accused me of taking [his] ‘Lord’s name in vain just to sell my book’. He knew nothing about it except the title. I was hoping that having “A Buck 98 Adventure” on the book’s cover would discourage such thoughts. It’s truly a case of NOT judging a book by its title. Personally, I think Bold Strokes Books did an incredibly wonderful job with the cover! 

Take us into your writing lair -- tell us what your creative space is like.
We have a loft outside of the master bedroom in our townhouse, and that’s where I do my writing. I have my desk set up with my computer and printers etc., bookshelves behind me, and inspirational pictures around. It’s an open space so I feel very relaxed there and have a plethora of resources at my fingertips.

How did you come to the Muse?  Did you write stories when you were growing up?
I started writing as soon as I could hold a pen.  I remember writing my first piece in second grade and it got published in the school paper. As for my Muse (aside from my husband), it’s the Great God Pan! I started having dreams of Pan when I was three. They continued up until I was seven. Then he appeared and said, ‘you’re going to follow me the rest of your life’. I agreed in a heartbeat and he’s been an important part of my life ever since. I’m very particular about my Pan artwork, but I have many pieces and several of them are displayed in my work space.

Do you write longhand or compose on the computer.  How many drafts?  In other words, please share some insight into your creative process.
I almost always write on the computer. My brain goes too fast (I’m a Gemini) for my hands to keep up with if I write longhand. I taught myself to type when I was ten, and so can do that much faster. I never have a set number of drafts that I want to complete. For me, a story is complete when I’m satisfied with it. I’ll get an idea and mull it over in my mind for a while. When I’m ready, I’ll sit down and start writing. I usually don’t storyboard because I’m used to writing short stories. When I started my novel, I found it helpful to make outlines of what I wanted to happen and where in the story they were to occur.

If you could cast Buck in the movie version, he'd be played by...
Now this I’ve often thought about as its one of the fun parts of writing. I think someone like Ewen McGregor could play Buck. He’s metrosexual enough to pull off both masculine and feminine aspects of being a gay man. He’s already proven that he has a decent singing voice, and since he’s already done [what are considered] gay films, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. His movies usually include a nude scene, so that won’t be bad, either!