Monday, November 19, 2018

Escape from the Holidays with Mischief Corner Books

There were days following the divorce of my parents when I would have done anything to escape the holidays. Once, before moving into my first apartment and starting new traditions, a middle sister invited a house full of smokers over for Christmas Day and, hiding in my room, I thought I'd been transported to a dump fire. For years at Xanadu, our home in New Hampshire's North Country, we've enjoyed Halloweens with our writers' group friends and an annual party with a story theme, our Thanksgiving open house and sit down dinner, and quiet Christmases, just us, the cats, a big dinner, and a movie.

When I read the call for Mischief Corner Books' new holiday line, "Escape from the Holidays", I wanted in. I'd published with this excellent company before -- first in Behind the Uniform and then in This Wish Tonight. I had one idea I felt would work, a contemporary M/M romance idea that first came to me in 1997 in a dream called Burning Down the House that had sat on a note card for decades and now screamed at me to long last write it. Seated on my sun porch, I put pen to paper and the pages flowed with shocking speed, the characters finally given their time. I dashed off the first draft (some 12,000 words) in four days and turned in my story. I'm thrilled to report that Burning Down the House, which aims to rewrite the definition of a family while keeping its bonds intact during one stressful holiday season, releases on December 1, 2018, as part of MCB's "Escape from the Holidays" line.

Starting on 11/28 with Kassandra Lea's Stay Awhile and wrapping on December 29 with Freddy MacKay's Waiting on the Rain, MCB is offering ten tales of holiday-themed escapist reading. Many of my fellow Escape artists shared the back-stories behind their wonderful. tales.

Kassandra Lea on "Stay Awhile": "In my short story, you meet Anson, who is asexual, and Daly, the man who stole his heart. It's closing in on Thanksgiving, but instead of the joyous holiday Anson is planning on, he's depressed about where his relationship stands with Daly. A few weeks previous at a Halloween party, Anson blurted out the fact that he's asexual. Will Daly be okay with this? The story came about for a few reasons. One, I'm a little burned out on writing Christmas stories and feel like Thanksgiving always gets overlooked. Two, there aren't enough romance stories out there with asexual characters and I want to help see that change. And finally, being gray-ace myself, I wanted to put into words some of my own fears and doubts that come along with relationships and acceptance. You could say that I'm basically Anson, in a way. While my relationship status remains a rocky road, I am fortunate beyond belief that my family and friends understand that my view of love is fluid. Now, if only I could manage to find someone like Daly!"

Evelyn Benvie on "Something to Celebrate": "This novella started in a lot of places, with a lot of things, before coming together into something cohesive. But if I had to pick one place in particular, I would say it started while working in retail over the holidays. There is nothing that has made me want to Escape from the Holidays more than having to work through them in close contact with the public every year. I knew I had to incorporate that perspective into my writing and it ended up becoming the basis for my first main character, an overworked and stressed-out grocery clerk in need of a bit of holiday magic. And that’s where the rest of the novella started: in the bits of random winter myths that have been knocking around my head for years. The Japanese Yuki-onna, the German Schneekind, the Russian Snegurochka, all these related/unrelated stories were the basis and inspiration for my second main character, a lost winter spirit looking for somewhere to call home. Add some misunderstandings, a prying best friend who may or may not be human herself, demi representation, and a lot of parks (I’m not kidding) and that is how Something to Celebrate came to be."

Lou Sylvre on "The Holiday Home Hotel": "Magical realism. That’s one way to describe The Holiday Home Hotel. It’s romance, it’s contemporary, and it’s also magical, but I honestly didn’t mean for it to be so. Magic is a stubborn little idea. Nearly every story I write, long or short, light-hearted or dark, pulls in the idea of magic until I can’t help but let it live there. Even my Vasquez and James series—contemporary romantic suspense—has a secret bit of magic in it, though only one reader ever told me they spotted it. But for today’s purposes, that’s really beside the point. The magic in The Holiday Home Hotel isn’t secret—not at all. Slavic goddess Lelia and forest spirit Leshy (who’s playing at being a brown-furred black bear) start their mischief right on page one. Lelia is Daren Slovak’s canine companion, a fluffy white Belgian shepherd, and when Daren plays fetch with her, he has no idea how very much more she truly is. And when I first started writing the tale, neither did I! She was simply going to be a dog named after a minor goddess of luck and springtime. I started thinking some of the things she did—like leading Gunny Schiller out of the wintry woods and into the Holiday Home—could be magic. And then I thought, what if…. A story transformed! Delightfully magical divine intervention, the promise of luck in love, and a sexy springtime romp in the cold middle of winter. See why I love magic?"

Mere Rain on "Celebrations in the Season of Long Nights": "It is set at Yalda, the Persian holiday of the winter solstice. Threatening supernatural forces are at their strongest on this longest night of the year, and it is traditional to keep the fires burning, the music playing, and the food and drink plentiful. Stay up all night celebrating with those you love. Unless you don’t have anyone to go home to. Or you’ve been tasked with fighting evil more directly. Yima is a demon-hunter, a duty passed down through his family. He doesn’t resent it, but it does get lonely, especially since his work is at its most difficult and dangerous when everyone else is celebrating with loved ones. After he rescues Shahin from a demon attack and finds that he has nowhere safe to stay, he takes him back to his flat. Yima has just arrived in town and doesn’t even have electricity yet, leaving the two men with little to do but talk. It isn’t a surprise when they end up in bed, though what at first feels like a temporary comfort grows over days spent together into a deeper bond. Can nomadic Yima find a way to stay without demons coming after his lover? And does Shahin want to risk his heart loving a man who constantly puts his life in danger? I will also be blogging about how to cook for Yalda for the blog tour organized by Other Worlds Ink, running from 12/3 through 12/15."

Angel Martinez on "Yule Planet": "The winter holidays are time for traditions -- lots of them. My holiday story from last year (Safety Protocols for Human Holidays) was a humorous lesbian space opera, so I thought I'd start a new tradition, too, this year being the Second Annual Angel Martinez Humorous Lesbian Space Opera, Yule Planet. I had so much fun with last year's that I toyed with returning to that universe and ship, but really I'd said what I'd wanted to say there. Instead, this year's story stems from something I've found equal parts fascinating and horrifying, and was reminded of again during a visit to Disneyworld the past September. Theme parks. In particular, immersive resort types of theme parks -- how they operate, how they keep guests trapped in a dependent experience, how they treat, portray and sometimes exploit employees. Naturally, since this is science fiction, I decided to take the theming to a planetary scale and the Yule Planet Resort Corporation was born. Happy holidays to you and I hope you enjoy this tale of a resort vacation gone terribly wrong."

J. Scott Coatsworth on "Slow Thaw": "Javier stood on the ice, staring up at the night sky. Behind him, the lights of Bettancourt Station lit the snow in a thirty foot radius. But out where he stood, absolute darkness ruled.
The stars above were brilliant sparks of light, far brighter than they ever were back home, especially on a moonless night like this. He wondered, not for the first time, if somewhere out there on another planet spinning around one of those stars. If someone else was looking up and wondering if there was inteligent life somewhere out there.
It was brutally cold out--negative sixty degrees celsius--but it suited him. It was the anniversary of Terry's death, and he needed the cold. Needed it to numb his soul.
Plus he needed a little space from Astrid. She'd been at the station for almost half of her rotation, and already he wanted to be rid of her.
He closed his eyes. They said the ice sang, that wind blowing over the ice shelf made a haunting, beautiful music too low for the human ear to hear. He imagined its strains, part of the great cosmic opera. The song that would continue long after humankind was gone.
Javier opened his eyes and returned his gaze to the ice.
Somewhere out there, someone new was waiting for him. Terry would send him someone to love, wherever he was. Somewhere past the ice.
He took one last look at the stars, and turned to trudge back to the station, now suitably numb."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


In a summer long gone, in a house named Blueberry Corners that no longer exists, I lounged in bed and dreamed up a light, romantic tale about a small town fashion designer and her hip, sharp-witted assistant empowering the local ladies against oppressive male town fathers. That story, "Amaryllis and New Lace", sat for over a decade in my card catalog of unwritten story ideas. This past winter, it was nudged to the front of the line by an invitation to submit to Summer Fair, a fun project organized by a collaborative of writers it has been my absolute pleasure to be part of. Like its predecessor Haunt, sales of the book would benefit various charities. I was thrilled for the invitation, but also at the time in the thick of penning a novel sequel to last year's The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity, an epic new adventure for the crew of the lightship Altares called The Day After Tomorrow: Planetfall (due in November 2018 by the fine folks at Anderson Entertainment). I wrote the first draft in a kind of fugue over the course of one month. The next few weeks were spent doing edits for submission to meet my deadline to turn in the book. By the time all was done, my creative batteries were depleted, and "Amaryllis" was due. Luckily by then the long chill of North Country winters was fading, and I took to writing on my sun porch as the outside greened and my creativity built with the spring. Over the course of three days, I penned a 7,500 word first draft of "Amaryllis and New Lace", injecting it with as much sweet romance and sass as possible. Today, it appears in a gorgeous anthology filled with an amazing cast of writers.

Many of my fellow Fairgoers shared the backstories behind their stories in Summer Fair.

R.L. Merrill on "Salty and Sweet": "'Salty and Sweet' is an homage to the summer I spent in a theater program back in 1996. It was early in my teaching career, I was still trying to earn units to clear my California credential, and so I thought why not? It was a blast. I danced and sang in my very first musical theater production, Kiss Me Kate, and learned that I better stick to dancing, which I’d done most of my life up until that point. The character of Naomi was inspired by an instructor I had in that program, plus a police officer I worked with a few years later. Both women were brilliant, powerful, and sexy. They challenged me, made me laugh, and inspired me to quit downplaying my talents. In 'Salty and Sweet', Heather is tired of being put down and is on the cusp of accepting her big size and bigger attitude. I loved her free spirit and wanted to pair her with a woman who would appreciate her. There have been many women who have encouraged that shift in me, and I wanted to write this story for them."

Marie Piper on "All the World": "To tell you the truth, I almost forgot about the Columbian Exposition. I’d been knee-deep in writing a western historical romance project, so when I saw the Summer Fair announcement my brain immediately went to a small county fair and truly -- I was planning to write about a pie-eating contest. But it didn’t take long for me to realize the wealth of opportunity the Columbian Exposition carried -- this incredible spectacle that happened right in Chicago, where I live, in an area I visit frequently. The 1893 Expo is the perfect setting for a romance. People came from all over the world -- mortgaging their homes in some cases to be able to attend. My story is about a girl from across Lake Michigan who comes to the Expo dreaming of being a reporter, and the pickpocket who nearly steals her purse and instead winds up her tour guide for the day. They visit the Palace of Fine Arts, the Midway Plaisance, take a ride in the Ferris Wheel, and take in a show by ‘the soul of the exotic’ herself, Little Egypt.  As they see brand new things, they feel brand new things as well -- and All the World opens to them."

CM Peters on "Dewberry Kisses": "From the start, I knew I wanted a fruit/pie festival. For some reason, I kept thinking of the movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar and its strawberry festival in a small hick town. Although my town is not that ‘hicksie’, it’s southern and charming, filled with hardworking and kindhearted people.. Also, I was inspired by a certain actor strutting around in cowboy boots and a cowboy hat in a social media post. He needed to be written into a cute romantic story.. So, I mixed everything up with two single souls needing love in their lives again and voilĂ , you have ‘Dewberry Kisses’!Also, ‘Dewberry Kisses’ was my reconciliation with writing this past winter. It made me look forward to summer, to getting back into writing romance, though I’m editing a completely different novel at the moment. I’d had a serious writer’s block after finishing a novel, so something lighter and romantic was all I needed. And dewberry pie. Cause you know, pie. #deanwinchester #doyougetthereference. I hope you enjoy it!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

From the Bookshelf: The White Mountain by Dan Szczesny

Turn right at my driveway, travel to the end of our country road, and turn right again. Half the length of a football field later, there it is: Mount Washington, looming large over our small northern town. The image is stunning, regardless of the season -- white in winter months and most of the spring, green through abbreviated summers, color-stroked in autumn. Five years after moving to Xanadu, our home in the hills, that view hasn't grown any less majestic.

It was soon after relocating here that I had the pleasure of meeting writer Dan Szczesny. He'd reached out to me following my appearance on the TV show New Hampshire Chronicle, which had done a feature on my writing career. On a snowy January Sunday afternoon, Dan joined us for dinner and conversation, and we became instant friends and colleagues. I was honored to appear in all three Murder Ink New England newsroom mystery anthologies selected and edited by Dan, and I and others consider him an integral member of our Tuesday night writers' group.

A widely published and celebrated author, Dan's latest book release pays tribute to New England's tallest mountain -- and that view, both awe-inspiring and humbling. It was my pleasure to sit down with him and discuss The White Mountain.

What was it about the subject that inspired you to write The White Mountain?
The basic conceit for the book, a year in the life of Mount Washington, had been kicking around in my head for a long time, but I never had the resources, time and support to be able to pull it off. I spent years creating the personal capital in terms of trust and ability before I felt I could reach out to the organizations I needed to make the project work. The Auto Road, Cog Railway, AMC and Mount Washington Observatory had to be fully on board and give me full access for this to happen, so it took me a while to build that trust before pursuing the book. But once they all said yes and I was off and running, the idea changed and became more about connection. Mount Washington has sat in the collective imagination of Europeans for 400 years and that's a lot of time to build a mystique, culture and legend all its own. Once I started pulling on the story threads of the mountain, there was really no end to the characters and legends that began to unravel.

After climbing to the base camp on Mt. Everest, how daunting were your Mount Washington adventures?
Well, physically, getting to Everest Base Camp was harder. But The White Mountain was a far more daunting writing challenge than The Nepal Chronicles my book about the Everest trip. Primarily, because there was so much material -- so many people the mountain has touched in some way -- it required far more organizational efforts. In Nepal, you'd get up each morning, walk for a bit, take notes and pictures and then assemble the journey chronologically. Here, though, I'd take part in an event, discovered a dozen contacts, people or archival threads to follow, and then have to assemble all the disparate information into a readable chapter. 

What were the most difficult aspects of penning the book?
Well, like I mentioned above, once I had books and books, and notebooks and notebooks full of interviews, archival history, facts and stories, the heavy lifting came in attempting to draw connections between the past, the stories of the interviewees and my own experiences in a way that provided a narrative for the reader. I had no interest in the book becoming a guidebook, nor did I want it to be simple memoir. Plus, I worked hard to find a present tense narrative style that combined both my own adventures with that of my varying subject matter. For example, how do I run up the mountain in June and then visit the home of one of the runners in December and build a present tense narrative out of that time line? I think I pulled it off, at least I hope so!

The author and daughter Uma
You spent some time at the weather station—did you get any ghostly vibes, as that place is famously considered to be haunted?
Oh yes! The observers have all sorts of stories they tell around the kitchen table about ghosts and goblins, as the wind rattles the tower and ice creaks and groans. It's the perfect setting for spooky tale telling. In the book, I do write a bit about Lizzie Bourne, the first woman to perish at the summit when she was only a teenager, and she died only a few hundred feet from the safety of the top. There's an amazing portrait of her that normally hangs in the visitor center, but during the summer tourist season it's easy to miss in all the chaos of the crowds. But in the winter, when that place is empty and your footsteps echo in the hall while a storm rages outside, the eyes of Lizzie seem to follow you as you walk through the unlit atrium! That's spooky! I also write about my own ‘encounter’ with Lizzie in the book.

What’s next up for you writing-wise?
First up, the tour for The White Mountain, which will start in earnest on July 16, will cover six states and nearly 60 presentations, meet and greets and talks, so a lot of my time and energy the next six months will be on making sure that's successful and the book gets into as many hands as possible! Then, this year I have a handful of short stories I'm writing for some upcoming anthologies. I continue to write for AMC Outdoors and Appalachia Journal, two amazing publications that are a joy to work for. I have a kids' picture book that I'll start shopping around in the fall, and I think I'll begin looking for an agent as well at some point. Long term, I've begun research on my next big project, a non-fiction book about New Hampshire's local connection to the Death with Dignity debate. I can't go into too much detail yet, but I happened upon some amazing source material from an early court case that will anchor the story. I'm just chomping at the bit to dive in, stay tuned! 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Journey to the Fourth Planet -- and Beyond -- with Martian Magazine

In the summer of 2016, I woke from a dream and jotted down a 100-word complete story. "Catching Snowflakes" went out the door to a prestigious anthology, where it was shortlisted, and where it languished for nearly a year, ultimately to be rejected. The micro-fiction's next foray for consideration was considerably shorter. I hit 'send' at 1:59 on a recent, rainy Monday afternoon after taking in a wonderful art gallery opening starring my good friend and fellow passionate scribe, Judy Ann Calhoun. Some two hours and change later, I received a glowing acceptance from editor Eric Fomley at Martian, the Magazine of Science Fiction Drabbles. Following one of the longest waits of my career was one of the quickest acceptances. "Catching Snowflakes" is set to appear in the pages of this exciting new publishing (ad)venture, in which the stories are small but the impact powerful. It was my pleasure to speak with Mister Fomley regarding the red planet -- and what viewers can expect to read in Martian.

Please share with us your vision for Martian Magazine.
Readers can expect high quality micro science fiction. We specialize in the drabble, a story of exactly 100 words. At first, we will publish one story weekly, with a yearly anthology collecting all published stories in paper, eBook, and audio. But as interest and funds increase, our end goal would be to publish a drabble every weekday but Friday. On Fridays, we would feature a story of up to 300 words. Twitter fiction would be incorporated at that point as well and featured all seven days. We would then publish an issue every month. But that’s end goal talk. Right now, you can expect Martian Magazine to share a high quality drabble every week, collected into a yearly anthology. 

All stories will have exactly 100 words. I also love in your guidelines that you stated the stories must be actual stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. What inspired you to focus on this specific length? 
 Two things actually prompted my focus on Drabbles. The first, I’ve always had a love for micro fiction. Reading the famous Hemingway 6-word story and many great micro publications on the web such as Daily Science Fiction and the now defunct SpeckLit incited my curiosity about a story so small having the ability to make me feel something. The ability to entertain me. The second thing is that I have a very busy schedule with children, work and just life in general. I don’t always have time to sit and read a novel or short story collection. But I love to read and I want to be entertained by what I’m reading, as I assume everyone does. So micro fiction is a way for me to do this on a commute, or break time, and I want to share a venue full of these. I think it’s funny you mention my guidelines and, I’m sure, it may be hard for some to believe a 100 word story can have much of an arc. But, I find that the best micro fiction has all of the elements of a good story. I’ve found many in our submission window and I look forward to sharing all of them with you.

Your acceptance of my story “Catching Snowflakes” must be the quickest in my career. I appreciate that, as a writer yourself, you are devoted to a quick turnaround. 
There have been many times where a market has had my story in their slush pile for 6+ months only to tell me they couldn’t use it. This is natural for all of us and something that’s part of the business. However, it doesn’t mean when I’ve worked so hard to produce a story I’m proud of and send it off that I am pleased to wait so long for a venue to take a look at it. I like getting my acceptance or rejection.  There’s a special advantage with running a micro fiction magazine and that’s that I can read a story in a mere minute. If I’m intrigued, I come back to it and read it again. If I really like it, I will read it several times. This process does not take long and few writers had to wait more than four hours for me to get back to them during the submission window. It’s an advantage to the form, and I, as a writer, would love if a professional venue got back with me in a week let alone a day. Therefore, I will use the length to my advantage and always work hard to get back very quickly.

(Martian  Magazine Editor/Publisher Eric Fomley)
Please talk about your writing. 
I write speculative flash fiction. I have written horror, fantasy, and science fiction but I always seem to gravitate towards science fiction. I like flash because it allows me to try out cool ideas, concepts, and characters without spending a large amount of time. I tend to write on the darker side of the genres, dealing with darker themes and tones. I feel as though flash fiction is growing in popularity and I’m along for the ride.

Finally, the title of the magazine. Why Martian
The word Martian has always indicated something different or strange to humanity. Before scientists could see what was on Mars, science fiction dwelled on the red planet. Martians are weird, different creatures than us and that’s what I want to grasp in this magazine. I want to publish stories of other worlds, or other versions of our world, strange characters, strange futures, classic stories and new. But all of it on Martian will be sci-fi. An exploration of what could be. Or what is without our knowing. The different. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Number 1300

Back in the early days of my writing career, I got it into my head that I would strive to pen 1,000 completed works of fiction. This likely owes to one of those biography shows on the late, great Rod Serling, one of my lifelong role models and as prolific and supremely talented a scribe as there ever was. In January of 2013, I attained that goal and hit the Number 1000. For the longest while (decades?), I assumed that I'd stop at 1000. But my imagination didn't retire at the millennium mark, and I've kept writing, past 1100 completed works of fiction, 1200, and, at the end of 2017, toward the Number 1300.

In early March of this year, as another notable anniversary date readied to be celebrated, I wrapped my sequel to last year's novelization of the classic made-for-TV Gerry Anderson movie, The Day After Tomorrow: Into InfinityThe Day After Tomorrow: Planetfall all but consumed me during the start of 2018. Pages flew off notepads at a ridiculous clip -- one of those lovely instances where the writer seems to be channeling spirits. I absolutely loved the experience, and wrapped the longhand draft well in advance of my deadline with Anderson Entertainment. Planetfall is scheduled for publication in September, and landed on my list of completed works at #1299. Without delay, I pulled out a fresh notepad of lined paper, uncapped my pen, and began work on #1300, my Space:1999 fan fiction "Ninth".

Dating back to the start, most of my big numbers have been odes to the series that put the pen in my hand at an early age -- 1, 50, 100, 500, 700, 800, 1000, and 1200. 900 was my one and only Lost in Space fan fic, which came to me in a dream back in 1982, and was a joy to pen. The title, "Ninth", refers to John Robert Koenig, the ninth commander of Moonbase Alpha (as unforgettably referenced in the first season episode "War Games"), who finds himself alone capable of saving his people from a malevolent intelligence being beamed to Alpha from a point on the nearby starmap. The idea came from one of six I drafted for a failed revival of the series several years ago. While doing a forensic exam through every notebook (and stray note) last November to corral all of my as-yet-unwritten ideas, I came across those episode treatments and, along with "Plato's Tears", deemed them worthy of translation into short stories. And "Ninth" did not disappoint.

I tore through the story in a similar daze, putting down the words and pages and loving the experience. A full week before our writers' group would celebrate it's fifth anniversary with a big party, readings, food, and guests, I finished "Ninth" and hit the Number 1300. And when the Berlin Writers' Group gathered to mark its fifth year in existence, I was able to celebrate another milestone by reading the opening to "Ninth".

As of today, with the novel sequel edited and turned in and other deadlines calling, I've reached #1303. Sitting in my catalog of story ideas waiting to be written are eighty individual cards, containing one adventure apiece. New ideas this year have been slow in coming, which could mean my prolific imagination is slowing down or that I'm finally, after a lifetime of courting the muse, being granted a reprieve to catch up. Either way, I continue to write, finish, edit, and submit my work. I continue to dream and love the writing life. Will there be a Number 1500? First, I have to reach #1400!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Black Infinity 2

I've often spoken of my childhood spent in an enchanted cottage located between deep woods and vast lake, and of the healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television I grew up on. Last summer, I sold the first of several short stories and novellas to Black Infinity, published by the fine folks at Dead Letter Press. "The Tree Surgeon" -- which I'd penned during my unforgettable time at Christine Woodside's Writing From Nature retreat and workshop -- is an homage to my late, great grandfather, Wallace Runge. In my youth, my mother regaled me with amazing stories that fed my young imagination, including the fact that Grampy Wally had been a tree surgeon in his earlier years. I doubt he ever encountered a tree anything like the one my main character does; I sent out the story and it was accepted on its maiden voyage into Black Infinity 2's special "Blobs, Globs, Slime and Spores" issue by publisher Tom English. Contributor copies arrived on a recent snowy Friday afternoon, and they were, frankly, stunning, the oversize pages filled with classic reprints, stories by new master writers like the brilliant Kurt Newton, comics, movie reviews, and a foreword by English referencing some of my all-time favorite TV series and movies: Space:1999, Lost in Space, and the ultra-creepiest of creature features, Attack of the Mushroom People -- when that film ran on Saturday afternoons, I refused to go outside afterward, too terrified to consider playing in those green forest wilds.

Reading an issue of Black Infinity is like a trip through time back to my boyhood; to bigger worlds and universes. It was my pleasure to sit down with publisher Tom English to discuss the publication, and the deep love behind its production.

Talk about the 'vibe' if you would -- the wonderful retro tone of BLACK INFINITY and your own taste regarding a time when, even if it was dark, SF was fun.
Well, I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies -- a wonderful time, I think, for TV, comics, and old SF magazines. The Silver Age of comics was coming to an end, but the local thrift stores were stocked with back issues of books originally published in the 50s. Kids were able to pick up old copies of Mystery in Space, Amazing Fantasy and, occasionally, EC’s Weird Science. There were also plenty of dog-eared copies of old SF digests, like Astounding SF, Fantastic, and Imaginative Tales, to name a few. That’s what I was reading. Meanwhile, broadcast TV was awash with the first waves of syndication of some classic (and groundbreaking) SF shows, namely The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. And on weeknights Chiller Theater (or some variation) was airing movies such as Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World and It Came From Outer Space. For the most part, all these movies, shows, comics and books shared common themes: alien worlds aren’t always welcoming, science isn’t always your friend, and space can hold its share of horrors. This is the kind of stuff that hooked me as a kid. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good haunted house story, for example? Or the creepy SF equivalent, a creepy derelict spaceship? But the SF genre was shifting. Space travel, as depicted in movies and TV, was becoming routine and a little dull; science always had the right answers; and aliens were just misunderstood. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this overly optimistic take. I’m certainly not a doom-and-gloom guy, but I missed the sense of foreboding, the moody eeriness, and ... the monstrous creatures. I think the genre is returning to much of this. I think movies like the original Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing started this return. But I wanted to do a magazine that fully embraced this type of SF, and which celebrated all the comics and movies and books and shows that helped shape spooky SF. Hence, the birth of Black Infinity, an idea I’ve had for almost a decade. Issue #1 explores the most obvious theme: Deadly Planets. Issue #2 features “Blobs, Globs, Slime and Spores” (which frequently menace humankind in SF). For each issue I tried to pull together the classic stories featuring the theme or element, added fresh takes by some of today’s best writers, threw in columns on weird science and retro movie reviews, and tied everything together with an introductory overview of each theme. Oh yeah, and lots of movie photos and illustrations. Is Black Infinity for everyone? I seriously doubt it. Does everybody like everything? But my hope is that, for those of us who fondly remember 1950s Sci-fi movies and stories, Black Infinity will be a lazy Saturday afternoon must-read.

Can you share themes for upcoming issues, and also the fantastic classic tales you'll be reprinting?
I’m working on #3 at the moment. The theme is Body Snatchers: alien control/alien possession/alien replacement. John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” is among the classics scheduled, with new stories by (so far) Douglas Smith, Scath Beorh, Kurt Newton and a guy named Gregory Norris.Issue #4 is being planned also. Theme is Strange Dimensions. Future issues will feature Rogue Robots, Derelicts in Space, Cosmic Canines and.... Well, big plans.

I had a great chat with Kurt Newton, and we both pretty much made it a love letter to working with you and BLACK INFINITY. You treat your authors well, Tom English. Why is that important?
I don’t really think I’m doing anything any other good editor wouldn’t do. But several things influence me. First, I love books and I put that love into all my projects. Second, I’m a writer, too. And I abide by The Golden Rule: I treat my writers the way I hope to be treated, and present their stories with as much care as I’d want for my own tales.I feel, for the most part, writers are under-appreciated. What writers do is magical. It’s hard work. It’s lonely work. And I try to do my part to facilitate their efforts.

What do you want today's readers to know about the publication?
Simple mathematics. I put a lot of time and money, sweat and inspiration into every issue. I try to make the magazine fun and cool and entertaining, nostalgic and thought-provoking -- without being offensive or preachy. But I can only do this as long as people buy the magazine. I’m a small, independent press trying to maintain a foothold in the market. So if you want a good read, or if you need to give a gift to someone who loves SF, support Black Infinity by purchasing a copy. Leave a review or just tell a friend. You’ll have my sincerest thanks -- and I can continue to provide an attractive forum for talented writers. 

Friday, February 23, 2018


Sometime in the late 1990s, part of a story came to me involving a son born and kept secret from his father for nefarious reasons. Said father was Latin; in my imagination, the son resembled Boxing's then-Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya. I envisioned the story as a mystery, but nothing came of it at the time. I had a huge plate of weekly nonfiction deadlines during that stage of my writing career, many for prestigious national magazines like Soap Opera Update, Cinescape, Heartland USA, and Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel. Flash forward to a few springs ago. We were invited to Saturday Easter services where one of our writers' group friends was being confirmed. The church was stunning, the service some four hours long. While plunked on that wooden seat, my mind wandered, as did my writer's eye. Over to the confessional, primarily. As the service continued, that old story partial from long ago resurfaced, becoming one with a tale about a reporter who vows to go to any length to get the dirt on a notorious town figure -- even into the church confessional. I scribbled notes on the program, which came back with me, and clipped it to a story note card. The first draft wrote itself in two sittings. Now it's my honor to announce that "Only Begotten Son" appears in the third volume of the celebrated Murder Ink series, even more tales of New England newsroom crime.

Being part of all three releases -- Murder Ink with my short story "Exhuming Secrets on a Hot August Day", and my sports-themed "Murder at Channel Ten" in 2017's Murder Ink 2 -- has been a complete joy, and I would like to thank Plaidswede publisher George Geers and series editor Dan Szczesny for giving my work such an incredible home. While conducting a forensic-style run through every notebook I've kept since I was fifteen for stray ideas last December, I discovered notes for a sequel to "Murder at Channel Ten" -- whether or not the Murder Ink franchise continues for a fourth volume, I plan to dive into that tale this spring.

Many of my fellow Murderers shared the back-stories behind their stories in Murder Ink 3.

Karen Dent and Roxanne Dent on "Killing Secrets": "Our last story in Murder Ink 2 ended in 1948 with Ruby solving ‘The Werewolf Murders.’ Judi Calhoun, a friend and fellow scribe (who is also included in Murder Ink 3), suggested we write about Ruby’s early years. “Killing Secrets” was born. In 1935, the Depression is far from over. Ruby is sixteen-years-old, and working on the Portsmouth High school newspaper. Her goal is to be a journalist. Walking to school, Ruby is almost flattened when Betty, the resident mean girl, takes a nosedive from a third story window. With no evidence of foul play, it’s declared a suicide. Ruby’s gut tells her different. This is her chance to prove herself. Ruby’s dogged determination to follow clues leads her to uncover a long-buried secret that could get her killed."

Patrick Sullivan on "You Never Know What You've Hooked": "Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, like everyplace else, has a bad problem with opioid drug use. We have dealers who are not exactly subtle about their trade. We have overdoses and occasional drug-related violence. And we have meetings -- oh boy, do we have meetings -- about the problem. It was at one of these meetings that a woman -- a minister, no less -- suggested that if something wasn’t done about the dope dealers, people might take matters into their own hands. Nobody formed a posse as a result, as far as I know. But the remark, made in a room full of people and with print and television reporters present, did get my attention. The main events in this story all happened, with the exception of the murder itself. All I did was change them around to avoid libel lawsuits and work in a few jokes."

Mary Duquette on "Masterpieces": "I have a literary fiction background, so I suppose because I originated from that angle, I was initially inspired by the characters. As I wrote the story, it sort of unfolded itself, and I wasn’t sure where it was going until the end. The idea of creating art using a dead body was intriguing and horrifying and was the running-off point for the plot of the piece. Also interesting to me was the idea of a reporter becoming fixated with a story (and the person in the story) to the point of obsession -- particularly when the fixation reveals something going on within that person’s own life. I also wanted to explore how deep love and grief can propel people to act in dangerous, unthinking ways. And, that something gruesome and tragic can also somehow be crazily gorgeous -- that there is a certain magic in finding magnificence in the ghastly, the moral within the immoral, the divine in the macabre. Is there an inherent art and beauty in all things? If not, where do you draw the line? I’m also fascinated by the idea of loving characters, and forgiving them, even when they do horrible things. I hope I achieved that!"

Oreste D'Arconte on "Beta Theta Pieman": "The last book in the Randy Dixon trilogy has some of my favorite elements in it: college fraternity life, the wonderful game of women’s rugby, witchcraft, the Patriots fan train to Gillette, Kurt Vonnegut, legal pot and Alcatraz. Oh, and a couple of murders and attempted murders along the way. Newspaper reporter Randy Dixon is in the middle of it, as usual, and pays in the end a heavy price for eluding a crushing conclusion of certain death. This third story follows ‘One Way Dead End’ and ‘Obituary Mambo’ (in Murder Ink anthologies 1 and 2) and ends with a broken Randy seeking a less exciting career than the noir-ish newsrooms of New England."

Amy Ray on "Last Resort": "This is my third story to be included in the Murder Ink series and all have featured Kay Leavitt, a reporter for a small weekly newspaper. Kay finds it hard to make ends meet on a reporter’s salary so she takes a second job caring for an elderly woman, Evelyn Lea. Evelyn is the owner of a sprawling beach resort and when she dies on Kay’s watch, Kay teams up with her bumbling editor and his crime-solving pug named Poe to investigate the suspicious death. I got the victim’s name from my first car, a secondhand Volvo nicknamed Evelyn. ‘Last Resort’ is set in Hampton Beach and I’ve spent many happy hours there listening to music at the Sea Shell Stage, just like Evelyn does in the opening of the story. Evelyn’s fictional resort would be located on Ashworth Avenue, one block from the ocean. It’s not my first story to use the picturesque coast of New Hampshire as a backdrop -- my novel, Dangerous Denial, was set there as well. The ocean spray and crisp summer breeze will always be a source of inspiration for me.”

S. J. Cahill on "The Canine Solution": "In Murder Ink 1, Gailene Palmer, an ambitious young reporter, murders the publisher-owner of Granite State Press as a short-cut to the top. In the ‘Solution 151’ story, Gailene introduces 151 proof rum as a weapon of convenience and a cover for the murder. With her name on the masthead of the paper, she begins using police detective Sanford Moulton as a background source for her prize-winning columns and writing her way to a Pulitzer. Unfortunately for her, Dan Szczesny created Murder Ink 2 and in The Moulton Solution’ story, Sanford Moulton discovers that Gailene is a serial killer. Realizing he can’t prove it, he goes rogue, telling us that ‘Cops make the best killers.’ and becomes a vigilante. Unfortunately for Detective Moulton, Editor Szczesny extends the series to Murder Ink 3 and freelance pet columnist Alexis Logan, who runs a Doggie daycare, discovers what detective Moulton is doing and realizes he is coming for her. In ‘The Canine Solution’ story, Lexie Logan is able to stop him by letting every dog have its day. Let’s hope Dan Szczesny convinces Plaidswede Press to publish Murder Inc 4 before Lexie Logan comes down off the porch to run with the big dogs."

Judith Janoo on "Tangled Trawl Lines": "Ted Holmes, owner and editor of a small weekly newspaper, The Coastal Chronicle, plunges into a new mystery. He’s been working a feature on the lobster industry in his coastal Maine town but finds the subject of his profile, a seasoned lobsterman, has drowned. Why would an experienced fisherman, cautious and meticulous, end up overboard tangled in his own trap line? And did someone want him out of the harbor? Ted sets aside his profile casting a light on the industry that sustains his community to get at the truth of this man’s death. Ted has had a few successes, like stumbling into the murderer in Volume II of this series and covering that story, but mostly he struggles to sell enough papers to pay Rocko, his ace reporter, and a few part-time columnists. In matters of the heart Ted’s been schooled in the hard knocks of female rejection. But like any real newshound, he considers persistence his virtue. Holmesport may resemble the harbor town where I learned many of the mysteries of life, but the characters and events of this story floated in from somewhere miles offshore."

Lisa Eckelbecker on "Flea Market Felony": "If you’ve ever thought that shopping could be the death of you, you might be right. My story was inspired by a real death in 2008 at the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in Brimfield, Mass. A Florida man who’d been selling general merchandise at the ‘fleas’ for years was found dead in a sleeping bag in his van. A brief news report indicated he’d been feeling ill the day before. I don’t know what killed him, but I was struck by how the fields of a New England flea market could be the backdrop for tragedy. I’ve shopped at the Brimfield market for years, and I’ve written about it more than once, so I had a lot of experience to bring to this story. However, I’m also indebted to photographer Christine Peterson, who has sold antiques at Brimfield and offered invaluable suggestions about how collectibles dealers think and operate. This is my first piece of fictional writing, and I’m also incredibly grateful to author and journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan, whose mystery writing workshop at a Goat Hill Writers conference in Rhode Island gave me the confidence and tools to write this."

And artist Donna Catanzaro on creating Murder Ink 3's cover: "The bombshell blonde and the handsome hulk return for the third Murder Ink cover. Here the two reporters investigate a murder on a shadowy city street. The police have come and gone, their chalk tracings of a body and a tommie gun remain on the slick cobblestone street. A gunshot-laden, leaking wooden crate of rum gives a clue as to the nature of the crime: it’s the height of Prohibition, and a rum-runner has had a run-in with the competition. But the two reporters are not alone. In the distance a man stands outside a car, watching. The shadow of a man with a gun lurks behind the female reporter. If you look closely you’ll see she has a weapon in the pocket of her trench coat. She senses the danger, from the strangers in the shadows who may be the murderers, and from the other reporter, who she has had an on-again off-again romantic relationship with since the cover of Murder Ink 1. Will they get back together someday, and grace the cover of a hot and steamy romance novel?'