Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holes - By Sheri White

Today, I wanted to bring you a relatively new face in the horror scene. Meet Sheri White. I met her through blogs and Twitter. There isn't much she doesn't do in the writing world. Check out her new story, Holes:

Watch Your Step
By Sheri White

When the holes first appeared, it wasn’t so bad. They were mostly just divots, really. Sure they caused a few broken ankles and bruised egos when people got a foot caught in one, but they were basically harmless. Weird, of course; nobody could figure out why holes suddenly opened all over the city, but if you watched your step, you would be OK. And the holes closed up soon after they appeared.

I twisted my ankle in one while playing Frisbee with my friends in Central Park, but I was more embarrassed than hurt.

I doubt I’ll ever live it down; they razzed me all night at the bar.

I swore that the hole wasn’t there when I stepped back; it just randomly opened up. But when we looked a few minutes later, it was gone.

That scared me.

After a while, people adjusted. We New Yorkers always do. Until the holes got bigger, and deeper. I saw one hole open up and swallow a man to his chest. Thankfully he was pulled out before it closed.

Then pets started disappearing. Holes even opened up in the streets and on the sidewalks. Street vendors lost their livelihoods. Traffic was a mess all the time; it looked like the city was overrun with potholes and sinkholes.

People quit driving. At least when you walked, you could carefully navigate the holes.

Until one opened up right beneath you.

At first, the holes were only in New York City. Or so we thought.

Reports started coming in from all over the place - little nothing towns, big cities; nowhere was safe. Even the president had to be pulled out of one by the Secret Service; she fell while playing tennis with her daughter.

But now I think we’re all in big trouble. The holes are closing up faster.

My friends and I were out in the park a few days ago, playing Frisbee again. My friend Tim was swallowed into a hole while running - this time it closed up too fast. Only his head and one arm could be seen.

Tim screamed for us to dig him out; we called 9-1-1, but he died before they got there. The paramedics said pressure crushed him.

And the holes are getting bigger and bigger. I thought I’d be safe in my apartment, but the other night I was woken up by a God-awful rumbling sound. When I got up, I realized the building across the street was gone. Just…gone.

And I imagine all those people who were sleeping when it happened are gone as well.

Is it safer to be on water? I don’t know. When I took the ferry to work, I noticed there were fewer boats in the harbor yesterday. It could be a coincidence.

But I don’t really want to know.

I think it’s the end for us, I really do.

Today I watched the Statue of Liberty disappear.

Here is a little bit about the author:

Sheri White is a writer who lives in Jefferson, MD with her family. She has been published in several small-press magazines and anthologies, both print and online. She is a book reviewer for several on-line sites and is a reporter for her local newspaper. You can check out her blog at Chaos and Contentment.

If you don't know Sheri yet, she is a great writer to network with. I am thrilled to help her. She deserves a chance to show what she can do. Support her blog and get to know another good human being.

Draven Ames

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Interview with Amy Grech

The following is an extensive interview with Amy Grech, published author of Apple of My Eye, Blanket of White and Fallen Angel.You will find we cover a vast number of subjects.

But hang on.... We have a lot of good stuff to cover. I always dig deep.

This will get bumpy.

16 years and 100 stories later, any regrets?

Amy: I’d be a liar if I didn’t have a few…When I first started writing, I gave a few really good stories to ‘zines that didn’t pay in $$ only copies. The thrill of seeing my name in print proved to be highly addictive; getting paid in cold hard cash got me hooked.

Why do you write? Not some BS answer that everyone gives; what's your narcissistic answer?

Amy: I write for several reasons: I love attention, scaring people never ceases to amuse me and writing is an excellent outlet for my overactive imagination!

I’m a Leo, so having fans complement on my writing and by signed copies of my books is extremely gratifying! I come across as being very mind-mannered when people first meet me, so they’re always shocked when they learn I’m a Horror Writer!

Have you had good success with your short story collection? Which is your favorite? How do you connect the themes?

Amy: Yes, Blanket of White, available as an eBook and a paperback, published by Damnation Books, is selling fairly well! In 2009, I attended a mass author signing in PA that was great fun!

The title story is my favorite; it was also the most difficult to write due to the subject matter. The title story actually evolved ten years ago, when I saw a real life story on the news about a little girl who had a terminal illness and the compassionate way her father chose to end her suffering. The little girl in my story, Suzy, is extremely remarkable despite her illness. “Blanket of White” has a profound affect on readers who are also parents.

All of the stories focus on love and loss; though some are more violent than others!

Do you think they would be offended? If they were, would you take it down?

Amy: It’s possible. No, I would not rescind the story, stating, “This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

What happened to the little girl that the story was based off of? How did he get the girl to hold the hose?

Amy: The father told her the hose would end her pain. I embellished.

But how could you state that anything resembling them was purely coincidental if you also said you based it off of them?

Creative License

Wow. May I quote you on these questions and answers?

Yes, you can!

When writing crazy sexual scenes, which story of yours grossed you out the most?

Amy: That would be “A Splash of Crimson” which appeared in the anthology Nasty Snips. The sex scene in that one gets quite bloody. There’s some food involved as well!

Can a child play violent games or watch violent movies without it changing them negatively? At what age would you let your kids play GTA or a game like it?

Amy: I think children are impressionable from an early age—they tend to imitate what they see happening around them. I don’t have kinds of my own, but I’d say 10 is a safe age to let kids experiment with violent video games and movies.

Tell us about things you dislike. Corporate America, numbers, petty people.

When you look at Corporate America, what is it that you dislike so much?

Amy: Everything! I toiled for a total of 6 years in Corporate America—that was about all I could stand! I had to wear an ID badge slung around my neck, like a dog collar or a Corporate Noose, take your pick! Corporate America valued my title, E-News Managing Editor for an industry magazine, but not my talent. There’s way too much drama. The “cube farm” layout is designed to discourage creativity and individuality. God help you if you list the Executive Editor in an e-mail first, instead of the SVP of Editorial. There are way too many petty rules! Micro-managing and Meetings are unnecessary evils.
What would you do to improve it?

Lose the “cube farm”. Let people dress casually, as long as they don’t get too casual! Give employees the benefit-of-the-doubt; if deadlines are being met, don’t hover over their shoulder every step of the way. It’s degrading and insulting! Minimize meetings—they’re usually just a huge waste of time.

What makes a person petty?

Amy: A petty person is someone who will lie, cheat, or steal to get his or her way. They don’t care who they hurt on the way to achieving their goal. They are priority number one.

Fears? Falling short, numbers and rejection.

Quirks? I’m pretty kooky about how I arrange my books: By size, then author.

What is your novella in NY about?

Amy I’m still deciding on a title…It takes place in a once-run down neighborhood in NYC, Alphabet City. The story centers around a devious eye doctor, who’s looking to let loose. Things get carried away when he meets Ruby, an 18-year-old writer at Anatomy Bar. They witness the latest crazy among college students, Vodka Eyeballing, where they pour vodka shots directly into their eyes to get drunk faster. Ruby invites the doctor back to her apartment near by. They hook up and he kills her with his scalpel. A couple of months later, he meets Gia, her older sister a piercing specialist/tattoo artist with scars on her face at a different bar. She picks him up and invites the doctor back to the apartment she shares with her father, who has a nasty temper. He beats the doctor senseless in their living room then goes for the jugular with the doctor’s scalpel, payback for Ruby’s senseless murder.

What is the most controversial movie you LOVE?

Definitely HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER; it’s so well done! Henry tries to fight his murderous tendencies, but the girl who wants him to love her so badly ends up dead, chopped up, stuffed into a suitcase and left by the side of the road.

What do you do to remain active in the HWA?

Amy: I served as the HWA’s Webmaster from 2001 – 2004; at the time the position was strictly pro bono, but I made some great friends, learned how to manage a team remotely and got some new Web Clients out of the deal!

Who worked for you?

Amy: A team of Web Designer and Web Developers, all of whom worked on the HWA Website.

How does HWA help writers?

Amy: The HWA offers a Mentor Program, where newbies can get helpful pointers from seasoned pros. The HWA also hosts an annual Stoker Weekend, on Long Island this year. I’ll be there! They also have exclusive market listings via their monthly E-newsletter.

What do you do aside from writing?

Amy: I’m also an Online Editor/Search Engine Optimization Specialist. SEO is analytical and creative; I get websites listed on the top search engines: Google, Yahoo and Bing for multiple keywords. So if you Google certain keywords, I make sure my clients’ websites show up on the first page results!

Your homework: Get this blog and this interview to the top of search engines?

Amy: Consider it done!

How can someone learn to do what you do for Bling? I imagine that it is something you can do from home.

Amy: I took a six-week summer course at the New School University way back in 1999. I read a few books in addition to that. When I client wanted a layout I hadn’t attempted, yet, I’d ask them to send me links to similar websites for inspiration.

Yes, I currently work from home. I have a one-second commute to my office! I meet my clients about once a month on Long Island or in Manhattan; we also have conference calls.

I read your collaboration on "Fallen Angel. The story was creepy as heck. I had to skip a number of chapters. I know you said you want to make people uncomfortable, so very good job. I couldn't tell where you wrote, or he wrote. The voice stayed strong and you didn't let up. What did you like about collaborating on your novella, Fallen Angel?

Amy: Michael McCarty and really clicked. The initial story idea was his, but he wanted to collaborate with a woman to bring Angel to life! He’d write three chapters and I’d flesh those out. Then he’d send the next batch and so on, until we finished.

What did you hate about it?

Amy: Mike wasn’t always open to my ideas, but he eventually came around. He also wanted me to turn chapters around faster than I was able to. You can’t rush perfection!

Tell us about hobbies.

Amy: I’m an avid reader, of course! I love going to dinner/movies with friends. During the summer, Prospect Park in Brooklyn hosts concerts, so I attend these events as well!

Do you mentor writers?

Amy: Funny you should ask! A few years ago, Nick Cato introduced himself via the Shocklines Message Board; turns out he worked not too far from where I lived in Brooklyn. He asked if I could offer some pointers on some of his stories. I agreed in exchange for lunch, dinner, and beer. Not necessarily in that order!

Why horror?

Amy: Horror is an intense emotion that everyone has experienced at one point or another—we’re all afraid of something: death, rejection, etc. Horror is also a great outlet, enabling me to work through my fears without the expense of a therapist!

You write some very shocking and gruesome horror sometimes. Do you have to walk away from the writing?

Amy: Absolutely! When a story is going particularly well, my characters tend to take over and do some very nasty things: they cheat, they kill, among other things…I usually take a breather for a week after writing the first draft of a particularly violet story to work on something tamer!

How long does a short story take you now?

Amy: I can write a story in a day or two, depending on the length, especially if I’ve jotted down some quick character descriptions or plot points beforehand.

Views on religion or philosophy?

Amy: My parents forced my twin brother and me to attend Catholic School; I though we were being punished—all the other kids in the neighborhood went to public school. As a result, I’m not very religious! I haven’t set foot in a church since my Grandmother’s Funeral a year-and-a half ago.

When you first wrote, you wrote a lot of stories for free magazines. I am following in your footsteps. Now, looking back, would you tell me to continue to do so? Why or why not?

Amy: I’d say if you’re still new to the genre, only give your work to free magazines only if they are interested in One-Time Rights, meaning all rights to the work revert back to you after a pre-determined period of time, usually a few months.

When you first gave all those stories to free E-zines, did you lose all rights to your stories?

Amy: Only for a few. Several ‘zines were only interested in One-Time Rights. Others folded before my stories were ever published; so all rights reverted back to me.

What is it about scaring people that puts a smile on your face?

Amy: I love it when my stories get under readers’ skin! It means my work resonated with them. Striking a nerve isn’t an easy feat. If my readers still feel uneasy a day after reading my work, then I’ve done my job!

I like to know what makes people tick—everyone’s motivated by something: Greed, love, lust, money, power, sex.

Could you give us a random "Story idea" from your notebook?

Amy: Husband, a Horror Writer, cheats with a younger woman, also a Horror Writer he meet at a Writers’ Convention in NYC. He drives his mistress to Queens, where his clueless wife cooks breakfast for her. They all drive to ChillerCon in NJ with his daughter. Later wife tells husband she likes the young author. That is until the husband drops to many hints with the wife… Tentative title “Hell’s Fury”.

Wow, that will be a good story. I can see you like to play with jealousy and envy a lot. I like to say that if youth was wasted on the young, envy was created so we'd see.

Great interview Amy. I hope everyone takes the time to check out her website and her books, short stories and other ventures. Thank you for your time Amy!

Amy: Thank you for having me, Draven!

Thank you for reading this long interview. We found out a whole lot about her, didn't we? I thought it pretty entertaining and her stories are pretty good. Here is some information to follow:

Fright Done Right:
Live Journal:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hiram and Grange & the Chosen One - By Kevin Lucia - Review

Sorry for the delay in a review for this wonderful novella. Family, medical and obligatory excuses out of the way, we should start with the facts:

This is a good story.

Mr. Lucia's depiction of Hiram is that of a haunted man, struggling to come to grips with his past transgressions. Grange puts up a mask of invulnerability, hiding dreams about his mother and a woman named Sadie (I need to read the previous novellas to appreciate the whole thing, but it works very well to bring his past to life momentarily). I won't give away details, but the nightmares are vivid and the small snippets put you in touch with the emotions of the main character.

Kevin's descriptions are flawless. The monsters are real and tangible. I could smell when I wanted to breath in, feel what I wanted to touch. Nothing was overdone, leaving just enough room to imagine.

The ending of the story could have been explained just a little bit more, but that is just personal preference. The writing is crisp and you can see, in the end, how he put little details and Easter eggs for observant readers.

Hiram reminds me of a suicidal comic book character with bravery mixed in with complexity. I could easily see him fighting along side Sherlock Holmes or the Ghostbusters. The last one may seem strange, but it would make a crazy pair - though not a family fun version. Hiram's problems with drugs, girls and life can be understood and it gives us some sympathy for a character that will risk his life for a world he seems to care little about.

Each chapter in Hiram Grange is a small 1-4 pages. This makes for a very fast read. When I took the time to sit, it breezed past.

There's also great artwork in some chapters. It reminds me of old fantasy books I read as a child. The drawings really did add to the scenes, though one picture gave away what would happen on the page after it.

Most of all, I was impressed with Kevin's writing. As he delved further along in the book, everything that seemed out of place began to make sense. Everything that doesn't click together when you first read ends up being explained, without telling it all and shoving an explanation down your throat.

I was left to believe it, which I ultimately did.

Will it scare your pants off? Possibly. But it will try.

Overall, if you like tentacles, sex-demons, faeries, explosives, action, horror and mescaline, this was a novella worth reading from an author I will continue to watch. If you don't know much about Kevin, you can read an interview with him here.

Also, this is his website.

Thank you for reading everyone.

Draven Ames

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with Effie Collins

First, I would like to take a couple moments to tell you a little about Effie Collins. Her and I met on the reader's guestbook of SNM Horror Magazine. She won 3rd place with her story, The Cat Lady. You can read that story here: 

Later, I will post some more links to stories and a copy of her new story, A Cocoon of Not to Remember. She has some really interesting and good stories, so take your time after the interview. She is also a big fan of Shock Totem, which is another very fine magazine.

Here is her blog, where she was kind enough to interview me: Effie's Blog

Effie will be taking over as the Selections Editor for SNM Horror Magazine. The reading isn’t all easy, but it isn’t all bad. Maybe we should interview her in a month and see how she feels about it…

Without further superfluous words, welcome Effie. Congratulations on your new position. Can you tell us how that came about?

Answer: I honestly have no idea. Steve Marshall called me up out of the blue one afternoon and asked me if I'd like to be the selections editor for his magazine. I didn't apply for it; it was offered to me. I suppose Mr. Marshall can speak for himself, but it is safe to say that my type of horror and what SNM is all about is on a similar wavelength.

When selecting, what will be the three most important things you will look for in a story?

Answer: Characterization. No cookie-cutter characters; even a tired trope can be made new and incredible by the right character. The theme of the month will be important, of course. And of course, the quality of the words written. 

Really? Why those?

Answer: For me, horror is all about the character. If I don't care about him or her, no one else will. The monthly theme is part of SNM and I couldn't lay that aside simply because of preference. And the quality of writing... well, bad writing is bad writing. I love a well written story. Don't we all?

When you write, how do you make sure your stories have those elements? I’m cheating here, because I know you don’t write outlines.

Answer: I let my characters guide me through the first part (writing the story) and I clean up any inconsistencies afterward. I don't tell the story... my characters do. I'm basically just a scribe.

Being a mother, it must be hard to juggle all that. Do you get support from your family?

Answer: My family doesn't have a say in the matter. I have to write. They know this and don't expect otherwise. It wouldn't do them any good. Though they are a bit jaded now when I get an acceptance letter, they are excited for me and supportive of me while I'm writing a new story. It seems that now they tend to take for granted that eventually it will get published. That isn't always the case, but their faith in my ability is invaluable to me.

Would you let your kids read your stories? Why or why not?

Answer: My children have read some of my work. I'm not a big one for censure; I think if they can understand it, they can read it. If they want to read anything of mine, they are welcome to. Their problem is that I don't write kids stories. They do love to read my poetry, though.

Have you noticed any trends in the things your children like to watch?

Answer: My kids are very different individuals. They are just as happy to sit and watch "Dante's Peak" or "Die Hard" with me as they are to sit through any cartoon. We love our "Looney Toons", though.

What about kids seeming to love super villains and bad guys these days? Sometimes it seems like children talk about them more than the heroes.

Answer: Everybody loves the bad guy. I do.

If one of your kids turned out to be ‘evil,’ would you love them?

Answer: Absolutely, I would love them. That doesn't mean that I would let them wreak their evil havoc upon the world.

Do you believe books influence children?

Answer: I do believe that. They just have to read them first.

What other Genres do you want to write in?

Answer: Thriller/suspense, mystery, tasteful erotica and fantasy.

What are things you just can’t read in a book?

Answer: Anything with a "throbbing love rod" or a "pulsing organ" or an "engorged love button" is an immediate pass; sparkling vampires or cuddly werewolves result in good fire starting materials. Zombie sex is okay, though.

Can you give any advice to writers.

Know that your story is yours. People may give good and even great advice to you about what you are writing, but ultimately, only you know what is best for your story and your characters. Good advice is
not always the best advice.

That's my words of unwisdom.

I think that is a lot to go through here. I’ll close by asking you to share some of your favorite words. After that, go ahead and tell us anything else you would like to say.

 Answer: Some of my favorite words? Hyperbole is a good one. Puts me in the mind of what might happen with too many energy drinks mixed with football. Electric is another one. There's just something about the word electric that makes me excited. Oh, and antidisestablishmentarianism. Just because it's a word no one can spell, and very few know the actual meaning. Even MS word says it's misspelled. But it isn't.

If you liked the story or would like to read more, check these links.

Deadly Heirloom
This is a story about a monstrous dog owner. No, it isn’t Michael Vick
Too Little, Too Late
Don’t read if you are afraid of heights!


by Effie Collins


            Like as not, the world she lived in was similar to the other worlds around her. She could see other membranous homes, just beyond her own. The liquid she peered through, murky and muddy and tinged an odd red, gave away only the vaguest of details. Blurry and obscure shapes lingered in that  beyond. She knew they were like her, but she could not see them clearly. The concept of a face had to be more complex than just bulk and shadow.
            She wanted to get closer, to see both of them. Her instincts said that they were somehow of profound importance to her, but the enclosure that surrounded her did not give. She couldn't get through and everything was so very close--tight--and she longed just to move; to stretch and reach out for nothing.
            One of the others (the boy she was sure) started moving, stretching his stronger limbs and shoving at her back with his feet. His hands flailed, bigger and more able than her own. Quite like it was even before...
            She remembered nothing but this empty carmine film and the cushion of warmth around her. Though she sensed a place before the cerise-tinged thickness of this world, she had no memory of anything that could have happened there. For everyone here, there was only this.
            The other twin wriggled around but didn't encroach on her space. This existence was so tight. The tube connecting her to the world pinched for the barest of moments, cutting off her vital life-supply. She felt drowsy, but the other girl-child shifted and awareness flooded back.
            And the sounds, those soothing, happy ones from somewhere beyond the haze of red. Good sounds. They were above her but also surrounding her. Each vibration brought by a thrumming wave of ruddy sludge. Another, deeper sound - not inside this world, but close by - drifted to her in a soft way that blended all the sounds into one long hum of sweet ease. It reached inside her head and calmed her, as it seemed to do for the others. The boy stilled and the other girl ceased her wriggling. She could relax now, discomforted as she was.
            The sounds rose to almost disturbing heights, but as always the world around her rocked and swayed and brought comfort.
            As suddenly as the sounds started, the boy pressed closer. Her back and that of the other girl were separated only by the membrane-like encasing in which they were kept safe. The world grew tighter; a gentle pressure forced her to squish against her home. Her head pressed against something that first resisted, then gave way as the others crowded somehow behind and above her. The constant haze grew darker.
            Her head felt pulled by some unknowable force, and slowly she was changed. The softness of the bone within her head shifted and formed itself into something else; similar yes, but not perfect and round as it was before. Now her brain was an elongated and conical facsimile of itself. And this place... it was different before. Whatever had been earlier in her life was gone and she could no longer recall the quality of that red, red world. This place was dark and tighter than even her cocoon-like home of before. Her life-tube still connected her to that other world, but she could not wiggle back in; she could not move at all. Something tried to eject her, squeezed her impossibly tight and forced her out, out - out to somewhere else. Somewhere that was not home.
            And the others. They would follow. She knew they would, somehow. The others.
            There were others, weren't there? Back in... somewhere.
            But the push and pull of whatever reshaped her head, gripping every inch of her body and pulsing...
            ...pulsing until she was almost to the point of being crushed, and it blocked out all thought of before. Was there a before this? She seemed to think there was, but now she could not imagine anything beyond the throbbing and jellied crush that held her. Whatever came before hid behind a black veil of almost-pain.
            Something frigid tickled against the top of her head. She felt the surety of the world behind her dissolve as it gave one final squeezing push; she left that world behind.
            And forgot that it, and she within it, ever existed at all.

--the end

Thank you for reading today everyone. I hope that you enjoyed getting a closer look at one of today's new faces. Check out her work and ask her questions. She is very helpful and always kind. Someone worth getting to know, for sure. Her honesty and openness is something to strive for in this business.

Draven Ames

My buddy wrote this great video. I'm not just plugging this thing. It is really good. Watch it and you will end up sharing it with your friends and sending it in emails. Josh has talent. Help spotlight him and copy paste this. Share it, link it and vote for it. Most of all, watch it.