Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Simon Wood

Thanks again for interviewing with me Simon.

Glad to be here.

What’s scarier, your books or your driving?

I think I can scare most people with both, because I’m in control of their destiny. In both situations, people are passengers on my rides.

What do you find different about your American audience versus your overseas readers?

Usually their accents.

For a more serious answer, I find American readers a little more moralistic than British readers. American readers seem to be more sensitive to things such as cursing and the morality of the characters, especially when it comes to the protagonist. I know several readers picked on me for things such as infidelity and occasional lawlessness. Heroes have to be good for goodness sake.

So you do private investigations? How did you stumble into that one?

When I first moved to the US, I struggled to find a job for the longest time and my wife and I were struggling to make ends meet, so we became ‘mystery shoppers’ where we’d check to see if stores did what head office told them to do. We ‘shopped’ fast food joints, movie theaters, supermarkets, etc. We got a little pay and got to keep what we bought. We did so well that we kept being bumped up. We moved on to fancy restaurants, hotels and casinos. Every few weeks, we would be sent to Vegas to check up on dealers, hotel staff, bar staff. We’d have to watch people who were thought to be doing something naughty. It was fun but hard work.

If you could change one thing about our current laws, what would it be?

One land—one law. As an outsider, the fragmented approach to law and law enforcement where crimes are judged differently from one state to another is beyond me. It’s a jurisdictional nightmare. I was once hit by a car and landed on a city-county line. Three jurisdictions fought over whose responsibility it was to respond. It’s supposed to be “one nation under God,” not five hundred municipalities.

What book are you most proud of and why?

I’m proud of all my children, but if I had to save any of them from a burning building, I guess I would have to say Paying the Piper and The Scrubs. I love Paying the Piper because it’s so relentless. The storytelling never draws breath. I love The Scrubs because it’s the most visual thing I’ve ever written. It’s Technicolor in words. It’s started off as a short story and kept expanding and expanding. I think the images stick with most people long after they’ve finished it. Also these are my wife’s favorites. If I can, I’d like to show some love for Road Rash. I have a real soft spot for this one because I used my own personal encounter with Santeria in Guatemala and I incorporated it into a supernatural crime story. I love the change the protagonist goes through—physical and spiritual.

Why Simon Janus?

I have two loves—horror and crime fiction. They tend not to share the same readership. When I kept bringing out different books and stories that switched from one genre to another, it confused my readership. So a couple of years ago, I started using Simon Janus for my horror fiction and Simon Wood for all my crime fiction. It helps give readers the heads up on what to expect…most of the time.

How long does it take you to write a short story?

I might ponder a short story for years, but I’m pretty quick when it comes to writing it. I usually produce one in a day, and spend a couple of days rewriting it.

What character from a short story still sticks with you to this day?

If we’re talking about other people, I would say the painter from David Morell’s “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity.” It’s one of my favorite short stories of all time. If you're talking about my own, then it would be Captain John Clelland in “Acceptable Losses.” With both stories, it’s the emotional horror that hurts the most. People can listen to an audio adaptation of “Acceptable Losses” for free here.

King said no one ever asks about the language. What is the most beautiful poem you can remember hearing?

When I was in high school, we studied the war poets and I was touched by Rupert Brooke’s, The Soldier.

Do you mix poetry into your writing?

Oh no, I have no poetry in me.

Favorite word(s)?

Usually rude ones.

Was there ever a moment when you realized, “You know what, I’ve got this English thing down?”

No. I’m still waiting on that moment, but I don't think I’ll ever get there. I’ll be forever working on it. I’m dyslexic so I was abysmal at school. To be honest, I speak English, but I still have little idea how it all works.

You can be a writer or the president, which do you choose?

Oh, I’d be a writer. As a writer, I stand a chance of actually making positive change—although only fictionally.

Tell us about “The Fall Guy.”

It’s somewhat of a dark crime caper in a Donald Westlake/Elmore Leonard kind of a way. It’s the story of Todd Collins who has failed in every job he's ever undertaken, but that all changes when he backs his jalopy in a shiny, new Porsche belonging to a drug dealer. When the police stop the drug dealer for a broken taillight that Todd has caused and discover a cocaine shipment, a West Coast kingpin holds Todd responsible. On the run from organized crime, Todd discovers his true calling. It’s inspired by an incident that happened in my first year of college. It’s in eBook form at the moment, but I sold the print rights last month and it’ll be out in paperback in November.

Scott Nicholson told you to ‘Do something with it.’ What was the story like at that point? How much did you have left to do?

I wrote a short story called Fender Bender and it appeared in an anthology called Small Crimes. A publisher wanted me to do a collection of short stories with a workplace theme using Fender Bender as the backbone of the collection by expanding the story into novella and that was the genesis for “The Fall Guy”. Unfortunately, I kept developing the story and ended up writing a novel and it got included in the book, Working Stiffs. Working Stiffs went out of print about a year ago. Scott had read Working Stiffs and suggested that I break “The Fall Guy” out and release it as an eBook all by itself. I hemmed and hawed and finally released it a few months ago and it’s really struck a chord with readers recently. That inspired me to send it out to a publisher and it picked up a print contract. So I owe Scott big.

When you first started writing, did it come naturally, or did you have to work at it?

No, I was not a natural. Like I said earlier, I’m dyslexic and avoided therefore written words for most of my life. But when I came to US, I had this hankering to write. The problem was I had no idea that I was essentially a functioning illiterate. It wasn’t until I made some faltering steps that I realized how little I knew about composition and grammar. I picked up some books and my wife walked me through the basics.

Could you give some links to your stories on Fictionwise, your novels and novellas?

Fictionwise only has some of my short stories. With so much of my backlist going out of print in the last year, I’ve resurrected them as ebooks. My complete back catalogue of novels and novellas are now available for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc. All the links can be found for all these outlets here.

Could you give me an example of your process when writing a new novel? You joke that you have little idea how it all works.

I’m not very disciplined, so that’s made me quite structured when it comes to writing a book. I’m a plotter and an outliner. I construct a color-coded spreadsheet showing the story’s development from beginning to end, which point of view the scene is being told from, whether it’s a lead or subplot. I might not stick to my outline, and usually don’t, but it’s a nice security blanket. The outline gives me the confidence that I won't run out of puff while I’m writing. When I’ve got my outline in place, I just plow my way through. I don’t worry about how it looks or reads. It’s all about getting that idea down. Because I can't really read what I’ve written very accurately. My wife acts as my eyes and reads the manuscript. She marks it up and I change it, then give it back to her to re-read. Once we've got a reasonably clean manuscript (usually after six edits or so), she’ll read the whole book aloud so I can hear it and I make edits as she reads. Once, the manuscript is clean, I send it off to some readers who are good with grammar or genre fans. When the manuscript is as clean as I can make it, then it goes to my editor.

Congratulations on “The Fall Guy” getting put into print and thank you for the interview today, Simon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Phone Interview with Michael Marano

Your novella"Displacement" was easily one of the best stories I’ve read this year. Through the stories there is a common theme of child abuse. Have you worked with abused children before, or is it a passion of yours?

From a story-telling standpoint, I’m a big advocate of something that the 1950’s editor,HoraceGold said when he was editing Galaxy. He said, “Please don’t give me this version of the story, but tell me what happens after.”

The general consensus is Gold would have rejectedMad Max, and instead have asked forThe Road Warrior. I want to concentrate on what happens after. And often what comes after has as its origins child abuse.

Being on the punk scene, I’ve seen the effects of a lot of child abuse. It’s such a constant with all the people who not only go on the punk scene, but alcoholics, drug abusers, outsiders and the people I choose to write about. I find a lot of people are of this category.

Do you like showing the harm we can cause when we, as you said, ‘create monsters?’

I feel morally obliged to show the harm. It is so easy to project monstrosity onto people. This is a dehumanizing act, and it is also dehumanizing to the person who judges. Hoisting monstrosity onto other people is basically a self-monster-fic-ation, to coin a term. I’ve seen it destroy too many people.

Making someone a monster isn’t just ascribing something amoral onto those people; it’s placing yourself higher by passing moral judgment, by saying you’re too innately good to be capable of that monstrous behavior.

You killed a character named Brian Keene in "Displacement". Brian said that his killing of you in The Rising was only ‘a little in-joke at a buddy.’ Was your death of Keene the same? Or did you take it more seriously?

I think I recall emailing Brian when I wrote that part of "Displacement". It was a little return jab. A little shout out.That character named Brian Keene in "Displacement" was actually based off of someone I knew a long time ago who made all of his employees lives miserable.

How upset were you when Se7en came out?

I was bummed. Before Se7en had come out, I had sent "Displacement"to KrisRusch and Tom Monteleone, John Pelan and Rich Chizmar, and I was getting nibbles. People were saying it was really good, but they can’t publish it.

I’m a movie reviewer and I did the press screening of Se7en and I went, “Ahh, shit.”

I put "Displacement" away and left it in my files. Then over the years I saw how much Se7en and serial killer fetishization had been infusing our culture. I knew I could re-tweak the story and make it comment on this. The real kernel of the story, I think, was those glorious Vincent Price "ornately ironic murder movies," like the two Dr. Phibes movies and Theatre of Blood.

Was "Little Round Head" about a kid being raised by wolves? I seem to remember a little girl who was raised by wolves, then taken in by humans.

I am not going to tell you what it is about, because people who love the story have wildly different readings of it. I feel like I’d be limiting its interpretation if I answered that.

Recently, in Ukraine I think, they found a girl raised by dogs in an apartment complex. She was taken in by dogs. I was sort of aware of that, but no, I wasn’t writing about it.

Something about "Little Round Head" also reminds me of a song by Nine Inch Nails, titled "Right Where It Belongs". He says, “See the animal in his cage that you built? Are you sure which side you’re on?” Was this a story to get us to look at the other side? Looking from an animal’s perspective, who looks more civilized?

That’s sort of in my cultural DNA, and that goes back to every story that asks “Who is the real monster?” That goes back to Cannibal Ferox and Cannibal Holocaust. Humans are only civilized when they question their own validity. Jack Ketchum certainly catches that with his "Dead River" series.

I love that you basically said monsters breed monsters. This is true. Growing up, don’t our parents change us the most?

Oh, sure. In every child’s life, parents make a difference.

You seem to write about children often. If you could change the education system, how would you do it?

You’re talking to a guy who quit teaching.

Well, I’d change many things. The most important thing that I can think of to reform education is something I learned about while I was getting my certification. That is a thing called “The hidden curriculum.” It is an unspoken paradigm or outlook that infuses the school. The teacher and principal might not be aware of it, or they might not. It is heard as an agenda more than any teacher recognizes, it was one of the reasons why I hit the ejection seat as a high school teacher.

What I saw was a secret curriculum about a hidden hierarchy of class and conformity which I found completely appalling. I was teaching in a suburban high school, and the hidden curriculum of that school was rewarding an outlook of kids who were Stepford children. I thought, as a punkrock DJ, I could be perpetuating a much better outlook for that generation.

The all pervasive message was that “The world outside of our class is scary and the people above us know better.” It was hidden better, not stated that directly, but it was problematic. If I could change anything, it would be the phasing out of the old hidden curricula, but that would probably create a new one.

In "The Siege", we explore Ghosts getting revenge. The ways that you depict them as caring about what their actions will incur seemed more thoughtful than most people who are alive. I liked the way that story was done. Should ghosts haunt or terrorize?

They weren’t really ghosts, but reincarnated beings who were doing in flesh what ghosts have been ascribed to do. I’ve just noticed a lot of people who are so burdened by their past that they can’t live in today. They are their own ghosts, but they aren’t dead yet.

Ghosts and avenging spirits don’t go in for the easy, quick kill. They fuck with you. Look at Sadako in Ringu and FreddyKrueger; they don’t go in for the kill. That could be more a device for storytelling, but they always seem to be pretty patient. If you have all of eternity, why would you rush things?Freddy isn’t going anywhere. He can fuck with you all he wants.

Would you like to believe that we learn something, passing from this world to the next?

The thing I want to learn is how not to die.


 I think the most important thing you can learn when being hit by a bus is to use the cross walk, or when you're on a respirator, that you shouldn’t have smoked.

I certainly hope that there is something after all this. I hope that we learn something and bring it past this, into the next world.But I think we need to learn from the spirit world and bring it into ours. If I could get investment tips from Diamond Jim Brady, that’d be awesome.

You say so many songs changed for you after Marian died.  I’ve never had someone close to me die, knock on wood. But drugs have affected many of my father's.  How long did you labor over “Exit Wound” and “...And the Damage is Done?”

I found out about Marian dying maybe nine months after she had. At that point, I was already on deadline with “Exit wound.” I just restructured it a little and made it dedicated to her. In terms of deciding to do the next story, "...And the Damage Done", about her, that seemed appropriate to the theme of the anthology that the story was commissioned for, Outsiders: 22 All New Stories from the Edge,which was edited by Nancy Holder and Nancy Kilpatrick.

That was a moment I said, “Yeah, I need to talk about Marian more.” It wasn’t a case of deciding to; the opportunities arose and seemed appropriate.

Did any of Marian's circle hear of the story and talk to you?

I wrote emails with Daniel DeLeon, to whom I mailed copies of the stories years ago. He knows. Lilly Scortis-Ayers, who directed Last Fast Ride, the documentary about Marian that just played Sundance, knows about it. I’m sure she communicated about it with a few people.

The story behind "Shibboleth" is a sad one. The story behind the word is pretty crazy, too. Is that why you chose this title?

Yes. The story is about getting past a militarized check point, so I thought I could develop the idea of a shibboleth as a theme. And also, most of what I write is a shibboleth of some type. I’m not very straight forward.

You use poetic language and don’t pause for others catch up. If you could make a living off of only writing novels or poetry, which would it be?

Oh, gosh.

(Big pause)

Novels. I’ll be… I’m pretty certain I could make more money writing fiction than I do. Right now, I am doing a fairly commercial novel. The rewards are so low, that I’d rather write off-the-wall stuff that I like to write.

I could sell-out for$10,000. But if I sell out, I want to sell out for a lot more than that! The rewards for selling out are so low, why do it? With my interactions with publishers, I’ve been offered 10 grand to sell out, but it hasn’t been worth my while.Back a dump truck full of money to my door, I'll sell out in a heartbeat.

Tell us a bit about your other projects. What is Dawn Song about? How about "MediaDrome"?

The next book that I am working I can’t talk about. Don't want to jinx it. But it is fairly commercial and who knows if I can sell it?

Dawn Song is probably going to be the novel I am best known for, even though if it sold for crap. Really low sales numbers.

The book blurb describes Dawn Songas, "A darkly erotic exploration of supernatural evil in very human circumstances. Lawrence is an invisible bookstore clerk in Boston, drawn through no choice of his own into the greatest conflict of all–a struggle for dominance between two of the most powerful devils in Hell. As the media frenzy of the Gulf War buildup enthralls the city, Lawrence feels the presence of something ethereal and beautiful that has come to Boston, as he has, in search of fulfillment and love everlasting. If he only knew what it was…"

Even though I sold the book, it is contrary to about everything we are taught about publishing.  I think I sold it as an alchemical-cabalistic take.

Have you written any movies yet?

I think this is why I write such convoluted stories. I’m a movie reviewer. I look at such upfront story telling as my job, and as such, I am always looking for something else. I’m looking for something you can’t experience like that. I think that is why I go for such ambiguous and coded storytelling.

You don’t want to write cinematic fiction when you review it. It’s hard for me to get into the rhythm of it. Maybe I should try Larry Cohen’s method of dictating screenplays into tape recorders, but I’m not good at it. And yes, the idea I’m working on now as a novel started as a teleplay. I had been toying with sending it toMasters of Horror. Initially, I wrote it as a screenplay, then changed over to prose every other chapter, then back to screenplay format. Eventually it just became a novel.

You do a lot of reviews. What are the top 10 horror films under the radar? Stuff for a new author to watch.

Hobo with a Shotgun, Jack Ketchum's The Woman… I’ll get back to you on this one.

How surreal is it to be published at place like Cemetery Dance?

Not at all. It was gratifying, but I have been dealing with them for ten years. What was really sort of surreal was that the book sold out so damn fast.

I saw that you lost air pressure in the plane you were on? Can you explain that one?

Apparently it was a mechanical failure. The device that monitors interior air pressure fails sometimes. My ears were popping as I was working on the plane. I didn’t even notice that the masks dropped at first. I didn’t hear the first announcement.

When I saw everyone moving around me, putting the masks on, I put mine on. I was like, “Gee... I could die!”Somehow, I was just mellow. People were taking it very calmly, reading their newspapers.

This ties in with the theme of The Plague Years and shibboleths. People in the face of death kind of let things happen. People just go on. Humans who survived the Black Death in the 14th Century did well because, as other people died, there was more land for them to cultivate and therefore more food and people could fight off the plague better.

I talked with a bartender who was a house painter in a city by a naval base.He was working painting a house with a buddy when he air raid sirens on the base went off. The base hadn't told anybody they were running a test of the sirens, so as far as anyone knew, this was real and the nukes were on their way. When the bartender and his buddy heard the sirens, they just shrugged and went on painting, knowing they could die any moment.

Another friend woke up, saw the mushroom cloud from the Mt. Saint Helens blooming as the volcano blew, and just shrugged and went back to bed. She figured it was the end of the world. That sort of resignationfound its way into"Shibboleth". That was all pervasive when I grew up in the 80’s.

I did not expect to live past 35. There was a sort of terror and resentment that evolved the attitudes of us back then.

I don’t see the War on Terror as so apocalyptic as the culture that existed back during the era of the Bomb. The certainty of apocalypse in pop music was everywhere. Look at "99 Luftballoons" and "The Final Countdown". As a 1980s punk rocker, the fear of being vaporized was a constant theme during our days.

It’s not as pervasive now, because the anxieties of the Cold War saturated into everything.Fear hasn’t done that, with what’s going on now. Then again, I’m an old fart and I might be getting comfortably numb about all this.

I want to thank Michael for doing this interview. His novel, Stories from the Plague Years, is a great read that I recommend, full of mystery and horror.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Interview with David Rocklin, Author of "The Luminist."

Thank you for joining us, David. Could you start by telling everyone a little bit about your book?

“The Luminist” is set in nineteenth century Ceylon. Eligius Shourie is a Tamil Indian boy whose father is killed by English soldiers after a melee at the Court of Directors, East India Company. He thereafter becomes a servant in the house of Catherine Colebrook. Catherine is a very independent and driven woman, married to a fading Court Director. She is chasing an obsession: the nascent art and science of photography. Catherine is a very unusual creature, a woman in that era who relentlessly pursues her passion despite all expectations of class and gender. Eligius becomes her apprentice in the quest, and a family neither of them expected is formed while all around them, Ceylon pitches into unrest between the native populace and the colonials occupying their country.

The novel is very (emphasis on very) loosely inspired by a period in the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, an English woman who became involved with photography in its infancy. She produced beautiful, startling portraits and images. The novel has very little to do with her life factually, though. Rather, she was my jumping off point for what the novel became, at the end: the price exacted when one lives to arrest beauty.

Well it sounds like a great read. Now, I know you've been writing for a while. Could you explain how you got your start in writing?

I think I’ve always written, no matter the phase of life. There was a time when I wanted to be, in no particular order: an only child, a champion hockey player, the next Bruce Lee, parentless, the next Jaco Pastorius, a better man, a good father…and on. The only thing that links these disparate parts of my life is the fact that I wrote about them, through them, in order to understand them.

I can, though, trace the moment that I realized what writing could do to me and for me – eighth grade English, when my teacher (who is acknowledged in the novel) gave me a copy of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Then and there, I discovered that writing could be subversive, sneaky, thrilling, powerful. It could do things I couldn’t do.

It must have been a hard journey. You threw out your first attempts at a novel, after you finished writing them. Any regrets?

Not really. Anything I might have salvaged from my earliest attempts has probably made its way into my writing one way or the other. I’m not really very sentimental about my early writing and can’t really see myself paging through it, unless I felt something had merit and could potentially be reworked – in which case, I probably would have kept it. I do have one, which I occasionally think about revisiting. I just might.

You sound like you must have a wide variety of reading material. Do you have a favorite genre?

I can’t say that I have one. I look for the beating heart of a novel (or any other creative endeavor, really). If I can see what it was that made its creator burn until they produced that work, I’m probably going to like it. If it reads as a purely mercantile effort, I won’t, no matter the genre.

And where do you find your ideas?

“The Luminist” was inspired by an installation of Ms. Cameron’s photographs at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I’m not a photographer, I had no previous experience with India, but something about those images really captured me (read here for the story behind the novel’s cover). I had no idea that a visit to the museum would yield a notion – the obsession to take a moment out of the world and hold it still – that would in turn become a novel. The idea found me and wouldn’t let go. That’s how it is for me. It’s like driving in the desert. First, quiet. Then, the crackles of a radio signal still too far away to really hear. Then, it comes in.

How did you know that this book was ready for publishing? How did you know it finally 'came in,' as you put it?

I’ve been staring at this question for ten minutes, trying to think of a good answer! The flippant response would be ‘my publisher said it was,’ but honestly, I think I knew the novel was truly complete when I could think of it as two things, simultaneously. First, as a series of decisions (storyline, character choice, conflict and resolution) that I could defend as the right decisions from among a thousand possibilities. Second, as a kind of memory of something that actually happened to me. Not to say that I’m taking the “Million Little Pieces of Three Cups of Tea” route and trying to claim truth where truth is in question. Obviously, this story has nothing to do with my life. But at a certain point, my sense of the story occupied a different place in me. It no longer lived in that part of me that makes stories up. It lived in the part of me that remembers emotions, sensations, repercussions of experiences I had. It became that intimate to me. I’m hopeful that the new one will get there as well. It’s early yet.

Oh, you're onto a new book? When you write, are you a plotter, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

Both! I tend to outline a rough plot from beginning to the end that I think will come about. Then I break that into a narrower, closer-to-earth outline of sections. That in turn becomes even more granular as I break down a scene or sequence. Within those frameworks, though, I never know what’s going to happen, what the characters might say or do, and they have unfettered freedom to make their choices. I hope they do things that surprise me. That’s how I know they’re alive. As I go forward, all my outlining goes out the window, which I love.

Every author is different in that regard. Which authors would you say influenced you the most in your writing?

I don’t know if these authors have influenced me, but their work has been so important to me: John Irving, Chang Rae Lee, Dickens, Steinbeck, Andrew Sean Greer, Francine Prose, A.M. Holmes, Susan Taylor Chehak, Richard Powers, Paul Auster, Michael Ondaatje – wow, I could go on for a long time. I would say that writers who remain with me (whether it’s one of their books, or all) are emotionally generous. They’re expansive in what they give, whether literally or by the suggestions of their otherwise spare writing.

Was it hard for you to land an agent? What would you tell authors who are struggling to find representation?

I gained representation for a previous effort via the query route. From that, I learned that a well-written query letter and a manuscript that is really, truly ready to be seen can get you evaluated by agents; they don’t all just pass whenever they receive an unsolicited query. It’s important (even critical) that you do your homework on them before you query. What do they represent? Who do they represent? How does your work fit into their list or their professed interests? Again, that query letter should really be as polished as your book.

“The Luminist” went a different route. I’d determined to seek new representation for it. A mentor read it and forwarded word of it to my agent, Christy Fletcher. Christy asked to see it and (every writer’s fantasy) wrote me the day she commenced reading to say that she wanted to represent me. I already knew of her; she’s respected, successful and has proved since to be more than I could have hoped for. I’m very lucky to be with my agency.

If you didn't find an agent for this book, would you have released it as an Ebook? Would you have scrapped it and started again?

I believe in “visibility at all costs” when it comes to writers and writing. As writers, we undertake two actions, only one of which is voluntary. One, we write (for so many of us, not voluntary – we have to). Two, we put our work out for others to see and respond to. That’s voluntary on our part. If we’re compelled to share what we wrote, I do believe we should exploit every possibility. That said, we should also recognize and acknowledge why we feel compelled to do it. Is it that we want to complete that wonderful circle of reading/writing? Or are we looking to make some money for our efforts?

Knowing me, I probably would have commenced a new novel. I definitely would not have discarded Luminist, though!

King said people never ask enough about the language. In that spirit, do you have any favorite words?

I wouldn’t know where to begin – I love them all equally! The simplest words can be powerful. Even the words I hate in life, I love on the page. They pry me open.

Good answer. Another off topic question, if I may. If you could change one thing about our schools, what would it be?

Practically speaking, I’d love to see teachers paid for what they truly do – prepare our children to live in worlds ruled by numbers, by history, by politics and the laws of science, by communication in multiple languages. It seems that these days and for far too long, they’ve been paid as if they were babysitters.

As long as we’re talking wishes, I wish schools made as big a deal out of a student’s success reading/writing as they do when he or she scores the winning point.

All of those are solid points. One last question. I've read a lot of Hawthorne Books, and I always love them. How has your experience with Hawthorne Books been? Any funny stories from the trenches?

Hawthorne has been amazing to work with. This is my first experience with a publisher, and particularly during the editorial process, I prepared for the worst. ‘Cut out this character,’ ‘lose a third of the length.’ The things you hear about in writing circles. Every step of the way, Hawthorne has had two primary motivations for all that they do, from jacket image to story to marketing and publicity: making the story better, and making the book appealing to people who buy books. They approached me, and this novel, as artists and business people at once. As a bonus, Rhonda Hughes, Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, Liz Crain, Adam McIsaac (their designer) are all wonderful, warm people.

I have a feeling the funny trench stories will come once I’m on the road doing readings and signings. I hope that they aren’t of the “I read a book to no one tonight” variety! Seriously, if I’m in your readers’ vicinity, please come see me. I hate crying myself to sleep.

Thank you for your time, David.

Thank you for having me, Draven.

You can find more about David Rocklin at http://www.davidrocklin.com/ or Facebook

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Sizzler - Short Story by Eden Baylee

Summer Sizzler
By Eden Baylee

Nadine stepped out of the shower—for the second time that day. Not yet mid-June, the temperature had already hit the 30-degree Celsius mark three times in the past week. London was preparing itself for a sizzler of a summer.

She quickly dabbed her body and gathered her long blonde hair in a towel. Gulping down half a glass of water on her way to the bedroom, she left behind damp footprints on the bare wooden floor. Beads of sweat were already forming on her back. Of all days for the air-conditioner to break down! She needed to feel fresh and cool, which wasn’t going to be easy in this heat.

Nadine set her glass down on the night table next to the old-style desk fan she had retrieved from the attic. Though it weighed a ton and rattled when set at its highest speed, it was better than nothing. They didn’t make them like this anymore—16” hooked metal blades that were almost completely exposed in a web-like cage. Given to her by her grandfather before he passed away, she had kept it for sentimental value, but was grateful for it now as it provided a modicum of relief on this humid night.

Standing in front of the fan, Nadine allowed the air to dry her wispy pubic hair before turning around to enjoy the cool sensation travel up her back. It was a relief to feel dry if only until she put her clothes on. After slipping into a pair of panties, she re-directed the fan toward the vanity table and sat down to apply her make-up. She gazed at her drawn thirty-nine-year-old face, and saw tired, puffy eyes staring back at her. Nadine winced as a pain jabbed her side. She had not eaten all day and was feeling a bit light-headed, but she would need to wait until dinner.

She applied concealer to hide the bags under her eyes before blotting her face with powder to get rid of the shine. Her armpits felt sticky again. Damn! Jake would be over in less than an hour to pick her up. She considered herself fortunate to have found him through one of the many London dating services she had been trolling for the past year. What attracted him to her was his friendly online personality, though he seemed rather shy in person. She would have never looked at him twice if she had seen him on the street. He was shorter than her, balding, and had crooked teeth.  These would have been deal breakers when she was in her twenties, but now …  Nadine’s own looks were fading, and she had struggled to lose weight most of her life. If she was going to snag herself a husband before she turned forty, she’d have to be less picky.

They had been dating for nearly a month now, and he had not even kissed her, preferring to meet for coffee each time. In a moment of sheer frustration, she e-mailed him to suggest they go out for dinner. She held her breath as she read his response: “Sure, I’d love to.” He was interested, but Nadine knew she’d have to be the aggressor if she wanted things to progress beyond their platonic relationship.

After carefully applying her lipliner and lipstick, she smiled at herself in the mirror and tried to look confident. She grabbed the sundress from the closet and stepped into it—no bra. She couldn’t fathom the thought of strapping one on in this heat.

Removing the towel from her head, she admired her long damp tresses.  Her strawberry-blonde hair was the one feature that set her apart and was likely what caught Jake’s attention from her profile picture. Thick and curly, she always posed for the camera with her hair draped in front of her like a mink stole.

Glancing at the clock on her table, she guessed that Jake would be arriving soon, and she still had to dry her hair. In an attempt to stay cool, she stood in front of the fan and allowed the air to hit her, then decided against using the hair dryer altogether. Instead, she bent over and flipped her hair toward the fan, running her fingers through it and tossing it around. The chill against the back of her neck felt wonderful before she suddenly became dizzy and lost her balance.

Nadine’s head jerked forward as the high-speed blades grabbed her hair, yanking out some at the roots before pulling in more. She grabbed for the night table, screaming as her hair became entangled. Disoriented, she tried to extricate herself from the whirling machine, thrashing about as she struggled to find the electric cord, terrified the blades would cut into her scalp. Her hair continued to weave around the fan. Blindly swatting the table, she knocked over her glass and felt the water splash her feet.

“Fuck!” she yelled as she grabbed the cage of the fan to prevent from being pulled in further.

Out of sheer desperation, she forced her head back, intentionally ripping out more of her hair until she was able to see where the plug was.

She reached for it, got sucked back into the fan, and yanked the cord out of the wall. Nadine fell backward with the plug clenched tightly in her hand. She heard the thrumming of blood in her ears as her body hit the ground, surprised at how painless it felt when her head cracked the floor. She tasted blood and realized she had bitten her tongue. She smelled something too—her own burning flesh. Tears streamed down her face as she lay there with her eyes wide open—the blades of the fan coming to a halt inches from her face. Seconds later, her body stopped twitching.

The last sound she heard was a knocking at her door.

Eden Baylee remembers hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and reading an erotic novel. It was past her bedtime—she was eleven.
Since then, she has continued to read and write erotica. Equipped with an active imagination, few inhibitions, and a passion for words, she is fortunate to have experienced much of what she writes about, and she integrates many of her favorite things into her stories.
An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop, surrounded by books, music, and a cup of homemade chai tea.  
Fall into Winter is her first book.  Connect with Eden via her Website, on Twitter, and on  Facebook