In Your Face – the genesis of my story, “Bodies Of Evidence”

One of the best things about slowly and steadily building a writing career is that you get to a point where editors come to you and ask for stories, based on their experience of your previous work. It’s incredibly cool, and really helps to remind a writer that all the hard work is worthwhile. Of course, there’s no guarantee that said editor will buy the story you send them – you still have to write something that blows their socks off. Well, in 2015 I was commissioned by three editors for stories, and I managed to sell to all three. I couldn’t be happier! In this post, I’m going to talk specifically about one in particular, a story for editor Tehani Wessley of Fablecroft Publishing, for her forthcoming anthology, In Your Face. A bit further down I’m going to talk about my story, but first you need to understand the idea of  the book.

In Your Face will be made up of original and reprinted speculative fiction stories that deal with very provocative themes. These stories will be provocative and/or confronting but with a firm purpose – they are pieces that will perhaps make readers uncomfortable because they are a bit too hard-hitting or close to the bone, but which interrogate these themes and ideas, and make a point about the world we live in.

The book is happening hopefully by April, and it’s going to be amazing. There’s a pozible campaign though, which aims to raise more money in order to buy more stories for the anthology and then, if it meets its stretch goals, pay its authors more. So that’s pretty awesome. The modest original target was met in less than twelve hours! But you can still get involved and use the campaign to pre-order your ebook or print copy at a discount, and claim other rewards. All the details here: http://www.pozible.com/project/202670

Now my story that will appear in In Your Face is a very personal one. When Tehani explained the book to me, I realised this was the opportunity to write a story dealing with something I’d avoided until now. I had an older brother, Steven, who was a great guy. But he was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most aggressive form of this progressive neuromuscular disorder, and he died when he was 18. I was 16. My entire youth was one where disability was front and centre of my life.

I knew I would address disability one day in a story, but not simply the nature of disability itself – I knew I needed to explore parallels between disability and deliberate body modification. The things people willingly do to themselves and the things people wish they could do. I knew it would be a difficult story to write and a difficult one to sell. When In Your Face came along, I realised the problem of selling it might be taken care of if I could do a good enough job of writing it. So that’s what I did.

It was one of the hardest things to write I’ve ever taken on. The framework is a cyberpunk noir story, with a protagonist who’s a career detective on a strange murder case. Her brother has a debilitating disease and not much longer to live. I don’t specify in the story that he has MD, but that was my model for the character’s situation. I’m not going to say any more about it, but now you know the genesis of the story. It’s called “Bodies Of Evidence” and I really hope people enjoy it. Well, maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word. It’s an uncomfortable story to read, I think, but that’s the point really. I just hope I’ve done the subject justice. Time will tell. Tehani, at least, thinks I have, as she bought the story, so I’ll take that encouragement. And I really want to thank my friends Rob and Julia for their invaluable help beta reading this story for me.

There are some amazing writers lined up for In Your Face, so get over to the Pozible page and reserve your copy now. I think it’s going to be a very important book.

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Some writing facts and figures for 2015

As much for myself as anything else, it’s nice to look back on a year and see what’s been achieved. Given that I’m always striving for more, it’s good to stop and remind myself what I have managed along the way. So here are some writing facts and figures for 2015.

I had no new books out this year, but I wrote some – more on that below.

New short fiction publications this year were:

“How Father Bryant Saw the Light” – Blurring the Line anthology (ed. Marty Young, Cohesion Press, November 2015)

“Reaching For Ruins” – Review of Australian Fiction (ed. Matthew Lamb, Vol. 16, Issue 3, November 2015)

“Old Promise, New Blood” – Bloodlines anthology (ed. Amanda Pillar, Ticonderoga Publications, October 2015)

“In Vaulted Halls Entombed” – SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest anthology (ed. Geoff Brown & A J Spedding, Cohesion Press, September 2015) (Novelette)

“Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught” – Insert Title Here anthology (ed. Tehani Wessley, Fablecroft Publishing, April 2015)

“The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner” – The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (ed. Gordon Van Gelder, Jan-Feb 2015 issue)

That last one, selling to F&SF, is a real career high point for me. It’s my holy grail of sales and I finally nailed it. I’ve loved that magazine since I was a kid and seeing my name in one was mind-numbing. Plus, it’s just been listed on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List, so that’s a nice bonus. Now to beat my best by selling to F&SF again.

As for the business of submissions, I made 37 short fiction submissions in 2015, so fewer than normal. But I got 8 acceptances, a couple of them pro, which is a higher ratio than normal. A few of those were solicited, so the strike rate is always higher that way than cold subs.

As for new writing, I wrote about a dozen new short stories, all of which are either sold or (four of them) out on submission.

I finished a novel that I started in 2014, which is now with my agent.

I wrote a whole new collaborative novel with David Wood which is now out on submission.

I wrote a novella of about 30k words that’s also out on submission.

And I’m halfway (about 50k words) through a new novel that I hope to have finished in first draft by the end of Feb.

Also in 2015, I won an Australian Shadows Award, for “Shadows of the Lonely Dead”, and was nominated for a second one for “Mephisto”, both short stories. And I was nominated for a Best Novel Ditmar Award for Bound, a Best Novella or Novelette Ditmar Award for “The Darkness in Clara”, and a Best Horror Novel Aurealis Award for Obsidian. And the Shadows Award winning story was reprinted in Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror. Not actual writing stats, but fucking significant writing achievements in the year.

So while there’s only been six new stories published this year (my lowest count since 2011), and no new books, I have nonetheless been very busy. That’s the business – nothing happens fast. But you have to work like a pro 100% of the time to see results. And they do come if you never quit.

Hopefully I’ll land a new book deal or two in 2016 – cross your eveythings for me.

How was your year? Productive, I hope. Let’s all try to beat our best in 2016. Happy new year!

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Blurring The Line: Rena Mason

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).

To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available.

Today, it’s:

Rena Mason

Rena Mason Bio PicRena Mason is a two-time Bram Stoker Award® winning author, as well as a 2014 Stage 32 / The Blood List presents: The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest Finalist. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and The International Screenwriters’ Association. She writes a column for the HWA Monthly Newsletter, event write-ups, and occasional articles. Rena has served as a Literary Chair Committee Member for the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival and Co-Chair on the StokerCon2016 Event Committee.

A Registered Nurse, and an avid SCUBA diver since 1988, she has traveled the world and enjoys incorporating the experiences into her stories. She currently resides in Reno, Nevada with her family.

For more information about this author, visit her website: RenaMason.Ink

1. What was the inspiration/motivation behind your story in Blurring The Line?

Because of the shortage for nurses, as an R.N. I often found myself working side by side with traveling nurses from abroad. It takes a strong personality type to come from another country and be able to provide such a diverse range of care in a foreign land. Travelers who specialize in medical/surgical care get scheduled to work on whatever floor they’re needed, which can span from specialties such as cancer to post-op patients. It’s something I personally wouldn’t want to do.

A few traveling nurses I’d worked with told me that life in the states wasn’t what they thought it would be like, and that they’d return home after their contract was up. They complained of being homesick, missing their families, the people, and familiar foods. So I took the culmination of all those things, amplified them a notch or two with locale, added more distinctly mixed cultural diversities in a city’s population, taking the horror to a level that would push my main character over the edge.

2. What does horror mean to you?

It’s anything that makes me feel fear, uneasy, unsettled, or disturbed.

3. What’s a horror short story that you think everyone should read?

“The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell. A classic, chilling ghost story.

4. What horror novel should everyone read?

Hell House by Richard Matheson.

5. Name something that you think just might be real, or might not…

The Loch Ness Monster.

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Previous posts in the Blurring The Line interview series:

Marty Young
Tom Piccirilli
Lisa Morton
Tim Lebbon
Lia Swope Mitchell
Alan Baxter
James Dorr
Peter Hagelslag
Gregory L Norris
Steven Lloyd Wilson
James A Moore
Alex C Renwick
Lisa L Hannett
Kealan Patrick Burke
Brett McBean
Kaaron Warren
Paul Mannering
Charles L Grant
Patricia Esposito
Rena Mason

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Blurring The Line: Patricia Esposito

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).

To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available.

Today, it’s:

Patricia Esposito

promotion photo 2015Patricia J. Esposito is author of Beside the Darker Shore and has published numerous works in anthologies, such as Main Street Rag’s Crossing Lines, Anna Purna’s Clarify, Undertow’s Apparitions, and Transmundane’s Distorted, and in magazines, including Not One of Us, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Rose and Thorn, Wicked Hollow, and Midnight Street. She has received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

Find her at: http://patricia-j-esposito.blogspot.com/

1. What was the inspiration/motivation behind your story in Blurring the Line?

My story “A Distorted and Holy Desire” came out of my need to explore the mystery of music’s deep effect on us. Sometimes we experience art that transcends, that takes the pain of life and lets us experience it and yet, through art, come out of it. Art as catharsis. In the few times I saw the band Beautiful Collision (BeCo) play, I felt that transcendence, and yet the singer/guitarist would say, almost shyly, a very simple, “Thank you.” Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that so much passion and beauty can come from a mortal human form. Sometimes emotion is so great I wonder how we survive it. I wrote to see how I survive it, though I’m not sure I do.

2. What does horror mean to you?

Horror can range from stories that elicit heart palpitations to cringing and nausea to an unease that won’t let go. Horror that makes me jump and then laugh at the adrenaline rush can be fun, and I can appreciate the imagery of a well-done slasher scene—both designed to shake us, give us a quick thrill?—but I generally seek out horror that evokes that unnameable unease, that makes me think and wonder and try to establish how the horror might fit in myself or the world I’m part of. I think the unknown plays into most horror; however, I’m drawn to horror that remains a bit of a mystery, that entails the ambiguous, something that might lie within us if not without, or that we finally perceive with a sense of near awe because it is beyond our control and yet part of this world, not to go away.

3. What’s a horror short story that you think everyone should read?

I had trouble with this because I’ve read a number of excellent short stories from recent years, in magazines and anthologies, and I always wonder what will stand the test of time. I’m a fan of Michael Kelly’s work, which combines the imagistic language I love with the psychological aspects of our inner fears. I’ll offer one of his, “The Woods,” because I think it’s an example of how subtle horror can be most powerful at times. Two old men sit across from each other in a cabin that’s suffocated in snow. We never learn of the crime and no one is accused outright, and yet the tension that builds from what is not stated and from the images of isolation that Kelly conveys so well left me more uneasy than if we’d learned the truth. The chill is in what we know is potential!

4. What horror novel should everyone read?

Here I turn to my personal taste for psychological horror and recommend a classic, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. I first read the novella in high school, and it remained with me ever since, obviously influencing my own horror. I like when barriers between worlds seem to be breaking, and yet it could be what our own minds and distressed subconscious have done. How often and easily we scare ourselves by letting the imagination go; yet usually something keeps us over the edge. I like to explore going over that edge. (I’d also always recommend Ray Bradbury for the experience of his imagery that makes us thoroughly feel the world and the characters and for the elevated nature of what he proposes we can be.)

5. Name something that you think just might be real, or might not…

When it’s quiet and I’m absorbed in my writing, I wonder if all that had faded around me was ever real, or if we design the tangible in a collective effort for sanity.

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Previous posts in the Blurring The Line interview series:

Marty Young
Tom Piccirilli
Lisa Morton
Tim Lebbon
Lia Swope Mitchell
Alan Baxter
James Dorr
Peter Hagelslag
Gregory L Norris
Steven Lloyd Wilson
James A Moore
Alex C Renwick
Lisa L Hannett
Kealan Patrick Burke
Brett McBean
Kaaron Warren
Paul Mannering
Charles L Grant
Annie NeugeBauer

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End of year publishing news.

I thought I should catch up on a few bits and pieces before we roll over into 2016. There’s been a bit of stuff going on.

I mentioned before that the Alex Caine series is getting new covers from Harper Voyager and we finally have release dates for the trilogy in paperback. Well, I’ve seen the new covers, they are truly awesome and I can’t wait to share them with you. I can hopefully do that soon. And all three books in the trilogy will be published together in July next year. So you can buy the whole set all at once. In print. Finally! So very exciting.

For the Americans and everyone else, Ragnarok Publications have acquired the rights to the trilogy and they should reveal their covers before too long. We should see a release from them in the autumn of 2016.

Incidentally, if you’ve enjoyed the Alex Caine books, or any other book for that matter, and you have a few minutes to spare, please take a moment to leave a rating and/or honest review at Amazon, Goodreads, iBooks, or anywhere else you frequent. It really does make a difference!

In short fiction news, a few books have been released recently featuring stories by me. It’s been a quiet year until now, then suddenly everything at once.

I have an original story in an amazing new anthology which is available now. Blurring the Line, featuring my story, “How Father Bryant Saw The Light”, is out in the world, edited by the award-winning Marty Young. Learn about that here. I’m currently running a blog series where I’ve asked each fiction contributor the same five questions. This is the first of those.

Also out now is the new dark urban fantasy/horror anthology, Bloodlines, and that features another new story from me, “Old Promise, New Blood”. And another award-winning editor for this one, the awesome Amanda Pillar. Get the skinny on this book here.

And another new horror story by me was recently published. “Reaching For Ruins” is in Review of Australian Fiction (ed. Matthew Lamb) Vol. 16, Issue 3, for November 2015. RAF has two stories every two weeks from Australian authors and it’s more a lit mag than a genre mag, so I’m very happy to have landed a horror yarn there. Check that out here.

And as for new short stories yet to be published, there’s:

“Under Calliope’s Skin” which will be in the SNAFU: Future Warfare anthology (ed. Geoff Brown and A J Spedding, Cohesion Press) due out in Feb. 2016, and a novelette called “Served Cold” coming out in the Dreaming in the Dark anthology (ed. Jack Dann, PS Publishing) due some time in mid-2016. I’m very excited about both those books.

There’s very exciting new project on the horizon for next year too. Clan Destine Press are releasing And Then… which is a massive two-volume collection of fantastic SF and fantasy adventure yarns. It’s packed with amazing writers, including me. My story, “Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade”, is a novelette featuring a Shaolin monk, a powerful geomancer, a stolen jade dragon and the Australian gold rush. I had heaps of fun writing it and can’t wait for people to read it. The books are being partly funded by an indigogo campaign where you can pre-order both volumes in ebook for AU$20, or both volumes in print and ebook for AU$50. There are loads of other perks available at the campaign too, so to get on board with that, head over here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/and-then-the-great-big-book-of-awesome–2#/

And lastly for now, I’m happy to report that editor Simon Dewar has got the go ahead for Suspended In Dusk 2. He asked me to contribute again and my story, “Crying Demon”, will be in the book, due out around mid-2016.

Happy holidays, whatever type you may or may not celebrate. Eat, drink and be merry, all the time not just in December. Be nice to each other.

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