1. February 2016 08:38
My first professional short story sale was a zombie story without any zombies in it, and zombie fiction has always had a special place in my heart. But while I love zombies, I generally prefer science fiction and fantasy to horror, and optimistic stories to grim ones.
To me, there's a connection between zombies and rebirth—it's a twisted connection, but that doesn't make it less real. Zombies do come back from the dead, after all. They're animated by a hunger for brains and human flesh, but they are up and moving around. Undead is as much of an opposite to dead as alive is. And in some zombie mythology there is at least a vestige of the person that they once were, hidden deep beneath the hunger.
I wanted to explore that connection, and I ended up writing this zombie novella. It never felt like the best idea, really, but It was one of those stories that I couldn't help but write, even though I had a list of other projects as long as my arm. I also wanted to explore the thing that makes zombies scariest to me—their ability to take anyone that you care about and turn them into a monster.
In every zombie movie that I've ever watched, the instantaneous and correct response to a zombie bite is suicide—because death is preferable to transformation into a zombie. But in Moving Forward, people can survive infection. They can live for years, even decades, before the virus catches up with them and transforms them into ultra-dangerous, living zombies. Is suicide still the correct choice? Or is the time that you have left worth more than the danger to those around you when you finally turn? Is there a way to manage the danger, a way to be prepared for the worst while taking advantage of the life you have left?
That is where the infected sanctuaries come in. Infected people are isolated from the rest of society, where they can't infect anyone else. They're like leper colonies, except that the residents could lose it and start attacking everyone else at any moment.
Jamie Lackey earned her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford in 2006. Since then, she has sold over 100 short stories to places like Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death... anthology. Her fiction has appeared on the Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention and Tangent Online Recommended Reading Lists. She read slush for the award-winning Clarkesworld Magazine from 2008-2013, and she worked on the Triangulation Annual Anthology from 2008 to 2011. She edited Triangulation: Lost Voices in 2015 and is currently editing Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. She studied under James Gunn at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's Writer's Workshop in 2010. She's a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon.com, and her debut novel, Left Hand Gods, is forthcoming from Hadley Rille Books. Find her online at www.jamielackey.com.
25. January 2016 08:36
I love it went writers tell me something I didn't know about them that makes me look at their books in a different light. Wendy is an excellent author and now I understand what makes her meals scenes in her novels so good.
I have a weakness for skill-based reality TV shows. I’ll watch participants design, drive, build, forge, style—you name it—but it’s cooking shows that really hook me in. So when I heard the buzz about The Great British Baking Show, I binge watched the season. It delivered everything I love about the genre. No surprise there. But I never expected it would also give me an “Aha!” moment about my writing. THIS. This is what I was going for.
The connection grew with each episode and by midseason I’d started to play around with elevator pitches. “The Cross Cutting novellas are The Great British Baking Show meets Half-Resurrection Blues and Supernatural” or “The trilogy is like TGBBS with fewer cakes and more monsters.” Clearly, I won’t be teaching a pitch class any time soon; however, the spirit of the show is an example of what I wanted to capture.
Those bakers put their all into that competition. Each contestant clearly wanted to win the big prize. There was loads of dramatic tension. And yet, despite the stakes, the atmosphere remained warmly supportive. The drama mostly focused on the task at hand instead of personal conflicts.
In the Cross Cutting trilogy I wanted to create a fundamentally harmonious group of characters to face the darkness. The problem is there’s a danger of making them sticky sweet and—boring. Trying to hit the right balance is a cool challenge. I tried to tackle it in the novellas because they’re long enough for character development and short enough to keep a lot of the attention fixed on action.
The route I chose began with thinking about the magic. My main character, Trinidad, has magic that’s cooperative in nature—she has to work with whatever city she’s bonded to. She needs a strong will and a stronger sense of self, but she can’t be selfish. One of the trade-offs is that she doesn’t deal with many people. She relates to the fringes and periphery better than the mainstream, anyway.
I balanced her by making Achilles a clairvoyant. His abilities are tied to his empathy and connection to people. It feels like a different form of cooperative magic. The rest of the supporting crew are family—tied together by blood or by choice. Put them all together and you have a group of characters engineered for harmony. It doesn’t always work, of course. A little friction is like salt. You need some for flavor amplification.
My favorite thing to do as a writer is to experiment with tones and genres. I learned a lot about finding balance while working with the novellas. I’m hoping it will help me out when I tackle more divisive characters.
In the meantime, I’ll still be looking to The Great British Baking Show to satisfy my cravings for seeing elaborate pastries being constructed in a tent by lovely people.
In case anyone is disappointed by the turn I took here, I’ll end by saying the cake is not a lie in The Thin. All of the novellas do include actual food moments. It’s another way to create bonds, to show fellowship. Characters do need fuel to keep fighting, after all.
And yes, everyone gets dessert.
Wendy Hammer teaches literature and composition at a community college in Indiana. She has stories in Urban Fantasy Magazine, the horror anthology Suspended in Dusk, and elsewhere. The first of the Cross Cutting novellas, The Thin, has been published by Apocalypse Ink Productions. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably making a mess in the kitchen or telling herself “Just one more episode.” You can find her at wendyhammer.com or on twitter @Wendyhammer13.
18. January 2016 09:08
I've worked with Ivan for years now as an editor. He's a great guy and I've enjoyed watching him grow as an author.
The biggest thing I learned while writing Famished: The Ranch (Book Three of the Gentleman Ghouls series) was just how much better a community can make a writer.
The first book I wrote, Famished: The Farm, was almost monkish. I wrote the entire thing on my own, and only sent it out for a review at Jenn’s insistence. I didn’t realize that was a thing, to be honest. Writing had always seemed a very solitary endeavor, and I made it so. The able assistance of Lillian Cohen-Moore and Jeff Meaders certainly improved the book, and I came to understand the value of beta readers.
After writing Famished: The Commons, I sent it willingly to a handful of beta readers. Unfortunately, that wound up requiring a rewrite of over half the book, cutting out a character whose presence didn’t make sense to most of the readers. At the same time, Jenn asked me to be an “alpha reader” for a book of hers.
Alpha reader? What?
She sent a chapter a week, more or less, for us to review as she was writing. It seemed half-mad to me at first. Don’t you need more time to polish and perfect the work? Well, as it turns out, you really don’t. That’s how I saw first-hand the value of these individuals. As an alpha reader myself I was able to catch one or two things which could have become bigger issues as the book, and I realized I could have saved myself a lot of headaches with The Commons by approaching alpha readers.
With Famished: The Ranch, I reached out to a handful of alpha readers. I wasn’t as quick or as disciplined in getting the chapters done, which meant I naturally lost a few of those original aides. Understandably, mind you. If I’m not willing to be disciplined around deadlines, I can’t howl when life gets in the way for people offering free assistance.
Those who remained helped a great deal, however. Two of them also served as beta readers once the entire work was done, providing more feedback in their close-up readings, along with a few additional readers who hadn’t seen the work before.
Finally, I was fortunate to have two wonderful friends and fans who saw I was flagging near the end. I was tired of writing, tired of the story, and tired and ashamed of missing my promised deadlines. These two picked me up when I was down and helped me cross the finish line with a mix of gentle encouragement, minor bribes, and very occasional threats of violence.
Famished: The Ranch was my first true community effort as a writer. It won’t be my last.
Ivan Ewert was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has never wandered far afield. He has deep roots in the American Midwest, finding a sense of both belonging and terror within the endless surburban labyrinths, deep north woods, tangled city streets and boundless prairie skies.
His work has previously appeared in the award-winning anthology Grants Pass, as well as the anthologies Human Tales and Beasts Within 3: Oceans Unleashed, while his culinary writing has appeared in Alimentum: The Literature of Food. An early treatment of the Gentleman Ghouls series appeared in the e-zine The Edge of Propinquity from 2006 to 2011. He was the sole author to span all six years of that publication.
In his spare time, Ivan occupies himself with reading, gaming, and assisting with the jewelry design firm Triskele Moon Studios. He currently lives near the Illinois-Wisconsin border with his wife of seventeen years and a rather terrifying collection of condiments and cookbooks. Ivan can be reached at www.ivanewert.com and on Twitter @IvanEwert.
11. January 2016 08:54
I had the pleasure of meeting Chaz at LepreCon. I enjoy his artwork and his passion. He's one of the good guys.
I call my Patreon the "Ashelon Tarot Project" and it's been a long time coming. Ashelon is a world that my fiancée, Carolyn Kay, and I are creating. It's a blend of fantasy and steampunk and takes place in the mid 1800s. A comet struck what is now called South America and it had the effect of revealing all of the hidden faerie creatures the world over - no longer could they hide behind faerie glamour. Not only must they learn to co-exist with humans and their steam technology, but they must also deal with the most unscrupulous villain the world has ever seen... Queen Victoria.
The tarot deck will be divided into 4 courts of 13 cards each. Each of the cards will be a character in the world of Ashelon and will represent a virtue or a vice. You'll be able to read these cards to tell your fortune but the cards themselves will be much simpler to interpret than a standard tarot deck. For example: You ask the question, "Should I quit my job today?" You turn over a card, and instead of the card being the Chariot like in a normal tarot it will simply say, "Strength". You could then interpret that as finding the strength to stay because things will get better - or that you need to finally muster the strength to give your two-week notice.
Another thing that will set my deck apart from a lot of the others is that I'm planning on turning each card into its own art print that you can hang on your wall. So if you love the art on a particular card, you can purchase the art from me as an 11x14, 18x24 or even a 24x36 poster. As an illustrator, this is the thing that excites me the most, because I LOVE the idea of everyone having posters from my tarot deck prominently displayed on their walls. I'm even going to have a few exclusive pieces that will only be available to my Patreon members.
If all of this goes well, I plan on creating a booster pack of 26 cards next year which will have 2 new courts and all new virtues and vices that can be added to the 2016 main deck. In the not too distant future, Carolyn will be writing short stories and novellas within the world of Ashelon using the characters on the cards, which will be awesome. I'm also planning to turn the cards into a game and maybe even doing an Ashelon tabletop RPG down the road.
I have a ton of ideas and Patreon is giving me a portal through which I can really explore this new world that we're creating and it allows me to bring lots of friends along for the ride. This project really makes me happy and it's only just begun! If you want to see the project for yourself, take a look at: www.Patreon.com/ChazKemp.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell your fans about my dream come true, Jennifer.
Bram Stoker Award finalist Chaz Kemp embraces an Art Nouveau style that incorporates vibrancy and color into fantasy and steampunk art in a way that is rarely seen. As an illustrator, the influence of Alphonse Mucha is evident in his award-winning work that combines the artistic energy of the Roaring 20s with the untamed possibilities of steampunk and fantasy.
Chaz Kemp is a featured artist in steampunk legend Paul Roland's book "Steampunk: Back to the Future with the New Victorians". Amazing Stories magazine featured him in the November 2014 issue, and his work has been seen in other publications such as Steampunk Magazine, Savage Insider and Aurealis. Over the years Chaz has created art for game publishers, sci-fi/fantasy conventions and several book covers including the anthology "Cthulhu Passant" by Travis Heerman & the Oilman's Daughter by Local Hero Press. In 2012, he illustrated his first graphic novel entitled "Behind These Eyes" written by Guy Anthony De Marco and Peter J. Wacks. The graphic novel was a Bram Stoker Award finalist.
Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/ChazKemp
Etsy Page: www.etsy.com/shop/ChazKempIllustration
31. December 2015 08:43
Tell me something that you’ve always wanted to tell the world about the project.
I can’t speak for other authors, but in my case my writing often reflects some idea or desire that my unconscious mind is trying to share with me, but which because I am such an obvious dunderhead fails to slip through to my awareness. As one example, I’ve committed more than half a million words to the story of a protagonist and his alien animal companion (two novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and half a dozen shorts) that turned out to be all about mourning the passing of my first dog. Finally, someone pointed this out to me and I realized that twelve years of missing her was enough, and I went off to animal rescue and got a new dog.
Another such idea that shows up in my fiction a lot is death, or more specifically how the essence of who we are survives our own mortality. Barsk deals with a lot of topics and themes, including intolerance and friendship and prophecy and history, but the notion that something of us lives past physical death permeates all of these other ideas. That’s the piece I wanted to explore, both overtly and more subtly, in this novel. More importantly, and in keeping with the messages from my unconscious, I suspect that what it’s really all about for me is exploring a way to hold on to those we’ve lost.
Like many people, I routinely see and speak in my dreams with friends and family members who have died. In Barsk I formalized this, conjuring up some plausible and vaguely scientific explanations for the how and why of doing this in the waking world. I’m pretty pleased with the result, which in turn allowed me to tell an interesting story. Ultimately, I suppose I find it all oddly comforting to think that my fictional characters are connecting with their loved ones in ways that those of us in the nonfiction universe can only dream about. It holds out the promise that mortality is not the end of our connection with those dear to us.
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, has been nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, is a world authority on the Klingon language, operates the small press Paper Golem, and is a practicing hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.
His previous science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. His most recent book, Barsk, takes a very different tone, exploring issues of prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and redefines the continua between life and death. He lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife and their dog
16. December 2015 14:06
It's kind of a fluke that Through the Veil even happened. I got the original flash of inspiration not long after coming home from an SSF convention where I'd gone to a world-building panel. I only went because I wanted to see one of the panelists. I didn't think I'd need to build worlds from scratch, since I was more of a modern-day, almost-real-world kind of writer. (Yes, that requires world building too, but less.)
Anyway, I thinking about the panel and a thought crossed my mind: If I were going to create my own fantasy world, what would it be like? A moment later, a scene flashed through my mind of a girl in Renaissance-esque clothing running up a hill in tears, looking back at a walled city, and disappearing – then reappearing in a big-city penthouse.
Right away, I knew a lot about her. She was a violinist (like I used to be, but a whole lot better.) She loved the fantasy world and was miserable at home. She used music to cross between the worlds.
I knew a lot about the other world, too. The city she visited was all about order and somewhere in that dimension was a region that was all about chaos. (As a long-time Dungeons & Dragons geek, I'm fascinated by those ideas as well as the difference between law and justice.) Music was supremely important there, and her exceptional talent gave her a special status.
I settled on the name Dedra for kind of a funny reason. A Ouija board once told me I'd have a daughter with that name. It was wrong. But in thinking about a name, I was going over some I'd considered for my daughter, it came to me and I decided it was perfect. So, in a way, it was a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I immediately started writing her story. A few scenes in, back to the fantasy world, I asked myself, "What's unique about this world?" The character was looking over the city at night and I thought about what would be visible in a world without electricity. It came to me – what if music is visible?
I wrote more, then put it away. I didn't have much time to write as it was, and I had, months earlier, started a book that was slowly plodding along.
As it turned out, both projects sat for months until I decided to take a step back from an organization I was involved in that had sucked up all of my time. I told myself that was my year to finally get a novel written or admit that I wasn't going to do it.
I took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that November to make myself write every day instead of here and there as the mood struck. I read through the earlier project and realized my heart wasn't in it. Then I came across Dedra's story and read what I'd written. It was better than I'd remembered and, even better, I was excited to write it.
I met the NaNo goals and kept going, through December and into January, when I finished it. After lots of editing, it was picked up by Sky Warrior Books. Now I'm polishing up the sequel so I can get it to them soon, and I'm about to jump into the final book in the trilogy.
It's still kind of surreal to me that this book even happened. It makes me realize how important it is to open yourself to different kinds of ideas, even if you don't think they pertain to you.
Adrienne Dellwo lives in Washington state, where she works as a freelance medical writer, writes and produces indie films with her husband, and is raising a son and daughter who keep life magical. She's had short stories published by Alliteration Ink, Local Hero Press, Siren's Call, and DarkFire Fiction. Her first novel, Through the Veil, is available from Sky Warrior Books.
16. November 2015 12:02
Greetings, and thanks, Jenn, for the most gracious invitation to Tell You… something about my writing!
Most people know the saying “write what you know,” but I prefer another common one: “write what you want to read.”
I read a pretty eclectic mix that crosses almost all styles and genres. And even though science fiction and fantasy dominate, I like to believe my writing includes a great deal of variety that runs the gamut as well. But that doesn’t preclude favorites, or preferences, or recurring themes—nor include some themes and subjects I absolutely avoid.
So . . .
A few things creep into almost all of my stories. Like cats. They’re a necessity, right? Sometimes dogs or horses, or goliaths (look it up, I dare you), or fictional furballs, but—naturally—cats rule. Ahem. All right. Putting aside the aside…
Especially in my science fiction, I infuse it with my love of all of nature.
Two of my series are diametrically opposed in that one shows people who eschew technology; and the other, people who strive to stay on the cutting edge. Yet, even the former appreciate the value of technology, and the latter still cherish nature. For example, they classify their most powerful ships as “apex” and name them after their world’s most powerful predators. Their tiny fightercraft class names: “bee”, “hornet”, and “wasp.”
Which brings me to yet another series that combines both. Exploration, a behemoth ship the size of a small planet, carries a crew of five thousand. Over the hundred-year voyage to another galaxy, that number will grow to five million—or more. Science unequalled in all of history enabled the engineers to construct the fantastic vessel, the vanguard of a fleet of three hundred. That accomplishment pales next to the true masterpiece: The Core.
The heart of the ship—actually, almost fifty percent of the ship—contains something far more spectacular: a wilderness. Almost ten million square kilometers of pristine wilderness teeming with wildlife. Untouched and self-sustaining as if it were on the surface of a planet orbiting a star. And each ship of the fleet will house a distinct biosphere: completely subterranean, or oceanic, or all swirling atmosphere like Jupiter or Saturn.
Peace. Hope. Cooperation. Upward and onward. That mindset resonates with me. Science and technology help and sustain, rather than destroy or run amuck. Combine that with “intrinsic value” regarding nature, not natural “resources.” Those stances resonate with me.
Themes I avoid: nihilism, pessimist, grit, hopelessness. If you want apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, keep searching. Not that tons of fans don’t love the dark side. Nothing wrong with that at all. But I write more toward humor, and optimism, and pulling together rather than apart.
Not that Bad Stuff doesn’t happen. Without it, no novel. In this case, a very determined group wants to stop the intrepid explorers from even beginning, let alone finishing, their journey. But you won’t find gloom or doom or soap opera. I hope you will find diverse, appealing characters and an exciting, suspenseful adventure.
Fly off to a far-flung galaxy, and take A Little Piece of Home along for the trip. Available in print and eBook editions.
To see a complete bibliography with all the covers, as well as updates on upcoming works, please visit http://BluetrixBooks.wordpress.com
28. October 2015 21:48
Have you ever gotten out of a relationship and wondered if the other person had been in the same relationship? Or if he had a completely different relationship with you than the one you thought he had?
That was my premise when I started Kill By Numbers.
At the end of The Dangerous Type, the first book in my space opera trilogy, Raena Zacari is free of the Imperial torturer who trained her. She’s left the woman she’s loved most in the galaxy and the man who spent decades believing he loved Raena more than anyone. She’s ready to start a new life on her own.
Then the nightmares attack. They begin as if she’s reliving a memory, then spin off into new directions. Almost every dream ends with her ex-lover trying to save her – and every time, she doesn’t recognize him until after she’s killed him.
So many books are written about when the characters fell in love. I wanted to explore the end of a relationship: How do you recover? What do you owe someone after everything dissolves? What if the memories that mean so much to you meant something entirely different to your other half? What if someone was willing to risk everything to save you, whether you wanted to be rescued or not?
They weren’t questions I was used to seeing in science fiction. We’re all too familiar with the damsel who needs to be saved (I’m thinking of the original Sarah Connor) – or the strong leader who falls in love in the heat of the battle. (That’s you, Princess Leia.) So many stories end with the heroine surviving merely to settle down with the only person who understands what she’s been through. (I’m looking at you, Katniss.) I wanted to spin the tropes so that the protagonist never thought she needed rescuing and the “hero” wasn’t a nice guy.
One of the things that struck me as I was writing Kill By Numbers was the speculation that a nice guy does things not because he genuinely likes a girl and wants to help her, but because if he holds the door for her and makes her dinner and listens when she’s sad and treats her like a friend, she will reward him with sex. Friendship isn’t his goal. It’s a calculated means to an end.
That theory explained so many of the relationships I had when I was younger. It pointed up a fundamental schism in the definition of friendship between two people – and I don’t believe it breaks down simply along gender lines.
So while Kill By Numbers is about learning to fit in after all the rules have changed, and what would happen if the chief stardrive technology in the galaxy has a catastrophic flaw, and an exploration of the responsibilities and integrity of journalists, and what’s it like to recover from years of violence and manipulation to claim your survival as a triumph, it’s also a deconstruction of the end of love.
Because why jam your story into one simple box?
Loren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes — the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy — all published by Night Shade Books in 2015. You can find out more at www.lorenrhoads.com.
22. October 2015 09:56
Today, Kelly Swails is telling me how This May Go on Your Permanent Record came about. Kelly is an excellent author and editor. Silence in the Library does great work. I like the way this novel wormed its way into Kelly’s subconscious.
So one day one of my work friends told me about a guy her college-aged son had heard about. (Yes, this is a “girl who knew this guy who knows this kid” story. Bear with me.) Anyway, the son attended Webster University in St. Louis, and apparently, if Webster didn’t offer the major you wanted, they’d custom-make one for you. Also apparently, a kid at Webster wanted to major in World Domination. [Editor’s note: I really want to meet this guy and see how things turned out.]
As soon as my friend told me this my writer-brain started churning. What would a world domination program look like? Political science, obviously. But also mass communication. And science. And one can’t dominate a boardroom, let alone the world, without a working knowledge of military tactics. So after she and I joked about if this kid’s degree would be a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Art (I’m still not sure of the answer to that), we went about our work day. At least my friend did. I kept thinking about World Domination.
I poked at the idea for a while. Wrote a short story with a college-aged protagonist (if you’re interested, you can read it in Time Traveled Tales). Made a curriculum. Had fun naming classes like "Know Your Nemesis" and "Monologues for the Masses". Discovered the main character (Sally) and her back story (alcoholic mother, absentee father, and a penchant for breaking the law). It wasn’t until I realized Sally wasn’t enrolled in a college program but a high-school freshman at the top-secret prep school named School for Extraordinary Youth that the story really came alive. Oh, and by the way, maybe her dad disappeared for a reason…
Ultimately, This May Go on Your Permanent Record explores power on a few different levels. The lengths people will go to in order to get power. How a secret can control your life without your realizing it. The power of trusting someone enough to call them a friend. You know what, though? To hell with themes and meaning and all that. Mostly, I had a whole lot of fun writing this book, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Sally’s world. One book at a time.
Kickstarter link: http://tiny.cc/SITLfall2015
21. September 2015 08:46
Spiders, Gods, and Monsters
“What’s your book called?” I’ve been asked a couple dozen times since I announced its upcoming release.
“The Spider in the Laurel.”
“Oh. Is there a real spider in it?” is the inevitable next question.
This is where I get stuck. I want to say, “Yes, there is a real spider in it, insomuch as the gods and monsters we write about in sci-fi and fantasy are real.”
But I see the look. Spiders are creepy. Scary. I’m not buying a novel with a spider in the title, and on the cover, and in the damn book.
So I say, “No, the spider is a metaphor. A part of a fairy tale actually.”
“I like fairytales. Which one?”
Now I’m stuck again. If I say that it’s a brand new fairy tale that I made up, I get a new look. I’ll believe you wrote a hundred thousand word novel. But a brand new fairy tale. Come on, author-man. I’m not buying it.
I take the easy way out. I change the subject. I start talking about the novel’s title. It spent more than half its life being called Genesis Lied. I liked the title. It came out of a spit-balling session with my writers group at California Pizza Kitchen. I like it, but I didn’t love it. I stayed on the lookout for something better.
That something better arrived in the form of a 120 year old Herman Melville poem I found while searching for epigraphs for the book. The line, sort of the poem’s volta, just sang. I snatched it like a six year old pocketing a three pound gummy bear in a candy store – no thought for result or consequence.
The new title vanquished the old. But a new trouble arose. My novel had nothing to do with spiders, laurels, or Herman Melville. I had to take a step back. Re-see and reevaluate.
I’d already built an entire new mythos for the book by reinterpreting Mesopotamian and Minoan mythology, weaving this through Biblical tradition, and tying it to a little-known (at least, little-known outside of Europe) Dark Age relic called the Vase of Soissons.
But the thing about mythology is that it’s macro, by definition. It’s all about explaining origins and defining archetypes. That sense of scale, that aloofness, had pervaded the entire story. It had turned my characters into types, not people. I needed to re-humanize them.
The solution came to me while I was shopping in a bookstore with my wife, choosing which fairytale collections we wanted for our soon-to-be-born (at the time) daughter.
I set to, right away, thumb-typing into my phone’s ‘memo’ app. Fairytales, you see, are the next step in any mythology. They break from explaining the universal, and focus instead on teaching the individual. What better way is there for a parent to teach a child not to judge a book by its cover, or to beware strangers, or perhaps – as Simon teaches his daughter MacKenzie in my novel – to trust her heart most when the danger of betrayal is at its highest.
“Long ago, when it was still good to wish for a thing,” I wrote, “there was a red-haired princess in a kingdom by the sea.”
I wrote the whole fairytale in a day. I gave it to MacKenzie for safe keeping. And yes, there is a spider in it. But it’s only as real as gods and monsters. And when have they ever prevented a good night’s sleep or a happily ever after?
Michael Pogach is the author of the sci-fi thriller The Spider in the Laurel. He began writing stories in grade school. He doesn’t remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He’s gained some humanity since then, and has been known to allow characters to survive his tales these days. You can find his stories in journals such as New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, and Workers Write, as well as the chapbook Zero to Sixty. He is hard at work on two more novels, countless more stories, and keeping his infant daughter from eating everything she can reach. Michael's website is: www.michaelpogach.com.
Release date for The Spider in the Laurel is Sept 21.