Online Issue 14

TSP OI14 coverAuthor Lee Murray talks about her novelInto the Sounds, and how traveling has shaped her life and writing, the actor she’d pick to play her protagonist for the series and her faithful author assistant, Bella.

Stuart R. West drops by to talk about his faithful companion, Zak, and his novels Secret Society (which may be one of the most original takes on a serial killer story) and how a real-life ghost town inspired Ghosts of Gannaway.

Jon O’Bergh is back to share the music his characters in The Shatter Point would listen to.

S.D. Hintz is also giving us the goods on the nosey neighbors who inspired The Witching Well and the reason he may just live in the creepiest house, ever.

ICYMI, Brian talked to Steph Post and Nik Norpon about their tattoos. And there’s a new story up at Zombie Cat: Waiting on the Stress Boxes by David Hagerty.

Goldilocks and the Dark Barometer

Every now and again, someone writes about the darkness that permeates Young Adult fiction. This leads to speculation about whether it is too dark, and summaries on the topic. I could do likewise, but I felt  already did that so well, I don’t need to.

What I did decide was that I would focus on reading some popular YA authors and titles and see what I thought. So, reads over the past few months classified as YA have included Nightwolf, Salt, The Fragile Ordinary, The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Out of all of these offerings, Nightwolf is probably the darkest. Salt has monsters and The Forest of Hands and Teeth has zombies, but Nightwolf focuses on real horrors some kids today live with, and although it isn’t pure noir, there is a sense of hopelessness and futility that permeate the story. It isn’t what I’d call cheery. The other titles have varying degrees of hope – for resolution of problems, for overcoming difficult situations, for the future. I didn’t find any of this unrelentingly dark.

Now, your mileage may vary. But here’s the thing. Young people are dealing with a lot of crap. We did, too, in our day. They’re trying to figure out who they are, what they want out of life and what others expect of them. They have to make decisions that will shape their entire future. And they’re looking at a war of words between politicians that might lead to war with North Korea and all kinds of other crap going on that could change their future. They want to assume control of their lives but they aren’t adults, so they’re caught between taking responsibility for their actions and having limited authority for their choices.

And everything they do is presented on social media for all the world to see.

Frankly, the stuff I’ve heard about via the kids over recent years has been numbing. They are far more aware of a lot of crap than I ever was. And I specifically started watching The Walking Dead because their biomom was watching it with them when they were eleven. Brian and I always felt we should have some sense of what they were watching and being exposed to so that we could have informed conversations about it, so a show I’d resisted watching became part of our regular viewing. (And they had some good seasons, so for a while it wasn’t a chore at all.) Frankly, if they can watch that when they aren’t even teens, it’s got to be pretty damn hard to top that level of darkness in fiction.

People read for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is to escape. Another is to learn about things they otherwise wouldn’t get answers about. And another is to help them process things they’re dealing with.

Hells bells, I’m just glad to see young people reading. You want to read dark? Read on, I say.

Reviews:

Review: Salt by Hannah Moskowitz

 

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

 

Review: Creatures of Want and Ruin by Molly Tanzer

 

Review: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

 

Review: Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman

 

Review: Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind by Reed Farrel Coleman

 

Bye Bye Kindle Boards

From their new terms of service:

“You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM.”

You have to email and ask for all your information to be removed. Always nice for some assholes to come along and change the terms of service after the fact so that people’s information is already being sold. Jerks. Time to sign off.

Hulu Programming Campaign for Letterkenny

Now, Brian’s new favorite show is a Canadian show called Letterkenny. The first two seasons are on Hulu, and he wants them to get all the seasons added. So here’s hoping some of you will have a full appreciation for the quirky humor and jump on the bandwagon. Season 1 has a running joke starting episode 2 that has payoff in the final episode of the season…. just brilliant. These clips have nothing to do with the ostrich fucker, or my favorite joke about a certain book, or even the super-soft birthday party, but they do help set the tone of the show.

 

Now, this one… maybe not young kid friendly. But a great illustration of ‘show not tell’ writing. I know exactly what Wayne and Daryl think about Squirrely Dan’s revelation about his sexual experience without so much as a word from either of them.

 

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Stuart R. West’s Beloved Pit-Bull mix, Zak

Secret Society cover2

Fun Fact: “A decade or so ago, I was in a “country-funk-alternative-comedy-improv” band. We actually achieved a bit of notoriety in Kansas City for our short shelf life. I took the stage in pajamas, ate cereal and kitty litter, wore a variety of hats, sung, and “tried” to play the saxophone.

 

Many authors have a trusted four-legged friend who supports them (or disrupts them) during their writing day. Tell us about your author assistant.

0618171158-00Oh, man, you had to ask this question. Yes, I used to have a four legged assistant. Zak was special. From day one when we adopted him (found rummaging through a trash bin), he stole our hearts and the upholstery on our furniture. As a half pit-bull terrier, he had an uphill struggle, much prejudice wherever we walked. But he never bit anyone. (Well, there was that one cable guy, but he SO deserved it).

I became a full-time writer five years ago, sorta dropping out of society. Zak was my loyal, loving companion, always at my feet through eighteen novels. Yipping at me when he deemed a walk was necessary. I knew him better than anyone and he knew me and my schedule.

Last year was rough. He tore a ligament in a back leg that couldn’t be healed. Six months of operations, constant watch, and keeping him confined didn’t pay off. He lost the leg. For two months after that, he was happy and healthy again. Then it happened to the other leg.

zak with haremStill a healthy dog, we put him through another operation to repair the ligament with bolts and surgery. Again, it got infected.

The saddest day of my life, we had to put him down. For six months, I couldn’t write, not without him at my feet. I still mourn, still cry over my lost writing companion. But he lives on in my heart and I’d like to think somewhere else as well.

I miss you, buddy. Please raise a glass to my faithful friend, Zak. “Tink.”

Check out Stuart’s interviews about Secret Society and Ghosts of Gannaway

_MG_0556 - Version 2Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because…well, it’s Kansas. But it’s great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

If you’re still reading this, you may as well head on over to Stuart’s blog at: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/

(Psst…for those easily bored, read this aloud in a Morgan Freeman voice. I promise we’ll get through it easier that way.)

 

Author Interview: Has Stuart R. West Presented One of the Most Original Takes on a Serial Killer Story? And what does Secret Society have to do with the West’s wife’s shopping?

I’ll take ‘Things I don’t know about authors for $200, Alex.”

Which author said: “I was in a “country-funk-alternative-comedy-improv” band. We actually achieved a bit of notoriety in Kansas City for our short shelf life. I took the stage in pajamas, ate cereal and kitty litter, wore a variety of hats, sung, and “tried” to play the saxophone”?

“Who is Stuart R. West!”

Secret Society cover2SR: What’s your new book/work in progress about?

SRW: Secret Society is about a nefarious shadow corporation that sponsors the activities of serial killers. And the serial killers are the good guys, particularly one accountant by day, killer by night, Leon Garber. Leon’s had a falling out with Like-Minded Individuals and is desperate to find out why. Not to mention continue living and avoiding the law.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

SRW: Actually, the idea came one day while I was camped out on the “Husband Bench.” Everyone knows the Husband Bench. It’s that place where significant others park their partners while they shop. So…there I was planted while my wife shopped. Bored. I started watching all of the other bored (mostly) men. And I started wondering…what would a young cocky man and a dapper middle-aged man (complete opposites) have to talk about on the fabled Husband Bench? That’s the opening chapter and from there a trilogy was born.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

SRW: As Leon is currently in the midst of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving notorious Big Business, I suspect (and although he’s usually pretty level headed for a serial killer) he’d now be open to any and all theories. Me? I want to believe in Bigfoot. He’s my tooth fairy.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

SRW: I think if Leon ended up in prison (highly likely given his penchant for his line of “work”), he’d end up insane.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

SRW: Getting close to someone. It doesn’t end well for them.

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For your protagonist?

SRW: For me (and please don’t hurl tomatoes, folks, I know it’s a minority opinion), it’d have to be Titanic. When I saw it in the theatre, I couldn’t wait for the ship to sink. Undoubtedly, Leon would be stuck in some kind of rap hell, more of a jazz and blues guy.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

SRW: The pleasure of typing “The End.”

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

SRW: Fear of a blank page.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

SRW: I tend not to obsess. I like winging it. Only once did I do a lot of research for a book (a historical horror tale) and I’ll never do it again.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

SRW: I stay away from popular things. If I’m not interested in writing my tale, how in the world can I expect readers to latch onto it?

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

SRW: Moriarty, of course. All my life I’ve been fascinated with the bad guys, particularly ones who are humanized and sketched out. In my mind, a tale’s only as good as the villain.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

SRW: “Crap, I’m outta beer!”

We also talk to Stuart about his book, Ghosts of Gannaway, and his faithful four-legged author assistant.

_MG_0556 - Version 2Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because…well, it’s Kansas. But it’s great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

If you’re still reading this, you may as well head on over to Stuart’s blog at: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/

Author Interview: How a real-life ghost town inspired Stuart R. West’s Ghosts of Gannaway

Fun Fact: “I’m a firm lover of extraordinarily bad films. Give me the hilarity of botched sixties and seventies low-budget genre films over today’s blockbusters any day. My wife doesn’t understand.”

Note: Stuart has shared many photos from the town of Picher that he took himself, which are interspersed throughout this interview.

GannawaySR: Where did your idea for this book come from?

SRW:  The tale is based on the true trauma that destroyed the town of Picher, Oklahoma, a true “ghost town.” Driving through it one day (on the way to visit my wife’s folks), the sheer devastation of the town, along with the looming “chat piles” behind it, made me curious enough to follow up on it. What I found was tragic. I just decided to sprinkle ghosts and supernatural hijinx on top.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

SRW: Yep, environmental issues, corporate greed, and the plight of the Native American all figure strongly in my tale. All are still relevant today, now more than ever.

Sorry ClosedSR: If you were the right gender could you have a romantic relationship with your protagonist? Why or why not? Would it be a good relationship?

SRW: Okay, I have two protagonists: Dennis in the ‘60’s and Tommy during the depression era. If I was a woman… Hmmm (not exactly the kinda question I thought I’d be answering today, but sure, why not, let’s go with it), Tommy might make a good mate, even if he is a bit head-strong at times. Dennis, absolutely not! We’re talking damaged goods here. He packs so much baggage, he really oughta be a baggage handler at an airport.

SR: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?

SRW: Probably fear. Which is crazy, because I keep trying it over and over. I think it’s hard because writing/reading isn’t a visual medium. It’s much easier to be spooked over a movie than a book. I love the challenge! If it scares me, I hope it scares the reader. (And, usually, the all-too-human villains in my book are scarier than any supernatural doings.)

SR: Did you set yourself a specific writing challenge with this book? What was it, and what was the reason?

SRW: I wanted to shed some light on what happened to the mining town of Picher, Oklahoma. And maybe draw attention to the fact that it can—and is—happening again in other towns.

Chat PilesSR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

SRW: I have webbed toes. No, I don’t. Yes, I do. Shut up, you so don’t! Back off, man, I do, too!

Okay, forget that! How about I have multiple personalities?

SR: Now for fun, if you were stuck on a deserted island and found that magic lamp with a genie and the genie had the power to bring any character in any of your books to life to be your companion, who would you pick and why?

SRW: Um… I really don’t think I’d want ANY of them stuck on an island with me, good or bad guys. I mean…have you SEEN the type of characters who trawl through my novels?

SR: And if the genie would only bring characters from works by another author to life who would you pick to spend eternity on that deserted island with?

SRW: Let’s see… Does the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue count?

 

Stuart also talks about his book Secret Society 

and

in this author assistant feature he shares photos of his four-legged friend, Zak

 

_MG_0556 - Version 2Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse because…well, it’s Kansas. But it’s great because…well, it’s Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his books. Call it “Kansas Noir.” Stuart writes thrillers, horror and mysteries usually tinged with humor, both for adult and young adult audiences.

If you’re still reading this, you may as well head on over to Stuart’s blog at: http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/