Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Author Interview: Sonny Zae

"To Hell with Dante" is a collection of cynical afterlife stories, ranging from comedic genius to dark surrealism.  To help kick off this fine anthology, I'll be conducting interviews with many of the contributors.  Today I'm interviewing Sonny Zae, the talented author who contributed the story "Beelze-Bubba."  Thank you for being here, Sonny.


MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

ZAE: Getting to where I currently am required much hard work and pain—mostly for my family and people around me, as I don't have the time for such drudgery.  My efforts are directed at appreciating all of the finer things in life, and without expending too much effort in the process.  Naturally, telling stories would be an ideal way for me to make a living.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

ZAE: My favorite fiction is anything that strikes me at the time.  What first compelled me to weave fiction was getting caught with the farmer's daughter.  I had to do some fast talking to avoid getting speared with a pitchfork.  From that experience, I learned a roll in the hay can find many burrs.  And I learned to be creative and even prepare a story or two beforehand, just in case.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

ZAE:  Patrick McManus, who writes tall tales of hunting and fishing and outdoor life.  His stories are sly and exaggerated, like mine (though I am not claiming he copies my style), and his main characters are often quite clueless as they bumble through various difficult situations.

MTI:  Your story, Beelze-Bubba, appears in To Hell with Dante.  Tell us a little bit about that.  What's the general idea behind it?

ZAE:  If Satan has family, it would be his own personal form of hell.  And family members as employees might be the most painful form of torture.

MTI:  Does your story hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or was it just a lot of fun fiction?

ZAE:  If it will sell copies and bring me money, my story is a deep, serious statement about how everyone, even the Prince of Darkness, has family, and family that brings both joy and tribulation.  But if not, it is just a silly story about a doofus in bib overalls.

MTI:  Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?

ZAE: Mark Twain.  I admire his ability to make great piles of money through exaggeration and story-telling.  I have a natural talent for embellishment, but so far the talent hasn't paid off for me, including in careers as diverse as stock trading, law, teaching, and politics.  I am told I would be a natural at telemarketing, but picking up and putting down a telephone all day sounds rather tiring, and I have not yet been so desperate for money to debase myself by begging money from strangers.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

ZAE:  I am working on the second book in a fantasy series, the follow up to "Wizard Seeking Trophy Bride."  It is untitled as yet.  In the second book, Sonny the Scoundrel, Grandpap the wizard, and Griselda Gruts, giantess and Grandpap's trophy bride, are persuaded by BeSotto the sop wizard to help reclaim Grandpap's alchemy wand, which BeSotto secretly recreated.  BeSotto mixed up a good strong drink to celebrate, stirring it with the alchemy wand, whereupon a portal opened to another land.  In his surprise, BeSotto dropped the wand through the portal and needs Grandpap's help to recover it.  But when they crawl through the portal, it closes, leaving their small party stranded in a strange land of redneck magic.  They must find the alchemy wand to return home, and they do not know what perils they will have to face to get their hands on the wand.

MTI:  Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

ZAE:  My fantasy novella "The Adventures of Sonny the Scoundrel, Love Elixir Antidote" will be published in the near future by Roane Publishing.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

ZAE:  I love the Simpsons.  Homer is my personal hero, sleeping at work and at all other times having fun and wild adventures, without any concern for the fun or safety of others.

MTI:  How about music?

ZAE:  My favorite music is Yoko Ono music, especially those songs where she screeches and reaches impossibly high notes.  I developed an affinity for her singing at my dentist's office, of all places.  I discovered it to be most soothing and relaxing—and drowns out the sound of the dentist's drill most effectively.

MTI:  What are three of your favorite movies?  You know, the ones that never get old.

ZAE:  Naked Gun, Top Secret, and Hot Shots.

MTI:  Of course, writers are some of the most voracious readers these days.  Tell me, have you run across any great pieces of literature lately?

ZAE:  I love anything by Alastair Reynolds, a prolific and fantastic science fiction writer.  I am reading old and new science fiction books by Larry Niven lately, and recently discovered Robin Hobb in the world of fantasy.

MTI:  You have the attention of potential readers.  Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, or possibly a sales pitch to encourage them to read more of your writing?

ZAE:  Writing is fun.  What is more, it is relatively easy.  Unlike in my past teaching and legal careers, in writing one can make up the most outrageous things and no one will question you.  Surprisingly, this never helped me in trying to obtain political office.  People kept demanding that I provide proof of my educational degrees, as if one would simply make up claims of graduating from all the finest Ivy League schools.

MTI:  Of course, readers love free samples, so let's give them a taste.  Here are the first few paragraphs of your story, as featured in To Hell with Dante:

            Tweege rapped on the doorframe.  "Uh, sir?"
            The Prince of Darkness looked up from his papers.  "What?"
            Tweege gestured behind himself with a pointed black hoof.  "I brought someone you should meet."
            "Can't you see I'm busy?" Satan snapped.  "How will I finish my paperwork if minions keep interrupting me?  Handle the problem yourself!"
            Tweege took a step back, but didn't leave.  "This is... um... a personal problem, oh Exalted Master of Evil, Destroyer of Worlds."  Tweege bowed low, speaking toward the black obsidian of the floor.  "It's a problem of your own making."
            "My making?"  The Prince of Darkness placed his quill pen carefully in its asbestos tray after shaking off a last drop of blazing ink.  "Very well.  Who is it?"
            Tweege stepped into the room, tugging at a young man who followed him.  "This is Bubba Backfatt."
            Lucifer stroked his thick, dark goatee as he inspected the guest, then curled his lip in disgust.  "He's fat and hairy and... and disgusting to behold! Clearly, an inferior specimen.  Why did you bring him here naked, Tweege?  Are you trying to make me ill?"
            The demon bowed again, but not as deeply this time.  "It is the policy you yourself made, oh Great and Matchless Deceiver."
            "Don't hide behind the rules, Tweege!"  Lucifer's long, elegant red fingers curled slowly and the demon gasped in pain.  "Remember the first and only rule—I make the rules."  Lucifer's mouth pulled up into a wicked smile.  "But enough pleasantries.  Who is this Bubble fellow, and why is he important to me?"
"His name is Bubba, lord, not Bubble."  Tweege bared his pointed teeth in an attempted grin.  "He's a new arrival, my lord—and your son."

MTI:  Many thanks to Sonny Zae for this insightful interview.  For those who want to read more of his story, and many other funny and thoughtful stories, get a copy of To Hell With Dante today!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Author Interview: Ed Ahern

And we're back!  After a two month hiatus, I am pleased to return to the blogging world, and with a new series of author interviews!  The new Martinus Publishing anthology, "To Hell with Dante," was released last week, and to help spread the word about this collection I'll be interviewing many of the authors who contributed to it.  Today I'm interviewing Ed Ahern, the talented author who contributed the story "Arabesque."  Thank you for being here, Ed.

MTI:  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

ED AHERN: Asking a septuagenarian to talk about himself is stepping into a pit trap. In brief calendar order I was a university student, naval officer specializing in diving and bomb disarming, newspaper reporter, intelligence officer in Germany and Japan, sales and marketing executive ( for a really long time) and fiction writer. Original wife, two kids, five grand kids.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

ED: My story ideas are haphazard. Usually genre- fantasy, horror and science fiction, but  I sometimes elevate my game and write modern children's fairy tales and retold folk tales, or degenerate into literary fiction. Short answer: it depends.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

ED:  A trick question. I go through reading phases that sometimes last years, and in each phase have a favorite writer. Ditto for each genre. The acid question I guess is which author have I reread the most: J.R.R. Tolkein.

MTI:  Your story, Arabesque, appears in To Hell with Dante.  Tell us a little bit about that.  What's the general idea behind it?

ED:  I write a lot of dark, "Woe is us" stuff" and take mental health breaks by writing humor or children's stories. "Arabesque" is about as light a take as I could think of about death and the hereafter.

MTI:  Does your story hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or was it just a lot of fun fiction?

ED:  The inner meaning of nonsense like "Arabesque" (if there is one) is that life is inevitable and we shouldn't take it too seriously, it's going to take us in any case.

MTI:  Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?

ED:  Another trick question. In this harsh real world, I'd like to talk with the dead guy who hid the money from the Brinks robbery.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

ED:  Just finished a (hopefully) funny piece about a troll child; starting on an article about salmon fishing in Quebec's Gaspe and a story about getting to have your death notice rewritten..

MTI:  Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

ED:  Every once in awhile a clutch of my turkey eggs hatch at about the same time, and this is then.
The fairy tale for grandson Rhys went live on Bewildering Stories with a link to the Cast of Wonders podcast of the story. You go boy.
devilfishreview.com "
Pest Hag"
4starstories.com "Care and Feeding"
Paranormal Horror II (Amazon) Succubus
Showcase/Rampant Loon (November) "Happily Ever After"
Grey Wolfe Story Book (print, launch Oct 22nd) Puzwuk


MTI:  On a lig
hter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

ED:  My definition of Good TV is gratuitous sex and violence. Thank God for cable.

MTI:  How about music?

ED:  I only listen to classical music, with a focus on Wagner's operas. Rap that sucka.

MTI:  What are your favorite movies?  You know, the ones that never get old.

ED:  Mostly fantasy. I still drop back into Conan the Barbarian so I can study Arnold's acting style.

MTI:  Of course, writers are some of the most voracious readers these days.  Tell me, have you run across any great pieces of literature lately?

ED:  I'm currently over-reading on Elmore Leonard.

MTI:  Yes, my father is a big Elmore Leonard fan!  Now, you have the attention of potential readers.  Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, or possibly a sales pitch to encourage them to read more of your writing?

ED:  I don't pimp my stuff. If a reader likes my writing he'll read more of it. Having said that, I work at getting the stories reprinted once or twice so they're available from multiple sources.

MTI:  Of course, readers love free samples, so let's give them a taste.  Here are the first few paragraphs of your story, as featured in To Hell with Dante:

Gus retreated into meditation after a bad day of work and another argument with Cynthia.  He ignored the leg cramps his lotus position caused, and cleared his mind of everything except his focal point, a Philips head screw. He exterminated feeling and thought but couldn’t reach a higher state. Frustration began to chew on his tranquility.
            Maybe if I think myself forward in space or time? Or maybe if I visualize myself high above my body, looking down? But as soon as he tried for a spiritual destination his tranquility ruffled like windblown water.
            I need a nonsense thought to restore my oblivion. And from nowhere came a memory of a dance step he’d always thought of as hinky—feet close together, then swing the toes forty five degrees to the side and bring the heels up behind them, while slightly waggling his backside.
            Still kneeling in his lotus position, Gus visualized himself syncopating sideways. Toes and heels, toes and heels, nowhere to go but sideways. Toes and heels...
            And he slipped through a crease in the world.
            Gus snapped into full consciousness, but his body was nowhere to be seen. And  that was weird, because he had no eyes. Literally senseless, he somehow knew that he now looked like a slivered sheet of mica.  What the hell is going on? Where am I, no really, where’s my body? 

Many thanks to Ed Ahern for this interview.  Those who want to read the rest of his story, and many more, can pick up To Hell with Dante!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Passing of Robin Williams

A few years ago, I was sitting down to a Chinese buffet in Calais and a complete stranger came up to me.  She was an older woman, late middle age, and she felt compelled to tell me how much I resembled Robin Williams.  It wasn’t the sort of compliment I generally get, though I guess there is a vague resemblance (more people say I look like John Belushi; again, I don’t quite see it, myself).  It is by a strange coincidence that years later I would find myself attending the same church with that perfect stranger who thought I looked like Mr. Williams.

Everyone is posting all over the place about the loss of this comedic genius and all around nice guy.  It is a sad thing indeed, and not so uncommon, for the most beloved and friendly of celebrities to be haunted inside.  I’ll always remember Robin Williams as the star in some of my favorite movies growing up.  I recall my parents laughing away to Good Morning, Vietnam, even when I was too young to really appreciate it.  I’ll remember classics like Hook and Mrs. Doubtfire as moments of joviality and escape during my tumultuous childhood.  I remain haunted by such underrated sci-fi classics as The Bicentennial Man and The Final Cut.  He was truly an actor with depth, as well as heart.

Farewell, Robin.  Perhaps you now know What Dreams May Come?


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eastport’s 4th of July Parade 2014: Calm Before the Storm

Well, this is well over a month late in posting, but the hurricane that hit Washington County on July 5th disrupted my schedule.  Better late than never, I guess.  So, without further delay, here is my annual recap of Eastport’s 4th of July parade.

The parade started like any other...


 Minnie Mouse has apparently joined the local fire department.


And here we see The Notorious S.P.O.N.G.E. and the insidious El-Moe.



It seems like every fire truck in the county is in this parade. Hate to have a house fire that day!

Biting your nails is a nasty habit there, Mickey.



Here comes another procession of Ambulances to squeal their sirens and terrorize sensitive ears.

 This goofball just ran up and hugged Tigger.  Only thing that could’ve been wackier is if I had done it... but that would just be wrong.

Sandwiched between fire trucks and ambulances is Big Bird.  Wyatt ran over and gave the bird a hug right after Kathryn.  Dang, that would be one big Thanksgiving feast there, wouldn’t it?  But I digress...

Here comes the honor guard, and there was a ship in port this year, so it’s a Navy parade.

Go sink the enemy, boys!

This year, we had 2 Mounties in the parade, hiding behind the US Coast Guard.

And now to the Republican contingent.  Here’s Chris Gardner’s spectacular 1952 Chevy Deluxe, plastered with campaign signs as usual.

State Rep. Beth Turner waves to the crowd, as State Rep. Joyce Maker looks for friendly faces.

Will Tuell for Legislature!

Burns... Excellent!

And here’s Barry Curtis.  He’s running for Sheriff.  Go Barry!

At last, the first batch of Pipers comes along.  Gotta get me one o’ the kilts!

The first Shriners we see are the Keystone Kops.  They’re always wild and wacky.

And we see the first batch of antiques.  Model T’s are neat.  That first one’s a 1923 in truly original condition.

Junior Dragster.  Okay...

Beauty pageant winners roll along in the back of trucks, followed by Shriner lobster boats.

That’s just such a happy picture!

Junior Miss 4th of July, with her bodyguard.

More Shriners.   Those guys sure do put on a show!

Love that Studebaker truck!  Old dodge right behind.

Finding his red suit to no longer be effective, Satan switches to yellow in a daring bid to claim new souls.

Oh, My God!  It’s land lobster!  Could it be the next “Sharknado?”  Giant mutant lobsters take to land to claw us to death.  You know SyFy is thinking about it!

Shriners trucks.  Bone crushing action!

Barbara’s International School of Dance had a somewhat diminished showing this year.  Not nearly as spectacular as past years.

200 years ago, the British captured Eastport.  That’s apparently something to “celebrate.”  Dirty Redcoats!

Luxor Flag Unit, followed by more beauty pageant winners & runners-up.

And here’s the entirety of the Democrat contingent at the parade.

Robbinston Grange float, followed by something truly weird.

Ahhhh!  What the hell is that?

Is that its spaceship?  WTF???

Y’all need a lift outta this madhouse?

Mooooore Pipahs!

Shead High Float

A photographer for a rival blog?  Get out of my shot!

Moose Island Trolley Tours, with the Shead class of ’59 aboard.

And here come more Shriners!  Love the ramp!

That is one nice looking Dodge station wagon.  I need one!

Yarr!  Here come the pirates!

Is it just me, or do these guys seem like sanitized Disney pirates.  Ye needs tae put on the grit and grime o’ the buccaneer life, ye bloody landlubbers!

And the end of the parade rolls on by.

Thus ended another interesting parade amidst the madness of Eastport’s 4th of July.  Little did anyone know the storm of the century was about to strike!  Where the hell was Biff Buffington on that one, eh?  So, until next year, this is your offbeat reporter, signing off.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Revealed: To Hell with Dante stories!

At long last, the final story has been locked in, and I can now announce the following table of contents for “To Hell with Dante.”

1:  Woman, Thy Name Is Hell—by Edmund Wells
2:  Beelze-Bubba—by Sonny Zae
3:  A Guilty Man—by Shawn Cook
4: The Grey Box—by Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi
5:  Paradise for Purgatory—by Jeff Poole
6:  Gravedigger—by Jeff Provine
7:  Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then...—by Karl G. Rich
8:  Fangirl, Rip, and the Devil's Daughter—by David Perlmutter
9:  The Early Shift—by Colin Fisher
10:  The Seventh Day—by Patrick J. Hurley
11:  Second Coming—by Laura Sheridan
12:  Believing for a Reason –by Diane Arrelle 
13:  The Trees—by Alex J. Stevens
14:  The Departed that Chained the Ring—by Melissa Osburn
15:  Rendezvous—by Bruno Lombardi
16:  Alone and in Debt—by Francis Gideon
17:  Tartarus Tavern—by Erik Storey
18:  Arabesque—by Ed Ahern
19:  The Ride—by Shawn Cook
20:  The Kingdom of Heaven—by James Hartley

Brief tag-line descriptions of each story will be forthcoming.  In the coming weeks, the final proofing will be underway, and we’re looking at an October 1 release date!  All is proceeding according to plan, which is always nice with an anthology.