Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Special Offers from Martinus Publishing:

So, it's almost the end of January.  In some respects it seems to have taken forever, but in others it seems like no time at all.  Regardless, here we are, and Martinus Publishing is moving forward.  A few weeks back, I sent this special off out to the Martinus Newsletter subscribers, and also shared it on our facebook page.  I realize that I neglected to share it in the most obvious place, on my personal blog.  Better late than never:

Happy New Year to our loyal readers & writers,

On behalf of myself and Martinus Publishing, I would like to wish each and every one of you a very happy and special New Year! 2014 has been one of exciting change for me and the small press, and as we enter into 2015, I anticipate new challenges and adventures!

A quick update on anthologies (revised 1/28/2015): I've now finished reviewing all of the stories submitted for The Secret Life of Ghosts, and there are currently 4 still fighting it out for 2 remaining slots.  I'll make a final call on these by Friday.  This was by far the most submitted to anthology in Martinus Publishing history. Other than that, there are still some selections to be made for The Temporal Element II, as well as Altered Europa, both of which officially closed to submissions on December 31. Other than that, there are still a few stories pending final approval for Yarr! & We Were Heroes.  I hope to have these final stories reviewed and decided upon in the next two weeks.

As a special thank you to all of you who have supported Martinus Publishing over the past 2 years, I would like to offer you this special bonus. Purchase any 1 print title from the Martinus Publishing website from now until January 31st 2015, and I will gift you a free .pdf copy of any one Martinus Publishing title currently in-print, in addition to a free .pdf copy of the book you purchased in-print. Just put Coupon Code: NEW2015 in the comments section of the paypal checkout, and specify which bonus .pdf title you would like to receive.

If all-print books is your thing, here is another bonus offer. Order any 3 Martinus Publishing titles from the website by January 31st and receive a Free print copy of any one Martinus Publishing title currently in print, or one that is to be released in the new year (this includes Altered Europa, The Temporal Element II, Yarr: A Space Pirate Anthology, The Secret Life of Ghosts, and We Were Heroes). Approximate publication dates for the unpublished anthologies are available upon request, but keep in mind those are tentative and are subject to change. However, all of these titles will be published in 2015, so if you want to reserve a free copy via this special offer, this is the time! Coupon Code 3NEW2015, and specify which book you'd like to receive for free.

Again, I wish you all a great and prosperous New Year! Read, write, and dare to dream!

-Martin T. Ingham
Senior Editor, Martinus Publishing
http://www.martinus.us/

As it's coming late, I will extend this special offer until Valentine's Day!  Yes, take advantage of any of these offers until February 14, 2015.  Order your books from Martinus today!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Martinus on the Move!

Happy 2015 everyone!

As we delve deeper into the back half of January, I'm pleased to say things are starting to shape up for Martinus Publishing.  The second half of 2014 showed a drop in some areas, but there are still some real positives, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store.  Now, for a quick progress report.

The royalty reports for the back half of 2014 have been completed and will be going out to contributors in the next week, along with paypal payments.  With the exception of those few writers who opted out of our royalty program, every contributor will receive a share of the proceeds of book sales.  The more that sell, the bigger the cut, obviously, but this way everyone gets something.  This is the fairest payment format, and it is also the most logical for a small publisher like Martinus, as it prevents us from having to give out lump sums up front that we might never get back. It also keeps us from short-changing writers if a book sells big.  That is why the royalty system will remain for the foreseeable future.

The final stories have now been read for "The Secret Life of Ghosts," and the last round of acceptances and rejections will be send out next week.  This was a real tough one to read for, because there were so many stories and so many good stories.  I keep having to pass on some that I would really like to publish, just because there's only so much room available.

Formatting has begun for Yarr!  A Space Pirate anthology, though there are still a few stories to be decided upon.  This collection should be the next published release from Martinus, hopefully toward the end of February.  The last stories are also being reviewed for The Temporal Element II, and for Altered Europa.  These titles should be coming out in spring or early summer.  Meanwhile, We Were Heroes is receiving its final stories and will be closing to submissions at the end of February.  If you still haven't submitted, get your story sent in pronto!

I think that about covers the current happenings at the press.  Once these anthologies are taken care of and ready for market, it will be time to consider a new open anthology, but never again will I overload myself as I did last year.

So, to all my fellow writers out there, keep writing and keep reading.  Don't forget to pick up a Martinus Publishing anthology today!  Every copy sold goes to help your fellow scribes.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Author Interview: Bruno Lombardi 2

"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 Bruno Lombardi, the excellent author who contributed the stories "A Company of Deaths" and "Rendezvous."  Thank you for being here, Bruno.

BRUNO LOMBARDI: Thanks for having me!

MTI:  We've done this before, but for readers who didn't catch our previous interview, why not tell them a little about yourself?

BL:  I’m a civil servant by day for the Canadian government and a writer by night. I recently got engaged to the most awesome woman in the world and we’re hoping to ‘pull the trigger’, so to speak, in late 2015 or early 2016.

MTI:  You have the unique distinction of having two separate stories in To Hell with Dante.  First off, tell us a little bit about "A Company of Deaths." What's the general idea behind it?

BL:  The general idea behind it is that Death – that’s the guy with the pointy farming implement --  is doing his usual thing on Earth’s first interstellar spaceship when he runs into a unique problem – and one that requires an unorthodox solution.

MTI:  And how about "Rendezvous."  What's that one about?

BL:  I decided that if I go with a comedy for one story, I might as well go for dark in the other. It involves a rogue angel and the entity – one that turns out to be very familiar -  tapped to bring the angel in for justice.

MTI:  Do either of these stories hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or were they just a lot of fun fiction?

BL:  A bit from column A and a bit from column B, to be honest. There was the comedic aspect of "A Company of Deaths" that I enjoy putting in many of my works and the flexing of one’s creative muscles when you try something completely different in "Rendezvous" but there was a bit of exploration of some common themes of the afterlife. What, exactly, would it be like to be ‘Death’? What happens if you’re supposed to be the ‘good guy’ but you’re forced to sit idly by while evil occurs? What are the unintended consequences of doing good – or evil, for that matter?

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

BL:  Oh – just one? That’s a tough out! If just one, I’ll say Ray Bradbury. I inherited a massive collection of his works from my sister when I was a kid and it influenced me to this day. I think I’ll love to meet him and, aside from the usual questions all writers get asked (“Where do you get your ideas?”) I’ll tell him “Thanks” as well.

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

BL:  So much! I think I may have a bit of ADD when it comes to story ideas! At the moment there’s a novel called “The Coin” that’s about three quarters completed and which I hope to finish by spring 2015. I also have, in no particular order, a steampunk story, a story about a domestic couple – that just happen to be a superhero/supervillain duo, a dragon story, a ghost story, a story involving a support group for all the ‘Last Man on Earth’, and even a zombie story.

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

BL:  Quite a few are appearing in other anthologies by Martinus Publishing in 2015.

MTI:  Speaking about your other works, you have stories that appear in several other Martinus Publishing anthologies.  Why not tell us about a couple of your favorite ones?

BL:  Three in particular I like, for a variety of different reasons.

‘A Thursday Night at Doctor What’s Time and Relative Dimensional Space Bar and Grill’ in the Temporal Element anthology is on the list for two reasons; one, it’s my first published story and two, it, in the words of one reader, ‘broke my homage-meter’ on every single story involving time travel you may have heard or read. I had a blast writing it.

‘The Road Was Lit with Moon and Star’ in the Altered America anthology is on the list because it explores an interesting ‘what if’; what if Apollo 11 crashed on impact and Neil Armstrong never took that first step? I’m a big space enthusiast and I was a bit surprised to discover how few stories there are out there based on such a premise.

The third is ‘Gold Fever’ in theQuests, Curses and Vengeance anthology. It’s a short but creepy horror story set during the Klondike Gold Rush. I always wanted to try my hand at straight up horror and that story was the result.

MTI:  You also have a novel out there, Snake Oil.  Here's your chance to pitch that to the people.  Tell them why it's a must read!

BL:  It’s a fantastic story and one that everyone should read!

The basic premise is quite simple: aliens show up on Earth in the near future. But these aliens are not here to destroy us or bring us into the Federation or to enlighten us or any of that nonsense. Instead they’re here to…sell us their crap!

Basically – what if humanity’s first contact with aliens turns out to be the used car salesmen of the galaxy?

MTI:  Writers are often voracious readers.  Have you run across any good literature lately that you'd like to recommend?  You know, other than your own great work.

BL:  A good friend of mine gave me a copy of ‘Under Heaven’ by Guy Gavriel Kay as a present. It is a staggeringly amazing and beautiful book. It’s, literally, every type of book in one: historical, speculative fiction, love story, war story, intrigue – it has it all.

MTI:  Other than writing, what would you call your favorite hobby or pastime?

BL:  I’ve had an off-again, on-again fascination with photography. It’s now back into its on-again phase.

MTI:  Once again, 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?

BL:  Neil Gaiman said it best and I’ll repeat his words here:

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Words to live by, indeed.

MTI:  Thank you again for a fantastic interview, Bruno!  Those who want to check out his latest pair of published stories can pick up "ToHell with Dante."



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Author Interview: Diane Arrelle 2

"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 Diane Arrelle, the talented author who contributed the story "Believing for a Reason."  Thank you for being here, Diane.

MTI:  I believe we did an interview before, when you contributed to The Temporal Element.  But for readers who missed that interview, why not start off by telling us a little about yourself.

DA: I have been writing for about 25 years. I worked for a newspaper for 2 years then freelanced for the next 15 years. I wrote a humor/family/opinion column for nine years until the newspaper group went out of business.  I loved the column because as the mother of two children, no one ever seemed to care about my opinion at home.        
As for fiction, I have had about 200 short stories published and I have 29 of them in my book, Just A Drop In The Cup.  I had a second book, Elements Of The Short Story, published in 2007.
Like many writers, I have had a wide variety of jobs including being an elementary school teacher for 10 years and for the last 15 years I have been the director of municipal senior centers. I just retired two months ago.

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

DA: I guess the main idea is that you need to believe in something to move on,  even if that belief is a total rejection of everything we have been told to believe.  It is my rejection of dogma.

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?

DA: Although the story was a lot of fun to write, and the main character such a hopeless narcissist, it really stems from the need to question what we have been told to blindly believe in.  

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

DA: On a shallow personal note, my Aunt Rose, who passed away at the age of 15 and took some secrets with her.  I think Moses would be a wonderful choice, so much fact and fiction mixed together, I’d love to hear the real version of the Exodus from Egypt.

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

DA:  I wish I were being more ambitious. I retired to write, but I’ve spent most of the time out with my friends and doing yard work. A lesson here, don’t retire in the fall if you live rural, because you spend most of the time raking.  I am working on several things including a book based on my column, I am planning on putting out a book of short stories on Kindle and I am trying to write stories for several anthologies including one for Temporal Elements II

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

DA:  I have a story coming out in Sha Daa Facets, my story, The Smart Phone will be appearing in K-Zine in 2015 and my story There Will Always Be Hell To Pay will be in the anthology, Paying The Ferryman in 2015 as well.

MTI:  Your story, "Paradox Lost" appears in The Temporal Element, the very first Martinus Publishing anthology every released.  Do you have any thoughts about that particular story to share with our readers?

DA:  I had a great time writing that story. It was totally tongue in cheek in tone but it came from the time travel paradoxes that nag me when I lay awake at night.  What would happen if you went back in time to murder someone but accidently killed yourself?   Although I get good ideas when I’m wide awake in bed, I’d still rather be sleeping and save those ideas for a different time.  

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

DA:  I love Dr. Who speaking of time travel, I have been watching it since the Tom Baker years. I still watch Saturday Night Live, but mostly out of habit, although I do like the openings and the news.  I watch mostly movies on TV and HBO. Yes, I did watch True Blood, although I usually find trendy horror creatures boring.

MTI:  How about music?

DA:  My taste is eclectic and I like so much on the radio today.  I love the sound track from Pirate Radio when I’m in the 60’s sort of mood and Pitch Perfect for a mix of music. Being that it is November, I am getting ready to listen to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I an taking a road trip with my husband on Black Friday to see them perform in Pennsylvania.  

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

DA:  Field Of Dreams, that one always makes me cry at the end.  I love Shrek, the original The Producers and Secondhand Lions (ok so I picked 4).

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?

DA:  Well, I’ve been enjoying Carl Hiaasen, Augusten Burroughs, Davis Sedaris, Janet Evanovich and Bill Bryson

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?

DA:  I write under a pen name, Diane Arrelle, so be sure to look for me under it. I have the upcoming stories  mentioned above and I have a story in State Of Horror New Jersey, a few stories currently in Were Travele, and my story A Woman Sporned in Paranormal Horror II.  I also have a piece in Chicken Soup For The Soul True Love and one in Finding your Happiness, both of those under my real name Dina Leacock.

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:

            Matilda Davis knew she was going to die.  One minute she was driving too fast on an icy bridge and the next... well, the next was a series of images, crashing through the guardrail, the car landing on its roof with a bone snapping crack, and then the awareness of nothingness.
            Puzzling feeling... nothingness... “Am I dead?”
            Laughter by many and a lone voice saying, “Give the woman a chance to acclimate.”
            “Hello?” Matilda called.
            “Hello,” a voice answered.
            “Are you... are you God?”
            The giggles started again.
            “Cut it out,” the voice called to the unseen crowd and then to Matilda,  ”Do you want me to be your god?”
            Matilda felt a wash of confusion. “My god?  I... I don’t have a personal god. Is this heaven?  Is this some sort of test to get in?  Why are people laughing at me?” Matilda was starting to feel emotions again and annoyance crept into her voice. “And what’s with all this nothing. Why can’t I see anything? Where are you people?”
            The voice asked, “Do you have a god?”
            “Hey, look, whoever you are. I don’t have time for this mystical crap. Just answer my questions.”
            “Ah,” the voice sighed. “An angry soul.”

MTI:  Thanks for another great interview.  Those who want to read the rest of this story and 20 others can pick up To Hell with Dante.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Setbacks and Delays

Martinus Publishing isn't doing well, and neither am I at the moment.  As a quick heads-up, I'd like to inform everyone of the situation.

Sticking just with the publishing side of things, sales are currently awful.  The last two anthologies, Life of the Dead, and To Hell with Dante have both tanked, big time.  We are seeing virtually no sales of these titles, and I've spent more (much more) on advertising than has actually come back.  These titles are essentially dead.  That is very disheartening, and I dread having to send out royalty reports in January to the contributors.  I hate sending out pocket change for the authors who have contributed stories, and I further hate to let them know that nobody's buying their work.  Some will roll with it, some will be understanding, and maybe a few will just be upset and blame me for not being a rich New York City publishing house.

There is a huge pile of slush on my computer, waiting to be read, but due to various reasons I have been unable to focus adequately to get through most of it lately.  If you can imagine a writer with "reader's block" then that's me at the moment.  I cannot stand to look at the raw print some days, and I can't give an adequate assessment of a submission if that is the case.  Most of the open anthologies are closing to submissions by the end of the year, at least, so I might get a breather to catch up in January.  Maybe.

I have quite a few personal things troubling me, but those are my business, and I will not trouble anyone else with them.  Needless to say, I do not ask for your pity or your sympathy.  I only say it so you won't be surprised by any delays that might arise due to my current state of mind.  Don't be surprised if you don't get a timely response to a submission.

A little over 3 months ago, I quipped in a radio interview that I was "too stubborn to quit" when it came to the publishing industry.  That may still be the case, but I can't run myself into the ground for nothing.  When you have 2 flops in a row, and find yourself broke with no means to even run any more online ads, it really isn't much motivation.  Worse still, I don't even have the money to get some other projects I have in the works off the ground.  Damn it, I can't stand the thought of telling people I'm too financially strapped to make their dreams come true.

I realized some years ago that I was not liable to be able to become the successful writer that I always sought to become, but I thought I could help others on their trek toward that goal. Now, I can't even do that, so what good am I?  I'm sorry.

I'm not giving up.  I'm not shutting down.  However, I will say that writing and publishing aren't my most important concerns anymore.  Being a writer is something that has defined me my entire life.  Yet, the greatest success in the world would not grant me what I truly need in life.  No, that is something entirely different, and I have only just begun to understand it.  When that is achieved, perhaps then the writing will matter again. 


Someday...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Interview: Francis Gideon

"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 Francis Gideon, the talented author who contributed the story "Alone and In Debt."  Thank you for being here, Francis.

FG: Thank you for having me!

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

FG: Sure! Right now, I’m a horror writer living in Canada. I just moved to a new city to be closer to my university as I start my PhD.

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

FG: When I was young, I read the book “The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton. I really liked it, but I remembered being even more impressed by the fact that the author wrote and published the book when she was around 16-17 years old. I was about twelve at the time, and decided that if she could do something like that so young, then I could too. So I started writing more seriously then. Most of my “novels” never ended up more than thirty pages on loose leaf paper, but it was a start.

My favourite stories to write are a toss-up between horror and romance, actually. I always figured those genres were the most relatable, since everyone has experienced some type of love before (be it from family, friends, or significant other) and we’ve all been scared, too. I was lucky that “Alone and In Debt” is a little bit of both.

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

FG: Other than S. E. Hinton, who first got me really interested in doing writing professionally, I would say either Angela Carter or Kurt Vonnegut. Both of them aren’t afraid to be really, really weird in their fiction—and to take risks.

MTI:  Your story, Alone and In Debt, appears in To Hell with Dante, tell us a little bit about that.  What's the general idea behind it?

FG: At the time, I remember reading a lot of stories with demon possessions, or deals with demons/devils. It’s a very common theme—from Faustus to Supernatural now. But I always wondered how people really dealt with the fact that they had been possessed or were now going to hell. I began to wonder what types of emotions that would involve—and how people could comfort one another during that. So, I thought of a therapy group just like Narcotics Anonymous, but for people who had made deals. The rest of the story came easily after I already had a setting.

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?

FG: It was a lot of fun! Most of what I end up doing becomes a thought experiment—a process of asking myself “what if…?” for certain scenarios, and in that way, I suppose I’m trying to get the audience to ask themselves the same types of questions. There is one scene, with Corey and Adam in the diner, where they talk about how “monsters are national creatures.” That, in particular, I find to be a really fascinating thought. A lot of scholarship on horror films echoes this statement, too. Coming from Canada, I see the subtle differences between the horror films I grew up watching—Black Christmas, Ginger Snaps—and the US horror films. Horror is always a shadow of the current time it was made in, and to think of a different monster for each country, is something really captivating and thought provoking for me. I can only hope the audience thinks so as well.

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

FG: Since most of my favourite authors are dead now, I would probably say one of them! Or Robin Williams.

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

FG: A lot of things, actually! I have a YA zombie novel that I’m putting the finishing touches on right now, in between my PhD work. I know, most people would probably groan hearing about another YA zombie novel, but I’m hoping to approach the contagion aspect of this a little differently, using some outside research. Only time will tell if I’m able to pull it off.

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

FG: Yes! I just had a Halloween story released with Mocha Memoirs Press called “Surrender to Destiny” about a London detective investigating the bodies of men hollowed out and colonized by insects. I also have a few holidays stories (mostly romance though) coming out with JMS Books, too.

Here are some links:




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

FG: Yes! The TV show Hannibal (an adaptation of the Thomas Harris universe) continues to impress me more and more each time I watch it. The cinematography is beautiful and their new treatment of the stories really captivates me as an old fan of the books/movies.

MTI:  How about music?

FG: Gerard Way (former front man of the band My Chemical Romance) recently released his solo album Hesitant Alien, which has been getting a lot of plays for me recently. He even has a song about a manga on it! The whole album has a kind of Brit Pop, David Bowie vibe to it. Really nice to listen to as I grade papers.

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

FG: Too hard—but I’ll try. Surprise, they’re mostly horror or comic book related: Silence of the Lambs, The Company of Wolves, and The Dark Knight.

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?

FG: Hmm, Kurt Vonnegut is always so much better at small sound bites for occasions like this. The only thing that springs to mind is “Goddammit, you’ve got to be kind.” Be nice to people. We all need each other in some way and we all have different stuff going on that makes it difficult. It’s far, far better to need people and ask for help every once in a while than to completely shun everyone for the sake of reputation or something else abstract. The older I get, the more I think about being kind and just how important it is.

Thanks again for having me!

Of course, Francis.  It was a Pleasure.  Those who wish to check out Alone and In Debt, along with 20 other cynical afterlife stories, can pick up To Hell with Dante!



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Poem: Ode to the Absent Fallen

It's Veterans Day again (or Armistice Day, as my Great-Grandfather Ned would insist).  In honor of those who have served, those who have fought, those who have fallen, here is a piece of poetry I was inspired to write while visiting a cemetery not so long ago.

The flags flutter in the breeze,
symbols of memory,
of passed away dreams.
The heroes, the fallen,
those who have gone,
will a final rest ever truly be known?

I sit and I wonder
where have you gone?
Is it a far better meeting
or more a tribulation tone?
Will I know it all soon
or be condemned to ignorance
for the weeping we've sown?

For the days have gone too soon;
as I look at the stones
my mind hearkens back to you,
forever alone.
A day come and gone;
I'll miss you, you know,
but we'll someday find solace
in the truth we have known

I leave you with these words;
come back home.


Do something to honor a Veteran today.  We owe them!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Author Interview: Karl G. Rich 2

"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 Karl G. Rich, the excellent author who contributed the story "Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then..."  Thank you for being here, Mr. Rich

KARL G. RICH:  Thank you, Martin, it’s a pleasure, but please call me Kregger. Karl Rich is the name I give the barista down at Starbucks since my real name seems both unpronounceable and incapable of being spelled correctly. Karl’s an alter ego I have used since the Stone Age when I worked in the restaurant biz.

MTI:  Of course, Kregger.  We've done this before, but for readers who didn't catch our last interview, why not tell them a little about yourself?

KREGGER:  First and foremost, I am a grandfather of six. Being Papa seems to have swallowed all my other identities. As a young adult, before kids and my current wife--on entering a restaurant, instead of smoking/nonsmoking, I would ask for the “No Kids” section. Children weren’t my favorite people, but now my favorite people call me grandpa.

At work I’m a healthcare professional. I take painstaking care not to talk about work with strangers. This is due to their reactions to the tonnage of blood, gore and pain I deal with on a daily basis. One time my brother-in-law asked me, “What was the worse thing I have ever seen?” I described in detail how a prolapsed rectum nearly ate an intern in an operating room. Thank God, I caught the young doctor by his surgical booties before he disappeared forever. Can anyone imagine that eulogy? Now, my brother-in-law knows better than to ask such silly questions.

MTI:  Your story, "Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then..." appears in To Hell with Dante.  Tell us a little bit about that.  What's the general idea behind it?

KREGGER:  I spend a lot of time writing about heaven and hell. I don’t believe in either place as popularized in the media or religion, but the perception of both places allow for a variety of stories. Imbedded within most of my stories are retellings of old jokes. In “Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then…” I used a classic internet joke with some of my recurring characters to illustrate choices people make. In death as in life bad choices and bad decisions lead to bad things. Right now, I’m trying to shoehorn a joke about not stepping on ducks/bunnies in heaven into a story, but I’ve yet to figure it out.

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?

KREGGER:  Just plain fun. I’ve given up trying to convince anyone of anything. I write for fun.

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

KREGGER:  Honestly, the first person that came to my mind was Adolph Hitler. Not because I admire or idolize the man, but to ask WTF were you thinking? In what world would a man or group of people think it proper to exterminate any other group? I believe his answer would probably be the world of the 21st Century.

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

KREGGER:  I have a Sci-fi project that is an extension of my story in the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology called, “I am Drone.” It is a futuristic thriller set in a post-nuclear-war America with human drones used as weapons of mass destruction to safe guard what’s left of America.

MTI:  Oh, I want to read that one!  Keep me apprised of your progress with that project.  Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

KREGGER:  I’m waiting on a submission to Vineyard Press for the Passions of Man anthology. I have one more submission called, “The Absence of Heat” slated for publication in the We Were Heros anthology by Martinus Publishing. This winter I will start querying for my novel, The Mad King of Beaver Island.

MTI:  Writers are often voracious readers.  Have you run across any good literature lately that you'd like to recommend?  You know, other than your own great work.

KREGGER:  I’m in the process of slogging through a compilation of twelve novels called, Deadly Dozen:12 Mysteries/Thrillers.  It’s something I picked up for learning style and technique of the genre. The stories are interesting, but I’m noticing a staccato style in the writing. Most of the books utilize very short chapters to move the story along. I couldn’t beat the price, and if I hate a story I skip to the next one. I read Timebound by this year’s ABNA winner. Here’s a clue to new writers—women are not male characters with breasts.  So write female characters with female traits. Today’s market, we are selling to, are women. Conversely, I suggest women writers not emasculate their characters as Rysa Walker did in Timebound. I also enjoyed Malone Hero by Edmond Wells, a long time contributor to Martinus Publishing.

MTI:  Other than writing, what would you call your favorite hobby or pastime?

KREGGER:  I always have been and will always be a sailor. It is the one thing that defines me till I die. At which time I will be submerged in Lake Michigan. I do not understand anyone that fears water.

MTI:  Once again, 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?

KREGGER:  I write because I enjoy the process.  I look forward to seclusion with the Margaritaville channel playing in the background. I prefer to sail alone for the same reason. I don’t have an eye for what is marketable. I only write what makes me happy. Happy people are successful by whatever criteria are used.

It is impossible to write every minute of the day, so on those off moments Martinus Publishing has multiple anthologies available as well as Martin Ingham’s newest creation, The Curse of Selwood.

MTI:  Well, thank you for the extra plug there.  Now, readers love free stuff, so here's the start of your story in To Hell with Dante:

Clinton walked down a dirt footpath.  He was surrounded by dense fog and an overlying canopy of trees in dusky twilight. In front of him a white light beaconed through the fog, as if an opening to a tunnel.
            “Where am I?” he muttered as he walked alone, squinting into the brush beside the path.
            He walked for what seemed like an eternity through the impenetrable fog and foliage. He carried a pack and musket, but couldn’t recall camping, sleeping, or hunting. He halted and listened; the forest sounds were muted and soft.  Birds called to one another in the distance and since the wind had died there was silence from the trees above. The fog not only muffled his sight, but dampened his hearing as well. Everything smelled wet and decayed.
            White woolen pants covered his legs down to his knees and wool socks protected his feet from chafing inside tall, black boots. Glancing down at the blouse he wore under his red military coat, he found dark-red blood stains, but no wounds.  For the hundredth time in as many days, he wondered, where had he come from?
            He came to an intersection in the path. The path to the left and right led to a white light-filled tunnel. He spun around to find a similar portal to his rear. The tall man gripped his hands in prayer and fell to his knees. “God help me.” He bowed his head and shuddered.


MTI:  Thank you again, Kregger, for a fantastic interview.  Those who want to read the rest of his story, as well as 20 other cynical afterlife stories, can pick up To Hell with Dante!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Author Interview: Jeff Provine 2

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 Jeff Provine, the excellent author who contributed the story "Gravedigger."  Thank you for being here, Jeff

JEFF PROVINE: Always a pleasure!

MTI:  We've done this before, but for readers who didn't catch our last interview, why not tell them a little about yourself?

JP:  I’m an adjunct professor in Oklahoma City teaching Composition, Mythology, and a course called “The History of Comics.” It’s work that gets me pulled in three directions at once, but it does give some time in my schedule for writing projects.

Since it’s the Halloween season: one of my other projects has been creating the OU Ghost Tour, a charity walk around Norman’s campus telling spooky stories from the past. It has been a great time researching and interviewing (I’m not much of an investigator; I just don’t have the patience). Two books collecting local legends have spun off it: Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma and, new for 2014, Haunted Norman, Oklahoma.

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

JP:  The idea came out of the many references to those gateways to Hell in places like Turkmenistan, Sicily, and Ireland… what if someone stumbled across a new one?

There’s another story behind the story as well, one that began Halloween night, 2010. The air hung heavy with mist as the warm fall day turned to a chilly night. As I walked along in my mad scientist’s costume to meet some friends for a party, the mists parted, and there came along a pretty young lady dressed in gender-bent Vash the Stampede from Trigun. It was like I dream. I’m sure my mouth was gaping. We passed by each other, traded smiles and quips of “nice coat” for her red trench coat and white lab coat. And then she was gone.

For days, I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I was enamored. Who was this girl?

Then, as I had told the story a time or two, it bounced back through the grapevine that someone had a class with the girl, who had worn her Vash costume to class. I had to make sure, so I staked out the class. While I was waiting, I had a notebook with me and spent some time jotting notes for stories. “Gravedigger” spawned out of that.

It was her class, and we did end up going on a couple of dates, but nothing really took off. It was just as well since, a couple of holidays down the road, I met my future wife at a New Year’s Party.

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?

JP:  The story’s theme is taking the reality of Hell and showing what one might be willing to trade for it. To get the feel, I made lots of references to Revelation, the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, and modern horror. Even though we know it’s horrible, the gravedigger has the chance to gain so much if he’s willing to sell his soul for just a few days at a time: money, fame, power.

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

JP:  The figures in the story (Vlad, Jack, and the 1980s Business Man) are each fascinating characters. On the one hand, asking someone about their buried treasure would be a good deceased person to meet. On the other, great figures like Theodore Roosevelt or Walt Disney would be interesting. Personally, I would like to have a good talk with my late grandfather, who passed away when I was a teenager. He had a lot of wisdom to share that I was too young to understand.

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

JP:  I’m looking at creating a loosely connected batch of stories all tied together geographically in the spirit of Arkham, Massachusetts, and Derry, Maine: Chisholm County, Oklahoma. Many of its stories are inspired by actual Oklahoma events that I’ve researched while writing my Campus Ghosts and Haunted Norman creative nonfiction collections of local lore.

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

JP:  I’ve got a short story in the collection Krampusnacht coming out this Christmas from World Weaver. Bad little boys and girls watch out for the monstrous goatman with a switch!

MTI:  Writers are often voracious readers.  Have you run across any good literature lately that you'd like to recommend?  You know, other than your own great work.

JP:  I read the Mammoth Collection Volume 1 of Elephantmen a short time back. It was classic science fiction in every sense of the word.

MTI:  Other than writing, what would you call your favorite hobby or pastime?

JP:  I’m a big board game enthusiast. We’re living in a golden age of indie board games thanks to technological development in printing and design. It’s exciting to see all the new takes on how tabletop gaming can go.

MTI:  Once again, 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?

JP:  There are stories everywhere; we just have to take a look. I’m bubbling over with ideas, and the trick is to just get some time to put them down on paper.  One my favorite things in all of the world is to talk stories with people, so, if you have a story idea but aren’t sure where to go with it, feel free to chat!

MTI:  And now, to help satisfy our readers, here are the first few paragraphs from your story, Gravedigger!

The old gravedigger put his shovel through the earth and struck empty space. His gnarled hand caught the handle before the weight of the blade pulled it underground. He held it for a moment before he wiggled it back and forth to free it.
            Soil crumbled around the opening. Foul, wet air bubbled up into the grave, leaving a sick fog around his muddy boots. Dull, red light shone up from the crack in the ground.
            “What the hell…?” the gravedigger mumbled.
            He took a step backward. When he had sure footing at the edge of the six-foot grave, he looked back at the eerie hole. It seemed larger.
            The gravedigger licked his lip, tasting sweat and dirt. He’d dug graves for the family mortuary since he could walk. These days his grandson did most of the digging with the backhoe, but he still took his exercise by digging a few by hand. There wasn’t much more relaxing than lovingly crafting a grave in the quiet of the nighttime.
            In all those years of all those shovelfuls of ground, he’d never seen anything like this. He’d hit sinkholes and, once, a nest of badgers, but no red-glowing hole. It stank, and the light cast up horrid bleeding shadows. The shop light hanging over his head seemed drowned out.

MTI:  Thank you again, Jeff, for another great interview. Those who want to read the rest of Gravedigger and 20 other cynical afterlife stories can buy To Hell with Dante!



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Temporal Element II

The Temporal Element II is still accepting submissions until the end of 2014, but I am pleased to reveal the following cover art for this upcoming anthology!  Here is the piece with tentative lettering:




The artwork was done by the very talented Anastasia Karasyova.


The Temporal Element II has a planned release date of February/March 2015.  For those of you who can't wait for this exciting new collection of time travel tales, the first collection, The Temporal Element, is still available!  Pick up a copy while you wait for the second set of stories in the new year!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Author Interview: Erik Storey

"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 Erik Storey, the talented author who contributed the story "Tartarus Tavern."  Thank you for being here, Erik.

ERIK STOREY: Anytime. Thanks for having me.

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

ES:  Well, I've been told that I'm an anachronistic curmudgeon, a Luddistic peasant, and a condescending prick. But I'm here to set the record straight by saying that I'm really a nice guy, once you get to know me. And that the stuff I write is in no way a reflection of who I am as a person in the real world.

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

ES:  I started writing as a kid when I ran out of things to read. It only got worse as an adult. No matter how many books I read—and I've read thousands—there's always something missing. So now I'm attempting, everyday, to fill in those gaps.

My favorite type of story to write, by far, is crime. Stories about criminals and the downcast and detritus of society. If you can't beat them, or join them, might as well write about them.

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

ES:  Lois L'Amour. The consummate storyteller. He may not have been as literary as some of my other favorites, but he could tell a hell of a yarn. He wrote western, crime, and adventure stories, even one that was pretty much fantasy. Plus over a hundred books, and once you start one, you can't help but finish before going to bed. It's that kind of storytelling power that I hope to have when I grow up.

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

ES:  It's the story of a cynical detective that dies while working a case, and finds himself waiting in line for the afterlife. It seems that everyone else he knows is there, but they are all going somewhere he's not.

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?

ES:  Oh, it's mostly just fun, but there is an underlying concept of choice and self-determination.

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

ES:  Ernest Hemingway. As much as I like his writing, the stories about his life fascinate me more and I'd like to see if he lives up to the hype. A morning of fishing in a cold river, an afternoon hunting elk in the forested hills, and an evening of drinking and fisticuffs.

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

ES:  My second novel, about a wandering adventurer that finds himself stuck in Idaho with an extorting law enforcer, a murderous biker gang, and a cult of polygamist, anti-technology Mormons. Oh, and a bunch of other people even crazier.

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

ES:  I do, but I'll wait to talk about it until it's a little closer to release. It's a crime story, and not for the faint of heart, or those with weak stomachs.

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

ES:  Well, I was. A great show called Longmire that was recently canceled. FOR NO APPARENT REASON. It was honestly one of the best crime dramas on TV. I am also addicted to Justified. Both of these shows are modern westerns, well written, highly entertaining, and are slightly similar to the kinds novels that I write.

MTI:  Yeah, I'm kind of pissed that they dropped Longmire, too.  I'm also sad to hear that this upcoming season of Justified will be the last.  No more after season 6.  Curses!

So, what do you listen to for music?

ES:  A little of everything. Nahko and Medicine for the People, Mike Stinson, Old Crow Medicine Show, J. Roddy Watson and the Business, Shovels and Rope, Vance Joy, Milky Chance, Matt Nathanson, and my old favorites Tom Waits and Steve Earl.

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

ES:  Big Trouble in Little China, Legends of the Fall, Raiders of the Lost Ark. In no particular order.

MTI:  Legends of the Fall is one of my favorites, too, but a lot of people have never even heard of it.

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

ES:  I've been going back in time, and have been rereading all of the Travis McGee novels. Also just reread The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley, and had forgot how perfect that book is. Some recent novels that I adored were Iron House, by John Hart; Wayfaring Stranger and The Light of the World, by James Lee Burke. All three were brilliant.

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?

ES:  How about just a big Thank You to all of the readers out there. You are a dying breed and your valiant adventures into the literary world of books and stories is well appreciated. Especially from us writers. Please don't stop reading. Ever. Encourage your friends to turn off the tube once in awhile and join in partaking of the word-drugs, the getting high on the imaginary. And if you want something different than the street corner stuff, try reading some more of my stories.

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:

            My head is pounding. A staccato timpani drum is beating against my temples from the inside. Feels just like any morning after a whiskey night; like the morning after a wedding, a wake, or a day ending in Y. When my vision clears, I expect to see the cracked paint and the dust encrusted fan that adorn the ceiling of my little studio apartment.
            But that isn't what I see. This isn't a normal morning. In fact, I don't see anything that would give me an indication of the time of day.
            I'm standing in line. Maybe a couple hundred people in front of me. I turn my sodden head and see that there are even more people standing behind me, shaking their heads and scratching their asses, all of them as bewildered and confused as me. Then I'm alert enough to start to notice the details. We are all buck-ass naked. Wangs and titties wobble as we shuffle ahead in line.
            All of us are in a hallway. The walls are carpeted brown and black; it's all bristle and sharp points when you touch it. The ceiling is pockmarked Styrofoam, the kind that you could stick a pencil in with a good throw. The hallway stretches ahead and behind so far that it seems to warp into an arch, with me at the high point and the bare skinned people on the horizons like squat insects far below.
            No one is talking. We're all trying to understand, trying to figure out what we are waiting for.

ES:  Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me.

MTI:  Thank you, Erik.  It was my pleasure.  Readers who would like to see more of Erik's story and 20 other cynical afterlife tales can pick up To Hell with Dante.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Author Interview: David Perlmutter

"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 David Perlmutter, the prolific author who contributed the story "Fangirl, Rip, and the Devil's Daughter."  Thank you for being here, David.

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

DAVID PERLMUTTER:  -I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1980. I have never lived anywhere else in my life.

-My principle interest in popular culture is animation, particularly of the kind produced for television. This is the subject of my recently published first non-fiction book, “America ‘Toons In”, which is now available from McFarland and Company. Those people who have been following my fiction will know that it has also been strongly influenced by this art form.

-I also have strong affections for African American music and speculative fiction, and plan to pursue historical research in those areas as well.

-I graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2003, and in 2010 earned a master’s degree in that discipline. Currently, I am studying in the Library/IT program at Red River College, so that I will become more professionally qualified to pursue my desired “day job” of Library Technician.

-I have published close to a hundred short stories, novellas and essays in various magazines and anthologies since 2009.

 -I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a child, and am actively involved with the community related to this disorder in Winnipeg and Manitoba.

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

DP: -Mostly, it was the usual aspiring writer’s desire to tell stories better than the ones I was being told. Both aspiring and professional writers are better able to see the flaws in the narratives created by other people, and this empowers us to attempt to do better with our stories. I have been doing this privately for most of my life, and discovering that you can get paid to do it convinced me that this was something I could do as a full-time job, if possible.

-I have several different types. A great many of my characters are anthropomorphic animals, for example, which stems from me being exposed to so much of these kinds of narratives as a child and now through animation. This also inspired my interest in superhero narratives, space operas, narratives involving kids and teenagers, and especially in humor. Generally, these kinds of stories all have firm narrative expectations and ideals behind them, and, given that I have versed myself well in all of these areas, they generally come naturally to me when I try to write my own pieces.
  
MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

DP: -Robert Bloch. He was much, much more than just “Psycho”, but people tend to only give him credit for that. Or for being a disciple of H.P. Lovecraft, even though he outgrew that influence quickly. I became an admirer of him through reading reissues of his old pulp fiction stories, which are all very good. He was particularly adept at juxtaposing humor and horror, which most of his contemporaries never bothered to do. You can see his influence over me that way in stories like “Fangirl.” But, above all, he was a principled man who never sold out himself or his work for a quick buck, and he managed to spend most of his working life as a professional writer in various media at a time when it was very, very hard to do that. In all these respects, he’s been a very important role model for me. 

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

DP:  -This story stems from a few of my interests and concerns. Firstly, it reflects a sort of nostalgia on my part from an older way of storytelling I encountered in reading pulp fiction and watching a lot of old Hollywood movies. Before World War II, a lot of these stories were predicated on having two guys, usually stereotypical soldier-of-fortune types, travelling the world and having adventures, chiefly using only their brains and wits to get out of difficulty, although skill with weaponry and fisticuffs was never ruled out. Sometimes they would get into the situations by accident, other times on purpose. As with my interest in animation (which draws on a lot of this narrative protocol, by the way) and humor, this was a situation I felt I could adapt to my own uses. As I have. My Jefferson Ball series, for example. Basically, the storyline boils down to: put the heroes in the scenario, bring the villain in, and then get the heroes out and the villain punished, one way or another. I can do that, and I have, many times. 

-Another is my general desire to empower marginalized people, which is much more acceptable and commonplace today than it once was. As a person with Asperger’s syndrome, for example, I am dismayed much of the time by how the disorder is portrayed, as it is often confused with Autism although it is nothing at all like it. People with Asperger’s are essentially the same as “neurotypical” people, save for the odd mental tic that is considered “eccentric”, an extreme attention to detail, and a very thorough interest in things that others do not consider very “important’ in the grand scheme of things. We should not be punished for being “different”, because sometimes being “different” helps prevent you from going along with the “program”, and exposing the “program” for being the con game it often is.

   That being said, I was often placed in the position at school of needing extra assistance and training in order to fulfill my academic obligations. In the process, I got to meet a number of peers with far worse physical and mental disabilities than my own, and to admire them for being able to persevere in spite of them.

-So this is where Morgan and Rip come from, respectively. Morgan has Asperger’s, but, with exceptional areas, she doesn’t let it bother or contain her, as I have gradually learned how to do over my life dealing with it. I drew somewhat on my own thought patterns and feelings for her, although some aspects, by necessity, had to be feminized. The same with Rip. She was named in honor of Robert Ripley, the creator of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, whom I learned a great deal about reading Neal Thompson’s excellent biography of him from a couple years back. Ripley had buck teeth just like Rip (in the days before braces, though), and some other physical issues besides, but he managed to become a globe-trotting adventurer, a radio and film personality, a skilled artist, a champion handball player and a womanizing playboy. I imagine that’s how Rip sees herself, potentially, as well, especially the latter category. But there’s also, I think, a great deal of Rocky and Bullwinkle (whom I idolize!) in there as well, as there is with a lot of my series characters.

-One last thing is that we should be free to show kids acting on their own and dealing with things on their own in media directed towards them, especially in this age of helicopter parenting. If you show them that they can do things and give them good, admirable role models by which to do them from, they won’t have any problems doing it for themselves. This is what I keep in mind with my kid and teenage series characters, at all times.           

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?

DP: -It’s not meant to be any sort of serious Dantean speculation on the afterlife- he already did that a long time ago. When I came up with Morgan and Rip, I needed to have them fight somebody (or, more properly, some thing), or the story would have no point. I had written an earlier story about the devil’s daughter coming to Earth, and enjoyed writing it, so I thought, why not use her again?

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

DP:  -Martin Luther King, Jr. I get chills up my spine listening to him talk, which I hardly get from anyone speaking today. Plus, his political philosophy has always been very much in line with mine. I would have gotten a thrill meeting the man behind the iconic image, which, sadly, isn’t possible anymore.

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

DP:  -I have completed the manuscript of my first novel, “Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea,” and am currently seeking a home for it. It took over ten years to finish, so I hope the waiting will not be in vain. I have also had a publisher interested in a novel with my canine series characters Sticks and Bones, provided I can deliver the manuscript by fall 2015. I continue to develop short stories at a regular pace, especially for all the speculative anthologies listed at Duotrope and Ralan. On the non-fiction side, I have been asked to contribute to an upcoming encyclopedia of animation, and am planning to write other, longer works in that field, including an encyclopedic work of my own.  

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

DP:  -I am waiting for word from some publishers about upcoming anthology publications. Since so many of my acceptances are for “when filled” anthologies, you can never tell when that is going to be. However, I always make sure to tell my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr followers when that happens, to keep them in the loop. 

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

DP:  -I haven’t had much time as of late, but I’ve PVRed a ton. I am particularly looking forward to looking at two animated shows, “Wander Over Yonder” and “The 7D”, from Disney, that I’ve already heard good things about.

MTI:  How about music?

DP: -Nothing terribly new. I have stacks of CDs at home, lined up like canned goods in a bomb shelter, and usually the music in them is decades old, because I prefer it that way. However, I will put in a good word for Monkeyjunk, a blues trio from Ottawa whose sound I very much enjoy.

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

DP:  The three that leap to mind immediately are “Blazing Saddles”, “In The Heat Of The Night”, and “The Powerpuff Girls Movie.” The common thread between them is: never judge a book by its cover. The protagonists all have to deal with a lot of crap because they look different than the “white” establishment, or are able to do things “normal” people can’t do, but they more than prove their worth by the last reel. Both Mel Brooks and Craig McCracken are extremely underrated in my worldview, and need to be appreciated much more for what is being said under the surface in their stories than what’s on top. Likewise with Norman Jewison, although the fact that he’s gotten the Irving G. Thalberg Award- given only to a select few producers- says that Hollywood, at least, got what he was trying to do. (And he’s a fellow Canadian, besides!).

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?

DP:  I read most every new speculative fiction anthology that comes out as soon as I can, especially at the pro level, and I am impressed at the superb level of content in the stories that is always there. I hope the editors of these things will ultimately judge me worthy of being part of the exalted company they always manage to assemble. 

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?

DP:  I cannot really offer words of wisdom, as I am merely a fallible human being. However, I will encourage readers to seek out anything I have written. And not at all simply for the financial benefits that may possibly accrue to me. I don’t write purely for that reason in any form or fashion, for that is simply crass. What I want readers (and especially editors) to view me as is the same way that I view Robert Bloch: as a reliable, trustworthy source of knowledge and/or entertainment whose is always willing and able to give them exactly what they want, and to never disappoint them in any single way.  

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:


            They seemed, to the outside viewer’s eyes, to simply be two otherwise normal fourteen year old girls who appeared oddly mismatched, given the great disparity in their physical appearances and sizes. The only thing they really had in common was the fact that they were wearing the same kind of T-shirts, corduroys, and flip-flops favored by most of their peers during summer—which was what season it happened to be at that moment. An outsider might further assume that, given the fact that the smaller one of the pair was falling behind her larger friend like a puppy struggling to keep up with its mother, that their personal relationship was similarly distorted.
            Nothing could be further from the truth. They had been close friends almost from their natal days, and had evolved a close, almost sisterly bond that had endured, in spite of the brickbats that life had thrown them. For both of them, those brickbats were many.
            The taller of the pair, Morgan Robertson, possessed a spindly, gangly form and a height of over six feet, which would have aided her immensely had she been athletically inclined. In terms of her bodily appearance, she was what was known vulgarly among her male peers as a “hottie.” Her head was crowned by a mop of luxurious red hair with a chestnut accent, which she always kept in a precise 1920s style bob to avoid it getting in her face. That face featured electric blue eyes, a snub nose, a cupid’s-bow mouth, and red full lips, which was good for getting boys to notice her—which, given her extreme level of personal shyness, was disconcerting to her. She was “average” only in her breast size. Such objects were not of Jayne Mansfield proportions, but just large enough, along with her face, to prevent her from being mistaken for a boy. Which is how she preferred it.
            However, Morgan was not part of the high school social spectrum you might assume was the case. This was because of two factors. She was challenged with Asperger’s syndrome, which resulted in her frequently thinking and acting “weird” in the eyes of most of her classmates. She would have uncomfortable bouts of rage and/or sadness at inopportune moments, which made her dangerously unpredictable. Whether attributable to her being an “Aspie,” a girl, or both, these extreme displays meant that Morgan spent more than her fair share of time alone, as is the sad fate of most people with this condition.
            Morgan found solace, as many Aspies do, in immersing herself in something to the point of full blown obsession. This particular thing was science fiction and its fantasy and horror brethren, not just the literature but the films and TV shows as well. She obsessed herself to the extent that she became convinced that everything depicted in these works was conceivably real, from the characters to the imaginary worlds in which they existed. Of course, this had expected drawbacks. More than once, anyone she tried to make conversation with about her favorite things would angrily get up and walk away, especially if they were a fellow girl. The particularly insensitive ones of that species went so far as to spread ugly rumors about her sexuality, so that none of their male counterparts would even come close to dating her.
            It was in these, the ugliest moments of her life, and other extracurricular moments, that Morgan found comfort in the company of her best friend, who was even more of a target for the mean girls and bullies than Morgan herself was. For good reason.
            Roberta Ripley, known to her best friend simply as “Rip,” was the polar opposite of her friend physically. Where Morgan was blessed with both beauty and brains, Rip possessed only brains to aid her in life. The rest of her was less prepossessing. Born premature, she was weakened by an uncorrected club foot, which required her to get around on a cane on a full-time basis. Her facial features included a harelip, horrifically crooked teeth no braces could fix, misshapen, multi-jointed arms and legs, a bulbous nose, two differently colored eyes, and a squat but emaciated torso. With the addition of a braying, nearly masculine voice, she was a vision of clock-stopping homeliness. However, Rip made up for her physical shortcomings by being resourceful and intelligent in her words and deeds. In spite of their obvious physical differences, she and Morgan hit it off from kindergarten on, in part because Rip possessed an appetite for speculative media rivaling Morgan’s, and a similar “true believer” faith in the idea that it could be “true.” The relationship between them further developed in elementary and middle school, when Rip defended Morgan verbally against the social fallout caused by Morgan’s Asperger-derived displays of temper and anguish, and Morgan, in turn, used her size and physical strength to defend Rip physically from bullies.
            This “info dump” is necessary, despite being somewhat long winded, in order that you, the reader, may understand the circumstances of this narrative. For Morgan and Rip’s faith in the realistic existence of the supernatural forces of the universe—and each other—would prove to be the one thing able to save the Earth from destruction by the forces of Hell itself.


MTI:  Thank you, David, for that insightful interview.  Those who want to read the rest of his story, and 20 other cynical afterlife tales, can pick up To Hell with Dante.