Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse: Interview with Michael West

I’ve been a fan of Michael West ever since I read Cinema of Shadows and have met and talked with him quite a few times at the conventions I usually attend. Of course, even at conventions, what amounts as “conversation” between two introverts is viewed by outsiders as long silent pauses followed by one or two short, terse sentences.

But if only those extroverts knew what we’re really plotting telepathically….

MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!!

And without further ado, the awe-inspiring interview with the Maestro of Terror. Enjoy!

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What got you into writing?

I’ve always been a storyteller. Before I could write, I would draw pictures to illustrate the tales that were spinning around inside my head. At age seven, after watching Star Wars for the first time, I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker. I would write screenplays and make movies in the back yard with my parents’ video camera. And, as the stories I wanted to tell outgrew my meager budgets, I eventually turned my attention to writing short stories and novels.

 

What fascinates you most about Horror?

There is just something so wonderful, so primal, about fear, and that release you get when something scares you and you scream or jump out of your seat.  It’s the same rush you get when you ride a really great rollercoaster.  And, like any really great rollercoaster, as soon as you get off that ride, you want to get right back on it again.

As a genre, what sets Horror apart from Dark Fantasy or Thriller?

Well, in my mind, Horror deals more with the supernatural, ghosts and demons, while Dark Fantasy is more monsters and mythology.  Thrillers can happen to you or the person next door; there is generally nothing supernatural about a thriller.

What is The Wide Game about? And what is Skull Full of Kisses?

In The Wide Game, Paul Rice, on the advice of his wife, is making plans to attend his 10th year High School reunion.  Returning to his boyhood home of Harmony, Indiana, he finds that he is still haunted by memories of that time–memories of Deidra, his first love, and memories of the Wide Game.  It was ten years ago that Paul and his friends watched their day of fun become a race for their lives, a fight for their very souls.

Now, as he meets the survivors of that day once more, Paul makes a chilling discovery: the incomprehensible forces that toyed with them have yet to finish playing their own game.

Skull Full of Kisses is a collection of my short fiction.  It is ten stories, each one different from the next.  There is some Horror, some Dark Fantasy, even some horrific Sci-fi.  I like to think of it as a really good season of The Twilight Zone.

What are the differences between long fiction and short fiction, other than size?

They are entirely different skill sets.  You have a lot less real estate to work with in a short story, so you have to develop your characters quickly, you have to get the action rolling and build up speed to the climax as fast as you can, like a plane running out of runway.  With a novel, you have much more room to explore character motivations and themes.  That said, it is far easier to kill off all your characters in a short story, because the reader has so much less time invested in them.  If you kill off the main character at the end of your three hundred page novel, you get hate mail.  Lots of hate mail.

 

What is similar?

Both novels and short stories need good, interesting characters.  For me, a good character has to be relatable.  You need to feel like they are someone you might know in real life: the neighbour, the classmate, the guy at work who keeps to themselves and lives with his mother by the old motel off…wait…  Anyway, they can’t be pure good or pure evil, because, in reality, nobody is like that.  The hero will have their negative qualities, their quirks and foibles, and the villains will have their charming qualities, their charismatic traits.  Everyone is the hero of their own story, even the most despicable villain.

What are the key things you feel aspiring writers need to know in order to “break in”?

You need to craft believable characters and dialogue.  It’s always been difficult for me to craft believable dialogue. I can write what a character is thinking, feeling, or doing all day long with no problem, but once they open their mouths…my progress slows to a crawl. That’s become easier over time, but it’s still something I struggle with. My advice to beginning writers is to read your work out loud. If you can’t say it without tripping over your own tongue, something needs to change.  Also, have people read your stuff who don’t even like the genre you right in.  Fans of a particular genre can be forgiving of certain cliches, where as someone who doesn’t normally read or watch stories in your genre may point out ways in which you can make the characters and their motivations seem more real.

Does music help you in your writing, either through providing inspiration or by just helping to set the mood?

Oh yes.  I can’t work when it’s totally quiet.  I will usually put on some kind of music, either film scores or something dark, like Depeche Mode, Sisters of Mercy, or good ol’ 80s Hair Metal.

And why do you think Horror and Metal work so well together?

I think it is very easy to convey horrific ideas and imagery with Metal, and likewise, I think good Metal can help inspire you to write a lot of Horrific imagery.

Last but not least: who do you think would win in a three-way fight? Dracula, the Wolf Man, or Tinkerbell?

Dracula, hands down.

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Michael West is the critically-acclaimed author of The Wide Game, Cinema of Shadows, Spook House, Skull Full of Kisses, and the Legacy of the Gods series.  A graduate of Indiana University, with a degree in Telecommunications and Film Theory,  West has written a multitude of short stories, articles, and reviews for various on-line and print publications.  He lives and works in the Indianapolis area with his wife, their two children, their bird, Rodan, their turtle, Gamera, and their dog, King Seesar.

His children are convinced that spirits move through the woods near their home.

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September 30, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse OVERKILL Blog Tour Double Whammy

It’s April 21st, and as part of the Overkill Blog Tour, SpecMusicMuse presents you with a Double Whammy. And no, I’m not talking about a porno, either, so get your brain matter out of the gutter. What I am talking about is both a review AND an interview in one day. Hell, one post even. 😉

First off, the review:

SpecMusicMuse Review: Overkill by Steven L. Shrewsbury

Another tale of Goria La Gaul, set in the pre-Flood period, in the land of Transalpina, Overkill is just as gritty and blood-soaked as Thrall. Gorias gets summoned by Queen Garnet to find and rescue her lost granddaughter, Nykia, who Gorias once saved when she had been a child. Aided by Alena, one of the Queen’s elite guard, and a palace servant named Orsen, the grizzled old merc must do what he does best: namely kick ass and take names.

This story takes place on land and sea and contains all the action you’d expect in an epic fantasy and a plot twist that just wouldn’t be a La Gaul story if it wasn’t in there. While he avoids making the characters two-dimensional, don’t expect enormous character depth. There’s just enough for a story of this genre without sacrificing the story’s pace. And for such a story that’s all you really need.

The action scenes are vivid. The world and culture feels real once you become immersed. And the story never bores. If you enjoy Sword & Sorcery or Epic Fantasy with a dark edge, then you will love Overkill.

Best read while listening to: the soundtrack to any Conan or Beastmaster movie. Oh, and Viking Metal, because Viking Metal rocks.

And now for:

SpecMusicMuse: Interview with Steven L. Shrewsbury

Gorias le Gaul. How in the world did you come up with a character like him?

 

SS: He sort of volunteered into my mind. He’s a mash up of Johnny Cash, John Wayne and Wagner’s Kane a little (some say a dash of me as well). In GODFORSAKEN my research told me the sacred spear of the god Lugh was named Gorias. I liked the name. That name and a song by a bluegrass legend from antiquity sealed the deal. I didn’t want to write about a young buck with all his learning to do. Gorias is getting on in life, at 700, getting tired, too, but still full of piss & vinegar. When he stepped forward, well, the stories fell in line.

The setting for your le Gaul stories is the antediluvian period. Obviously that period is mentioned in the Bible, but did you also look into other cultural stories about that period, like the Sumerian tales?

 

An illustration by Matthew Perry for the novel, OVERKILLSS: Of course. I know Gilgamesh from Bilgames (only a well read geek will know what I’m talking about). Sure. I read of all cultures and their pre-flood tales, even the American Indians. I think there is a huge epoch we forgot, so thus, anything goes. It sounds like the rules of the material world were a tad bent then ala angels & demons running around. I don’t think all of the things in these books is true (Nephilums, demons cross breeding with saurian beasts to create dragons) mind you, but they are fun to explore. As time goes on, we learn about more forgotten cities from that era, or at least, beyond recorded history. Kenniwick Man, who was in North America 13,000 years ago (found in Washington State) was Caucasian and had a spear head healed into his pelvis (or hip my mind is going). That’s fascinating stuff.

With two books now will we be seeing any more of that old asskicker?

 

SS: Yes. I have several more in mind and a slew of short stories or novellas I can tie in about his life and that era. There was so much I hinted at in THRALL and blurted in OVERKILL that many will want books written of Gorias’ recollections.

What do you find the most fascinating about Epic Fantasy? And which authors do you find most inspiring?

 

SS: Anything can happen, pretty much, and it’s a time different than ours. Yeah, some of the same jerks/characters are guilty of the same passions or hatreds, but one can paint with a broader brush. Howard, Wagner, Moorcock, Lieber, Manly Wade Wellman, and quite a number of horror writers, too. I think some writers are more concerned with telling a long series of books than a real story. The Gorias cycle is not one where ya gotta read them all in order to get ‘em. Each is a tale unto itself. I have never conceived a novel thinking, “Ya know what’d be the ice cream on the titties? How ‘bout I write seven of these f*&kers that will only make sense by the last few when I am senile and forgot the original point.” In the past couple years I have written a massive epic fantasy that isn’t submitted yet. I wrote it as a book to do before I die, a story I’ve always wanted to tell. It’s not about Gorias. I talked with a few folks on it and the FIRST thing they said was, “Cool idea, but is this the first of a series?” No. It isn’t.

And speaking of inspiration is there any kind of music that you find helpful to your writing?

 

SS: A wide variety inspires me for alotta reasons. Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, old blues, an offhand line in a Shooter Jennings song can make a novel. Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley helped create Gorias La Gaul. I don’t care for rap or pop stuff or modern country music. I like the kinda country that makes one want to drink whiskey and kill yourself. I’ve reached the age where new music doesn’t sound so good to me anymore. There are a few here and there, but, meh.

What other fantastic stuff does Shrews have cooked up in his demented mind?

 

SS: I have two forthcoming horror novels, HELL BILLY set in reconstruction era Memphis, due out from Bad Moon Books pretty soon here. That one is about a rebel that keeps offing members of the occupying troops family, gets caught and executed then returns the next day. Over and over. LAST MAN SCREAMING is a Lovecraftian western, with my one armed confederate guy Joel Stuart searching for the Black Bible, NAMELESS CULTS in Juarez for Von Juntz nephew. Plus, I’ve written a novel featuring my Widowmaker character, Absalom Abbas, the traveling executioner. I have that big assed epic to get out, plus more fun & games.

______________________________________________________________

Steven L. Shrewsbury is a fantasy and horror author who has well over 300 tales published online or in print.  He is the creator of  creator of Dack Shannon and the Majestic Universe, as well as the novels Tormentor (Lachesis Publishing), Hawg (Graveside Tales) and Stronger Than Death (Snuff Books).

He has appeared in many anthologies, most recently Harlan County Horrors from Apex Publications.  Other anthologies include Deathgrip: Legacy of Terror from Hellbound books; Blackest Death-Vol I from BDB; the high fantasy epic Grimoire De Solace from iUniverse, the hardback Cemetery Poets, Scary, Atrocitas Aqua from DDP.

For more information on Steven L. Shrewsbury, please visit his website at www.stevenshrewsbury.com

April 21, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse: Interview w/Lawrence C. Connolly

Lawrence C. ConnollyI once had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Lawrence C. Connolly at MARcon in 2010. He is definitely someone who knows writing, and later having this chance to interview him was an honor.

1.  What is the Veins cycle about?

It’s about making bad choices . . . and then struggling to make them right. It’s about the scars that industry has left upon the land and the sacrifices that our species may need to make in order to heal those wounds. It’s about a young man named Axle who one night finds himself running for his life through an abandoned surface mine. It’s about the spirits of the earth deciding to take back what is theirs.

The cycle is composed of three books, each taking place within a span of eight hours. Veins (2008) opens about 10:00 on a Sunday night in August. Vipers (2010) opens around 6:00 the following morning. Vores (scheduled for 2012) runs from 2:00 that afternoon to 10:00 that night. Thus, together, the books chronicle a single 24 hour day – a period of time that loops back on itself like a tail-eating snake.


2. I noticed you did a bit of research on the Iroquois for these books.

Actually, the research centered on an Iroquoian language that was once wide spread in western Pennsylvania. Part of Veins is told from the point of view of a woman who heard the language as a child. Now, as an old woman, pieces of that language are coming back to her, first in her dreams, then in waking reveries that may be manifestations of a failing mind or visions from the spirit realm. She tries explaining what she sees using that ancient language, but we soon sense that the visions are from a place beyond language . . . beyond legend. This impression is compounded in Vipers, when similar visions elicit completely different interpretations. It’s all part of a central mystery that will come to a head in the final book.

3. How did you come up with the idea of doing a soundtrack?

I knew that FE Books was interested in branching into other media, and, when they picked up Veins, I asked them if they’d be interested in having my band put together a CD of music inspired by the book. I sent them a demo – a five-minute track called “Axle Rising” – and they must have liked what they heard, because a short time later I had a contract to produce the CD, which I did over the summer of 2008.

The tracks are mostly instrumentals, with a couple of spoken word performances featuring stories from my collection Visions (also from FE Books).

I play all the guitars on the CD, and each track features at least one riff played with a sonic pick – a device that creates long, sustained notes. The result is a variety of sounds that are not instantly recognizable as those of a guitar. Take the CD’s first cut, for example. That flute that kicks in about half way through isn’t a flute. It’s a guitar. Or listen to “Downhill Run.” That Theremin in the coda is a guitar as well.

The only other instruments  on the CD are bass-and-drums, with a few vocal chants and keyboard thrown in on “Axle Rising.”

Overall, we were going for a basic, handmade rock sound, as opposed to something that gave the impression it was keyed in using a digital program.

Likewise, the sound-design elements – footsteps on pavement, revving engines, squealing tires – were all recorded live. Nothing was computer generated or taken from stock.

On the track titled “68 Fastback,” we were going to overlay the music with roars from a Mustang engine until we found a Dodge Viper that revved in the key of A.  So we used those sounds instead, took that Viper out to an abandoned construction site and recorded the revs and burnouts there.  It was a blast.

I’m hoping the disk sells well enough for FE to green light a follow up disk. We’ll see. In the meantime, any readers interested in supporting such endeavors might give a listen at iTunes or pick up the CD directly from FE Books (see the links below).

4. Has music ever helped with your writing or in coming up with ideas, and have storylines ever inspired songs?

My writing mix consists mainly of new-age jazz, techno, and club music – with heavy emphasis on the German band Tangerine Dream.

Other than the tracks on Veins: the Soundtrack (which are instrumentals, not songs), I  can’t say that I’ve ever had a storyline inspire a song. Nevertheless, I do have a new story out in the anthology Darkness On The Edge (PS Publishing), which features fiction inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen. My story was inspired by “Murder Incorporated.”

5. What else is coming down the pipeline that you want your readers to know about?

Earlier this year, Ash-Tree Press released my horror collection This Way To Egress at World Horror in Brighton. Next year, FE Books plans to release another collection titled Voices, which will contain some of my favorite stories from the last 30 years, a half dozen new stories, and about 10,000 words of memoir about living and working in the horror genre.

After that comes Vores, the final book in the VEINS CYCLE.

I also have a new “Daughters of Prime” novelette that I’m working on for F&SF . . . and a full-length novel version of that series that I really hope to have finished soon.

6. Where online can people find you at and, just as important, where can they buy your stuff?

They can find me at:
http://www.lawrencecconnolly.com

They can buy my stuff wherever good books are sold, but it’s always nice to order direct from the publishers or from small independent booksellers. To that end, I recommend shopping at the following:

VEINS, VIPERS, VISIONS
http://books.fantasistent.com/VEINS: the SOUNDTRACK (CD)
http://books.fantasistent.com/
http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/artist/lawrence-c-connolly/id353094854

THIS WAY TO EGRESS:
http://store.realmsoffantasybooks.com/thwaytoeglac.html
http://www.ash-tree.bc.ca/atp146Egress.htm

March 25, 2011 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Interview of Yours Truly

And, I might add, one of the best ones yet:

Meet Scott Sandridge-Author and One of Small Press’s Biggest Characters

Enjoy!

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Writerly Updates | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse: Interview With Elizabeth Massie

I ran into Horror author Elizabeth Massie at Context back in August, and being the polite and genteel Virginian that she is, she agreed to an interview:

 

What made you decide to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a writer. I always loved stories…telling them, hearing them, watching them. Even as a kid I often wondered what it was like to be another person, to live in his/her skin, in his/her house, and have experiences different from my own. 

 

You also teach writing classes. Has teaching it helped your own
writing in any way?

I think to teach anything you have to not only know what you’re teaching but be willing to keep learning. When people in a class or workshop ask very specific questions, it makes me think through aspects of the craft that I might not have thought about very deeply. Something I might have been doing but hadn’t analyzed, or something that made me think – hmmm, how could that be accomplished in a more creative, effective way?

 

In what direction do you see Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Horror going in the near future?

It’s hard to speculate on the direction of speculative fiction (!) I’ll just have to wait and find out. Honestly, anything I’ve ever predicted in the business has gone off in another direction.

 

Do you find fiction easier to write or nonfiction? And with fiction,
is short fiction easier than longer works, or do they each have their own unique challenges?

I find fiction easier in that it is a story and my imagination can run. Not saying writing fiction is easy; it requires you to use both sides of your brain – the right/creative side, which helps you come up with something fresh and intriguing and interesting and the left/analytical side which helps you put all that creativity into some sort of organized fashion so others can understand it. With nonfiction, while I enjoy the researching, analyzing, and presenting information or opinions, you can’t make much up! 😉

 

Like me, you’re not afraid to let people know your political opinions. How important do you feel it is for artists, musicians, and writers to speak out on issues they’re passionate about, and what would you like to tell those who advise us to keep those opinions to ourselves?

 I think everyone – artists, writers, actors, musicians, waitresses, teachers, doctors, etc. – should speak out on issues on which they feel strongly. Too many people fuss and fume behind closed doors but either think their views aren’t important or think their voices can’t make a difference. Granted, sometimes actors and writers and artists have a larger platform for getting their views to the public, but really, everyone can find a way to share their opinions. Facebook is definitely one venue that has leveled the playing field when it comes to sharing opinions. You got a FB page? You can share your thoughts! However, I do want to go on the record here and say that just spouting angry criticism with little to back it up other than a “YOU SUCK!” or “YOU’RE HITLER!” is wasted time, wasted space, wasted breath. If you are passionate about politics or a particular social issue or injustice, care enough to learn enough about it to speak without the childish jibes or barbs. They get us nowhere. Discussions end when the insults begin.
 

 

And speaking of artists and musicians, has art and music ever provided inspiration to your writing?

I often listen to music while I write. Nothing with words or I end up singing along. However, instrumental music can set a mood, inspire a scene, or even give me an idea for a brand new novel or story altogether. I adore movie scores, in particular those by Goldsmith, Bernstein, Rosa, and Morricone. And I love music by Jim Brickman, Secret Garden, James Galway, and many others. Art has been an inspiration at times, too. There are some classical and more traditional paintings that have really moved me or disturbed me or poked at my brain, causing me to ask “What if…?” (That question is a very common writer’s tool!)
 

What do you have currently out and what’s coming down the proverbial pipeline?

 I have several new stories out now – “Something You Ought to Know” in Specters in Coal Dust and “Someone Came and Took Them Away” in Legends of the Mountain State 4, both published by Woodland Press. I have another new story, “Sink or Swim,” published by the on-line magazine, Horror Drive-In http://tinyurl.com/2b4hgrs My Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Sineater, is just now out in e-book and audio book from Crossroad Press. I also have a brand new, never-before-published mainstream novel, Homegrown, which will be released in the next month or so from Crossroad Press. Quite different from my historical and horror novels, but a story I love. I have two new Moon Man comics coming out from Moonstone within the next six months. My wacky and fun super hero short story “Silver Slut: And So It Begins” will be included in the Moonstone anthology Chicks in Capes this December.

And where can people learn more about you and your work?

 My website is www.elizabethmassie.com . I try to keep it updated regularly.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments