Monday, May 4, 2015

Bram Stokers Award, Know a Nominee Interview With Eric J. Guignard (Me!)

Guignard profile pic
This interview is made by the Horror Writers Association and originally posted 5/3/2015 here: http://horror.org/know-a-nominee-part-11-eric-j-guignard

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Welcome back to “Know a Nominee,” the interview series that puts you squarely between the ears of this year’s Bram Stoker Award nominees. Today’s update features Eric J. Grignard, nominated in the category of Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Dreams of a Little Suicide.

DM: Please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated. What attracted you most to the project? If nominated in multiple categories, please touch briefly on each.

EG: First, I love writing in historic settings, 1890s to 1950s range stuff. I wanted to do a historic piece in the 30s (to tie in language for a novel I’m working on), and I wanted to experiment with structure, delineating the story into three or four distinct sections. For some reason, the story of Dorothy and the witches just grew strong in my mind, and I started writing about the actors who played munchkins being under the witches’ spells, and attacking guests in Hollywood’s Culver Hotel. But the story evolved into something so much more than that, powerful and beautiful (I daresay), and I deleted all the zombie-monster nonsense, plunging instead into the tragic love story of a shunned suitor, and its impact on his life. Such impact being (spoiler alert), the legend of the Munchkin Suicide. My story, “Dreams of a Little Suicide,” ended up at about 8,150 words and made its way into the Long Fiction category of the Stoker Awards (thank you, dear voters!).

DM: What was the most challenging part of bringing the concept(s) to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?

EG: I wrote the story during mornings and lunch breaks at a cubicle in a financial institution, and that’s a challenge in itself. The tale evolved in several directions, but I enjoyed plumbing the emotional depths of a character who I found relatable (though not the creepy stalking part). Just writing the words, “The End,” and then having it published in my friend, Eric Miller’s anthology, Hell Comes To Hollywood II, were the greatest rewards.

DM: What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel the work(s) for which you’ve been nominated work fits into (or help give shape to) that ideal?

Good horror/ dark fiction should be cerebral, in that its fears are relatable to people, not just a narrative relying upon tactics of violence or gore. Although even monsters and serial killers are successful if they have emotional depth or there’s some element about them we can empathize with. Nothing in life is clearly “black and white,” and that should be reflected in writing. Bad guys have a little “good” in them, and vice versa. Dark fiction that is most successful relates to some conflict, whether internal or external, that causes the reader to intellectualize. Generally the end result of the story may be one of sorrow, violence, gloom, which is the nature of the genre, though dark fiction can also end on an upbeat or inspirational note; protagonists can overcome dismal scenarios to emerge victorious by closing; it is the conflict itself which is considered “dark.”

DM: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

EG: I try to write in the morning after I wake up, the earlier the better. I also, oddly, have a time of greatest focus/ productivity in late afternoon. People’s bodies cycle to rhythmic clocks and mine is set to pound out work at about 4:00 p.m. Of course all that also depends on other work, family, and life obligations. I write technical documentation for my day job, and teach as adjunct U.C. faculty, and have two small children, so it’s easy to let writing take a back seat to everything else, though I force myself to write something creative every day, even if it’s only fifty words or so. Regarding the second part of your question, I also get writer’s block like most people. Sometimes I have to step away from my desk and meditate or focus on one issue. If that doesn’t work, I sleep on it and try again the next day! Reading lots of different books, genres, and styles of writing also helps to keep my thoughts invigorated.

DM: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

EG: I don’t have any advice that’s incredibly luminous or outrageous. What I tell others, and what I repeat to myself like a mantra, is simply: Keep writing, and remember that every rejection is an opportunity for improvement!

DM: If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

EG: I’m most looking forward to seeing old friends and making new acquaintances! Networking is very important and so is the sense of camaraderie one develops at conventions. Most writers work in a bubble of solitude, save for social media outreach, and I’m a strong believer in the importance of establishing in-person relationships with peers.

DM: What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to?

EG: My fears are private, psychological worries: Not being a good father, not realizing long-standing dreams, stuff like that. No fears of anything tangible. I suppose my writing often includes tones of angst and loneliness, loss and ineptitude, all culled from personal experiences, none of which are anything abnormal or overly-dramatic.

DM: What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about?

EG: I always read several books simultaneously! At the moment, I’m absorbed with:

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
The End of the End of Everything short story collection by Dale Bailey
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
Grunt Life by Weston Ochse
Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories by Elmore Leonard

About Eric J. Guignard:

Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. His stories and non-fiction are recently published in Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, Shock Totem, and Buzzy Magazine, amongst others. As an editor, Eric’s also published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Outside of the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric’s a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard

 
 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: “The End of the End of Everything”

Book Title: The End of The End of Everything (a story collection)
Author(s): Dale Bailey
Release Date: April 07, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Arche Press, an imprint of Resurrection house
Number Pages: 240

The End of The End of Everything’ is the latest collection of short stories written by fiction author, Dale Bailey.

Dale Bailey has been writing speculative, weird, and horror fiction stories since about 1993, and it’d be a formidable challenge to find anything under his name as not being well penned. At the same time, it seems uninspired to say story after story of his is great, great, and great again. Yet this is the position a reader may find themselves upon closing the final page of this book, as every tale in this collection is outstanding, and only in varying degrees of excellence do they surmount each other.

The immediate caveat, of course, is to say that this book is not for everybody. It is not filled with twists or shocks, but rather a slow, winding dread. Dale’s writing is smart, and it is literary in a dark genre not known for plumbing the depths of social issues nor of the greater human condition, especially while marrying a speculative slant. His stories can be quiet, abstract, even at times a bit pretentious, yet each is beautiful and meaningful like looking upon a strange painting that provokes simultaneous feelings of aversion and enlightenment.

This collection contains the following nine stories:

“The End of the World as We Know It” – The musings of an apocalyptic survivor as he sits on his porch, contemplating love, self, and all the ways the world can end.

“The Bluehole” – A melancholy coming-of-age story about a boy discovering his sexuality and the legends of a lake with no bottom, set in the caustic town of a 1980s mining company.

“The Creature Recants” – A magnificent insight into the ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’, in which the amphibious beast waxes poetic upon his tribulations in 1950s Hollywood.

“Mating Habits of the Late Cretaceous” – A science fiction time travel story, filled with dinosaurs, exploration, and marital healing. One of the best in the book, if at least for the author’s exquisite descriptive prose of the cretaceous era and all its glorious inhabitants.

“A Rumor of Angels” – An achingly sad tale about a depression-era boy who leaves his desolate Texas farm and hitches a ride with strangers, searching out a better life on the west coast, and perhaps something more.

“Eating at the End-of-the-World CafĂ©” – The despairing mother of a sick child must make ends meet any way she can, even if that means waitressing at a restaurant next to ‘The Pit,’ a hellish analogy for... Hell. She sees only gloom, but hopes for something better to come along.

“Lightning Jack’s Last Ride” – An imagined near-future in which the nation is at war with itself, and oil is the most valuable commodity; told as a flashback by an aged gang member-narrator who participated in hijacking the oil tankers.

“Troop 9″ – One of the darker stories in this collection, a small town girl scout troop runs away and becomes feral.

“The End of the End of Everything” – In a world of ruin, bohemian survivors pursue the lusts of sex, drugs, and suicide parties. An oddly hopeful contemplation, as sickening as it is enthralling.


This collection
is enthusiastically recommended to fans of dark fiction that crosses both genre and literary. Dale Bailey’s writing may be found similar to other contemporaries, such as Laird Baron, Steve Rasnic Tem, Tanith Lee, and Lisa Tuttle.


Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/end-end-everything


*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Acceptance in Black Static Magazine


I’m not as enthusiastic about sharing every time I have a story accepted for publication, thinking deep down, “it’s not that big of a deal” or “no one really cares,” though the longing is strong to keep putting myself out there and submit frequently as I work to improve my craft.

However, sometimes the right chord is struck, and I’m thrilled to know I’ll become part of a magazine or project I greatly admire. So it is with Black Static Magazine! http://ttapress.com

My 7,500 word story, A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love, was accepted along with a gracious flattering note that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Look for it (the story, not the note) in upcoming issue #47.

In addition, my sense of enthusiasm is multiplied by the company I’ll join; as I skim through some of the back issues, it’s pleasing to see so many of the previous authors published include friends and authors I revere, even some of my favorites whom I’ve been reading for decades. A few notables include:


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Seven Things I Do When Writing

Weston Ochse hit me with the challenge to list seven things I do when writing. I pass this challenge along to Gene O’Neill (Gene O’Neill) and John Palisano.

(As an aside, this should be a list of seven things I ‘wish’ I did rather than what I actually do... the list would be so much easier to compile.)

1. I write whenever I can find some time away from work and teaching and kids and other life responsibilities, but I find the best times for me are early morning (7:00 – 11:00) or mid-afternoon (3:00 – 6:00).

2. Regardless how busy I am, I author at least one word every day. Yes, that is ONE word; Meaning, if I’m stressed for time, I force myself to at least open a work-in-progress every single day and add something to it, so that it continues to be fresh in my mind. Ideally I aim for 1,000 words a day, but if I write only that minimal ‘one’, it’s one more word than the day previous. Usually if I only write a minimal amount over the course of a few days, I find myself scripting in my head, so that when I do sit down for some hours, I let everything that’s been bottled up just pour out.

3. I allow myself ‘social media breaks’. Jonathan Maberry says he attends social media for five minutes of every hour and writes the other fifty-five minutes. During the social media break, he adds comments or tweets or posts (and not just promoting himself, but promoting others as well) or adds to conversations about writing. I attend this advice.

4. I drink coffee and water both by the gallon.

5. I always read what I’ve written last before I start penning something new.

6. I read the works of others in between my own writing.

7. I resent myself for not writing more, for not writing better, for not inciting the world to herald me as the wonder of our generation. I fill myself with doubt and suspicion whenever somebody gives me a compliment or an editor accepts my story for publication. I think I’m terrible, then I think I’m brilliant, then I’m terrible again (all depending on the weather, and time of day, and what I just ate), and I tell the voices in my head to compromise that I’m somewhat average, but to keep at it, and each day I’ll get a little better.

8. (Okay, #8 is technically beyond the limit of the seven-list challenge, but who says writers have to follow rules?) I work on multiple projects simultaneously, and eventually finish most of them.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

MY FOUR YEAR WRITE-IVERSARY

This month marks my four year ‘Write-iversary’, meaning four years ago, in February, 2011, I decided to pursue fiction writing for the sake of publication.

I’ve kept track of every fiction short story submission that I’ve sent out during that time. As of today, I’ve accumulated 70 acceptances (including a few reprints), and 235 rejections, giving me a 22.95% acceptance rate. Another 26 stories are slated in the ‘Pending decision’ or ‘To find a home’ stacks. In addition, I’ve a couple dozen more stories written and relegated to the deepest of trunks. And, add to all that, my non-fiction articles, interviews, book reviews, blurbs, and introductions. My next milestone is to finish a full-length novel, which is currently about two-thirds completed (Chestnut ’Bo).

In addition to short stories, I also edited and published two anthologies (Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death...), the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award. I wrote a novella, Baggage of Eternal Night, which was a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Award. Some of my short stories also won or placed in various indie writing contests that I used to participate in before realizing that paying fees for such awards was ultimately unsubstantial.

I’ve made mistakes, but also gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in publishing, editing, and crafting stories. I’ve made wonderful friends and am still thrilled as a fan-boy each time I get to share a T.O.C. or even just communicate with an author I admire (er, swoon over!). I’ve met and/or worked with Joe R. Lansdale, Bentley Little, Ellen Datlow, Tom Monteleone, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, and others whom I’ve been reading for 22+ years, not to mention authors whom I’ve became familiar with and have inspired my dark fiction reading in the more recent 10-15 years, like John Joseph Adams, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Chuck Palahniuk, Robert McCammon, and many, many more. Plus there are just those other writers who have been particularly supportive and benevolent to me, such as Lisa Morton, Weston Ochse, Gene O’Neil, Stan Swanson, all the members of HWA L.A. chapter, as well as a hundred others.

All this in four years, while I work full-time, raise infant children, continue academic coursework, volunteer for several organizations, and engage in all other manner of life obligations and responsibilities...

My only regret is that I waited so long to even ‘try’. I loved writing in high school but went to college under the impression I needed to focus on ‘serious-minded’ business, and never the twain shall meet. Although I ultimately did pursue other creative endeavors, I waited until I was 35 years old before I decided to attempt that childhood dream of writing... I torture myself now thinking where I could be with an additional fifteen years of experience under my belt. Ah well, I’m elated with the adventure I’ve found thus far and can only hope it continues for countless more years!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Reviews (January, 2015)

Being as it’s only 3 1/2 months since my last post, here are some latest book reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

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REVIEWED: Not for Nothing
WRITTEN BY: Stephen Graham Jones
PUBLISHED: March 18, 2014

Not for Nothing is a gritty, twisting detective tale set in small-town Stanton, Texas, where everyone knows each other and business affairs are conducted by the ghosts of high school cliques. In fact, one of the clever and most successful elements of this story is the yearbook-esque feeling of it; the protagonist, Nick Bruiseman, a disgraced ex-cop and now-drunk security guard fumbles his way through a series of double crosses and murders, and all the time every person he comes in contact with —either friend, enemy, ex-lover, etc.—is from his school or is the child from someone from his school.

The book is rather slow and leisurely to read, much like life in Stanton. The story is drenched in sadness and dejection, but also in humor and suspense. It has a hundred twists, and not all of them are necessary, but it’s a thrilling ride nonetheless. The narrative seemed a bit choppy at times, but that ties into Nick’s perpetually half-drunk take on the world around him. Then again, this style of writing seems to be a signature of the author, Stephen Graham Jones; reading him is as of someone verbally telling a story, with detours, hiccups, gaps, asides, and all other means of genuine conversation. Rather than polished-smooth, the writing is raw and legitimate and embodies an unfamiliar beauty.

As a side note, after reading the first couple of pages, my mind slowly recoiled in a double-take of reluctant, dawning horror. This book was written in second person point of view: The audacity! The inhumanity! The dread! It’s a rare-enough feat to pull off a successful short story in this POV, but I don’t know if I’ve ever read a full-length book in this way which has held my interest (excepting childhood Choose-Your-Own-Adventures!), and I was instinctively averse to continue. However, Jones managed to build a story filled with empathy, sadness, humor, insight, that in retrospect seems integral to having been 2nd POV.

Five out of Five stars


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REVIEWED: The End in All Beginnings
WRITTEN BY: John F.D. Taff
PUBLISHED: September, 2014

“The End in All Beginnings” is a solid collection of novellas by John F.D. Taff, who’s been writing dark fiction for nearly a quarter of a century. Each of the stories is a thoughtful take, relating in some way to death and sorrow. Probably the least morose story happened to be my favorite, “Love in the Time of Zombies,” which was quite funny and with great content. “What Becomes God” is a long path into tragedy with a ‘killer’ ending. “The Long, Long Breakdown” was a gloomy, drowning post-apocalyptic ‘world’ that this author really needs to expand upon in future works. The other stories were fine in their own ways, but these listed were my top three picks from the T.O.C.

Four-and-a-half out of Five stars


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REVIEWED: Motherless Child
WRITTEN BY: Glen Hirshberg
PUBLISHED: May, 2014 by Tor Books (originally in 2012 by Earthling)

Motherless Child may be classified as a vampire book, but it is not related to the well-worn tropes familiar to most readers. Glen Hirshberg’s writing is as literary as any classical author, filled with pathos, explorations of the human condition, and a contrast of the good vs. evil theme, but with unexpected outcomes. Two young mothers, Natalie and Sophie, who have been turned into vampires, must leave their beloved children behind to travel the country searching for answers, trying to fight the effects of what they’ve become, until the inevitable showdown with those who changed them forever.

Four-and-a-half out of Five stars




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Midnight Cheers,

Eric J. Guignard