Sunday, March 28, 2021

"Spring Comes To El-Rio Beach" Video!

I would have liked to have made this video at the real El-Rio Beach, but I was busy and didn't have a day to drive there, film, and drive back, so this will have to do.  It was fun to make the video, as always.  Mostly nature shots here since following the lyrics for the shots would have been challenging for this one.

Edna's Employment Agency is my latest novel.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

An Interview With Mark Justice: Author Of Death's Head!

Mark Justice's latest novel is Death's Head:  The Eye Of Samedi.  I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, and you can find a quote from me on the back cover.  I caught up with Mark over the weekend and conducted a short interview.

1) What attracted you to writing pulp fiction?

I grew up reading it. My first comics were The Phantom and Flash Gordon.  I got them the day I was born, and I loved reading them over and over again.  Our newspaper carried both The Phantom and Flash Gordon daily strips, so I read those, too.  I fell in love with the quick pace, the outlandish premises--which seem entirely real--like dinosaurs roaming with The Phantom and fighting pirates.  It's terrific fun.  I also admired some of the pulp writers and how much output they had.  Walter Gibson wrote a book a month for like 20 years.  That is staggering.  I kind of wanted to see if I could do something like that, so I set a goal to write Death's Head in a month.  And I did.

2) Wow!  That is really fast!  I read a book called The Pulp Jungle once, by a former pulp writer, and I was astounded by how quickly the pulp writers wrote, so you are right in line with them.  The setting of Death's Head is in the pulp heyday of the early 20th Century.  What led you to set it during that time?

Death's Head is my homage to The Phantom, which takes place in the 1930s, so I wanted to create a little of that feel.  It's a good time because it's on the tail end of a sense of mystery about the world.  The Phantom I grew up with was high adventure.  Setting Death's Head in Haiti and Cauchemar--the fictitious island I created for the story--allowed me to capture a sense of that high adventure and jungle setting while making it my own.

3) You also make good use of the culture in Haiti in the book.  What interested you in Haitian mythology?

I grew up watching movies like I Walked With A Zombie and White Zombie, so there was a lot of voodoo and zombies, which I absolutely love.  That fascination with the crossover of religion and the supernatural still fascinates me.  When I knew I was going to incorporate these elements into DH, I wanted to make sure I had it right and that I wrote about voodoo and Haiti respectfully.  I spent weeks researching voodoo, Haitian history and mythology, zombies, as much as I could.  As any writer will tell you, the research is done so you know what you're writing, but it shouldn't feel like research, you know?  I really wanted to show proper reverence for the Loa and the whole spiritual realm, so besides research, I listened to an awful lot of voodoo music, which I found utterly captivating.

4) The mythological aspect of the book is one of my favorite aspects of the book.  I also enjoyed the use of radio technology, creating a mix of ancient and modern, perfect for conflict in a pulp storyline.  The book also is a mix of high adventure and humor.  How did you balance the two approaches?

I think it came down with trying to make sure everything was period correct, first and foremost, for as much of the actual objects and history as possible.  The weapons, radio, the type of ammo belts they wore, the events with U.S. involvement in the 1920s and up through 1934 when we left.  All of that was researched to be accurate as possible.  The Devil is in the details, as they say, so if you have the details correct, you establish that sense of reality, or at least plausibility.  Once that is established, you can let your imagination run wild because the foundation is grounded in something real. As far as humor goes, my original intent was to make the book very comic booky. Some of the first lines I had DH speaking were utterly campy.  Then, well, Doctor Sardon. He's just such an over-the-top villain.  He's actually my favorite character.  The more I wrote and thought, the darker and more serious the story came, with the horror elements becoming prominent.  When I researched the Loa, I found that they each have their own personalities.  There are dozens of Loa.  Samedi is death personified, but he's also very lewd and funny, loves telling broad jokes.  I knew then that I could keep some of that humor I originally had and bring it through Samedi, and what was great was that it was also very respectful of him as an entity.  I tried to write him as authentically as I could.  He's just a funny kind of spirit, which worked out great for me.

5) It certainly did.  It seems like it could be the start of a series.  What's next for Death's Head?  And Mark Justice?

It was my intention all along to make it a series.  Whether it's a short series, like three or four books, or an ongoing thing that I could still be writing in twenty years, is still wide open.  I do know that Doctor Sardon has big plans, and DH is going to find himself in more adventures on a larger scale.  With a villainous organization like the one he's against, you can't just finish the story in one fell swoop now, can you?  And Mark Justice ... I'm writing the next book in my Season's Change cozy mystery series.  I hope to have that out by summer.  I'm also doing novel adaptations of my three movies I made with my movie production company, Cyclops Movies.  I thought, hey, I have tons of absolutely brilliant dialogue sitting around doing nothing.  How about novelizing my movie scripts?  Why not?  Haha!  90% of the books are already written, so it's just a matter of tossing in some goofy narrative and bringing it together.  So I will have those three out this year.  Lastly, I have a Gothic horror anthology I'm hoping will be out by Christmas.  A series of connected short stories that all form a larger story arc.  I'd started this idea ages ago and never did anything with it, so I'm kicking myself in the butt and getting in my DONE pile this year.  For 2022, I have a sci-fi/horror novel planned and either another movie with Cyclops Movies or perhaps the 2nd book in my Gauge Black trilogy.  Grim, violent, splatter western.  That's about as far out as I can realistically plan, but I am also working on a large fantasy book--perhaps a trilogy--don't all fantasy novels have to be trilogies?  This one is a monster. It will take me a few years of planning and researching before I feel remotely like tackling it.  It'll be my Dune.  Haha!

If you still need something new to read after reading Mark's new book, then be sure to check out his other books.  And, of course, don't forget my latest, Edna's Employment Agency.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Literary Fan Magazine #3 Out!

King Wenclas has revived his Literary Fan Magazine zine!  The last issue came out probably in the 2000s, so this is a welcome return.  It's glossier this time around, and the design is less cut and paste and more pop art, but it's the same fun gossip of the literary world, though he's a little kinder to mainstream literati this time around.  It's always nice to see a good zine return after a long absence.  I got to be part of it as well, as announced a few weeks back on the blog.  My contribution is on page 13, an installment of "What Wred's Reading".  In this column, I write about The Longman Anthology Of British Literature.  I had to stick to 500 words or I would have said more.  It's a big book, even though the volume I was reading dealt only with the 20th Century.  Anyway, the new issue of LFM has much more to offer than just me, but I had a lot of fun collaborating with the King again!

If you've already read LFM and need some more fun, then please read Edna's Employment Agency!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Read An Ebook Week!


Hey, it's Read An Ebook Week!  For me, that's every week, but if for you, it's not, then this is your week to join the fun!  I love print, but ebooks are great also (and they weigh less to boot).  And some books don't have print editions available, so they're only available electronically.  Some times, the eversions of print books are cheaper than their print counterparts.  I also find it nice when I get caught somewhere without the print book I'm currently reading, which I tend to take most places, but don't bring into the grocery store, for example, so when I'm caught in line waiting there or a place like that, I bust out the ebook I'm reading on my cell phone and use the time to read.  Anyway, to celebrate all things ebook this week, Smashwords is having a sale, including on 3 of my novels:  Blog Love Omega GleeFrequently Asked Questions About Being Dead, and Edna's Employment Agency.  Grab 'em at a discount while you can and celebrate Read An Ebook Week with me!

Monday, March 1, 2021

New Recording!: "Spring Comes To El-Rio Beach"

El-Rio Beach is a little beach right by a bridge in a backwoods part of New Castle, Pennsylvania USA.   In the late winter/early spring as melting snow and rain increased the water flow, the Neshannock Creek could often be heard from my home far above the creek.   I always knew spring was near when I heard that sound around that time.  This song, written in 1993 or thereabouts, is basically a little reflection on spring fever after a long winter.   El-Rio Beach comes to mind because it was a weird place along the creek.   Every spring there always seemed to be somebody getting murdered there or a body washing ashore or something.  Despite the sinister undertones of the place and its general weirdness, it was a fun place to play as a teenager.  It had caves not far away to explore, plus the surrounding woods leading down to the creek, plus the creek itself, and even some ruins from an old factory or something abandoned a half-century before.  The people living down there were also a different breed, reminiscent of the characters in Deliverance.  It was a little bit of country right in the middle of a small city.  I remember one time even getting chased by a brood of chickens down the beat up road down there.   The road was so beat up, that part of it, called Snake Hill, now is closed, but when I was a kid you could still drive if you were adventurous enough to try a twisty, barely maintained road on the edge of a gully.   By the time I left town, it was pretty much only traversable by bike.   Now, you'd have to be half-nuts to even try walking down the hill.  In any case, some of the song's lyrics are based on fact, some on fancy.  There really was a strange man wearing only underwear who would jump out of the bushes and try to surprise passerbys down there.  Conversely, the reflection on death at the end is just a general reflection that historically spring was the deadliest time of year.  Nowadays, if you're hungry in the spring, you just head to the local grocery store and find foods grown from all over the world so that it doesn't really matter what season it is.  In the past, even a hundred years ago, that wasn't the case.  By the spring, the store from the previous harvest was pretty much gone, and the new crops hadn't come in yet, so people had to make due with foods such as dandelions that one would only eat perhaps when one was really hungry.  The various spring fasting rituals such as Lent seem to basically be a cultural way of clamping down on people complaining too much about the lack of food.  Spring's my favorite season, but that's based mainly on the hope spring provides that things are getting warmer and better after the winter, not on everything being hunky-dory right away.  Yeast? played this song a few times, but it always seemed to be better solo.  In this recording, I fleshed it out though.  For the weird instrument, I tried a keyboard drone that just sort of flowed through the track like the creek does past the beach.  I like the guitar sounds near the end, particularly when everything pauses before the last line of the lyrics.

For more music, check out this Yeast? 7".