Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pod of Horror # 57: Edward Lee, Mike Oliveri and Moonshine Matinee

Get ready to have your giblets rocked. Edward Lee visits Pod of Horror #57 to talk about the differences between his mass market and small press fiction. Mike Oliveri tells us how The Pack will roam the world of prose fiction and graphic novels. Michael Vance discusses the pulp influences that went into the writing of Weird Horror Tales. The Call of Kalanta covers the news and the Thanksgiving menu. You can win free books in The Tomb of Trivia. And we debut the new movie feature Moonshine Matinee with Jason L. Keene. Get it at iTunes or download it at here. Pod of Horror is hosted and produced by Mark Justice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writing and Revising

I’ve always been interested in the craft of writing. In every interview I conduct with a writer, I try to ask about their method of writing. As you might imagine, there are as many answers as there are writers. You have to find what works for you. But it basically breaks down into two camps: the writers who slowly craft their story, revising as they go, and those who don’t look back until they finish the story.

After years of trial and error, I find that I fall into the latter group.

Writing, for me, is a head game. I have to convince myself that the story is worth telling and I am the only guy who can do it. Then, once the writing begins, I have to trust myself to tell the story. It is so easy to get distracted or discouraged by doubting yourself as you go along. Perhaps it’s part of my nature to look for reasons not to write, but in the past I’ve scapped countless projects because of a lack of confidence in what I had written, projects that – had I stuck with them – would likely be publishable.

So experience has taught me to just sit down and write, damn it, until I reach the end. For me, writing is most gratifying when I get caught up in the heat of the story, letting it pour out. The results always feel more honest and powerful, whereas a story that I’ve carefully plotted in advance and revised constantly during the actual writing can feel cold and contrived.

When I finish I can revise and, if necessary, fix story problems. And I find a lot of things to fix, believe me. You’re talking to the king of typos. On the other hand, I usually discover that those parts of the story that were originally doubt-inducing read just fine in the finished product.

A few days ago I was rereading The Gunslinger by Stephen King and found inspiration in his foreword to the revised edition:

“My approach to revision hasn’t changed much over the years. I know there are writers who do it as they go along, but my method of attack has always been to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible by constant use, and trying to outrun the novelist’s most insidious enemy, which is doubt. Looking back prompts too many questions: How believable are my characters? How interesting is my story? How good is this, really? Will anyone care? Do I care myself?”

As usual, King says it better than anybody.

So how do you write?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More Signing

Michael Knost, the sexiest horror editor from Logan, West Virginia, will join me Saturday at Border’s in the Huntington (WV) Mall, from 3-5, to sign Legends of the Mountain State, Appalachian Winter Hauntings and The Writer’s Workshop of Horror. All of them make great Christmas gifts for the reader on your list.

And, hey, got somebody on your list you don’t like very much? Then a photo of Mike and me signing books makes a fine present for that person, too. We’ve got you covered either way.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Good Mail Day

Accoutrements courtesy of Norma, who is chomping at the bit to decorate for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Winter Just Got Scary

Appalachian Winter Hauntings has just been released. Here's the publisher's description of the anthology:

Appalachian Winter Hauntings includes eleven bone-chilling accounts—penned by many of the preeminent storytellers in the business—that are appropriate to the Appalachian region and relative to the heart of the holiday season. This anthology is designed for cozying up close to a blazing fireplace on the coldest of winter nights.

When organizing the theme and the writers for this venture, Woodland Press, along with editors Michael Knost and Mark Justice, wanted to seek stories and tales that did not disrespect or alter the religious aspects of the holiday season. Instead, the stories, although having a distinct ghostly theme, are of a family-friendly nature. Contributors include: Ronald Kelly, Brian J. Hatcher, Patricia Hughes, Steve Vernon, S. Clayton Rhodes, Steve Rasnic Tem, Sara J. Larson, Scott Nicholson, J.G. Faherty. EmmaLee Pallai, and Elizabeth Massie.

The texture is gritty and the stories are moving. Think Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" turned up a notch with a ghostly Appalachian backdrop.

So, pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa, wrap your favorite blanket around you, and brace yourself for ghostly stories and weird encounters that take place in the shadows of snowy hilltops or along icy mountain trails.

You can order the book now at The Horror Mall, Amazon or the publisher, Woodland Press.

I'll be participating in a book signing for AWH on November 14 at Border's in the Huntington (WV) Mall.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Hometown Horrors

Thanks to all those who turned out for the Flatwoods Halloween Homecoming. It was a great event, despite the morning rain.

I was honored to be chosen as the guest speaker this year. The speech went well, I think. At least the small audience laughed in the right places.

The local paper did a story on the party, and it's fairly accurate, except the reporter believes Norma's maiden name was Kay. You can read it here.

Lucky for me -- and for the world of photography --it looks like I managed to escape without anybody snapping a picture of me. I took a few, though, and this is one of my favorites.

Connie Jones, legendary DJ Ernie G. Anderson (never looking better), almost-legendary DJ M.J. McKay, Norma Kay Justice.

The Ghost at the Flatwoods City Park

Here's the children's story I wrote for the Flatwoods Halloween Homecoming. I can't imagine it will be of much interest to anyone outside of this area, but I've received some requests to post it, so here it is.

Tim was pretty sure his big brother was kidding about the ghost at the park, just trying to scare him. He changed his mind when he saw the boy. Or, rather, when he saw through the boy.

Hughie and Tim sneaked out of the house after their parents were asleep. If they had done only that, it would have been the scariest thing that ever happened to Tim. He never snuck out or had been outside this late without Mom and Dad’s permission. But Hughie said the ghost at the Flatwoods City Park only came out at night. So here they were.

They sat on the edge of the amphitheater stage, kicking their legs and trying to stay warm.

“So who is this ghost again?” Tim said.

“Some kid who lived here when this was a farm, a long time ago,” Hughie said.

“Why’s he hang around here?”

Tim shrugged. “He’s a ghost. I guess he likes to scare people.”

“Let’s go home,” Tim said.

“You scared?” Hughie smiled at him.

“N-no. I’m cold and I’m bored.” But Tim was scared, a little. He hadn’t seen the boy yet, and that was fine with him. He didn’t exactly believe in ghosts, but he didn’t exactly not believe. Hughie sighed. Tim could tell his big brother was getting bored, too.

Then the ghost walked across the frost-dappled lawn right in front of the stage. He was small, not much bigger than Tim. His hair was kind of long, like he was past due for a hair cut, and he wore old-fashioned clothes covered with patches. He was barefoot.

“ you see that?” Hughie whispered.

Tim’s mouth suddenly got so dry he couldn’t make a sound. The boy wasn’t solid. The shadows of the playground equipment showed through the ghost’s body.

Tim swallowed and found enough of a voice to mutter, “Can he see us?”

The ghost boy stopped. He turned to stare at Tim and Hughie. His eyes were pale blue ovals. Instead of being scared, Tim sort of felt sorry for the ghost. He looked lonely and cold.

For a long moment, the three boys – two living and one not – stared at each other. Then Tim pushed himself off the stage and landed on the grass.

“What are you doing?” Hughie whispered. Instead of answering, Tim walked to the ghost boy. Being this close to a ghost was pretty scary, but not as bad as he had feared. Up close, the boy’s image flickered like an old movie.

Tim bent over and removed his sneakers. His socks were immediately soaked by the grass. Tim shivered. He held out the shoes to the ghost.

The boy hesitated for an instant before he accepted Tim’s gift. He slipped his ghostly feet into the sneakers. It looked to Tim like a perfect fit. The ghost boy smiled. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small object. He passed it to Tim. When he touched the ghost boy’s hand, Tim felt a slight tingle.

The ghost boy turned and walked away toward the picnic shelters. Tim’s sneakers left small footprints in the frosty grass. As he got further away from the stage, the ghost boy faded away.

Neither Tim nor his brother could speak for a moment.

Finally, Hughie said, “What did he give you?”

Tim stood close to a streetlight and examined the crude wooden disc. Words had been carved into the disc’s surface.


“Where’s Advance?” Tim said. Hughie thought for a minute before he exclaimed, “Here! Mrs. Robinette told us that Flatwoods was called Advance way back, like before the Civil War!”

Both boys looked at the spot where the ghost of John Driscoll had vanished.

“What do you think he wanted?” Hughie asked.

“A friend,” Tim said. “I think he just wanted a friend.”

“Let’s go back before your feet freeze,”Hughie said. “I can’t wait to hear how you explain your missing shoes to Mom.”

Tim laughed, and, along with his big brother, he went home.

© 2009 Mark Justice