Monday, April 14, 2014

Ken Scholes: Mechanicals, Wizards, and Gypsies, Oh My, Or Round-Up at the Robot Rodeo

Mechanicals, Wizards and Gypsies,

Oh My,

Or Round-Up at the Robot Rodeo

Image copyright Allen Douglas.
Used with permission of the artist.

“Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise” was one of those accidents of story that I fell into and had no idea how important it was.  In 2005, just after learning I’d won the Writers of the Future contest, I saw that a small press ‘zine was calling for stories for a special “mechanical oddity” issue.  Back in those days, I was dashing off stories left and right with little thought other than to land yet another tale in the boat and then find it a home out in the world.  I had been playing with a bit of lyric:  “Rudolfo rode to Glimmerglam in the Age of Laughing Madness” and it was laying around the factory floor when Leroy, my redneck muse, started twisting it up with whatever else he could find to fashion a mechanical oddity story.  The first line showed up fast and easy:  Rudolfo’s Gypsy Scouts found the metal man sobbing in an impact crater deep in the roiling smoke and glowing ruins of Windwir.
From there, the story took off and wrote itself over several lunch breaks spent nibbling tuna fish sandwiches at the Big Town Hero near my day-job office in downtown Portland, Oregon.  Robots.  An ancient wizard.  A dashing Gypsy king and his Wandering Army.  A fallen city.  When I finished “Of Metal Men…”, I learned that the magazine calling for those mechanical oddity stories had received their fill early and closed to submissions.  But that was okay, I told myself, because it really wasn’t that great of a tale.  It felt a little different and the world and characters seemed a little different from my norm.  But all in all, “Of Metal Men…” just slid off my to-do list and into my done pile with little fanfare and no expectations for it.  It found its way out the door in search of a market and was largely forgotten about until the next fall when Doug Cohen pulled it out of the Realms of Fantasy slush pile, passed it along to Shawna McCarthy, and turned it my first pro-level sale after Writers of the Future.  Still, until Allen Douglas hit me in the head with his art for the story, I had no clue of the story’s importance.
Writers are weird.  Ask any of us.  I’d gotten in the habit of occasionally Googling the titles of my short stories.  Sometimes it led to nice reviews I’d not seen while Googling my name.  Yes.  Weird.  Fortunately, you run out of time for that kind of stuff later.  Mostly.  But anyway.  On a lark, for no good reason at all, in the deep of winter with the story not coming out until spring at the soonest, I plugged in the title of my story while sitting in my cubicle at work.
If you know me at all, you can guess what I did.  Yep.  I cried.  Right there in my cubicle.
Art has always moved me, even before my stories started connecting up with artists.  It was especially surreal and powerful to see what an artist did with my words and I have several examples here in my house now.  What Allen Douglas did changed my life.  Because when I saw that image of Isaak, kneeling in the crater, weeping as the smoke poured off his back, I knew there was much, much more to that metal man’s tale.  My short story turned into…wait for it…four short stories!
I knew it in an instant.
Four interconnected stories about this survivor of Windwir and the impact of his programming upon Rudolfo’s world.  Of course, from there – a story too long to tell here – it evolved slowly into my series, The Psalms of Isaak.  The first two short stories comprised the beginning and end of the first volume, Lamentation.  And then the third and fourth stories (unwritten) became anchoring ideas in the second and fourth volumes.  The rest just kind of grew to fit the size of story bucket Leroy had in mind.  As I write this post, I’m now within a few months of finishing the final volume after a nine year journey with Isaak, Rudolfo and the Gang.  That first novel led to an agent and a five book contract with Tor within thirteen months of sitting down to write it.  And it led to the books coming out here and overseas to a lot of nice words and even a few awards.  From short story to writing career in thirty seconds, so to speak.
Part of the series’ success – and the story’s success, I think – is Isaak himself.  I’m often told by fans that he is their favorite character.  He’s also a character whose point-of-view we never experience.  We see him only through the eyes of the humans he’s met along the way.  I’ve been told how clever I was to honor Dr. Asimov with the name of my robot and maybe Leroy really was being clever.  I actually chose the name because it means ‘laughter’ (approximately) and I thought a weeping robot named laughter was a nice twist.  Leroy, obviously, is vastly more clever than me.
And Isaak weeps for what he’s done.  A mechanical who had no ambition for becoming human, he’s thrust into an innocent, awkward humanity from his first entrance onto the page and becomes a central figure over the course of five books.  At the time, I thought nothing of it.  Now, I can see clearly the homage I was paying to all of the metal men who’d influenced me.  Baum’s Tin Woodman grabbed me first, followed closely by Lester Del Rey’s Max in Runaway Robot,  C3PO (Star Wars), and Twiki (Buck Rogers)  showed up soon after.  There were more over the course of decades of science fiction but those are the first that leap to mind.  They were the ones I laid awake at night wishing I could build and then take to school with me.
So when Katie Cord decided she also wanted to pay homage to all the robots she’s loved and turned Jennifer Brozek loose to round up stories for Evil Girlfriend Media’s Bless Your Mechanical Heart,  I was thrilled to be invited to that rodeo.  I hope you’ll pick up your copy today and see what they’ve put together for you!

Ken "Trailer Boy" Scholes is the critically acclaimed author of four novels and over forty short stories. His series, The Psalm of Isaak, is being published both at home and abroad to award nominations and rave reviews. Publisher's Weekly hails the series as a "towering storytelling tour de force."
He is a winner of the ALA’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy novel, France's Prix Imaginales for best foreign novel, and the Writers of the Future contest.
Ken is a native of the Pacific Northwest and makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters. You can learn more about Ken by visiting

Monday, November 25, 2013

Feed the Zombies: An All You Can Read Feast

A great way to start the holiday season!!
The day before you stuff yourself with Turkey, head on over to the zombie lover event of the year.


First Activation - D. A. Wearmouth 

Autumn: The Human Condition - David Moody

Last Bastion of the Living - Rhiannon Frater

The Infection - Craig DiLouie

Domain of the Dead- Iain McKinnon

Downfall and Betrayal - Michael S Gardner

The Forgotten - Jackie Druga

Six Feet From Hell: Crisis - Joseph A. Coley

Game of Straws Origins - SB Knight

Beyond the Barriers - Tim W. Long 

Fish to Die For (666 Fish) - Keith Milstead

The Undead Situation - Eloise J. Knapp

Roms, Bombs & Zoms (A Three Little Words Anthology) - Katie Cord (Evil Girlfriend Media)

Epic Apocalypse - Apocalyptic Box Set ($1.99) James Cook, John O'Brien, Joe McKinney, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup, Shawn Chesser, and Mark Tufo

A little about EGM's submission for the event:

Get the book here!

When hearts rot, fuses ignite. 

Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat. 

Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart. 

Stories by Ken MacGregor, Patrick D’Orazio, Randy Henderson, and Kriscinda Lee Everitt, among others.

This will be a fun event! Come by and talk to the authors. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fine Line Between Brutally Beautiful and Gratuitously Graphic: A Guest Blog By Gabrielle Harbowy

"It was important to me that the sexual violence, if I was committed to writing it, had to be intrinsic to the story. It’s essential. And it was equally important to me that it not be in any way arousing or glamorized." -Gabrielle Harbowy

The story only you can tell

They say you should tell the story only you can tell. For me, “Blood Magic” is one of those stories.
My goal was to take PTSD into a fantasy setting. I wanted to show the numbness of coping with trauma and the thin thread of hope that keeps us going through it. I wanted a character who was helpless but still had agency; one who never lost faith. I wanted to go to the literal extreme of “sometimes the only way out is through.”

And I wanted to do all of that in a framework of child sexual abuse.

"Aya sat up carefully, dangling one foot off the edge of the bed, and then both, and then took a careful hop to the ground that bypassed the thickly woven rug. The stone floor should have felt cold under her bare feet, she was almost hopeful that it would, but in truth she felt very little these days. She lived in the numb place, where the things that happened to her body did not affect her so much as they otherwise might. As a result, the chill of the floor was muted, distant. She recalled a ghost of the memory of what cold felt like, as if it was a thing she could imagine only because someone had described it to her. Her toes tingled in some strange sort of body-sympathy for the telling."

I started outlining this story in the car on the way home from Worldcon 2011 in Reno. I remember saying at the time that the story was too dark, unmarketable, and taboo, but even while I was saying it, I knew I was going to write it.

It was important to me that the sexual violence, if I was committed to writing it, had to be intrinsic to the story. It’s essential. And it was equally important to me that it not be in any way arousing or glamorized.
One of the reasons that acquisitions editors (including me!) shy away from sexual violence in stories, especially sexual violence against children, is that it’s often completely gratuitous. That is, it exists “as a shortcut to characterization. Want to let the reader know your villain is really evil? Have him rape someone. It's as easy as kicking a puppy, but with more shock value!” (

I expected the actual process of writing to be more cathartic than it was; in reality it was cold and calculated. I didn’t gush my feelings onto the page. Instead, I considered each emotional milepost I wanted the reader to reach, and carefully crafted the words in order to evoke the reactions I wanted. I was completely dissociated from it. Dissociation is something that trauma survivors are good at. I went to that numb place, so that I could describe the numb place. By writing from a point of view that was so distanced, it was easier to balance in just enough inevitability and pain to make it uncomfortable to read, without either glorifying rape or overdramatizing the horror of it.

 Role models 

Around the same time, I started listening to the audiobook of Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels. Early in the story, a girl suffers a miscarriage without realizing what’s happening to her. The language is almost lyrical, the narrator is perfect, and the scene is brutal and gorgeous without ever using the direct words. It was exactly what this story needed to be. I listened to the rest of the book with an ear toward how she created the distanced, fairy-tale quality that enveloped such a hard, painful story.

A wonderful line from Strands of Starlight, by Gael Baudino, also guided me: "The flowered trim on the hems [of the dress] seemed superfluous, even frivolous, but at the same time it comforted her, as though the idea that a seamstress had thought to adorn clothing so innocently implied that somewhere, innocence was safe."

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the musical episode “Once More With Feeling,” there’s a song where Buffy says, “I touch the fire and it freezes me / I look into it and it’s black // Why can’t I feel? My skin should crack and peel / I want the fire back.” One of the most accurate representations I’ve ever seen of what PTSD feels like. I envisioned a scene where Aya (the POV character) is sitting with the other girls, doing her embroidery, but is withdrawn and can’t relate to the innocent prattle of the other young ladies. 

Thinking about that, made me think of this Suzanne Vega lyric: “Mother my friends are no longer my friends /
And the games we once played have no meaning
/ I’ve gone serious and shy and they can’t figure why
/ So they’ve left me to my own daydreaming” ( 

So, those were the swatches that set the mood for the story.

 Finding that line

 Those inspirational verses and lines helped me set the tone and the level of detail. The events are horrific enough without adding gratuitous horror, so I knew I didn’t have to. At the same time, I wanted no room for the reader to interpret or rationalize in a way that might soothe the conscience.

The answer to both those concerns was to make the story more about the emotions than the acts. Aya herself is detached, which enables me to give some detachment to the reader, while dragging you along on her journey. I want the reader to wonder if the story is really going to go there, and to be too emotionally invested to look away from it when it does. And then, because Aya’s sense of hope never falters, the story rewards the reader for enduring Aya’s ordeal alongside her. At least, that’s my intent.


 I fully expected that the subject matter was going to stand in the way of this story ever seeing the light of day. It’s tricky to publish a child abuse story, even if it’s well-written and has a hopeful ending. I passed it off to my usual First Readers, warning them about content and making sure they’d be okay with it.

The readers who had the strongest, most triggering emotional response to it were not abuse survivors. They were fathers of young daughters. This pleased me very much. It told me I’d hit that sweet spot where survivors could relate to it, and others could maybe come away with some insight into how it might feel to live through such a thing. Because I deliberately give no cues to Aya’s age, I’m always fascinated to see how old a reader perceives her to be.

I’m sure some people are going to be triggered by it. It’s something I wrestled with while I was writing it, and while I was submitting it. It’s also why I was very surprised (and honored) to see the story billed first in Witches, Stitches & Bitches. But maybe I shouldn’t be: it’s a story that puts words to feelings that are hard to explain—as I know well, because I’ve been searching for the words since I was thirteen, mentally collecting every shred of fiction and art that offered representations of what I didn’t know how to say.

So, my hope is that for every person who’s triggered by what happens to Aya, a dozen others will be able to hand “Blood Magic” to someone close to them and say, “Here. It’s like this,” when their own words are frozen numb inside them.

As we start to see e-books being pulled from websites due to their graphic nature. I bring you a blog from editor and author Gabrielle Harbowy. She graced us with her story, "Blood Magic" for the anthology, Witches, Stitches & Bitches. What is the line between art and pornography? I think you will find with this story as well as all of our stories, we push the edge in an artful and meaningful way. 
 Best Always, Katie 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alex Laybourne Takes Us to Hell and Back

"I cannot recall how long it took me to reach the final version of Highway to Hell, the version I am so proud of today, but one thing I am certain of, is that I am so happy I scrapped more words than actually ended up in the final version." - Alex Laybourne on editing.

 Alex Laybourne's desire to write is so strong, he gets up at 4 am to hack away at the keyboard before his four kids wake up. This is no small feat for someone who works a full time job. Like many horror writers, he's one of the nicest people you will ever know. He prides himself on keeping in contact with fans and is always willing to help a fellow writer. 
I'm bringing you an interview with him regarding his series, Highway to Hell. 

Katie: Where did the idea for Highway to Hell come from? I'm hearing AC/DC as I say that!

 Alex: When I first sat down to write Highway to Hell, I had no idea where it would lead. Heck, I didn’t even know what it was going to be about. In fact, the original premise never really made it into the final version. I had the idea in my head of a book set on a golf course. Each chapter being one hole (I’ll stop there with that because my next book ended up using this theme). This led me to researching anything and everything I could find connected to the number eighteen.

         I soon discovered that in Buddhist mythology there is the Diyu, a Hell governed by the Kings of Yama. Now, there are multiple ‘versions’ and interpretations of the Diyu, but as luck would have it, the one I stumbled upon had eighteen levels.

Katie: It sounds like the plan for this book sort of took a life of its own and on a golf course?

 Alex: My original plan was to have a man sent to hell on a mission I never quite ironed out. He was playing a game of golf, and got sucked into the Hell world after breaking an ancient seal. He would then move through each level, learning more about himself and his humanity as he went. Some holes went well for him, others went badly. I had planned to keep a running scorecard as you would when playing.

Katie: So, how did eighteen holes of horror work out for you?  

Alex: Needless to say, after writing about 40,000 words, I never got past the first hole. I just couldn’t quite figure out why the crap the guy would keep playing, keep walking, on his own, through hell. (Me neither Alex).

Katie: Obviously, you didn't give up. What did you do to make it work?

Alex: After several months of trial and error I came very close to giving up. Then, out of nowhere an idea came to me. Not one man, but a group. Trapped in Hell, forced to escape, they could move through the levels as they searched for an escape.

           The first draft of Highway came in at 120,000 words, and ran in a totally different direction than I had envisioned. One I didn’t even like, so I scrapped around 50,000 words… again, and came at it from a different angle. I added another figure from the Buddhist mythology, Jizu, a small monk who can travel hell without fear. He would act as a guide for the group as they sought their redemption.

Katie: It sounds like this took a long time to write.  Are you happy with your final version after cutting so much?

Alex: I cannot recall how long it took me to reach the final version of Highway to Hell, the version I am so proud of today, but one thing I am certain of, is that I am so happy I scrapped more words than actually ended up in the final version.


Born and raised in the coastal English town of Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place that I became a horror writer.

From an early age, I was sent to schools which were at least a 30 minutes drive away and spent most of my free time alone which gave me time to read and write. The friends I did have lived too far away for me to be able to hang out with them on the weekends or holidays. 

I have been a writer as long as I can remember and have always had a vivid imagination. To this very day, I find it all too easy to just drift away into my own mind and explore the world I create. 

I am married and have four wonderful children: James, Logan, Ashleigh, and Damon. My biggest dream for them is that they grow up, and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.

For people who buy my work, I hope that they enjoy what they read and that I can create something that takes them away from reality for a short time. For me, the greatest compliment I can receive is not based on rankings but knowing that people enjoy what I produce.

How to Find Alex:                                                          Where to Buy His Work:  
 Blog                                                                                     Highway to Hell 
           Author Page                                                                       Trials and Tribulations


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Evil Girlfriend Media Editor, Monique Snyman Talks Zombies

"Because romance is hardly the type of thing that comes to mind when there are undead cannibals trying to crack your skull open..."

              Zombies come in all shapes and sizes and writers typically make sure to put their own twist on the undead, but whether zombies are slow and sluggish or whether they can sprint the one hundred meters in ten seconds flat, one thing that basically all of zombie mythology have in common is that these living dead creatures are hungry.  What’s more is that they are violent creatures that will tear you open and feast on your insides, because somewhere inside their rotting brains, the living has become their enemy and their ultimate food source.  Their humanity has been stripped from them, their reasoning abilities between right and wrong has become a distant memory and for some reason, they like to travel together. 

So, what do you do when you find yourself in a dire situation where the world is overrun by the dead? 

Sometimes I like to sit and think about my own life if I was to be thrown into a zombie apocalypse.  I will sit and plan out my escape route from my home to wherever would be the safest place to be if walking corpses suddenly started to knock on my door.  From time to time I will compare weapons, just to make sure I won’t be devoured unnecessarily, because of a weak decision…  Heck, sometimes I even wonder if I will be able to kill a loved one if they succumb to the horrors that zombie authors seem to indulge in.  Is it insane?  I like to think so, but I suppose survival will make ordinary people do strange things.

I’ve often talked about the on-going debate as to how a zombie should react.  However, I find mankind to be far more interesting when it comes to their response to a zombie world.  Will humans suddenly become helpful to one another and fight for kindness, compassion and hope?  Will greed triumph?  Will love still bloom when blood flows through the streets and the air is polluted with the sweet stench of death?  There are so many questions and so many people that it is incredibly difficult to predict an accurate result when faced with such turmoil.  Yet, the possibilities make for exceptional plots.

When it comes to “Roms, Bombs, And Zoms” – the first anthology that will be published by Evil Girlfriend Media – I found the concept intriguing, because romance is hardly the type of thing that comes to mind when there are undead cannibals trying to crack your skull open and rip you limb from limb.  Nevertheless, I’m sure that not even Romeo and Juliet would have let zombies keep them from their forbidden union…  Of course, I’m not saying some jerk wouldn’t use the end of the world to get into his gal’s pants, but still, love is such a natural human instinct that there will be those that will cling to it until the end.  I never thought about it until this anthology fell into my lap and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to see an apocalyptic scenario that involves such dreadful – yet cool – creatures be told out of an original point of view.

Evil Girlfriend Media asked me what I wanted to see from this anthology and what type of stories I would likely pick from the pile at the end of it all.  The first thing that sprung to mind was that necrophilia was out – I’ve seen that particular scenario far too often when it comes to zombie romances and I am well aware that some writers enjoy the shock factor a little too much – and I hope I’ve made that clear to all the writers before they embarked on impressing me with their tales.  The second thing was obviously to keep the writing quality to a high standard.  As the editor of this anthology, I know it falls upon my shoulders to make sure that all of the contributing authors look exceptional to the reader, but even an editor can’t overlook certain things.  Needless to say though, I think that the title - “Roms, Bombs, and Zoms” – is self-explanatory as to what we want in the story.  If all the elements are present, half of the hard work is already done. 

However, all of those things aside, what I’m particularly keen on finding are those ‘special’ stories, which are somewhat personalised and sprinkled with extra love.  I don’t want to see generic stories that have been recycled from something else.  I don’t want to see a story that’s not you, if you get my drift.  I want to see a little piece of you on paper, something that you can be proud of and something that you can show your grandkids one day and say: “Sarah, my character, is a little piece of my soul”.  If you can do that and convince me that you’ve let me polish out a piece of your soul, well then you’ll have impressed me and I doubt you’ll be getting a rejection letter.

The thing is, this anthology is not necessarily focused on the zombies it’s focused on the survivors.  So, put yourself in that position for a change.  Come up with some fantastic zombie kills, make the reader fall in love with love again and blow up some stuff (metaphorically or literally)! 

You have until 1 April 2013 to get your stories in and I hope that this post will inspire you to write something extraordinary.

Hope to hear from you soon.
Monique Snyman

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Guest Blog: Sara Brooke

"My joy in life is to entertain you."

So, I've given over my blog to Ms. Sara Brooke again! She talks today about why people will like her novels. I agree. She writes things I like to read. Currently, you can find her books published by Biting Dog Press.

Sara lives in southern Florida. She's a lifelong avid reader of all things scary, and her childhood dream was to write horror books that force readers to sleep with their lights on. Her influences and favorite authors include Bentley Little, John Saul, William Blackstone, and Joe McKinney.

From Sara

You should read my novels, if…

     The other day, someone asked me a very strange question.  It wasn’t about my novels, or why I started writing, or where I want to be one day with all of this “writing stuff”.  The question was more personal and struck a deep chord within me. 

      “Who should read your novels?” 

      When I heard those words, everything stopped for a moment.  In a glimpse of an eye, I saw the little girl I once was, red curly hair, seated on the floor of a local library.  Surrounded by books with different creepy and fantastical covers, I was a reader in heaven.  So many mysteries to uncover, so many dark hallways to tread through…

That’s who should read my novels.  To put it more specifically, you should read my books if:

  • ·         You’ve ever had to justify to someone why you like horror novels and movies

  • ·         You enjoy the  macabre and strange

  • ·         You know there just has to be more to life than meets the eye

  • ·         Someone called you crazy for enjoying things that most people can’t bear to watch for    even a minute because they would never sleep again

  • ·         You believe in the supernatural or the idea that we are not alone

    When you read a Sara Brooke novel, you should feel a sense of excitement and expectancy.  My books always go down that dark alley that your parents warned you about, take you into the unbridled passions of people caught up in nightmares or temptations, and try to surprise as much as possible.
Dear readers, my joy in life is to entertain you.  Your eyes on my words are a gift.  The fact that you are reading this post right now is sending chills right down my spine.  It is strange to know that at any time, there is someone just like me, who prefers a good, juicy novel at times when life is stressful or boring.  Someone who just wants to disconnect and dive into another world.

My books are an escape.  

Dive in…and enjoy.

Click here to purchase.

Follow Sara Brooke:

Biting Dog Press is giving away one set of the complete Sara Brooke digital library. These books include The Zyne Project , Still Lake, Kransen House,  and Ghost Swim. To post this contest for your readers, simply paste the code below onto your site. This giveaway runs from March 10 (12:00 am EST) through March 30 (12:00 am EST).

Best Wishes,

Katie Cord
Evil Girlfriend with a Pen