Friday, 24 April 2015

Men in Horror: WILLIAM COOK

I first read William Cook a couple of years ago and was immediately enthralled with his writing and his style. The book I read was BLOOD RELATED. I loved it. It was intense, creepy, dark and twisted.   For some reason, my review of this book has disappeared from Amazon and Goodreads, so I dug it up and reposted it.

Be warned, this tale is not for anyone who dislikes gore and violence.

This is a brilliant tale of fathers and sons, serial killing at its finest and the legacy families create. Charlie and Caleb Cunningham are twins and serial killers, following in t
he footsteps of their father and grandfather.

The story is told through letters, news articles and from the points of view of the killers, the police and the doctors involved. All the pieces of the story are woven together beautifully through the the magical way William Cook has with syntax. Well worth the read....if you can stomach it.

William Cook

1.     When did you start writing horror?

I started writing horror stories (although I didnt know they were horror stories) when I was about ten years old. The first one I wrote won a school competition it was about a boy who gets lost in a strange desert where he witnesses giant heads falling out of the sky. He discovers that the heads are being fired out of a cannon by a voodoo witch-doctor who has somehow reversed the process of shrinking heads. I think I got the idea after watching King Solomons Mines and seeing the scary witch doctor in the movie. My first real horror publication was a story called Devil Inside which was published in 2010 in Lee Pletzers Masters of Horror Anthology. Since then I havent stopped.

2.   Have you written in any other genre?

Yes, I have recently ventured into Science Fiction, Young Adult and even had a story published in a collection of childrens Christmas tales. I also write a lot of poetry too much perhaps, and my first ever book published was a limited edition release called Journey: The Search for Something way back in 1996.

3.  What makes you uncomfortable?

Bad reviews! Seriously though, I am not a fan of needles absolutely hate getting jabbed, especially at the dentist when they use those syringes and stick them in the roof of your mouth etc. Bullies also make me uncomfortable and I quite often write about them. Usually really bad things happen to them in my books.

4.  Does your family read your work?

I deliberately dont encourage them to read my (horror) books for obvious reasons. Although some of my newer work like the kids stories and science fiction I dont mind as much. Ive found its very true the old adage that the worst critics are family and friends I dont know why the hell it is but I can count the friends and family (you know who you are) who have bothered reading my books on one hand! I used to actively seek feedback on my writing from friends and family in the early days, but gave up when I realized any critique from such quarters was largely pointless as it was either biased or I could tell they hadnt actually read the work in question. Sort of related to the question . . . I am working on a small kids book with my seven-year-old daughter who is a keen writer herself. She has written about ten pages so far of a story about zombies (dont know where she gets that from!) and its really good. Obviously Im biased (see above) but it really is good and Im looking forward to publishing it for her when its finished.

5.  Does your writing make you uneasy?

Most of the time, no. However, it really depends on the subject matter though and I must admit to getting a bit nervous about some of my research subjects for stories. Not so much in the subject material but in what other people or readers will think of the finished stories. I am a bit paranoid about the NSA and their monitoring of certain taboo subjects that are common to the grist of the horror mill. Subjects like terror, murder and serial killers, for example, are common research subjects for horror authors and red-flag search strings that are actively monitored by the powers that be. I used to feel uneasy when writing about topics (such as described above) but I think that I have largely become desensitized to the emotional effects of dealing with this material on a daily basis. Writing Blood Related, my novel about a family of serial-killers, definitely made me pretty strung-out and slightly disturbed due to having to project the main characters stream of consciousness on to the page via a first person narrative. Five years of my free-time went into this book and I researched just about every case of serial murder that I could find which definitely impacted on my psyche but paid off in the final presentation of the story. Suffice to say, I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of these weirdos whether I like it or not!

6.  Who would you say you write like?

I write like me of course! My writing style or voice is a collage of influence and styles everything from the way I learned to write at school, the accent of my written voice (a combination of UK and US spelling and theory), the authors I have read over and over again, and the evolution of my own style and development as a writer. I dont try to write like anyone but I do try to write like someone who knows what theyre doing (hopefully). Over the past five years I have been intentionally writing in the (north) American vernacular and it was a decision that I worried about for a while but it largely came down to the way certain words were spelled and styled and now it is like second nature to me. My schooling was based on a U.K. education system and we were taught to spell and write according to the commonwealth rules and style-guides of the day. 

7.  Who are your favourite authors?

I have many favorite authors and it will be no surprise that writers like Stephen King, James Herbert, Robert Bloch, Robert McCammon, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe and Ramsey Campbell are at the top of the list. Over and above horror the authors I love to read again and again are Sherwood Anderson, Roald Dahl, James Ellroy, Colin Wilson, Charles Bukowski, Ray Bradbury, Peter Carey, Dostoyevsky and Thomas Harris. For a full rundown on my favorite books and authors, check out my list here:

8.  Who influences you as a writer?

I find that Im not really influenced by people directly but that I am more influenced by the things that people create. Art influences me greatly in my writing, film and music particularly, but graphic art and, obviously, written works conjure up emotion and IDEAS that definitely inform my own work. Probably the biggest influences on me have been Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. King for his amazing and prolific output and superb writing style and advice (On Writing really changed the way I approached my writing), Bradbury for his simplicity and story-telling ability that encourages original and creative thought (his stories influenced my dreams for a long time) a very inspirational pair. Ultimately though, without being too modest, I am my biggest influence. It is up to me to drive myself forward and to push hard with my writing. The outside world is full of influence and affectation, but at the end of the day, it is my will-power and my mind that allows me to sift through all the detritus and glean the remaining gems and pearls of wisdom and apply it to my own style and philosophy. One of the works I studied at University was Harold Blooms The Anxiety of Influence and it really struck home with me. The central tenet being that writers (specifically poets in Blooms discourse, but equally applicable to writers in general in my opinion) are inspired by writers that have come before them and that this somewhat inescapable influence inspires a sense of anxiety in authors attempting to forge new and original works. I believe it is true to a large extent and I work hard to try and create work that is as free from the influence of other authors styles and subject matter as much as possible. However, when you write genre fiction, this is a nearly impossible task. No writer creates in a vacuum and for every style we have a representative genre (or sub-genre) and a group of influential writers and works at the helm of such literary movements, regarded as exemplars and pinnacles by which up-and-coming authors should somehow emulate to attain the same success. Unless an author doesnt read, influence is unavoidable but, in my view, not necessarily a bad thing.      

9. Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?

The Monsters Room (or Petes Angel) by Hope Campbell introduced me to Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman when I was about seven years old. Loved it! The first real horror book I read was probably James Herberts The Rats at about eleven years old, followed closely by Shaun Hutsons Spawn, Stephen Kings Carrie and Night Shift, and Robert McCammons Mystery Walk. Suffice to say by the age of twelve I was hooked on horror in any shape or form.

10.  How old were you?

See above. I used to watch Hammer House of Horror on Sunday nights with my Mum when I was eleven/twelve years old. Still cannot work out why mum used to let me watch those shows but wouldnt let me listen to KISS because she thought they were Satanic! Go figure!

11.  Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?

Graphic descriptions of pedophilia are something I have no interest in portraying in my work. I have written stories about these creeps before but I feel it is unnecessary to portray the acts for any reason. Implication is far more subtle and effective than graphic description. I write horror that attempts to confront readers with their own fears, not make them sick in the process.

12.  What was the best advice you were given as a writer?

If you want to be a writer, just write. Pretty simple really, but a no-brainer (obviously). The best advice about writing I have read/received is Stephen Kings excellent memoir/writing guide On Writing. It is a wonderfully inspiring book for a budding writer, and more so for the writer of dark fiction. Highly recommended.

13.  If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?

I would begin writing as soon as possible, at any age. Self-doubt is one of the biggest killers to a writers self-confidence and career. In retrospect, I see that I could have had established myself as an author a lot earlier than I have if I had just given a go instead of doubting my ability and listening to naysayers who were mostly inexperienced or wannabe writers themselves. I would probably not restrict myself to genre fiction as I have up until now. I think I would have made more of an attempt to develop my story-writing skills in Science Fiction and Childrens literature. Oh well, tomorrows only a day away still time to alter direction.

14.  How many books do you read a year?

Between twenty-forty books now that I have a Kindle. Before I started reading eBooks Id probably only read ten books a year while I was writing. Before I started writing seriously I used to read about forty novels/books a year at least.

15.  Do you write every day?

In one form or another. I do a lot of blog posts and marketing which cuts into my writing time but I try and write at least 1,000 words a day. Life is very busy as I look after two primary school age kids when theyre no tat school and I have a couple of casual jobs that bring in a little bit of cash. Luckily I have a very supportive wife who earns a good salary and who encourages me with my work from home. Without her support, life would be very tough as a writer.

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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Men in Horror: WELDON BURGE

I first 'met' Weldon when I read the incredible Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! And I thought 'DAMMIT' I should have been in there. Those works were creative genius at its finest. The prose, the stories, the story telling, the imagination, aaaaaaahhhhh, I died inside with each one because they were so damn good. 

I devoured that book, cover to cover. And voted for it on Goodreads, promoted it, and I believe it was on the very first Solstice List: Best Horror Books and Stories Not to be Missed ©. In fact, this book was one of the few books that created the thought for this list. 

Lucky for me, Weldon put out another volume, I submitted and my story After Darque, loosely based on a true story, and based on a real person, was chosen. I remember writing this piece and coming into work one day asking my 6'5" 270 pound cop friend how much he thought his legs weighed, in all seriousness, and the look of horror on his face was priceless. I still giggle over that. Because in the next breath I asked him over for dinner. Yes, he came over. 

After Darque was a delicious story based on another police officer friend of mine who explained to me, in great detail, how he had his finger severed due to a training injury, while he was awake: The sight, the smells, the sounds it made as it was leaving his body. The first thought I had: Apotemnophelia. I mean, don't we all?

So I read a few more works from Weldon and thought, this man is brilliant. He writes, he selects near genius pieces of work, and he is hard working and dedicated to the craft. In fact, some of the stories he has selected have gone on to receive Bram Stoker recommendations. Clearly, he knows what he is doing.

If you have the taste for the bizarre and the out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to horror, and you have a fairly keen grasp on reality, I highly recommend the Zippered Flesh series. 

His others include Uncommon Assassins, Insidious Assassins and Someone Wicked.

Weldon Burge
1. When did you start writing horror?
I’m guessing around the age of 13 or 14. I wrote hundreds of truly excretable short stories in my teens!
2. Have you written in any other genre?
I write quite a bit of suspense/thriller fiction, and even my horror writing tends to be more psychological horror/suspense than pure gore. When I started Smart Rhino Publications a few years ago, my intent was to publish both horror and suspense fiction—that pretty much reflects my own freelance work. Those genres are also what I primarily read, so it was something of a no-brainer to focus on them in my publishing venture.
Most people don’t know that I’ve also been a prolific garden writer. Over the years, I’ve written for Organic Gardening, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, and many other gardening magazines.
3. What makes you uncomfortable?
Not much when it comes to writing. Reading or speaking before crowds … yep, uncomfortable! I’m just a mellow, easygoing, soft-spoken guy, something of any introvert. Standing in front of an audience scares the bejesus out of  me.
4. Does your family read your work?
Yes, but not everything. Most of the members of my family don’t read horror fiction.
5. Does your writing make you uneasy?
Not really, no. If anything, I work out problems—especially philosophical or psychological issues—through my writing. I should point out that I think horror and humor are kissing cousins, and I’ve always thought the best horror is interlaced with humor, whether really dark and crawling around at the edges or gonzo and right in your face. My own writing often contains subliminal humor. And many readers of the Smart Rhino anthologies have commented on the dark humor sprinkled throughout.
6. Who would you say you write like?
My stories have been compared most frequently with Richard Matheson’s—and I certainly don’t have a problem with that! But I hope that my writing has a voice that is uniquely my own.
7. Who are your favorite authors?
Well, let’s look at the bookshelves in my office: Clive Barker, Joe Lansdale, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Graham Masterton, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Robert McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, Jeffery Deaver, Lawrence Block, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum. Those are just some of my favorite writers—and I’ve been lucky enough to have some of them contribute to the Smart Rhino anthologies! Not that I’m a fanboy … but it’s so cool to work with writers whose writing I’ve enjoyed for years!
8. Who influences you as a writer?
That’s actually an excellent question, and my answer is probably one you’ve not heard. As editor/publisher for Smart Rhino Publications, I’ve published more than 70 authors in the past three years, and have read stories from well over 100. Selecting stories for anthologies is no simple task--but it is a learning experience. Working with so many writers with such varied styles and voices has helped me fine-tune my own writing. I see how some things work, how some things don’t work, and better ways to improve the writing of those who submit stories for my consideration. I always work with those writers who show great promise. And, by doing so, I learn so much about my own writing. Sitting on both sides of the desk—as writer and editor/publisher—is the best training for any writer. So, to answer your question, the writers that I work with probably have the most influence on me as a writer.
9. Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?
What I remember is my uncle’s enormous box of horror, suspense, and science fiction comics from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s—especially the classic EC comics. He had a huge collection, hundreds of comics, and I just loved that he shared those wonderful comics with me. My love for horror fiction certainly started with those!
10. How old were you?
I’m guessing around 8 or 9. Way too young for such gruesome stuff (LOL!)
11. Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?
Not really. But I tend to stay away from gratuitous child and animal cruelty.
12. What was the best advice you were given as a writer?
Write what you enjoy reading! Of course, you need to write to an audience. But always keep in mind that YOU are your first audience. That sounds obvious, but I’ve run into quite a few writers who have tried to write for an audience with which they’re not familiar (or a genre they don’t enjoy reading) just to make a buck. No no no!
13. If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?
I’d start sending out freelance material long before I did. The fear of rejection is, well, silly and should never be a reason for refusing to submit your work. The worst an editor can do is say, “No.” Continue to refine your work and always keep your work in circulation until it finds a home.  
14. How many books do you read a year?
As an editor/publisher, I read quite bit, mostly short stories for anthologies. That eats into my time for pleasure reading, so I’m sure I’m reading far less than I have in the past. I’m guessing I read 10-12 books a year for pleasure.
15. Do you write every day?
I work with words every day—as a writer, as an editor, as a publisher. I’m always juggling several projects. I just recently contracted with Lisa Mannetti to publish her novella, THE BOX JUMPER, which is dark historical fiction about Houdini and his battle with fraudulent spiritualists. I have a novel and short stories of my own always percolating in the background. So, keep your eye on Smart Rhino Publications—more amazing things are coming!



Today is a happy day for me. You would not guess that from the title, but it is. Have come to the understanding (finally) that all souls are not meant to travel with you throughout your life, whether you need them to or not, whether they are family or not, whether you gave birth to them or not. After grieving for months, I am okay with this. For today. Tomorrow is a crapshoot. But it always is.

I always thought, naively, that if you were family, you would stay together, you would love each other, and if you treated each other with respect, things would always come through in the end. I was wrong.

My husband and I raised our children with love and respect, valued their opinions, protected them, loved them beyond belief, and, I thought, created some strong familial values. Then, with peer pressure, strangers became more important. And nothing we said, nothing we did made any sense. We fell into a rabbit hole and we were at a loss. For years we tried everything in our power to undo the damage that society was doing, to no avail.

As a Dutch women with a strong sense of loyalty to family, and needing tight family connections, this was truly devastating. The one thing I yearned for, beyond all else, when I came to this foreign country, was the intimate connection with family that The Netherlands has and Canada has not.

So I fought, and begged, and conjoled, and cried, and gave in, and walked on egg shells, and sold myself, and finally fought back. The battle is lost, but the war may not be over. Or it might.

Then I thought about souls and the way we connect. Maybe there is a bigger reason for this. Maybe there is a lesson in this that I have not stumbled upon...yet. One day I shall wake up and I shall know why this happened and the why it played out the way it did. Until then, I can only ponder the wisdom of the universe and move on without hanging on.

I still check up, but do not expect anything different. And for now, this gives me some solace in a mad world.

I still love madly, deeply, and forever, because blood bounds are sacred to me. If it isn't the same for the other person, I need to understand and send them on their way and hope for the best for them, as well as myself. But I no longer will sell pieces of myself to get love back. Not at this stage of my life. And not after coming so close to dying.

So I wonder. And I contemplate. And I smile, because once, I had the greatest love of all for a brief, fleeting moment, when we truly were one person, with the same sense of humour, love of laughter and twisted sense of world view.

Goodbye my love. You still hold a space in my heart. But for now, the door cannot be opened for a while so I can heal.