A Trophy For Little Old Me

Wordpress trophyI do love how WordPress sets these somewhat eclectic targets (for lack of a better word) which when reached by the blogger gives them an automatic trophy. The first thought that goes through my mind is ‘Wow, a trophy? For little old me?’ *By the by, a single quotation mark by some authors is meant to convey thought versus speech anyone disagree with this method? Just curious, answers on a postcard please or conversely you can tell me via the comment section below.* Anyway, as shown by the image above, I now have reached 1,337, with a “real” total of 1,339 followers on my blog.

Cue fireworks, confetti and cheering, even if it is only my hoarse voice you can hear, in wild celebration. I do celebrate these milestone events, albeit rather quietly, since these follower counts mean that slowly but surely, I am building up a core group that like my meandering messages.

Here is where I insist that you give yourself a pat on the back for having such great taste! Seriously, it does mean a lot that either some of you have come back or others have enjoyed my ramblings enough to pay me the ultimate compliment. Thanks to both types of folks and to those who fall into neither camp.

For those still “on the fence” about my writing, that is fine too. I’ve not published anything yet, but I will. In this day and age of self publishing if I cannot get picked up by a publisher when I’ve finished, I’ll do it on my own. I know this is now the norm and quite successful for some folks, like the Winner Twins who I have met, interviewed and still interact with now and then. *On a side note, two nicer young ladies you will never meet and their work is entertaining and good.*

For those who have been here for awhile, thanks for being patient. I’ve veered off the path, most notably working for the content mill and sweatshop GLV where I had no time to devote to my baby. (But I did manage to attend some geeky type cons and meet some dynamite actors and in that aspect had the time of my life.) Now I am back and casting my hook around to see what other writing opportunities are out there.

Thanks to you all; I know that regardless of where my laptop and I end up there are folks who like my writing and will stop by to read and comment. Even though I do not get out and about as much as I used to, and those of you with your own blogs will know what I mean, but as soon as the Internet issue is sorted and I learn to be more organized, I will be more visible at other blog sites. I promise.

Till then, I remain humbly overawed that there are that many people out there who like my work. I think you all are the best. Thanks and I raise my metaphorical glass to you. Cheers and all the best.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz: Different is Good

Cover of Made by Raffi Artwork by Margaret Chamberlin
In a world where bullying takes the top spot in the news it is refreshing to see a children’s book which addresses the issue of being different. Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz, and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, is a story that celebrates just how good it is to march to a different beat.

Published by FRANCES LINCOLN CHILDREN’S BOOKS, an award winning company that specializes in releasing books that celebrate diversity, the story of Raffi has been getting a lot of positive attention across the globe.

The youngster is a lad quite different from his schoolmates. Raffi cherishes quiet and rather than boisterously play with the other children, he learns about knitting and sewing from one of his teachers at playtime.

Raffi’s teacher reveals a creative world of color to the boy and he discovers that not only does he love this new pastime but that he is very good at it. The child talks to his mother and father about his knitting and they assure him that his interest is nothing to be ashamed of.

His classmates make fun of Raffi at first but that all changes with the advent of a school play and soon everyone wants something “made by Raffi.”

Pomranz points out that the tale of a boy who likes to sew and knit is based upon a true story. The book has, thus far, been printed in at least six different languages and published in as many countries. Reaction to the story has been positive and the Archdiocese of New York Catholic schools received 75 copies of the book from a donor to be included in their libraries.

The book, Made by Raffi is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the U.S. and it was just recently announced that the book was shortlisted for the Little Rebels Award. Children’s books published in 2014 which promote diversity are nominated for the award and the winner will be announced on 9 May this year.

Craig himself revealed that the story was written to support children who are perceived as being “different because of their appearance or hobbies.” As positive reviews continue to pour in for the book aimed at the 4 to 7 year-old age group, Pomranz has passed on the information that composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s The Rose) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time) have written a song titled “Different” to be included as part of the book.

The author told MikesFilmTalk that he was in Los Angeles recently speaking with the two composers and May is the month they hope to have the song out. Reviews for the Made by Raffi have been positive and The Bookseller and Rhino Reads have both written about the picture book with the diverse message.

These types of books should be part of every school library in the world and Mr. Pomranz is to be congratulated on writing splendid tale that celebrates uniqueness and shows that children are the answer. Made by Raffi is a real 5 star book that has an important message for everyone.

You can follow Craig, and Raffi, on Twitter @MadebyRaffi

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: The Shining Revisited

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: The Shining Revisited

No other author can make characters come to life quite like Stephen King can; his earlier book, The Shining brought Jack, Wendy and Danny Torrence sharply into focus and now he revisits Danny who is all grown up and known as Doctor Sleep. Keeping the same theme as his first journey to Colorado’s Overlook Hotel; evil places exist and draw evil to them; young Master Torrence makes his own nostalgic trip, but, this time as a battle scarred adult.

Author Michael West Interview – 4 April 2013

Photograph courtesy of bymichaelwest.com
Photograph courtesy of bymichaelwest.com

Michael West is a member of the Horror Writers Association and Indiana Horror Writers, where he serves as President. A graduate of Indiana University, West earned a degree in Telecommunications and Film Theory, and since that time, he has written a multitude of short stories, articles, and reviews for various on-line and print publications. He lives and works in the Indianapolis area with his wife, their two children, their bird, Rodan, their turtle, Gamera, and their dog, King Seesar.

His children are convinced that spirits move through the woods near their home.

West’s short story “Goodnight,” originally published in WICKED KARNIVAL #6, was named “Best Horror Short Story of 2005″ in the P&E Readers Poll.

Okay, the above “bio” is from Goodreads and the information about author Michael West is encapsulated in just five sentences. Granted one is a very long sentence but the fact remains that we don’t know an awful lot about this chap who writes such brilliantly scary stories.

Michael has kindly agreed to take time out of his busy life to participate in an interview for MikesFilmTalk.com and after I did a Snoopy dance around my laptop in celebration I had to set down and write out some questions for him to answer.

So without further ado, let’s welcome author Michael West to my site and let the questions begin:

1.     How old were you when you realized that you wanted to be a   writer/author?

I’ve always been a storyteller.  Before I could write, I would draw pictures to illustrate the tales that were spinning around inside my head.  At age seven, after watching Star Wars for the first time, I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker.  I would write screenplays and make movies in the back yard with my parents’ video camera.  And, as the stories I wanted to tell outgrew my meager budgets, I eventually turned my attention to writing short stories and novels.

2.    I’ve read that your influences were Stephen King, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson and Rod Serling; so I’m guessing that you’ve been “hooked” on the horror genre for a while now. Were there any other influences that were not literature related? For instance, movies or some real life experiences that started you down that road?

I’ve loved Horror as long as I can remember.  I don’t know why.  I used to trick babysitters into letting me stay up late to watch Night Gallery episodes and Hammer films. I’d collect toys based on classic Universal monsters.  In the eighties, when a new Horror film opened, I was always first in line.   In addition to the writers you mentioned, there are some film directors who have influenced me as well.  John Carpenter, George Romero, James Cameron, and Takashi Miike would be the most obvious ones.

3.    Are there any other authors that interest you at the moment? Any particular genre?

I love the work of Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzales, and Tim Lebbon, but Gary A. Braunbeck is one of the authors I admire most right now.  He brings this emotional reality to his fiction that is simply amazing.  His work elevates the entire genre, and I was so thrilled that he was able to write the introduction to my short story collection, Skull Full of Kisses, so honored and humbled by what he had to say.  As far as genres go, other than Horror, I’m really into Urban Fantasy right now.  I’ve never been a big fan of traditional Fantasy novels, but I love the idea of taking normal, everyday places and adding magical, fantastical twists to them.

Cinema_Of_Shadows-frontcover-small1
A Harmony Indiana book.

4.    A lot of your stories deal with the town of Harmony, Indiana. Is Harmony based on a real place?

Living in Indiana all my life, I have driven through and visited quite a few rural communities, and Harmony is based on my experiences and observations of small town life.  As far as the name goes, there is a New Harmony, Indiana, and so I thought to myself, “If there’s a New Harmony, there should be a Harmony.”

5.    I really could have made this a two-part question because I’m now going to ask about Colonial Bay. So obviously and wonderfully influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, is the “Bay” based on a real place or did you come up with the location based on your story idea?

The location, a town on an isolated island, was due to the story, but I always try to inject as much realism as I can.  I’ve been to a lot of coastal towns over the years on vacation, a lot of “tourist traps,” and Colonial Bay was based on all and none of them. 

6.    When did you become the president of the Indiana Horror Writers?

I believe that I was first elected President back in 2006.  I do know that there was a year when I stepped aside for various reasons and served as Vice President, but other than that, I have been President ever since.

7.    What exactly do you have to do in that position? Were you elected?

Yes, it’s an elected position.  I help steer the meetings and help keep the various projects and events we are involved with on track.  We try to get involved as much as possible in our local schools and community to help foster a love of reading and of speculative fiction in particular.  We appear at various book stores and conventions in the area to promote our works and, again, raise awareness that there is a lot of great talent in the state of Indiana.

SkullFullofKissesCoverart_w_text-202x300
A great collection of short stories.

8.    I’ve just finished reading your short story collection Skull Full of Kisses. Is there any chance that some of these might “reappear” later as a longer version?

It is certainly possible.  I get emails all the time from faithful readers who want to see more of my Japanese demon, Jiki.  I would love to do something more with her sometime. 

9.    I’m sorry to have to ask this next question, but enquiring minds want to know. Where do you get your ideas? Are they left over dreams or something that just strikes you as interesting?

I get my inspiration from a variety of places.  Sometimes I will see an article in the news that strikes me as odd and I start to ask myself that question: “What if…?”  But a lot of my ideas come to me when I’m in the shower in the morning, in that weird, dream-like state between consciousness and unconsciousness.

10. I loved the award-winning story “Goodnight.” Is there any chance of revisiting those characters later?

Thank you.  There are no plans at the moment, but I never say never.

11. Your “Bio” on Goodreads states that your children think the woods around your house are haunted. Any thoughts on that?

I’ve never personally seen or felt anything around our house in the almost twenty years that we’ve lived here, but my sons claim to have had experiences there, and I believe them. 

12. Have you ever had any “ghostly” experiences?

I went on several ghost investigations, doing research for my novel Cinema of Shadows, and I did have an experience or two.  I was in what they called “the demon closet” in the old Woodcarvers building in Converse, Indiana, and I witnessed a hanging light moving like a pendulum when there was no breeze or any reason for it to be moving.  I asked questions, and received spikes on an EMF meter in reply.  I also spent the night there and woke up to hear people arguing in the hallway outside my room, but there was nobody there.  Very creepy place!  I never felt alone there.  It always felt as if I were being watched.

Number 1 in the Legacy of the Gods series.
Number 1 in the Legacy of the Gods series.

13. I know that you’re working on Hades’ Disciples at the moment. How’s that coming along? Can you wager a guess on when it will be finished?

It is coming along.  With it being the second book in a series and knowing a bit more about the characters, it is going quicker than the first.  I’m hoping to have it done this summer.  The publisher has their heart set on a fall release, so time is short.

14. When you write, do you set yourself hours, words or pages as a goal?

I try to set word goals.  Right now, I shoot for 1,000 words a day. 

Sometimes I meet it, sometimes I exceed it, and sometimes I don’t even come close, but I like having something to strive for.  It is the only way I can meet my deadlines. 

15. And finally, (just because I’m a fan of Inside the Actor’s Studio) I’m going to crib some of their infamous questions:

  • A:  What other job would you like to do?   Film director.
  • B:  What other job wouldn’t you like to do?  Growing up, I always said I would never work in fast food.  I was too afraid that I would find out horrible things about the food and never want to eat it again.
  • C:  What is your favorite word?    Awesome.
  • D:  What is you least favorite word?    Can’t.

Besides working on his second book in the Legacy of the Gods series (Hades’ Disciples) his latest offering is now available from Seventh House Press: Vampires Don’t Sparkle is a great new vampire anthology featuring some of the best talents in the genre. It is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Michael took on the role of editor in this collection of varying vampire tales. His motivation for taking on this project was a personal and close one, a portion of the proceeds from the sales are going to cancer research.

In Michael’s own words, he says why: “It is a very personal cause for me.  One year ago, I lost one of my closest friends, author Sara J. Larson, to cancer, and then my wife was diagnosed with the disease last fall.  I hope that, with this anthology, we can help win the fight against this real-life horror.”

I’ve got to finish by saying that I am honored that Michael chose accepted my invitation to an interview. I am a huge fan and I am sure that if any of you are horror fans, you’ll love his work.

If you like truly original scary stories, you cannot go wrong with reading Michael West’s tales of terror.

Available now from book sellers and a portion of the proceeds are going to cancer research.
Available now from book sellers and a portion of the proceeds are going to cancer research.