Archive for October, 2019

Midnight Echo 14 inspiration interviews – part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2019 by ahwasinisterreads

Midnight Echo 14, with the theme of things are not as they seem, is almost upon us.

To whet your appetite for this issue’s deliciously horrific offerings, Sinister Reads has interviewed the 13 contributors.

Please enjoy Part Two, which includes musings from Gregory Long, Brian Quinn, Renee de Visser, Hari Navarro and Denny Marshall.

Gregory Long, what inspired your flash fiction piece, “Alive!”?

It is not a particularly fresh idea that everything has a cost and that the cost can be more than mere money. So, it is not surprising that stories are frequently based upon the unexpected price we pay for our needs and desires. “Alive!” is no different. It is a story about the cost of a second chance at life.

The origins of “Alive!” lay in two of my earlier unpublished pieces. The first was a fantasy novel called Tempting in Shade. In this novel, one of the secondary plots revolves around mindless clones born from giant flowers and used as slaves. Towards the end of the story, they are stolen from their masters and imbued with the spirits of departed witches and wizards who then escape to a brand-new existence.

The second was a short story called “Restored”. This told the tale of a woman dying of cancer and the lengths undertaken by her obscenely rich husband to prolong her existence. While it was quite cathartic to write (a personal tragedy was unfolding at the time), the story itself tended to ramble at almost 4000 words.

Both of these sat for quite a while collecting metaphorical dust on my hard drive as I undertook other endeavours.

Then, as I started outlining a new novel, I found myself frequently thinking about this theme of death and continued existence. An urgency filled me. I needed to write something immediately. I could not wait for the new novel to express my thoughts. So, I just started writing. My first response was a witty (and perhaps crude) little piece about a sex robot on Mars. Don’t bother trying to figure that out. If it ever gets published then you will understand the connection.

My next response was “Alive!” But with “Alive!” I went back to “Restored” and tried to deconstruct the original story. What was I actually trying to say? Had I lost the point of the story somewhere in that big jumble of scenes and characters? Could I express the same story in under 1000 words with just one scene and two characters?

It was a tough ask and even having sold the story I still um and ah about it. But then I have never ever been truly satisfied with any of my creations and I probably never will. That said, I hope “Alive!” gives the reader pause to think about the cost of at least one potential method for extending existence. Would you pay it?

Brian Quinn, what inspired your artwork “Sea of Blood”?

“Sea of Blood” is a throwback to my teenage years in a sense. A tribute to Frank Frazetta with heavy and defined musculature, and a fantastical subject matter. I used to have several of his posters on my walls. Midnight Echo being the publication of the AHWA, we need something broodingly dark and horrific. The creature I guess is a werewolf; I think that is what I intended when I started. I used mostly human anatomy but went a little “above and beyond” with imagining what a werewolf would look like. I think the creature looks plausible – something you might see stalking a roadside when you are driving home late at night and later cause you to double-check that your house doors are locked.

I enjoy creating art because what I consider my final piece is rarely what I envisioned at the start. (Though I never consider my work finished – if I didn’t have deadlines, I would never get anything done.) It makes it that much more exciting for me. I just go with wherever my paint brush leads me. I plan somewhat my pieces but always leave room for that creative spark to strike during the process.

I’ve been in a moon phase as of late. Most of my horror or fantasy pieces that I have created in the last couple of months have a moon in them. Brings a sense of mystery to the piece. I put some lightning in the sky; also reflected in the water to add another dimension to the piece and give a dynamic sense of energy in motion. You can feel the hairs on your arm rising from the electrostatic charge in the atmosphere.

I think the overall look of the piece is what I intended: the raw, horrific power of the creature, the dynamism of the lightning bolts in the occult moon and the terror of the blood-red water – what are those masses in it and how did they get there?

Renee de Visser, winner of the AHWA Short Story Competition 2018, what inspired “Keep Them Close”?

My short story is actually inspired by a real place – a little country cemetery just down the road from where I live. In fact, most of the story is inspired by real events. There really are little wooden crosses dating back to the late 1800s, most of which are of the same family, and, sadly, most of which are of children. And, just like my story, when we pulled over to have a closer look, we were lucky enough to have a local resident couple fill us with the history of the place and of the people buried there. All of that went into the story, so you could safely say that the beginning of my short story is mostly fact. Even the soft little teddies are real, gifted by some kind local.

Then there is the setting. I grew up in an historical part of North Western Sydney near where the first stone church was built, and old cemeteries are some of my favourite places. I’ve always been inspired by places and settings, and this place was so tranquil and peaceful, and oh so quiet! You could almost hear a pin drop. Or a bell jingle.

Of course, the rest is fiction, inspired by being a new parent myself, with everything that goes with that. Kids are creepy; any parent will tell you that.

And so, it all came together: a cute little cemetery in a picturesque rural setting, my daughter toddling around the little white crosses in blissful naivety of what lay below her feet. A little macabre perhaps, but nothing untoward there. Nothing that you don’t see in other small country towns that have enough historical significance to be preserve their graveyards.

I started writing as soon as I got back home, and it pretty much wrote itself. Which, I think, is the best kind of story. I hope you enjoy it.

Hari Navarro, winner of the AHWA Flash Fiction Competition 2018, what inspired “The Nymph”?

The central inspiration for “The Nymph” draws from the actual brutal murder of the daughter of a long-time family friend. Although this was the catalyst, the actual story combines imagery from a number of jarring events that have affected me over the years.

I grew up exploring the rugged Taranaki (New Zealand) coastline, and I remember once stepping into the carcass of a long-dead sheep that was wedged and rotting in a rock-pool at low tide. The image stayed with me and infused with a conversation I was to have with a friend many years later.

She told me about a girlfriend of hers that had taken her own life by drowning and how the friend would return to her in a recurring nightmare. In the dream, my friend would imagine her lover calling out as her body and mind slowly flaked away. She described for me the great passion they shared, and I remember even then that I pictured her as sad and lost creature of the sea.

I originally wrote the story from the perspective of the nymph being a man. But this just didn’t sit right with me as it seemed I was hijacking the inspiration behind the story and then stamping my own gender upon it. I had not suffered the violence and trauma that these women had; not just the victim but also the mother and girlfriend left behind.

So, I got back in touch with my friend and I asked her opinion. She was adamant that the draft that I sent her must echo the essence of her dear lost friend and that, in her eyes, the character should be a woman. So, I switched the gender of the nymph and also added in aspects of the actual relationship that my friend had passed on to me. For example, the Anaïs Nin reference is taken directly from the conversation I had and was used with her blessing.

Actually, the most worrying thing about writing and then offering this story for consideration was my use of a certain word. It is an understatement to mention just how divisive this word can be and it was added and then removed more times than I can remember. Again, the final decision to include it came down to yet another phone call to my old friend. I asked her if she and her friend ever used this word in the same context as I had used it. Her answer was that they most definitely did, and that, in fact, she still very much does. So, the word remained.

I think this taught me a lesson about being true to my characters. A lesson I have not always followed and looking back I now very much regret these instances. It’s a betrayal. We are what we are and we speak as we speak. He said.

Denny Marshall, what inspired your artwork “Cymon”?

The drawing is a few years old & I have no idea what I was thinking at the time.

All I remember is that I left room at the top & right for text in case it was used for a cover.

And, of course, since it is a horror drawing, I wanted it to be scary.

I have done lots & lots of drawings these last few years and have no idea what inspired me except for what inspired me on the day I was drawing them or a few days after. Most I don’t remember.

Just like to draw.

MIDNIGHT ECHO 14 will be published in digital format on Amazon at the end of the year.

Click HERE for more information.

Midnight Echo 14 inspiration interviews – part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2019 by ahwasinisterreads

Midnight Echo 14, with the theme of things are not as they seem, is almost upon us.

To whet your appetite for this issue’s deliciously horrific offerings, Sinister Reads has interviewed the 13 contributors.

Please enjoy Part One, which includes musings from Chris Mason, Rebecca Fraser, Liz Simrajh and Erol Engin.

Read about the inspiration behind the cover artwork HERE

Chris Mason, what inspired your short story “The Grey Witch”?

I grew up in the sixties in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The towns along the foothills were semi-rural, and I spent a large part of my childhood exploring the local area and getting up to stuff I probably wasn’t supposed to. My first school was no bigger than a postage stamp. When it closed, I was moved to a brand new and slightly larger school, just up the road. It had a quadrangle and an oval. Beyond the oval was a creek, and a hillside covered in vines. At lunchtime, I’d go down and hang around the goalposts and listen to stories spun by the other kids. One of those stories was about a grey witch who roamed the hills with a crossbow. I can’t remember all the specifics, but at the time I was spooked and the story stayed with me. Like all good stories, it did its job – which I suspect was as much about keeping us kids out of the creek and within the boundaries of the school as scaring us all witless.

Fifty years on and I am amazed how little has changed in the area where I used to live. Suburbia has caught up, but all the bones are still there. I’ve been back to the school a few times and it’s like stepping into a little pocket of the past. The last time I walked across the oval and checked out the creek, it occurred to me – despite everything I’d achieved in my adult life – that in this place, I still felt like the little lost kid with thick glasses and frizzy hair, who’d so desperately wanted to fit in.

Those formative years, especially the ones spent playing and telling tales in the schoolyard, have lingered on in my memory for longer than I’d ever imagined. Is it any wonder these early experiences keep creeping into my writing? The story about the witch is as real to me now as it was way back then. Do I really believe she’s going to hunt me down with her crossbow? Well…no, not anymore, but then I never saw her (unlike Libby Beckwith who jabbered nonsense for days, after crossing the creek). Does my stomach do a slow churn whenever I drive by my old school? You betcha it does.

“The Grey Witch” is a work of fiction. I’ve taken a bunch of old memories and embellished them, added a load of extra bits, and then seasoned it with some straight-up lies. But, here’s the thing…the past is tricky. It has a habit of taunting us. I think it waits patiently for us to forget so it can hit the repeat button. And that is quite possibly the real reason I wrote a story about a witch who lives at the top of a hill.

 

Rebecca Fraser, what inspired your poem “Local Knowledge”?

Things are not as they seem. This idea underpins much of my work and provides the bedrock for many of the stories I like to write, as well as the ones I like to read. The words that are left unspoken. A subtle shift in atmosphere. An undercurrent of foreboding you can’t quite put your finger on. The dark shadow capering in your periphery; static when you turn your head. The too-nice neighbour with the too-sharp teeth. Gaslighting. Deception. Ambiguity. Misplaced Trust.

It was the very premise of things are not as they seem that sparked and shaped my poem “Local Knowledge”, combined with a recent trip to Vietnam. After exploring the beautiful chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, we travelled north to Danang, and then spent six days exploring nearby Hoi An, an ancient atmospheric port town abundant with historical and cultural merit.

The drawcard of coastal towns and cities, for me, has always been their beaches. I have an enduring fascination with the ocean (you’ll find a lot of my fiction set in salt or freshwater environs), and continually speculate on what might lurk beneath the depths – seen and unseen.

Hoi An’s beaches are idyllic. Tranquil, crystal waters with gently rolling waves, local fishermen going about their business in iconically-shaped coracle boats, The Cham Islands – a rocky collection looming fifteen kilometres offshore. Village children playing, dogs sleeping in sand the same colour as their fur, tourists (like me) mixing and mingling in the local way of life. Returning smiles. Swimming in the warm waters of An Bang Beach. Cold local beer. Barefoot walks on sole-burning sand.

I was completely beguiled by Hoi An, from Old Town to her beautiful beaches. They were so lovely the writer in me couldn’t help speculating what if things were not as they seemed? “Local Knowledge” was the result of that speculation.

When Deb Sheldon put the call out for submissions for Midnight Echo 14, “Local Knowledge” seemed it might be a good fit for the theme. I’m so glad it’s found such a great home. I hope you enjoy reading “Local Knowledge” as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

Liz Simrajh, what inspired your short story “Heartbeat”?

The inspiration for this story started in 2011 when I suffered a heart attack. I was in a fragile place, conscious of my own mortality, feeling every twinge and every pain in my chest. It was a time of enormous stress and there were days I thought if I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up. I went from being a relatively healthy person who rarely took a painkiller to someone who swallowed a bucketload of pills every day to stay alive.

One particular tablet my doctor prescribed was to help me stop smoking. This tablet, widely used on mental patients as a mood stabiliser, made you quite ill if you gave in to temptation and lit up. There was also a wide range of side effects that weren’t talked about and I suffered dreadfully from some of the worst. To the point where I could have become the world’s worst serial killer.

This experience sparked the idea of how medications impact our lives, can change our personalities, drive us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, even cause hallucinations. I wanted to explore how mental health issues are often caused by the very medications we take to stay well, and how their effects may leave us walking a fine line between sanity and madness. Modern medicine can make ordinary people wear a mask to hide the monster inside. This is the core of this story.

It’s heavily drawn from my own experiences and it’s taken me eight years to finally fit all the pieces together. The old adage of write what you know applies here. What is the truth and what is fiction? I’ll leave that up to the reader. To this day I still feel every twinge, every pain, every single heartbeat. I still swallow a bucketful of pills every morning. Nowadays, I steer clear of the bad ones.

 

Erol Engin, what inspired your short story “Death is an Empty Mirror”?

Writing about what inspired a particular story is rarely as interesting as the story itself. I would rather have readers wonder about what might have inspired a story. A case in point: one of my favourite horror stories is Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”. What could possibly have inspired such a twisted, demented, and truly horrifying tale? I can’t possibly imagine. And I wouldn’t like to find out that it was anything less than sheer genius. But in all reality, the inspiration was likely to have been something pretty mundane: Kafka was a conscientious insurance claims adjustor. I would rather keep my fantasy, my ignorance, than have it shot like a clay pigeon out of the sky – especially by something as prosaic as the truth.

I’m sure you will agree that my story is not quite “In the Penal Colony”. And I’m not sure that anyone would really wonder about what inspired me to write it. But here goes: I never liked, and still do not like, mowing the lawn. And sometimes I wonder about Nature: whether it might like to do away with us before we do away with it. That got me started. By the time I was finished, I found out that the story was also about the influence, bad or good, that fathers can have on sons (parents on children).

Beyond this, I wanted to see if I could write what I thought of as a Stephen King style daylight-horror story, like “Lawnmower Man”. I’m not sure that I succeeded: quite a lot of the story takes place at night, for one thing. But that’s half the fun; you can’t always tell what might happen, even in your own story.

Inspiration doesn’t happen once, and not always just at a story’s inception. If you’re lucky, it can happen all the way through.

And even after you think you’ve finished.

MIDNIGHT ECHO 14 will be published in digital format on Amazon at the end of the year.

Click HERE for more information.

Midnight Echo Issue 14 cover reveal

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2019 by ahwasinisterreads

The Australasian Horror Writers Association has revealed the cover artwork and Table of Contents for the 14th issue of its fiction magazine, Midnight Echo

Guest edited by Deborah Sheldon, the issue’s theme of “Things are not as they seem” will feature new fiction, poetry and artwork, as well as stories by the winners of the 2018 AHWA Short and Flash Fiction Competition.

Deb has interviewed all the authors and artists about the inspiration behind their contributions and asked cover artist Greg Chapman about how he created the cover art for the issue:

“There’s something about shop windows at night that always terrified me as a child.

Streets at night are scary enough, but there’s something unfamiliar about a shop window in the middle of the night. You’re tempted to put your face closer to the glass, to get a closer look, even though your brain is telling you not to.


The cover art is me trying to capture that sense of the theme of the issue – ‘Things are not as they seem’. Peering into one of these shop windows is akin to looking into another realm. The shop mannequins appear even more sinister, traced in shadow, frozen like prisoners. The light from the street only shows you so much and your mind wonders keenly about what lies further inside the store.


Worse still, if the light is just right, you might just see your own reflection and it feels like you’re trapped in the darkness too.


The image I’ve presented tries to capture that sense of the unknown. It’s inviting you to come closer and see what lies within.

If you’re foolish enough you might just see something looking back. :)”

The full table of contents for ME14:

Cover art and design by Greg Chapman
Editorial by Deborah Sheldon
The Grey Witch by Chris Mason (short story)
Local Knowledge by Rebecca Fraser (poem)
Heartbeat by Liz Simrajh (short story)
Death is an Empty Mirror by Erol Engin (short story)
Alive! by Gregory Long (flash)
Sea of Blood by Brian M. Quinn (artwork)
Keep Them Close by Renee De Visser (AHWA Short Story Competition winner 2018)
The Nymph by Hari Navarro (AHWA Flash Fiction Competition winner 2018)
Cymon by Denny E. Marshall (artwork)
The Wind Chimes by Ian J. Middleton (flash)
A Tale of the Ainu by Robyn O’Sullivan (short story)
Red-Eye by Tabatha Wood (short story)
The Netherwhere Line by Matthew Morrison (novelette)
Contributor Biographies

ME14 will be published in e-book format last this year.