An Interview with Author Charles Gramlich

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

Charles: I grew up on a small family farm in Arkansas. I loved to read and used to get in trouble with my parents for reading too much, probably because I was supposed to be doing chores.  I never thought about writing myself until high school English, where we were assigned to write a poem, a nonfiction essay, and a short story. I don’t remember the poem but the essay was about drinking beer and the story was an SF/fantasy piece about a world where people grew from seeds. We read them in class and both of mine got good responses from the teacher and students. That started me thinking about writing, but I didn’t know where to start. I’d never met a writer. They seemed like magical creatures to me.

When I went to college, I found that one of the English professors was a published author, and that he’d actually lived in my hometown, Charleston, Arkansas, when he was younger. I took an essay class with him, then got up the courage to show him a western novel I was working on called The Bear-Paw Valley. He told me it was unpublishable, but that I had talent and that he’d mentor me on my next novel. I was tremendously excited. Then the fellow—Francis Gwaltney—died a couple of weeks later in an accident. I didn’t write another word of fiction until graduate school, where I’d sometimes fiddle with fictional scenarios on nights I was too wired to sleep. I shared a couple of those stories with friends and they always got good responses. I finally started submitting and sold my first story in 1989.


Lee: I’ve heard that in addition to horror, you also write westerns, as well as other genres. Can you tell us a little about your work outside the realm of horror?

Charles: I’ve always read just about everything I can get my hands on, and story ideas come to me of all different kinds. In my thirties, I decided that I wanted to try to write and publish something in every genre, which reflects what I read. So far I’ve managed Poetry, Nonfiction, SF, Fantasy, Horror, Westerns, Romance, Erotica, YA, Kids, Thriller, and Literary. I’ve never had a play published so that’s something I still have to work on, and straight up mystery. The biggest subset of my work has been in SF/Fantasy. I have five novels in the “Talera” series, which takes its cue from the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and an SF novel called Under the Ember Star. Good stories can come from anywhere.


Lee: What drew you to the western genre? Did you adopt the horror genre before or after your work writing westerns?

Charles: My brother-in-law was a big fan of Louis L’Amour, probably the best-selling western writer of all time, and I borrowed his books when I was a kid. The first novel I wrote was a western. However, at the same time I was fiddling around with SF/Fantasy short stories, many of which had horror elements. Most of the stories I wrote in grad school, which were the first things I sold, were either straight horror or SF/Fantasy/ Horror. The influences here were my studies in Psychology, where I got my degree, and the influence of Lovecraft and the short story anthologies edited by Charles Grant being published at that time. I didn’t have time to read novels in grad school but I couldn’t give up reading so I devoured a lot of short stories. Most were horror. This is a long way of saying that I don’t have a ready answer for which came first. There were three parallel and contemporaneous lines of influence on my writing: SF/Fantasy, Horror, and Westerns.


Lee: I’m familiar with your work writing short stories and flash fiction. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Charles: As far as I can tell, inspiration seems to come from everywhere, the stuff I read, the TV/Movies that I watch, work and home experiences. A lot of inspiration for horror has always come from my dreams. I’ve been blessed with nightmares my whole life. There’s nothing much better than a good heart-rushing, sweat-pouring nightmare. Scary while you’re having them, but when you wake up you just gotta say, “That was cool!” I’m getting ready to release a collection of my dream derived stories called Out of Dreams: Nightmares. Several of these were first published in The Sirens Call ezine, which I know you have a connection to.


Lee: What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Charles: Promotion. Trying to get your work noticed is a full-time job, which means I have three of them, teaching, writing, selling. Inevitably, something has to suffer, and for me it’s selling. That’s because I don’t enjoy it, and I’m not very good at it.


Lee: If you could live in any other time in history, where and when would you choose to live?

Charles: Can I pick the “Far Future?” I certainly fantasize about living in the wild west, or crusader times, or the stone age, but I know those times were pretty damn harsh in reality. If humanity can survive, though, there are likely to be some amazing adventures ahead for our species. New planets, new forms of life, new experiences that we can’t even imagine. I’d love to be there for it.


 Lee: Is there any one book or story that has influenced you as a writer?

Charles: There are so many books that have influenced me, by writers like Ray Bradbury, Louis L’Amour, Robert E. Howard, and John D. MacDonald. If I had to pick one book that marked the greatest influence on me it would probably be A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Charles: I still read everything I can get my hands on. There’s about a thousand unread books in my house, in all genres, so whatever I’m in the mood for, I’ve got. In the past year I’ve been reading a lot of Harlan Coben; I’ve also been on something of an E.C. Tubb kick, reading his Dumarest SF series. In the past six months I’ve discovered two men’s adventure writers that I’ve begun collecting: D.B. Drumm, who wrote a post-apocalyptic series about a character named Traveler, and David Robbins, who has written a series about Mountain Men and another post-apocalyptic series. There are also certain authors I reach for regularly because of their consistently good work: James Reasoner (and his pseudonyms) in westerns, Ken Bulmer and David Gemmell in fantasy, Bruce Boston and Marge Simon in speculative poetry, and Koontz in horror, though he can be hit or miss. I also read quite a few horror magazines, such as The Sirens Call, The Horror Zine, and Night to Dawn, which has helped me discover a bunch of new (to me at least) horror writers that I’ve been enjoying.


Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Charles: I read a lot. I also collect books. I’ve got close to 8,000 volumes in my house, more than our small local library. Other than that, I play video games in my spare time, such as Doom, Red Dead Redemption and Skyrim (my current favorite). Skyrim has books, which I love. I even collect those.


Lee: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a career as a writer?

Charles: I don’t want to be discouraging but I think this is a very tough time to have a “career” as a writer. If you want to make enough money to live on, it’s going to be incredibly hard. There are so many writers and so many books being published that it’s hard to get noticed and break out. So, my advice for someone who wants a writing career is to find a job that’ll pay the bills but still give you time to write. I teach college, for example, and I tend to do most of my writing during school breaks and across the summer. This certainly slows down one’s progress and development as a writer, but it also gives you some needed security. Personally, I need that security.

On the other hand, if you’re not worried about making a living, this can be a great time to be a writer. There are numerous small markets, and there’s always a chance to self-publish. There are quite a few small presses out there. The money isn’t good and it’s difficult to find a readership, but there’s a good chance to see your work in print and get some feedback. Over the last few years, I’ve begun to worry less and less about making money directly, and more about publishing in places where my work can be read by a lot of folks. I hope, of course, to attract an audience that way who’ll begin to buy my books.

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Check out Charles Gramlich’s blog HERE

Find him on Facebook HERE

Interview with Author Roger Ley

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Roger Ley about his new short fiction collection, Dead People on Facebook recently released on Amazon. Hope you enjoy our little chat!

Lee Andrew Forman: Hi Roger, why don’t you take a moment to introduce yourself?

Roger Ley: Well Lee, I live in a hamlet in the rural county of Suffolk in the UK. It’s very quiet here and I look out of my study over rolling fields and the valley of the tiny River Alde. The view from the rear of my house is the background picture of my website at rogerley.co.uk. I retired a few years ago from teaching Computer Aided Engineering and took up writing, something I’d wanted to do for years, but full-time employment and raising a family meant it had to wait. I started writing articles for magazines, mainly autobiographical stories. In the end I put them all together, filled in the gaps and self-published my first book, ‘A Horse in the Morning’. It’s named after a story I wrote about a runaway horse that came and knocked at my front door (with its hooves) one morning.

Lee: Tell us about your latest release, Dead People on Facebook. What inspired you to put the collection together? What challenges did you face along the way?

Roger: After I wrote my first time travel novel ‘Chronoscape’, I joined a writing group and when our tutor set us fifteen-minute writing exercises I found I could often make a rough draft of a story in that time. Once my creativity was released, I found myself writing and submitting stories to eZines via the ‘Submission Grinder’ and was surprised and pleased when they were accepted.

In the end there were enough stories to self-publish an anthology. I called it ‘Dead People on Facebook’ because I’d put six stories on the ‘Curious Fictions’ website and the one with that title got nearly three times as many hits as the others.

Lee: What would you want potential readers to know before reading your work?

Roger: The stories in the first part of this anthology concern Martin and Estella Riley who are the main characters in my novel ‘Chronoscape’ but you don’t need to have read it for the stories to make sense. They were written randomly over 2018 and I put them together in the order of the protagonists’ ages. They are only loosely connected, think of them as occurring on different timelines so, for instance, Martin can die on one and still be alive on another.

Lee: Even horror writers have fears. Tell us about yours.

Roger: I have all the usual fears: aging, death, unpopularity but more immediately, I will shortly be appearing on stage at our local arts theatre in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, by Charles Dickens. (‘Tom Codlin’s the name, people call me Trotters. Pleased to make you acquaintance.’ ) I’m worried that I might forget my lines and look a complete dick in front of three hundred people, some of whom I know.

Lee: What draws you to the horror genre? What made you decide to write horror?

Roger: I didn’t set out to write horror, I wanted to write hard science fiction, but many of my stories, for instance ‘Piranha’, ‘Penance’, ‘Horsemen’, ‘Rivals’ came out nasty, others came out funny or romantic and there are some sci fi stories. My stories are written by somebody who shares my brain with me, someone who I’ve never been introduced to. As I was writing my stories I felt more like the midwife than the parent. The short answer to your question is that I didn’t choose horror, it was the other guy that chose it.

Lee: If you had to choose one fictional character to be real, from any book, movie, or television show, who or what would it be?

Roger: Sorry to harp on about my own work but while Mary Lee, the fly drone pilot is my creation it doesn’t stop me from being in love with her, unattainable though she is. Several other people have found her intriguing but none could possibly carry the torch for her that I do. She appears in this anthology in the story ‘The Fly on the Wall.’

Lee: Where does your inspiration for writing come from?

Roger: I wrote all these stories in a nine-month period. I don’t know where the ideas come from but I don’t sit and think about them, I put the pen on the paper and write, I let the other guy in there do the creating.

Lee: Tell us about the inspiration for one of the pieces in your collection, Dead People on Facebook.

Roger: One of my favorite stories is the second one in the collection, ‘Dia de los Muertos’. It started to form in my mind as my wife and I took our regular walk which passes through the village graveyard. The story changed quite a lot as I wrote it and it became apparent to me that it was loosely related to the first story in the collection, ‘Harley’. I thought about the shades of dead people appearing once a year near their graves and talking with the corporeal friends and relatives, after a little Wikipedia research into the Mexican festival of the Dead the story eventually emerged, screaming loudly, and I placed it into the loving arms of the ‘The Sirens Call eZine’ where it lives to this day.

Lee: If you had to recommend one book in any genre, what would it be?

Roger: I really like ‘The Fountains of Paradise’ by Arthur C Clarke. I have incorporated the idea of space elevators into several of my stories and sited mine on the equator at Kisumu in Kenya.

As far as horror is concerned, I think ‘Carrie’ by Stephen King was a game changer although, in general, I find SK’s books rather too long.

Lee: Do you have a preferred sub-genre or theme when writing short fiction?

Roger: As I’ve said, for short fiction I put the pen on the paper and see what happens, it’s up to my alter ego. I guess I like nasty/funny. Is that a recognized sub-genre? The best example in this collection is possibly ‘Turing Test’.

Lee: What piece of your writing are you most proud of? Tell us about it.

Roger: I got an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the ‘Writers of the Future’ contest for the story ‘Pilgrimage’ which is a pure fantasy piece. It was published by AntipodeanSF and they’ll be broadcasting it in the new year on their AntipodeanSF Radio Show. But I also really like ‘Pressing Matters’ published by Sirens Call Publications. I love the idea of a downtrodden woman finally… no spoilers.

Lee: What three things do you need to sit down and write?

Roger: I live on my own some of the time and while I can do the routine stuff like submissions and social media when I’m at my wife’s house I need to be alone to write creatively.

I have a double walled mug which keeps my tea hot.

I need to get all my small jobs cleared out of the way before I can free myself to write.

Lee: What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a writer so far?

Roger: The difficulty of publicizing my work and selling books. I don’t expect to make a living from writing, but I would like to get my books to a bigger audience. This is the reason that I’ve embraced flash fiction, it’s easier to get it published than larger works.

Lee: Any final words for the reader?

Roger: You may not like all the stories in ‘Dead People on Facebook’ but you will almost certainly like some and if you do, please leave a review. Good reviews are like gold nuggets to a writer and often they’re the only feedback you get from your readers.

About Roger Ley:

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Roger Ley was born and educated in London and spent some of his formative years in Saudi Arabia. He worked as an engineer in the oilfields of North Africa and the North Sea, before pursuing a career in higher education. His stories have appeared in about twenty ezines this year and some have been podcast and broadcast, notably on the AntipodeanSF Radio Show in Australia.

He has published three books:

Dead People on Facebook‘ is a recently released collection of flash fiction stories in various speculative genres including Steampunk, Horror, Sci Fi, Time travel, a little magic and one Romance.

‘Chronoscape’ is a science fiction novel about time and alternate realities. It has been well received and was included by author Jessica Lucci on her Summer reading list 2018.

‘A Horse in the Morning’ is a collection of comic autobiographical stories.

Reach him at rogerley.co.uk

Excerpt from Zero Perspective

In celebration of publishing my novella, Zero Perspective, I’d like to share an excerpt from the first chapter with you, the awesome person reading this post. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for reading, and an even bigger thank you if you decide to pick up a copy of Zero Perspective!

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…After suiting up and meeting Grant and Miles at the airlock, John led the team into the Esometa.

“It’s a ghost ship,” Grant said, shining his helmet light down the dark, silent corridor.

“Have you ever heard a ship be this quiet?” Miles asked.

“It’s completely shut down,” John added. “Dead in the water, so to speak.”

“Why are the gravity systems still operational?” Miles noted.

Grant shook his head. “Strange. They shouldn’t be.”

They made their way down the hall. John tried to prepare himself for the sight of corpses, which he felt sure they’d find. His stomach cramped at the thought.

“Where’s the bridge?” Miles asked. “You know the designs on these ships, don’t you Grant?”

“I thought I did,” Grant answered. “This corridor should have ended ten meters back and I still can’t see the end of it. It doesn’t conform to the design specifications. I don’t understand.”

“You’ve got the right display, haven’t you?” Miles’ tone carried a wavering anticipation.

“Of course I have the right one.”

“Then where the hell are we?” Miles asked.

Grant studied the information on his arm display. He seemed transfixed, the soft glow of the screen casting pale light on his face. His eyes stared hard, jaw locked in concentration.

“Well?” Miles took a step closer to Grant.

“I don’t know,” Grant said. “Let’s turn around and go back. Maybe we just missed it in the dark.”

“Where does your computer say we are?” John asked.

“It’s not working,” Grant answered.

“But what does it say?”

“It says we’re not even on the ship. It says we’re out there,” he pointed a gloved finger at one of the port windows, “in space.”

“Then it’s obviously malfunctioning,” Miles said.

“No shit,” Grant replied. “I just said it wasn’t working.”

“We’ll turn around and make our way back,” John said. “We don’t want to get lost in here. We’ll go get a replacement so we know where we’re going.”

Grant looked hard at John. “Sure, we need a new computer. But something still isn’t right about this. I know these ships like the back of my hand. And I’m telling you, there’s no way this corridor is as long as it is. I don’t need the computer to tell me that.”

“Radio the captain,” John said. “Let him know our situation before we move on. Maybe he knows something about the ship we don’t.”

“This is Grant to Tyson. Come in, Tyson.”

They waited for an answer, but were met with silence. Not even static came through the speaker.

“Grant to Tyson. Can you read me?” He tapped his helmet. “Hello? Tyson, are you there? This is Grant. We have a situation.”

Sweat beaded on John’s brow. A drop ran down the bridge of his nose and rested at the tip. He focused on it, blurring all else in his vision. It shook slightly, as though seismic activity rumbled beneath the surface of his skin.

“I’m not getting anything,” Grant said. “Nothing at all.”

“This is John. Can anyone hear me?” He tried to keep his voice calm, despite the simmered blood rushing through his heart. He didn’t want anyone to panic. That would make a bad situation worse. And things were already off to a less than perfect start…


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Zero Perspective is available from these retailers:

Print edition on Amazon

Kindle edition

eBook on Smashwords

Signed copies are also available! Contact me by email at LeeFormanAuthor@gmail.com

Zero Perspective

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My debut novella, Zero Perspective is now available!

Lost in the depths of space and time, swallowed by something unknown to humanity, a derelict ship is adrift in an alternate reality.

John and his crew board the vessel, the Esometa, on a rescue mission. The ship’s been lost for two weeks with no explanation. When they discover its occupants dead and decaying, a mind-bending journey begins.

The Esometa takes them down a path filled with horrid creatures and bizarre events from which there may be no return…

Available from these retailers:

Print edition on Amazon

Kindle edition on Amazon

More places to buy coming soon!

Author Interview – Origin: Stories on Creativity

I had the pleasure of being on Bryan Aiello’s podcast, Origin: Stories on Creativity. He’s got a great show (click here to check out his YouTube channel) where he talks with authors about all sorts of topics! He’s a great conversationalist and it was more fun than formal. Loved the experience!

Check out the podcast episode HERE on YouTube where we talk about movies, writing, publishing, and all sorts of random stuff!

 

Best Episodes of Black Mirror

 

The best advice I can give to you if you haven’t seen the show already, is to not watch Season 1, Episode 1, The National Anthem. Trust me, you probably don’t want to see that…

The strange thing I noticed about this show is that the seasons and episodes are listed backwards on Netflix. Usually when you go to a show, the first season is listed at the top, and episodes follow in a top-down format. This show lists the latest season first, and has the previous seasons below it. I think it might be an intentional way to avoid people from seeing The National Anthem first. It could definitely ruin the show for a lot of people, making them not want to watch any more episodes if they’d seen that first. A lot of the episodes are hit and miss, many not appealing to everyone.

That’s why I’ve put together this list for the horror fans out there. To filter out the stuff you might want to skip. By all means, watch the whole series; I did. But some episodes I enjoyed more than others.

Either way, here is my list of recommendations:

 

Season 2, Episode 2: White Bear

I have to say this is probably my favorite of all the episodes in regards to horror. Great story, atmosphere, pacing, and ending.

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Season 4, Episode 5: Metalhead

This is my second favorite. Post-apocalyptic scenereo with robots? Yes please! Again, great story, atmosphere (they did this one entirely in black and white), pacing, and ending. One of the best in the series.

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Season 4, Episode 6: Black Museum

If you plan to watch the entire series, you should probably save this one for last. But the way the show is constructed, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll get the story. (There are just a few easter eggs in the episode you may see if you’ve watched other episodes).

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Season 3, Episode 5: Men Against Fire

This is also a great episode. Has its fair share of horror and a good ending.

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Season 2, Episode 4: White Christmas

This one strikes hard on fear of time. The cruelty of what occurs made me cringe.

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Season 4, Episode 1: USS Callister

This one isn’t necessarily horror (it has its moments), but as a Star Trek fan it’s something I can’t ignore. By far one of the best Star Trek inspired pieces I’ve ever seen. Even if you’ve never seen Star Trek, it’s an enjoyable episode.

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Hope you enjoy the show! And fair warning: don’t watch The National Anthem.