Thursday, 29 July 2021

Submissions Open: Hitchcockian Suspense

Black Beacon Books is accepting submissions for our Hitchcockian anthology. 

Please read the specific guidelines below and refer to our submissions page for general guidelines.

a) We're looking for suspense stories directly inspired by a Hitchcock film. The story doesn't have to be set in the 50s or 60s but it must convey the atmosphere and tension that make his films so memorable. Preferred length between 5,000 and 10,000 words.

b) Please submit the first page only of your story and a brief synopsis of the entire plot. If it hooks us in, we'll invite you to send the whole story when you've completed it. You must include the name of the film that inspired your story in your introduction.

c) Reprints are welcome if they fit the specific theme.

d) There's no deadline at this stage and therefore no set publication date. For this reason, you're welcome to send simultaneous submissions, but if your story is published elsewhere before our publication is released, it will be considered a reprint.

e) Rates are 20€ for original stories and 5€ for reprints plus one print copy.

f) Please note we are already considering stories connected to the films listed below and will not be "doubling up". To improve your chances of acceptance, submit a story connected to a different film.

- Vertigo
- To Catch a Thief





Saturday, 10 July 2021

Black Beacon Bundles


Our titles are available from all good online retailers, from your local bookshop, or via direct order from us. If you order a Black Beacon Bundle, you can request signed copies and you'll also receive a free sticker and bookmark for each book ordered. 

Full details on our "shop" page, or simply get in touch with any queries. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Sarah Jane Justice

 


Sarah Jane Justice's "The Box" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

These are the barest summaries of stories that I could talk about for hours. Reducing them to a single sentence makes them all the more intriguing.

- When I was fresh out of high school, I was recruited by an established ska band and spent two years touring Australia and New Zealand.

- Over the course of a few strange years, I managed to achieve nationwide notoriety in an extremely competitive augmented reality game.

- In 2016, I wrote and performed a science-fiction cabaret show that was on the programme for the Adelaide Fringe Festival that year.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

I love writing to prompts, and I especially love finding creative ways to approach any given theme. The submission call for this anthology came with a list of suggested authors for stylistic influence, and that drew my attention more than anything else. The list contained some of the most classic authors in the genre, and it completely set the tone for how I should approach writing this piece. I took the time to sit with it, aiming to think of something that might not have been done before. With the style in mind and the idea I came up with, I had an excellent time writing ‘The Box’. (Editor’s note: And what a chillingly original tale you came up with!)

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

This might seem like an odd answer, but cars. These are immensely powerful machines that have the potential to kill in an instant. What makes them so frightening is that most drivers rarely, if ever, consider that. Because we drive them every day, we let ourselves get distracted, we ignore safety regulations, and we drive dangerously just for the fun of it. Even though the worst consequences are happening every day, it’s far too easy to forget about them. These are machines that surround us, that kill more consistently than any other, and we barely think twice about it. It can be quite terrifying when you stop to think about it.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Shirley Jackson is a horror author whom I find both inspiring and deeply fascinating. I highly encourage readers to look up her work, as well as her life story. For a more obvious choice, Mary Shelley is incredible as a pioneer of the genre.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

‘The Fly’ – When I was a teenager, I worked at a video rental store. We were encouraged to watch as many movies as we could, and I decided to watch all the most classic horror and thriller movies. This one stuck with me. It’s such a fascinating concept.

What does your editing process look like? 

I’m very methodical in my writing and organisation, and my editing process is no exception.

I get the initial draft down first. Then, I go back and pick it apart from start to finish, rewriting everything that needs to be changed while keeping the flow of the story intact. Finally, I go through and neaten up the writing. I watch for phrases that are too repetitive, metaphors that could be more creative, grammatical mistakes etc. I go over and over until I can finally declare myself to be finished. Then I let it sit for a few days and discover that I was not, in fact, finished. Repeat.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

There is an element of spontaneity in the drafting process, but always within the frame of a plan. I find that my writing is far more efficient if I know where it is going, and where I want it to end up.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m crawling through the editing processes on a science-fiction novella. This has been very satisfying to write, especially given how easily it seems to be coming together. There have been no major problems in the drafting process, major plot elements and characters are all fitting where they need to, and I’m already pleased with the quality of the writing. I’m getting very excited about the finished product.

Where can we find you online?

I have a website that I keep regularly updated – www.sarahjanejusticewriting.com

Additionally, I have a Facebook page, an Instagram, and a Twitter, all linked below:

https://www.facebook.com/sarahjanejusticewriting 

https://www.instagram.com/sarahjanejusticewriting/

https://twitter.com/sjjusticewrites

Thanks, Sarah!

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Kurt Newton



Kurt Newton's "The Wedge" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. I went to school to become an engineer and came out discovering I was a writer.

2. My current job of over twenty years is in the field of Health Physics. In other words, I work with radiation.

3. I’m nearing retirement age and have a six-year-old who’s better at Mario Kart than I am. I hear “I beat you Dada” in my dreams. The kid will one day be the death of me.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

The inner workings of machines have always fascinated me. As a kid, I used to take things apart just to see how they worked. The same applies to people, except it’s psychological. As a writer, I try to get at the heart of the invisible machine inside us all.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

A kitchen sink garbage disposal. It’s even got lips. It’s gross. And scary.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Three of the best short story collections (that happen to be predominately horror-based) are Ray Bradbury’s The October Country, Stephen King’s Night Shift and Dennis Etchinson’s The Dark Country. If I taught a course on the great American short story, I’d definitely put these on the reading list.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

When I was kid, watching the movie The Time Machine with Rod Taylor and the Morlocks was mind-altering. Another was the Twilight Zone episode A Kind of Stopwatch with Burgess Meredith.

What does your editing process look like?

I hardly ever have enough time to write a complete story in a single sitting (flash being the exception). Most times, I write then I print what I have so far. The next time pick it up, I edit that then write some more, print, edit, write, etc. until it’s done. Then I print the whole thing and set it aside. It could be weeks or months before I revisit the story with “fresh” eyes.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write?

Writing is visual for me, so I can usually envision what the story will look like--the setting, the mood—even before I start. Then it’s just a matter of transcribing those visuals onto paper. For longer stories, I sketch out just enough actions or scenes to keep the story interesting. I find that if I think through too much, I tend to lose interest in the story because, in my head, it’s already written.

What are you working on now?

In my early days of writing, I created an alternate future world that I’ve revisited several times. There’s a novel in-progress and several other related projects of interconnected stories. At the moment, I’m working to finish a novella I began many years ago called House of Giants, House of Ghosts that takes place in the same world.

Where can we find you online?

The usual social media playgrounds: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I also have author pages at Amazon, Goodreads and Librarything.

Thanks, Kurt!

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Chisto Healy



Chisto Healy's "A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. I’m also an artist and musician, rock singer and rapper

2. The word “Undeathable” was coined for me because I have faced death and somehow survived a ridiculous amount of times

3. A lot of my most horrific ideas are actually inspired by the twisted minds of my children haha

What drew you to this particular theme? 

AI is something that has fascinated me my whole life and I always like to bring relevant real life issues such as domestic violence into my work. It felt realistic to me that the two would eventually find each other as we intend AI to be of service to us.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

I’m always worried about the robot revolt and worried about the fact that scientists don’t seem worried about it and obviously don’t read or watch enough science fiction. They just created a psychopath AI just to see….why?! As for current machinery….really…anything that can kill you….so….most of it haha

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Goodness…this would be a long list if I answered it accurately. The authors that inspired me to be a writer are Dean Koontz, Simon Clark, Clive Barker, Robert R McCammon and Nate Kenyon. Now I’ve met and read so many fantastic authors in the indie community that I could write a very long list. To name a few: David Green, Tim Mendees, Natalie Brown, Callum Pearce, Mark Young, and so many, many more. If any of you are looking for good horror, hit me up and I can list at least a hundred worthy authors.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

I would have to go with Do androids dream of electric sheep? by Phillip K Dick

What does your editing process look like?

I write my first draft and try to catch spelling and grammar as I go and then I do a spell check to make sure. Then I leave it alone for a bit to get it out of my head because if you edit your own work when you know what it is supposed to say you will miss a lot, and then I go back to it later and start from line one and do a line edit which usually leads to me making content and phrasing changes as well so I need to repeat the process.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

I do minimal planning. I usually just come up with a concept and how I want to end it and then write and edit.

What are you working on now?

So many things… I am doing the first rewrite of the first novel of a series I am producing with Cursed Dragonship and I am working on five different invitation only projects I am not currently allowed to speak about, and a charity anthology I am leading for an incredible trans author who has faced some pitfalls recently, as well as editing and rewriting and finishing other novels I’m trying to get picked up. Any publishers that are interested…hit me up haha I stay busy. There’s a lot on the horizon if I happen to have any fans out there haha

Where can we find you online?

You can follow me on Amazon as there are pretty much always new books coming out or find me on Facebook as I love connecting with other authors and readers alike. There is also a blog that I’m really bad at updating that tells everything I have out and gives links to get it. It’s https://chistohealy.blogspot.com Promotion is my weakness though as my crippling anxiety kind of hinders it on every level. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it to where I can pay someone to do it yet haha Maybe one day.

Thanks, Chisto!

Friday, 2 April 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Paul Williams


Paul Williams' "Fargan's Termination" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. I completed a PhD about the folklore of wolves.

2. I started watching Doctor Who in chronological order, one episode a week in 2018 and will finish the current run in 2035.

3. My favourite job was managing a collections office for HMRC.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

The guillotine and the Halifax gibbet; machines designed to kill. The purpose of machines is to make life easier for humans and reduce the unpleasant chores. Washing machines, microwaves, robot vacuum cleaners, computers, and mobile phones. What happens when a society takes that a stage further and employs machine for the jobs that people don’t want to do? Low paid manual work such as fruit picking. Toilet cleaners. Executioners.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

An aeroplane. Although I work in aviation and fly regularly there is still something unsettling about being in a sealed container high in the sky.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

Richard Laymon, Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Burke.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

The Mangler by Stephen King.

What does your editing process look like?

Three drafts and three read-throughs. Then I check spelling and grammar and formatting rules. 

 Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

 A bit of both. I’m not always good on structure.

 What are you working on now?

 A book on the real identity of Jack the Ripper victim, Mary Jane Kelly.

 Where can we find you online?

 PaulECWilliams – Writing the future about the past

Thanks, Paul!

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with K. G. McAbee



K.G. McAbee's "A Whole New World" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. I have a passion for old Universal horror movies with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone—incidentally, the BEST Holmes ever—and Claude Rains, and Hammer Films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing...as who among us does not?

2. I live in a 200-year-old log cabin with resident ghost, a woman in a long blue dress who walks by my window. My second-floor window.

3. In a former job, I programmed robots.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

The delicate balance between humanity and machinery has always fascinated me. We humans love to create machines, and we need machinery to do what our puny muscles and minds cannot, but we’ve always had a love-hate relationship with it. Luddites, anyone?

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

Airplanes! The complete and total lack of control as you’re flung through the sky, defying gravity, is terrifying. Not to mention take-offs and landing.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Eddie Poe.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

I’m a serious Tolkien geek, and I’ve always been struck with how Saruman is happy to have trees shopped down to fuel his furnaces and make more weapons. Furnaces. Weapons. What can possibly go wrong?

What does your editing process look like? 

After I finish a story, I let it sit for a few days to get cold, then I read it from the beginning, editing as I go.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

I’m a die-hard pantser. I write first, then edit. My stories often take interesting and unexpected turns, true, but I can—usually—get them back on track.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a science fiction short about androids, and also on a new mystery series set at writers’ conferences. Because, really: haven’t we all seen people we’d like to murder at pretty much any conference?

Where can we find you online?

At my website: www.kgmcabeebooks.com and at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and all sorts of other places.

Thanks, K.G.!

Monday, 29 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Robert Bagnall



Robert Bagnall's "Driverless" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. Fat Boy Slim one asked me whether I had a football – I didn’t.

2. The now-defunct satirical magazine ‘Punch’ has owed me a bottle of whisky for over thirty years for a ‘Letter of the Week’.

3.  The make-up artists apart, I was the first person to see the ‘dead’ Inspector Morse: John Thaw was coming out of make-up as I—an unused extra—was going in.

What drew you to this particular theme?

Not sure I ever write about themes; to me, they’re things you see after the event, like Jesus in a piece of toast. I was curious where these characters would take me. Not to particularly pleasant places in this case, as I found out.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

Being amaxophobic, the car.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you?

I was given, aged ten or so, a book of short horror stories for a Christmas or birthday. ‘The Red Room’ by HG Wells made a huge impression on me; I still cite it as my favourite short story.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Is it cheating to cite my own ‘Product Recall’ (Flash Fiction Online, and Best of British Science Fiction 2017)? – an unrequited love story between a fridge and a robotic floor polisher.

What does your editing process look like? 

Normally driven by panic over boiling a story down to the necessary word count, but of late far more controlled since I discovered ‘The 10% Solution’ by Ken Rand.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

Short stories are often like jokes – you know what the punch line needs to be and you write until you get there. Longer pieces, yes, I do plan, although they are rarely stuck to religiously.

What are you working on now?

Applying Ken Rand’s ‘The 10% Solution’ to all the stories that have almost got through the transom, but never quite make the final cut.

Where can we find you online?

meschera.blogspot.com

Thanks, Robert!


Friday, 26 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Linda Brucesmith



Linda Brucesmith's "#Selfie" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

I’m an introvert. Is that interesting? I’m not sure. What if I was to say, I’m an introvert, chronically shy, and paralysed by the idea of public speaking? I don’t like the spotlight. Which is why I made a career in journalism and public relations. So I could shine the spotlight on others, and keep it there.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

The double-edged sword that is social media. The fact that Facebook and all the other platforms facilitate such good and such ugliness at a keystroke. Social media brings people together and it pushes them apart. It hurts them and it saves them. I wanted to explore those notions in #Selfie.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

Anything used by the medical profession.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

‘The Monkey’s Paw’, a supernatural short story by W. W. Jacobs (first published in 1902 in England in the collection ‘The Lady of the Barge’) pops up in most good ghost story collections and it scared the pants off me. I read it once - big mistake - at night, and was awake into the small hours, trying to forget it. In the story, Jacobs has three wishes granted to the owner of the monkey’s paw, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate. When it comes to atmospheric story-telling, Jacobs is a genius.

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Absolutely. The story of Data, the android in Star Trek. How could anyone not love Data?

What does your editing process look like? 

I edit as I go. How I envy all those who can write a full draft in one pass.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write? 

For me, part of the joy of writing is in having the story come alive in those moments when you’re crossing the street, in the shower, or buying groceries. When suddenly, the next stage in a story comes to you. Those moments make it a living thing. I don’t plan. I dust off structure as part of the editing process.

What are you working on now?

An anthology on Brisbane bookshops!

Where can we find you online?

www.lindabrucesmith.com.au

Thanks, Linda!

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Cameron Trost


Cameron Trost's "Tenterhooks" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.

(Editor's note: Cameron Trost is the editor.)

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. Not many people know this, but my closest friends call me nine-and-a-half. Before you get the wrong idea, it's to do with my toes. When I was about two years old, I had an accident with the drawer I was standing in to get a closer look at the TV perched on top of the chest of drawers. Subconscious inspiration for this anthology? Perhaps.

2. I don't like mangoes but I'm a Queenslander...go figure. 

3. I live in Brittany and the history, landscape, and architecture of this beautiful country is increasingly influencing my writing. 

What drew you to this particular theme?

It's hard to say exactly what gave me the idea for this anthology. I wanted a title starting with "Murder and..." and the temptation to use alliteration probably took me a step closer. I'm also a fan of the British series, Midsomer Murders, in which farming equipment and various other tools and machines are used as the murder weapon...so, I guess it just fell into place.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

Probably the automobile. Driving a car is something most of us take for granted, and yet it's an inherently dangerous activity and one that is too often taken lightly. In terms of fiction, Crash! by JG Ballard certainly explores the bizarre relationship that exists between humans and cars. In this anthology, Robert Bagnall's Driverless takes that concept one terrifying step further. 

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Plenty. The Lord of the Dynamos and The Cone by HG Wells and The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb and The Lift by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are amongst my favourite classics about machines. Ambrose Bierce's Moxon's Monster is particularly chilling too.

What are you working on now?

I'm in the middle of the second draft of my post-apocalyptic novel about a pyromaniac. The red ink is flowing. At about 99,000 words, it's the longest story I've written. I'm really enjoying the process. This story is both intimate (first person) and epic at once.

Where can we find you online?

Everywhere! I'm even on TikTok...It's another planet over there! Links to all my social media pages can be found on my website: https://camerontrost.com

Thanks, Cameron! (Oh, I'm talking to myself now...)

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Paulene Turner


Paulene Turner's "Suicide Blonde" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. I have twin daughters and twin pugs.

2. I write and direct short plays for Short and Sweet, Sydney, the biggest little play festival in the world.

3. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and have recently become one of the many imitators of Conan Doyle’s work - which is great fun.

What drew you to this particular theme? 

My theme is of machines working to agendas of their own. It’s increasingly clear that someone is watching. We google something, and ads appear matching our enquiries in our Facebook. More disturbingly, sometimes I have a conversation with my phone nearby and ads then appear on Facebook. Plus I was reading Yuval Harari’s excellent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, where he discusses all things AI related (it’s more of a horror book than those on the shelves), and this was an extension of his ideas about the future.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

The phone. The way we’re all hopelessly addicted to it. And how it affects personal relationships.

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 

I’m afraid to read horror. But I read plenty of news, and that’s pretty much a horror story. 

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum? 

I, Robot is a great story and very relevant to all the issues we’ll have to deal with in the future. But I did like Gridiron by Phillip Kerr, in which a modern, smart building turns against its occupants.

What does your editing process look like? 

A mess, generally. 15-20 versions of the same document. Printouts everywhere, with scribbles and crossings out. My husband is a great sub-editor and my daughters are both writers, so we have a lot of versions of each story with (insightful) comments from them to be dealt with. Then, of course, when I finish it, and it’s completely ready, the minute I print it off, I find still more typos.

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write?

I’m a pantser. I generally have some idea of the main points, but try to let it flow how it wants as I go. Sometimes works well. Not always though. Ah, this uncertain and fickle hobby of writing! A bit like cooking. No matter how many meals you’ve made, there’s no guarantee the next one will turn out well. 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the fifth book in a time travel series - the last and the hardest, which involves travelling to the past to Edo Japan, then into future Sydney to wrap it up. Plus I’m writing a twisted fairytale for a competition.

Where can we find you online?

pauleneturnerwrites.com

Facebook: Paulene Turner Writes

Twitter: @PauleneTurner

Thanks, Paulene!

Friday, 19 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with James Dorr



James Dorr's "Vanitas" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

1. Some years ago I had a story in a horror magazine, Wicked Mystic, that had a subscription copy sent back by the Texas Bureau of Prisons as “being unsuitable reading for a prisoner on death row.” I don’t know if it was my story but I have my suspicions. (For those interested the story, “Mr. Happy Head,” is currently available in Murder Mayhem Short Stories [Flame Tree Publishing, 2016] as well as the 2013 anthology, Bizarro Bizarro).

2. I have been both an Anthony (mystery, for short story) and Stoker (horror, fiction collection) award finalist. The dates for these, however, are sixteen years apart.

3. When not reading or writing I am also an amateur musician, leading and playing tenor recorder in a group specializing in Renaissance dance music.

What drew you to this particular theme?

Along with horror and mystery, I’m also a science fiction fan, and have long had a fascination with the kind of narration that involves explaining how something works, whether an object or a process, as an integral part of the story. Thus the reader (and writer) becomes involved in two ways, through both entertainment and education.

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

I’ll say the guillotine as a machine designed for a single task – to kill – but purposely in the most humane way its builders could devise at the time. Added to that, there was serious speculation about whether a victim’s brain could survive long enough afterward for the person to recognize what had happened. So I wrote a story about it (cf. the question just above) called “The Great Man,” set in the years following the French Revolution, which was subsequently published in Spring-Summer 1999 in The Strand Magazine (also in my 2007 Darker Loves collection).

Which short story author or authors in the horror genre inspire you?

Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury to start, Bradbury for poetry and beauty in his expression even in his darker works and Poe for a juxtaposition of beauty and horror – a nexus of Eros and Thanatos in Freudian terms, of sex and death in both his tales and poems. Then I’ll add two more in terms of influence, though not necessarily known for horror (or short stories), Allen Ginsberg for poetry combining the beatific with the tragically ugly, and Bertolt Brecht for his ideas of “epic theatre,” allowing the notion of artistic distance, yet combined with emotional intimacy in such works as Mother Courage. I could add to those a number of others, too many to count, but forced to choose I’d say these are the main ones.

Do you have a favorite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?

Off the top of my head, I’ll say Franz Kafka’s “The Penal Colony” (“In der Strafkolonie”), for a machine the opposite of the guillotine, this one to inflict the maximum pain possible and through a deliriously elaborate and drawn out sequence of actions. (Editor: I'm with you there. Kafka's best, in my opinion. The inspiration behind a song by Joy Division too.)

What does your editing process look like?

Nothing terribly exciting. I try to draft a story that’s going to be pretty much in its final form, something that computer use encourages, then give it a final read through (subvocalizing to get a feel for the sound of the words as well as how they appear on the page) and print out a draft. At that point I become “old school” – a few days to a week later I’ll read it again in printed form and make (usually minor) changes as needed and transfer them back to the computer copy. That’s usually it, though I do belong to a writers’ group that I’ll send some stories through for critiquing, especially if some strike me as possibly having particular problems, if only to get an idea from time to time of how a work might be received by readers coming onto it cold. .

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write?

Starting out as a writer, I used to outline some stories, especially mysteries where I’d write out clues and when and how they’d be revealed, but as I became more skilled I think a lot of that sort of preparation began being taken care of automatically in my mind. I do usually jot down an idea of how a story will end (and often the first few lines of a beginning as well, if they come to me then) and also get an idea in my head of who and where and when it might take place, but, that done, I’ll look for a time where I can continue for, say, four hours or so without being disturbed and just start writing.

What are you working on now?

When the COVID-19 lockdown began, I decided I’d use the resulting extra home time to write a new story every week until it was over. As I write this (in earlyish February), it’s 46 down and still going strong – mostly very short stories to be sure, varying from about 500 to 2000 words, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve starting writing shorter anyway, especially as the internet seems to spawn more and more flash fiction markets. Beyond that, I’m also spending more time marketing already published stories as reprints (example: “Vanitas” here in MURDER AND MACHINERY, originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE), given that there’s a whole new generation of potential readers who would have trouble finding them in their original printings.

Where can we find you online?

I’d recommend checking out my blog first (e-addresses should be below) to find out what I’ve been publishing lately, as well as links to Amazon for several collections. Then blog entries also will go onto my Facebook page, while an idea of the range of anthologies and magazines I have stories and/or poetry in can be found (though, unfortunately, in no rational order that I’ve yet discovered) on my Amazon “Authors Page.”

Social Media for James Dorr:

Blog: http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS/

Thanks, James!


Thursday, 11 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Kerilee S. Nickles



Kerilee S. Nickles' "The Screen in the Sky" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

  1. I currently live in Lilongwe, Malawi

  2. In the last eight years, I have lived in the UAE, Taiwan, and Malawi 

  3. I am from Lancaster County, PA, the heart of Amish country


What drew you to this particular theme? 


I have always enjoyed creepy stories relating to uncontrollable things or mysterious villains, both for reading and writing. I have been working on writing a few similar stories in the past few years, and so when I saw this opportunity to write under this theme for a magazine, I jumped on it. 


What’s the most frightening machine for you personally?

 

I think that “Alexa” is the most frightening. I do not personally own one, but my parents and some of my friends do. I’ve heard her say things randomly without being asked. Things that have either nothing to do with anything we’ve said to her or things you’re surprised she knows about because you’ve not said it to her. I don’t like the idea of a machine listening to you and then seemingly coming to life and talking back. 


Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you? 


Edgar Allan Poe is and has been one of my favourite authors for many years. His work helped me draw on the creepy and the strange, and whenever I write scary short stories, I always go back to him. 


Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum?


I am a recent convert to science fiction stories, and so I’m still exploring the genre. I really like H.G. Wells, but I think my favourite story with machines still has to be Frankenstein. I love the idea of a machine bringing something back to life. 


What does your editing process look like? 


I write and then go back. I go over it and again and again. For a short story, I like to read it in full, make notes, and then read it in full again. Sometimes I take a few days’ break to let my mind clear, and then I go back and edit again. For editing a novel, I work chapter by chapter. I also like to get someone to go through and read my work for me. Often because I’m so immersed in my writing, there are mistakes I never catch without someone else’s help! 


Do you write everything and then edit, or do you meticulously plan before you write? 


I usually like to write everything and get it all down and then go back to edit afterwards. Editing during writing sometimes feels like it’s interrupting my flow. I get all my ideas out even if they aren’t good or even if the wording is off, and then I go through it all at the end.


What are you working on now?


Currently, I’m finishing up my own full-length Victorian mystery involving a serial killer. I’m going through the editing process, and then I hope to self-publish!


I’m also working on editing a horror short story, getting it ready to send out to magazines! 


Where can we find you online?


You can find some of my short stories here: https://kerinickles.wixsite.com/teaandtales

And you can find posts about my writing as well as my newspaper column here: https://www.facebook.com/knickles.writing


Thanks, Kerilee!

Monday, 8 March 2021

Murder and Machinery: An Interview with Duncan Richardson



Duncan Richardson's "The Secret Zeppelin" is just one of the mad mechanical tales featured in Murder and Machinery. Out April the 3rd. Kindle pre-orders available now.


Tell us three interesting facts about yourself. 

*While walking on a bush track beside the Zambesi, I realised the warning signs about crocodiles weren’t just for decoration but wondered why there wasn’t one at the start of the track. 

*COVID has shown how most disaster/war stories get the dialogue wrong, which is something I suspected. 

*I also suspect that all these points are of no interest to anyone else, but who can predict what will interest strangers? (Editor's note: Our readers are a discerning bunch, Duncan. I wager they're interested!) 

  

What drew you to this particular theme?   


I’d just read a book about the German airship bombing campaign against Britain during World War I. In the paranoia about how the enemy pilots were able to find their targets, some people were claiming that the Germans or their collaborators had secret Zeppelin bases inside hills in the British countryside and the airships were launched from there. So I recruited a retired detective to investigate. 

 

What’s the most frightening machine for you personally? 


Either a crusher in a wrecker’s yard or a mobile phone, it’s hard to say. 

 

Which short story authors or authors in the horror genre inspire you?  


Roald Dahl, Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce, because their stories are usually based on character rather than just plot. (Editor's note: 100% agree. Roald Dahl really knew how to weave humour and suspense.)

 

Do you have a favourite story about machines, other than The Pit and the Pendulum? 


There’s a Dahl story I think, about a machine that has kept a man alive but only his head so he’s powerless to act. (Editor's note: Yes, "William and Mary - HIGHLY recommended!) And Hal, in 2001 – A Space Odyssey. 

 

What does your editing process look like?  


A draft with lots of bits missing, like a line drawing, and sometimes things are in the wrong place. Then they get filled in and re-arranged, sometimes with the help of my writers’ group. 

 

Do you write everything and then edit or do you meticulously plan before you write?  


Never meticulous planning but sometimes a broad outline, usually missing an end, then in the writing, I work out the details but only after several drafts. 

 

What are you working on now? 


A children’s time travel story, set partly in the ear of Australian megafauna. 


Thanks, Duncan!