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Writing Prompt Wednesday


Hello All,

I’m back from vacation and getting back into the swing of things gradually. For today’s prompt please use this image.

humphrey

This is my response – enjoy!

There was Humphrey, big, bold and yellow. Weren’t shadows supposed to be black or at least grey? Martin only knew the brightness of the object before him from as long as his memory allowed. As a small child, Martin played for hours with his yellow playmate, making his parents happy that he could entertain himself so well at such an early age. They boasted about his ability until that fateful day.

“Your first day at school, Martin. Are you excited?”

“Yes, very. Humphrey and me will have such fun there.”

“Now, Martin, that’s enough of this Humphrey nonsense. Big boys don’t have invisible playmates, we’ve told you that before.”

“Yes, son you have to be a big boy at school. You want to fit in with all the other children don’t you?”

Martin looked from mother to father to Humphrey in bewilderment. Why wasn’t Humphrey allowed to go to school with him? When Martin protested that Humphrey was real, his parents got mad and forbid him from mentioning his invisible friend again. Tears flowing down his cheeks, Martin ran to his room shouting back as he went that Humphrey wasn’t invisible at all. In fact he was bright yellow and his parents must be blind if they couldn’t see him. Martin didn’t get supper that evening.

Now Martin sat on a park bench unable to steady his emotions. He had needed to walk away from Cheryl and Tommy for a few moments. Humphrey had been his dark secret for decades. A constant companion through school and college but never shared with anyone not even Cheryl. They had courted and married without Cheryl ever knowing she was part of a trio.

“Daddy, are you alright? Did I do something bad?”

Tommy’s little face shone up at Martin, an innocent five year old, who saw the world as a fascinating place.

“No, Tommy, you didn’t do anything bad. It’s just that no one else has ever seen Humphrey. I was shocked when you asked him to play with us.”

A shadow fell over father and son. Martin looked up at Cheryl unsure how she would react. He sighed with relief when he saw her smiling.

“Now your secret is out maybe you can be a more relaxed person, Martin. What do you think?”

“I love you both more than ever before. Come on Humphrey we need to make sandcastles.”

Have fun.

Author Interview – Axel Howerton


Author-Interview-Button

 

Axel

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I get very energized during the initial stages – planning, researching, outlining – and during the actual writing in extended bursts where I’ll write for six or eight hours a day for a week or more… then I tend to burn out and fizzle for a few days until I recharge. I find it’s the same through the editing process, go-go-go and then crawl back up out of the dirt.

  1. What is your writing Kryptonite?

Day job nonsense. Netflix. I get obsessive about new shows I like, and I’ll be locked out of doing almost anything else if I start a show and don’t finish the story. I’ll binge 3 or 4 seasons in a week. My kids, because there’s nothing I’d rather do than hang out with them.

  1. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I have, actually. In a few cases where anthologies needed additional stories and I already had one placed, or I’d had a story printed somewhere and they didn’t want to have me show up in multiple issues too close to each other. Grady Cole, that’s me. There’s been a few others. I also try to use those alternate identities to explore other writing styles and genres. The last thing I’d want is for a Grady Cole story to read exactly like an Axel Howerton story. It’s old hat for me, though. When I was an entertainment journalist, I had a secret identity as the masked luchador Ramone, who would write nonsensical columns on z-movies and film weird short films that morphed into DVD reviews.

  1. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Some of my very best friends are other writers. At this point, I don’t have many friends or acquaintances that aren’t part of the writing community. Scott S. Phillips is practically my brother, even though we’ve never met face-to-face. It was immensely helpful to both of us, struggling through the indie forests. He had been a screenwriter and filmmaker, whereas I had been a journalist. We have very similar interests and backgrounds and tastes, and our work tends to be pretty complimentary, so we can tip each other off to opportunities that would suit us. It also makes it really easy to work together. One of the first collections either of us were published in was dreamed up by the two of us complaining about our awful day jobs. Scott took it to one of our mentors – the legendary Bob Vardeman – and ended up co-editing the book. Later on, I ended up including Scott in my anthologies Tall Tales of the Weird West and It’s a Weird Winter Wonderland. We’ve also been very supportive of each other’s work – sharing and promoting – as well as tossing ideas around. The other most influential is probably Robert Bose, my partner in Coffin Hop Press. Rob and I met through the local writing community, attending the same conferences, etc. and eventually, Rob had submitted to one of my anthologies. I really liked his story and his style, and in the process of editing his story, and working on promotion for the book, I found out about his short story collection, which I also loved. I ended up publishing Fishing with the Devil, and in the process of working on that book, Rob proved to have a lot of insights and great ideas for the press. I liked his ideas so much, in fact, that we partnered up, and in the months since, Coffin Hop Press has grown by leaps and bounds.

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  1. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I do sometimes play with the idea of crossing over stories and novels, trying to tie everything together a’ la Stephen King. All of my novels up to now have been conceived and written as individual tales, but after they came out people began asking about “the next one”. My first novel Hot Sinatra, the publisher was angling for additional books to improve the salability, despite the tidy ending I’d designed. I kind of rankled at that, but at the same time, I’ve written 5 or 6 spin-off short stories in that universe that were published in various places, so now I have a couple of additional novels planned. That’s what a lot of readers want and expect now, serial storytelling. I think it’s both because of things like Netflix and the “Golden Age” of television storytelling, and because, with the current glut of ebook product and the rising cost of print books, people want to invest in something that’s going to give them a prolonged bang for their precious buck. I don’t blame them a bit. Fortunately, my second novel Furr lent itself more to the idea of a continuing story, and the publisher wanted to explore a couple of the secondary characters that they really liked. That idea turned into a new series that kicks off with my next novel Demon Days. So now I actually am planning out an extensive extended universe with connections to the previous book and at least three books scheduled in the series, probably four or five.

furr_front_final

  1. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Going to the local writing convention, When Words Collide. I made more connections, met more fellow writers, learned more, and opened my mind to so many more avenues in the writing world, than I have at any other time in my career, and it usually costs about $50 for three days.

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When I was very young, I would spend my weeks with my elderly grandparents, while my parents worked. They had all of these musty old books in the basement, and all of these odd piecemeal books upstairs next to their matching recliners. I don’t remember seeing them read them, but I was always endlessly fascinated by them, forever picking them up and leafing through them. There was just something about words on a page. My grandma always told people that I taught myself to read at the age of three with those books, which I’m sure is a hearty exaggeration, but I do remember being able to read before I started kindergarten, and sitting in the middle of their living room, cross-legged on the carpet, flipping through these massive tomes on Jacques Cousteau, or Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I would read Emily Dickinson and Robert Service and try to remember the poems so I could tell them to myself later, as if I was telling the story to someone else. I was a weird kid, I guess.

  1. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

One of them is Sock, by Penn Jillette. Yes, that Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller. I came across it in the bookstore and just thought it was a cool cover, so I picked it up. The idea of a cop talking to his sock monkey made me buy it. It was so damned good, and so unlike anything else I’d been reading. Later on, one of my first writer friends, a guy named Scott Duran, turned out to also be a fan. He worked in a bookstore in Las Vegas and had some sketchy dude come in to sell an autographed copy. We started out conjecturing about the sketchy dude, and then we both wrote stories about it – just for fun. He ended up sending me that copy, and then another. So, now I have two autographed copies, and my original dog-eared copy. I still almost never come across anybody who has heard of, or remembers that book, which is a shame. I’d like to imagine that it doesn’t bother Penn too much that his literary career didn’t take off, but I know it would have hurt if it was me. I hope I meet the man someday, just to let him know how much it influenced a couple of schlubs like us.

  1. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

This is the second interview lately that’s asked this, which is cool. I’ll stick to the same answer: David Blowynch, it’s like a Chimera of David Bowie and Lynch. A Chimera with outstanding hair. The patron God of subtext and style.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

At least four. Nine, if you count the ones I’m actively in planning stages/various levels of completion on.

  1. What does literary success look like to you?

Enough money coming in to write full-time. Praise enough to feel confident in that next idea. At best? A based-on show with an after-show show hosted by Chris Hardwick.

12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Depends on the subject matter and the concepts behind the book. I don’t waste a lot of time with mundane research on details like gun makes and models, or the correct flight path for a 747 arriving at LaGuardia at 3:07 am on a Wednesday in October with high winds and a low-pressure system. If I’m doing research, it’s because I’m trying to stay true to concepts and history that may matter to certain groups. If I’m using an ancient religion, or a small local indigenous group, like the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) tribe I mention in Furr, I tend to spend a lot more energy making sure I get things right. That being said, when I do research on cultures and history and more esoteric and occult topics, I tend to get sucked way way down the rabbit hole. I may spend months accumulating references and seeking out obscure books, and then have all of that lead to one bloody sentence in the finished book. It’s more about me understanding the way the world I’m creating was influenced by humanity, than fact-checking, really.

  1. How many hours a day/week do you write?

When I’m in the thick of it, if I’m lucky enough to get the time, I write in blocks of 8 or 10 hours a day on weekends, maybe an hour or two every day through the week. Like most non-King/Patterson/etc writers, I have a day job. I have a wife, and kids, and all the usual accoutrements of adulthood. I also run a publishing press in there too, so time is at a premium, but I’ll lock myself away when needs be.

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

It depends on the project. Sometimes there’s meaning behind them, sometimes there’s just a name I like, like Jules. Sometimes it’s attached to some awful joke I can’t let go of. The Ktunaxa character in Furr is named Bob Dylan, entirely so I could have a conversation where someone asks him about it, and he calmly retorts that “maybe he’s named after me. I’ve been Bob Dylan longer than him. His name’s Zimmerman.” The hired thugs/sex performers in Hot Sinatra and the accompanying stories are named Manlove and Kickerdick, names I stole from Scott Phillips on a dare, since he couldn’t figure out where to use them. Most of the time it’s one of the more entertaining parts of the process, other times you have to change that name five times because everything that sounds right as a first name with “Montrose” ends up too close to the other character names.

con-morte-6x9-ebook

  1. What was your hardest scene to write?

I don’t know that I could single one out. There have been a lot of them that were hard to write because I may not have quite had a handle on the emotion of the scene, or where it fit in the grander scheme of the story. There were certainly ones that were emotionally draining. My last novel, Con Morte, is a good example of that. Writing such a dark and troubled character from a first person pov tends to get to me, especially over an intense period of writing for eight or nine hours. Consequently, the end of that book took a lot out of me, because it was a struggle to bring that character back up into the light and try to find some kind of redemption after being lost in such a dark mind for so long.

  1. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

When I first started writing fiction again, and trying to publish, I naturally trended towards horror, just because that’s what I had been steeped in during my last years as an entertainment journalist. I was the go-to guy for indie genre filmmakers, and spent a lot of time watching b-movie horror – slashers, alien invasions, body horror. At the same time, I was mainlining a lot of vintage crime and hard-boiled detective fiction, especially Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. So, my short fiction was mostly horror, but my first novel was a crime homage to hard-boiled detectives. Eventually I moved more into the crime arena, just because that’s what I was getting known for after that first book was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award (Best First Novel from the Crime Writers of Canada). Despite that, I’ve always continued to experiment with genres. I may be known as “the noir guy” in my own neck of the woods, but I’ve since written sci-fi western, urban fantasy, magical realism, whatever strikes my fancy. To me, it’s all about exploring different ways to tell stories about human beings, and the relationships between them, so I don’t see a huge difference between a hardcore noir thriller, and a romantic fable, so long as the characters are realistic and relatable, and their relationships and struggles are genuine.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Like most of us say, “since I could hold a crayon”. I remember publishing comic books and chapbooks of poetry in grade two or three. Poems like “Life is like a bowlful of Cherry Pez”. My first article was published around age 11 or 12. Since then, I’ve always been at it, in one way or another. I’ve only been seriously writing fiction with the active intent of getting it published since 2011 or 2012. I wasted a lot of years on self-doubt and empty excuses for avoidance.

  1. What inspires you?  

Life. Music. The idea that we can create worlds and explore our own humanity through the interplay of our creations. That we can maybe find answers to the really big questions, and the really important, seemingly minuscule ones, in our own minds – if we dig deep enough.

uno-mossfc

  1. How do you find or make time to write?

Like everyone else out there, my time is at a premium. Between the everyday responsibilities: the day job, the kids – just maintaining life – it is sometimes hard to find the time. I’m lucky that I have a supportive family, especially my wife, who is equally creative and driven about her own projects, who trades off with me as much as possible on the day-to-day stuff. That way, when I need to take eight hours a day over the weekend, or get up at 4 am for a few weeks, it takes the edge off and allows me to focus on my work.

  1. What projects are you working on at the present?

Demon Days, the first book in the Furr spin-off series, is in final edits right now. That should be coming out in the next couple of months from Tyche Press. Then I have four or five more of those to finish in the next couple of years. I also have two more Mossimo Cole books to follow up Hot Sinatra, which I’d like to have finished before I get the rights back on the first book. There’s also three other crime novels (maybe novellas), a post-apocalyptic steampunky sci-fi novel I’ve been working on, a literary-satire historical novel about the birth of the Northwest Mounted Police and the whiskey runners in early Canada, and probably three or four other things I’m forgetting.

  1. What do your plans for future projects include?

All of the above, and then some. Hopefully, some small measure of success and a wider audience along with that. I’m also putting a lot of my energy into my publishing company, which I hope will prove to be a success and keep growing over the next few years (and a long-time after *fingers crossed*) and eventually allow me the extra freedom I need to transition from my exciting day job in industrial repair sales to a life that revolves entirely around writing and publishing. In the end, I just really hope this can occupy and provide for me throughout the rest of my life, and maybe leave some small legacy for my kids and grand-kids to be proud of.

  1. Share a link to your author website.

http://www.axelhow.com or search #axelhow on twitter, facebook, etc.

Bio:

Axel Howerton is a former entertainment journalist, and the Arthur Ellis Award nominated author of the detective caper Hot Sinatra; the modern gothic fairytale Furr; the zombie novella Living Dead at Zigfreid & Roy; and the noir fable Con Morte. His forthcoming “Wolf & Devil” urban fantasy series for Tyche Books kicks off with “Demon Days” in February 2018.

When he’s not on-duty as a “purveyor of literary badassery” and “hometown anti-hero”, Axel wanders the foothills of Southern Alberta with his two brilliant sons, and a wife that is way out of his league.

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday


This week’s prompt is ‘revenge’. Write a poem or short story of getting back at someone. I wrote this story some time ago but still like it. The story began with a picture of a beach veranda, I have no idea why it went in this direction but that’s the joy of writing.

beach

Britney

Warmth was carried through the windows by the salty sea air as I pulled the voile aside to look at the gentle waves break on the golden sand. The cream painted deck was just wide enough for a chair and a small table and as I set down my book and glass of wine I raised my face up toward the sun. I can feel the stress releasing from my neck and shoulders, no more 10 hour days, no more frantic rush to be first in the morning and working later than everyone else. I’d thought my hard work and commitment would ensure a promotion but buxom, blonde bimbo, Britney, waltzed in on Friday sporting a smug Cheshire cat smile and announced her new position; CEO’s personal secretary. I knew she hadn’t got the job for her secretary skills! My rage exploded as my scream vibrated around the open plan office, I knew I had to get out of there. Grabbing my bag I stomped my way to the elevator and slammed my hand on the button. I could faintly hear giggles and whispering behind me but my heart beat was much louder, the roar in my ears blocking out their petty comments.

As I made my way home my rage seethed, I’d get my own back on Britney, she couldn’t have ‘my’ job. At home Smudge twisted around my legs mewing for his dinner, I picked him up for a cuddle and relished in his softness. After feeding Smudge, I sat at my computer looking for ideas to get my own back on Britney. Ah yes as expected Britney had posted her good news on her MSN account and was inviting everyone to ‘Crime’ the newest club in town for a celebration. Now what could I do to ensure Britney didn’t come into work on Monday or Tuesday or the whole week? A plan came to mind, so after making several phone calls, I got dressed up in my most daring outfit and drove to ‘Crime’.

The music was so loud it was almost unbearable but everyone in the club seemed to be having a great time, dancing and shouting to be heard. This really wasn’t my sort of place at all but needs must. As I pushed my way through the crowd I spotted Britney and her pals at a table on the raised platform above the dance floor. I knew in this outfit & wig no one in her group would recognize me so I moved closer to try and hear the conversation. It wasn’t as hard as I expected as they were shouting across the table and Britney was telling her captive audience of her seduction of Greg Lessner. I clinched my fists in anger but knew I would need to stay calm if my plan was going to succeed. My cell beeped at that moment, a message from my ‘surprise’ for Britney. Callum had returned my call and was ready to meet Britney as I had arranged, he looked like the ‘perfect’ man, all muscles and dark brooding looks as well as expensive clothes and a designer watch, all of which Britney would notice, the little social climber. Britney would not be able to resist a dance, a few drinks & an evening of love! I’d paid for the fancy hotel suite and asked the concierge to place champagne in the room, Britney would be beside herself, fancying her luck at catching a rich handsome man, her dream come true.

I pointed out Britney to Callum and as he approached Britney’s table I held my breath but as soon as she saw him she turned on the bimbo act, all fluttering eyelashes and heaving of barely covered chest; disgusting. I watched Callum & Britney ‘fused’ together, gyrating on the dance floor to the rhythmic beat. It didn’t take long for Britney to dump her friends in favor of her new found lover and after a while I saw them exit into the darkness. Following behind at a safe distance I drove behind their taxi and parked across the street as they walked into the fancy hotel lobby. Opening my lap top I linked up with the camera’s I had set up in their suite and waited for them to arrive. Greg Lessner had fallen for Britney’s interest in him and believed her love was real – what an idiot-she had tricked him like a little kid watching a magician. Once he saw ‘his’ Britney with Callum he was sure to sack her and I would make sure I was indispensable as his assistant by the time Britney’s week of passion was over. I hadn’t had enough money for a longer ‘date’ with the male escort but it would be time enough. Now I could relax all Sunday at the beach knowing I had my perfect job waiting for me on Monday.

I would love to read your response – leave it in the comments.

Writing Prompt Wednesday


I used a word game for last night’s writers meeting and it resulted in this piece. The idea is to pick three cards, two with letters on and one with a picture. Using the picture as the theme, you have to use as many words beginning with the two letters as possible in your poem or short story. It certainly stretches the brain, that’s for sure.

Last night the theme was Intrigue and the letters A & I.  Obviously, having a 10 minute deadline makes this exercise more difficult and you can’t count the same word twice.

Why don’t you try?

My response:

Alfred needed to alienate himself from Irene. Her constant nagging irritated him and his thoughts always turned to violence.

“Why is it all dark in here you ignorant man?”

Alfred clinched his fists around the chair’s arm. Stay quiet let her go, don’t engage.

“I’m off to bed, lock up properly.” Her angry footsteps thudded up the stairs.

If I have to wait all night, I will. The clock ticked. The hours felt interminable but eventually her snores rumbled. Picking up the alligator case, he unlatched the door and ran. Freedom was his. No more nagging, no more bruises, mo more hurt.

His eyes opened as a hand shook his arm.

“Are you okay, Sir?”

The policeman’s concern allayed Alfred’s fear that it was her, Irene finding him and taking him back.

“Yes, I’m alright, thanks officer. Just waiting for a late bus to take me to Idaho.”

 

Wednesday Writing Prompt


Apologies – I forgot to schedule this post.

The prompt today is ‘ a glimpse out of a window’. What do you see?

window

Here’s my effort.

It started with a glimpse out of the corner of her eye. A movement passing the opened window but when she turned there was nothing there. Dismissing it as possibly a bird or a butterfly floating in the warmth of summer sunshine, she turned back to her work.
Just one more chapter and then she would treat herself to a walk to ease and stretch her aching muscles. Janice had woken bursting with inspiration at five o’clock, now six hours later a major part of the novel was complete. With a flourish she hit the keypad and straightens up. There in front of her was a beautiful face peering through the window. Instinct makes her jump and involuntary utter a gasp.
“Hello, who are you?”
The lady smiles but does not answer just reaches out her hand to beckon Janice outside. Her dark shape and long ebony locks float as if in water, it is surreal. Fascinated Janice opens the patio door and enters the warmth of the day time sun.
“Come follow – you will find.”
“Find what, where are we going?”
Without waiting the lady turns toward the rose garden, the oldest part of the cottage garden. The floral scent permanents the air as they approach the blooms. The dark lady stops in the centre of the path and points. Janice’s eyes follow her fingers direction – there blooms an ebony rose so dark it gleams.
“Write its story, Janice and release me.”
“Release you – I don’t understand?”
“My spirit resides within the bloom I am relying on your gift of words to free me forever.”
“What shall I write? Tell me what to write.”
“You know my story it is deep within you.”
Janice’s mouth opens to ask another question but the dark lady has disappeared. Was she dreaming? Everything seemed so real, so tangible – the warmth on her skin, the grass beneath her feet. Janice returns to her desk, puzzling thoughts race through her mind. There she finds a dark rose petal lying upon the laptop keys. It was real?
A blank page faces her and her fingers begin to type – a story unfolds.
Esmeralda’s roses were well renowned even as far away as London. Each bloom was perfection itself due wholly to her unwavering commitment to their care. After years of trial and error with combinations of manure, egg shells and herbs, Esmeralda had found her ‘secret’ formula. Each season demanded another ritual before the first buds appeared in April. With careful attendance each bud was nurtured to its full potential. Every flower show saw Esmeralda take first place much to the dismay of her rival, Vanity. The competition between the two women was fierce.
During the sixth annual London show Esmeralda was summoned by the Duke of Suffolk. He commissioned her to produce a truly black rose – something never achieved before. With a deep bow Esmeralda had thanked him for his obvious confidence in her abilities but felt she would not succeed. The Duke took her hands and solemnly stated that if anyone could succeed it was indeed the Rose Queen herself.
Upon her return home Esmeralda began researching the deepest and darkest strains of rose. Using grafting techniques and cross pollination she grew several young plants. As they grew and flourished she waited patiently for the first blooms. She achieved deep burgundy and the darkest crimson but never ebony. Three long years past each new bloom took her a step closer to her goal but never close enough. Then in the fourth year a tiny shoot grafted to the main plant produced a bud unlike any Esmeralda had ever seen. It was the darkest green she had ever seen. She tended to this special bud as with all her charges and waited in anticipation for it to blossom.
Sunday 14th April would be a date Esmeralda would never forget – for that morning she witnessed the darkest most beautiful ebony bloom gleaming in the sunlight. She would send word to the Duke that she has succeeded in making his wish come true. However, Esmeralda died that day at the hands of her arch rival, Vanity. It was a dagger to her heart as she breathed sweet words to her special bloom. Vanity took the plant and professed it was her own creation. She became famous over night and reveled in the adulation.
As for Esmeralda her body was buried beneath her rose garden- a place she had loved above all others. Her spirit lived on in the multitude of blooms until one day it rose up and made its presence known. She was the Rose Queen and the ebony bloom her creation.
The words flowed so quickly Janice could not read them quickly enough. At last her fingers ceased their frantic tapping and she realized who her visitor had been. Janice would make sure the real creator was acknowledged for her Black Rose.

Why not share yours in the comments?