Fantasy Horror Author A.F. Stewart and I talk Deviltry, Noveltry, Shipbuilding, Agony and Ecstasy

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A.F. Stewart, aka @Scribe77, did me.

Interviewed me, I mean.

We talked about

  • The differences between writing short stories and novels (not much from a crafting standpoint, me thinks)
  • Creating sympathetic villains (even the worst person has one humanizing detail)
  • Genre writing (I don’t believe I write in a genre. My regular readers tell me my genre is “Joseph”)
  • My incredible anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires
  • Being able to do amazing things with words when you’re an author
  • The link between Satan and Hamilton Burger
  • Getting kudos from your readers
  • Ritchie and Phyl, my incredible work in progress
  • How writing Flash fiction is like building a ship in a bottle
  • Great Opening Lines
  • My incredible scifi/military/thriller, The Augmented Man
  • Writing about characters rather than genre (the story comes first, the genre comes second)
  • Empty Sky and my standing offer; read the book, leave a review, and I’ll send you an autographed copy of the rewrite when it’s published.
  • Children growing up
  • Stories that grew out of my anthropology studies – Mani He and The Goatmen of Aguirra
  • Getting kudos from editors and publishers
  • Writing almost fantastic fantasies (okay, the story’s fantastic. It uses almost fantasy elements – The Weight)

So, yeah, we covered a few things.


Man and Boy; Tennessee, 1932 (Revised for a 3 minute Fiction Slam)

I first wrote Man and Boy sometime in the early 1990s, possibly late 1980s. I remember reading publicly and the next reader, a published author, making a derogatory comment about the story’s tone and subject matter.

I’ve kept it on a backburner ever since, sometimes taking it out, sending it out to a few places then putting it back. I’ve always felt there’s something here. Maybe it needs to be longer, a full story and not a flash piece.

Last week’s The Shackled Man had been in my head for a while and I wrote it up for a flash/slam fiction class I took. I decided Man and Boy might also be a good candidate, so dusted it off and revised if from the previous version. You can get an idea of the revisions by comparing the two. Basically I cut out everything that wasn’t “in the moment” of the story, which I originally wrote as an exercise in dialogue (still think it’s a great example of dialogue carrying a story).

So, as always, enjoy and let me know what you think.

Creator and above level members can listen to my test read.

Man and Boy; Tennessee, 1932

“He’s a dead man, Pa. I pulled me up a dead black man.”

“First time we go fishing in a week and you snag your line on a boy’s been dead in the water who knows how long?”

“We going to get in trouble, Pa?”

“Don’t know that until we know who he is. Help me get him in the boat. God, this one’s heavy. Ain’t swelled, though.

“Look at his face, Pa.”

“Somebody didn’t take a liking to it, that’s for sure. And look at them clothes. You ever seen clothes like that, son?”

“Them’s city clothes, Pa.”

“What do you know about city clothes?”

“I seen them in the catalogue at Mr. Howard’s store.”

“What you doing down at Mr. Howard’s store?”

“I run errands for Mr. Howard sometimes and he gives me a penny so I can buy some candy.”

“You think them’s city clothes?”

“I know I’m right.”

“So this here’s a city-boy, huh? Somebody killed themselves a city-boy.”

“What we going to do, Pa?

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The Shackled Man

I’m taking a two-week course in flash fiction writing with the definition of flash fiction being “You can read it in under three minutes.” The Shackled Man is my offering. I’ve got it down to 2m46s.

Let me know what you think, and thanks.

Creator and above level members can listen to my test read.

The Shackled Man

Saturday mornings. That was our time.

Dad tiptoed into my room and knelt beside my bed. I could smell him before my eyes opened. A good smell, a night’s sweat just washed away.

I kept my eyes shut until I felt the bristles of his mustache when he kissed my cheek. I’d open my eyes and see the twinkle in his.

“Want to go for a ride?”

There were four places we’d go. South, Logan Airport. West, French King Bridge. North, Queechee Gorge. East, L.L. Bean.

We always stopped at a Dunkin Donuts. If we started a little late it’d be a Dunkin Donuts half way there, about an hour out, half hour at the least. Or sometimes it’d be at the edge of town, right before we hit the highway.

Dad knew where all the Dunkins were. Nobody had breakfast sandwiches or drivethroughs back then. You had to go inside. He’d get a medium coffee, two sugars, two creams, and I’d get a chocolate milk and a bavarian creme, the first bite and it oozed out and into your mouth.

And then off we’d go, listening to the radio or singing songs. Didn’t matter the weather, every Saturday morning we’d go, always sure to be out of the house by seven, no later.

West and north we’d get to the bridges. There were parking areas and we’d get out and walk around. Dad would stay close to the rails, look over. “How far down do you think that is, son?”

I was too small, I couldn’t see.

“Be a long drop from here.”

East we’d get to L.L. Bean. It was totally different back then. Only locals and hunters knew of it. How my dad knew I’ll never know.

You could talk to guides, men who knew the lakes and rivers and mountains. Dad listened to their stories, about going so far out in the woods it seemed there was no coming back, then he’d check his watch.

“Come on, son. Time to be getting back.”

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Interviews with Writers Did Me!

I like being interviewed.

Let’s me know somebody out there is listening.

It’s like writing Goodreads reviews. I’m shocked when people like or comment on my reviews. I responded to one person, thanking them for the Like and sharing that I didn’t think anybody paid attention. After all, who am I to review a book?

They understood and felt the same way re their reviews.

I wonder who reads/watches/listens to my interviews. Are they bored? Are they curious? Do they know me from a previous life?

I’ll read/watch/listen to a review if I’m interested in the author, often if I’ve read and enjoy their work, often if I know them personally and wish to support them.

What’s your reason for reading/watching/listening?

You can read my Interviews with Writers interview here.


Empty Sky Chapter 11 – Shem

(Getting feedback from proofreaders now, all good. You can read the previous version here)

Read Empty Sky Chapter 10 – Poppie

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of this chapter to read offline

Two men, one shaved bald, tall, thin, and quick like a whip, and the other a fireplug on legs with a jet black ponytail halfway down his broad back, both in tailored, navy-blue pinstripe suits and wearing hand-made, alligator-skin shoes so polished they reflected the lights marking the aisle, made their way from the locomotive through the tender to the back of the train. The whip would walk a few long, waspish steps, wait, then spin the gold and diamond pinky ring on his right hand until the fireplug caught up. When the fireplug reached him the whip would walk a few more long, waspish steps, wait and spin his ring again.

The fireplug strolled, his hands clasped in front of his chest as if in prayer, his eyes skimming over his knuckles as they evaluated, the bands of the two turquoise rings he wore — one on each ring finger — clicking sometimes as he walked. He passed no one without reaching out to their carotid and checking for a pulse; conductors, stewards, clerks, passengers. It didn’t matter.

The fireplug’s slow methodicity and attention to detail frustrated the whip who released his frustration by aiming a small but powerful ruby laser into the lens of the security cameras while he waited for his partner to catch up.

“Christ, look at this place. What did The Boss use again?”

“Ambien. That’s what he had us dump in the food service trucks. It makes you sleep and wake up without feeling groggy. ‘Far as everyone on the train is concerned, they’ll all think they probably had too much to drink.”

“Do you have to test every mother’s son?” The whip broke protocol and used names in an attempt to make the fireplug move faster. “We’re supposed to get MacPherson to Pangiosi before morning, you know.”

The fireplug stopped and stared at the whip who turned away before the fireplug answered. “We have plenty of time. Besides, we find one dead person, we got trouble.”

“Didn’t you tell me once something about your grandfather teaching you to help people die?”

The fireplug nodded as he worked. “Not exactly. He taught me to sing them from this world to the next, to carry the souls of the dead so they’d find peace.”

“Happy hunting ground stuff?”

“Something like that.”

“You believe in that stuff?”

“I don’t believe in much of anything anymore.”

“Yeah. Ditto that.”

The fireplug continued his slow inspection. The whip tapped his foot at the rear door to the car.

The fireplug stopped and looked up. “I wonder if these people dream.”

The whip broke protocol a second time. “John, who gives a shit. Pangiosi gave us an order. We carry it out.”

John stopped. His arms folded over an expansive chest.

The whip looked out a window and spun his gold and diamond pinky ring. “Sorry.”

John’s prayerful hands went back to work.

Shem twitched himself awake. His head rose up and he sniffed the air. A scent, something from deep dog memory, canine memory, canid memory, canis memory. He leapt off the bunk and growled. A door opened in the bedroom suite, a door only dogs, only canines, only the line that first walked before man then behind then beside could see, sworn under the first full moon to watch for such doors because humans, the canids knew, would grow to forget.

The door closed. Whatever had been there had been warned away by flashing eyes, by baring teeth.

He jumped back on the bunk. As he circled to lay down he remembered the Little Master had gone. He looked across the suite to the other cot. The Great Master snored lazily like an old Alpha in the tall grass on a hot summer day.

Shem scratched his ear with a hind paw then sniffed his genitals. He rested his head over his paws, flopped to his side and stretched on the mattress. The entire bed was his!

Glorious His!

A few minutes later he, like the Great Master, snored like an Alpha in the tall grass.

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