Monday, October 31, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 26: AMONG THE STACKS: David A. Riley


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why hello, David.  Welcome to The Gal here on this FANTASTICALLY GRUESOME Halloween.  You are *Day 26* (cause internet issues... and Michael James McFarland's book distracting me when I'm not spending my days in retail) - with each day, my guests just get better and better :)
            We're going to start out with something easy to get your brain working: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

David A. Riley:
I've been writing since I was about thirteen or fourteen, when my biggest ambition was to get a story published in the then highly successful series of horror anthologies edited by Herbert van Thal, The Pan Books of Horror.  After the inevitable rejects, I eventually succeeded in 1969 in getting a story accepted and The Lurkers in the Abyss duly appeared in The Eleventh Pan Book of Horror the following year.  I was eighteen at the time.  It was also the last story I submitted to Pan, as at this time my friend, David Sutton, was given the opportunity to edit a brand new series for Sphere Books, New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural.  Over the course of the next few years I had a handful of stories published in professional anthologies but I was never prolific.  It wasn't really till about ten years ago that I got in my stride, sparked off by a letter from John Pelan, who wanted to republish my first story, The Lurkers in the Abyss in a mammoth, two-volume anthology he was putting together for Cemetery Dance, The Century's Best Horror Fiction, which contained 100 stories, one from each year of the twentieth century.   He was also currently editing a series of books for ROC Books in the States, the last of which was Alone on the Darkside.  He asked if I had anything available he could take a look at.  As a result, Inside the Labyrinth was published by him the following year.  That sort of sparked off my interest in writing again and for the next few years I wrote more stories than I had previously completed so far and completed two novels and made a start on several others, which are nearing completion, including The Return, which was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books.  In 1995, having been made redundant by British Aerospace, I invested my redundancy pay in setting up a professional science fiction/fantasy magazine called Beyond.  I had always been interested in publishing and this seemed a golden opportunity.  I managed to arrange newsstand space for it through a major distributor and had stories and articles in the magazine by the likes of Karl Edward WagnerJohn BrunnerStephen GallagherKim NewmanStephen LawsRamsey Campbell, etc., but, unfortunately, I was persuaded, unwisely, to publish far too many copies of the magazine by the distributor and, after returns came in, the magazine folded after three issues, leaving me with a sizeable debt.  This probably had more to do with me losing interesting in writing too for the next ten years or so, till John Pelan helped to revive my interest once more.  Curiously, my interest in publishing has also returned and for the last two years, with my wife, Linden, I have revived Parallel Universe Publications, which published Beyond magazine, and have been able to publish more than twenty books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

David A. Riley:
  1. For quite a few years I was secretary, then secretary and chairman, of the St. Mary's Pantomime Group, which is a local organization which puts on a pantomime every year in our local theatre with a cast made up of local children up to the age of eighteen.
  2. I've appeared a couple of times in amateur productions in our local theatre, once in a madcap comedy called Macbeth Did It, in which I played a drunken billionaire, and then later in Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, in which I had two parts: a wealthy dock owner who gets murdered offstage, and a gangster.
  3. Driven several times across Europe to Bulgaria, where we have a house in the countryside at the end of a mountain range.
  4. My first professionally published story was written while I was still at school.
  5. In 2007, my photograph, together with an article concerning my collection of horror books, took up almost a full page in the London Financial Times.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

David A. Riley:
I can't recall the title, but I do remember when I was quite young I must have borrowed every Capt. W.E. Johns' Biggles book stocked by our local library.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

David A. Riley:
I love crime novels as well as horror, fantasy and science fiction, and I'm currently reading a police procedural by Graham Hurley, Borrowed Light.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

David A. Riley:
Perhaps because of my known involvement with horror, fantasy, and science fiction, the books of Simon Scarrow, most of which are set in ancient Rome during the reign of Claudius - I do love historical fiction, too.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

David A. Riley:
A friend at school made me think about it after he started to write a story and we went on to compete against each other, though I think he soon got bored.  I didn't.  As mentioned earlier, I was about thirteen at the time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

David A. Riley:
Wherever my computer is.  I haven't written anything by hand for years and I couldn't imagine doing so any more.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

David A. Riley:
I don't know whether it's a quirk, but I am an incessant rewriter, editing what I have written again and again as the story goes on.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

David A. Riley:
Battling against the conviction that I have lost the ability to write.  When I am actually dong it, especially when I am gripped by whatever I am writing, I'm fine, but beforehand it's something of a minor battle to get past the first hurdle of actually getting something down in black and white.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

David A. Riley:
That must be The Return.  I spent a lot of time working on it and I became thoroughly engrossed in its characters, though I also have a fondness for what I am told is one of my more untypical stories, mainly because it is what's termed "quiet horror," The Last Coach Trip, which appeared in The Eighth Black Book of Horror.  That's very loosely based on activities I took part in ten years ago at a local working men's club.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

David A. Riley:
Initially it must have been writers like Robert BlochIsaac Asimov and, of course, H.P. Lovecraft, with doses of Kafka.  One book that helped change the direction of my writing was Ramsey Campbell's Demons by Daylight, which I loved for its use of everyday settings in Liverpool and its portrayal of ordinary people undergoing extraordinary events.  At around the same time I was impressed with Samuel Delaney's The Einstein Intersection which heavily influenced my only attempt at a science fiction novel, which was never published and which I lost the only copy not long after it was written - which was probably no great loss in reality!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

David A. Riley:
That's a hard one to answer.  I think interesting, believable characters must be a key part of it.  Without that, a story is just a string of events.  I need to believe in my characters when writing a story.  If I can't achieve that, I find it tends to fizzle out very quickly and I lose interest in it.  A reader must have some empathy with the characters they are reading about, the more the better.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

David A. Riley:
Another hard one, as some of the characters I have created are not nice people and it would be difficult to like them.  Essentially, though, they must be to some degree or another at least credible.  You can feel some sort of empathy with any character, no matter how bad they are, so long as they are believable, so long as the reader (or the writer for that matter) can see them as flesh and blood.  Cardboard characters are no good for anyone, least of all me as a writer.  At least, that's what I hope I can achieve.  How successful I am is up to others to decide.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

David A. Riley:
None, to be honest.  Others, of course, may make their own comparisons, but none of my characters, so far as I am aware, represents more than a fraction of how I see myself.  I certainly don't aim to be autobiographical in any way and any resemblances there would have to be coincidental. 

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

David A. Riley:
Sadly, yes, I am put off by a bad cover.  With regard to the covers of books published by others for me, I had some minor involvement, but not an awful lot.  I was most involved in the cover for The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror, published by Shadow Publishing, when I was able to choose the artist I would prefer (Paul Mudie, who also did all the covers for Mortbury Press's Black Books of Horror) and the story on which I would like the illustration to be based, which was Fish Eye in this case, which originally appeared in The Lovecraft Ezine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

David A. Riley:
Mainly how much I still have to learn about the craft of writing.  It's an ongoing process.  One of the things I have learned is to be economical with my prose, something which differentiates my earlier stories from what I write now.  That's been a difficult lesson to learn.  I picked up quite a bit about the importance of POV, and of avoiding unnecessary adverbs (by using the right verb to start with) and other technicalities of professional writing from the HWA forum some years ago, at a time when the forum was far more robust and educational than now, especially from writers like the late Bob Weinberg.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

David A. Riley:
Writing fantasy stories is always the hardest task for me, especially when trying to create a credible fictitious world.  Setting the opening scene to an as yet to be fully completed fantasy story called A Grim God's Revenge is proving hard - hard in the sense of convincing me that it is totally realistic.  Getting that right more my own satisfaction is always the most difficult task.  If I can't convince myself I can't expect anyone else to be convinced either.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

David A. Riley:
I couldn't possibly say.  I wouldn't like to make any claims whatsoever - that's for readers to decide.  I think I am too close to them to be objective about them.  I like to think they are different but I could, of course, be fooling myself.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

David A. Riley:
I find short stories the easiest, perhaps because if it's something quirky or off the cuff, it doesn't matter too much, it's only a short story.  With a novel I find it much more difficult, as if the sheer size of it places a heavy burden on me to get it exactly right or, at least, as right as I can.  The only exception was my one and only fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, which had that title from the outset.  The Return was a title I came to after months of deliberation and I'm still not sure if it is the best I could come up with, even though it has several connotations with the story on different levels.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

David A. Riley:
Both really.  Some short stories have given me a very strong feeling of pride, especially when I think I have succeeded in creating characters whose lives give me a feeling of credibility and about whom I, and hopefully the reader too, can care.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

David A. Riley:
Having written horror, fantasy and science fiction, it's a little difficult to say what my target audience is, though I do hope that whichever genre it is that readers take away a feeling of satisfaction, of having finished a well-crafted tale.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

David A. Riley:
The Return has a couple of deleted scenes, mainly involving meals, as my editor, Geoff Hyatt, quite correctly thought there were getting to be too many of these.  Usually, any deleted scenes have been of no great significance, certainly nothing caused by anything potentially controversial, just a case of avoiding making the reader bored with stuff that didn't read as interesting afterwards as originally intended.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when the have extra time.  Do you have one?)

David A. Riley:
I have quite a list of trunk projects awaiting those rainy days, both short stories and novels.  I have a crime novel tentatively called George and Glenda which is up to 80,000 words and will one day be completed (Glenda is quite a piece of work).  Most of them are because they ran out of steam or I grew bored with them - and if I as the writer grew bored, what hope is there for the reader?  They're all there on my computer where I occasionally take a look at them.  Sometimes inspiration strikes and I can finish them off, though I doubt that will happen for most of them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

David A. Riley:
I have spent most of the past twenty months working on publishing books under my Parallel Universe Publications imprint.  PUP has brought out twenty-one so far, with a twenty-second in the pipeline.  It's been a great pleasure to be able to get collections published for writers like Charles BlackCraig HerbertsonJohnny MaimsKate FarrellMark SamuelsSteve LockleyPaul LewisAndrew DarlingtonJessica PalmerAdrian ColeAndrew Jennings, and Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, not to mention a collection of tales by the late Irvin S. Cobb.  We have also published an anthology of new stories, Kitchen Sink Gothic, and are looking to doing another anthology next year as soon as funds have been set aside to pay all the writers.  I intend to ease off a little over the next twelve months, though.  We have another three books to publish this year, which will make twenty-four in as many months.  2017 I want to get back to doing some writing of my own so we'll probably only publish a small handful of books.  At least that's the plan.  I have a couple of novels I want to complete and I would like to put together a fourth collection of my own stories.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

David A. Riley:
You can find my own personal blog as a writer here.  You can find Parallel Universe Publications here.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, again, for stopping by today, David.  It was a pleasure having you... and now I have several more books to add to my To Read list.
            One more thing before you go: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

David A. Riley:
I just hope that anyone who does decide to take a chance on reading any of my stories or my novels, enjoys the journey I take them on and that they at least enjoy them as much as I did in writing them.


About the author:
David A. Riley writes horror, fantasy, and SF stories.  In 1995, along with his wife, Linden, he edited and published a fantasy/SF magazine, Beyond.  His first professionally published story was in the 11th Pan Book of Horror in 1970.  This was reprinted in 2012 in The Century's Best Horror Fiction edited by John Pelan for Cemetery Dance.  He has had numerous stories published by Doubleday, DAW, Corgi, Sphere, Roc, Playboy Paperbacks, Robinsons, etc., and in magazines such as Aboriginal Science Fiction, Dark Discoveries, Fear, Fantasy Tales.  His first collection of stories (4 long stories and a novelette) was published by Hazardous Press in 2012, His Own Bad Demons.  A Lovecraftian novel, The Return, was published by Blood Bound Books in the States in 2013.  A second collection of his stories, all of which were professionally published prior to 2000, The Lurkers in the Abyss & Other Tales of Terror, was launched at the World Fantasy Convention in 2013.  His fantasy novel, Goblin Mire, was published by Parallel Universe Publications in 2015.  Their Cramped Dark World is his third collection of short stories.  With his wife, Linden, he runs a small press called Parallel Universe Publications, which has so far published ten books.  His stories have been translated into Italian, German, Spanish and Russian.

About the books:
Contains: Lock-In, The Worst of All Possible Places, The Fragile Mask on His Face, Their Own Mad Demons, and The True Spirit.

It was never going to be easy to return for one last look at the streets where he spent his childhood years.  Even knowing this, Gary still felt he had to make the effort, just this once, to see if they were really as bad as he remembered.  In a few months demolition was due to start on Grudge End when Gary Morgan travels north to lie low after a gangland shooting in London, a childhood friend is violently maimed within hours of his arrival.  Decades after escaping the blight of his hometown, he finds himself ensnared in a place he hates more than any other.  Feuding families, bloodthirsty syndicates, and hostile forces older than mankind all play a role in the escalating chaos surrounding Gary Morgan.  Now he must unravel the mysteries of Grudge End and his own past or meet his doom in the grip of an ancient, unimaginable evil.  

This second collection brings together under one cover seventeen of the author's best blood-curdling stories.

Many years have passed since Elves defeated and killed the last Goblin king.  Now the Goblins are growing stronger in their mire, and Mickle Gorestab, one of the few remaining veterans of that war, is determined they will fight once more, this time aided by a renegade Elf who has delved into forbidden sorcery and hates his kind even more than his Goblin allies.  Murder, treachery, and the darkest of a ll magics follow in a maelstrom of blood, violence, and unexpected alliances.  Facing up to the cold cruelty of the Elves, Mickle Gorestab stands out as the epitome of grim, barbaric heroism, determined to see the wrongs of his race avenged and a restoration of the Goblin King.

This collection includes: Hoody (first published in When Graveyards Yawn, Crowswing Books, 2006); A Bottle of Spirits (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural, 1972); No Sense in Being Hungry, She Thought (first published in Peeping Tom #20, 1996); Now & Forever More (first published in The Second Black Book of Horror, 2008); Romero's Children (first published in The Seventh Black Book of Horror, 2010); Swan Song (first published in The Ninth Black Book of Horror, 2012); The Farmhouse (first published in New Writings in Horror & the Supernatural, 1971); The Last Coach Trip (first published in The Eighth Black Book of Horror, 2011); The Satyr's Head (first published in The Satyr's Head & Other Tales of Terror, 1975); Their Cramped Dark World (first published in The Sixth Black Book of Horror, 2010).

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 25: AMONG THE STACKS: Michael James McFarland


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hello, Michael!!  Welcome to The Gal's 62 Days of Horror.  YOU are *Day 25* and I'm happy to have you here.  I'm actually currently reading your novel, Fallow Ground, and absolutely loving it, so this interview is pretty awesome to me.  I love knowing more about the person behind the books I'm reading, which is why I make a point to interview as many authors as I can here on The Gal.  I appreciate you being my latest.. victim.
            Let's go for easy to start this out: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michael James McFarland:
I've been writing for over 30 years, mostly horror and suspense, and every character I create is somewhat autobiographical.  It's one of the wonderful things bout writing fiction... you can let out those hidden facets and no one knows what's you and what's made up, not even your wife or husband.  My day job is at a state residential facility (formerly a TB hospital) for the developmentally disabled. It's also a job I've done for 30+ years.  Both have been incredibly satisfying experiences.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Michael James McFarland:
You mean five random facts I'm willing to share?  Hmm... how about four truths and a lie?
  1. I'm 53, live in Washington state, and until last summer I'd never been out of the time zone I was born in.
  2. Though Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I hate dressing up for it.
  3. I don't analyze and catalog everyone I meet for a future story.
  4. The night I met my wife (senior prom - she was there with someone else!) I was wearing a powder blue tuxedo.
  5. I have never listed cats as family members in my author bios.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Michael James McFarland:
Dr. Seuss.  The earliest ones I remember are Dr. Seuss's ABC and Green Eggs & Ham.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Michael James McFarland:
I just started Fall of Giants, the first book of a trilogy by Ken Follett.  Follett is one of my favorite authors - I loved The Pillars of the Earth - though he occasionally takes some odd tangents with his novels (The Hammer of EdenThe Third Twin).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Michael James McFarland:
Gone with the Wind.  Absolutely loved it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Michael James McFarland:
Back in the 1970s and 80s, I read exclusively horror.  I combed the bookstores and supermarket racks for anything with a black cover and a title that dripped blood.  When you take in a genre like that, without discrimination, you find yourself reading a lot of crap.  It eventually got to a point where I started thinking: "I could do better than that."  During my senior year in college, I started writing on a regular basis, starting with short stories and the odd novella-length project.  Just small steps, like mountain climbing.  In 1998, I completed Fallow Ground, my first novel.  It took me two years (on and off) to work through the initial draft.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Michael James McFarland:
Not especially, but writing - at least for me - is like putting yourself into a trance.  You have to be comfortable and there shouldn't be a lot of distractions going on.  I like to listen to music while I'm listening, but nothing with lyrics.  Classical, jazz, film scores, electronic and ambient are all good.  I find I can't write if I'm emotionally keyed up either because I can't find my way into that trance.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Michael James McFarland:
I generally write longhand, and in pencil for the 1st draft.  Then I rewrite that in pen (usually the next day) on a running manuscript.  After that it might sit in a drawer for five years before I type it into the computer.  Writing is not a quick process for me, and it always amazes me when I hear about an author writing a novel in 6 weeks.  I'm also envious of books that fit together like a precision watch, as if the author knew exactly what to write from Day 1.  My characters tend to lurch and struggle against expectations, like drunks trying to cross 4 lanes of heavy traffic, but that makes for a certain excitement and unpredictability.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Michael James McFarland:
Novels can become overwhelming things.  I generally feel most despondent when I have a lot of plot threads and no idea how to tie them up.  At that point I have to narrow my focus and take them one at a time.  It's also difficult when you see a point you want your story to arrive at, but can't see your way from where you're actually at.  The way to do it - I've found - is to try one thing, and if it doesn't work, go back to where you felt confident and start again.  No one but you will ever know it didn't work out.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Michael James McFarland:
An autobiographical novel called Seven Years.  It begins on my first day of 6th grade and ends the night of high school graduation.  A lot of change happens to us during those years, and no one makes it through undamaged.  It's about coming of age in the late 1870s and the friends I made and discarded along the way.  I'm proud of it because it's told through teenage eyes, not those of a judgmental 30-something looking back.  It took me 7 years to write (alternating every few months with other projects) and when I finished the first draft, it was 332,200 words (1,173 manuscript pages)!  I'm in the process of revising that down somewhat [laughs out loud].

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Michael James McFarland:
The two books that influenced me the most, growing up, were by Stephen King.  The first was Night Shift, his first collection of short stories.  I remember reading it in the backseat of the car on a family vacation and thinking these stories, more than anything I'd ever read, were for me.  They spoke to me in a way I'd never experienced before and (up to that point) didn't know was possible.  The other was The Stand.  My two greatest fears - epidemic and social breakdown - were tackled in that book; or (more likely) created by it!  King isn't my favorite author, Peter Straub has since edged him out, but it's impossible for most horror writers today not to be influenced by him to some degree.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Michael James McFarland:
Good characters, conflict, growth, and good writing.  If you've got all that, the genre doesn't matter.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Michael James McFarland:
A sense of weight or realism.  That the character has a history and a unique personality, and those traits will influence his actions and decisions.  When a writer creates a character, he shouldn't be surprised when the character stubbornly refuses to go where the writer tells him to.  I've had problems like that, and occasionally a character dies on me before I'm through with them.  Kind of like real life that way.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Michael James McFarland:
Hard question because, as I said, they're all part of me to some degree.  I'd have to say that the protagonist of any given story - be it male or female - is most like me.  In Fallow Ground that would be Margaret.  In Duplex it would be Dan.  In Wormwood it would probably be Rudy or Shane (depending on what point of my life I was at).  Short stories aside, I don't know that I could write a novel-length story from a completely alien point of view.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Michael James McFarland:
Of course I am.  Everyone is, that's why we have that saying about judging a book by its cover.  there are a lot of bad covers out there, too.  I think that's inevitable with the rise of independent publishing. Cover art, unless you do it yourself, costs money, and comes with no guaranteed return.  With the exception of Fallow Ground, which was published by Blood Bound Books, I've done my own covers.  It's a process that's a lot of fun if you can come up with an image that fits the book, but frustrating if you're struggling for that clear and defining image.
            Wormwood was my first published novel and the original layout was pretty terrible (as some reviewers rightly pointed out).  Later, I learned to manipulate the image to take advantage of its strengths and conceal its weaknesses.  Blood on the Tracks has also been a difficult one.  It works well if you've read the book and understand the premise, but it doesn't attract a lot of new readers because it looks like a cheap, spiral-bound notebook.
            Duplex was no problem at all and works well for the story.  The photo was taken by my wife just outside our bedroom closet and the hand coming up through the crawlspace is mine (I took my wedding ring off for the shot).  I did three difficult covers for The Yellow Wind, then ditched them all when the final image came (with a hastily-snapped photo from my phone) while I was walking my dog.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Michael James McFarland:
Oh, lots of things!  First off, the ugly fact that the market is flooded with self-published titles (many of which are poorly written, riddled with typos/formatting errors, or are just illegible nonsense thrown up to grab a few bucks).  This makes it hard to stand out without investing in advertising (again, with no promise of a return), so we really depend on honest reader reviews.
            Second, don't give away your book for free.  Set a low price and stick to it.  You may not get on as many Kindles as a free giveaway, but people are more likely to read something they've paid for, even if it's just a few bucks.  Paying for something gives it value, whereas free can be seen as worthless.
            Lastly, write and publish to please yourself.  Don't do it to become famous or get rich because chances are that's not going to happen.  In the wise words of Ray Wylie Hubbard: The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Michael James McFarland:
Probably some of the scenes in Seven Years, which is still going through revisions.  The book involves real people and that can be a difficult tightrope to walk, even when they go by thinly-veiled aliases.  I've sent the first draft out to my old friends who appears as characters and so far haven't heard any outrage about the way they were portrayed.  In fact, what I've heard back has been very positive, so that's a relief.  The book also deals with things that I did in my youth, which can be eye-opening to my family (past and present) and people who know me now.  I've never opened myself up like that before, and it was a difficult thing to do.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Michael James McFarland:
First of all, they're personal to me, based on my own viewpoints and experience, so that makes them unique.  "Write what you know" has always been one of the great maxims, so I've got that going for me.  Otherwise, I think my strengths are my dialogue, my descriptive style, and the immersive quality of my writing.  One thing I generally hear from new readers is "I felt like I was there!"  That's always a positive.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Michael James McFarland:
Like a good cover, a good title is important to attract new readers.  Once they're lured in, however, the importance of the title fades, though it should be memorable enough they can recall it to friends (or themselves, years later).  As far as choosing a title, some come with effort, perfectly formed, while others are elusive.  Fallow Ground was originally called Palouse, which I love the sound of, but no one outside of the religion knows what it means (it's the geographical area the novel takes place, and where I was born).  The truth be told, I'm still not wild about Fallow Ground as a title.  My other books - WormwoodDuplexBlood on the TracksThe Yellow Wind & Other Horrors - I love these titles, but Fallow Ground has really been a difficult child to name.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Michael James McFarland:
That's changed over the years.  At first, when short stories were all I could write, finishing a novel was immensely satisfying.  Now I write novels and the easy knack for short stories is something I'm losing in the process, so these days doing a short story makes me happy when I can pull it off.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Michael James McFarland:
My books are horror/suspense/mystery hybrids.  They are made with the purpose of putting you into an uncomfortable situation that can't be avoided; one that you have to deal with.  They contain graphic content, but not with the intent of grossing you out.  I'd rather creep you out.  I'd like to take you to places you'd rather not go in real life, force choices you'd rather not deal with, do things you'll never feel good about (even if it's the right thing to do).  Target audience would therefore be adult readers, and by that I mean of an age where they're emotionally able to take enjoyment out of the stories.  That might be 13 in some cases, where in others 35 isn't old enough!  I'd like readers to fin something personal in my stories, something that resonates with them.  I tend not to tie up my stories with neat endings because then the reader can simply close the cover and forget about it.  I want my stories to linger for a few days (or years) afterward.  I want readers thinking about what it meant or what they would have done in that situation.  It's like art, that way: you can paint a bowl of fruit or paint something abstract.  I tend to like the abstract because you can keep looking at it, discovering difficult meanings.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Michael James McFarland:
Deleted scenes for me tend to be things that don't contribute to the story or cause a break in mood or temp.  In Seven Years, I had a 5-page aside about shoplifting that hurt to cut, but the chapter was better for it.  I loped off the first 10 pages of Duplex because it didn't add anything to the story, it was just 10 pages of Jamie waiting to hear from her husband whether or not they were going to be moving (a la The Shining).  Why not just start with them pulling up to their new duplex in a U-Haul?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Michael James McFarland:
I'd love to do an epic horror/fantasy piece about a world created by magic that begins to decay in weird and unexpected ways when it's creator dies.  I touched a little on this theme in a short story called Fade to White, but it really deserves a Clive Barker treatment: 700 pages of detail and packed with bizarre characters, all trying to make sense or come to terms with what they're experiencing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Michael James McFarland:
What I consider my best two (and longest) pieces of work are still unpublished.  Seven Years, which I've mentioned, is going through its second revision and will probably see a third before I'm ready to publish.  The other is called The Fold, and it's likely to be my next published novel.  Even that's at least a year away.  I've got a third novel that's finished in its longhand version, and two others that are in varying degrees of completion.  Oh, and I've got enough short stories to do another good-sized collection like I did with The Yellow Wind.  Lots of stuff on the horizon, but nothing too soon.  After putting out five books, it's time to take a breath.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Michael James McFarland:
You can't.  [laughs out loud]  Actually, Facebook (Michael James McFarland) is my author page) and Goodreads (same).  Goodreads allows fans to ask questions and I'm fine with anyone who wants to contact me that way.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, again, for stopping by Mike.  It's been great having you here.
            One more thing before you go: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Michael James McFarland:
Just a word of thanks and gratitude.  It's strange to me that the little stories I passed around at work and at home are now being downloaded and read in other countries.  I'd like to thank you if you're one of those readers, and especially if you've taken a moment to rate or review it or even recommend it to a friend.  You are the folks that keep independent publishing alive.  Keep reading and encourage that pastime in your children!


About the author:
Michael James McFarland has been writing for over 30 years and his short fiction has appeared in a variety of formats.  Among these, 'The Hypnotist' was selected for Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror (15th Annual Collection), 'The Duel' & 'Mira' were produced by Pseudopod on audio podcasts, and 'Deadline' & 'The Yellow Wind' have appeared in print anthologies.  Blood Bound Books published Fallow Ground, his first novel, in 2014.  He has self-published two well-received novels (Wormwood & Blood on the Tracks), a novella (Duplex), and a short story collection (The Yellow Wind & Other Horrors).  
            He lives and works in Washington state.

About the books:
Accepting a job in a new city, Dan Hill has just moved his wife and 4 year-old daughter into an ordinary-looking duplex.  The appliances are avocado, the carpet sea-foam green, and there's a fine layer of ash below the surface from the house that used to stand there.
            "Well that's a funny thing," the Hill's new neighbor tells Dan.  "The house caught fire and the oldest boy thought his sister was still inside.  He went in to get her, but never made it back out.  The rest of the family - the little girl included - all came through with relatively minor stuff: scrapes and bruises, smoke inhalation... It was just the one boy who died, burned up... 14 or 15 years old, I think."
            He let the story trail off, shaking his head.
            "Not the sort of thing they advertise, is it"  He leaned back into his lounge chair, considering the small border of earth around the patio.  "It's here though, if you dig.  I put in those cedars last month," he said, pointing at the small line of shrubs.  "Digging the holes I noticed a lot of ash and some burnt slivers of shingling."  He took a long sip off his beer.  "Makes you think about where you're sleeping, doesn't it?"
            Awakened by strange sounds in the dead of night, the Hills soon suspect someone is prowling about their new home, vanishing when they switch on the lights.  Little things go missing: spoons, hair ribbons, a black bra... bits of food from the refrigerator.  Frustrated, Dan sets up a video camera in hopes of capturing the intruder on tape.
            Less than a week later, his wife and daughter disappear.
            Dan retrieves the camera from its hiding spot and plays back the tape...
            What he sees turns his blood to ice.


"We strongly caution viewers that the footage about to be broadcast is of a highly graphic and unsettling nature."  The blonde anchor glanced nervously off-camera, as if there were a gun pointed at his head, then gazed back at the lens.  "I'd like to remind our audience that it has never been the policy of this station to panic or unduly alarm our viewership in bringing such events to public attention, or exploit or sensationalize any such footage we may receive. That said, the videotape we're about to present is uncensored and unedited in hopes that viewers might better prepare themselves for what is happening in the eastern portion of the country and which, by all reliable indicators, may spread our way in coming weeks.
            "This footage comes to us from our affiliate station in Chicago and was shot by W.N.C. cameraman Dennis Kabrich in the neighboring community of Elmhurst.  Once again, what you are about to witnessed and is attributed to the so-called "Wormwood" or "Yellowseed" virus, first reported near the town of Willard, Pennsylvania, just two short months ago.  This footage is of an extremely graphic nature and viewer discretion is strongly advised."
            With that, the cautions ceased and the videotape rolled.

"We need to start making plans," Rudy Cheng told his wife later in bed, nudging her out of a warm drowse.  "We need to start getting ready for this thing."
            Aimee propped herself up on an elbow.  "Rudy, Chicago is almost two thousand miles away.  They'll figure out how to stop it before it gets much further."
            He flipped himself on his back and gazed at the ceiling.  "I wish I could believe that."
            "That news report must have been something to tie you in knots like this."
            "It was.  I don't know whether to wish you'd seen it or be grateful you didn't."
            "Well you know how television can be.  They like to play things up, make them look bigger than they actually are.  What they didn't show you is how normal things are a block or two away.  You only saw what they wanted you to see."
            He nodded, thinking of the pile of bodies and the line of gunners on the roof.
            "This looked like the apocalypse."
            She laughed softly in the dark.  "People have been seeing the apocalypse for two thousand years."
            Against his closed eyelids, a dead man came shambling out of a dingy garage and disintegrated in a storm of gunfire, taking a screaming soldier with him.
            "This looked pretty convincing."
            The bedroom lapsed into silence.
            "What have you been doing all night?" she finally asked.
            "Watching the news.  Thinking about what I'll do when this thing finally shows up."
            "If this thing shows up," she amended, touching a finger to his lips.
            "If," he allowed, though not believing it.  Aside from the Chicago video, more snapshots of the epidemic were surfacing, opening up like new doors to Hell.  It didn't matter if you called it Wormwood or Yellowseed, it wasn't the sort of thing that just petered out of its own volition.  It had a maw the size of Texas and wasn't likely to stop chewing until there was nothing left but silent earth and rotting dead.
            "What sorts of plans have you been making?" Aimee asked, though hesitantly.
            "I drew a map of the neighborhood," Rudy told her.
            "That sounds harmless enough," Aimee said, relieved.
            "Maybe I'll show it to some of the neighbors tomorrow," he decided.  "See if anyone else has given this serious thought."


What begins in madness and desperation must eventually end that way.  The Taylors want nothing more than to start a family, but the couple remains childless.  A stranger, known only as Mr. Smith, arrives on their doorstep late one night with a strange proposition: safeguard a crate for the peculiar man and they'll get their offspring.  They strike a dark and irrevocable bargain.  Almost twenty-five years later, the Taylors' farmland is occupied by a new family - but the curse of the past lives on.  Does wickedness dwell in the soil itself, or does evil grow from what takes root there?


Detective Gary Murdock has been summoned to a basement recording studio to investigate the apparent suicide of rock star Sean Christopher, known to the world as Torn Embryo.  By chance or intent, the fatal gunshot has been caught on tape.  When Murdock listens to the playback, an eerie and indistinct voice can be heard in the background, casting doubt as to whether Christopher was alone when he died.  Or if his death was, indeed, a suicide...

"We've all got our personal demons, aspects of ourselves we try to hide.  I don't imagine Sean Christopher was any different in that respect." ~Gary Murdock, detective
            "You don't believe in spooks, Lieutenant.  One look at you and I can see that you don't." ~Eddie Templeton, recording engineer
            "People like that are hard to be around for long; they're too restless, too unsettled... maybe that's the reason he went through women and musicians so fast." ~Rich Gregory, jazz musician
            "I thought it was going to be the worst thing I'd see that morning; turned out I was wrong about that." ~Clayton McDougall, police officer
            "You listen to music for pleasure.  Torn Embryo wasn't made for that." ~Wes Halverson, nightclub owner

In his 2nd full-length novel, Michael James McFarland holds a fractured lens to a dark and infamous house, from its groundbreaking by lumber magnate John Bradford Condon to the sensationalized atrocities of legendary Beat poet Ian Ellison.  Through journal entries, song lyrics and police interviews, the past collides with the present and a blood-soaked form emerges, stalking the house, driving its occupants to the most unspeakable acts.


In his first collection of dark fiction, Michael James McFarland delivers fifteen tales steeped in murder, madness, and broken dreams... each different in tone, in style, yet unified by a singular talent and imagination.  All told, it's an assortment calculated to blight the dreams of the most jaded horror aficionado.
            Discover what it takes for ordinary people to survive within a world that's been left behind, forsaken, in a trio of apocalyptic tales that goes beyond bullets and the walking dead...
            Put your hand inside a magical shoebox filled with carpet scraps, tissue paper and glue; what George Watson finds, however, is a bloody knife and a skeleton out of his own past...
            Meet a writer struggling to recover the threads of a lost narrative, uncovering instead a terrible secret locked inside a derelict shopping center...
            Two souls trapped within a world of obsession and desire.  A drunken hypnotist and his disconcerting companion.  A housewife with a heart defect, desperate to lose weight...
            Lost souls.  Each struggling for a moment of peace, a chance of redemption... finding instead a horrible quicksand, a hole that only deepens as it clutches.