Surviving Twin Peaks

Well, the big plan at the Easter weekend was to get through all 30 episodes of Twin Peaks. It didn’t seem like such a tough challenge at the time. However, I made it as far as episode 13, Demons, then had a call a halt to the experiment.

The first season was actually really good, and seemed to have a larger budget for outdoor shooting, which made the whole show seem more expansive. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with Agent Dale Cooper and his quirky approach to investigation techniques. He’s actually the only reason we kept watching as long as we did.

For a while, it was a great ride. I loved the OCD stacking of donuts, the strangely chic dancing by adult straight men, the oddness of the town did draw me in at first. But, it was also its worst feature. Because it’s not the early 1990s anymore, and the soap opera elements began to stink. Also the music really started to grate. The cheesy acting went from endearing to relentlessly bad. It seemed that, after the terrifying references and appearances of Bob, and the mystery surrounding Laura Palmer’s murder, things sort of slowed. Right. Down.

It was the third full day of watching Twin Peaks when we cracked. I’m sorry, I will continue trying to complete the show, one at a time, with breathing space inbetween. But this weekend, meant for relaxation, was probably not the ideal time to race through 150 hours of a show created by David Lynch.

I read around it, and it just didn’t sustain the weirdness long enough. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff coming, but again, we’d reached our Twin Peaks saturation point by midday Saturday.

Also, we’d run out of Tunnock’s Caramel logs. Disaster!

We ended up watching all of Season 1 of Breaking Bad, and most of Season 2 instead, and actually LEAVING THE HOUSE once or twice. Then it rained over the entirety of Bank Holiday Monday. But that was OK, too, by then, mental balance had been restored.

I definitely think I’ll return to Twin Peaks, and before the year is out as well. This exercise has proved that, watched in a lump, one after the other, the show is just not that interesting. Or maybe I’m missing something. I know the show had some problems in Season 2, and that’s a pity as well.

I still love Agent Cooper, and can’t emphasise that enough. I’m also grateful that this show opened a door to quirky in everything from the X-Files to Buffy. Spotting Scully’s Dad in this was a treat and I still haven’t seen Mulder in Peaks yet, so I will be going back for that!

Instead, I got on with other writing, reading and capturing the last of the weekend. Lesson learned. Normal service will resume this week on the Haunted Eyeball.

Review: Future Lovecraft by Innsmouth Press

Future Lovecraft
Future Lovecraft by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

You’ll definitely get your money’s worth from this vast collection of stories and poetry, which takes humanity’s relationship with the Cthulhu Mythos into the distant future and to other worlds far beyond our own. It also takes readers to fresh horrors on aliens planets and in some very trippy alternate dimensions. Lovecraftian monsters invade both inner and outer space, and it’s likely more than one story will stay with you long after completing this substantial collection. It may not be a surprise that there aren’t many happy endings here, although that can depend on which way your squid is battered. There are also more than a couple tales involving worryingly insane astronauts and doomed asteroids, and spaceships, but none of these blend into a homogeneous, shoggothy mass. The sheer variety is very impressive. Future Lovecraft is an unsettling look at humanity’s future, and questions if we even have one at all.

The Haunted Eyeball’s preferred stories in this collection are marked with a ‘*’ and explanations about why are given in the brief summaries underneath.

In This Brief Interval by Ann K. Schwader

Poem. Best line – ‘Before our sun first sparked, the stars / turned right.’

In the Hall of the Yellow King by Peter Rawlik

A diverse group of Lovecraftian alien races and outer-dimensional beings meet for a grave negotiation, and a power play which could change the very structure of the universe.

Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Nylarthotep by Mick Mamatas

Humanity evades the return of the Great Old Ones by transporting themselves into the virtual Newspave, but they haven’t quite avoided the threat of destruction and madness, and it’s possible that the only way out is to evolve into a self-replicating PAC-MAN-esq game. Utterly mad, although I think it almost made sense.

*Tri-TV by Bobby Cranestone

Channel hopping was never this fun on Earth. Flicking between TV stations somewhere in space, it appears our future is indeed touched by Cthulhu, and all his mates, too.

Do Not Imagine by Mari Nessas

Poem. “We see your grey ships
and thirst
We eat upon human screams,
and in the shadows of the stars,
We hunger.”

*Rubedo, An Alchemy of Madness by Michael Matheson

Brilliant tale. Stranded at the ass end of space, a female scientist assists with a difficult birth. Terrific description really pulls you into this tale of insanity, sadness and solitude. Very impressive space action here, too.

People Are Reading What You Are Writing by Luso Mnthali

Felt like a highly surreal Margaret Attwood study on the power of words to stir people, especially women, from their oppression, even after humanity has colonised other worlds. Interesting.

*Harmony Amid the Stars by Ada Hoffman

More madness aboard a spaceship, but who is truly losing their mind? Effective use of the diary entry format (this is a Lovecraft collection after all) and the characters are cleverly sketched as events unravel. Feels nicely old-school, and I mean that in a highly complimentary way.

*The Comet Called Ithaqua by Don Webb

A deliciously ghoulish tale of outer space madness and folks pushed to breaking point losing a bit of their humanity in the process. Another classic Lovecraftian tale of mankind bringing its nightmares wherever it goes.

Phoenix Woman by Kelda Crich

Poem. “Groomed with persistent
nano-mites”
and

“ancient teeth/ feed by fluttery mouths”

Postflesh by Paul Jessup

A spaceship crew are stranded on an alien world inhabited by leftover biotech creations. Graphic, poetically written and appealingly nasty.

*The Library Twins and the Nekrobees by Martha Hubbard

Two super-powered twins guard a futuristic library containing the last few hard copy books in existence. They catch a powerful entity attempting to alter the meaning in their pages, and a battle soon ensues. A great story, witty and flowing, and the fearless twins’ banter is great fun to read, while the creature they encounter poses a significant threat. Leaves you wondering ‘what if they failed….?’

Go, Go, Go, Said the Byakhee by Molly Tamzer

Utterly mental in an enthralling way. You don’t so much read as tumble between the lines, but this zips along with an irresistible sense of primitive, savage innocence, and also, it’s full of tentacles. Great fun.

*Skin by Helen Marshall

After a fateful trip to Egypt, a university professor reports on a morbid secrets of the Alexandria library which were learned while investigating the origin of ancient book cover, bound in an unidentified type of leather. What is the price of preserving knowledge? Ominous and very effective.

The Old 44th by Randy Stafford

Poem: “Right there, where the mesa ends,
And their blue, frothy Hound blood
Shone under the moons,
Is where they’re kennelled.”

Iron Footfalls by Julio Toro San Martin

Partly a stream of conscious, a cyborg soldier awaits rescue, and as she tries to figure out the cause of the delay, it seems she might be waiting an eternity.

This Song is Not For You by A. D. Cahill

Poem: “His writhing, festering pleasure
Strikes a ten-dimensional chord.”

*Tloque Nahuaque by Nelly Geraldine Garcia-Rosas

Scientists harness the power of creation, via the hadron collider, with some dire repercussions for reality. Surreal and full of monsters, which are a good thing, this was written with authority and class.

*Dolly in the Window by Robyn Seale

Excellent story creating a real switch in the reader’s perspectives as the narrator, who appears deeply violent and unpleasant, starts to explain the unhappy reality of the situation. Creepy, very effective.

*A Cool, Private Place by Jen White

The real estate in this part of Australia is cheap, but only because no one else is crazy enough to live so near to ‘time wells’, bubbles of time past and future. Occasionally, something gets into present day, and this expertly crafted tale explores how you might survive it.

Venice Burning by A. C. Wise

A jaded private eye investigates a missing person case, in a bleak world where timestreams have mashed together following the rising of R’lyeh. Great imagery.

A Day and a Night in Providence by Anthony Boulanger

A pilgrim isn’t all he seems as prayers bring forth madness and the end of the world. Perceptions of holiness are about to change. An effectively realised sense of doom, destruction and religious madness.

*A Welcome Sestina From Cruise Director Isabeau Molyneux by Mae Empson

In retrospect, feeding the starving people of earth with baby giant squid, found underneath the ice cap, might have been a mistake. Presenting in an unravelling stream of consciousness, this was effectively quirky and may possibly make you very hungry while you read…

* Lottie Versus the Moon Hopper by Pamela Rentz

A space-shuttle cleaning crew get a lot more than they bargained for. This blue collar sci fi story is written with a very wry sense of humour, and some vividly realistic, world-weary characters really bring this great piece of ‘horror from a mundane perspective’ to life.

*The Damnable Asteroid by Leigh Kimmel

A strange meteorite is sucked into the orbit of a mining-pod’s asteroid, and starts to have an unpleasant effect on the men underneath its gaze. Proper old school science fiction nightmare, there are things out there in space we really shouldn’t mess with, and keep watching the skies!

*Myristica Fragrans by E. Catherine Tobler

An alien market owner (although actually considerably more exotic than that sounds) comes into contact with some unusual specimens which start to obsess her to a dangerous extent. Unusual, and highly effective.

*Dark of the Moon by James S. Dorr

A female Russian cosmonaut deals with outer space by reading Western science fiction writers, only to discover that Lovecraft may have been on to something. Definitely worth a look, sadness and the dark side of the moon are a powerful combination.

*Trajectory of a Cursed Spirit by Meddy Ligner

A fantastic tale of the Russian gulag translated up to Mars, and what a political prisoner found out there. This story has a really classic feel, with a very impressive use of setting and character.

Transmigration by Lee Clarke Zumpe

Poem: “the sparks of his divine machinery
danced above the roofless temple
beneath the swarming, callous stars.
I saw inappropriate shadows.”

*Concerning the Last Days of the Colony at New Roanoake by Tucker Cummings

Another great story using the classic diary entry structure. More of a report on what was found at a doomed colony, and it leave just enough is left unsaid, or has been lost, for the reader to draw their own startling conclusions.

*The Kadath Angle by Maria Mitchell

Set in Lovecraft’s notorious town of Innsmouth, many years after the army got involved, many years after humanity forgot all about it. Even this mutated town has its social pariahs, but even monsters can greatly underestimate each other.

*The Last Man Standing by Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso

This takes an unusual perspective on a worldwide apocalypse, basing its story in Nigeria. It turns out, old superstitions die hard, even through a modern day plague. Bleak but very involving.

Exhibit at the National Anthropology Museum in Tombustou by Andrew Dombalagian

A short piece that examines an artefact that ‘early’ humans used to plead with the Elder Gods for protection, with more poetry than prose here, a cleverly frozen moment using a futuristic perspective.

The Door From Earth by Jesse Bullington

On an alien world, they have as much trouble stopping mad scientists as Earth-bound heroes. Really fun, Lovecraft-flavoured science fiction here. Its non-human protagonists add some real spice, too.

The Deep Ones by Bryan Thao Worra

Poem: “We grow with uncertain immortality
At the edge not made for man,
Bending, curving, humming cosmic
Awake and alien,”

* The Labyrinth of Sleep by Orrin Grey

A professional dreamer (shades of Inception here if you’d like a reference) seeks out a missing friend in the universal labyrinth of dreams, and learns something rather troubling about the deepest levels of humanity’s sub-consciousness. Highly recommended.

*Deep Blue Dreams by Sean Craven

Using jellyfish sludge creates a cheap, natural high, only you’ve gotta feed it something…the term ‘Jellyhead’ is great, and this is a delightfully squidgy tale of a worldwide addiction going badly wrong.

Big Bro by Arlene J. Yandug

Poem: “Watching the dust
Of our names
In the wake of our own thoughts,
Crawling out
through the cracks of cubicles.”

View all my reviews

Lovecraft Week: Two bite-sized stories by James Pratt

To kick off this week’s Lovecraftian theme, The Haunted Eyeball proudly presents two short but effective Lovecraftian horror stories by James Pratt.


There’s A Light On At The Old Sutter Place

Despite feeling his age, Goodman Elder must leave his wife and supper and go into the night to investigate a light burning at the abandoned homestead of some long-missing neighbours. What he finds there might not be a surprise, at least to him, but it must be taken care of. Borrowing its shadows from H P Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, this is a highly effective tale of dark family secrets and the strenuous efforts of those trying to keep the gates between earth and eternal darkness closed, no matter what it takes.

 


“A clown with an axe walks into a church…”

When the world is being torn apart by inter-dimensional monsters, and the person sitting next to you could turn into a tentacled horror at any moment, it pays to be a little cautious. Five survivors, perhaps the last people still alive anywhere, have taken final refuge in a church, but tempers are fraying. As things hit boiling point, there’s a loud but unmonsterly knock on the door. So just what is still out there? Played with deliciously deadpan humour, and daring to end on a high note, this is a masterfully skewed-up post-apocalyptic story. Yes, there’s a clown, too. Don’t freak out.

If you’re seeking a quick dose of Lovecraftian terror to set you up for the week ahead, these two bites are an excellent way to start down that dark, infinite path. Highly recommended.

Coming up tomorrow – Tuesday:

The Haunted Eyeballs takes a look at the ‘Collect Call of Cthulhu’ episode of the Real Ghosbusters!

 

Also of interest

Interview with James Pratt One  Two Three

He’s been reviewed on the Haunted Eyeball before!

When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

5 Stories That Bite by James Pratt

More Lovecrafty goodness on the Haunted Eyeball

Innsmouth Magazine Issue 8

Author Interview: James Pratt (Part 3 of 3)

Black Scarab picture, James Pratt,

Meet James Pratt (disguised as The Black Scarab)

Welcome to the final part of the Haunted Eyeball’s interview with horror author James Pratt. Today we discuss Inspiration & Publicity.

Part 1: Writing Process

Part 2: Inspiration and Publicity

Part 3: Lovecraft and Horror! – TODAY

James Pratt likes to create realistically flawed but basically decent characters and have them cross paths with serial killer angels, redneck vampires, slithering horrors from other dimensions, and the end of the world. He also likes to write stories that demonstrate how the ever-present darkness threatening to wash over the world like a wave of endless night can be held back with a little courage and a big shotgun (assuming one hasn’t already used both barrels, of course). Some take place in the distant past, others in the far future, and still others somewhere between eight minutes ago and twelve minutes from now. Whether sci-fi, adventure, or straight-out horror, the running theme is that the universe is very, very big and we are very, very small.

His books are available on both Smashwords or on Amazon. You can also follow James on Goodreads and Twitter.

Lovecraft and horror! 

Haunted Eyeball: What’s the first H P Lovecraft story you remember reading?

James Pratt: The Shadow Out of Time. I found it confusingly fascinating.

What drew you to Lovecraft? Why are you still a fan?

I was drawn to Lovecraft by the vast scope of his imagination and ability to convey an absolute sense of cosmic wonder and dread. I now read his works with a more mature and critical eye, but I’m still a humongous fan. His contribution to modern horror is undeniable and the sheer ambition of his stories has yet to be matched.

What do you most enjoy about mixing up genres and mixing in Lovecraft and horror?

I like the idea that the Cthulhu mythos has always been there, subtly infiltrating and influencing history and providing the foundation upon which many myths are legends were unknowingly built. The desolation of the mythic Wild West is a perfect setting for Lovecraftian horror. And the mythos’s fluid nature and resistance to continuity makes it extremely flexible for use in unconventional settings and genres far removed from traditional horror, like say for instance Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. Not that anyone would be sick enough to write a Lovecraftian Winnie the Pooh story, of course.

How do you feel about ‘torture porn’ and other labels ascribed to modern horror films and books?

Unfortunately, in many cases it’s an accurate label. Personally, I find horrors movies that are essentially pretend snuff films extremely boring. I like monsters and supernatural weirdness, not women being raped with chainsaws. Being explicit for its own sake isn’t the same as pushing the envelope. That being said, I have to admit I was fascinated by the wonderful grotesqueness of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

What’s the last horror film or book you read or watched?

I’m ashamed to answer this one. I think it was ‘The Convent’, a movie about demonic nuns. It was pretty cheesy, but on the plus side Adrienne Barbeau was in it.

Horror writers can get jaded! What film or book (or picture!) last really scared you?

I found the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ movie genuinely creepy. ‘Insidious’ also had its moments. I loved the demon. And I can still watch ‘The Exorcist’ and feel a bit uneasy. I really wish it was possible to ‘delete’ experiences so you could see a film or read a book for the first time over and over again.

Do you have a survival plan for the end of the world? Which end of world scenario – zombies, bunny overcrowding, owl infestation, would you rather end up facing?

I’ve mapped out which neighbors would be easiest to handle in case I have to resort to cannibalism. My favorite end of the world scenario would of course be the return of the Old Ones. I won’t have to face it though. As a worshipper of Cthulhu, I’ll have the honor of being eaten first.

Which character you’ve created is your favourite (so far)?

I really like my version of Elvis in ‘Cthelvis’ but he’s based on an actual person and to be honest it didn’t take much work to turn the real thing into a wonderfully weird character. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Horton the rockabilly vampire from ‘Horton Hits a Ho’, closely followed by the brothers Sanjay and Umesh from ‘Incident at the 24-7’.

Are vampires losing their bite? (y’know…Twilight…) or is more variety a good thing?

As fictional creatures, vampires can be whatever a given writer wants them to be. That said, I HATE what vampires have become. Dracula wasn’t a love story, it was about ego and obsession. And what happens when you piss off Vengeful God (as opposed to Loving God). When the monster becomes the cool kid, he’s no longer the monster. Or maybe he’s just a different sort of monster, and definitely not the kind you want to root for. To me, Christopher Lee’s Dracula was the quintessential vampire. He wasn’t a hopeless romantic trapped in an immortal body but a monster whose human appearance was just a disguise. Vampires are supernatural parasites. They can’t give, they can only take. But that’s just my opinion. If somebody can make a living writing schlocky romance stories about star-crossed (undead) lovers, more power to them.

The future!

What are you currently working on (scary, I know)?

Trying to finish a fantasy novel with Lovecraftian overtones, sort of a cross between The Lord of the Rings and The Shadow Out of Time.

Are there any other writers you’d like to work with?

Yeah, but they’re all dead. I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there, indie or otherwise, that I would love to collaborate with but like I said, I haven’t even begun to tap the full potential of social media and connect with any of them. I’ve got to get my act together.

And finally…

 Any message you’d like to give to the lovely readers of the Eyeball?

If you wish there were more non-conventional books and films out there, then support what you like. YOU determine the market, not the other way around. If you want to make a living doing something creative, don’t wait for the world to come knocking at your door. Go out and create.

Thank you for reading this interview with the wonderful James Pratt, you awesome Eyeballers.

Don’t forget, all of James’ books are available right now at Smashwords, Amazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Also of interest:

Part 1 of this interview.

Part 2 of this interview.

James Pratt’s work has already been reviewed right here on the Haunted Eyeball!

5 Stories That Bite by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

Other Author interviews:

A recent Eyeball Interview with urban horror writer Chris Davis

Author Interview: James Pratt (Part 2 of 3)

Black Scarab picture, James Pratt,

Meet James Pratt (disguised as The Black Scarab)

Welcome to the second part of the Haunted Eyeball’s interview with horror author James Pratt. Today we discuss Inspiration & Publicity.

Part 1: Writing Process

Part 2: Inspiration and Publicity

Part 3: Lovecraft and Horror! 

James Pratt likes to create realistically flawed but basically decent characters and have them cross paths with serial killer angels, redneck vampires, slithering horrors from other dimensions, and the end of the world. He also likes to write stories that demonstrate how the ever-present darkness threatening to wash over the world like a wave of endless night can be held back with a little courage and a big shotgun (assuming one hasn’t already used both barrels, of course). Some take place in the distant past, others in the far future, and still others somewhere between eight minutes ago and twelve minutes from now. Whether sci-fi, adventure, or straight-out horror, the running theme is that the universe is very, very big and we are very, very small.

All of James’ books are available right now at SmashwordsAmazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Inspiration & Publicity 

Haunted Eyeball: Who were your favourite author(s) while you were growing up?

James Pratt: That’s a tough one. When I was younger, I didn’t make a point to read any one author. I did discover  Kurt Vonnegut,  Stephen King, and Roger Zelazny in high school. If someone had told me I could only read the works of one of them back then, I probably would have chosen Stephen King because he gave me my first real taste of modern horror.

Favourite author now?

It would be a toss-up between Kurt Vonnegut and H.P. Lovecraft.

Does any art or artist inspire you to write?

Not consciously. I do like the creepy, haunted house vibe of Berni Wrightson’s work though, and the desolate, end of the world quality of Brom’s illustrations.

Any favourite comic books and writers and artists?

Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Berni Wrightson, and Mike Ploog off the top of my head. I really liked Grant Morrison’s run on ‘Animal Man’, and Garth Ennis’s ‘Preacher’ was pretty entertaining.

Do any TV shows or films inspire you?

Everything science fiction, fantasy, and horror TV show and movie I’ve ever seen has contributed in some way to every story I’ve ever written. I was a big fan of the gritty sci-fi of the tragically short-lived TV show ‘Space: Above and Beyond’. That’s the only one that readily comes to mind.

 Publicity

 How do you think social media has helped ‘indie’ writers?

Social media is a great way to market yourself and if you do a good enough job, you can write the stories you want to write and make a living doing something you love on your own terms.

Which ‘social media tools’ do you think connects you most successfully with fans? I.e. from Twitter to Goodreads and Facebook, blogs etc.

I’m not sure. I haven’t done a very good job of using their full potential. Twitter has put me in contact (more or less) with the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time, but I’m not sure just how effective it’s actually been. Each of my tweets is just one among millions.

Explain a bit about your ID picture. Why have you chosen an illustration over a photo of yourself?

My ID picture is the Black Scarab, a pulp superhero-style character from a story I wrote called The Black Scarab in “The Sad, Strange Fate of Evil Eye”. I used that because I think it’s a cool illustration plus I believe that when you get your picture taken the camera can steal your soul. (We think he’s joking… – H.E.)

How do you pick your book cover designs?

A good cover is important, but the amount of thought and effort I put in really depends on how motivated I’m feeling at the time. If the story features a visually striking character there’s a good chance he’ll make it on the cover, otherwise it’s probably going to be just text. I use a program called HeroMachine to create the covers. It’s pretty versatile but primarily for illustrating characters so when designing a cover, its limitations are also a consideration.

How seriously do you take reviews, be they good bad or indifferent!

Pretty serious. I have low self-esteem so I crave validation. Ironically, when someone gives me a good review, I assume they’re just being generous. On the other end of the spectrum, somebody gave all the free stories I had listed on the Barnes and Noble website one star so I had the stories removed. Childish, I know, but if you just want to bash me you should have to pay me first. I also tend to view indifference as a polite way of saying “I didn’t care for it.” I’m a big baby.

Sounds like a reasonable response to us, James. 

Thank you for reading Part 2, you awesome Eyeballers.

Part 3 of this interview, where James discusses H P Lovecraft and Horror, is coming up tomorrow!

Don’t forget, all of James’ books are available right now at SmashwordsAmazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Also of interest:

Part 1 of this interview.

Part 3 of this interview

James Pratt’s work has already been reviewed right here on the Haunted Eyeball!

5 Stories That Bite by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

Other Author interviews:

A recent Eyeball Interview with urban horror writer Chris Davis

Author Interview: James Pratt (Part 1 of 3)

Black Scarab picture, James Pratt,

Meet James Pratt (disguised as The Black Scarab)

Today I am very excited to introduce another horror author who’s agreed to be interviewed here on my Haunted Eyeball.  James Pratt writes horror fiction and his work gives an interesting and skewed view on familiar genre conventions. He also has a knack for bringing an otherworldly twist to some treasured childhood memories.

Part 1: Writing Process

Part 2: Inspiration 

Part 3: Lovecraft and horror! 

James Pratt likes to create realistically flawed but basically decent characters and have them cross paths with serial killer angels, redneck vampires, slithering horrors from other dimensions, and the end of the world. He also likes to write stories that demonstrate how the ever-present darkness threatening to wash over the world like a wave of endless night can be held back with a little courage and a big shotgun (assuming one hasn’t already used both barrels, of course). Some take place in the distant past, others in the far future, and still others somewhere between eight minutes ago and twelve minutes from now. Whether sci-fi, adventure, or straight-out horror, the running theme is that the universe is very, very big and we are very, very small.

All of James’ books are available right now at SmashwordsAmazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Part 1: Writing process

Haunted Eyeball: Hi James and welcome to the Haunted Eyeball. When did you first start writing?

James Pratt: As far back as I can remember I’ve always had ideas for stories and characters, but I didn’t try writing full-fledged stories on a regular basis until I turned 40. Maybe it was a midlife crisis kind of thing.

Do you have a writing routine? How do you fit it in with the day job, etc?

No routine. I just try to write at least a little bit every day, the goal being 1,000 words before bed. Between work and kids I usually only have a couple of free hours each night. If I haven’t started by 10 p.m. on a given night, chances are I’m not going to get any writing done.

Do you listen to music while you work?

Occasionally. It does seem to help so I should probably make a habit of it.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

Anywhere that’s relatively quiet where I can stretch my legs and get comfortable.

Does Writer’s block ever hit? How do you deal with it?

I’ve been hit by writer’s block so many times I have a concussion. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of those rare moments when the creative juices are really flowing. One thing I’ve found that helps when things are going slow is switching from laptop to a plain old notebook. That way I’m less tempted to obsess over every sentence and instead just write down whatever pops into my head. Even when I’m running on empty there’s still plenty of editing and revising to be done. And I’ve found that “sleeping on it” actually works pretty well. I’ve gone to bed plenty of times wondering how to finish a scene and woken up the next morning with a perfect ending. All I had to do was let my subconscious work it out.

Is there anything you wouldn’t consider writing about, such as genre type, political issues, sexuality etc, and why?

I would only write about the things that interest me, and those things happen to be monsters, doomsday scenarios, and alien demon-gods. That said, even though a story might have a fantastic setting or supernatural overtones, it can still contain a moral, make reference to classic literary themes (religion, philosophy, etc.), and act as a metaphor for the tragic comedy that is the human condition. I just find those topics more interesting within an unconventional framework. I don’t have a problem with more conventional topics like politics or sexuality, I’m just not interested in writing about them.

 How long do you allow for research? Is research overrated?

 No matter what the genre, I’ve found research extremely helpful. When I write a sci-fi tale, I want it to be at least partially based on real world science or at least speculative science. That means reading up on what physicists have to say about the actual possibility of time travel, teleportation, parallel universes, and other staples of science fiction. And even when I’m writing a weird western or fantasy tale, I still want the non-fantastic elements to be as accurate as possible. And since I don’t know anything about guns, siege weapons, or medieval architecture, those types of stories also require a fair amount of research. There’s no such thing as too much research.

Whose writing advice do you really listen to?

Anyone and everyone. You can learn something from everybody, even if the lesson is what NOT to do.

Are there any books on writing and creativity that you’d recommend?

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French.

What’s your golden rule of writing? Any tips for new writers?

Characters are the most important part of the story and also the hardest part to pull off. No matter how intricate your fantasy world or alien civilization, it’s only as interesting as the characters that populate it. Characters are how you generate an emotional investment in the story, or lack thereof. And you can’t make a character interesting through simple exposition (ex: “Handsome yet tragic, cynical yet romantic, he was a vampire haunted by his past.”). You have to show the reader why that character is interesting. Demonstrating what a character is feeling is much more powerful than simply letting the reader peer into the character’s mind. For example, having a character smash a chair against a wall is much more effective than simply saying “He was really mad.”

Before you write, read. A lot. And read outside your favorite genre(s). Sure, The Great Gatsby doesn’t contain any robots or ninjas (unless they were REALLY good ninjas), but it’s a powerful work by a master of the craft. Take the lessons taught by the classics and put them to work in the genre of your choice.

What’s the best/worst advice you ever had?

BEST:

“Amateurs copy, geniuses steal”. -Anonymous

“Start as close to the end as possible.” –Kurt Vonnegut

 WORST:

“That shirt looks really good on you.” –The girl at The Gap

Thank you, James. Part 2 of this interview, about Inspiration, is coming up tomorrow!

Don’t forget, all of James’ books are available right now at SmashwordsAmazon and check him out over on Goodreads and Twitter.

Also of interest:

Part 2 of this interview

Part 3 of this interview

James Pratt’s work has already been reviewed right here on the Haunted Eyeball!

5 Stories That Bite by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

Other Author interviews:

A recent Eyeball Interview with urban horror writer Chris Davis

Review: When Dead Gods Dream by James Pratt

When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories
When Dead Gods Dream: A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories by James Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classy collection of well-crafted horror stories. Inspired by Lovecraftian nightmares, these five stories take some wonderfully twisted liberties with certain famous icons.

Cthelvis

The one and only King of rock is trying to make a comeback, but his star is fading and even his manager has lost hope. Things look up for Elvis when a group of supporters appear with a big offer, but as he reads their ‘good book’ some revelations slowly make the King deeply suspicious. Should he risk the world just to make it back to fame and glory? This was a great story that also filled in a lot of information about Elvis’s life, and painted ‘the King’ in a very sympathetic light. A superbly judged blend of sinister cultish intrigue and reimagined real life history.

Black Goat of the Hundred Acre Wood

What happens when little children grow up? Sometimes they move on to bigger, more monstrous dreams. So what happens to the innocent icons they once dreamed of? In this case, a certain famous bear of very little brain soon discovers a few things have changed, and finding hunny (sic) is no longer his biggest priority. This was a successfully eerie take on a well-loved story. Spot-on descriptions made it possible to imagine certain famous illustrations recast in a terrifying new light. This was a strangely affecting tale about the loss of childhood innocence of a Lovecraftian source. Sadder than a sad donkey, perfectly sweet yet bitter.

Jonas Bell Presents “The King in Yellow”

A past-it actor gets his mitts on a forbidden manuscript and the fabric of reality is suddenly in mortal danger. But, the show must go on, right? Lots of surprises in this take on the King in Yellow. It’s amazing anyone manages to say the lines at all before ripping off their own head. Inescapable throes of utter madness aside, this was a really great play on the notorious production.

A Pilgrimage to Carcosa

Dealing with the complex politics of the Dreamlands and beyond, a dreadful deal and revenge is sought. Epic in scope, this was an intriguing glimpse of the cruel inter-dimensional rulers in the Dreamlands, and a lesson in how to negotiate through the King in Yellow (or not), although it seemed just a little disconnected compared to the other stories here.

Sanitarium

A low key but effectively creepy tale. The new guy at the local sanitarium learns they have some inmates with a certain ‘look’, who must be kept asleep at all costs. Everything hinges on potential human error, so we’re not all screwed – yet – are we? Fun characterisation in the conversations with the other orderlies, too. Great piece.

James Pratt’s ‘When Dead Gods Dream’ deserves a read by any Lovecraft fan, and any horror fan who appreciates tales told with tongue firmly in cheek. Capturing eons of dread and suspense, cutting through the dark with a sharp sense of humour, these rise above any cheap parody and make this a highly recommended collection.

When Dead Gods Dream – A Collection of Lovecraftian Short Stories – as available on Amazon.co.uk

View all my reviews