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Author Spotlights

Carole Lanham, Author of Keepity Keep

Where do you get your ideas?

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader holds infinite possibilities. Then, too, I once saw a perfectly decrepit headstone in New Orleans with the name BASTIAN REBEL chiseled on it and vowed to use the name in a story. Yeah, sometimes vodka is involved. The most inspiring source for me though is history and travel. After reading about mortuary hospitals in Victorian times and making a visit to the UK, I wrote a story about a mentally handicapped man who invents a toe bell contraption meant to ferret out the living among the dead. That’s what history does to me — it sets pale lifeless digits to wiggling inside my head. History is better than anything I can make up.

I immediately zeroed in on the mention of ghost towns in your bio — having been to a few, I’m fascinated by them. Do you have any good stories from your visits, with or without ghosts?

Most of the stories that come to mind involve strange folks we’ve encountered in the middle of nowhere. Because we prefer to get off the beaten trail, it’s surprising enough to run into another four wheel drive bumping along in a similar direction, much less stray people. A man who looked like Charlie Manson once walked straight out of the ether and into our camp to mumble something completely incoherant, then disappear again. Because we were not far from Barker Ranch, where they arrested a large number of the family back in the day, his sudden appearance was even more spooky. Maybe it was a lost hippie still wandering the hills looking for his leader? I still wonder what he was trying to say. Another time, we passed a man standing outside his van in the blistering heat on a plain of endless scrub. He had an easel set up and he was painting, buck naked. Another naked fellow walked by us once and tipped his cowboy hat. He was wearing boots and a bandana around his neck and nothing else and I’ve never been able to cleanse my mind of the image.

Author Spotlights

Daniel Homan, Author Of The Queen of Hearts

Daniel Homan was born in Gainesville Florida and now lives in Austin, Texas. He teaches at Texas State University. In his free time, Daniel has been researching Ponce De Leon, the fountain of youth myth, and 15th century Spain for a new novel. Also, he is working on two internet series, one animated, the other involving puppets. Currently, Daniel is seeking representation for a narrative-nonfiction book, The Israeli Trail, about his travels in South America with Israelis recently released from the Israeli Defense Force.

Tell me a little about The Queen of Hearts. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

Long before it was commissioned into a novel, I actually wrote The Queen of Hearts as a poem. This was in 2002, after an incredibly vivid nightmare, most of which made it into the major scenes of the story and forthcoming novel. What I remember most were the city scenes, a crowded, frenzied market, wave after wave of people spreading rumors and gossiping about a murder. Behind me was a striking woman, mysterious, ethereal, but I didn’t know why she was with me. The nearby market-dwellers, which I came to call the “louts,” were whispering about black hands and the murder, and there was something searching for me.

The nightmare flashed between these street scenes and a high-society poker tournament in a manor on the hill. After I had woken, I wrote out the verse quickly, just to rid myself of the images, but I found the images compelling and they stayed with me for many years, even past the completion of the book.

The nightmare was after 9/11, of course, and in the writing of the novel, I came to realize that this probably had played a large part in the nightmare. Then, as the Iraq War commenced, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the heavy stuff of my generation basically, the essence of the story became clearer.

The first line of the story/novel I remembered word for word from the nightmare, spoken by some unknown narrator: “But one question remains, did it begin or end in theft?” That was the mystery that I wanted to explore.

Author Spotlights

Willow Fagan, author of Scatter and Return, the Eyes of the Princess

Willow Fagan was born in Southeastern Michigan, during an April snowstorm. He now lives in Ann Arbor. He appears to be in the “twenty-something-not-really-sure-what-he’s-doing” phase of his life. Currently, he works part-time as a tenant counselor informing tenants about their rights, while reading Tarot cards and engaging in various writing and activist projects on the side. Of these projects, he is most excited about a workshop that he will soon present for the second time: “Sculpting the Chaos of Trauma into Narratives of Change.” In general, he is drawn towards the intersection of creative expression, social justice work, and personal healing. His stories have previously appeared in Fantasy Magazine and Behind the Wainscot.

Tell me a little about Scatter and Return, the Eyes of the Princess. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

When I sat down to write this story, I opened with the line that remained the same throughout all the drafts to the published version: “Yes, yes, the princess is locked in the tower.” But there was some contemplation and coalescing of images and situations that I did before I began to write. I knew that I wanted the princess to have locked herself in the tower as a response to abuse from her father. That image resonated with me because of my own experiences of abuse from my father.

So this story is an example of the type of stories — those which turn the chaos of trauma into narratives of transformation — that the workshop I’m presenting focuses on. Writing the story helped me process and integrate my own traumatic experiences, a process which is mirrored within the story by the narrator’s strategy of telling stories in order to coax the missing pieces back to the princess.

I’m hesitant to reveal all of this but I think it’s important for survivors to speak out about their experiences. I also hope that this story helps others in some small way to understand their own histories and perhaps even to catch a glimpse of a path towards wholeness

Author Spotlights

Sara Saab, Author Of A Trail of Demure Virgins

Sara Saab, author of A Trail of Demure Virgins, came wailing into the world at Al Najjar Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon, in the winter of 1984. The prime witnesses each recall a single stand-out feature of the event: her mother, the musk of hard liquor on the skin of the attending obstetrician, and her father, the worrying Klingon dent scoring the tiny nose of the ruddy and slick infant. This crease soon disappeared, but little Sara didn’t. Nowadays Sara works too hard and — embarrassingly — aches too much in the heart whenever confronted by rock anthems or perfect sentences. Every explanation for her actions can ultimately be traced back to her unruly fern of a hairstyle.

Sara has had / has / will have work in Electric Velocipede, the Vignette Press‘s The Death Mook, Word Riot, and a selection of fine campus literary journals and zines.

Tell me a little about “A Trail of Demure Virgins.” What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

The story was written in a few drafts but the original impetus was very strong: on family roadtrips in the mountains of Lebanon, I was always struck by the Virgin Mary shrines left by the roadside. They’re all over the place, but as far as I can tell, never signposted. Who puts them there? Who brings the fresh flowers and incense? And why? The most recent explanation I’ve heard is that they mark the sites of fatal car crashes, but I have yet to close the case…

Without giving too much away, the very end of the story came to me word for word as this suspended image of irony and chaos.

Where do you get your ideas?

I trap them on glue pads. The little rotters squirm worse than mice and the ones that’ve gotten particularly grotesque and mangled trying to make an escape — those ones turn into the best stories by far

Author Spotlights

Rose Lemberg, Author Of Geddarien

Rose Lemberg was born on the outskirts of the former Habsburg Empire. She spent many happy years in Berkeley, CA, where she also received her doctorate. Rose is a newly minted professor at a large Midwestern university. She lives in a beautiful modernist house with her toddler, husband, books, and tortoises. In her so-called spare time, Rose writes articles, sleeps, paints, and writes fiction. Her first story was published in the Warrior Wisewoman anthology. Geddarien is her second published story. Her speculative poetry has appeared in Star*line, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Abyss and Apex, and other venues.

Tell me a little about Geddarien. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

A vision of winter in Luriberg. An architect sits by the window. He sketches buildings of frozen water — towers, bulbous monastery roofs; the city is coughing; snowflakes melt into rain as they fall. None of this made it into the story.

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t really get ideas. The world is full of secret noise. Cities talk to me. I have a door in my bathroom that opens to other places. Instead of a heart I have a firebird. When I was little, other children did not want to play with me because I was too strange.

Author Spotlights

Siobhan Carroll, Author of The Black-Iron Drum

Siobhan Carroll grew up in Canada and (briefly) Saudi Arabia, where she developed a taste for international travel that will no doubt serve her well in her villainous quest for world domination. When not trekking through exotic lands or building armies of superbots she is hard at work writing her dissertation at Indiana University. In her nonexistent free time she dances, sketches, and consumes more media than is good for her. Her fiction has been published in magazines like Realms of Fantasy, On Spec, and Son & Foe, but so far this has not appeased her desire to conquer the multiverse.

Author Spotlights

Berrien C. Henderson, Author of The Nest Building Habits of Children Inclined to Ornithomancy and Other Such Auguries

Tell me a little about The Nest Building Habits of Children Inclined to Ornithomancy and Other Such Auguries. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

Many of my stories simply begin with that ubiquitous, “What if?” “What if in contemporary society there was a subculture of ornithomancers?” So, yeah, it’s high on the weird radar, but that’s right up my alley. The answer really came in the first sentence: “By the time I was four, my father began teaching me the subtleties of reading crow flight — most other birds, too.” Now, that particular sentence came to me while writing a totally unrelated short story. The idea, the image of a father and son, the fragmented memoir of the nameless narrator all gelled so fast for me that I had to stop mid-stream on that other story to write “The Nest Building Habits of Children Inclined to Ornithomancy and Other Such Auguries.” And the sucker spun me out.

Where do you get your ideas?

Finding the fantastic in the everyday. I want to see one of the Fey Folk in the shadows of a few acres of planted pines. See Celtic triptychs swirled in the dust of a dirt road. Watch some crows light in the trees across the road from my property and wonder… The ideas mostly come as images. Sometimes a snippet of dialogue. Again, in this particular story’s genesis, a first sentence. The ones that start with a last sentence are the most fun to me, though.

Author Spotlights

Deb Taber, Author of The Summoning of Spirits Too Far From Home

Deb Taber is Senior Book Editor at Apex Publications and a graduate of the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. She is also Managing Editor at a horse magazine by day and the slave of three cats by the light of the moon. In 1993, she turned her back on her native Denverian heritage and trekked westward and northward to Washington State. On the way, she saw a really big pig. Really big.

Her fiction has appeared in Apex Digest and Shadowed Realms. Her nonfiction has appeared in many places, often as a ghost writer, but the only one she’s currently admitting to is a posting for the Nebula Awards blog. When not playing with words, Deb plays with moderate voltage at less moderate heights in her freelance work as a lighting designer for theatre. She’s been known to paint, sculpt, and make jewelry too, but lately she’s taken to something called “sleeping” instead. She’s not very good at it yet, but she plans to be.

You can catch her infrequent ramblings at her blog, or you can get more frequent but less direct rambles (and poetry) from her cats.

The only other thing you need to know about Deb is that she might possibly own the world’s largest private collection of Halloween socks.

I have to ask — what are your favorite Halloween socks from your collection?

You ask the hard questions, don’t you? I have a pair of black cat socks I like to wear to work because they have big yellow eyes that peek out from my clogs. Their stare makes one of my coworkers very uncomfortable. I also just bought a great pair that are bat argyle. I don’t think most people realize how conducive the bat shape is to an argyle pattern. Then there are the black cat socks with all of the fish skeletons… so many to choose from.

Author Spotlights

Alex Rose, Author Of The Plagiarist

The Plagiarist had many lives before reaching its current state. Originally, I’d written it as part of a novel — a kind of intertextual detective story — which ultimately went nowhere. So I lobbed off my favorite parts of the ill-conceived crime novel and crafted them into stand-alone short stories. My favorite section involved a character hired to follow a woman whose husband had suspected her of adultery, only as the man follows her through the apparently mundane activities of her day, he finds himself entering and re-entering a series of narratives which may or may not have been written by the same jealous husband. Anyway, that soon became vertiginous and impossibly convoluted, so I scaled it down further and further until it reached its current state: man finds magical book on subway. At the time, I’d been very influenced by Cynthia Ozick’s marvelous (and totally neglected) novel, The Messiah of Stockholm, which is about a bookseller searching for the lost manuscript of Bruno Schultz — in real life, the greatest fabulist writer of mid-century Poland.

Where do you get your ideas?

Usually, they begin as a form of plagiarism. Really. I fall in love with books — usually non-fiction books — and attempt to emulate them. I do so clumsily, and eventually fail, and the failure becomes something of a model for a first draft. My hypertext novel, Synapse,was borne of a failed attempt to recreate Don DeLillo’s White Noise by way of Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood. My story collection, The Musical Illusionist, was a stab at recasting the Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA as a work of fiction. Jonathan Lethem published a ingenious essay in Harper’s last year about plagiarism; I defer to him on the subject.

Author Spotlights

Erzebet YellowBoy, author of A Spell for Twelve Brothers

Erzebet YellowBoy was born in Philadelphia, but was moved around quite a bit from state to state by her family. She continued this tradition as an adult until she finally relocated to England in 2006. She now lives in West Yorkshire with her partner and many lively houseplants including an African violet who is slowly taking over the world. All of her time is free. She spends it binding books, editing, writing and creating mixed media assemblages with a focus on the use of bones. She gardens and reads and concocts strange potions in the kitchen when she gets bored with the rest of it.

Tell me a little about “A Spell for Twelve Brothers.” What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

It was really the birds in the tale of The Six Swans that inspired this story, but as I have a fondness for corvids I chose to turn the princes into ravens. While I don’t necessarily believe in it, I am often compelled to write stories about redemption, and this (for me) falls into that category.

If you don’t necessarily believe in redemption, does that mean your characters don’t usually find it?

Most of them do, but they are just as likely to achieve it by means of their own strengths as they are through some external force. In “At the Core,” the main character finds a sort of redemption in her dead grandmother’s letters, while “Following Double-Face Woman” is a tale in which there is no redemption to be had.