From Idea to Page: Weird Noir

Out soon from Fox Spirit Books!

How do you get from the idea to the story? Here’s a few more of the Weird Noir crew to tell you how they made their uncanny dreams come true:

Creating “Sins of the Brother” by Karina Fabian
 
“It’s been done, Kitten.”
 
I sighed. Talking to my well-read husband could be like sleeping on a bed of tacks—everywhere you turn, there’s a sharp point. For half an hour, I’d brought up story ideas only to have them shot down.
 
“Fine, but I need a unique angle for a dragon story. I want to be in this anthology.”
 
He shrugged, his deep brown eyes echoing my frustration. That’s when the kids called us down to watch Whose Line Is It, Anyway. It’s a comedy improve show, where the actors perform sketches. Much of the humor flew over the kids’ heads like a Concord, but we loved it anyway, especially when they did the noir skits.
 
That’s when it hit me: I could do noir…with a dragon.
 
Meet Vern: an undersized dragon working off a geas from St. George to regain his dragon greatness. Vern lives on the wrong side of the Interdimensional Gap and works as a professional problem solver for people on the right side of Good but the shady side of Law. Vern first appeared in “DragonEye, PI” in Firestorm of Dragons, and has been in two published novels and numerous stories since. He’s uptight, cynical, and sometimes, very funny.
 
But not in the case of “Sins of the Brother.” Patterned after the 1954 movie, World For Ransom, Vern has to solve a kidnapping while protecting the kidnapper. Rather than a femme fatal, Vern’s doing it for a friend who sacrificed his life to protect Vern in the past. The romantic tension is replaced by the tension between Corsican twins, and the political backdrop of two worlds—one of magic, one of technology–forced to get along.

I hope you enjoy the story, and if you like it, you’ll check out Vern’s website at http://dragoneyepi.net. There, you’ll find a list of his books and stories, plus his newsletter and blog.
 

Andrez Bergen

I started writing ‘East of Écarté’ as a background piece for Floyd Maquina, my narrator from Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat, intended to address a comment he made in the pages of TSMG: “Turns out they were Seeker Branch reps and were recruiting me because of my experience as a private investigator (I don’t know why — I was a hack — but that’s a long story for another day and another book).”

But when I decided to steer the unfinished yarn into ‘weird noir’ territory to suit K.A. Laity’s upcoming anthology, it stood to reason I needed to ditch Floyd — who’s rooted in a real if surreal, dystopic/dystrophic world — and induct my other detective character Roy Scherer, of Scherer and Miller, Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane.

Aside from the fact he dabbles with the supernatural, Roy is most things Floyd is not. Floyd is more I: self-doubting, addicted to movies, a lush. Roy is the rumble-and-tumble type, cocky and cynical.

Here Roy is younger and fresher than in the other stories I’ve written about him and his partner Suzie. He hasn’t reached the pinnacle of sarcasm and cynicism but he’s started the trek.

Mocha Stockholm is a wink at my daughter Cocoa, six years old when I put together this story (she just turned seven). While I write, she’s often entertaining herself dancing ballet beside me in our tiny Tokyo apartment that’s 33 square metres. She accompanies DVDs of performances by Aurélie Dupont, Gillian Murphy and Dorothée Gilbert. Like Mocha, Cocoa adores ballet and creates her own choreography on the fly, with touches of comedy, so of course I glance her way and it’s had its influence.

The character of the male dancer here, Bruno Lermentov, is heavily based on Bruno the “Slobokian Acrobatic Bear” from Robert McKimson’s Bugs Bunny cartoon Big Top Bunny (1951) — a favourite for me and Cocoa — while the artistic director of the ballet company, Murray Helpman, is a loose nod to the great Sir Robert Helpmann, the Australian ballet dancer who choreographed The Red Shoes (1948) and played the evil Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

Finally, there are some subverted quotes and character names buried in here from a wealth of ballet-oriented movies, everything from Dario Argento’s Suspiria to Center Stage. Why not?

 

How I Wrote Gus Weatherbourne

By Michael S. Chong

After I saw the submission request for Weird Noir, I was hanging out with my friend Mike the Bike, who owns a bicycle shop, and he mentioned a friend named “Gus Weatherbourne” but I probably didn’t hear him correctly.  Right away that name struck me as a great one and I started to think of the person with that moniker.

Next time, I had some free time at my old job, I started writing about the man with this name.  I wrote a short draft of a few paragraphs and liked the character.  About a week or so later, I lost that job and spent a subsequent stormy day finishing the story.  While the thunder crashed outside, Gus with his left clawed hand and his right hand of lightning helped me let the small stuff just roll off…

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Weird Noir: Up a Dark Alley

Out soon from Fox Spirit Books!

What makes a body turn to crime? Or a writer turn to the darkside? To filch a little Shakespeare, some are born weird, some become weird and others have it thrust up on them. Here’s a few more of the Weird Noir folks telling us how they came to write the twisted little tales they wrote. Would-be writers take note, but you may discover that the peril of your soul is too much to risk for mere publication.

Or not —

Writers are a strange bunch anyway.

 

JOYCE CHNG

Why did I write Yao Jin?

(Or “A dakini dame walked into my office…”)

A dakini dame did walk into my office, metaphorically. She sat down, blue fur rippling like some midnight blanket, and glared at me with her three amber eyes. Write this, she commanded me, write about my truth. So, I chewed on my cigar and asked about the fees. A decent detective still needed to eat and pay the bills, right?

She only smiled, showing her sharp teeth. You will have peace for the next few weeks, she promised. And that promise was my payment.

~*~

Ninety-percent of the above is true. A dakini dame did walk into my mind and refused to go away. What is a dakini you might ask? A sky dancer, if you want to be poetic. A wrathful protector, if you want to talk about Tibetan Buddhism or – more in depth, the Bardo (or the Tibetan Book of the Dead).

The dakini came in and made herself comfortable in the office. That happened after I checked what weird noir is and got a better idea (or picture). Then the images started arriving like sleep-drunken passengers on a transit flight… and refused to budge.

No, I didn’t set fire to the rain. I sat down and wrote the hell out of it. It was fun. It was weird. It was weird fun. I really enjoyed writing the dark world of the dakini and her friend. I planned for noir and it went south to the land of the weird. Toss in the fact that I like reading about dark worlds (Warhammer 40k, anyone?)… and the story became … well, you need to read it to find out, yes?

 

CHRISTOPHER L. IRVIN

PIs are overrated, or How I wrote “Charred Kraken with Plum Butter”

Private Investigators are overrated.

Well…not really. The trope populates much of classic and contemporary noir and the image of one is what drew me into Noir in the first place. So, in truth, the salty PI/Detective is one of my favorite characters.

Before happily stumbling into a call for Weird Noir via twitter (THANK YOU to whoever retweeted that link!), I had just finished reading What it Was by George Pelecanos (protagonist Derek Strange is a PI) and was in the midst of a paranormal noir anthology, Damnation and Dames (in which several stories begin with a blonde/red bombshell sashaying into a PI’s office.)

I instantly fell in love with the fantastic cover of Weird Noir by SL Johnson and editor K.A. Laity’s passion for the project. I had to submit. With the deadline looming, the only problem was I didn’t have a story that fit…oh, and my wife was due with our first child in just over a week!

The first draft of my submission for Weird Noir started just like the stories I’d been reading. A dark and shady character walks into Private Investigator Miles McGuthrie’s office and sits down. Miles drinks his scotch like water and takes it all in. Cue drama and weird mission! Ugh. It was nothing new. I don’t remember exactly where it was going, but it would not have been a fun tale to tell (or weird or different enough to set myself apart.) Thankfully my brain switched on and brought the axe down fast.

I challenged myself to let everything dump out on the page. I kept my protagonist, Miles McGuthrie, but everything else changed. Miles became the owner of McGuthrie’s Emporium and the setting moved from a real city to a much more weird and fantastical place. Thus, The Underbelly was born with sparkle fish, cricket jelly, moonslugs and of course, kraken.

The story was a blast to write and I see myself returning to explore more of The Underbelly…maybe more Miles and Frank!

What’s in the name you ask? Well, how would you like your kraken?

I’d prefer mine charred with plum butter.

Weird Noir: Tentacles Ho!

Out soon from Fox Spirit Books!

The days get colder, the nights get longer, and things seem to move in the shadows — which means it’s almost time for Weird Noir to be born! What sort of twisted individuals come up with tales to fit this mash-up of genres? I asked my writers to tell me a bit about the process of getting all weird about noir:

Chloë Yates

I knew I had to get it written, time was running out and the Prof waits for no man. Naturally slothful, I’d been putting it off, waiting for inspiration to strike. Inspiration is an unfeeling bitch alas and so I began hammering at the keys with nothing but the production of words, any words, as my goal. Midway through the first paragraph, Maxxie Vickers came along and kicked me in the nuts. She had a story to tell and she’d chosen me to tell it. Who was I to turn a good looking, if dentally challenged, dame down?

Richard Godwin

I set the ingredients in the pan. I raise the flame. You know, the texture of the meat that night was strangely familiar, reminiscent of a taste my memory had buried. But the corner of London I ended up in gave me this story, dark and lyrical, imbued with the Noir thrill of being touched a certain way as the moonlight shines on your skin.

As I hand you the menu I would like to say there are some unusual flavours on offer here, so set your palate to receive.”The notes are plaintive, haunting, as if she is singing of a time before her life was altered in some way.” Barbara Dauphin is a night club singer who plays Joe Billy Holiday at her flat. She wants to find her missing sister. She realises there is something unusual about Joe…

Jennifer Martin

When I heard the call, the call for submission, I jumped at the chance to have another of my stories published in an awesome anthology.

‘The Darkness Cult’ is a strange and twisted tale that first wormed its way into my head several years ago. I had toyed with the idea of making a novel from it, but alas, I hadn’t finished up that project. Although a complete work in and of itself, it could be expanded on at a later date.

I sat down after reading the call and just knew that this seedy underground story was just what Weird Noir was looking for. I had to flesh it out. Make it whole and ready for the world to read. I did just that. Like a madwoman, I sat for days at my computer and worked on the story with coffee flowing through my veins. When I finally turned it over to my editor for a read through, watching his reactions was reward in itself. He has never quite looked at me the same since reading that particular story…

More to come — we’ll understand the madness soon. See the full line up here.

Deadline Approaches: Weird Noir

Just a reminder there’s only a few more days left to submit! To what?

This: I’m editing a collection for Fox Spirit with one swanky cover by SL Johnson.

Weird Noir

On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous men trade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there’s a new twist where urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR, featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren’t just your average molls and mugs — the vamps might just be vamps. It’s Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.

Writer already confirmed for the collection (i.e. I already have their stories or their souls  in my possession) include Richard Godwin, Joyce Chng, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel and Andrez Bergen.

But there’s room for a few more.

Story  length
4-10K (negotiable)

Payment
$10 advance against future royalties, split 70-30 with the publisher.

Format
Word .doc (not docx), Times New Roman 12pt font, 1″ margins, double spaced

If you have a previously unpublished story you’d be interested in contributing, let me know. Stories will be due September 5. I’m particularly interested in characters who show a little more of the diversity evident in the real world. And tentacles — they’re not just for weird porn! If you want some insight into the editor who will be choosing the stories, see my website. I won’t know how much space there is left until all my invitees turn in their stories (or don’t). So I won’t  get back to you before the end of September at the earliest, so don’t bug me (unless you want me to give you your story back so you can send it elsewhere).

Cheers –

Kate

(katelaity at gmail)

Submissions: Weird Noir

Having opened my big mouth, it seems I’m now editing a collection for Fox Spirit:

Weird Noir

On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous men trade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there’s a new twist where urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR, featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren’t just your average molls and mugs — the vamps might just be vamps. It’s Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.

Writer already confirmed for the collection (i.e. I already have their stories or their souls  in my possession) include Richard Godwin, Joyce Chng, Paul D. Brazill, Jason Michel.

But there’s room for a few more.

Story  length
4-10K (negotiable)

Payment
$10 advance against future royalties, split 70-30 with the publisher.

Format
Word .doc (not docx), Times New Roman 12pt font, 1″ margins, double spaced

If you have a previously unpublished story you’d be interested in contributing, let me know. Stories will be due September 5. I’m particularly interested in characters who show a little more of the diversity evident in the real world. And tentacles — they’re not just for weird porn! If you want some insight into the editor who will be choosing the stories, see my website. I won’t know how much space there is left until all my invitees turn in their stories (or don’t). So I won’t  get back to you before the end of September at the earliest, so don’t bug me (unless you want me to give you your story back so you can send it elsewhere).

Cheers —

Kate

(katelaity at gmail)

Interview: Joan De La Haye

Today we’re happy to welcome Joan De La Haye to AK&AQ. We recently reviewed her novel Requiem in E Sharp.  Joan De La Haye writes horror and some very twisted thrillers. She invariably wakes up in the middle of the night, because she’s figured out yet another freaky way to mess with her already screwed up characters. Joan is interested in some seriously weird shit. That’s probably also one of the reasons she writes horror. Joan is deep, dark and seriously twisted and so is her writing. Her novels, Shadows and Requiem in E Sharp, as well as her novella, Oasis, are published by Fox Spirit.
Q: What do you write on? Computer, pad o’ paper, battered Underwood? Give us a vivid picture.

A: I write on an Asus laptop with a shiny black cover. It even has facial recognition software which always gives me a bit of a kick when it starts up and I just have to sit in front of it and it starts up. I love it!

Q: Do you listen to music while you write? Does it influence what you write?

A: I listen to the radio or have a playlist going. My playlist has a lot ACDC, Guns-n-Roses and some other really good rock. I’ve found that I’m my writing has a little more punch with the playlist than with the radio.

Q: Do you write in short bursts or carve out long periods of time to work? Is it a habit or a vice?

A: I’m probably not the most prolific writer. I’m rather chuffed with myself if I manage more than 500 words in a day. I’ve also been known to go through periods that can last for weeks where I don’t write a single word. But apparently I’m rather grumpy during those periods and when I start writing again I’m much easier to be around.

Q: What writer would you most want to read your work? What would you want to hear them say?

A: I think I’d love to have Clive Barker read my work. I’d want him to be honest. I won’t improve and learn as a writer if I don’t receive honest criticism. That being said, I’d probably be completely devastated if he hated my work. But then I’d suck it up, wipe away the tears and get back to work.

Q: On the days where the writing doesn’t go so well, what other art or career do you fantasize about pursuing instead?

A: I studied fine art and clinical hypnotherapy. I’ve worked in all sorts of industries, including the hotel industry and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to do anything other than write. Even when I’ve had a bad review or had a story rejected I know that this is where I belong.

Q: What do you read? What do you re-read?

A: I read across a wide variety of genres. I read horror, thrillers, classics. But I avoid romance and biographies like the plague. I’ll read non-fiction for research purposes. The books that I love and read over and over again are classics like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Q: Where did the idea for Requiem in E Sharp come from? Do you have a surefire way of sparking inspiration?

A: I have no idea where the idea for Requiem came from. I was just driving along one day, minding my own business when the idea for a serial killer with serious mommy issues popped into my head. The story took on a life of its own and grew from there.
I don’t think there is a surefire way of sparking inspiration. I get ideas from my nightmares or from something I watch on TV or hear on the news. Sometimes a simple what if question will just pop into my head. I’ve even had inspiration strike while in the shower, washing my hair. Inspiration can be fickle. But when it strikes you have to ride the wave until it crashes.

You can find Joan online at Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads. Here’s an excerpt from Requiem in E Sharp:

 

He pulled the wire out of his pocket, savouring every second. He felt himself rushing the moment. He wanted to slow it down and enjoy every detail. But she would turn around any moment and things would get messy. He didn’t want that to happen again. He wrapped the ends around his hands and pulled it taut.

He watched the back of her head bob up and down as she made the coffee, humming happily. The kettle was too loud. Her humming was out of tune and pulled his last nerve. She chatted about how rare it was to come across someone as polite as he was, but all he could hear was the sound of the piano clanging in his head. He crossed his wrists and slipped the wire over her head and pulled it around her throat. His heart lurched and the beat quickened. The excitement of the impending kill made him a little light-headed. A surprised groan escaped from her mouth. She tried to grab the wire, but her chewed fingernails were too short to dig in. She tried to grasp his gloved hands at the back of her head, but she was too slow. Her arms flailed around trying to hit him. Her foot connected with his shin. That would leave a bruise, he thought. He pulled the wire tighter. Its sharp edges cut into her flesh, slicing into her like a hot knife through butter. Her breath came in gasps; the more she struggled for breath the bigger and harder his erection grew. His breathing became harder and faster. The wire was swallowed up by her larynx. Blood ran down the front of her clothes. Her end was very close now, he could feel it. It was about time too. His muscles were killing him.

Out Today: Oasis (Zombie Novella)

Oasis by Joan De La Haye

Joan De La Haye’s dark zombie novella ‘Oasis’ out from Fox Spirit Books

Cover art by Tom England

2013 – The planet has been fried by solar flares turning it into a desert. The surviving population has been affected by solar radiation, turning them into Zombies. Only a handful of people remain unaffected. A family of civilians, guided by a crack army unit who has seen more action than they can handle, must make their way to the safety of a UN base at the South Pole called New Atlantis.

But can they make it to this oasis alive or will they only reach it as the undead?

 

Here’s an excerpt:

1

The shelter was completed just in time. The President gave his goodbye speech and told us to save ourselves, if we could. Tears streamed down my face as we took our most prized possessions, our pets, some plants, books to read, the usual gumf, and locked ourselves in the bunker. It was cramped, to say the least, but we were alive.

Small, uncomfortable bunk beds lined the walls. There was an open plan kitchen and dining room area. There was even a TV and DVD player, with a collection of all our favourite movies. The bathroom was specially designed to recycle the water. Our air supply was filtered and recycled. My parents had gone all out and spent their life savings building it. Money wasn’t really something we would need to worry about with the world ending and all.

We stayed down there for over a year. It’s amazing how irritating someone’s habits can get in a small confined space. There was many an occasion where I would happily have throttled every member of my family. It was basically like living in a very small prison with my immediate family. Being the only single person with a couple of twosomes can also add to the frustration, if you get my drift. Cleaning up dog shit every day is also not much fun. On the plus side, my brother and his wife were expecting their first child when we went in. Even with all the death and destruction going on above us, life was growing and flourishing in our little safe haven underground.

By the end of a year our supplies were dwindling and if we didn’t want to starve, we would have to venture out and forage topside. The risks we would have to face outside the safety of our shelter were diminished by the thought of slowly starving to death. We’d seen too many movies about cannibalism. It never ended well for anybody concerned.

Climbing out of the tunnel that led to the outside world was nerve wracking. We didn’t know what to expect. We’d had no contact with the outside world, no crackling radio signals, no emergency beacon. All we had were our over active imaginations. We hoped that we’d find the world as we’d left it. That we’d been the targets of an elaborate hoax and that the year we’d spent down there in our hole had been a waste of time.

What we discovered was far worse than any of us had imagined.

Our house or what was left of it was little more than a burnt out shell. There wasn’t much left of our small neighbourhood. There were no trees lining the streets, no grass, no flowers, just ash and sand. A desert had claimed our once lush, green garden. From the top of the hill, where the Botanical Gardens had been, I could see what was left of our once beautiful capital city, Pretoria, and as I looked around at the ruins, I realised that my apartment was gone. All my furniture and belongings were gone and most of the people I’d known were now dead. Most hadn’t been buried, there hadn’t been much left to bury or anyone to bury them. Most of the bodies had been incinerated, but those that hadn’t had been left to be bleached by the never ending blaze of the sun and eventually turned to dust, blown away by the relentless wind.

We decided to stick close to the safety of our bunker and venture out in concentric rings for foraging purposes. We found a few tins of food at the small supermarket that had once been just up the road, but was now a few sand dunes away. The store had, by some miracle, survived the initial solar flares. Sand was blown in by the wind, over the few standing walls and through every open gap it could find. We dug through the sand to find shelves and fridges and ice boxes. We’d shopped there since I was a little girl and seeing its walls broken down and burnt, broke something in me. I screamed and howled like a woman whose only child had died. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to get hysterical.

“It’s okay. Let it out,” James said. His arms hugged me tight as I pounded into his chest with my fists.

“It’s not okay,” I screamed. “It’s never going to be okay.” Sobs shuddered through my body as I tried to calm down. “We might be the last people on the planet. Do you realise that?”

“Yes, I’ve thought about it,” James said, as he pushed me out at arm’s length and looked down at me from his 6ft 3inches height. “But I can’t let that get to me. We’ve got to stay strong. We’ve got to think about little Steve and,” he paused, unable to look me in the eye. “Mary’s pregnant again.” The revelation was a shock. “We have to keep it together for them. I need you to help me. Can you do that Maxine?”

I nodded. He only ever called me Maxine when he was being serious. This wasn’t a time for self-pity or weakness. This was a time to grow up and be tough. Time to be a survivor and put on my big girl pants.

“Have you told Mom and Dad she’s pregnant?” I looked up, squinting so I could see his face and not get blinded by the sun. He shook his head.

“We’re waiting for the right time. We don’t want to worry them.”

“But it’s another life. It’s something that should be celebrated,” I said, trying to sound as happy as I could. I was happy, but I was also worried about Mary. Stevie’s birth hadn’t been easy. James was a paramedic in the old world, before all of this and his medical training came in handy, but he wasn’t a doctor and we didn’t have all the medical supplies necessary for a safe delivery. We didn’t have any prenatal vitamins for Mary to take. There was no way to know if the baby would be healthy. I tried not to focus on all the things that could go wrong. We had to accentuate the positive, even if there wasn’t all that much to be positive about. We were alive and that had to count for something, right?

Carting back the few supplies we’d found at the store, James and I trudged up and down sand dunes in silence. We each had our own morbid thoughts to deal with. Being a survivor was hard work.

I’d once thought that having a day job and a career was hard, but going to work and dealing with clients and an annoying boss was easy in comparison. I longed for the normal days when the only thing I had to worry about was which outfit I’d wear or if I’d worked hard enough for my clients or if a guy in the building liked me. No amount of therapy or training could have prepared me for this.

“Look at what I found,” My mother stood next to our old Weber barbecue, looking rather proud of herself, as James and I walked through what had been our garden gate, but was now little more than twisted metal that still hung from a piece of burnt concrete. She must have found it lying somewhere in the sand. Her white, long, cotton dress flapped in the breeze.

“Where’d you find that?” James asked with a grin and touched the Weber as though it were some ancient relic worth a fortune in gold.

“It was across the road …” She frowned. “Well … you know what I mean,” she said, as she gestured in the general direction of where the house across the road had been. “How it got there, I don’t know.”

“Are you sure it’s ours?” I asked walking towards her and giving her a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.

“Does it really matter whose it is?” James asked, looking at me with a sad, lost look in his eyes.

“Guess not.” The thought of the old couple who’d once lived across the road not needing their barbecue anymore threatened my resolve to be strong. My mother put her arms around me and hugged me tight. The softness of her body against mine was comforting. I was grateful to be alive and that I wasn’t completely alone. We had each other. Our family was still intact and in that there was hope. Perhaps there were other families out there going through the same thing, thinking that they were the only ones. And maybe, just maybe, by some miracle we would find each other and be able to rebuild together. Stupid and naive, I know, but a girl can dream. Can’t she?