Small Gods Interview with Johanna Rothman on “When Harry Really Met Aggy”

Johanna Rothman’s “When Harry Really Met Aggy” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

Satisfied, Aggy Pink leaned back in her black ergonomic chair, checking her left and right large monitors.

She picked her hands up off her black ergonomic keyboard. She, the Security God, had struck again! Her script found that pesky hacker and cut him off at the proverbial knees. She picked her white mug with the words, Security Guard God, and took a sip of her now-tepid tea. She shuddered. Hot tea was good. Hot or iced coffee was good. Tepid tea was not just not good—it was downright bad.

Definitely nothing that a Security God would drink.

—from “When Harry Really Met Aggy” by Johanna Rothman

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

I wrote about “Security Gods” as in the technical people who keep corporate folks safe from external and bad-guy hackers.

From my perspective, there’s not much difference between the “good” hackers and the “bad” hackers—except for their choice of employers. I don’t even mean that in a cynical way. But, I continue to explore what makes people decide to work with the system and against the system.

People are just so interesting!

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

For fiction, I’m working on some capers, a form of a fun heist mystery. I wrote several stories for a workshop and they weren’t quite right. Now that I learned the form of this kind of story, I plan to redraft them this week. Maybe into next week.

For nonfiction, I’m finishing the Successful Independent Consulting book.

But here’s what’s fun. Since I want to keep writing fiction along with my nonfiction, I have a challenge that works for me: How many days this week can I write 1000 words each of fiction and nonfiction? I’m good at choosing one or the other. I want to be able to choose both. And I think differently with fiction vs. nonfiction, so that’s fun!

How do you integrate storytelling into your non-fiction books, and why?

I use a ton of stories in my nonfiction. First, because people like to read about other people. Second, because the story creates the context. People can read about that context and ask themselves what’s different and what’s similar? What can I, as a reader, do with this information?

But even more important, writing these stories tells me what I learned. Nonfiction writers think and learn as they write. In my fiction, I cycle back in the story to place a piece of equipment or a person where I need it. In nonfiction, I cycle on the ideas so I clarify what I learned to me first, and then to my reader.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

I have a short nonfiction book coming out soon: Free Your Inner Nonfiction Writer. That’s a book about how to write nonfiction so you edit last, not as you go. I’m working on the cover, so “soon.”

About Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman writes about smart people. Sometimes, those people seek out trouble. Sometimes, trouble finds them. Regardless of how trouble arrives, these characters find solutions. In addition to her short story collections, she has published short stories in Blaze Ward Presents, Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, Fiction River, and Heart’s Kiss.

Johanna has published nineteen nonfiction books about many forms of management. Because managers need a sense of humor, Johanna incorporates humor—not just practicality—into her nonfiction.

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Small Gods Interview with Mary Jo Rabe on “The Gods of the Black Forest”

Mary Jo Rabe’s “The Gods of the Black Forest” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

Dobel, the disgruntled god of the Hohfelsendobelbach brook had had enough. He might only be a minor god, but he didn’t have to endure every unpleasantness his environment had to offer. The water in his brookbed splashed angrily over its banks.

Without giving it another thought, he gurgled a lament to his colleagues. All of them were minor gods residing in the streams flowing down from the steep mountains of the southern Black Forest into the Dreisam River in Freiburg and from there onward to the Rhine River.

They existed as individual gods in the brooks but also occasionally joined together in a meditation cloud above the brooks to increase their combined powers. Here tired gods could absorb the extra energy the others had available. In this meditative cloud state they were sheltered from the distractions of the mortal world.

They all took their individual power from the energy in the moving water, the fragrant air blowing around the trees, and the pressure the rocks and boulders exerted on each other on both sides of the narrow gorge called the “Höllental”.

However, today even the bright sun sending down welcome, sharp shadows into the narrow gorge couldn’t improve Dobel’s mood. He was mad.

—from “The Gods of the Black Forest” by Mary Jo Rabe

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

I live in Neustadt, right in the middle of the Black Forest of Germany. Freiburg, a university town with many similarities to Madison, Wisconsin, its sister city, is on the western edge. To get from Freiburg to Neustadt up through the narrow Höllental (Hell Valley) with high mountains on each side, you can either take the Höllental train or drive through the crowded, mostly two-lane, occasionally three-lane, B31 federal highway, also infamous/notorious as the “Madrid-Moscow Express” due to its intense truck traffic. My “gods” are the minor deities living in the many brooks and streams that flow down the mountains of the Black Forest through the Höllental along the B31 to the Dreisam River in Freiburg.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m still writing mostly short stories with occasional poems. What’s fun is seeing a crazy idea in some science report and then wondering if I could make a story out of it.

You grew up in the U.S., and have lived in Germany for a very long time. How has this impacted your writing?

I grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa and went to school in a small town (then 450 inhabitants, now about 200) where the 1960’s for all practical purposes didn’t take place. There was a smooth transition from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. The firm belief there was that things weren’t great, but would always stay the same. School was infuriating. Girls had to wear dresses/skirts with blouses, and were only allowed to wear slacks under their dresses during cold winter days but had to remove them as soon as they got into the building. The home ec teacher constantly warned that girls who wore tops with polka-dots along with striped skirts would be considered low class, etc. The superintendent of a neighboring school proudly proclaimed that if he had to eliminate chemistry or basketball due to financial constraints, he wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate chemistry because the whole community benefited from basketball games while chemistry was only of interest to a few eggheads who would go off to college and never return.

I fled to college at Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan, and participated in their Junior Year in Freiburg program (at the age of 20, back in 1971) where I met Franz. I returned to MSU to finish my degree in German and math, then, thanks to the kindness of strangers (a long story), managed to get a job in the chancery office archives for a year while Franz completed enough courses to apply for and receive a Fulbright scholarship to the U.S. We got married in Sabula, Iowa, in 1974 and went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where I got my library science degree and Franz a masters in geography.

We returned to Freiburg in 1976. In the meantime, my old boss in the archives, who turned out to be the greatest boss ever, was charged with starting a library there, and he got me a job (another long story). I stayed at this library, first called the chancery office library and then the archdiocesan library, until December of 2016 when I retired, overjoyed that I could hand over my users to my extremely capable and conscientious successor who had been my student help in the library for the previous six years.

In 1980 we moved to Neustadt when Franz completed his degree in English and geography at the University of Freiburg and got a teaching job in Donaueschingen. Neustadt was exactly halfway between Freiburg and Donaueschingen. “Donau” is the German name for the Danube, and Donaueschingen claims to be where the Danube begins. (It is actually the location of the confluence of two rivers, the Brigach and the Breg which then flow together to form the Danube).

I discovered my love of science fiction in Milwaukee but didn’t really start writing until 2001. Fortunately, I started reading the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith around 2009 which helped me deal with my (still strong) imposter syndrome.

Naturally, people often ask me to compare living in the U.S. and in Germany. The only honest answer continues to be “On the one hand, on the other hand …” My experience has been that living for a long time in a foreign country makes you skeptical about the way things “have to be”. Actually, there are always options, other possibilities. Successful societies where people live good lives tend to be flexible. Both Germany and the United States could use more flexibility, though in varying areas.

What impacted and impacts my writing the most are the people I have met and the settings I have experienced in the past 71 years. I have had the privilege of getting to know so many good and kind people throughout the years. Their numbers make the assholes easier to endure.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

Kate Wilhelm’s book, Storyteller, musings about the Clarion workshops, was comforting for me. She wrote that there were two kinds of writers, storytellers and wordsmiths, and that Clarion tried to help both. I realize that it is better to be a storyteller, but deep down, at the level of unconscious instinct, I tend to be a wordsmith. So, I keep working on my storytelling skills.

I tend to write mostly science fiction, since that’s what I love to read, with occasional fantasy and historical fiction. So far I have let other people (kind editors of magazines, anthologies) do the hard work of publishing my stories, which are generally, but not always, feel-good, with happy endings. My feeling is that if you want to think about depressing things, you can watch the news. I happen to like fiction that is upbeat and entertaining, but of course everyone else’s preferences will vary.

About Mary Jo Rabe

Mary Jo Rabe grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, got degrees from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she became a science fiction writer and fan. She worked in the library of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, Germany, for 41 years and retired to Titisee-Neustadt, Germany.

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Small Gods Interview with Blaze Ward on “Power”

Blaze Ward’s “Power” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

“What’s the catch?” he asked.

There was always a catch. Every hint of magic or power he’d ever encountered had suggested that the limits were often hard and rude. Even for gods, which just suggested to Gunderson from time to time more powerful pantheons, even more remote.

Maybe you eventually got to the Christian God. Or Thoth. Odin. Somebody up there in charge.

Hopefully, they wouldn’t bother with a little guy like him.

“The power is bound into an item, Gunderson,” she said in a dark tone now. “It gives the holder power over me.”

He couldn’t help the eyebrow that went up at that.

“And we’re going to bring that back into the world?” he asked raggedly.

—from “Power” by Blaze Ward

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

Anacapa, a Goddess of the Chumash Tribe that lived in the Los Angeles basin before the colonists came. It’s a Gunderson Case File (#8) so a Hardboiled PI set in 1955 where all things are possible, from historic fantasy to aliens. If you have cash, Gunderson can solve your case.

In this case, I wanted to explore the history of Los Angeles, and how the Spanish colonized Alto California. Unfortunately, it involved getting about as close to a genocide as you could, because the Mission system was set up to destroy all native culture and any natives that refused to convert. One of the stats I saw suggested that by the dawn of the 20th Century, the Chumash had been reduced to less than a few hundred survivors, with a lot of folks that had crossed over. I have wondered if losing the Mexican-American War allowed some of these tribes to survive.

In Gunderson’s case, he has to deal with a dead necromancer (not a typo) in order to help a woman from the tribe who wants to save it. And gets tangled up with the goddess herself, quietly helping on the sides because Gunderson will save or destroy her.

All the awesome messiness of a Gunderson case, with him and his take on ethics, which is a recurring theme in my writing.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

Working on a Space Western series that will come out early next year. Just finished Novella #5 today, with all of them written like episodes of a television show. I drew inspiration from a couple of places, but that’s Episode One, then I went off on new tangents. First Readers have had great things to say about it, and I get to write some light and fun stuff, after finishing an epic space opera in the second book in Kincaide’s War: Vehicles of Epiphany.

Also working on some thriller/action-adventure stuff for a project next year. Not starting a new pen name, but I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in that genre and intend to drop it all in Feb 2023.

Tell us about Blaze Ward Presents! How did you come up with the idea of this series, and what do you most enjoy about it?

BWP started out with the above diagram. Moles. I was teasing some folks and one of them suggested we do an anthology based entirely around the idea of moles. He was kidding. I wasn’t. Even reminded him a few times, but he chose not to submit (was in a later issue).

And we were off. The goal here is that by doing royalty share, I can pay everybody equally, and accept all manner of stuff instead of just manuscripts. We’ve had graphic novels. A couple of folks have written musical scores. Art. Poetry.

Whatever can convey the theme.

Originally, they were twice a year, but right now I am doing them in the spring. Submissions will open April 1. Stories due April 30. Published on June 1. Not a lot of time for folks to screw around, but I’m working with pros that think having a whole month to write a story is utter decadence.

We have also started doing occasional special editions in the fall, with an open call for “After The Fall” running right now. (Deadline June 30. Pub Oct 1 so I have more time and folks have had several months to work with. Different cast, usually.)

For me, the best part has been that at least four people have told me that I was their first “professional” publication (in quotes because we’re not paying pro rates, but I treat them like professionals and hopefully train them how to act like it with the next editor.

And there have been some utterly amazing stories. I got three in Small Gods that would be contenders for awards, except that fantasy requires pro rates to quality. Grant, Jones, and Broughton all knocked it out of the park.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

Blaze Ward Presents – Weird
Boundary Shock Quarterly – Science Fiction
Mystery, Crime, and Mayhem – Mystery
Cutter’s Final Cut – Themed

About Blaze Ward

Blaze Ward writes science fiction in the Alexandria Station universe (Jessica Keller, The Science Officer, The Story Road, etc.) as well as several other science fiction universes, such as Star Dragon, the Dominion, and more. He occasionally writes odd bits of high fantasy with swords and orcs. In addition, he is the Editor and Publisher of Boundary Shock Quarterly Magazine. You can find out more at his website www.blazeward.com, as well as Facebook, Goodreads, and other places.

Blaze’s works are available as ebooks, paper, and audio, and can be found at a variety of online vendors (Kobo, Amazon, and others). His newsletter comes out twice a month (Publishing newsletter and Anti-Stodgy/Redneck Chef newsletter), and you can also follow his blog on his website. He really enjoys interacting with fans, and looks forward to any and all questions—even ones about his books!

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Small Gods Interview with Richard Quarry on “Devolution Day: A Saga of Fire and Mice”

Richard Quarry’s “Devolution Day: A Saga of Fire and Mice” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

The library had grown too hot to study pre-calc.

The ultramodern building, with light pouring through its five stories of glass panels honeycombed around white steel triangles, was prone to warmth. But never before enough to make Darcy Mayfield see drops of sweat splatter on the open pages of her book (just a dumb bunch of squiggles anyway) and feel scratchy moisture trickling down from the armpits of the sweatshirt she’d unwisely worn.

So seeking relief, Darcy went up to the fifth floor for something more, like, real world. She was paging through Seven Days to an OMG Bod! — she’d sweat her way there if they didn’t get the air-conditioning back on line — when she heard a stuttering snort from the end of the stack. Like a horse, only deeper.

She looked up. And gave a start.

Chill, she warned herself. Just some stupid prank. Don’t give the idiots the satisfaction of knowing your heart just did a triple backflip.

“Looking for something?” Darcy said icily.

A long face, equine but not a horse, stared at her with hang-dog melancholy. Behind it a slab-sided neck rose to humped shoulders, sloping down to where they were hidden beyond the row. Its fur was dun, with one jagged white stripe that she could see. It appeared taller than a horse, but thinner. She knew it had to be some kind of African antelope, but had no idea which.

An antelope, in the Public Library?

—from “Devolution Day: A Saga of Fire and Mice” by Richard Quarry

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

In A Saga Of Fire and Mice the “small gods” we see are a race of extinct giant gerbils, a full eight inches tall, intelligent, and armed with slingshots and the ability to devolve humans back into ancient animals. Clearly a singularity, the question remains, have they acquired god-like powers, or are they fronting for some other Entity? The idea of proto-gerbils causing the extinction of the dinosaurs was a side note in my sf novel Geneslide.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I am currently writing what is projected to be a six-volume epic fantasy tentatively titled The Dance of Sword and Heron. I like to work in different genres and different backgrounds, so part of the fun for any project is studying and portraying these various worlds, from the medieval setting of my current project through to the distant future, with stops at such sites as the Golden Age of Piracy, the early 20th century revival movement, and the Vietnam era in between.

Tell us about the Evolved!

I just put up the seventh and last volume of The Evolved in July. It begins as near-future science fiction then progresses several centuries into the future. The series asks a central question of science fiction: when humanity can shape its own evolution, who’s to say what’s human? When we achieve a form of Group Mind and even conditional immortality, will we finally be able to jettison our traditional greed and savagery, or just play them out on a larger theater?


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

To the ever-growing legion of ebook readers supporting indie-published authors, thanks. I am so gratified you are finding your dreams here.

About Richard Quarry

Like many writers, I’ve knocked around a bit. Caseworker, drywall hanger, and Juvenile Corrections Officer have been my most notable jobs, along with a stint as semi-professional jazz trombonist (incredible fun, laughable money.) I currently live in Seattle with my wife Claire, a Nurse Practitioner in Oncology. Hobbies? An indie-writer? I take some time out here and there for my Rogue exercise bike, tai chi, and reading. Because if you don’t love reading fiction, why write it?

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Small Gods Interview with Kari Kilgore on “The Garden of Eden and Emily”

Kari Kilgore’s “The Garden of Eden and Emily” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

Emily turned and somehow managed to keep her jaw from dropping.

The goddess was indeed standing there, with the same eyebrow-raised smile curving her full mouth. Before Emily forced herself to concentrate on huge dark eyes, she took in the incredible painting that only enhanced the masterpiece of smooth skin.

If she hadn’t seen two people at work with brushes only a few minutes ago, she would have been certain the vivid colors and shapes had grown naturally, an organic tattoo, rising up and out on their own. Creating a tropical wonderland of flowers and vines that spilled down past the woman’s shoulder and across her breasts and ribs and belly before trailing along her thighs.

Emily would have happily sworn the pink and yellow and red flowers nodded in an exotic breeze heavy with their fragrance, and the purple and blue and white berries glistened with entirely real dew drops.

—from “The Garden of Eden and Emily” by Kari Kilgore

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

This story took root years ago on a trip to Key West, and yes, my friends and I did venture up to the rooftop clothing-optional bar. For the record, none of us were brave enough to participate!

But I saw a woman on the dance floor who’d just come out of the body paint booth, and my first thought was how she looked and moved like a goddess. Such joy and confidence, and what seemed to me like a primeval, earth-based power. So in my case, I wrote about what an encounter with the goddess she embodied could bring into an ordinary life. Perhaps not a big enough goddess to affect the whole city or even everyone on that roof, but wow, one-on-one she’s quite a powerhouse.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m finishing up a revenge novella inspired by my years working in Information Technology back in the 1990s, when women weren’t common, and sadly too often not welcome. I’ve got a fun cast of over-the-top, bigger-than-life characters to play with, for one thing. And I’m having an absolute blast getting even with some of the more unsavory real-life characters I met back then. The form of the revenge is turning out to be entirely different than I expected, too.

Tell us about the most memorable time when you surprised yourself with your own writing.

This has happened to me with characters and dialog and plot since I wrote my first novel, and I’m always delighted! I don’t outline or plan ahead, so I’m constantly surprised by what happens next.

But I’d have to say the biggest surprise was a few years ago when I had a chance to submit a story for a winter holiday anthology. I’d never written a holiday story, but I decided to take a chance and go for a big one with Christmas Eve. I then went for humor, which I didn’t often do then. To make things stranger, I aimed for a romance short story, even though, again, I’d never written romance. And to top it all off, I focused the whole thing on one of our cats.

Yes, something else brand new for me.

Not only did I have a great time writing “The Magic Cat of the Hidden Springs Inn and Spa,” but the story actually sold, and it’s been reprinted twice. I’ve written a lot of holiday, romance, and pet stories since, but managing to pull off all three at once and have readers enjoy it was a wonderful surprise. That experience certainly taught me to be brave and take chances, and most importantly, have fun with writing.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

A great way for readers to check out my short fiction and doorways into my longer work and series is with short story collections. Facing Down Extraordinary: A Series of Ordinary Heroes, Fantastic Side Trips: Side Characters Take Center Stage, A Tapestry of Holiday Tales: Winter Adventures from the Odds and Endings Bookstore, and the upcoming Spies of the Imagination all offer peeks into larger worlds.

About Kari Kilgore

Kari Kilgore started her first published novel Until Death in Transylvania, Romania, and finished it in Room 217 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where a rather famous creepy tale about a hotel sparked into life. That’s just one example of how real world inspiration drives her fiction.

Her professional short story sales include Fiction River, holiday anthologies with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Sylvia Magazine. Her short fiction is regularly featured in Mystery, Crime, and Mayhem Magazine, and she’s delighted to be part of the Uncollected Anthology.

Kari writes first and figures out the story’s genre later. That’s resulted in fantasy, science fiction, romance, contemporary fiction, and everything in between. She’s happiest when she surprises herself. She lives at the end of a long dirt road in the middle of the woods with her husband Jason A. Adams, various house critters, and wildlife they’re better off not knowing more about.

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Small Gods Interview with Sonia Orin Lyris on “Not Go Quietly”

Sonia Orin Lyris’ “Not Go Quietly” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

Mama, the monster has come for me at last. You say they are gods, that it is good to go with the gods, but I am not so sure.

So fast. How can anything move so fast?

The meadow was empty of danger, Mama, I swear by my nose and ears. I only paused a moment, to feel the sun on my fur. I meant to gather food, to return to my mate in the tunnels below, nestled tightly with our young.

The monster’s gaze is hard on me, now. I can barely breathe.

So ugly. Mama, how can a god be so ugly?

I have seen them before, but from behind a rock or a tree, from distant hillside or burrow. I watched as others were taken. I thought myself safe and clever.

I was wrong.

—from “Not Go Quietly” by Sonia Orin Lyris

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

You. I wrote about you.

I was once addicted to Pokemon Go. I was one of those people who wander around, gape-mouthed, intently pawing their phone to conquer little creatures.

Conquer by hitting them until they lose consciousness, that is.

But no, it’s okay. Only make-believe. Not real creatures. Just a game.

Just a game.

When I finally broke my addiction, it occurred to wonder, what if those creatures actually were real? How would the game seem to them?

Or, in other words, how would they see you, oh Player?

I wrote about you.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m just finishing up a novel about witches and demons, about the tension between the ancient forest and the voracious human demand for new construction. I also wanted to explore what it means to be other yet find a way to be part of a whole.

I got to write about magic, smart kids, what it means to step out of your comfort zone, and what it’s like to hear the forest speak.

Also, you know, demons. Always fun.

What is your favorite chocolate, and why?

When I ask people this question, they often talk about percentage cacao or what flavoring they like best. Some get really brave and confide in me that they like milk chocolate. Usually in a whisper.

My answer is a little more specific.

I have no investment in Zotter Chocolate beyond my experience that they do marvelous work with the bean, have splendid artwork on their bar wrappers, and the Zotter family borders on being a real-life better version of Willy Wonka–amazing confectioners who are just a touch eccentric in all the best ways.

They make a stunning array of excellent bars and confections. Here are two that I favor, and yes, one is milk chocolate. Dark milk, because you truly can have it all:
1. 72% Opus 2021
2. 80%/20% Milk Chocolate Super Dark (without sugar)


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

I’m the author of the high fantasy epic series The Seer Saga which begins with The Seer (Baen books) and continues on from there.

This is deep, immersive fantasy, touching on themes of destiny, power, and love. There’s also magic, gold, horses, and some amazing people. The story goes places that still surprise me.

Get hooked. Chapter one right here.

About Sonia Orin Lyris

Sonia Orin Lyris’s stories have been published in various places, including Asimov’s SF Magazine, Wizards of the Coast anthologies, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.

Her stories have been called “immersive,” “ruthless,” and “unsparing.”

She is the author of The Seer Saga, an epic high-fantasy series, and co-creator of Rochi, a divination and gambling game from Campaign Coins.

Her hobbies include dance, martial arts, decoding reality, fine chocolate, humans, and feline poetry.

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Small Gods Interview with Samuel Barnhart on “Scheduled Armageddon”

Samuel Barnhart’s “Scheduled Armageddon” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

She has no trouble finding Neidelmaus in the crowded deli. Who else would wear a suit that shade of blue? A few faces turn when she walks past the counter to the booths. The crosstown train thunders overhead for a moment. It is, she concludes, an ordinary day. Ideal for being the last day these people will ever have.

Neidelmaus looks up from the hot dog he’s halfway through. “Rosman,” he declares once he has swallowed. They extend hands and shake. “Before I came in, I was thinking a week, maybe two.” Rosman lets her eyes wander across the deli after she sits. “But now that I’m here-”

“Today, right?” Neidelmaus sets down his hot dog. “Sorry to interrupt you. I’m in a bad mood.”

The waitress materializes. Rosman accepts the glass of water presented to her, and listens politely to the waitress explaining the special.

Neidelmaus interrupts her as well. “They don’t serve chili. I already asked. Thus my bad mood.”

“It’s fine. Pastrami, please. Leave the fat, no mustard.”

After the waitress goes, Rosman catches her own reflection in the water glass. Short, curly blonde hair; pale skin that barely decided to be pink, and she can just spot the green of her eyes when the reflection suddenly distorts.

The water in the glass begins to swirl. It turns murky, bubbling and churning, pulling all the light in the deli down around it.

—from “Scheduled Armageddon” by Samuel Barnhart

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

I decided to write about Behemoth and Leviathan, for two reasons. The first was because when people think “gods” plural, their thoughts often steer toward the Greek and Roman pantheons. Those are nice, deep wells to draw from, but I wanted to write about gods that don’t necessarily have a strong European influence, gods who actually brought their own influence to Europe.

The second reason is that I like a challenge, and it’s not easy to write about chaos-gods from ancient religious texts without the story becoming religious. I want people who aren’t familiar with any kind of Bible to enjoy “Scheduled Armageddon”. Good fiction should satisfy everyone, not just experts.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on a dozen stories right now, give or take. Next month I may just stare menacingly at them. Writing is satisfying for me, more than fun. I put everything I have into the moments when I can sit down and pound a keyboard. Tomorrow it may look like garbage, but if I gave it all of me the day before, I know there’s at least something worth editing.

How did you get into writing fiction?

Pure luck. I emailed Sonia Orin Lyris about getting her to autograph a book she’d written and a couple anthologies she stole the show in, and that grew into a friendship during which she suggested I take writing seriously. She wasn’t the first, but she was who I finally decided to listen to.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

I hope readers enjoy all the stories in “Small Gods”. They’re diverse and wonderfully creative. I’d also like to encourage readers to pick up Sonia Orin Lyris’s “The Stranger” trilogy, the most recent books in her widely acclaimed Seer Saga.

About Samuel Barnhart

Samuel Barnhart’s short stories have appeared all over the Internet, occasionally in print, and at least once onstage. He blogs when he feels like it at sambarnhart.tumblr.com, and lives in South Florida.

Find Samuel Barnhart

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Small Gods Interview with Erynn Lehtonen on “Nekomata’s Curse”

Erynn Lehtonen’s “Nekomata’s Curse” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

My feline friends, I am the reason the humans revile you. I am who they kick when their boots meet your slender ribs; I am who they starve when they throw you poisoned fish masked by gestures of kindness.

You are convenient to them now, preying on the mice who chew away at their grain, staving off pestilence in exchange for the comfort of a warm home. But trust me, the moment they pick you from your litter, they are calculating how many years you will be more of a benefit to their home than a risk. They will take every opportunity to remind you who has the power in your relationship. Warn you not to trust them.

And yet you will, because do we not all crave affection by nature?

They simply do not wish you to turn into me.

—from “Nekomata’s Curse” by Erynn Lehtonen

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

My contribution to Small Gods was a story about the nekomata, a mischievous cat spirit from Japanese folklore. I love these creatures because they’re a sinister evolution of a regular cat with freaky powers based on the strange things real cats can do or are known for. I chose to write about the nekomata because the idea has been nagging me for a few months now and this was a perfect opportunity to get this story out there. Since all of the books I’ve written so far are based some way around Japanese mythology or folklore, Nekomata’s Curse is really an extension of the rest of my work.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on a book titled Pool of Memories and Serpents, a novella that takes place in the same universe as Nekomata’s Curse. There’s no intersection between the stories besides the general location, but the cool thing about Pool of Memories and Serpents is that it has even more dark spirits out of Japanese folklore and explores some interesting themes around magic, mental health, and the dark path from hero to anti-hero. Plus, there are dragons, so that’s a win in my books.

Tell us about your Yokai Calling series!

Yokai Calling is currently my primary body of work, an epic fantasy tale that’s 4-books long (plus a follow-up novella) following three young adults as they navigate a dangerous world filled with magic, mythological creatures, war, and of course, more dark spirits. The tale begins with a mystery involving disappearing women and the dark sorcerer that’s been taking them for a nefarious purpose. The main characters, Hidekazu and Masanori, belong to a noble family and a long line of warriors and mages, but have been forbidden from participating in their lineage. However, once they get involved in unravelling the mystery, their best friend is taken and they have no choice but to go against their parents’ teachings and embrace their warrior legacy.

Only when they do, they find that there are far more sinister implications surrounding the sorcerer’s arrival and his victims.

Like my other stories, the series is all about Japanese myth and folklore, but this series is jam-packed with intrigue, action, and magic!


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

If you like Nekomata’s Curse, I’m sure you’ll also like my other stories! Interested readers can get a prequel short story for the Yokai Calling series by signing up for my newsletter: https://erynnlehtonenwriting.com/newsletter

About Erynn Lehtonen

One day, Erynn’s army of fluffy minions will take over the world. But, well, she hasn’t had any luck animating stuffed animals yet! Ever since graduating with her degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia, you can usually find her typing away at her next fantasy novel like her life depends on it (it does). Other times, she’s locked inside a book, be that reading about dragons, mythology, folklore, or daydreaming in another fantasy world. She also entertains a “mild” tea obsession and guards her hoard like any bookdragon would.

It’s her goal to introduce readers to the complexities of mental illness through the perspectives of lifelike characters in fantasy worlds.

Find Erynn Lehtonen

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Small Gods Interview with M. L. Buchman on “The 3D God”

M. L. Buchman’s “The 3D God” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

A dozen people were scattered about the room chatting quietly. The only other sounds were Joan Baez playing over a set of speakers so shot with age that even though I knew the tune by heart—one of Mom’s favorites—I couldn’t understand a word, and the heavy thud of stoneware steins against the wooden tables.

It might have been a wax museum for the sheer variety of the patrons. One belonged in Wall Street watering hole, the next in a Bronx dive. There were hipsters, working men, a mafia guy who really should be in an Italian restaurant, and six foot of voluptuous redhead who was amazingly hard not to stare at.

“Are they all—” I hadn’t actually asked Max if he was a superhero. After all my searching I didn’t want to break the illusion. I’d made it clear what I was looking for and why I’d come to him, without quite, well, saying what I’d been looking for or why I had come to him.

“Yeah kid, the small gods of New York City,” he waved a hand as he shed his slicker and hung it on a peg against the wall.

I’d been looking for the superheroes but after two years, I’d take the small gods.

—from “The 3D God” by M. L. Buchman

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

“The 3D God” was actually a challenge story. First someone foolishly asked what my own personal superpower was. One of the things I’m very good at is visualizing three-dimensional space. The result of this skill is that I’ve spent an inordinate number of hours helping friends fit too much stuff into too small vans and cars for moving. I eventually went on to apply this skill in traveling theater shows, moving businesses (never as a job, I just kept ending up in places that were going through significant change), house design, and even packing suitcases.

Then came the challenge. Write a story about your superpower. Well…crap! Superhero stories have never been one of my skills, they’ve stumped me in numerous anthology calls. But I do have a Deities Anonymous series (www.mlbuchman.com/deities-anonymous) that is all about the powers of gods from Yahweh and the Devil Incarnate to Buddha, Shiva, and the least angel (It’s an active series, just presently taking a nap, an extended nap, between titles.)

However, I still lacked a good idea for the story. After flailing around for far too long—there was a deadline involved—I sent my character on a chill, rain-soaked quest to discover his superpower. That’s when it all, so to speak, fit together.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

My primary series at this point is my Miranda Chase political technothrillers (www.miranda-chase.com). She’s an autistic airplane-crash investigator for the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). Because of her unique mental processes, she is utterly brilliant at solving crash causes yet equally hopeless at understanding people and political pressures.

This is where her team steps in. One is brilliant about people, another is very physical, and another joins later who has a high emotional intelligence. Rather than dividing tasks across a team, it’s more as if I’ve divided Miranda’s brain across a team—except each segment has its own personality. This high-stakes thrillers are being hugely fun to write and a big fan favorite.

So fun, that I turned it into a game. The Great Chase is a spin-off from the books and just released at the end of May after a year of work and then another year surviving Chinese censorship (I had the game printed overseas.)

I’m also hoping to start up a new military war dog romantic suspense series in the fall that will continue to expand my 42-book / 70-story Emily Beale Universe.

You’re a quilter! What’s your latest project?

M. L. Buchman’s latest quilting project
My latest project is a pile of fabric and some messy sketches. And this has been sitting stagnant for well over a year due to my other projects, including the Miranda Chase game. It is based on the principle that life comes in seven-year cycles. The pattern of our lives often shift on roughly that timing, mine certainly has. Fifteen or so years ago, I was talking to a monk about this concept and he told me there was also a twenty-one-year cycle. Having just crossed into my mid-sixties, I’m surprised at how accurate that statement was, my life is undergoing another major shift—all good, but very different emotionally and in how I think.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, what with being a writer, that all of my quilting projects have a deeper story behind them. My most recent completed quilt is called “Core to the Stars” (see the picture below). The unknowable hidden core (of our planet or ourselves), climbs through gray stone, brown earth, green crust, blue water, foliage in four seasons as the year progresses clockwise, to the pale blue sky and finally the stars beyond. Hidden in the four corners, black quilt stitching against the dark sky, are four of my favorite constellations, one for each season (I used to run the college planetarium).

It is both where we live and the internal journey we make. All, except the dreaming stars of limitless possibility, are held within the winding border of the never-ending seasons represented by the leaf colors. The pattern has many names, but the Star of Bethlehem and Amish Star are the two I know best.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

For eight years I have given away a free short story every month (available to anyone to read for one week on my website). They range across five genres, or maybe six or seven. There are numerous series but stand-alones as well. Sign up for my newsletter to never miss one: https://www.mlbuchman.com

About M. L. Buchman

Bestselling author M.L. Buchman started the first of over 70 novels and 100 short stories (along with an ever-growing pile of audiobooks narrated by the author) while flying from South Korea to ride across the Australian Outback. All part of an around-the-world bicycle trip (a mid-life crisis on wheels) that ultimately launched his writing career. His true loves are military romantic suspense and political technothrillers; with contemporary romance, fantasy, and SF all vying for third place.

M. L. has designed and built houses, flown and jumped out of airplanes, and consulted to the Fortune 100. He is constantly amazed at what can be done with a degree in geophysics.

Find M. L. Buchman

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Small Gods Interview with Ken MacGregor on “No Muse is Good Muse”

Ken MacGregor’s “No Muse is Good Muse” appears in Small Gods, book 6 in the Blaze Ward Presents anthology series.

Excerpt

“So, Chris, what do you do? For a living, I mean.” Jim sipped his Stella Artois — it was the perfect blend of flavors and easy on his gut. It was the only beer he drank.

Chris looked him in the eye and deadpanned his response.

“I’m a muse, Jim.”

Jim carefully kept his expression neutral. It was the face he used whenever he had to deal with someone who might be unstable. “Huh.”

“I was Susan Telling’s muse, but she’s tired and doesn’t want to do it anymore. So, she cut me loose. I asked her to find me another writer, and she sent me to you. I’ve read some of your stuff: it’s pretty good.”

“I’m sorry, but you’re a guy. Aren’t the muses supposed to be beautiful girls in diaphanous gowns?”

Chris nodded. “Diaphanous. Good word. Some are definitely that. Some are guys. The pretty girls get all the press. Not surprising, right? Male muses are largely overlooked.”

“You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical.”

“Of course. I’d expect you to be. But, let me ask you something, Jimmy. You had some story ideas at the bar? About me?” Chris leaned across the table and met Jim’s eyes.

“I did.” It was a whisper.

I did that. And I can do that as many times as you need. You can write again, Jimbo. Short stories, novels, whatever you want. That’s my gift. That’s my job.”

—from “No Muse is Good Muse” by Ken MacGregor

The Interview

Which god(s) did you write about in your story, and why?

I took the myth of the Greek muses and came at it from a slightly unusual
angle. The story imitates life: when I was first starting out (writing fiction at
least—I’ve been making stuff up in one way or another for my entire life), I had
a friend I always bounced ideas off of. He’d give me great feedback, and
occasionally provide new ones that never would have occurred to me. I jokingly
referred to him as my muse, and the character in “No Muse is Good Muse” is
based rather heavily on him. I also loved the idea of exploring the potential
dark side of having a muse. Like…what do they get out it anyway?

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

My main project, currently, is my first solo novel (I co-wrote one with Kerry
Lipp: HEADCASE, that’s already out). It’s a fascinating process, as I’ve mostly
written shorts, and one novella. I have several scenes already written (some of
which were short stories before that all had a similar feel), and am really
enjoying a) finding the narrative thread that fits them together, and b)
discovering where the story leads. I have an idea of how it ends, but characters
have a way of capsizing the ship you thought you were sailing and building a
raft to go somewhere completely different. I’m excited to see where we end up.

You started off writing scripts, then switched to short stories. Was this a hard transition to make, and do you miss performing as an actor?

I actually started off writing sketch comedy! I’ve been involved in theater since I
was in 6 th grade, off and on. I’d done a lot of stage shows, all amateur, but with
some wonderfully talented people. When I was in St. Louis (for three years), I
worked with professional theater companies, got an agent, and did several TV
and radio commercials. I was even on the Discovery Channel! (New
Detectives—I played a murder victim. My friend John was my killer. Fun!)
When I returned to Michigan, I auditioned for a short horror film, and ended up
working with that group of filmmakers for quite a while. One of them said he
wanted to make “the scariest short horror movie ever”, so I started writing
scripts and sending them to him. He said “no” a lot, but one ended up getting
made (“The Quirk and the Dead”. It’s a zombie comedy/romance/horror film
available on YouTube. It’s only 16 minutes long. Check it out.) Finally, he said,
“Ken…I can’t possibly make these. Turn them into short stories, join the Great
Lakes Association of Horror Writers (I did. Still a member, ten years later), and
get them published.” I owe him a debt of gratitude.

I do miss acting! I plan to get back into it at some point.


Anything you’d like to share with the readers, promotional or otherwise?

Not long ago, I released my third story collection, LIONS & TIGERS & WERES,
and I’m insanely proud of it. It’s all my animal stories, including several that
have never appeared in print. I firmly believe it’s some of my best writing.

Okay. That’s the promotional stuff. Mostly, I’d like to say I very much
appreciate you. Without readers, we’re just vomiting words for personal
catharsis. I mean…we would do it anyway, but you make it worth something.
There is no greater feeling than someone telling me that my work moved them
in some way. You make our dark little hearts happy. Thank you.

About Ken MacGregor

Ken MacGregor writes stuff.

He has three story collections: AN ABERRANT MIND, SEX, GORE & MILLIPEDES, and LIONS & TIGERS & WERES, a young adult novella: DEVIL’S BANE, a co-written (with Kerry Lipp), novel: HEADCASE. His work has also appeared in dozens of other publications. He is an Active Member of the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) and is a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers (GLAHW). He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, a smattering of poetry, and a zombie movie. He is the Managing Editor of Collections and Anthologies for LVP Publications, and he curated two anthologies: BURNT FUR for Blood Bound Books, and STITCHED LIPS for Dragon’s Roost Press.

When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.

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