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Living in Colors by Diane Sismour

February 13, 2021 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , ,
Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange

This month in From A Cabin in the Woods, we have the short story Living in Colors by Diane Sismour.

Diane has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops. You can find Diane on Facebook and Twitter.

Living in Colors

by

Diane Sismour

The last person leaves the gallery carrying an unframed painting wrapped in an oilskin sheath. The sole purchase of the evening, a painting of Mount Rainier at Sunset. Of the larger artwork hanging, only one holds a sold sign. A canvas I’ll never sell.

Tonight’s sales present a bleak outlook for my career. The prospect of continuing to paint, to doing something that brought such pleasure through my life is fading—fast. I throw the latch to secure the entrance door and draw the thick velvet drape closed across the storefront window before walking to the center of the room. From this vantage, each piece should give some glimpse into the emotion experienced when my brush stroked the canvas.

I feel nothing when looking at them now. I’m not surprised they didn’t sell. They’re colorless. The past year held no joy for me, and my art reflects the void. What was I thinking, exhibiting this trash? The piece that did sell hardly provided enough revenue for the booze everyone swilled.

Gathering the opened champagne bottles, I manage one glass more-empty-than-full from the dregs left by the customers. The smell of wine aerated too long and crab at the marginal time still allowed for consumption almost turns me away.

Who am I kidding? My morning toast and coffee burned off hours ago. I’m starving. In one swig, I down the flat vintage, and shovel the few remaining crab Rangoon through the Thai chili dip and into my mouth. The cleanup can wait until tomorrow.

The ever-present anxiety of whether to paint until morning or to spend time talking with Jeromy ultimately weaves an invisible door that closes me off from the studio upstairs. My friends’ condoling voices barrage my thoughts: “Julie, you’ll feel better in time.” He died over a year ago. The pain is still as deep today as then. “He’ll always be in your heart.” Yes, he will. “You’re young. Before long, you’ll find someone new.” I don’t want someone new.

Painting can wait until tomorrow, again.

Carefully, I remove the wire off the hook to carry him downstairs to the basement apartment. My sleeve catches the sold sign and rips the paper off the heavy frame. The tag flutters like a kite lost on the wind to the ground beneath the life-sized portrait.

The face I memorized is inches from mine. I can almost smell his scent of fresh air and salty sea above the oil paints. His mouth, a slant of the lips he greeted me with every morning. His skin tone, a perfect fleshy tan with sun-reddened cheeks from working the docks compared to the last time I saw him prone in the hospital bed.

The day he died held bittersweet memories forever etched in my mind. Often times I painted through the night, my muse freed from the everyday annoyances of running a gallery. That morning, I had just finished the last strokes on the canvas, the wisps of sun-bleached hair highlighted in Jeromy’s portrait.

He brought coffee up to the studio as sunlight drenched Mount Rainier at daybreak. The mountain effectively framed by the large bay window. The snowcaps glistened.

“A good looking guy. Anyone I know?” he teased.

“Just someone I found roaming the pier. Why don’t you pick a frame while I clean the brushes?” Turpentine fumes wafted in the small room overtaking the rich coffee aroma from the cup he had set beside me.

He placed several moldings alongside the canvas. “How about this one?”

The six-inch wide thick-ridged boarder didn’t overpower the image. “We’re going to need a forklift to help hang that thing,” I teased, and removed my smock.

Pulling me into his arms, he said, “I’ll carry the frame wherever you want.”

Hip to hip, our noses almost touched. We stared into each other’s gaze. Flecks of gold sparkled when he smiled. They sparked then. He smoothed a stray curly lock back behind my ear, and kissed me softly, tenderly, the black coffee flavor blended with his sweetness.

He bent on one knee, and removed a small velvet jewelry box from his jacket pocket. Inside held a marquise cut diamond. The engagement ring refracted the sunlight creating prisms of light around the room creating a surreal and magical moment.

 “Julie, do you remember when you were little, and how you wouldn’t go to sleep because you were afraid of missing something? I don’t want to close my eyes and miss spending a minute without you. Will you marry me?”

Why did I tease him by saying, “Let me think about it?”

Hours later, a fishing boat pinned his body against a piling and crushed him below the waist. If I had said yes and he stayed with me ten minutes longer, the dock handler’s rotation might have changed, and someone else’s husband-or-fiancé-or-brother would be dead instead of him.

When the dock chief called to break the news about the accident, he gave me hope, reminding me how strong Jeromy could be. The moment the nurse walked me into the room, his injuries appeared much worse than described­­.

Heavy dried blood splatter covered his face and arms. Antiseptic pierced the air. Multiple monitors cast a blue hue to his face and the pale yellow walls glowed a sickening putrid color. His broken body lay strapped to a gurney twisted in directions not humanly possible. My heart broke knowing he wouldn’t survive.

I intertwined our fingers. My thoughts reeled. How happy we were together. His proposal uttered only hours ago. He never heard me say, yes.

A doctor droned on in the background about the multitude of injuries Jeromy sustained. All I heard—he possessed an organ donor card, and he didn’t have much time.

Surgeons hovering outside the surgical room peered in at us from above through a wide window, waiting. They gleaned for each vital organ still functioning. None of them made eye contact with me.

My soul fractured, as crushed as his body. Tears fell onto his cheek off mine.

“I’m here, Jeromy. I love you.”

I rocked my body in distress and stared at the finest in modern medicine from the person who needed them the most. None of them would make eye contact with me.

“Can’t you help him?” I screamed. “You’re just letting him die?” His mangled body looked so…broken. “Please, somebody,” I begged, sobbing. “Fix him. Please, fix him,” I pleaded, my appeal ended in a whisper.

His lips paled with each passing minute. I kissed him, his mouth unmoving and cold. The coppery taste of blood mingled with the taste of him. The man I’d always love.

The numbers and chart lines fluctuated erratically on the monitors. Buzzers and alarms sounded. More nurses and technicians rushed into the room and they shouted orders to one another above the din.

“No,” I wailed. “Jeromy, don’t leave me.”

A nurse pulled me away from him. The moment I stepped back from Jeromy’s bedside, someone else pushed me from the room, into a hallway, and onto a bench opposite the doorway. A door blocked the view, but I knew the surgeons leeched to him and kept him comatose only long enough to retrieve whatever organs they could harvest.

They were vultures, the lot of them.

I waited, and prayed to the gods for mercy, refusing to acknowledge the brush of Jeromy’s soul against mine until his presence shifted. Air filled my lungs in a whoosh. With my next breath, I knew he was gone.

Through hiccupping sobs I whispered, “Look for me through the next door.”

An attendant brought two plastic hospital bags to me when they finished. One with Jeromy’s personal effects, and the other with the clothes they cut off him.

The trauma caused my hands to tremble when I returned the sack with bloodstained garments back to him. “I can’t.”

Without a word, he turned and carried away the carnage.

The remaining bag held a wallet, a watch, and a small jewelry box. How could I accept a gift so symbolic when he never heard me say yes?

I never looked at the ring again. The box sets beside Jeromy’s urn on the highest shelf in the closet.

I push the memories from the present and carry the painting to the rear of the gallery. The lack of sales has me irritable. The heavy clicks from my heeled boots on the polished concrete floor echo my mood in the large bare room. The champagne on my empty stomach takes effect, and the effort to move him this short distance exhausts me. I should remove the boots before managing the stairs, but carrying both Jeromy and the shoes down to the apartment seems an impossible task.

In order to open the door to the basement apartment, I place Jeromy on the floor and lean him against the wall. The stairwell’s motion light flickers on. Stale air envelopes us as we descend the first few steps into the windowless basement.

After we’re both through the doorway, I stop and balance him on the top of my foot before pulling the door closed behind us. I maneuver him in front of me and manage two more before having to rest the forty-plus pound replica on my foot again.

“You need to go on a diet.” I struggle to regain enough arm strength to complete carrying him the remaining steps to the apartment. Transporting him back and forth from the basement to the gallery, from the gallery to the studio, or from the studio to the apartment is the only exercise I’ve managed since he left that morning.

Such a different lifestyle from the long walks we took through Seattle to listen to bands playing around the square, or the strolls through the marketplace—the fish flying between sure-handed clerks at the wharf market, bountiful flowers piled into baskets, and crafts made by the Indian tribe from across the Sound.

“Maybe I should get out more.”

No, I would do anything to avoid seeing those knowing looks. What I can’t buy online, the corner grocer delivers with everything paid by credit card. People expect quirky from artists. Becoming a recluse didn’t take long.

“We didn’t do too well tonight, Jeromy,” I say. “Only one small piece sold. There’s only enough money for another year of mortgage payments. Should we sell and find another place? We could rent out the art studio,” I suggest.

The words barely leave my mouth before I’m regretting them. I can hear him. “You’re so talented. I can’t even draw a circle and you create art.”

How can I just give up so easily?

Exhaustion from masking my feeling for the public all evening wavers my resolve to stay strong. Tears well and I struggle to find the next stair tread through the emotional haze. Blindly reaching with my foot, I get down another step before stopping again.

“Tomorrow I’m building you a different frame out of balsa wood. Eight more steps—we can do this.”

I lift him higher. My arms are shaking under the strain. “One step, two steps, three…” The painting tips forward pulling me and gravity does the rest. We tumble, cartwheeling down the stairway and crash into the apartment.

Thankfully, Jeromy breaks my fall.

In a panic, I realize the absurdity of this thought, and hurry to remove my leg from the painting. At the same time, I’m trying to twist the wood into some semblance of a rectangle. He appears as contorted now as the day he laid bloody and mangled.

I run my hands over his limbs, and smooth the wrinkled canvas. He lay on the floor with rips shred up his neck and across his face. The hole punched through his body appears irreparable. A hollowness seizes my heart. Keening shrieks and crying fills the void for a long time before I realize the mantra of “I killed you” is coming from me.

Pain radiates up my leg. My ankle won’t support me to stand. On the floor beside him, sobs choke me. I trace his face, his lips, and rest my hand on his unbeating heart.

I wake on the concrete floor, stiff, sore, and cold, with the torn canvas clutched in my grasp. The painting lies in ruins beyond repair. “You will live again, my love.”

My ankle throbs in pain, but my toes wiggle on command supporting the theory that the injury is a sprain rather than a break. Nothing a good night’s sleep and some ice won’t fix.

Sorry, Jeromy. Wincing, I pull the broken wood off the canvas, and feel the last connection to Jeromy slip away. The void more painful than any injury sustained tonight.

Tears fall unchecked as I push myself off the floor using the support as a crutch for balance, and hobble to the small kitchen nook to assess my wounds and gather all the supplies needed. No cuts, just some scrapes. I grab three Ibuprofen for pain, use scissors to remove my leather boot, fill a plastic bag with ice, and hold the pack onto the ankle with painter’s tape.

The bed beckons only a few feet away. Jeromy’s broken body left just beyond. I shuffle and hobble my way to the rumpled sheets.

Three days later, the ankle is purple and black, but supports my weight without the makeshift crutch. I don’t want to chance destroying Jeromy any further by moving him up two flights to the studio. After several trips, I manage to carry enough art supplies from the studio to the basement to repaint Jeromy.

Every artist paints differently. My preference is to apply oils from top to bottom by overlapping my wrists to stabilize the brush hand. The focal point grows in small, finite strokes. The final details touched into place at the end.

The ultimate luxury of a windowless apartment, time becomes irrelevant. Unless I watch the clock, days can speed passed. I eat when hungry, and sleep when exhausted, my muse controlling my focus. At one point, I shattered the bathroom mirror to avoid seeing the haggard, half-starved woman reflected.

In tiny caresses, his proportions emerge onto the canvas. The pigments color a burst of brightness against the stark white. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months. The image before me expands to full height, the background, a hazed ocean scape. Finally, I step away. Before me stands a perfect portrait of Jeromy’s doppelganger, but not one of him.

What’s missing? I study the first portrait—his eyes, his mouth, the jut of his jaw. The painting, even fragmented, exudes his personality. He’s alive.

His twin doesn’t compare.

“I failed you. I can’t bring you back to me.” The croaking in my unused voice sounds foreign.

Tears don’t fall. A calm replaces the ache, cloaking my soul from the pain endured for too long. For the first time in months, I notice the piles of takeout boxes, and laundry heaps on the floor. A stench equally bad emits from me.

After a massive housecleaning task, and a long necessary shower, I climb the stepladder to remove the velvet box. The jewelry box shakes in my hands as I open the lid. The diamond band slides onto my right hand ring finger, very loose after my depression and weight loss, but still shimmering.

“Let’s put you on a chain, just in case.”

When the paint dried the next morning, I fit a thin frame and string a wire to the canvas to hang the portrait in the highlighted area centered in the storefront window. The idea of having people gawking at him as the surgeons had, almost forces me to return to the basement. Instead, I affix the for sale sign on the upper corner and open the heavy velvet drapes.

Sunlight spills into the room. The diamond refracts prisms over the art and over me. The color sweeps across all the canvases, brightening each piece, bringing them to life. I unbolt the lock and flip the sign to open, ready to resume living.


Some of Diane’s Books

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME

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Nominate the Independent

November 13, 2019 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,
Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange
Diane Sismour

Muses are complicated, unreliable, reluctant and downright ornery at time. Especially those times fiction writers rely on their whispers. No matter how much pleading we may do, they can flutter a story to someone new—someone who paid their heed to write with haste to complete the plot and not let life get in the way.

Muses are overrated, say the writers who aren’t staring at a white page with a dash blinking.

We should make a stand against how creativity blips into our minds and conjures ideas. The very lifeblood of our writing careers dance on the wire between characters flowing into reality, and the hard-pressed compromise of grunting words onto the page.

Would we ever turn our backs on the whispers? No. The whispers manage to coerce us into believing we can’t manage without them. That any organic thought would perish before the second scene.

However, muses don’t stand well against the match of a good writing partner. A partner who can in your most dire of need, visualize a story from beginning to end and hit all the plot twists. Someone who doesn’t wisp away when the writing gets tough, and who can switch their imagination on at your darkest hour to find the turning point in your story. Just remember to take notes!

So wherever you are in your writing careers, stand tall against relying on the whispers. Talk to a confidant and work through the saggy middles of your plots. Find the character flaws that can make your story live. Unite against the muse and nominate the independent. You.

Happy writing!

Diane Sismour

P.S. Please don’t tell my muse!


Books by Diane Sismour

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME
1 0 Read more

Conference Conundrums by Diane Sismour

May 13, 2019 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , ,
a cabin background with the title from a cabin in the words featuring members of Bethlehem Writers Group, Diane Sismour
Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange

Diane Sismour has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers.  She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops.


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Conference Conundrums

Diane Sismour

There are hundreds of writing conferences across the country every year, all vying for our attention. The promise of intriguing workshops and spellbinding keynote speakers up the ante, agents and editors add promise, and do not forget the networking opportunities. Although good writing is the objective, in an era when “who you know,” is as important as “what you know,” need I say more. So how do you choose which events are best for you? 

Small Conferences Can Be Cost Effective

To get the most for your money, there are small conferences providing an array of workshops on craft and the business of writing, without the expensive speakers, or sit down dinners. The incidentals of a nomad on the road are costly. Find a venue within driving distance to avoid hotel stays, and remember to pack plenty of snacks and beverages. Your local writing group or library can help guide you to the events in your area. The Shaw Guide to Writer’s Conferences and Workshops has wonderful information on a huge variety of conferences, workshops, retreats and events all around the world. Another is fabulous source is the Romance Writers of America website. For non-romance writers, RWA members are inclusive and the conference workshops are more about craft and business than romance.

Workshops by outstanding speakers can make a difference in how the information translates to your writing needs. These sessions are usually not part of the general registration and are often times pre-conference workshops, requiring additional fees. However, some people are just better teachers and are worth the charge. They communicate concepts in interesting ways that translate to the “ah ha” moments we all love feeling when a connection is grasped.

Save for One Big Conference

I do recommend saving for one big conference to enjoy all the pomp and glitter. Ogle at the incredible authors at the literary signings and go to every extra activity you can find. Not only is this an amazing way to make your muse sit up and take notice of what fun can be had, but after falling asleep from exhaustion every night, you’re too tired for nerves to interfere at the agent/editor appointments. Okay, maybe a little anxious, but remember that they are the same people who passed you the sugar that morning, and you had no problem chatting to them about everyday life.

Plan Your Conference

A few important facts to remember: Figure out your objectives and stick to them; go to workshops targeted to move your writing forward, or inform on a subject you’re curious about pursuing. Bring business cards; you’ll make lots of contacts and a few new friends. Realize many of the people you meet may sit across from you at the pitch table; edit your verbal thoughts everywhere. Most of all have fun and relax; you are paying to attend. 

Good luck and Happy Writing

~Diane


You Can Find Some of Diane’s Short Stories in the Following Anthologies and Books

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME

0 0 Read more

A Fleshy Toggle Switch? by Diane Sismour

January 17, 2018 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Guest Posts tagged as , , ,

A Fleshy Toggle Switch | Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange

 

Sometimes I wish for a fleshy toggle switch just to concentrate. A switch to turn on the, “What ifs,” or off to allow me to listen to a conversation without having a character make a sidebar comment, with a dimmer to shut out the annoying static from everyday life. On the other hand, where would a writer be without those voices banging around, attempting to push a story out of them?

Most writers I know have characters talking to them. Not just giving an occasional shout, but full arguments that can shove a manuscript into unplotted waters. What would happen if they went silent? I shudder the thought.

My characters made themselves present in those geeky years attending a new high school, trying to fit into any group, but not. Of course, telling anyone about them could have brought dire consequences. Someone would have had me committed to a padded cell on the sunny side of a psych ward, so the thoughts went into a journal. The voices got louder, I listened, my writing voice strengthened, and those ideas became plots.

From where did these constant distractions come, and why me? Isn’t there enough going on in my life for one of me knocking around in my mind? Oh my gosh…my characters just gasped collectively.

I smile before giving a mental nudge. “Hey, just kidding guys.”

Although I still wish for a fleshy toggle switch, I cannot imagine a life without writing or my constant companions pushing my boundaries by asking, “What if.”

Have a creative New Year, and as always, Happy Writing,

Diane


A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME
0 1 Read more

An Interview with Jonathan Maberry by Diane Sismour @dianesismour

October 17, 2017 by in category Interviews tagged as , , , , , ,

Jonathan Maberry | A Slice of OrangeWriting is a solitary profession except when you meet someone like Jonathan Maberry.

 

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning suspense author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator and writing teacher/lecturer. He was named one of the Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers. His books have been sold to more than two-dozen countries. Not only is he an exemplary author, he’s also part of a group known as the Philadelphia Liars Club. An organization known for helping writers become authors through workshops and meetings.

 

Long ago in one such workshop, I met Jonathan and he’s been one of my mentor ever since. I’m pleased to introduce Jonathan to my readers.

 

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. The Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable has a Paranormal Short Story Contest starting on January 1st, 2018 and I would like to give my readers and the participants a scope of what to expect from the genre.

 

DIANE SISMOUR:  How would you describe Paranormal as a genre compared to Horror or Fantasy? 

 

JONATHAN MABERRY: Paranormal is often confused or conflated with supernatural, but they’re significantly different things. The supernatural refers to things like vampires and werewolves, demons and those kinds of monsters. Paranormal refers to things that may appear to be magical but are likely to be aspects of science as yet unquantifiable, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and other kinds of ESP.

 

The word ‘paranormal’ is frequently misused in fiction, as seen in –say—paranormal romance, in which angels, demons, vampires, and so on are romantic figures. That’s actually supernatural, but try and get a publishing marketing exec to change the wording! Not a chance.

 

Supernatural elements fit very well with all kinds of fantasy storytelling, because fantasy has always been concerned with monsters, dragons, sorcery, gods, and so on.

 

Horror is a much broader category and there are no limits to what can fall under that umbrella. Horror can as easily be used to accurately describe a serial killer novel (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind) as a werewolf thriller or a Gothic ghost story.

Rot & Ruin | Jonathan Maberry | A Slice of OrangeDS: There are so many crossover genres in today’s fiction. Do you feel this has helped the paranormal market and why?

 

JM: The paranormal fiction market was created when romance became heavily associated with typically monstrous elements of fiction. Books like Interview with the Vampire helped give birth to what we now call ‘paranormal romance’. TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Forever Knight, Charmed, True Blood, Vampire Academy, and so on, really propped this genre up; and novels by Laurell K. Hamilton, L.A. Banks, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Rachel Caine and many others have established it as a huge moneymaker.

 

All trends wax and wane, and one of the ways to keep them fresh is to spice them up with elements of other genres. Buffy is an example, because it is ostensibly a story about teenage angst and social anxiety wrapped up in a heroic battle against monsters. It’s also a coming of age story, an urban fantasy, a dark fantasy, a family drama, an action series, a comedy series, romance, and –well, I could go on and on. Every time they wanted to make it fresh they threw in some other genre elements –even a space alien (no joke). And…it worked.

 

The fanbase is easily jaded and wants more, which is why those writers who can bring in those other genre elements are the one who most often manage to surprise and intrigue their fans.

 

One show (and subsequent series of comics, games, anthologies and novels) that has very successfully combined paranormal, supernatural, horror, science fiction and fantasy genres is The X-Files. Week-to-week you never quite knew from which direction the punches would be coming. Which made the original series so much fun; and now it’s back.

 

DS: What hero and villain would you most like to write a battle about for world dominance?

 

JM: I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a story in which Nikolai Tesla and Dr. Moriarty team up to conquer the world. That would be a whole lot of fun to write. It would also combine science, science fiction, mystery, thriller, Steampunk, and action into one wild ride.

 

Patient Zero | Jonathan Maberry | A Slice of OrangeDS: Your paranormal series, Rot & Ruin, gained huge acclaim in the Young Adult market, and the Joe Ledger novels continue as a fan favorite. Which character is your favorite and why?

 

JM: Actually the Rot & Ruin novels are straight science fiction. There are no paranormal or supernatural elements to them because the cause of the zombie plague is an old Cold War bioweapon based on actual parasites found in nature. I just finished a new novel in that series, which is the first of a spinoff storyline with a Latina bisexual teenage main character, Gabriella ‘Gutsy’ Gomez, who is a hell of a lot of fun to write.

 

But my all-time favorite character to write is Joe Ledger. His novels are predominately science fiction with some paranormal elements, and (in some books in the series) a taste of the supernatural. Ledger is a character I can throw into any series or any story. Between the ten novels in the series, two collections of short stories, a guest appearance in a comic book (V-Wars) and an upcoming anthology with original Ledger stories by my writer colleagues, Ledger has faced corrupt scientists, terrorists with cutting-edge bioweapons, secret societies, genetically-engineered vampires, werewolf super soldiers, changelings, ghosts, alien space spiders, and even H.P. Lovecraft’s elder god, Cthulhu. And he guest-stars in the Rot & Ruin novels.

 

DS: You have written short story fiction and novels. What elements should a short story contain compared to works of longer fiction?

 

JM: Short fiction is often similar to the third act of a novel. We typically hit the ground with events already in motion and don’t always pause to explain everything. Much is implied. There are fewer character and the character relationship arcs are less deeply explore, though again, much can be implied to suggest greater depth of that relationship. In a novel, for example, you might explore how a couple falls in love, some highs and lows of that budding relationship, interactions with other people, and view the whole process through the filters of different scenes that put different kinds of stress on those two characters. In a short story we might step in when one of them is lying in an empty bed; or driving away from a burning house; or trying not to sign the divorce papers; or at a funeral; or in the delivery room. We join their lives in progress.

 

My personal style for writing short stories is episodic. I break my short fiction into several mini-chapters. Micro-chapters, really. These allow me to build scenes and then jump to the next important story moment without having to write the transitional material between scenes. I also use those mini-scenes to allow me to establish dramatic beats even within a larger overall scene. In that way I’m using a condensed version of the same style I use for my novels.

Unstoppable | Jonathan Maberry | A Slice of Orange

DS: What pitfalls should a writer avoid when editing the final draft?

JM: It’s never a good idea to rewrite anything before a first draft is done. It packs on time, frequently derails the whole project; shifts focus from one skill set (storytelling) to another (revision), often to the detriment of mental focus and overall momentum; and often results in an uneven story, with the early sections more overwritten then the later.

 

I advise my writing students to draft the story out into a logical plot outline. However I remind them that it’s illogical to assume that you’re going to have all of your best story ideas the day you write out that plot. So, be flexible. Allow for organic growth in both plot and character evolution. Having the plot roughed out, though, is smart. Plots are the mathematical equation of cause and effect that establishes the internal logic. Without knowing how a story ends you can properly foreshadow, built tension that supports the conclusion, and so on; and you often waste time writing scenes that don’t serve the story and will likely need to be cut.

 

DS: Which authors most inspired you, and why?

 

JM: I have the great good fortune as a young teen to meet, get to know, and be mentored by Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. They were very kind and generous with their support and advice. They taught me to make serious studies of both the craft elements of writing as well as the policies and practices of the business of publishing. They also advised me to be generous and compassionate –both to other writers and in general. That was key advice for a troubled teen who need a gentle nudge in the right direction.

 

DS: What’s new that you’d like to share with us?

 

JM: I’m in the middle of one of the busiest years of my career. I’m about to start writing my third novel this year (#33 overall). I have a standalone novel, GLIMPSE, coming out in March that is getting a lot of advance buzz from folks like Clive Barker, Scott Smith, James Rollins, Charlaine Harris and others. And it’s being considered for TV. A couple of my other projects are also heading to film or TV. So that’s exciting. I just finished writing Broken Lands, the first of a new spinoff of my Rot & Ruin series of post-apocalyptic novels for teens. Next up is the 10th Joe Ledger thriller, and then I jump in to writing the first in a new teen series of mystery thrillers. I’ve also got an anthology, JOE LEDGER: UNSTOPPABLE, debuting Halloween day, with original stories using my characters written by a slew of other authors. And just after that my dark fantasy/urban fantasy/mystery genre-mashup anthology, HARDBOILED HORROR debuts. Really looking forward to seeing that launch. And I’m editing KINGDOMS FALL, an anthology of epic fantasy. So…I’m driving in the fast lane and having a hell of a lot of fun.


Readers will find a selection of Jonathan Maberry’s titles below:

GLIMPSE

Buy now!
GLIMPSE

JOE LEDGER UNSTOPPABLE

Buy now!
JOE LEDGER UNSTOPPABLE
PATIENT ZERO: A JOE LEDGER NOVEL

ROT & RUIN

Buy now!
ROT & RUIN

X-FILES: DEVIL’S ADVOCATE

Buy now!
X-FILES: DEVIL’S ADVOCATE

 


Diane Sismour | A Slice of OrangeJonathan Maberry was interviewed by Diane Sismour. Diane has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops.  Diane’s shorts stories are available on A Slice of Orange

Her website is www.dianesismour.com, and her blog is www.dianesismour.blogspot.com. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter at: http://facebook.com/dianesismour, http://facebook.com/networkforthearts, https://twitter.com/dianesismour

 

We would like to thank both Jonathan and Diane for contributing to A Slice of Orange.


Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2018 Short Story Award
 
Opening on January 1, 2018
 
Bethlehem Writers Roundtable is looking for unpublished stories of 2000 words or fewer on the theme of Tales of the Unexplained.
 
 
Contest closes March 31, 2018

Interested writers can find more information in The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Fall issue.

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