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Friday, October 25, 2019

Robert E. Howard Considered

October 25, 2019
By Alex Ness

I recently read a high brow writer's article wherein the writer said that while Robert E. Howard had written many characters and had a great imagination, he was nothing more than a hack.  His works were evidence of a writer creating a high volume of work,  but the writing was performed with a rather modest level of quality.  I possess a book titled "And Their Memory Was a Bitter Tree" with stories by Robert E. Howard and art from Gerard Brom, Frank Frazetta and numerous other fine artists.  The introduction written by Arnie Fenner for the book gives a similar assessment of Robert E. Howard's writing.

"The blare of the trumpets grew louder, like a deep golden tide surge, like
 the soft booming of the evening tides against the silver beaches of Valusia. 
The throng shouted, women flung roses from the roofs as the rhythmic 
chiming of silver hoofs came clearer and the first of the mighty array 
swung into view in the broad white street that curved round the golden
-spired Tower of Splendor"   Robert E. Howard

There is a remarkable gulf between the opinion of actual writers and those writers who write about writing, and write about other works.  A greater gulf can be found in the readers who vote with their dollars who is actually effective when it comes to writing.  I am not suggesting anyone is wrong for having an opinion.  I am relatively certain the writers about writing would suggest what I just said is wrong.  It isn't.  It is an opinion.  My overall opinion is, when I read I have a great many reasons to do so, but due to hours spent writing and researching, I tend to not have time to read for pleasure, though it is something I enjoy doing and I enjoy reading Robert E. Howard.  When I read Robert E. Howard, or Alan Dean Foster, or Clark Ashton Smith or H.P. Lovecraft or Lord Dunsany, I get to enjoy what it is I am reading, I moved by it, and I am restored by it.  It is more than comforting, it is refreshing.  I read high brow works, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Søren Kierkegaard and even Friedrich Nietzsche, or Yukio Mishima, while these edify me, make me mentally grow, I don't read them for pleasure, I read them as an intellectual medium for growth.  I think Robert E. Howard was rather brilliant, and his words on paper move me.  Those who see his work as being unpolished, or, ineffective, or dull, must really have such active imaginations that they are constantly seeking stimulus from various sources.  Or they are lying.  I am not suggesting they are doing one or the other, just that, Robert E. Howard's work defies their opinion.

Now, an entirely different avenue would be to say, he wrote in genres that are not respected by the high brow culture as serious genres.  That would be entirely true.  It has nothing to do with the quality of work in that genre.  As such, my main argument about those who dislike or give feint praise to Robert E. Howard is this, because he didn't write in serious genres, and because he wrote in genres and sales formats that appealed to every day buyers rather than high brow academics, he was not given fair treatment by those in the more educated realm of readership.  I've often said Stephen King would be seen as a great writer, even academia had he chosen to write "serious" fiction.  As such we need wonder if 50 years plus passed his death, will King ever receive praise for being a great writer, or will he forever be viewed as, a good horror author.

Robert E. Howard sold work at a time when few could afford to buy works.  His works sold well.  In retrospect, there is an odd manner in which a myth has risen.  Due to his complaining about not getting paid, it is perceived as his not having sold works.  But that is false.  He sold many, but the buyers of fiction in his day, were crushed by the Great Depression.  And they didn't always follow through to pay for what it was they had purchased.   But even with the measure of partial payments, he sold works far more often than most other similar writers of the day. Anyone reading my commentary over the last fifteen years knows I do not equate sales to quality.  Those are different beasts.  But I am absolutely saying, in times of financial disaster, when people pay money to read your work, instead of eating well, or paying bills, it makes a statement.

"Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank 
Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the
Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining 
kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath 
the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with 
its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, 
Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands 
of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose 
riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of 
the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming 
west."  Robert E. Howard

And I do buy Robert E. Howard books.  I make precious little money, but when I have it to spend I do spend it on authors I like.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

An Interview about Life as a Writer with Abberant Literature's Jason Peters.

By Alex Ness

I met Jason Peters online on the site Twitter.  Over time I really looked forward to his posts, his positive outlook.  He was among the most supportive creatives I've met.  I did a review of a couple works from his company Aberrant Literature Here. I can tell you that he is very talented, both in terms of his writing, and his leadership of his publishing house.  His personal kindness made the decision to interview him rather easy.  He has many important ideas, and you'll hear more about him and Aberrant in the future.  So here are the many fine answers from Jason to my questions.

As Aberrant Literature is not yet a household name, describe it, if you will, and tell us what has been released so far through that publishing company?  When you are prepared to go to print is your upcoming novel going to be released through that same imprint?

JASON: Aberrant Literature is a small indie press that focuses on creative fiction. We don’t really stick to any one genre, and tend to drive in the lanes of science fiction, modern fantasy, horror, adventure, or some combination of those genres. We’ve published two works so far, a multi-genre anthology called Aberrant Tales, and an acerbic action/adventure called Whiteout by author Ashton Macaulay. We are actively preparing four novels for publication in 2020, and will be releasing a novella and accompanying audio book set in the Whiteout universe later this year. My novel Preconscious is one of the four novels slated for 2020 release under the Aberrant Literature umbrella.

Tell us more about you?  Are you married, kids? Where do you live, favorite things outside of writing that you do?

JASON: I’m married and have a daughter. We live in a suburb of Los Angeles, CA. I actually grew up two blocks away from the house my wife and I purchased close to nine years ago, which I suppose indicates that I’m one of those sorts that doesn’t like to stray too far from the nest. My interests are pretty varied; I’ve done everything from working as a PA on indie films after graduating film school at 23 (being from LA dictates that you have a foolish belief in being destined for filmmaking to some degree) to performing standup in Burbank. I enjoy/depend on music; rare is the day that I don’t listen to something, and I’m also an adequate drummer.

Horror, weird fiction, science fiction and more are genres that I love, and I know you do as well. What was your introduction to these works?  Do you prefer prose novels for the genres or do movies, games and comics equally serve you in your enjoyment?

JASON: I’m equal opportunity when it comes to forms of media. As a child, I loved video games, television, film, and books. I didn’t actually read many comic books back then, but I did enjoy collecting Marvel trading cards. Remember those Marvel Masterpiece cards? They were expensive, but I used to adore the artwork. Generally, I found comic book writing a little hackneyed as a kid, which is odd because I’ve since come to understand and enjoy comics as an adult. I’ve noticed most of what I read these days is published by DC or Dark Horse, but I don’t have a ton of historical knowledge of the genre.

I didn’t listen to much music when I was young, but I discovered it during high school and never looked back. I enjoy most genres except for the really poppy stuff. Hip-Hop/EDM/Metal/Classic Rock/90’s Rock tend to be my lanes.

Video games and film are my first loves and the mediums I have invested the most time and attention to. I went to film school in college and made some short films, but nothing of note. I’d like to one day make a little RPG to accompany one of our books and try my hand at the form, but that’s probably very far down the road. I still expect to make a movie someday as well, but that’ll probably be twenty years out after my house is paid off. If George Miller can write and direct Fury Road at the ripe old age of 70, I’ll still be able to make bad-ass films when I’m in my late fifties.

As a young reader what writers did you initially prefer most? Which book or book series did you read then, and what are you reading now?

JASON: As a kid, Goosebumps was my jam. I loved those books and consumed them at a relentless pace. From there I went through a pretty solid Michael Crichton phase, which is funny because I don’t really consider him one of my favorite authors to any sort of degree, and I kind of forgot until  just now how many of his novels I read during my 10-12 years. After that I tried to get into Stpehen King, but his books were just way too long for me at the time. I do remember loving Misery and Four Past Midnight, but my King fandom didn’t really start in earnest until about five years ago, when I discovered The Dark Tower. That was the book of his that really won me over. As for what I’m reading now, I just finished Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks, which was an incredible sci-fi adventure; it’s the first in the Culture series, and a friend recommended it. There’s something like 13 books in the series, and I look forward to reading all of them in time. After that, I blew through Poking a Dead Frog in like a week, which is a compilation of interviews with really great comic writers, from Mel Brooks to people you’ve never heard of but are probably quite familiar with their work. Just this morning, I picked up The Shining by King, go figure. I heard they’re making a film of Doctor Sleep, and that it’s a sort-of sequel to both the film and the book, which you may or may not know have many differences in the story, especially with regard to the ending. So having seen the film dozens of times, I’d like to read the book, then the book Doctor Sleep, so that I can watch the film of Doctor Sleep.

I did the same thing with King’s It last year. I like reading the book first, because I find that if I watch the film before reading the book, it’s really difficult not to paint the imagery of the book with the same brush strokes as the filmmaker did. The Shining is a perfect example of this. I’m only 50 pages in, but already, it’s clear that King’s Jack Torrance differs greatly from Kubrick’s/Nicholson’s Jack Torrance. So while I would never picture Nicholson as King’s Jack based strictly on the characterization and description present in the book, I can’t picture anyone else as Jack Torrance, which does create an interesting juxtaposition of sorts, but I prefer my own interpretation first, followed by the filmmaker’s.

What life experiences led you to become a writer?  Did you get a writer centric college education or did you dive in sans higher ed?

JASON: I’ve realized recently that I’ve always simply been attracted to storytelling as an art form. Whether through film, television, novels, video games, or even just telling stories in person or through stand-up comedy, I just love the art of story and how much it really allows us to say about ourselves and the human condition, which sounds pretentious but stupid horror stories about blood-spattered zombies wielding flame-throwers trying to overtake Reagan’s White House can tell you just as much about the human condition as anything by John Steinbeck or the Bronte sisters.

I went to college as a film major in the Cal State system, but got frustrated by the lack of being able to do anything in my actual discipline. Three years later I was still taking weather and biology classes, and had only taken two film-making related classes: one for still photography, which was not a film-specific class, and one screenwriting study class. That was it. So I bailed and went to a one year film intensive at NYFA at Universal City here in Los Angeles. We actually got to film our shorts on the same backlots that the tram ride takes you through. It was without a doubt the most satisfying year of my life, regarding work and art. My actual writing training, though, is anything but formal.

Do you believe that the ability to write is something anyone can fashion into one professional quality standards, or do you first have to have a gift you are born with, to do so?

JASON: One of the crushingly humorous aspects of life is that everyone has a talent for something, but it’s not necessarily the discipline you would like for it to be. So I do believe that everyone has the pure ability to write, but I do not believe that everyone has the temperament to succeed as a writer. By the way, I should clarify that my definition of success as a writer is merely being able to consistently create content that is at least halfway decent, and has nothing to do with profitability, which is an entirely different animal. Authors can take many years to be discovered; Poe infamously died in a gutter, penniless, and Philip K Dick’s estate has probably made more money off of royalties for recent film and television adaptations of his work than he ever came close to seeing during his life; most people don’t realize he lived much of his life in near-poverty, though amphetamines most certainly played a large part in that.

Anyway, while Dick probably would’ve appreciated that tangent, I should get back on track. So everyone can write, but not everyone can write everything, you know? It’s like acting; every now and then you get a Tom Hanks who can play anything, but most people have a very specific character that they are good at playing, and attempts to stray form that character prove far less successful. I think art and writing is that way. Every now and then, you might get an author that can cross genres, but generally, King does horror, Patterson does mystery, Sparks does romance, and there’s a reason that you don’t see them straying too far outside of what they do well, and that’s because they don’t do that as well as they do this.

But at the end of the day, you need to be able to effectively communicate, and also self-isolate and sit your ass in a chair and consistently write. Many people can write, but the percentage of people that can do so for long enough to churn out an actual book, let alone multiple books, are relatively far and few between. It’s not a pleasant process, at least not for me anyway. I do find it important and gratifying once the work is done, but it’s always a painful birth.

Let us say someone wants to become a writer and might have a talent to do so.  What would you recommend they do to improve and possibly become a professional writer?

JASON: Well, that all depends on what you mean by becoming a “professional” writer. Is a professional someone who practices the craft with consistency and dedication or someone who makes a living by writing? It’s not necessary that the two be mutually exclusive, but the reality is that it’s often the case. A lot of people don’t realize that the number of sales required to make the New York Times bestseller list is 20,000 copies. 20K copies! That’s nothing. Books tend to have a profit of about $5 a copy, so if you’re a bestseller with 20K in sales and have a standard 30% with one of the major publishers, that’s about $33K pre-tax. That’s barely above the poverty line and you’re a best-selling author! Now, it is true that you can become a Stephen King or James Patterson or JK Rowling that just print money with each word they type – and all of the lucrative merch licensing that goes with such properties – but the reality is that you won’t. Those few are the 0.000000001% of the authors writing today. So this is not a discipline to pursue if you’re doing it for the money.

But if by professional, you’re referring to my former example, then it really just comes down to writing consistently, and then forging partnerships with editors and publishers who will support you and offer guidance and story help when and where necessary. You can also self-publish, which is a fine option, but you can’t underestimate how much work goes into the elements of publishing and marketing, so just be prepared to take off your author’s hat consistently if you’re going to self-publish. Also, if you do self-publish, make sure to pay for an editor. Every professionally distributed manuscript has been professionally edited, and yours cannot be made an exception simply because you wrote it and don’t have the funding. I know for a fact that if you shop around, you can have you novel edited for $400-$500, which is not a drop in the bucket, but it’s also a fraction of monthly rent (at least, out here in Los Angeles), and even if not’s not the most polished of edits, it’s better than nothing, and you’re audience deserves it. At the end of the day, that’s the most important facet of being another and releasing a book; that everything be in service of the reader.

The reader owes you nothing and you as the author owe them everything; it’s a very one sided relationship, but at the end of the day, if a reader is going to pay a premium for your self-published novel, when they could get a novel by Philip Dick or Stephen King for the same price or cheaper, you owe them the best, most stellar reading experience you can deliver. There is no shortage pf choices for people, and it should be taken as honor when someone decides to pay actual money for your book. Respect that and your reader’s investments of time, money, and energy; I believe that’s the best attitude you can have to effectively work toward a goal of becoming a paid professional in this industry. Check back with me in ten years and I’ll let you know how well it worked out.

Where do you see books, ebooks, paper books, audio books leading? Will we eventually, if we survive 100 years from now, possess only digital works, or, do you see paper products as always having a role in human literature?  Why or why not?

JASON:  Man, I have to admit, I’ve never considered a future where bound paper books don’t exist. But it’s absolutely possible. Kind of a bummer to start off on, don’t you think? Just like people with extensive vinyl record and compact disc collections, I’d like to think my preferred medium of paperback novels will stand the test of time. I know a lot of people have gravitated toward the ease and convenience of e-readers, but this is one of those moments where I get to be Old Man Peters and talk about with paper, there’s just an intangible magic that can’t be replicated digitally. Plus I’ve always appreciated cover art, and the many different interpretations and varieties that come with it. And I’m not talking about modern-day indie covers that feel like posters to straight-to-video action or erotica (or sometimes both), but rather original artwork. I adore the psychedelic, tripped out sci-fi covers of the 60’s and 70’s; artists and publishers took pride in their covers during that area and really embraced the “art” in cover art, whereas I feel today’s covers are generally looked at through a lens of, “how can we best market our wares in a cost-effective fashion.” It was probably always that way, and I’m just romanticizing a very specific niche.

Thinking big, what is your publishing map, what do you perceive as the path that will be followed? Do you see movies and television eventually?

JASON:  Well, I can only speak by way of conjecture, but I think Aberrant Literature will eventually become a sort of multi-media conglomerate, albeit one that embraces art and resists trends. As such, we’ll operate at a loss until the day of my untimely and sure-to-be-gruesome death (insert investment opportunity plug here), when someone much smarter and more capable than I will take the company into the black within three years. But yes, I do see us one day making films; maybe when the house is paid off, so T-minus 22 years and counting. I do think we’ll make some short films along the way and release them digitally, maybe write some screenplays that get optioned or *gasp* even produced. Is Nic Cage available? He seems to do a lot of direct-to-DVD stuff these days, and I think he’d dig our irreverent, assured personality. I’ll hit up Ashton, one of our writers; he has a very Hollywood Blockbuster approach to storytelling. If anyone wants to throw in funds and make this thing happen, I’ll hook you up with back-end points.

I do think you’ll see us operating heavily within the audiobook space. The aforementioned Ashton Macaulay, who wrote Whiteout, the first book we ever published as a legitimate entity, has written a novella set in the universe of Whiteout, and the audio telling of that story is weeks away from being finished and will be released before the end of the year. We were super fortunate to hook up with this Australian cat (not a literal feline, used in the Sammy Davis Jr. sense of the word) named James Croft, and he has produced and narrated a full-on audio drama. It’s fantastic, with actors (James does most of the acting as well; he’s a triple threat!), sound effects, background music, sound design, editing…I’d put the production up against any other I’ve come across so far, and if he doesn’t get a ton of attention as a result of his hard work, it will only demonstrate that the universe is indeed harsh and unfair. Ashton wrote a helluva story, James acted the crap out of it, and everyone will be richer for having experienced the drama. Not to oversell it or anything.

Are your published authors a group with similar levels of success, similar interests and talents so far untapped, or, do you not look at those Aberrant has published as similar outside of, having been published?

JASON: Oh yeah, we’re all cut from the same cloth and in more or less the same position: people with day jobs and dreams of writing for a living. While none of us are close to that mark yet, we remain steadfast in our dedication not just to our work, but to the craft itself in terms of producing work and not just talking about it. There are currently four authors including myself that either have or will release the first novels of our careers with Aberrant Literature. I like to think of us like an indie record label or film production company; we may not have a ton of resources or recognizable names, but we more than make up for that with hutzpah, grit, and a general reverence for and commitment to the art of writing and storytelling. The four authors are Ashton Macaulay, M.T. Roberts, Daniel Kurland, and myself, Jason Peters. Of the four of us, the only one with a published novel is Ashton, but all four of us are featured in our published anthology Aberrant Tales. Each one of us has talent and a unique voice, and will all be releasing novels through Aberrant Literature in 2020. I hope the response is favorable; I’m really excited to see what everyone thinks.

Who is John Galt?

JASON:  I don’t know, you’ll have to ask a libertarian.

A joke, to whit:
Q: How can you tell if someone’s a libertarian?
A: They never stop telling you.
or the slightly ruder version
A: They won’t shut up about it.

Damn.  Now we'll need to set up the security cameras for those Libertarians.

If successful as a publisher, how would you change publishing in general, and what things about literature would you like to evolve into something better and new?

JASON:  It’s quite hard to make money right now. We’ve done this to ourselves with the glut of self-published novels, and as with so many industries of late, it’s been something of a race to the bottom, with many pricing their books well below market value just to entice readers. It’s now gotten to the point where authors will legitimately receive a one-star rating for priding their book above $2.99. Imagine! That’s the price of a medium Red Bull – the large is another dollar or so – and people are complaining about selling a piece of work that took literal months-to-years to create for over $3. So it would be nice if some sort of equalizer came along, or a new distribution platform that allowed newer writers and publishing entities to turn a profit, however small. We pretty much killed the music industry at the turn of the century with Napster, so we’ll have to see who among us are still out there writing books once the money’s gone, which at this rate should be about Thursday.

As far as literature as a whole is concerned, I just hope that the reading audience broadens. Right now, literature in terms of sales has been reduced to YA fantasy novels and little else. You’ll always have your Stephen King’s and James Patterson’s that will get people’s attention, but even Patterson has been slapping his names on other people’s YA fantasy novels for at least a decade by now. Science fiction seems pretty much dead in the water; it would be fantastic to see the genre get some love and renewed interest. There is a lot of good indie horror out there if you look around, but it can sometimes be hard to distinguish from the werewolf erotica it sits next to on a digital shelf. At the end of the day, I just hope readers continue to be interested and invested in books. If not, I’m sure they’ll at least have strong opinions on the next Netflix Original.

Tell me about Preconscious , how long did it take to complete, how do you know when a novel is complete, and what is your general feeling about it?

JASON:  Preconscious was a difficult birth, as all of my stories are. I’m definitely not one of those prolific writers that can just churn gold out of a mill on a regular basis, to mix up metaphors. Ashton is that type of writer, but I suppose I’m still ultimately working on finding my voice, and the confidence of writing that accompanies that. I think I may have found it over the course of this book, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the next one goes a little smoother.

I actually started Preconscious probably about 4 years ago, but I stopped after getting through about ¾ of what is now the complete novel. It was originally planned to be about 30-35% larger, but I didn’t want for the book to be too bloated given that it’s my first. There’s a now common perception that you want your first book to be between 60k to 90k total word length, as you want to make it easy for potential readers to invest their time in your work, and I find that to be sound advice. I doubt that anyone is going to invest their time or money in your giant 225K opus without knowing who you are unless it has strong reviews and word-of-mouth, and those tend to be far and few between outside of the traditional publishing circuit.

I believe a novel is like any other work of art; it’s done when it tells you it’s done. In this case, I foresaw Preconscious as having more adventures and scenarios for the protagonist to undergo, but the arc of both the plot and character was constructed in such a way that I didn’t have to sacrifice any of the integral structural elements to satisfy the shorter word length. So after I trimmed some of those aspects of the story away, I ended up at about 73K words, though that will undoubtedly lessen before release and after final edits.

Is there a sequel in the works or in your mind for Preconscious and should there be do you see more books in a series to follow?

JASON:  No, I have a commercially unfortunate disposition, in that I don’t foresee myself as the type of author to ever do a series. I can’t speak for other authors, but by the time I finish a book, I’ve spent so much time in that world that the thought of spending any more anytime soon fills me with a sort of mild dread. This is also reflective of my personality, though; I rarely read the same genre twice in a row, though I will sometimes get on little kicks. Recently, I read two science fiction books back-to-back, but now I’m reading a horror novel. To me, art and entertainment is like a sushi dinner; you want a little bit of this and a little bit of that to keep the experience fresh and exciting. Can you imagine going out for sushi with someone who just ordered five plates of spicy tuna roll? “That’s not how you do this!” you’d scream in your head, you would. Normal, interesting people get five different plates of sushi. That’s how art should be. And no, I make no apologies for assuming five orders of sushi is normal for the average human being.

To illustrate, the first long-form work I ever completed was my first and only screenplay Obsidian. It’s a weird genre shake-and-bake of horror, crime thriller, comedy, and drama. From there I did a short story that was a kind of sci-fi adventure mash-up, like a Star Wars meats Game of Thrones type of deal. From there, I did a short story that was a dark fantasy adventure, and then Preconscious is a sort of surreal, modern-day fantasy adventure, so I think that my career is a series of creative stepping stones, and I’m on two or three of them at any given time as I progress one at a time toward the next story.

Was that a confusing metaphor? It feels like a confusing metaphor.

I've been told young people don't read any more.  I think that is wrong, they just don't read the same things and they don't use books and information in the same fashion as the previous generations. How do you see the future reader, will that reader be reading for pleasure, or for specific purpose.  How do you make inroads to that audience?

JASON:  Y’know, I’m very interested to see what the adult reading community looks like in twenty years (and no, I don’t mean ‘adult reading’ but rather adults who read). What I see right now is that kids are the *only* one’s reading. I see very few adults reading in 2019. Now, of course, ‘very few’ is still a great number of people, but most people are shocked to know how many sales copies it takes to make The New York Times Bestseller list. Do you know how what that number is? Take a moment and think about it…

Twenty thousand. The answer is 20K. That’s an insanely low amount. Can you imagine if Kanye or Drake only sold 20,000 copies of their latest album? If only 20,000 people went to see the latest Avengers? That’s a low, low ceiling, my friend. And of greater interest is that if you look at the numbers, YA fiction is far and away the most profitable and generates the highest revenue. So either A) adults are getting dumber and can no longer read a full-on novel, which is plausible but just sounds rude to suggest, or B) kids be readin’, to use the common tongue. And if kids be readin’, you’d have to think that when these kids grow up, they be adults who readin’.

But life has a way of overworking us to the point where reading is looked upon as a chore, and I find that very unfortunate. Certainly, there are times where the thought of reading a novel is a bit much, say if I’ve had a stretch of busy days and I just want to plop on the couch and turn off my brain, but for the most part, I enjoy the immersion of reading. It can be easy for the mind to wander while watching television or zoning out to a song, but reading demands your full and complete attention, and so in that manner, it is among the more arresting mediums, along with video games.

I have arrived at the conclusion that I could in no way possibly know what the future of reading and publishing will look like. I do know that we’ve gotten to the point that many people believe that all art should be made free, which if that was the case in the past, we wouldn’t have most of our favorite music, movies, and yes, novels. Like it or not, art drives commerce and vice-versa, or at least it should. It’s healthy to have a lot of people and a lot of money flood a particular industry, so until that happens again, if it ever does, we can continue to experience a dearth of original material, then continue to bitch about how no one makes anything good anymore.

All I and we can do is write original stories that come from our hearts and our minds and our collective imagination, and hope that there are others out there that respond to the material. For one reason or another, myself and everyone involved with Aberrant has that innate burning desire to tell stories. It’s just that if we’re ever able to figure out how to be profitable along the way, we can tell a lot more. Here’s hoping, eh?

Wikipedia and file sharing sites are said by many that these sites have given the young the feeling that everything on the net is free. How do you, as a publisher, prepare for such an outlook?

JASON:  Damn, I should’ve read ahead. I feel like I answered a lot of this in the previous question. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that most young people assume this to be true. I think the answer is that unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about for the moment, other than to really speak to the message of compensating artists for their time and energy.

Case in point, I was speaking with one of our authors recently about how it was brought to my attention that a self-published author recently received a one-star review on Amazon for a book that the customer didn’t even purchase; it was because she had the “gall” to charge $4.99 for her e-book. Five dollars and this guy’s getting upset! What is society coming to when you won’t bat an eye at an $8 plus tip beer, but $5 for an entire book that you’ll be able to enjoy for no less than ten hours is so outrageous as to warrant a negative review?

Now, undoubtedly, part of this is on us as representatives of the writing community. The fact is that yes, there are some people self-publishing books that absolutely have no business doing so. It makes the rest of us look bad. Additionally, people have participated in dramatic fashion in accelerating the race to the bottom with regard to pricing, so in large part, this is a mess of our own making, but I’m optimistic for the future, and I hope that we stand as a positive entity in publishing and literature when all is said and done.

Who do you write for, if you say yourself, who do you write to be read by others for?  Is there an audience for any well written work?  How do you know this?

JASON:  I definitely write for other people. Whether or not they enjoy what I write is debatable, but I certainly don’t write for myself. Writing is an atrocious, laborious, anxiety-ridden death march; certainly no sane person would ever put themselves through such a process. I’ve heard tale of authors that enjoy the process – I secretly think Ashton may be one of those people, but don’t let him know that I know, you know? – But writing is always a long, painful birth for me and my stories.

Now with that being said, I would never allow someone else to dictate the creative decisions of my story. I mean, unless a movie studio was paying me to write a specific vision or something like that, but that’s just a flight of fancy right now. So it’s fair to say that I write for other people, but I can’t imagine ever letting someone else dictate the content of what I write. I think you just have to tell your stories that you feel compelled to tell, and hope that people respond positively. Even bad ideas sound amazing in your head; it’s not until you release them out into the world that you can really tell if they’re any good or not.

If you are a prose writer or poet, comic book writer, screen play writer or political essayist, is there a common thread outside of type or hand writing that links each of them?  Is the desire to write a key to all forms of writing?

JASON:  Yes and no. I feel that the distinction between writing really can be split up between fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Now there are certainly common threads among writers; we all have to craft sentences to communicate ideas to our respective audiences, and indeed we will often borrow from one another’s disciplines and incorporate elements of one into another, but at the end of the day, I would argue that the approach of, say, you as a poet is markedly different from my approach to a 3-act narrative, and both of our approaches will differ from the political essayist.

I’ll admit to not being much a poet, but it seems to me that poetry is less about traditional narrative principles and more about the evocation of emotions through an artistic phrasing of language. When we undergo a project, we utilize 3-act structure to plot the story elements, and then weave in subplots and character development around that structure. I don’t believe that either poetry or political/non-fiction writing really has to worry about matters of character arc and satisfactory climaxes and backstory resolutions. But I’m willing to be proven wrong if challenged.

However, the one commonality through the disciplines is that all of us are attempting to connect with our authors and communicate a message or series of messages, consciously or otherwise, through words and phrases that we group together. That’s pretty wonderful.

I have a 20 year old son who thinks I have some dark ideas. I am not suggesting you do or will, but, is there a desire inside that you have to limit by virtue of who reads your work?  I found that my mom in her Alzheimer's was not happy with my tone, content or ideas.  But the only change I've made since her passing is saying the word fuck.  I tried to avoid it, in case she read my work.  I realize it is artificial but, do you place similar artificial limits in your work? Subconsciously even?

JASON:  Not really. I think Preconscious goes into some pretty dark places in certain ways, and my mom is always one of the first to read my work. My daughter is fourteen and only getting older, but I don’t have to worry about her because despite her being a vociferous reader, she never wants to read anything I write or publish. Dads are so uncool, aren’t we? My mom was very understanding early on regarding my content containing some more adult elements. But I mean, I’m 35 and my kids only a handful of years away from being a legal adult, so I think she probably understands that I’m not her little guy anymore, though of course I’ll always be here little guy in that maternal way. She’s great and I love her very much.

Sometimes I worry about audiences reacting negatively to some of the more controversial elements of the book, but then again, I wouldn’t know how to please people if I tried. I suppose that makes it easier to just do my thing in the first place.

You just won the lottery, and you didn't even have to play to win. You can't count all the dollars you received.  What do you do, as a writer, different now, than prior to having all that money?

JASON:  Nothing different, just a whole lot more of what I’m currently doing. I have a wife and a kid and a house in Los Angeles, which dictates that I make money to support all three. If I won the lottery, I would pay off the house and quit my 9-5 gig in sales, and just pour all of my time and energy into my work, as well as that of my authors. In addition to my own writing, I personally edit every manuscript that we publish for both story and grammar, and that takes a lot of time. Plus we’d have money for legitimate PR and marketing campaigns, which as of now is only an ethereal concept for us.

I’d also restore my front and back lawns, which have a distinctly white-trashy vibe at the moment.

One last question, what has been the most profitable, deep, interesting advice you've received as a writer?

JASON:  Very matter-of-factly, I have never received advice from anyone about anything in my life, let alone some transcendent, philosophical advice on writing. For one reason or another, I’m not the type of person that others take under their wing. I think I’ve got a lot of that “I would never be a part of any club that would have someone like me as a member” energy. There’s obviously something about me, right? I hear a lot of writers and authors talk about a high school teacher or magazine editor that took a specific interest in them and their work, and pushed them to pursue their talents. I certainly never had anyone or anything like that, and I’m at the point now where I realize that’s just not in the cards for me.

However, this has had a strong impact on my motivation to drive this entity forward. I know to my core that if I don’t make this happen for myself and the people I associate with, it’s not going to happen. In many ways, we’re sort of the forgotten authors of the world, stubbornly refusing to cease our efforts despite having no business doing so. I’ve learned to embrace our status as misfits and outsiders and wear it as a badge of honor. We’re just random people with a love for story, and whether anyone reads us or not has no bearing on the manner in which we will approach our work. We’re here to tell our stories the way we want to tell them, and by starting this entity on my own and partnering up with some really wonderful authors and human beings, no one will ever be in a position to tell us we can’t.

Publisher: Aberrant Literature 
Editor in Chief: Jason Peters
Twitter: Jason
Twitter: Aberrant

Monday, October 7, 2019

Quick hits from the KYMERA PRESS offerings of Mary Shelley Presents

By Alex Ness

As I've even recently stated, Mary Shelley is one of my favorite authors, especially for horror.  She is used as a sort of host of a story telling event, and is welcome here.  But I am glad in any event to have been able to read this three volumes of MARY SHELLEY PRESENTS.

“That night I dreamed of The Creature, pieced together from corpses, revived … and unloved. His tragedy has granted me immortality. Other women writers of my time have not been as lucky. Famous once, their ghostly stories now gather dust.”- Mary Shelley

Imagine if you will that one of the most renown female horror fiction writers of our time rose from the grave to lift up her contemporary female voices that would have otherwise been forgotten. It’s happening for real and the stories are here to haunt your dreams courtesy of Kymera Press as Mary Shelley Presents.  All the stories are adapted by award winning, NY Times Bestselling Author Nancy Holder (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  The original text of each short story is included in the back of each book, after the comic adaptation.

Issue 1 features Elizabeth Gaskell’s, The Old Nurse’s Story.  This story came to be after Charles Dickens’ asked Ms. Gaskell to write a story  for the 1852 Christmas special issue of Household Words magazine. It is a terrifying tale of evil and remorse.
This was an amazing story, filled with nuance and a feel like it was woven from the era it depicts.  The art is perfectly done, the colors made this look amazing.  The writing carried with it tones and notes of a hand that knows how to tell a story.  The organ playing, the ghosts haunting, the visceral feeling of fear and pain made this a particularly good read.

Issue 2  Edith Nesbit’s, Man-Size in Marble.  A young pair of newlyweds settling down into a small cottage in a quiet village are looking forward to a pleasant, pastoral life. The husband dismisses a superstitious maid’s tale. First published in the December 1887 issue of the Home Chimes magazine. The story was later collected in Nesbit’s 1893 anthology Grim Tales. 

This work was fooking creepy.  We, as well as the husband are made to dismiss the maid who tells the tall creepy tale, only to our own peril.   This is one scary ass book.  It revels in a certain lush detail, scaring for the shadows as well as the easily seen... The writing was perfectly done, letting the reader see it and hear it as much as telling it via straight forward action.  The art, as with issue 1, is superbly done.

Issue 3 Adaptating of Margaret Strickland’s The Case of Sir Alistir Moeran. Captain Maurice Kilvert returns from India to find his beloved Ethene is engaged to Sir Alister Moeran. First published in the July 1913 issue of the The Novel Magazine magazine. The story was later collected in the anthology Uncanny Tales first published in 1916.

In the day of the writing of the original work, it was commonplace to write about Africa or India, in the colonial empire of the United Kingdom as being a source of darkness, and mystery.  This tale tells that sort of tale with a great bit more quality than you might normally find, and it exceeded the source material it came from.  Having said that, the story is one where the reader feels a question burning, and a desire to escape it rather than figure it out.  We get to do both.  Fantastic art again, the writing was far better than most works adapting prose or poetry to comic book form.