Meet the Nominees

This is pretty neat. A short interview with me about getting nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction this year. And it’s true: I learned I’d made it to the final ballot when folks congratulated me on Facebook. Neat-O! Now? Back to work!

Know a Nominee, Part Three: John Palisano

Welcome to our third entry in “Know a Nominee,” the blog series that puts you inside the minds of this year’s Bram Stoker Awards nominees. Today’s interviewee is John Palisano, who’s nominated in the category of Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for his story, “The Geminis” (Chiral Mad 2, Written Backwards).

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DM: Can you please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work for which you’ve been nominated? In the case of a work wherein you’ve written multiple stories (like a collection) please choose your favorite part and discuss.

JP: “The Geminis” is an exorcism. A dream ruined my day. How could it not? In it, my insides were outside. Looking up toward the sky, the huge Hollywood hills around me, a mysterious, organic dark sphere hovered a few feet overhead, its string-like fingers connected and dipped deep inside my opened chest. My essence draining, the sphere’s scent overpowered me. It smelled like every good thing. Freshly cut grass. A fireplace. A baby’s cheek. A fantastic trap, and with a deadly, paralyzing payload. I felt no pain, but I heard music. A beautiful melody, with missing notes. I knew what notes to play, to complete it, but could not. Had I not spoken my true love to the pianist, we’d complete the melody. The spheres would be pacified, as would the worse things slumbering inside the hills, waking as the blood spilled, because there were others. As I looked around, spheres drained people up and down the hilly road. Every person I’d known would soon be dead. That’d only be the beginning. Then the pianist stopped and the hillside became eerily quiet.

When I woke, I decided I’d have to save the world from these hidden things. So I wrote “The Geminis” to get rid of that disturbing fever dream playing over and over in my head.

DM: What was the most challenging part of bringing your idea to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?

JP: It was difficult to get the music of the writing just right. I did a pass where I tried to put a cadence to the words in places that would reflect that they were playing complementary sounds. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. May sound uber pretentious, however, it was just me having fun with it.

It’s rewarding when people read something you’ve written. Some asked me if the characters were based on me and someone I may have unrequitedly been in love with. I use moments from life to color characters, but this is make believe. It’s not a diary or a documentary, it’s a story. A parable. An idea.

As far as being in love, and it being unrequited? Countless times. I’m sure that’s more common than not. Who doesn’t fall in love a dozen times a month? You see some beautiful person, by chance, and you daydream and wonder, what would it be like? Could that be better? Worse? Forgettable? Magical? In a blink, we’re off into our lives again.

Addressing that moment, but sticking two people in that feeling, and making it happen endlessly, and that if they acted upon it, even knowing they’re destined, it’d be catastrophic, was me being a complete terrorist to them!

Fun fact: Lia’s name comes from Legato, shortened to Lea, then Lia because it looked pretty. Legato is a musical term that means notes are played together, smoothly, seamlessly.

DM: What do you think good horror/dark fiction should achieve? How do you feel the work for which you’ve been nominated work fits into that ideal?

JP: Great horror fiction needs to leave scars. It needs to spin the world a few degrees on its axis. It needs to make something inside you hurt, or feel, or get turned on by things you’re not supposed to get all hot and bothered by. When you’re done, it’s got to stay with you. Some of the best horror fiction does its best work long after you read it, when you’re still afraid of the dead coming back to life, or of being stoned after pulling a number, or of that little flash in the video right before the picture starts.

DM: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? Where do you often find yourself getting stuck, and why?

JP: Most my writing begins as longhand. I’d say it’s text, but I do draw primitive pictures. Sometimes I’ll draw a horrific dream image just so I can remember it later when life isn’t getting in the way of my addiction.

I write everywhere these days. Very little though, is at a traditional desk. Someone else’s chaos is not my chaos at home, so I can tune it out. I love airplanes, but have to pretend there’s no internet. Too distracted.

When I hit walls, I move. Go to a coffee shop. Another room. That usually works. The hardest part for me is if I’m writing a scene and it gets mapped out too thoroughly or quickly I lose interest. It’s not organic and feels false to me. So I try to not get bored if I already know the story.

DM: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers themselves. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share with someone who may be struggling to make their way in this life?

JP: Remember what brought you: your love for story, and for getting that fix through words. It’s easy to get caught up and into the con/party loop, but just remember: the work needs to be the best it can be.

DM: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Bram Stoker Awards/WHC (if you are attending)? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

JP: Just seeing so many dear friends will be reason enough. Also looking forward to the inevitable whipped cream pie fight at the end of the ceremony, because everyone who’d lost, wins, and those who win lose!

It’s been an honor, privilege, and a few good natured laughs, too.

About John Palisano

John Palisano’s short stories have appeared in anthologies from PS Publishing, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Darkscribe, DarkFuse, Dark House, and, likely, one or two more ‘Dark’ places in there. Hard to say. They’re all so . . . dark. His novel Nerves was put out by Bad Moon Books and promptly placed in the “What the hell category is this?” section of Amazon. John writes all the time, but does his best not to look at the word counter until it’s absolutely necessary, less he have a flashback of glimpsing the abyss, like he did during a mandatory high school Calculus class. Google it. It happens. While you’re hunched over your phone, look up John on Facebook, because no one really goes to author’s websites anymore, do they? He’ll be the one who isn’t posting his daily word count, but you will find out how long it took him to walk the [expletive deleted] dogs.

Reviews of “Forever”

Recently, there’s been some great reviews of “After Death”, an anthology edited by Eric G. Guignard. I’m thrilled that “Forever” has been touching readers. It was a very difficult story to write. Not technically, but just going to such a place and bringing up some serious emotion from me. Very happy people are reading. I’m biased, but I really love so many of the stories in this collection. Death and dying has always fascinated me, and exploring different ideas of what happens is equally so. I’m not one of those who believes that this is it. Fascinating to think about what it all might mean.

“And in “Forever,” the strongest story in the lot, John Palisano weaves a quilt of sadness, loss, and heartbreak that will leave you reeling. I have no words to express the emotions this tale stirs, but stirs it does and quite violently. Brilliant!”

“Some were even emotional like “Forever” by John Palisano. I admit I cried reading this tale about a woman on her death bed being guided to the afterlife by her pet dog.”

“It was no surprise to me that the John Palisano story “Forever” is as good as it is. I loved Palisano’s novel Nerves, and his stories “Available Light” (Lovecraft EZine) and “The Tennatrick” (Midnight Walk) are some of the best Lovcraftian stories I’ve read. But I wasn’t prepared for how sentimental and wonderful “Forever” is.”

“Forever by John Palisano is a bit different from the other stories in the book. It is a touching, heartwarming, heart wrenching tale that will make you smile and make you cry.”

The original articles are here:

Review: After Death edited by Eric J. Guignard

AFTER DEATH can be grabbed at:

Chain Interview

The great Lisa Morton tagged me with the following questions for a chain interview. And because I am now ‘It’ I’m going to talk about myself while chasing you around the yard until I smack your back. Until then:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

A novella: The BiPolar Express. And that’s a pretty solid title at this point. Not gonna change, as the art’s already done and done-r.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Diagnosed with being BiPolar as a young man, and going through the many ups and downs it brings, finding a way to express my experience through my art just felt right. My son Leo loves the kid’s book The Polar Express and making a fun version of that story shot into my head like a bolt of lightning while sipping a nice tall whisky at the Frolic Room one evening.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Bizzarro Comedy Satire.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Unknowns would be best. Although the part of Manic Claus could be really fun for a well-known actor. I pictured a coked-out Kevin Spacey when writing him.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young man is given a Golden Prescription to ride to the Middle Pole on Christmas Eve to meet Manic Claus, who has an extra special pill for one lucky winner.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t have an agent yet, so this was self-repped and is coming out next year (2013) from Dog Horn Press in the U.K., which is really neat. I had two stories in Terror Scribes, so that’s how our friendship began.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About a month, with ongoing tweaks.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s a send-up, but it’s also a deeply serious commentary on how over-medicated we’ve become. Everyone’s being diagnosed with something, which is sickening. People going through normal things in life, like deaths, break-ups, disappointments…they’re being medicated to oblivion. The BiPolar Express comments on that through what I’m hoping is humor.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My experience with the medical community and how over-medicated my body was. Instead of writing scathing indictments, which isn’t my area of expertise, I thought I’d try humor and horror and have a little romp. This is a departure for me in style, as I’ve done a lot of very serious horror up until now. Sure hoping people enjoy it.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

As light as it seems on the surface, a lot of work was done to simplify the text so it would read more like a book for young adults. Also: I wrote a song specifically for the story: “I’m So Glad (The World’s Sad)” which was pure joy. Ho Ho Ho.

Artwork by the super talented Vikki Hastings…an honor having her create this…and here’s a sneak peak.

And here are the links to the other authors participating in this round robin, chain interview:

Lisa Morton

Brad C. Hodson

Greg Chapman

Gary Fry

Welcome to ‘Dungeon Brain’

Today I’m interviewing author Benjamin Kane Ethridge about his new book DUNGEON BRAIN. To me, it’s one of his wildest books to date, and this coming from the person who won a Bram Stoker award for his fantastic first novel BLACK & ORANGE. Please, if you enjoy this, click on the links below and grab some of Ben’s stellar works.

1. What was the first story you remember reading? Does it still influence you today? 

I remember “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” which included different hero characters than “The Wizard of Oz” and it always intrigued me how I didn’t mind at all—considering how much I loved the characters from the first novel. I was blown away, barring some returning characters like the Scarecrow and Tin Man, by how these new characters, the boy Tip and the evil witch Mombi, could be put in a sequel and the story still wasn’t a let-down. Even at a young age I had certain expectations of my return trip to Oz and it was amazing to me that I didn’t need to meet those expectations to be thoroughly entertained and consumed with the story. Of course, I was probably alone in this because Frank Baum brought Dorothy back into the mix for the next four books and in subsequent books down the road. I was influenced by all these tales though, but particularly “The Marvelous Land of Oz” because I gained awareness that some stories didn’t have to follow the same rules every time.

2. If the world ends tomorrow, would you be happy? Why? 

No. I have more stories to tell, but more importantly, my children have their lives ahead of them. I’d like to witness those lives unfold. Now, have I lived a good life? Definitely. But there’s still too much growing left to do. Happiness upon imminent death will need to occur at another time!

3. You’re walking with friends along a street in broad daylight. Everything is just perfect, until you see a group of kids ganging up on another one and beating him. What would you do? 

I’d call the police. I’ve broken up fights before and that’s a bad position to be in; the peacekeeper is normally the person who gets his or her ass kicked the most. I recall being soundly punched by both the bully and the victim while intervening in a fight that broke out in a high school classroom. So yeah, I’d get the cops involved. That’s their speciality.

4. Is it true that everything a person does in life has to center around the sexual impulse and procreation? 

Yes. The buried, panting animal of my subconscious hopes someone reading this interview is thinking, “Oh, I’ve just got to mate with this guy!”

5. Are you opposed to eating dog or cat meat? It is common in other cultures. Does the thought revolt you? 

If I was part of those other cultures, it wouldn’t bother me I’m sure. Otherwise, I couldn’t bring myself to eat Fido or Fluffy. Weird thing is, I wouldn’t be grossed out if someone else did it right in front of me. Meat is meat is meat. I just have too many memories of my pets that would prevent me from enjoying those two species without some measure of remorse.

6. ‘Dungeon Brain’ is quite an intriguing, twisted story. Can you enlighten us about its creation?

I woke up one morning with Metallica’s song ONE in my head. I had black and white images of war still in my memory from a dream I couldn’t quite recall. I began to jot down notes about what I believed the dream could have been about. That’s where DUNGEON BRAIN manifested from.

7. What is your writing area like? Details, please. Desk with a computer? What kind of computer? What programs do you use? Do you write by hand? A certain time of day? 

Writing area. Beware! These parts are cluttered and dusty. Since I’ve become a novelist, I’ve been horrible at keeping anything in order. Just above my keyboard, in the general desk area: various pens, pencils, flash drives, a never-used candle, a shot-glass, post-it notes, business cards, cough drops, paper clips, a few wrist watches with dead batteries, some Oral B Satin dental floss (in the container, I’m not that dirty), Altoids, and a series of USB cables I can’t part with yet. I also have a writer’s lamp with a green glass shade and a fake gold stand; stylish beyond reason, I know. At the level of my eyes sits a Sony Vaio All-In-One computer, with a Windows Vista 64-bit OS, and Microsoft Word my devil of choice. It does everything I need it to do. My only complaint is I have no idea how I would go about modifying my computer like I used to with my tower desktops. However, I’ve been happy with the performance so hopefully no mods will ever be required. On the act itself: I seldom write by hand, but I enjoy it when the occasion strikes me. I usually write very early or very late at night, and I almost always write on my lunch breaks at work.

 8. You’ve just received an unlimited check. What’s the first thing you do? 

Buy all media (radio, tv, internet, movies, newspapers, etc). I would refuse to let political functions advertise anything misleading. And since I’d have some power now, I’d say that any lies circulated for the express purpose of gaining an elected position would be cause for everlasting dismissal from the political process. I’m sick of people buying into lies without investigating the facts. It’s depressing and dangerous and as long as money is involved, it is permanent.

 9. One of the biggest fans of your work happens to knock on your door. Do you answer? What happens next? 

Sure I would answer and I would have that person start up a fan club. Hopefully they are a go-getter and can spread the good word. This is all after I stop weeping on his/her shoulder, of course.

 10. What can we look forward to you in the near future? 

NIGHTMARE BALLAD, the beginning of a trilogy from Journal Stone books. Should be arriving in February 2013. And later in the year, next Halloween in fact, will be my latest Black & Orange book, entitled NOMADS.

11. Where can we find Ben online/offline/upline/downline?

Thank you for these unique and entertaining questions John. I appreciate you having me! Below are some sites where you can check out my work online. Offline, you’d have to live in Rancho Cucamonga and have a very loud voice. Upline, my info is printed on the hook in the fish’s mouth. Downline, the fisherman has all my details tattooed on his hands, which was a silly impulsive thing he did because he thought it would get him laid. That, and trying to catch the biggest fish in the lake, all in the name of increasing his odds at procreation. What a spaz.

Amazon author site:

Twitter: @bkethridge


For years one of my dreams was to have my very own Jeep. Imagining myself riding in such a vehicle was so exciting. Soon after the divorce my $400 car died and a new vehicle was needed. Me and Mike shopped for used Jeeps and we rode all over Los Angeles looking at different options. Most were garbage, as my budget was really low. We eventually stumbled across one that seemed like a great fit. “Learn how to fix cars,” Mike said. How dire was his warning? Since owning my Cherokee, it feels like every month there is another bill.

One day the Jeep would not turn over. Since getting the Jeep, it often loses power and shuts off. That day it did not recover. I cannot recommend AAA enough, by the way. It took several calls to finally get the Mobile Mechanic to come and check it out. This might be an LA thing, as in all my years? Never heard of one. But there was this card that had been placed on my window once tucked into my glove compartment.

It took him and his helper three trips to the Jeep to figure out what was wrong. Some small part of the electrical system needed replacing. Boom. Jeep worked. $250 spent.

Fast forward a month later to a hot day on the 110 freeway. Riding back from the California Science Center with my son Leo, his dog Henry, and Fawn, the car became extremely hot. We made it all the way home to Lankershim Boulevard when, bam! White smoke straight out of a Bon Jovi video engulfed us. After pulling over safely, red fluid rained out from beneath the radiator onto the street. AAA came and towed us. Leo was excited because he got to watch it pulled onto a flatbead and he got to ride in the cab. Me? Not happy at all. Fawn and Henry stayed in the Jeep on the flatbed. Henry looked confused.

AAA recommended a shop, who were able to deduce the transmission cooling line had gone. Another $225 spent. But my Jeep worked. Honestly? Not feeling as good to drive anymore…felt like burning money.

That was last week, and last night? Griiiiind. Teear. Griiiind.

The brakes are shot and need replacing.

So with all this money being burned up, if I’m paying an average of $250 a month in repairs, and $120 in gas, why not take on a car payment for a new car? One that will be reliable, better on gas, have air conditioning, easier to park? Why not, indeed.

Because it was my dream to have this truck. During my marriage, my opinion was the least important. Things always had to be done for practical reasons. But those days are gone, and my decisions are my own. My dream came true. Too bad it’s turned into a nightmare. Or a daymare.

And now I’m daydreaming again.

A white Prius sure sounds nice.