Author and Illustrator Roberto Calas stops by the Blog

For those who like my Snow World map for Romulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether plus the wonderfully mysterious cover and ancient Egyptian map for my League of the Sphinx: The Purple Scarab novel, you need to meet Roberto Calas, who created both. He is a writer and illustrator and a member of the Westmarch Publishing collective I am also a part of. He writes of the bloody, fabulous Middle Ages, loves a girl in England and I’m finally going to get to have a beer with him at AnomalyCon this spring. So, let’s chat with Roberto, seen below in full, dashingly-sweaty plate armor.

AuthorPic_ArmorRichard: Thanks so much for taking the time for this blog, Roberto! How about you introduce us to the magnificent writer/artist/soothsayer Sir Roberto Calas and what you do:

Roberto: Thanks very much for inviting me to speak on your blog, Richard. As you mentioned, I am, indeed, a soothsayer. That is my primary calling, and I have worked at it for years. I’ve never actually predicted anything properly, but I’ve been really, really close at times. For example, the other day, I *almost* predicted which line at the supermarket would *not* move the slowest. And, once, I very nearly picked the winner of a football game. When I’m not making faulty prophesies, I am an author, and when I’m not writing, I am a graphic artist. And when I’m not a graphic artist, I am sleeping.

Richard: Sleep is never overrated. You designed and created the Snow World map for me in my new steampunk novel, Romulus Buckle and the Luminiferous Aether. Could you tell us about your technique and process as you built the map?

TheSnowWorldMap_Final_HiResRoberto: The Snow World map was a tricky one to design, mostly because the author I was working with was a pain in the ass. Wait… I mean, this map was a tricky one because of the complexity of the world, and the scale of the map. Seriously, though, we did a lot of back and forth on this one, and the many revisions we went through helped to make this map one of my favorites ever. I started with a map of California and recreated it in Illustrator. I added hand-drawn mountains, cities, places of interest, waterlines and a few other basics, then brought the whole thing into Photoshop and began adding layer after layer of detail and color and effects. I think I had about eighty or ninety layers when the map was finally finished. That’s a bit of a challenge in itself, as I work with an older laptop and opening files like that can take ages.

Richard: Wow. I didn’t know it was that much work. I am an ass. Ah, well, it’s your fault. Moving on. What special artistic concerns do you face when creating a map for a novel? (Below is the map Roberto created for my “The League of the Sphinx: The Purple Scarab” Young Adult Adventure Novel)

Map_PurpleScarab_Final_1500Roberto: The main challenge I face is trying to tap into the author’s vision. It’s a bit like someone saying to you, “Hey, I had this awesome dream last night. I’m not going to tell you what it was, but it involved Aborigines and mayonnaise jars. Can you make a sketch of my dream for me?” It takes a few passes usually to get in sync.

Richard: LOL! For readers who don’t know you, can we look at some examples of your book cover art? Can you tell us a bit about the atmosphere you wanted to create with each image? (Pick a few of your favorites here)

Roberto: I have a lot of favorites, but I’ll limit myself to three.

The first is a cover I did for Scott Magner’s wonderful Seasons of Truth historical fantasy series. I did four covers for that series, each featuring a tree, each depicting a season, and each with blood somewhere in the picture. For Spring, I used a blossoming tree, but blood dripped from all the branches on the bottom and spattered onto the ground. I had to hand paint the blood and many of the tree blossoms, and I think the effect came out kinda nice.

Spring_1000The second is the cover for book three of my historical fantasy series, The Scourge—a book called Emaculum. I like this one for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, because I used my fiancée as the model for the main character’s wife. She dressed up in a medieval dress that her mother made for her and we went to Bodiam Castle, in Sussex, and I took scores of pictures. But the cover just works for me. It shows the pressing drive of a knight trying to reach his wife, stone crosses all around (some of them bleeding), and his wife looking down on him benevolently from above.

Final_Digital_2000To pick a third is difficult because there are so many that I like. But if I had to pick one, it would probably one of the many that I did for Stant Litore’s novels and short stories. Just to pick one at Random, I’ll point out the cover for The Running of the Tyrannosaurs. This was a sci-fi story about women being objectified in the distant future. The women are athletes, and they are made to run from Tyrannosaurs. It’s a very deep, philosophical and emotional story, but when he approached me and started talking to me about it, I stopped him halfway through and said, “Stant, you had me at naked women being chased by dinosaurs.” The problem, as I learned, is that it’s actually really hard to make a classy cover featuring naked women being chased by dinosaurs. They all ended up looking like Cinemax After Dark prehistoric erotica. But I think I finally found the right mood to reflect the profound sensibilities of the book—the sense of sadness and futility, the frustration of those trapped in a system of abuse. And, I got to put a hot chick on the cover with two dinosaurs behind her. Score!

91SmLM+LtiLRichard: That is a great list. I also thought the covers you did for Scott were immensely emotive. “Emaculum” is great. And yes, I say SCORE on Stant’s book! I’m gonna add a look at the cover you did for my The League of the Sphinx: the Purple Scarab because I love it and hey, it is my blog.

rev1_LeagueOfSphinxFINAL_1000Okay, so ummmmm, let’s dig a bit deeper into your inner Rembrandt. Who are your favorite artists? Which artists tend to influence your work?

Roberto: My favorites growing up were the fantasy artists. Frank Frazetta will always be my favorite. I also still revere artists like Michael Whelan, John Howe, and Alan Lee. More recently, I’ve really enjoyed some of Victoria Frances’ work. But there is so much artwork out there. I spend hours on Deviant Art and CGNetworks sometimes. The internet is awesome for stealing hours and hours of time, just moving from one piece of art to the next.

Frank Frazetta - Calendrier 1996 - 06Richard: I love that Frank Frazetta painting. I once wrote an entire screenplay looking at that image. It didn’t sell. But I do want to turn the idea into a novel someday. Tell us about your novels and what’s coming up next.

Roberto: My most popular series is The Scourge trilogy (Scourge, Nostrum, Emaculum–ed.) It’s about 14th century knight (Edward Dallingridge, who actually existed and actually built Bodiam Castle, in Sussex) who is trying to reach his wife amid a horrible new plague that turns its victims into demons. The two of them are a hundred miles apart, separated by geography and the masses of violent plague victims. Sir Edward and two of his knights travel across this nightmarish landscape, finding that the survivors of the plague tend to be worse than the plague victims. It’s a love story, with lots of black humor, lots of action, and a healthy dose of history.

I’m currently working on a new fantasy novel, tentatively called The Madness of Valatriste. It’s about an insane thief named Tercero who finds the slaughtered caravan of a duke and his court. Tercero—who has powers that are either real or imagined—decides to impersonate the duke and rule over the province of Valatriste. There’s much, much more to the story, but if you boil it down, those are the bones.

51K7wcJkkTL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Richard: I love the new title. You come up with great titles. You go back and forth to England a lot, I know. I’m a bit of an anglophile too, having been there twice. You do a lot of research on the Emerald Isle—can you tell us a bit about that? Can you show us a few photos of the real locations that appear in your novels?

Roberto: I’ve been traveling to England quite often for the past six years. I could say that it’s my meticulous attention to detail that takes me there, but the real reason I go there is to see my fiancée, Annabelle. It’s the ultimate long-distance relationship, but when you find the right person, distance is only a minor hurdle. When I am with Annabelle, I get to tour the English countryside, and do research for my books. But it’s more than that. My visits to England actually inspire my work. Those who know me sometimes spot the similarities between my life and the storyline in The Scourge. I learned about Edward Dallingridge (hero of The Scourge, if you haven’t been paying attention) while visiting Bodiam Castle with my fiancée, and he kind of stuck in my mind. The Scourge storyline is about Sir Edward traveling a long distance, through dozens of obstacles, to reach his love, Elizabeth. Kind of a microcosm of what I do to see Annabelle. Interestingly, Elizabeth waits for Edward in the same city that my fiancée lives in. And, also interestingly, I fight zombie-like plague victims all the time in my life. See? Lots of parallels. (Author’s photo of the superb Bodiam Castle, below)

Bodiam Castle Calas The ScourgeRichard: Love will make a man travel many miles, and that the added creative bonus of England obviously helps your creative sensibilities. And now, a few oddball questions for you to show off your wit and glowing personality. First, what is your favorite restaurant and your favorite dish there?

Roberto: I have two favorite restaurants, one in the US and one in the UK. Domestically, there’s a place here in Norwalk, Connecticut, called Barcelona. They have the best meat parillada I’ve ever tasted. The UK equivalent to Barcelona is an Argentinian steakhouse called Gaucho, located in London, near Tower Bridge. Both are awesome, and both cater to my carnivore diet. I also have a fondness for a restaurant called Middletons, in Norwich, UK. It’s become a favorite spot for Annabelle and me.

Richard: Second, if you were reincarnated as an animal, what would you be?

Roberto: It would have to be some sort of carnivorous animal that sleeps a lot. A lion maybe. Although lions probably aren’t scared of spiders.

Feeding the GodsRichard: Lol! Lastly, if you had to select a line from one of your novels to be your tombstone epitaph, what would it be?

Roberto: There’s probably two that would fit equally well:

1. In these times of madness, only madness will save us.
2. Our bodies turn to shit when they have passed through the bowels of life, and the spice of hatred only makes us smell worse.

Richard: Okay, well I’d crack up at your headstone if you selected #2. Great discussion and great answers! Thanks, Roberto Calas!


Roberto Calas NYCCRoberto Calas (in armor, again, as always, above) is an author and lover of history. His serial trilogy (The Scourge) is about a 14th century knight fighting his way through a demon-infested England to reunite with the woman he loves. And every bit of it is true except for the made up parts.

In addition to The Scourge series, Roberto has written The Beast of Maug Maurai (fantasy), and Kingdom of Glass (historical fiction in the Foreworld universe). He lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut with his two children, and visits the United Kingdom on occasion to be with his woman, Annabelle. Sometimes he fights demons to reach her.

You can learn more about Roberto on his website:
He’d be most appreciative if you liked his facebook page, too:
And if you feel you can only take 140 characters worth of him at a time, his twitter handle is @robertocalas.


Author Stant Litore Cometh, Bearing Gifts of the Terrible Fantastic with ANSIBLE

Hello people of the digital aether! I’d like to welcome sci-fi author Stant Litore back to the Bag of Good Writing Blog once again, and this time he comes bearing some high-cool-factor gifts. Stant has just begun a free offer promotional tour of his haunting, fantastic ANSIBLE STORIES (Ansible 15715, 15716 and the soon-to-be-released 15717) sci-fi horror series and that’s what we are here to discuss today. I’ve read these tales of brave new worlds and they are amazing in their imagination, emotion and scope. Stant is always a great interview, so let’s take a peek inside the Ansible crucible and other things Stant Litore.

Oh, and Stant’s first Gift of the Terrible Fantastic is here: get the first Ansible (15715) on Kindle FREE at this link:

Litore Ansible“Please hear me. We are all in danger, the most terrible danger; we are all going to die terrible deaths. If you can hear me, if anyone can hear me, remember these words. Please. Pass them on to your children, and to theirs. You are our one hope…” (Ansible 15715)

The Interview

Q) Welcome back to A Bag of Good Writing, Stant. Since you are offering free downloads of your Ansible books in succession, plus close to bringing out a new installment in your Ansible short story series (Ansible 15716, perhaps the best of the amazing installments so far), I thought we’d focus on that for a bit. I’d like to ask you about the inception of the series: what was the idea, thought, image, etc. which first lit up your brain as to the possibilities of creating the world and characters of Ansible?

A) My brain is a place of strange, random connections. I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core (which is nothing like Ansible); it was my first time reading it. The species of predatory pterosaurs fascinated me, and my brain took off on a random chain of brainstorming about predation and predatory species, and that started me imagining the world that we visit in Ansible 15715. Below the surface, I was probably haunted by images and ideas from William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, a work of weird fiction from the very early twentieth century. Around the same time, I was bothered by the way that my countrymen and countrywomen are deeply fearful of Islam and yet seem to know nothing about it other than a few media stereotypes. Religious studies is my passion, and that always feeds my fiction.ansible15716_small
Those three things – the concept of a predatory species living off humanity and what that might actually look like; creepy images from The Night Land; and a subconscious thought that scifi should be doing more to grapple with our neighbors in the world and their legacy in the future – that all boiled together into one infernal brew and produced Ansible 15715, the first of a series of stories about twenty-fifth century Islamic explorers who become marooned in alien bodies on alien worlds, and have to wrestle with that experience.

In this future, the wheel of history has spun round again, and as in Europe’s early Middle Ages, the center of knowledge and learning and science in the world is once again the Near East, not the West. The world is slowly recovering from environmental devastation, and a research facility known as the Starmind Project is sending humanity’s first explorers out by transferring their minds across time and space. What they encounter out there is always stranger than they expect, and in these encounters, our intrepid explorers have to face how strange they are becoming to themselves.

Q) Do you have a finite structure for the Ansible series? Do you know how many stories it will contain and exactly what pieces of the puzzle they are? Or is Ansible open-ended and now, once the scenario is set, you write about whatever stories and characters come to you from the creation-mists?

A) The series is open-ended with several future plot points and ideas that I will keep carefully secret. I know where it is going in broad outlines, but I am discovering along the way what strange worlds we will visit as a part of that. Like the Ansible teams, I am groping in the dark. But it is marvelous. I don’t know how many stories there will be; certainly more than ten, probably more than twenty. We will find out together!

Q) Without spoilers, what new element(s) does the latest story 15717 bring to the Ansible universe?

A) A fierce rain forest planet that truly will astound you; an array of characters – unlike our previous explorers, the heroine of Ansible 15717 is among other survivors of her team; a haunting look at loss and change, both cultural change and environmental; some really beautiful vistas; and a deeper portrayal of a strong Muslim woman.

Ansible 15717Q) Have you considered writing a novel set in the Ansible universe? Was that something you considered early before deciding to attack it as a short story series? Or was the short story series immediately suited to what you wanted to do from the beginning, because of Ansible’s episodic/mission-based structure—it certainly works well in that format.

A) I love short fiction, and that form is well suited to Ansible, but I certainly have some interest in a possible longer story. I don’t know what that story will be yet, but this is a distinct possibility. I actually started, though, with just one brief story in mind; a story that I wanted to make so unnerving and so beautifully horrific that it would crawl inside the minds of its readers and live there for a while. I’m afraid it was so much fun, though, that once I started I couldn’t stop, and I was thinking up more stories.

Q) You have become a member of the online Patreon program. Can you tell the readers a bit about that, and how they can support you if they so choose?

A) Patreon is a huge part of my writing career. Patreon members see all of my work first, they get copies of everything I write, they get to participate in early conversation with me about new stories and new ideas; they also tip me on a monthly basis (at an amount they each choose) for my fiction. Royalties are, for most writers, a very tiny flow of income; Patreon allows me to reimagine what it means to live and work as a writer, it provides the funding to try riskier (and more worthwhile) stories, and it allows me to connect more closely with my fans. That’s hugely important to me. Storytelling is a communal act. If you are interested on joining me in this adventure, come take a look at:

Q) If you can pick one writer—and I know this it tough—but pick one name of a writer whose work has amazed and inspired you.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeerA) I’ll just pick the most recent, then. Jeff Vandermeer. His Southern Reach trilogy is honest, bold, breathtakingly beautiful. He is one of several living writers that I go to when I want to really learn what you can do with a story. And his Southern Reach really affected me emotionally as a reader, with its sad beauty and its inescapable reminders of how much of our ecosystem we are losing or will lose or will risk losing.

Q) As you know I am a huge fan of Jeff VanderMeer as well. Tell us a bit about Mr. Stant Litore. What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)? What is your favorite local restaurant? What/where is your sanctuary from the world?

A) Sangria. I drank a glass of sangria up in the Pyrenees Mountains talking with good people and watching the mists, a long time ago. Ever since, that drink has been special to me.

My favorite local restaurant is the Little India, because it has such good food – they bring you plates that steam and kill you with anticipation – and because I met my wife there and I fell in love there.

Q) The new Ansible 15717 is about to be unleashed upon the cosmos. What’s next?

litore_sitlA) More Ansible stories! There are some dangerous things happening in that universe, and my readers are anxious for more. I also have in mind a couple of projects in the world of The Zombie Bible, my series of novels and novellas retelling biblical tales and church legends, placing periodic zombie epidemics in our distant past. (Think The Walking Dead, 3000 years ago, and you will have some idea.)

The Ansible Stories will be my playground for a while. Discovering unexpected worlds, watching an array of characters wrestle with the vastness and the strangeness of our universe, and putting on the page some of the creepiest, most unnerving experiences I can imagine … with each story, I get to find new things and try telling stories in new ways. I’ll do it until I run out of ideas. I never want to tell the same story twice.

End of Interview

*(All of the Ansible series book cover art was created by Roberto Calas)

Stant Litore Biography

Stant Litore 2Stant Litore is the author of The Zombie Bible series, Dante’s Heart, the Ansible Stories, and the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He doesn’t consider his writing a vocation; he considers it an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.

A Conversation with Author Stant Litore

I’d like to welcome fellow 47North author Stant Litore to the Bag of Good Writing Blog today. Sir Stant LitoreStant’s series of The Zombie Bible novels, such as Strangers in the Land, litore_sitlare set in ancient world environments and his haunting, deeply-realized tales always get great reviews. He is also currently publishing horror sci-fi with a brand new imprint, but I’ll let him tell you about that. What follows is an informal conversation between Stant and I. It includes, among other things, zombies loose in biblical times, steampunk origins, Jesus as a character, the most difficult things to write, unbidden motifs, tiger traps to avoid, a peek at Stant’s new sci-fi horror short story Ansible 15715, the new Westmarch Publishing imprint and what’s coming up next for both of us. Expect a few dabs of general commentary and random grousing. I hope you enjoy this chat with Stant as much as I did.


Richard: Okay Stant. Let’s begin.  Why zombies, man? Why Zombies?

Stant: Zombies are cool…

Seriously, though, I was into zombies before they were cool. It just took me years to finish the project. Most zombie stories are set in an apocalyptic setting; mine aren’t. Mine are set thousands of years ago. I use zombies as a way of unburying our past, looking at history, religion, the way we’ve come to live the way we live and feel the things we feel. What has fascinated me ever since first seeing Romero’s Night of the Living Dead Romero NOTLDis the idea of a body emptied of everything but mindless hunger, a body that can only interact with others by devouring them. That makes me clutch the arms of my chair and shiver, and it makes me think deep thoughts. What separates the living and the dead? I mean, really? All around us, we see people devouring people. We see people reducing others to mere objects to fear or feed on.

In my fiction, I place zombies in distant historical moments – and not medieval Europe, either. Think Rome or ancient Mesopotamia. I look at how we never succeed in truly burying our dead. I look at how encountering mindless eaters forces us to confront our own hungers. I look at what we have to hope for, in a world, past and present, that wants to eat us. While we’re on the subject, why steampunk? There’s almost as much steampunk out there as there are hordes of ravenous dead. Yet your Romulus Buckle is beautiful. What drew you to this kind of fiction, and how are you making it fresh?

Richard: Firstly, I agree that zombies are cool. Yes, steampunk seems to really be coming into its own lately. I discovered it as its own genre about three years ago. At that time I was wanting to write a pulpy adventure action series about a ship crew in the tradition of Indiana Jones or Horatio Hornblower, but I’d been having problems finding the proper setting. I wanted strong female characters and some zebra-striped aliens tossed in. Modern submarines didn’t work. 18th century pirate ships didn’t work. Space ships didn’t work. When I hit upon steampunk and the idea of a zeppelin crew operating in a post-apocalyptic environment I knew I had found the roots of my world.

City of the Founders CoverSince I was new to steampunk (although I am a huge fan of British history and the Victorian/Edwardian era) I wanted to make it accessible to people who had just discovered the genre, so while the story has a steampunk brain and organs, the skeleton is pure adventure tale.  I tried to make the series unique by placing it in a frozen southern California and by introducing a strong ‘purer’ sci-fi element to it. It all makes sense in the end (I hope) but readers will have to stick with it to the end to get all of the answers as to how this world came about from the one we know now.

But here’s a question for you, Stant. How does a writer tackle the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, as you do in No Lasting Burial? How did you approach writing him? Were you afraid of any backlash, most certain to result, from expressing your vision of him?

Stant: I definitely found Yeshua of Natzeret to be the most difficult character that I have ever written. For one thing, there is an enormous weight of past depictions, from stained glass to Hollywood. No Lasting BurialAll of those past images are like an enormous pressure at your back, a locomotive driving your story toward a cliff. The joy and the challenge of telling this story was to tell it new and tell it raw. My novels are works of “weird fiction,” exploring the ways in which we become strange to ourselves and to each other. In the zombie story, our own flesh is made weird, is made strange to us. The story of the God-made-flesh is a truly strange story, and we forget that because so many generations of storytellers and sermon-writers have domesticated the story for us, made it safe and tame. When you read the original stories, you don’t encounter a domesticated, safe character.

My approach to this old, old story was to focus on two things. First, I focused on how people reacted to this enigmatic figure. You read the stories of ordinary people who are confronted with someone who doesn’t make sense, someone who is magnetic and inspiring and disturbing, all at once. Someone who flips your traditions on their head. Someone who tells you to invite beggars into your house or sell all your possessions. Someone who claims to know things no one can know, do things no one can do. Someone who is moved to tears at things that you don’t even notice. Someone who might be a madman, or a witch, or an incarnate God, or demon-possessed. At first it is very hard to tell. He is utterly strange, and the world you know appears to bend around him.

Second, I wanted to try to imagine what it would be like to be a mortal man in a mortal body and yet hear the suffering, the prayers, and the screams of all people, living or dead, across all of time. What would that do to you? Would it drive you mad? Would it drive you to extraordinary acts of compassion? Would it do both?

I wanted to make this story strange again, make it dangerous again. I don’t know if I was afraid of backlash, but I certainly anticipated it. This is not a stained-glass Jesus. This is a sweating, weeping figure who walks into your world and rewrites its fundamental architecture, or gets you to, despite yourself. I expect backlash. If you try to tell a Jesus story and you don’t get backlash, you’re telling it wrong; you’re telling it badly.

There’s a beautiful sculpture that an artist just revealed this month of a homeless Jesus lying on a park bench: Some people are disturbed and affronted, and some people tried to call the cops to come remove this homeless man from their upscale-neighborhood bench. And some people were moved and rebuked and inspired. I think I was going for a very similar effect, but the artist with his sculpture achieved it much more directly than I can do in mere words.

Stant Litore Eyes Cover A question for you, Richard, while we’re on the topic of characters and stories that defy domestication. What scene in your own novels proved most wrenching to write, most difficult?

Richard: That was a great answer, Stant, and it provides a wonderful glimpse into the environs of No Lasting Burial.  Your question is interesting because my adventure novels run in the vein of the old adventure serials—so far in the first two books there has been a tremendous amount of swashbuckling and action and catastrophe-escaping. The series takes a dark, tragic turn in upcoming books and when I sit in the quiet and think of some of the specific events approaching I want to cry. I can’t spoil what is coming by describing it, of course, but let me say that when these (hopefully) powerful and soul-wracking scenes must be put to paper, they will be awfully hard to write.

I’d say that one of the hardest scenes I’ve written so far is the hero’s (Romulus Buckle) flashback to injuring his adopted sister, Max, when they were young. Max is half alien with zebra-striped skin and struggles against prejudice every day of her life. For a number of reasons, Romulus is cruel to her in their childhood, always tormenting her. One day he chases her down a hallway and grabs hold of one of her long pigtails. She jerks loose and ends up hurtling headfirst into a doorway jamb, cutting her forehead open and leaving a scar. Romulus’ actions are terrible (his father lets him have it for this) and it is difficult to witness an injury to a child when writing the scene as it unfolds in your head. But it is an important moment for both characters. Max fights back against Romulus for the first time earlier in the scene (she stabs his shoulder with a geometry compass) and also Romulus carries a sadness with him into adulthood, a deep-rooted guilt, about how he treated Max when they were children (Max has always loved him and has long forgiven him, by the way, although her despair at her strange appearance was exacerbated by the way he abused her back then).

That was a difficult sequence to write because so much pain is folded into it, a pain which both characters still experience in their adult lives, though in different ways. A question: I have a handful of images and items, subconscious denizens of my mind anchored deeply in the unknown reaches I suppose, which seem to always find their way into most everything I write. Some come from dreams I have and some come from nowhere, as far as I can tell. Instead of fighting their intrusion, which is always organic, I let these little bubbles surface inside the stories I write. BubblesOne of these motifs is wind chimes. Wind chimes were ringing in one of the most vivid, haunting, profound dreams I ever had. I love the sound of them. And they appear, unbidden in the background, in most every story I write. In fact, I’ve come to expect it. I don’t think anybody would notice this constant element without my mentioning it because it is so small, but there is something comforting about always having that little tiny bit of my dream in all of my stories.

Do you have any recurring items, motifs, themes, etc. like that which your brain seems to always want to blend into your writing?

Stant: I love wind chimes; I love listening to them. They are comforting. But I also love it when a storm comes up and the wind chimes burst into musical panic.

There are definitely recurrent images or moment in my writing. It’s not something I really think about except when I’m writing the scene itself and I run into them almost by accident and say, “ah!”

Grass-in-wind-LWind in the grass. That’s one. In No Lasting Burial, Bar Nahemyah thinks the sound is “like God weeping in the grasses.”

I think a recurrent moment is the discovery of something small and alive and beautiful after great catastrophe. A flower growing out of the side of a sand dune, or a gazelle stepping through the remains of a dead camp.

A character alone, looking up at the stars.

For whatever reason, these moments are written into me.

Now a question for you. What is the one thing you avoid most, as a storyteller?

Richard: I love those themes and images you identified, bubbling up out of your subconscious. Ah, avoidance! I love your examples above, by the way. One thing I try to avoid is having two characters tell each other things that they already know, which I call “redundant ridiculous exposition.” I do this a lot in early drafts where I may not have a good handle on how I am going to structure a scene, so I just spill out the facts that I may want my characters to communicate to the reader. Of course, then I have a scene where two people who were sitting beside each other in a plane crash are having this weird conversation where they are explaining things to one another that they would instinctively know the other knows, just so I can give the reader the information. The trick is, of course, to create a dialogue transfer that both avoids this weird exposition and still provides the reader with the backstory and facts they need. The easiest way to do this is to introduce a character who wasn’t there at the event and thus needs a full description, but there are lots of more subtle ways to defeat that clunk-machine as well. But, because I know I do it as an early crutch, I am frantic to avoid it wholesale in later editing.

Now, Stant, I’d like to hear about something you avoid in your writing, and I’d also like to have you introduce the story and environment of Ansible 15715 which is your newest short story release. And Ansible is also coming from the brand new Westmarch Publishing imprint – I am familiar with it – but you can also perhaps tell our readers about Westmarch as well. Ha, that’s THREE questions!

Stant: Three questions in one? You’re trying to kill me…  

What do I avoid: Doing the same thing twice. I am very restless as a writer, constantly wanting to try a new challenge or technique.  Ansible 15715 is a frantic distress call from a woman marooned in time, a researcher desperately trying to warn humanity of an unexpected and terrifying threat. It’s unlikely anyone will hear her. Unless possibly you. Litore Ansible  

It’s a work of weird fiction and it is deeply unnerving—not a story you will soon forget.

Westmarch is a writers’ collective, a network of writers who barter services with each other, in lieu of a publisher. This allows the writers to retain more control over their own work and a higher royalty. For those who got their start in self-publishing, as I did, it’s a welcome environment.  The intriguing thing about today’s publishing landscape is that the skills traditionally located in a publishing house are increasingly available for direct, writer-to-provider contracting. A savvy independent writer, for example, can contract individually with an established and well-known developmental editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, a cover designer, a formatter, and even a publicist. That amazing cover for Ansible 15715? That was by a Westmarch author, Roberto Calas, ( who has 25 years of experience in design.  

Of course, it’s much easier to simply contract with a publishing house that can provide all of those services under one roof, and a publisher may have marketing reach far beyond what the majority of writers have. That’s where writers’ collectives come in. They’re a third way, where writers tap into each other’s resources and networks in an organized way to assemble and promote their books, paying membership dues rather than a percentage of revenue.

Westmarch is a smaller collective, new and active and exciting, and made up of writers I respect deeply.  

Last question for you, Richard: what’s next from you? What should readers be watching for?

Richard: That’s awesome info on Westmarch, Stant – and best of luck with Ansible 15715! Up next for me is the release of my third Romulus Buckle novel in November, along with a short story set in the same universe that will be used for promotional purposes. It is all going to come out in parallel with the release of Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk User’s Manual in which some of my steampunk work is featured. So, November will be a big month for me. 

This has been an awesome chat, Stant! Thanks so much for having the conversation. I’d like to leave the reader with an idea of what you have coming up next, so please fire away!  

Stant: My birthday’s in November, Richard, and I foresee what will be on my wishlist.  What I have coming up next:

  • A novella entitled Dante’s Heart, in which every time a young man falls asleep, creatures burst out of him intent on doing violence to the world. In hunting them down, he has to face humanity’s longing for violence.
  • I Will Hold My Death Close, a novella in The Zombie Bible, coming out in August. You’re really going to like this one. It is a retelling of the Old Testament story of “Jepthah’s daughter.” Fleeing into the hills from a father intent on sacrificing her, she has to face the hunger of a deity, the hunger of the rising dead, and the devouring hunger of her people’s traditions and their past if she is to survive.
  • Finally, I am working on another Ansible story. Shhh, don’t tell anyone. It looks likely to be just as unnerving and just as tragic as Ansible 15715.

My workshop is spewing out black and purple smoke as I work busily on all this. Lots to look forward to this summer! Thank you for this great conversation, and I am looking forward to November!


Thanks so much to Stant Litore for taking the time to chat! You can find Stant and his awesome, haunting works on Amazon and check him out his BIO below and where he is on social media:

Stant Litore 2Stant Litore is the author of The Zombie Bible series, Ansible 15715, and the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He doesn’t consider his writing a vocation; he considers it an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.


Zombies Past and Future Mania! (And Giveaway!)

Like Zombies?  Like History and Sci-Fi?  How about zombies ravaging Ancient Israel, 13th Century Florence, 14th Century England and the Far Distant Future?  Well, then I’ve got the link to the bona fide, best blood-splattered GIVEAWAY for you!

STRANGERS IN THE LAND by Stant Litore. 1160 BC. You’ve read about the 10 litore_sitlPlagues of Egypt. Now read about the time ancient Israel and one aging prophetess faced a plague of the walking dead.


THE SCOURGE by Roberto Calas. 14th Century. In this retelling of the Black Death, Sir Edward of Bodiam and two ofscourge-cover his knights search for Sir Edward’s wife across a nightmarish and zombie-infected England.

LAST BASTION OF THE LIVING by Rhiannon Frater. Distant Future. Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her entire life within the towering walls of steel that protect the last survivors of fraterhumanity from the Inferi Scourge. Now she has been offered the opportunity to reclaim the lands outside her walled city, but she may have to sacrifice everything to do it.

VALLEY OF THE DEAD by Kim Paffenroth. 13th Century. valley-of-the-dead-by-kim-paffenrothDuring his exile from Florence, Dante Alighieri encounters an eastern Europe where the savagery of the dead is exceeded only by the cruelties of the living, in harrowing scenes that inspire his Inferno.



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