Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Guest Blogs by Ennis Drake and S. P. Miskowski - Finalists for The Shirley Jackson Awards - June 26, 2013

We have a terrific double author post for you today from Ennis Drake and S.P. Miskowski who have novellas that are finalists for The Shirley Jackson Awards.

The Shirley Jackson Awards are for given for works of "psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic."  You may see the entire list of finalists for the 2012 Awards here.  The Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented at Readercon 24 on July 14th.

Both of today's Guest Blogs are about Setting as Character.

Ennis Drake
When I began Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage, I knew I needed a setting that lived in its own very real way. It was absolutely essential, given the absurdity of what was to come. I needed to be grounded without doubt, realist without the slightest hint of contrivance. Without that realism, the story would not work. It would have asked entirely too much of the reader. I thought the best way to do this was to hang the story on that old maxim: write what you know. So I set the book in a fictionalized version of Lake County (where I grew up). It gave me an almost unbelievably rich and (unpleasant and seldom seen) American history to draw from, for both place and its people, and enhanced the novel in ways even I didn’t initially predict.

The event in the prologue--the Fort Sanford gold robbery--is drawn from local legend. General Abraham Eustis is drawn from both the historical figure and Andrew Jackson (e.g. the Seminole Wars and the “conquest of Florida“). So much of the book is historical in fact, or in nuance, it’s difficult for me to separate the fiction from it. This is true not just of the setting, but of many of the characters. I spent at least as much time researching the history of Eustis (the city), as I did Strom’s condition (of which the documentary Body of War, and the man Tomas Young, whose experiences as an Iraqi vet the film told, were vital), the Marine Corps, the Army (modern and pre-Civil War), Desert Storm, the Battle of Nasiriyah, the Seminole, the Cherokee, the Creek, as well as the Toltecs, Karankawa, and the Anasazi (all who inspired the Yoholo in my story), Muskogean philology, etc.

Specific is best. Richness of setting is its own reward. Everyone and everything (even thematics) must have roots. Charles Olson wrote: “...leave the roots on, let them dangle, and the dirt, just to make clear where they come from.“

The thing people have most often said about “Twenty-Eight Teeth” is that I made the “impossible“, the absurd, work. Without treating the setting as an entity in its own right, the book would have failed miserably. The least important aspect of the book, in my opinion, is in fact, the Kill Saw. It is, was, a blatant device. Metaphor and symbol. Nothing more, nothing less.

S.P. Miskowski
My novel, Knock Knock, and a trio of novellas comprise The Skillute Cycle. The series is set in a fictional small town called Skillute in the southwest corner of Washington State. Here a combination of history, superstition, and economic reality shapes the lives of three women who are lifelong friends.

Originally, when I created the town of Skillute it was to serve as the backdrop for a novel about a couple whose inherited property is haunted. That was the basic idea. I wanted to tell this story and I needed a place where people who relocated from the city might feel isolated despite the technology available to them. So I assembled a lumber town where new and long-term residents might clash, where local legends could rise from tall tales and anecdotes.

I decided on a fictional setting for the sake of flexibility. If a church were needed on a particular road, or if the story demanded that there be only a certain number of stores and taverns, it could be so. The downside to choosing a fictional town was that everything had to be invented. I could look at nearby places and use some of their characteristics. But the look and feel and specific history of Skillute had to come from my imagination.

Early on, in the first or second draft, I began to draw maps of Skillute. This helped me to visualize and locate the action. For example, if a character walked or drove two miles, the map reminded me exactly where she would end up and what she would see when she got there. Visualizing the town also gave me reference points and landmarks. Drawing maps gave the story a sort of infrastructure.

While I brought Skillute to life on paper something strange began to happen. The cast of characters grew as the place exerted its influence. I wrote the history of each character, and the novel took on new layers. The people emerging from Skillute offered different perspectives on the events I described, creating new social conflicts and associations. Out of this population a few individuals emerged whose experiences embodied the ideas in the novel. I invented Skillute, and the town gave me my story.

About Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage

Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage
by Ennis Drake
Omnium Gatherum Media, May 22, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 126 pages

One man ravaged by disease, the other by war, their stories--and fates--bound by an ancient entity that thrives on suffering. For Detective Ernest Riley, the path to damnation begins with an anonymously mailed recording detailing a series of grisly murders. Can Riley unravel its secrets without sacrificing his humanity? Or will he surrender to the RAGE inside him?

Strom Wheldon has returned from Iraq a literal half-man. But he’s lost more than his legs to that desert Hell. He’s lost his will to live. Can love save him from the RAGE eating him from within? Or will a gift given in innocence cost him everything?Is death the worst that can happen? What does it mean for men to carry deadly Rage in their flesh and bones? What would they do to live? Would they kill? Would they surrender their body and sell their souls?

About Ennis Drake

Ennis Drake's short fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print, including: "Love: The Breath of Eagleray", at Underland Press (publisher of Jeff VanderMeer's "Finch", John Shirley’s “In Extremis”, Brian Evenson's "Last Days", among others); "The Dark That Keeps Her", published in Twisted Legends, an anthology from Pill Hill Press (honorably mentioned in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 2); and "The Fishing of Dahlia", published in the Bram Stoker-nominated and Black Quill Award winning +Horror Library+ Volume 4. "The Fishing of Dahlia" also received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3. Forthcoming from Word Horde (summer 2013), "The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker", will appear in the anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross Lockhart.

His debut novel, "Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage", was released May 31st, 2012, from Omnium Gatherum Media, and is a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award.

Most recently, his collected novelettes, "The Day and the Hour" and "Drone", were released by Omnium Gatherum Media (Feb. 2013).

Facebook  ~  Goodreads

About Delphine Dodd

Delphine Dodd
by S.P. Miskowski
Omnium Gatherum Media, September 21, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 106 pages

Before the town had a name, people buried their dead on the mountainside. Now Mont des Morts exists only in memory, but its ghosts still haunt Delphine's family. First in a series of three novellas set in the world of Shirley Jackson Award nominated Knock Knock.

About S.P. Miskowski

Miskowski's work has received two Swarthout fiction prizes and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her debut novel, Knock Knock, a 2012 finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award, is the central book in The Skillute Cycle, which includes a trio of novellas set in the same area in Southwest Washington.

The first novella in the cycle, Delphine Dodd, is a finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award in 2013. The second, Astoria, is set to be published by Omnium Gatherum this summer. The final novella, In the Light, is scheduled for publication by OG later in the year.

Raised on Flannery O'Connor and Edgar Allan Poe in Decatur, Georgia, Miskowski now lives in California with her husband, fantasy and sci-fi author Cory J. Herndon.

Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Goodreads