Hello again Horror Addicts!
This week for 13 Questions I was able to interview returning Horror Addict Mark Eller. The interview was interesting and a lot of fun. Mark gave me so much to work with and after cutting things down I still had so much. So I tried to squeeze things together the best I could but it still came out as long as it did. But not to worry you are in for an array of entertaining stories and a great interview.
Long time Horror Addicts might recognize the name of his last featured story: Hunt Night. Which, “revolves around a teenager who wakes up in a barn with his hand cupping a dead woman’s breast. He does not know how he got there, or why, but a shadowy figure soon informs him that he was killed, his soul was jerked out of his body, and then put back in. Now, in a time when many humans had been changed into monsters by a rouge scientist using nano tech, he is the night’s prey. However, unknown to the hunters, Reed is also a part of the scientist’s newest game. The nano he has been infected with works in ways the hunters had never seen before. Hunt Night was published in Bewildering Stories before its appearance in Horror Addicts, and was later added to my Mercy Bend horror podcast.”
Mark didn’t reveal the title of his short story for Horror Addicts episode 39: Blob & Ooze. But he did give me some background into it. For this week’s story Mark was able to “use one of [his] characters from Mercy Bend, Miss Twill, a woman who can assume any shape or form if she is empowered with her special needs. Miss Twill gained this ability while in the gentle hands of Dr. Wise, the scientist mentioned in Hunt Night. Far from being a nice protagonist, Miss Twill is a bit cruel, having a penchant for murder and torture and a few other delightful things.”
“To give you an idea into her psyche, when she was thirteen she plucked out her own eyes to see what it felt like to be blind. However, before this story Miss Twill was never before able to become fluid. This [gave Eller] a [few problems] and opened a few interesting doors. The previous sentence doesn’t make sense. It allowed [him] to bring in two other Mercy Bend characters that needed places to go, moved things along with Dr. Wise and her grandson, and brought the first manufactured vampire to planet earth.”
Having been on HA before I wondered how Mark and Emerian had met. Eller explained to me, “The question should not be how I met Emz. It should be how can anybody avoid meeting her. Seriously, the woman is a dynamo. She bounces all over and talks to everybody. One week after I introduced her to Second Life she knew more people and had more friends than I managed in three months. However, there was a first meeting, and in this case it is entirely the fault of her husband, Kirk. Kirk, the author of Darkage, contacted me about cross promoting. We shared a couple letters, and shortly after Emz contacted me. After that I landed on a roller coaster ride, one that I found enriching and earned me one of my very best friends.”
That also got me wondering what sort of projects Mark and Emz may have worked on together. “Well, there was my previous appearance on Horror Addicts, of course. She was one of my guests on The Hell Hole Tavern. In fact, she was the guest that pretty much closed up the show once the trilogy was ended. We have worked together every year in Second Life’s Horrorfest, have done mutual interviews that we put on our podcasts, reviewed each others books, run over a whole slew of interesting places in Second Life, nagged at each other, and I don’t know what else. We’ve known each other for a couple years now. There’s been a lot of things in a lot of directions. Let’s see, what else. Oh yeah, we have also done interviews together on other people’s shows, and she was my first author interview on my short lived blogtalk show, Chronicles with Mark Eller.”
Speaking of Second Life’s Horror Fest, “the first Horror Fest took place not too long after people started asking to interview [Mark] as a horror writer…a lot of [his] work was appearing in dark places.”
Mark shared with me the story of how Horror Fest got its start. “[O]ne of the people who became a permanent part of the Tavern was a fan who spent time in Second Life. He brought me into the sim, then built me a tavern. When I bought land he rebuilt the tavern, then built a town, then built an entire hell. It was a great place. Emz thought so, so she suggested it would be a great place for a horror meeting…Before I knew it she had an entire Horror Fest going, much but not all of it taking place on Tavern grounds. We had animated zombies, a horror fashion show, reps from a horror game, graveyard poetry, readings, interviews. In short she exhausted me so much that I had to kill her with my watermelon gun. I did learn, however, that my one joy in life is skewering Emz every chance I got. That year I skewered her in an interview. Last year I killed her a few times during a presentation, and again this year. I must defend myself by mentioning that Emz sometimes has the habit of doing a presentation, then dropping out for a few minutes after dropping the ball on unprepared me. Fortunately this year I had the strong shoulders of Rhonda Carpenter to lean on when Emz took off for ten minutes after asking us to answer any questions people have on podcasting.”
Eller also had some parting words for Emz, “Thanks Emz. I already have plans for next year’s Horror Fest. You are going to wish I only killed you.”
“2008, I think. Yeah, 2008. That is when I came out with The Hell Hole Tavern podcast, presenting a dark fantasy trilogy called God Wars that I wrote with a partner, Elizabeth Draper. Not having a clue what I was doing, instead of just reading the story and calling it quits, we set up the tavern by presenting a short skit, the story, and an ending skit. In the skits I played Baron Von Smelterhoffen, a short five hundred and sixty pound creature that is only three feet tall. Liz is the Lizard, a creature from hell, half succubus, half something else. In short we were stuck in the tavern and forced to entertain tourists by telling them stories of the God Wars. Along the way we had several guest stop in. Some left, a couple died and were eaten, and a couple stayed for a very long time. It was a lot of fun to do,” and Mark has been podcasting ever since then.
Moving on to his published work, I asked how Mark had felt when Traitor came out. “Tired. Relieved. Proud, and then tired again. I had worked on Traitor for a very long time. The thing is Traitor had three very long sequels that then needed to be worked on. Then there was the God Wars trilogy, and I had a blogtalk show starting and I was helping with a smaller reality show on writing which has since fallen on troubled times. Getting Traitor out was a long process with lots of editors and lots of go overs (sic). I only thought I knew how much work writing was before. After Traitor I knew, and I had it all to do over again at least six more times.”
With all this going on in his life I was curious as to what made him want to become an author. “I think I decided when I was around twelve while reading Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series. I started my first story then. Fortunately it stayed started and never saw finished. About that time my sister was expected to write a few stories for school. Now mind you, she was four years older than me, but she did not like writing, so I wrote them. She got good grades and I got my ego stroked.”
“Even so I did not write my first books until I was in my twenties. They were fantastically wonderful books that were going to change the entire direction of the writing world. Knowing that all things improve with age I put them in boxes so future generations would learn from my mighty pen. Those boxes subsequently got wet in floods or lost during moves. My next books were put on floppy disks that, well I don’t know what happened to them. Then I quit writing for several years because of small things like parenthood and marriage and work. When the marriage ended I started writing again. I joined writing crit groups, wrote stories and books that I forgot to lose or destroy, and had a great good time putting words down that very few people read.”
He then added, “Alas, all good things have to come to an end. I met a woman online. She thought I was an idiot for not pursuing publication. To make sure I met my full potential she married me and then started nagging about that publication thing again. Having no choice in the matter I began submitting. The response was overwhelming…I found pursuing publication to be almost as much fun as the original writing. I got hooked, and then I got published.”
While we were on the subject of being published; Mark has had many of his short stories published in “Demonminds, Bewildering Stories, Scared Naked Magazine, Anon Literary Magazine, Talespinner’s Tavern, Planet Relish, and a few other places.” Eller told me a little about how it felt to be published.
“Well, when I first was published I smiled. I smiled a lot. My wife told me several times that I was now a published author, and never mind that many of those stories appeared in For The Love Of It sites that did not pay. In fact none of my shorts have landed in one of the big magazines. There may be several reasons for this. Perhaps they forgot to read my stuff or maybe they were not ready for true greatness. Personally I think it has more to do with the fact that I haven’t really submitted anything to them. Despite having a lot of shorts published over the years I think of myself as a novelist. Okay, so I have a lot of shorts out there and only one book, but it’s a darn good book, and so are the ones following it. Now, I will admit that I was thrilled the first time I was paid, and every time after that, but I liked novels so I quit submitting short stories. However, some things are fated to be. I did some live readings in Second Life before a crowd of twenty or thirty people a few times. After about the third reading I was approached by an editor/publisher who asked me to please submit material to her magazine. From this I ended up with seven or eight shorts published by Anon. They loved my Mercy Bend stories which were strange since they had things like sex and murder and dysfunctional people and did I mention having a twisted mind. Apparently it is from these stories that people got the impression I am a horror writer.”
Yet with all these short story publications, Mark himself has said he doesn’t consider himself a short story writer. “Well, I like to write. I like to write a lot, and I mean a lot. The shortest book of my Turner series is one hundred and thirty thousand words. The longest one is presently one hundred and seventy thousand words. It’s hard to write short stories that are over one hundred thousand words. Hell, some of my shorts run over ten thousand words, and most are over five thousand. All that being said, writing shorts has done a lot for me. Short stories require tight focus. Every word should have a purpose, should move the story along without pulling the reader into side issues. That was difficult for me to do, but I learned. Even so, if you want to hear me scream ask me to write a story in only two thousand words.”
Like every installment of 13 Questions, I end the interview asking about current projects for all you fans out there. “Betrayed, book two of The Turner Chronicles is presently at the publishers. Unfortunately my publisher is closing her doors so I have to find a new home for books three and four, as well as for the God Wars series. This means chasing down a new publisher, or even finding an agent. That failing, I will self-publish the Turner Books because it is not fair to the reader to only put out two books in a four book series.I have a few ideas I am bouncing around for a new book that will tie Mercy Bend and God Wars together. In a few weeks I will begin podcasting Betrayed, otherwise known as book two. A member of my local writing group wants to work on a group tween book, for which I have written one short story (yes I said short story, but I still insist that I’m a novelist, damn it).”
“I am also working on starting a new blogtalk radio show. My last one revolved around author interviews. It was starting to do well. Several people contacted me independently for interviews, and even a couple publicists, but an insect got in the way. The dang thing bit me. The bite landed me in the hospital for a while, and the show died. I may revive it again, but not yet. The new show should be a lot of fun. It will be called Convince Me because on most things fantastic I am a skeptic. I am surrounded by people who believe outside the box. Friends, co-workers, my wife…well pretty much everybody but me, which makes me wonder if I am the one on the outside of the box. So I want to talk to people who believe different from me, people who believe in ghosts and psychics and aliens landing on earth. Conspiracy theories are great, and hey, if somebody wants to convince me their particular take on religion is correct, I’m willing to listen. Tell me crime is good for society, or that every parrot is meant to be shot, although I’m not sure where I stand on that one. I own six parrots and love them all dearly, but sometimes, when they are all screaming, I have doubts.”
For more information on Mark Eller you can check out his website: