I Only Paint Dead Cowboys: Nick Rose

Nick RoseNick Rose is a talented horror illustrator with publications in several Horror publications including Horror Bound Magazine, Necrotic Tissue and Tales of the Talisman. In addition to his art, he also has a number of other projects going on but I’ll let him tell you about that. Let’s get started.

Thank you for taking the time to sit with us Nick.

Anthony Sullivan: There are a lot of exciting things going on for you right now. Tell us a little about your current projects.

Nick Rose: First let me say Thank you Very much for the interest that the folks at Horror UK has taken in me and my work. It is much appreciated. As far as work goes, I have a lot going on right now. One of the biggest projects I have going on is for a company called The Evil Nerd Empire.

I am painting 16 paintings for the interior of a book called Darc Karnivale. It is a collection of horror short stories written by the best horror writers in the business. I’ve also done the cover for it as well. The book will be released before Christmas, so it will make a great gift for any horror fan, and/or a fan of my work.

Beside the works for “The Evil Nerd Empire”, between now and Christmas I have to do some movie work, A Movie Poster and DVD cover. I also have an oil painting commission to do as well as several portraits, (They are always very popular around the holidays.) And that doesn’t include the work I have to do for my own company, Wicked Kitty Productions.

For next year, I am already booking up, plus I have a very secret project that I am doing for WKP as well. It is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, but just haven’t had the proper outlet for. Now with our production company I have that opportunity. This is something really big, and I promise every Horror and Fantasy fan out there will love it and it will be a work in progress for years to come.

AS: Wow, that is a lot. At what age did you first take an interest in art?

Demon nurseNR: That is an interesting question. Unlike most artists, I didn’t really take an interest in drawing until I was in the Army. Most artist are drawing while their still in diapers. I would say I was 19 years old before I showed a real interest in drawing.

When I was around 10, my older brother’s wife was an artist and she lived with us while he was in Vietnam. I used to love to sit and watch her draw. I don’t know if anyone will remember, but way back when, they used to run ads in magazines, like “Draw Sparky” to see if you have any artistic talent. “Sparky” was either a turtle head or a mouse head, and I honestly think that anyone could have drawn him without much effort. Any ways you mailed the drawing into the address on the magazine and they would send you back a “test” to take to see if you could be in “Art School” I passed with flying colors (as probably everyone did) and they would send me lessons for some small token of money. Since I was 10 and I didn’t have much money (The story of my Life) that ideal didn’t go any further.

At that point, my creativity took a turn, and I decided I wanted to be a writer. So until I joined the Army, I would type away in my spare time. Thinking back on it, I probably wasn’t very good. But as a teen-ager I was convinced that I would be the next Edgar A. Poe. I hadn’t discovered Lovecraft at this point. I grew up in the Bible belt and Lovecraft books where hard to come by. But once someone turned me on to Lovecraft, I was hooked, and never looked back.

But I didn’t return to art again until my days of serving my country. In the Army, I was a Medic. I didn’t want to shoot people, so I decided to learn how to save their lives instead. But this meant that unless a conflict was going on, I wound up setting out in training areas with nothing to do all day. So, one day I took a few comic books and some drawing paper with me and off I went to the middle of nowhere drawing Spider-man. I know the drawings where probably awful, but they were good enough to keep me interested in drawing. So it became a daily thing. After the Army, I attended a local community college and studied commercial art. That was way back in 1979, and I’ve been drawing ever since. I had my first piece published in 1980 and got paid a whole 10 dollars, but back then 10 bucks was a night on the town.

AS: Your work certainly has a twisted bent to it. What originally inspired you to produce this sort of artwork?

NR: [Laughing] Anthony, it would probably take years of therapy to find out the answer to that one. Seriously though, that has to be answered in two different ways, one pleasant, and the other not. The pleasant version would be the way I grew up, which back in the day when you where lucky to have 3 whole TV channels to choose from. But one thing you could always count on was that every Saturday afternoon, and either late Saturday night or Friday night, there would always be a horror movie on, and you could count on the fact that my little face was glued to the tube!

Also back in the 60’s, it was safe for Parents to drop their kids off at the local Movie Theater to see a double feature while they went shopping or whatever Parents did back in those days. The double feature was always either Horror or Science Fiction. I got to see most of the Hammer films while they were being shown at the movie theaters still, as well as all the wonderful American International films and all the Godzilla movies. Man, that was a magical time! I can say a lot of bad things about my childhood, but all those Saturday afternoons at the double feature watching all the movies that would mold me into the artist that I became, for the most part.

The Dark and Twisted part comes from very deep scars inflected on me by “Family” members, some of them where family by blood and the others by marriage. At 52 years old, I still have horrible nightmares of things those people did to me when I was just a child. It took years for me to learn the difference between love and abuse, good from evil. I could look at these people and see their true faces. The ones that are just below the surface of their skin. Because of this I learned to see things in a twisted way. Now when I watch the news, I see the true faces of murderers, child molesters, and all the monsters out there. Drawing Monsters comes easy to me.

AS: How hard is it to separate yourself from the wicked themes you create?

anewfalsehopefiniwebNR: That’s another really great question and the answer doesn’t come easy, but I will do my best to answer it honestly. Like the question before, this one has two types of answers, the first is what you see on the surface and the second is what is buried down deep in the dark hidden places of my mind.

As an Illustrator my main job is to read a writer’s story and create an image for it that will help sell it to the masses. Sometimes that is a challenge but I just let my imagination take over after I read the story. So, to me, I am not really creating the Illustration, the writer is. I am just a tool that is taken their idea and given it an image to identify with. Sometimes that is very easy and sometimes I pull out my hair trying to come up with an image. Now, after that point, a little of me does come into the picture. The expressions on the character faces, the things in the background, the dark strange looking shapes that there is no name for. But those are just surface things.

On the rare occasion when I do get to paint something from the Dark Recesses of my mind, I normally don’t leave the house or talk to friends in person or the phone. I stay to myself, mostly because I worry that the “Dark Side” of me will ‘scare’ them. Someone once told me “Be careful when you look into the darkness, that the darkness does not look back” or something close to that. I believe that to be true. There has been times I felt like the “Darkness” was watching me.

As far as putting these things down on paper, well, that is coming very soon and the story that goes with them. I am not trying to be dramatic, but I really believe that some folks out there will not be able to handle what I am going to show them and the world as I see it every day. In answer to your question, I cannot separate myself from the wicked things, because I am those wicked things.

AS: Who are some of your major artistic influences?

NR: To be honest Anthony, I can’t think of a single artist that isn’t an influence on me. Every single artist has something unique about their work that inspires me. But some artists stand out a little more to me. Howard Pyle is one of the big ones since I have been trained with his teachings by Master Daniel Horne who is another major influence and dear friend. Todd Lockwood is another. He trained me for a year and became a huge influence to me. Some others that influence me because there styles are so unique are Frazetta, Jeff Jones, Barry Windsor Smith, H.R. Giger to name a very few. Some of the classic Masters that influence me are DaVinci, Monet, Picasso, N.C. Wyeth to name a very few.

AS: Horror has been defined many ways over the years. How would you define it?

NR: Before the age of Movies and Television, horror was a thing of your imagination. It was something you would rarely see in person, such as death. So in that timeframe, War was truly a thing of horror. After Movies and Television are created, death becomes an everyday thing to the average person, including children. Monsters from space and from our imagination become an everyday thing to a point and after a while we become immune to such things. Now War is romantic as well as horrible. The age of film moved horror from our imagination to a stage for celebration and dress up. The things that use to scare us are now the things that amuse us. We spend countless dollars on costumes so we can dress up like our favorite monsters and “Scare” our friends.

The face of “Horror” has changed. It takes more and more to scare us. For a while Hollywood thought, “Gore” was the answer, but it wasn’t. It just cut into the profit made from snacks at the Theater. Hollywood has run out of options. They have remade the movies of past that scared audiences 50 years ago, but now make them yawn. They have spent countless millions on special effects that do not scare the audience any more than the old ones did.

So what is the answer? The answer is in your imagination. Last year I was surfing around the internet and ran across a site that offered up old horror radio shows that you could listen too. I immediately feel in love with the site. I could listen to these classic old horror radio shows while I worked and my imagination came alive! I was seeing visions of horror I had never seen in my mind. I was truly inspired, and I realized that to truly be frighten once again, you had to go back to ones imagination, stir it up and breath life back into it.

This task will fall back into the hands of writers and artist once again. It will be up to us to bring back the imaginations of the people out there that love to be scared. It will be up to us to bring new idea’s to Hollywood and Television that will make watching a new movie something to be excited about once again.

AS: Nick, what is the best advice you’ve been given with regard to your artwork.

NR: “Why don’t you paint some Barns, or Cowboys? Something people want to see!” This was the advice my Mother gave me. Good thing I never listened to her, huh? I think the best advice I ever got was from Daniel Horne. He told me to “Throw your heart into the painting and then dive in after it!”

AS: What tips can you give to aspiring artists to help them get started?

bloodlinesfiniwebNR: If you can’t afford to go to a good art school, go here and read the book Creative Illustration. This is the bible of the illustration market. Even though the book is 70 years old, everything except for the advertising chapters still apply today. Read and study this book until you have it memorized. Work on learning and applying values to your work every day. Build a portfolio that is very strong in the use of values. Learn to draw anything and everything. Sketch at least 30 minutes every day. I do first thing in the morning just to loosen up, before I start work on the money jobs.

And last, but not least by any means, is to learn good work ethics. Learn and Practice good manners. This is something that people will remember about you and they will respect it and like it. Ask yourself, would you rather work with someone who uses bad language, doesn’t meet deadlines, and puts down other people or would you rather work with the person that always has the assignment in ahead of time and is polite and pleasant to deal with?

There are 100’s of very talented artist out there, and I don’t care how good you are. There is always someone better. The person that is pleasant to work with is going to get the job in the end. Remember this, and you will always have work to do.

AS: What is the best compliment you have received about your art?

NR: “Man, that’s freaking me out.”

AS: Nick, I want to thank you again for taking the time to sit with us. It has been enlightening.

NR: Peace and Blessings.

If you would like to know more about Nick and his many, many projects, check out his website at http://www.wickedkittystudio.com.

Giveaway! Win a free copy of Shadows of the Emerald City

Book-COVERwebDiabolical Plots is giving away one free copy of Shadows of the Emerald City. Do you want to enter? It’s very simple. All you have to do is reply to this topic and name your character from any Oz-related media. (That’s the land of Oz, not the Oz TV show that takes place in a prison). We’ll pick a winner at random from those who respond.

You have until Monday 10/26/2009 at midnight CST to enter. If you’ve already paid for the special discount offer, then you can still enter–we’ll just refund your money if you win.

The Utility of Love now available!

Book-COVERwebDavid here. My first published work, “The Utility of Love” is now available to the public in the Shadows of the Emerald City anthology, edited by JW Schnarr, published by Northern Frights Publishing. The story is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz, but the Tin Man is two stories tall and does not hesitate to kill if it can benefit him.

There are 19 stories in total in this anthology, appealing to a wide variety of tastes. It’s supposed to be available on Amazon in the very near future, but in the meantime you can order it directly from the publisher. If you do pick up a copy, stop by here after you’ve read it and drop us a line. We’d love to know what you think!

If you’d like to see reviews, here’s a list:

Apex–5 stars!

Wanderings–mentions my story as must-read:

Senses Five–mentions my story before any other as a standout:

Innsmouth Free Press

Strange, Weird, and Wonderful (it’s a ways down in the PDF):

Niche Game: The Lost Vikings 1 & 2

Niche games: Âwe’ve all played them. ÂThey’re the games that you remember for a long time because they’re so unique. ÂSometimes they’re the only ones ever made like them. ÂOther times they were trailblazers for their kind of gameplay. ÂBut what they have in common is the bravery to try something new, allowing them to rise above the imitators. ÂEven though there might be newer games with shinier graphics, these games are still worth playing because they’re something different, something special.

The Lost Vikings

In the mood for a puzzle game? Give The Lost Vikings and/or The Lost Vikings 2 a try. I originally played both on the SNES, but they’ve been on several other platforms, including PC, Playstation, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo DS. It a 2-D platform-based puzzle game based around time-traveling Vikings.

The Lost Vikings was developed by Silicon & Synapse, which has since been renamed to the well-reknowned Blizzard, and was distributed by Interplay.

In the intro sequence, the three Vikings are abducted from their homes by the evil alien overlord Tomator. They manage to escape through a time portal which takes them to to Prehistoric times. You control each of the Vikings, one at a time, and you must work your way to the exit. All three have to be at the exit or you can’t move on. Each Viking has his own unique abilities, and you’ll have to use each of them to fullest advantage to make it through the levels.

Baleog the Fierce is the guy on the left on the title screen with the yellow mustache. He’s the fighter of the group. He can attack enemies with his sword or his arrows. He can also hit switches with his arrows from a distance. Erik the Swift is the guy in the middle with the red beard. He’s the most maneuverable of the group. As his name suggests, he does run faster than the others. He’s also the only one in the group who can jump (I guess the other guys are weighed down by their gear). He can lower his head like a battering ram, which can knock down walls and kill some enemies. Olaf the Stout is the, uh, stout guy on the right with the shield. He’s the defender. His shield can block most enemies and projectiles. In addition he can raise his shield above his head for the other Vikings to use as a platform and this allows him to hang glide slowly down from high places. You can switch between any of these Vikings at any time with the push of a button, and the screen will zoom to their location. But always keep in mind that the Vikings you’re not directly controlling are simply standing there immobile. If you leave them in danger they will die.

The game is infused with a good sense of humor. The expressions when the Vikings fall too far is cartoonish and comical, and at the end of each level they bicker amongst themselves and make fun of each other.

As the game progresses, you travel through a series of time periods, each with their unique puzzle sets and enemies. The game keeps a great amount of variety this way. So in the “sweat shop” stages, there is a magnet crane which any character can jump in to move metal blocks around. If Olaf moves his shield above his head it can also be used to carry him around. Each time period has inherent features like this to keep things interesting.

Finally at the end the Vikings return to Tomator’s ship for a final confrontation. This is the only real boss battle in the game as each Viking faces off against Tomator using their own unique skills, and finally facing up against him with their skills combined in a single confrontation. To finally use the warriors’ skills in combat is gratifying and challenging after being up against

Each Viking has three bars on their health meter which can be replenished by eating food that can be carried with you. There are also lots of environmental dangers that cause instant death, so beware! If one of your Vikings dies, then you will not be able to complete the level, but you are still free to explore with your remaining characters as long as you want, letting you scout ahead. When you’re finished you can quit and restart. When you do this you’ll see a traditional Viking funeral with a burning ship, and then lightning bolts will strike and bring the dead Vikings back from the dead. Why? I don’t know, but the burning ship sequence is cool. There is no limit to the number of times you can restart a level, so

The game is on a password-based system, so all you have to do to come back to a level is remember a 4 digit password. This game is reasonably challenging. If you’ve never played it before, some of the levels will take you multiple tries to make it through. Some of the puzzles and levels are downright difficult, though the game never stopped being fun.

Unfortunately, this one’s not available for download for Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, but finding this game shouldn’t be any trouble, and shouldn’t cost you too much as long as you don’t demand a factory-sealed copy. A quick eBay search comes up with dozens of hits for multiple systems, most with “Buy It Now” prices under $20, as long as you are okay with “acceptable” condition. Alternatively, you can always search around for an emulator and a ROM for this game.

The Lost Vikings II

This article’s a two in one! The Lost Vikings II (known as Norse by Norsewest on certain game systems) is similar in most ways to the Lost Vikings. The first game was one of a kind, like nothing I’d ever seen before. The sequel was more of the same, but enhanced. If you liked the original, try this one out to fill your Lost Vikings craving.

In this one hey’ve done a nice job adding some new features to keep things fresh. Tomator abducts the Vikings again to enact revenge. The Vikings see him coming this time and get away in a fight, stealing some futuristic equipment on their way. Erik the Swift gets a new helmet that lets him breathe underwater and boots that let him jump once in mid-air. Baleog gets a bionic extendable arm which can grab things from a distance and allows him to swing from strategically placed swinging points. Olaf has a shrinking device that allows him to enter small spaces. Also, he has been eating gassy foods and has gained the “ability” to fart, which allows to smash certain blocks, and give him a boost in mid-air.

In addition to extra abilities, there are two new characters they pick up as they travel. Fang, a werewolf, can attack with his claws (nice to have another attacker in the group), can climb walls, and can jump. Scorch, a dragon, can “fly” to a limited degree, which is really just five midair jumps. He can also use his wings to glide slowly down to land safely from heights, and he has fireball projectiles.

The concept is basically the same. Your group travels through different time periods. Only 3 characters are in any given level, and all 3 characters must reach the end of a level to complete it. And, once again, you return to Tomator’s ship for a final confrontation. Easy peasy? Not so much. This game is as much a challenge as the last one, well worth the time it takes to complete.

Unfortunately, this one’s not available for download for Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, but finding this game shouldn’t be any trouble, and shouldn’t cost you too much as long as you don’t demand a factory-sealed copy. A quick eBay search comes up with dozens of hits for multiple systems on both games, most with “Buy It Now” prices under $20, as long as you are okay with “acceptable” condition. Alternatively, you can always search around for an emulator and a ROM for this game. Enjoy!

Raising Dead Authors: J.W. Schnarr

JWS ProfileJ.W. Schnarr writes horror stories from his home base of Calgary. He has been published in a variety of places, including Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Night of the Giving Dead, and Midnight Echo, to name just a few. As if that wouldn’t keep him busy enough, he is also the evil mastermind behind Northern Frights Publishing, an Indie publisher specializing in small market genre fiction and non-fiction. Hot off the press: Shadows of the Emerald City, an anthology of horror short stories related to The Wizard of Oz. The anthology has experienced a slight delay in release date, but will hopefully be available on Amazon in the next day or two.

If you’re not sure if you want to read the anthology, check out the reviews so far:

Apex rates it as 5 stars, and says she liked every story, a rare thing indeed.

Senses Five mentions my story, “The Utility of Love” as the first of the must-reads in the antho.

Wanderings Magazine also mentions my story as a standout.

Innsmouth Free Press.

Strange, Weird, and Wonderful (it’s a ways down the PDF)

You can follow Mr. Schnarr through his blog. To find out more about Northern Frights Press, visit their website or become a fan on Facebook.

David Steffen: Shadows of the Emerald City is the first anthology Northern Frights has published. Â If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

JW Schnarr: There are a TON of things I would do differently. This has been a huge learning curve for me. We had issues with software, contracts, correspondance, editing…the list goes on and on. I knew it was going to be like this though, and I got some great advice from A.P. Fuchs at Coscom Entertainment and Jacob Kier at Permuted Press. The ultimate goal for this anthology was to put out a book people would be interested in reading while ironing out the dozens of little hitches and problems that pop up during the birthing process.

David: What kinds of unique challenges has small press publishing provided?

JW: For me, most of those challenges came on the business end of things. I’m also flying pretty much solo, as I think a lot of Indies are. That creates all kind of challenges with the work needed to put a book together. It seemed never ending for about two months…and then one day I looked up and realized I could see the finish line. Also, trying to put a marketing plan together on a budget has been a challenge. I imagine all Indie publishers have similar challenges facing them: the biggest one is simply cutting through the glut of books being published to reach our audience.

David: Since NFP doesn’t have a huge marketing department, how have you market it?

JW: I’ve been doing a bit of viral marketing through social networking sites, and keeping discussions going in places like facebook and on forums. A large part of my plan has been reviews, and getting the word out that way. I think reviews are a really helpful marketing tool because it exposes people to the books while giving them in depth information and honest opinions on whether the book is worth finding or not.

David: How did the submissions for Shadows of the Emerald City compare with your expectations, in quantity, quality, subject material?

JW: Well, first off, there was a lot more porn in my inbox than usual. I had a bunch of submissions where writers had turned poor Dorothy into a sexual deviant…of all persuasions. It was really entertaining, but many of the stories fell short in just one or two little things and were swept away by more rounded tales.

I really had a lot more content than I thought we were going to get as well–I guess the subject matter set off a lot of matches in people’s heads. In the end, I had over 70 stories to choose from, all good, but unfortunately not all could make it. It really surpassed my expecations on all fronts, as far as quality, quantity, AND subject material.

David: How did you choose the theme? Why the Wizard of Oz?

JW: You know, I can’t say for certain when exactly I decided on this theme. The idea had been bouncing around for a little while, but I didn’t know all the ins and outs of Public Domain use until I really started researching. At one point I was actually deciding on whether to try this with Alice in Wonderland instead, but with the movie coming out I was kind of worried that the book would get snowed under and lost amidst all the hype of the movie.

NFP Anthologies are all going to be themed, and I really think an entertaining niche can be filled by letting writers explore the worlds of some of the most influential minds in the last hundred years or so. And hopefully some people went back and read some of Baum’s work in the process of creating new parts to his world. From the subject matter and responses I got, I know they did. Other publishers may be doing Zombies…We’re going a step further and bringing dead authors back to life.

David: Why did you start Northern Frights Press? What are your goals for NFP?

JW: NFP has its roots in a business plan I made up about a year ago to publish and market my own books. At some point I realized that I could easily turn the project into an Indie Press, something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school. I love writing, but in College I realized I also loved editing and publishing as well. This has been a perfect mix for me, and allowed me to justify spending all that money on college getting a journalism arts diploma.

My goals for NFP center around a two year business plan where I’ll be growing our product base and getting the word out with new anthologies, novels, and electronic release in the coming months. NFP is going to continue to refine the publishing process, put out quality work from quality writers, and hopefully become a presence in the convention scene at some point. if, along the way, I can earn enough money to take a day off or two from drywalling, well, then it will have all been worth it.

David: After Shadows, what next? What’s the next theme?

JW: The next two themes are actually linked. Both are taken from classic science fiction written by the great H.G. Wells–War of the Worlds, and The Time Machine. I’ve gotten Artist Gavro Krackovic back to do these covers (he did the cover for Shadows of the Emerald City) and we’re currently exploring some ideas on how the books should look. I’m giving him the full covers to work with this time, so expect something amazing, front and back.

War of the Worlds: Front Lines will have a harder sci-fi/horror edge to it and focus on the wars between humanity and alien forces…not just the H.G. Wells aliens, but all aliens. And the stories will hopefully take place on as many different fronts and battlefields as can be imagined.

Timelines: Stories Inspired by H.G. Well’s The Time Machine is going to be a softer science fiction collection. I’m picturing dark, moody or introspective pieces, as well as the kind of horror that sneaks up on you. Hopefully these two books will compliment each other in style, and the covers will reflect that.

David: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

JW: I was very young when I started writing. However it wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that something happened that made me start thinking seriously about a life as a writer. We were doing a writing assignment in English class, and I remember I wrote some little thing about a monster hiding in a row of bushes that attacks a boy dropping his date off at her home. The teacher made me read it to the class, and just as I reached the part of the story where the creature reached out and grabbed the kid by the throat my teacher roared and scared the living piss out of the entire class. When I looked up, among all the babble and excited laughing there was this underlying realization that I actually had their attention, and they understood what I was trying to convey. This is a classic reader/author relationship of course, but at the time it was all new to me. I was hooked right there.

David: If you had one piece of advice to give aspiring writers, what would it be?

JW: READ!!! Read everything you can get your hands on. I have met too many writers who say they have no time for reading and can’t understand why their work isn’t growing the way it should. Honestly how can you expect to write well if you never read? Would you expect a musician who never listened to a note of music to be able to compose? Every published story and novel out there has a little blueprint in it for publishing your own stories and novels. Learn from those who have come and gone before you. Eventually you’ll start seeing the successful things they did with their work and be able to apply those things to your own.

David: What was the last book you read?

JW: At the moment I’m digging through The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder (research for my novel) but recently I read The Time Traveler’s Wife and it was fantastic. I don’t usually go for love stories, but there was enough science fiction in there to keep things interesting. I’ve been on a bit of a literary kick this year, stepping out of my more familiar stomping grounds of horror and golden age sci fi and picking up things like The Life of Pi and The Kite Runner. maybe I’m just turning into a suck.

David: Your favorite book?

JW: Tough call. I am Legend or The Hellbound Heart maybe, though both were novellas. My favourite book for years was Blue World by Robert R. MacCammon, but I’d feel like a traitor if I didn’t include a Stephen King or Poppy Z. Brite novel. There are so many good ones, it’s really too hard to decide on one.

David: Who is your favorite author?

JW: See answer above. Can I make a list? If so, it goes like this, in no order: Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert R. MacCammon. Right below this unholy alliance of writers there are probably several hundred waiting in the wings to take over a top spot.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

JW: Transformers 2! there’s a cheapo theater right by my house that shows movies like a month or two before they hit the video shelves, and for 20 bucks we can get movie passes, popcorn, and drinks…and she gets skittles. The theater is a grungy little thing that attracts all kinds of unsavoury people, but it has a feel to it that you can’t get anywhere else except in Forest Lawn, Calgary. Anyway, I thought the movie was alright, I tried not to think about the plot too much and focused on the robots instead.

As for recent DVDs I’ve watched, I picked up used copies of The Unborn and Last House on the Left…I probably could have spent my money better elsewhere. I was looking forward to Last House, but I watched the unrated version and the five hour long rape scene in the middle of the movie really pissed me off to the point where I didn’t really care what happened to anyone after that. Seriously when did that become entertainment? The Unborn was kind of fun…Monster and I made a game of picking out the continuity errors, and there seemed to be a lot of them.

David: What is your favorite movie?

JW: Conan the Barbarian. I can recite the entire movie line for line. I can even drop the music ques and horse/sword noises, if you want. I’ve probably watched it 200 times. People think it’s cheesey but it really captured a great feel for Howard’s writing…it’s moody and bleak, and enough blood gets spilled to fill a swimming pool. Plus, James Earl Jones as a Demigod in control of a doomsday cult? That’s two words: Awe. SOME!!!

David: Do you have any upcoming publications?

JW: Well the ones mentioned already are coming out in the next few months. Shadows and Light (Pill Hill Press) is out already I believe, and ASIM and Midnight Echo are both October issues, so those should be right around the corner if they’re not out yet. As work on Shadows of the Emerald City intensified I was kind of forced to put my short stories on hold, but there will be more coming soon! I promise!

David: Can you tell us about any works in progress?

JW: Currently I have two projects on the go. I’m working on a novel called Alice and Dorothy that answers the question: What if Alice Pleasance and Dorothy Gale were two real people who met and fell in love in a mental institution? It was originally my cast off idea for Shadows of the Emerald City and I realized I could tell the story as like a rock n’ roll style highway novel with lots of drugs, shooting and hot lesbian sex. I’m also putting together a short story collection of mostly previously published work. I’ll be adding some new stories of course, and those will both be on the ground running in the Spring of 2010.

David: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, JW.

JW: Anytime! Remember kids: Support Indie Press! Show some love so we can continue to love you back!

Niche Game: Body Harvest

Niche games: Âwe’ve all played them. ÂThey’re the games that you remember for a long time because they’re so unique. ÂSometimes they’re the only ones ever made like them. ÂOther times they were trailblazers for their kind of gameplay. ÂBut what they have in common is the bravery to try something new, allowing them to rise above the imitators. ÂEven though there might be newer games with shinier graphics, these games are still worth playing because they’re something different, something special.

Body Harvest was released in 1998 by DMA Design, the company that later became Rockstar North, the makers of Grand Theft Auto III. This isn’t at all surprising if you play the game as the style is very similar with a wide open world, open-ended game play, a large collection of weapons, and the ability to acquire any vehicle you see. The graphics weren’t terribly impressive, even for the time, which might explain why this awesome game has been overlooked by so many.

The story begins in 2016, and humanity is on the brink of extinction, at war with an insect-like alien race. Every 25 years for the last century aliens have returned to Earth for one day and sealed off an area of the Earth behind an impenetrable shield which prevented any outside help from entering the area. The poor humans outside watch helplessly as the humans within are slaughtered, every single one.

Now, in 2016, the aliens are back again, poised to wipe out the last remnants of the human race. The human race has finally perfected time travel technology, and they’re able to send one soldier back in time to single-handedly take on the alien threat.

First stop, Greece in 1916. Shortly after you arrive, you receive an alert of suspicious alien activity in the area. Hordes of helpless local civilians are being dragged kicking and screaming out of their houses by bloblike aliens which are carrying them towards a bug the size of a tank to have their bodies harvested for unknown reasons. Many other aliens are defending the big “harvester” bug. Your job is to destroy the big bug as soon as possible, the more humans it harvests, the closer the aliens are to reaching their agenda. There’s a meter on the screen that keeps track of casualties. If you let too many people die, game over.

In each time period the vehicles and weapons are at least a semblance of era-appropriate, which gives a nice excuse for increasing the firepower of weapons and quality of vehicles as time goes on. Besides stopping Harvester waves, you also must defeat a major boss at several stages in each year. This will drop a teleport beacon to make transport easier as well as opening a hole in the shield to progress to the next level.

When this game first came out the ability to switch between such a multitude of vehicles had never been seen before. From normal cars, to tanks, helicopters, various boats, airplanes. There’s even an alien UFO. Weapons all have a variety of different stats. Most of the weapons are pretty standard fare, machine guns, shotguns, rifles, all with their strengths and weaknesses. My favorite weapon by far is the sun shield, a mythological weapon stripped from a Greek statue. It reflects and focuses the light of the sun into a powerful weapon. It requires no ammo, can cause damage as far as the eye can see, and makes quick work of even boss characters.

Besides the action component, there is also some degree of puzzle element. From time to time obstacles will block your progress and you must find a way through or around them, such as finding dynamite to blast a path through a rockslide, or to find a rifle to blast an alien sitting on the distantly perched tram car to free it to move. You can move indoors in certain places, sometimes finding people to talk to, or having to find switches to secret passageways inside. These challenges aren’t terribly difficult but they lend some welcome variety to the gameplay.

Most of the game has a reasonable challenge level. The progression of difficulty of the enemies escalates well with the progression of weapons and vehicles. The boss battles are epic struggles, but not impossible. But, alas, I never finished the game. There was a challenge in the 4th world that proved too much for my then-teenage gaming skills. It involved hauling a heavy explosive on the back of slow and unmaneuverable vehicle. I was given ample time to clear the path before driving it, but somehow new aliens ‘ported in and detonated the explosive no matter what I did. I would like to retry it now to see if I can overcome it now.

Getting your hands on this game won’t take much effort. Unfortunately, it is not available for a Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console download. At least not yet. Finding a copy used shouldn’t be difficult at all. A quick eBay search comes up with many results, some of them with “Buy it Now” prices of about $7, so if you have an N64 console, you’re set. If you don’t have the console, you might be able to find an N64 emulator and a ROM for the game.

Especially considering the low price tag buying this game used, if a lover of a good action shoot-’em-up with bug-eyed aliens, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy!

Flash Faction Online Staff Member

I’m now officially a slush reader for Flash Fiction Online. I’ll be part of a team that collectively helps the editor judge the stories that come in. For anyone who hasn’t heard of them, they are an online monthly magazine which publishes several flash stories per issue. Flash stories are 1000 words or less, and let me tell you, it is not easy to get a full story into just 1k! Many of the staff has a preference for speculative fiction, but they accept submissions of any story under 1k, so literary, mainstream, romance, mystery, anything is fair game.

I think it’ll be a fun opportunity to sample the editorial side of submissions. The duties shouldn’t be too onerous. I’m at the 2nd level of the slush reading, so the worst stuff will be filtered out before it gets to me. And each submission is 1100 words or less, so even if I don’t like the story, it doesn’t take very long to determine. I’ve been through my first round of judging, and was pretty pleased with the experience. I’ve said for a long time that one of the keys to becoming a better writer is to read and critique other people’s work, so this will be a good way for me to do that. When I feel I have feedback that could be useful for the writer, I’ll try to send some back their way–personal feedback is so rare it’s so nice to receive when you get it.

And, for those of you aren’t familiar with FFO’s slush reading procedures, the stories are anonymous, with no author name attached to them. If I see a story come through and I already know the author, I must choose not to rate it, so you may want to think twice before telling me that.