Tag Archives: Speculative Fiction

Jason’s Authors You Should Know – Leo McBride

LeoToday’s author you should know is Leo McBride.

Leo is a super-talented speculative fiction author. He writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from the warm climes of the Bahamas. He’s one of the driving forces behind Inklings Press, the small press responsible for such awesome short story collections such as Tales From the Underground, Tales of Wonder, and Tales from the Tower. His stories are included in all the collections and so worth TalesToweryour time and money. He’s also released a short story collection of his own called Quartet: Four Short Stories, Four Explorations of the Fantastic.

Leo is highly supportive not only of the indie community, but great writers no matter what their publishing history is. He’s been an encouragement to me from almost the beginning, reading and reviewing my first two flash fiction collections and continued support through interviews and shares on social media. He’s a great person to have in your corner and a spectacular writer in his own right.

From his Amazon page:

Leo McBride is a writer of speculative fiction – spanning the fields of horror, science fiction and fantasy. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is based in The Bahamas where he is an editor for the country’s leading newspaper.

He has published several ebooks – although Quartet is the first of his own writing. He has also been published in anthologies published by Inklings Press.

You can find out more about Leo on his blog alteredinstinct.com.

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Seeking a Genre

I’ve had a difficult time lately trying to figure out what kind of writer I am. Do I write horror? Am I a scifi writer? What about fantasy? Does it even freaking matter?

I’m not sure what’s prompting me to pigeon-hole myself to a particular genre or not, however maybe it’s best if I gravitate toward something. The phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none” keeps coming back to me.

Of all three genres, I think the one that I most identify with is horror. It’s what I’ve read the most, watched the most, and what interests me the most.

I don’t feel I have the credentials to call myself a scifi or even a fantasy writer, though my background in medieval history does give me a foundation for the kind of fantasy I enjoy. I’ve not read many of the scifi classics. I have tried to navigate my way through some of the mainstays of the genre to have a working knowledge of what’s been done before and the major players in the field. Still, it doesn’t feel like I’ve “paid my dues” and learned enough about previous authors to jump into their genre. Does watching a lot of scifi shows count? I don’t know. Maybe? Do I have to have those works read in order to write my own stories?

thinker-1294493_1280I imagine purists would scoff at the idea of someone with a basic knowledge of science fiction calling themselves a scifi writer. I kinda agree. Start throwing questions at me about Heinlein or Asimov, I might give you a blank stare and change the subject.

Same goes for fantasy. I know a few pillars of the genre, but I’ve not read many of them. My first real introduction to fantasy was through Robert Jordan and I know there were many before him like Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett and more. I love fantasy for the idealized medieval worlds they tend to portray (and yes, I’m aware of the Euro-centric bent of most fantasy) though I’ve not read extensively in the genre. Do I have to in order to call myself a fantasy writer?

When it comes to horror, I do have a greater background through reading and movies than the other two genres I gravitate toward. King, Barker, Jackson, Oates, Ramsey Campbell, and countless other authors have all been my go-to authors when I want something to read. I love the dark themes and ability of authors to scare the crap out of me. I feel much more confident calling myself a horror writer though to date, I’ve not written much more than several flash fiction and short stories in the genre.

So why question all of this? What’s the point?

skull-3026666_1920As I continue to grow my readership and reach out to new readers, I don’t want to confuse them. I love using elements from all three genres in my writing. One day I feel more like writing fantasy, while another I want dark, scary horror. I don’t want to be forced into a genre I’m not entirely 100% all in on (or at least don’t feel like I belong because of a lack of rudimentary knowledge of the field.) Yet, readers and especially other authors want to know “what do you write?” Damn good stories? I mean, that’s how I want to answer.

Lately I’ve come to use the term “Speculative Fiction Author” to describe what I write. It’s a term not without its drawbacks and controversy, though for the most part, it encompasses all that I enjoy writing. It allows me the freedom to flow between genres without feeling stuck or unable to try something else. It’s like when King wrote the Dark Tower books. He’s known as one of the most popular horror authors ever, yet he wrote a fantasy series. Of course, it sold because his name is on the cover, but in my case, I have a long way to go to establish my name. If I call myself a “Speculative Fiction Author,” readers generally understand I genre-hop and can pick and choose what stories of mine to read.

If I take a big step back, this entire discussion about genre really is all about marketing anyway. When bookstores sell books, they need to know where to put books to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. When Amazon categorizes books, they get down to fine detail about the genre. It all goes back to marketing: How do we sell this book? Who is the market for this one? Have a monster in it? Good, call it horror. Is the protagonist a seventeen year-old girl? Call it young adult. It makes it easier for readers to discern what to buy and not buy. I get it.

The more I can figure out who I am as a writer, the easier it’ll be for me to market myself. If I claim “Speculative Fiction Author” as my title, then I’m open to marketing myself in all three of the genres I enjoy depending on the books I’m writing at the time. It’s not that I’m chasing the latest trends, but writing stories I enjoy and hope others will too. I don’t even know what the latest trends are! Reverse harem? Who knows!

I hope to figure this out soon. I’d like to sell a few books and begin making a profit off my work. I haven’t yet, however I have earned a few new readers in the process.

 

The Scientist’s Destiny

It’s story time! This month’s story sat on my computer for quite a while. I wasn’t happy with the story and worked it over trying to get it to behave. I think I’ve succeeded. Take a few moments and read this cautionary tale. Sometimes it’s better to leave things alone. Enjoy!


The Scientist’s Destiny

Charles held the shopping basket close to his body as he maneuvered around a rather large woman wearing a yellow dress with a wooden cross hanging around her neck oogling the latest shipment of eggplants. He hated the things, but hated people even more. He spent most of his time working in a lab away from people. It was just him and his plants. He’d been working on a new strain of corn resistant to earworms though lately it proved lethal to humans.

As he worked around the woman, Charles stepped on a piece of lettuce. Instantly he lost his footing. His basket flew upwards, sending crackers and shredded cheese in the air. He fell down slamming his head on the hard concrete floor.

Opening his eyes, white wispy clouds floated in a sky of azure above.

He felt a pounding in his head.

A voice called to him, but he didn’t understand the language. It sounded like French. All he understood was a name: Geoffrey.

Charles turned his head and lay in a grassy field with several men surrounding him. They wore dark brown wool robes tied at the waist with a dingy cord. Their hair cut in a strange fashion though somewhat recognizable.

“Where am I?” he asked out loud. The nearest man, a monk Charles thought, jumped back with his hand over his mouth. He spoke again, pointing at Charles. The other monks took a step back.

Charles pushed himself up. He felt a rough scratchy sensation on his body and when he looked down he had on the same robes as the monks around him.

“What the hell?” he said out loud. A monk made the sign of the cross and stepped closer to one of his brothers, whispering. It didn’t matter, Charles couldn’t understand them anyway.

“My name is Charles Springer. Doctor Charles Springer. I’m a bio-engineer working with corn. Now do you mind telling me where I’m at and where my clothes are?” The monks were silent. Charles ran his fingers through his hair, only to find he was missing some of it.

“Great, you’ve cut my hair too!” he accused. He shook his head. “Damn I miss my lab.”

One of the monks spoke, but the words were fast and unrecognizable. He heard “Geoffrey” several times and thought they said “corn” but that’s all he could make out.

corn-979665_960_720Much to his displeasure, the monks took him to the monastery. Back home with the plants he worked on, the “agri-monsters” his detractors called them because of all the genetic modifications he experimented with, he was alone with only the plants for company and preferred life that way. Now forced to work with other humans away from his beloved plants, anxiety grew inside him.

Charles concluded that he hit his head and must be in a dream or coma as his mind reacted to the trauma. Maybe he’d had an accident in the lab. Being stuck with these monks and away from his plants felt like punishment inflicted by his enemies.

He saw no relief for his situation and tried his best to endure it while stuck there.

For well over a month, Charles acted the part and became a monk. He faked what he didn’t know and smiled when they spoke to him. Their language was unfamiliar and he didn’t understand what they were trying to tell him, so he offered a smile when it seemed appropriate. The only solace he had came from working the field of corn outside the monastery. Out there he felt comfort in this terrible new world.

After the second full moon since he’d been there, Charles began to worry that maybe this was worse than a coma. He hated being so close to these men. They stunk, they were rude, and they continued to engage him. Sanity and patience were wearing thin.

“I want out of here!” he yelled one day at dinner. He’d been sitting at a table with three other monks, all of whom were trying to talk to him. “The game is over. Get me home now!” He slammed his fist on the table, shaking the wooden bowls.

The monks stood up, grabbed his arms, and carried him to the door of the monastery where they tossed him outside falling face down on the dirt.

They yelled at him, kicked dirt on him, and closed the door.

door-1053248_960_720Charles sat on the ground amazed at his current predicament. He held his fists up to his eyes trying hard to wish himself back to his world. When he opened his eyes he half expected to see the sterile gray walls of his lab, but he hadn’t moved. Instead, he faced a heavy wooden door with large iron fittings now closed to him.

He spent the night huddled in the field of corn. It felt like home there.

The next morning, he made his way to the nearest village where he wandered through the market. A large lady was handling the latest crop of squash, squeezing one after another in search of the perfect specimen. The stalls were close together and Charles got caught between the enormous woman and baskets of apples. He squeezed through and a small boy bumped into him, knocking him off his feet. He crashed to the packed earth and blacked out.

When he woke, Charles looked carefully around him. He no longer smelled the familiar scent of dirt and humanity he grew accustomed to in the monastery. He couldn’t place the scent. It was an odd mixture of body odor and something floral with a touch of fish. It didn’t smell like any place he remembered.

Then a green-gilled face with large yellow eyes looked down at him. The eyes reminded him of large kernels of corn. It grinned, exposing razor sharp teeth.

Charles attempted moving his arms but they were tied down.  His heart beat faster, his face contorting as he tried to free himself. The yellow-eyed face above continued to grin at him, bits of saliva dropping on his chest. When they did, they burned his clothes and began singing his chest.

He screamed but it was too late.

The creature cut his arms and legs. His piercing screams did nothing to stop the creature.  Just before he closed his eyes for the final time, he thought he heard a voice speaking. “Geoffrey will stop the blight on our crops. He’s the antidote to the disease. Finally, we can grow what we need without those pesky humans being involved.”

At those words, his world went black.

 

Dreamwraith

Here’s a fun story exposing why we’re all tired.  I hope you enjoy! If so, please leave a comment or share it with others.


A warm darkness permeated the bedroom.  It promised to suffocate any living thing.  The inky blackness shrouded the entire room in a hopeless gloom.  The only visible objects were the sharp, crooked fangs of the dreamwraith looming over its prey.

Under a patchwork quilt stitched together by her grandmother’s wrinkled, loving hands, Shannon lay in a deep sleep, unaware of the evil hovering just above her.  Her soft blonde curls fell about her face in gentle caresses.  Her body grew and shrank with each deep breath.

Above her, the dreamwraith grinned.  His black cloak unnecessary in the late hours as the moon dared not shine this night.  “I’m ready to feast,” he said out loud.  His wispy voice carried across the dark room.  He learned long ago that at this hour, his chances of being caught were slim.  The chance existed, but that was only one of many things that excited him about being a dreamwraith.

“My lovely Shannon, how I’ve missed you.  I’ve been waiting to feast upon your dreams once again.  Their flavor so delicate and succulent.  Feed me well yet again,” the dreamwraith said.  His white eyes darted up and down the bed looking at the gentle woman sleeping unaware of her visitor.

Shannon was young and still in college working on her degree in Medieval literature.  A degree almost worthless in rural Ohio, but yet she stuck with her passion to the dismay of her parents.

Shifting her position on the bed, she lay on her stomach, one leg hanging out of the quilt.  Saliva dripped from the dreamwraith’s mouth as Shannon’s movement made his heartbeat quicken.

With a long bony hand, the dreamwraith reached out and palmed her head.  Suddenly his vision went from oppressive black to vibrant blues and deep verdant shades.  He looked around and saw forests and a mighty river flowing to his right.  The rushing water crashed on rocks which stuck out from the river like sentries.

The dreamwraith smiled again.  He tasted the sweetness of Shannon’s dream, could taste the overwhelming freedom and his urges pushed him over the edge.  He stood there on a field of green dotted with yellows and reds and violets in his black cloak, a jarring reminder of his task to take away the dreams of humans.

He reached out to the ground and scraped at it with his gray-boned fingers.  Shoving the delicacy in his mouth, he closed his eyes as he savored the sweet nectar of Shannon’s dream.  The honey-like consistency coated his mouth and throat.  He choked on it, but that was why he came back.  No other dreams he’d eaten tasted like hers.

His kind wasn’t supposed to be attached to any one person.  They were supposed to go from one to another lest the human discovered them.  Dreamwraiths have been caught over the years, but they always figured out a way to silence the person.  They were forbidden to return to any human until five years had passed.  That was enough time for the human to forget anything out of the ordinary happened.

But he couldn’t stay away.

This was the dreamwraith’s third visit to Shannon in the past year.  Her dreams were a powerful drug, an addiction he couldn’t get rid of even if he wanted to.  Just the thought of them made his knees tremble and his mouth water.  When the inferior dreams no longer satisfied him, he visited Shannon to feast on her exquisite, sumptuous gift.

He scraped more of her dream from the ground shoving it in his mouth.  His mouth exploded in vibrant, exotic flavors.  The unique taste of her dreams coursed through him.  It fueled a lust deep within.  He dropped to the ground and with both bony hands, shoveled the dream into his open maw, greedily gorging on the delectable dream.

Shannon stirred and the dreamwratih found itself in the dark bedroom again.  “No,” it hissed, “you must stay asleep my dear.  You will not turn me away.”  His blank white eyes stared at her.  He lifted his hand to her head again and stood in the green fields once more.  Immediately he dropped to the ground and returned to his gorging, his entire being caught up in the orgiastic pleasure of her dream.

In no time he devoured almost the entire dream, his hunger still not sated.  He stood a moment in the void of what was once her dream with only a small section of blue and green color left.  Savoring the taste of his last bite, he let the flavor wash over him.

Shannon moved and he knew his time was shortening.  Lunging at the spot of color still visible in the dream, he tore at it, shoving it in his mouth, filling himself with her essence.  The moment he took the last bite of her dream, he found himself back in the dark bedroom.

It wasn’t as dark as before.  The tendrils of morning seeped in, breaking the doom of the night.  Slowly the dreamwraith backed away, his lust fulfilled.  He stepped back towards the corner of the room as Shannon moved on the bed.  The patchwork quilt tossed to one side while she moved her arms and rubbed her legs together.  The dreamwraith grinned as he stared at Shannon.  He knew what she tasted like and it was his secret.  She raised from the bed and he winked out of the room, satisfied for now.

***

Shannon awoke feeling tired as though she hadn’t slept in a long time.  Why am I so tired still? she thought.  For the rest of the day, Shannon couldn’t drink enough coffee or energy drinks to keep her alert and awake.  It reminded her of pulling an all nighter yet she slept for over eight hours the night before.  When she got home from school, she ate a quick dinner and went to bed, her mind and body completely exhausted.  Never knowing why she spent the day with her eyes half open, Shannon drifted off to a peaceful slumber.