From the Slushpile: The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen (Part 2)

Author’s Note: I will post all six parts before Halloween weekend. So stay tuned for one helluva horror story.

Part Two

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As it turned out, the Hell portrayed in Turtle’s dreams looked like the byproduct of a collegiate man-child steeped in pop culture, rock music, and a lot of hallucinogens. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blared from the speakers of an unseen jukebox as we strode through the grandiose double doors of the antebellum home turned satanic frat house. Thick tendrils of smoke or fog curled around our feet as we moved through the riotous throng packed into the entry hall.  Over the doors, a tooled wood sign read:  Abandon All Inhibitions Ye Who Enter Here.

Faces of friends and enemies mixed with those of fiends. Together they capered wildly, spastically to the power chords of rock ‘n roll’s finest. I felt overwhelmed, my senses assaulted by the cacophony.

I turned back toward the doors, but there was nowhere to go. No moon, no stars shined in the night sky. The mist covered the parking lot like a blanket. The strange orange hue of the street lights obscured all but the house and its adjacent grounds.

“What the hell, Turtle?” Klaus demanded, seizing our friend by the collar of his faded Wolverine tee and wresting my attention from the dreamscape outside the house.

“Exactly!” Turtle answered. “What version of hell is this? Mine? Or one of yours? Because I didn’t have this nightmare until after I’d met both of you. And each of you is in the dream. But whose hell is this? Because you’re both there every time it happens.”

“Every time what happens?” I inquired, my sense of dread growing.

“You’ll see.” Turtle’s mercurial smile made me want to smash his remaining teeth out of his skull. “There’s still time yet. Until then enjoy the party.”

The Turtle danced, if you could call it that, his way through the crowd of raucous revelers. Klaus and I stuck close to our friend unsure what would happen if we became separated in his deranged dreamscape. A thousand vices and temptations surrounded us at every turn. I saw the things we normally enjoyed, but also mirrors piled high with white powder, stripped and ready pain-sluts of the barely legal variety, and a hundred other deviances ranging from the laughable to the unforgiveable.

Either Turtle the Video Game Virgin knew how to party harder than anyone had suspected or he’d tapped into some primal part of our brains…but which one of us. Perhaps he’d perceived repressed kinks, vices, and other socially unacceptable behaviors present in one or even both of us.  That possibility disturbed me, but little of what I saw scared the hell out of me. I did have a slight problem with the horned thing corn-holing our school mascot over the side of a sofa. And the sight of a sadistic bastard licking blood from the blade he’d used to slice spirals into the tender flesh of a pretty co-ed sickened me to the core.

Surely, none of this could be real. Even if it was a collective dream, some twisted, hedonistic manifestation of the universal unconsciousness, it was still a dream. I comforted myself with that fiction, ignorant of how wrong I was about our situation.

Turtle glanced behind him to make sure we were close on his heels and then mounted the grand staircase that dominated the entrance hallway to the mansion. A throng of partiers clustered on the winding stairs enjoying a wide array of pleasures. As I passed a diminutive woman bent over the sturdy railing, one of the two men penetrating her stopped long enough to ask me to join their public perversion.

Blushing crimson, I declined and hurried after Klaus and Turtle. As a virginal teenager, I felt overwhelmed by the sensational sins being committed all around me. My brain ached inside my skull, and my manhood throbbed in the confines of my jeans. I retreated inside myself as I tried to deal with all of the conflicting emotions in between.

Was this place hell? Or was it Turtle’s version of a wet dream? Or worse yet, one of mine or Klaus’s somnolent fantasies?

Although everything I’d seen at the party appeared deviant when compared to conventional social mores of the day, little of it seemed dangerous. Unless our creator considered anything visceral and enjoyable to be a sin. And I didn’t subscribe to that narrow-minded, puritanical view then…or now for that matter. I’d yet to see anything nefarious, much less hellish…unless one counted the pounding, repetitive electronica that had replaced legends of hard rock and heavy metal to become our new soundtrack.

The festivities on the second floor felt more like a rave than the festivities enjoyed by the Goth/Metal crowd on the ground level of the unnamed fraternity house. So in my mind, the party became annoying instead of more infernal, despite the horned humanoids twirling glow-sticks about their scaly bodies. If you’ve seen one dancing Sleestak with a glow-stick, you’ve seen them all. And raving demons were not my idea of hell; they were my idea of a bad pun.

“This has to be the lamest layer of all the hells in the multiverse,” I commented.

“Agreed,” Klaus seconded. “Hard drugs, kinky sex, and canned music doesn’t make it hell. It makes it a college party. The textbook definition of one as a matter of fact. I’ve seen scarier stuff at a Senate hearing on CSPAN.”

Klaus and I chuckled, but Turtle didn’t appear amused. Instead he looked at us as if we were stupid. But we weren’t; we were ignorant, cocky know-it-alls, like so many narcissistic nineteen-year-old nerds. In fact, without our narcissistic, nerdy traits, Klaus and I would have become enemies long before the events to come made it so.

Concern coloring his chiseled face, Turtle told us, “Dreams, like anything, exist according to certain rules. And one of those is the interconnectedness of all things, all places, all times. Dreams are the nexuses, the cruxes upon which the entire fabric of creation is built.

“After all, what are we but a collective realization of a universal dream. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, everything around us was dreamed into being by someone or something. As surely as we see this dream now, our creator pictured the dream that became our waking universe in its mind’s eye.

“And if dreams can show us a version of heaven that a sleeper can craft into reality upon awakening, a nightmare can become a living hell. That’s what I’m about to show you, the difference between dreams and nightmares, between heaven and hell.”

We turned down another corridor, and the scene around us shifted for the third time. As we entered this wing of the house, the furniture and the décor took on a style incongruent with the rest of the interior. I turned to pass my observation on to Klaus, but he’d fallen behind. In fact, he stood transfixed, his hollow eyes riveted on the lone door at the end of the long hallway.

“Are you okay?” I asked, knowing the answer already. My friend had grown as pale as a Hollywood vampire. Tears touched the corners of his eyes, a sight none of us had seen before…or since.

“But it can’t be,” Klaus muttered.

“What can’t it be?” Turtle inquired, joining us in the middle of the empty hall.

“I’ve seen this before,” Klaus replied. “All of it. I didn’t remember until I saw that door. That damn door and the horror that lurks beyond it have haunted me for years. But it can’t be. It’s just a dream.”

“Yes,” Turtle said, tapping Klaus in the center of his forehead. “It’s all here. Or we’re all there rather. Thanks to a little family tradition passed down through my mom’s side of the family. My gypsy blood produces a fair number of psychics, mediums, touch telepaths, and empaths.”

“And here I thought gypsies were alcoholics and kleptomaniacs,” Klaus joked.

“You forgot con artists,” I added, knowing in my heart what Turtle said to be true. But I wasn’t ready to accept it then. It took the unnatural shocks that came after for me to accept the paranormal as my new norm.

“I never thought I’d live long enough to admit it,” Klaus said, wiping his eyes, “but Turtle might be right. I’ve seen this house before; I’ve opened that door before. Countless times. And it never ends well.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t end well?” I asked, dreading the response.

Locking eyes with me, Klaus pleaded, “I wanna go home now. I don’t wanna live through this nightmare again. This might not be your idea of hell, but there’s a devil behind that door. A devil and a dead girl.”

“A dead girl?” I asked, bewildered by Klaus’s revelation. Glancing at my other friend, I saw that Turtle appeared calm, cool, and collected, the exact opposite of his waking demeanor.

“Well, she’s not dead yet…” Turtle said, “…not this go round anyway.”

A shrill squeal pierced the door, echoing down the hall. The cry of a damsel in distress, even a dream one, called out to my primal, protective nature. I charged the door while Klaus beat feet toward the stairs. Turtle lingered in between, unsure who to follow.

The locked door didn’t stop me long. Throwing my considerable girth against it, I overpowered the frame itself. As it separated from the wall with a sickening CRACK, I backed away and kicked outward. My big boot finished the work my sore shoulder started. The defeated door hung ajar from its ruined frame, orange light spilling into the hall from around its seams.

Shadows flitted in and out of the light in the room beyond the door. Throwing caution to an ill wind, I rushed through the doorway and into a blood-splattered bedroom. The room’s white interior had turned to crimson thanks to its two maddening occupants.

A shadowy figure perched on the center of a brass canopy bed; in its sizeable paws, the beast held the still beating heart of its victim, the nearly dead girl. The angel in alabaster lay sprawled on the mattress, wearing the remnants of a lacy summer dress. In the wan light cast by the street lights, her auburn curls took on the same shade as the gory fluids oozing from her savaged bosom. Only one perfect pale breast remained intact; its twin destroyed when the devil had ripped out her heart. The dying girl whimpered as yet unaware of her own demise. When her emerald eyes locked on her stolen heart, she wept a final tear.

*** Part 3 Coming Soon ***

This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works. 

Any resemblance to persons living or dead, events real or imagined, etc. is entirely intentional. This is a work of fiction but draws on real events and references the real world at times. Any reference, product placement, or pop culture quote is not intended to impinge on any trademark, patent, and/or copyright; rather it is flavor text for the dialogue of characters raised within the context of our pop culture.

 If you don’t like these terms of agreement, go check yourself. You’re complaining about a #FREE story.

Also, if I’ve let you read this story in the past, please do not post spoilers in the comments here or on any of my social media. Thanks!

Writing Process Blog Tour: Jeremy’s Entry

I’m not much of a blogger or self-promoter for that matter. I find it easier and derive more joy from promoting the works of others. That being said, I was talked into participating in a blog tour about the writing processes of different authors. I tend to field similar questions at conventions or whenever someone finds out I’m a writer.

Before we get into the question-and-answer portion, I would like to thank A.G. Porter, the talented, alluring author of The Darkness Trilogy, a series of YA Paranormal Thrillers. She brought me onto the tour.

Amanda Porter

You can find out more about her and her works at the following links:

http://agporter.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TDTAGP

In this installment of the Writing Process Blog Tour, you’re getting a sneak peak into the world of a writer who likes to write horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction. Namely, me! Good luck! Hope you come out with as many sanity points as you had going into this blog. If you don’t blame A.G., not me. 3:)~

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What am I working on?

At the moment, I am working on a number of short submission projects for various anthologies with a few different publishers. I finished the rough draft of a submission for Chaosium’s The Summer of Lovecraft anthology, which features Cthulhu Mythos stories set in the 1960s. However, I ran long, so I had to edit it down a couple of thousand words before the deadline. Thankfully, several beta readers helped me through that difficult process. I’m in the planning stages for a hardboiled detective short story for Dark Oak Press. And have a couple of other short stories in various stages of completion for upcoming Pro Se Press projects.

Pro Se logo

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm…good question. I’m assuming that other people are being read more than me. My career as a professional fiction writer is just getting started, so I’m working on developing my style, playing with characters and different narrator voices, and experimenting with different genres. In doing so, I produced a truly unique piece of steampunk fiction set on our fantasy world of Faltyr. It’s a story about dwarves on a submarine deep within the abyssal seas contained within the planet. I tried to handle the steam technology in a different way and fused much of it with our Aethyr magic system.

Why do I write what I do?

Various reasons. It depends on what I’m writing actually. I’ve written stories to expression emotions, viewpoints, beliefs, conflicts, or tackle touchy or controversial subjects. I’ve written strictly to entertain and have fun with it too. So, what I’m writing at the time is really influenced by my mood and what scenes my imagination station is developing at the time. However, most of my work tends to be darker, grittier pieces as I tend to have a very pragmatic outlook on many subjects and have highly critical viewpoints on other topics. I also tend to live by the phrase: hope for the best; prepare for the worst. So, that mindset tends to influence the tone of a lot of my work. And then there’s the revenge fiction. Muwahahaha! One of those will be coming soon in Dark Oak Press’s werewolf anthology, Luna’s Children: Full Moon Mayhem.

Dark Oak logo

How does my writing process work?

Well, first there’s the concept or initial idea. Followed by a flurry of activity, which is mostly planning and research. Then there’s the procrastination. And the hem-hawing, the paralysis-by-analysis, and finally some forward progression. More procrastination aids in the percolation process for imagination station. Occasionally, there’s some advice from outside sources along the way. Then I wrestle with Act II. Hate myself and my writing. Procrastinate some more. Get frustrated. Maybe have a smoke to relax and then go back to writing. Finish the third act, usually well above the anticipated word count and then move onto editing. But not before I criticize, procrastinate, and proofread. After I’m done editing, some other poor bastard beta-reads it and then unloads on me with both barrels. I fume. Mostly, I think things like: Why does everyone hate adverbs anyway? And adjectives, don’t I need those? I sulk and then procrastinate. Then I edit some more. Eventually, it goes to a professional editor before coming back to me. We send it back and forth like a game of pong, only less fun, until the publisher is happy. Some months down the road a check shows up in my mailbox or I get some free copies or both. And there you have it. The guide to being a very poor professional writer.

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Well, there you go, kiddies. That’s how the magic happens, from its origins in imagination station to publication. If you feel enlightened and/or educated, I have succeeded. If you feel slightly traumatized, I have succeeded better than I could have possibly imagined. If you have any other questions about the writing process or need help with yours, feel free to look me up on social media or chat with me at a convention or booksigning.

In the meantime, check out my newest release, a Pro Se Digital Single Shot entitled “The Savior of Istara”, another standalone tale from The Cycle of Ages Saga. It’s only 99 CENTS on Kindle and Smashwords. Click the picture below to purchase it through Amazon.

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As part of this Writing Process Blog Tour, I am supposed to tag three more people with this blog and provide links to their material. Coming up on this blog tour, you can look forward to the following authors:

HC Playa:

HC Playa

HC Playa is a writer, a mad scientist in training (translation: full –time graduate student), a mother of three, and an animal wrangler. Although, some days she wonders if maybe she’s the one being wrangled.
An avid reader since the precocious age of four, she devoured books from numerous genres, but science fiction and fantasy hold a special place in her heart. A rambling, late night phone conversation with her sister sparked an idea, which led to discovering a new passion. Bitten by the writing bug, at last count she had seven novels in various stages of completion, and a growing collection of short stories.

Her favorite activity is to play in fantastical worlds, as it’s the best adventure there is.

https://www.facebook.com/HCPlaya
https://hcplaya.wordpress.com/

John McColley:

John McColley

John A. McColley lives in a vortex of worlds, characters, machines and language, constantly dragging images and forms out of the storm onto canvas, paper or computer screen to share them with others and give them new life. When not wrestling with words, he cranks dials and makes sparks at his local hackerspaces and searches the wilds of New England for semi-precious stones with his wife and son. His work is currently available in Crossed Genres’ first issue of the year, various anthologies, including the first Capes and Clockwork, and at Mad Scientist Journal.

John has an author page of Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-A-McColley/105420682981117 a twitter account @JohnAMcColley and a blog http://johnamccolley.wordpress.com/ that he’d love for you to visit.

J.H. Fleming

JH Fleming

J. H. Fleming is the author of the upcoming Lifting the Veil: Tales of Discovery and Magic. Her work has been published by Visionary Tongue Magazine, Evil Girlfriend Media, Mocha Memoirs Press, and Seventh Star Press. She writes fantasy that isn’t afraid venture into the shadows. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her with her nose in a book, or possibly playing a video game or watching anime. J. H. lives in Arkansas with a Yorkie, a cat, two turtles, and her Asian American friend with a voice to rival an anime character’s.

http://www.someplacetobeflying.com/apps/blog/someplacetobeflying.com

Author Interview: The Priceless Konstantine Paradias

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing a fellow speculative fiction author, a native of Greece named Konstantine Paradias. Some of you may remember that he interviewed me for his blog Shapescapes earlier this year, before the release of Capes & Clockwork, an anthology from Dark Oak Press that features a story from each of us. In addition writing fiction, Konstantine is an essayist and professional jeweler. He’s also a helluva nice guy who makes for an enjoyable interview subject. But I’ll let you be the final judge of that.

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How long have you been writing fiction? And what genre(s) do you prefer?

If you want to be specific, I started writing fiction since I was eight years old, scribbling the adventures of Sir Kittenchild, the richest kitten in the world. I used to jot down ideas for his adventures when I was bored in class and then play out those ideas with my brother. The stories might not have been stellar, but we got Kitten child under constant threat of assassination by ninjas, turned into a cyborg, got him to built a town made out of gold and then blow it up because he realized he’d have to let people live in it. Looking back, I think that the genre I was working with could be called absurdist fiction, but I grew out of it when I was 13 and discovered the joys of science fiction through the works of Alfred Bester and H.G. Wells.

While I like science fiction, I prefer mine to be rubbery, but not too chewy. Space opera is the poison of my choice, with some of the greatest fiction works under its belt (including, but not limited to Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light which has been consistently blowing my mind even after the 12th read). While I love me some hard sf, I always find it very hard to find an author who can tread the line between establishing an outlandish technology with theoretical science and writing a good story. Greg Egan and Neal Stephenson belong to these chosen few.

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When writing fiction, do you prefer short stories, novellas, or novels? Why?

I prefer short stories, as I always had a very poor attention span and found it very hard on writing longer form fiction back when I was young. My brain, unfortunately, tends to jump between ideas and starts bugging me constantly when I try to keep it in line. Shot stories allow me to build a world and tear it down if I choose in as few words as possible, presenting snippets of history from that Universe for the reader to go through.
I also prefer short stories because, to me, they have always felt like a writer’s ultimatum. Spinrad’s Carcinoma Angles always felt like a punch to the face and I have No Mouth And I must Scream felt to me (when I was 14 and clueless) like waking up from a nightmare only to find myself trapped in a fever dream. Furthermore, short stories allow for greater experimentation. Fredric Brown’s story Answer is the best AI-gone-bad story ever and it’s only 150 words long. Silverberg’s When The Legends came home is distilled awesome and Kadrey’s still life with apocalypse is a silent parade of horror set against a burning skyline.

Masterminds cover

What writer(s) has/have influenced your writing the most?

Well that’s a doozy. Let’s see: Michael Moorcock (because if it’s weird and awesome, it’s good for you), Chuck Pallanhiuk (like stepping into a freezer stacked to the top with nothing but jar full of human eyeballs in brine), Harlan Elisson (because the man is a typerwriter goblin that reverse-grants wishes), Maya Angelou (because I Rise is my favorite poem and I don’t even like poetry), Kurt Vonnegut (because cynicism ALWAYS works), Aldous Huxley (utopia sucks) and George Orwell (dystopia is pretty terrible, too), Ward Moore (because the end of the world is always good for a laugh) and Philip K. Dick (who is grimmer than gangrene and more bitter than arrow frog venom).

As a writer, are there common themes or tropes that you prefer to use in your work?

People tell me I always like to do this ‘fish out of water’ thing and how pretty much everyone in my stories is ‘always angry all the time’. I think this is a miscommunication, mostly on my part. See, I don’t really believe that being angry or eschewing responsibility solves anything. Going postal only serves to turn you into the butt of everyone’s jokes.

Whether it’s the end of the world or just the end of your own little bubble of reality, the only choise is to buckle down, get up on your feet and get your ass walking. I have always tried to make a point of this in my stories, especially when I deal with time travel. Anything that is even remotely a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card is anathema to me, when I write my stories. There is no magic sword that will kill the bad guy. Going back in time to make yourself rich will only make things worse for you. Machine immortality? Yeah right. R’Lyeh rises from the deep? Surprise, fart-face, deep one illegal immigrants!

Nothing can solve your problems for you. No-one can help you. You are alone against a cold and cruel and uncaring universe and the best you can hope for is for some good company everyonce in a while.

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Where do you find inspiration for your writing, especially your Capes & Clockwork story?

You know, I have no idea. Used to be, I would say it was other peoples’ stories, until I started writing in earnest and those things lost their luster as they were buried under the muck and grime of everyday cynicism. I’d like to say it’s music, but that doesn’t help anymore. Electroswing sounds like diesel-powered rocketships and people wearing power armor built out of old Cadillac parts. Movies? Comic Books? I wouldn’t dare change an iota of anything that I like. People? Maybe. I guess they are crazy enough and weird and kind and mad and cruel and loving enough to fit the bill. All the weirdos (myself included) and the mad, we each have a story to tell, if only we could have the proper backdrop.

Beneath Familiar Suns was such a story. I decided tow rite it after discovering that Isaac Newton wasted his entire life trying to prove the existence of the substance known as phlogiston, when gravity (whicvh he considered a side project) was the thing that ensured his place in the scientific pantheon. I always thought what sort of world we would live in, if Newton’s phlogiston theory had come true. If one of the things we call the fundamental forces of the universe turned out to be considered new-age hogwash. And when I thought of what sort of world that would be, I made them fight.

Is there a work of fiction that you keep coming back to, one that you can read over and over again? If so, why?

From the top of my head, I can think of three books:
-The Elric Saga, bY Michael Moorcock which was the first fantasy book I ever read, before Lord Of the Rings and Harry Potter. As to why I go back to it? Well, do you know many books that tell the tale of a sickly albino elf-prince who uses an evil balck sword and melds with his past and future selves to save the Multiverse?

-Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. Bastards getting what’s coming to them, by virtue of cosmic meddling, topped with the bitter-sweetest ending I’ve read so far.

-Choke, by Chuck Pallanhiuk. The scamming adventures of a sex addict who thinks he could ever be loved so much, he would never need to be loved again. Also, time travel (in a fashion) and Jesus-clones. Or something. Just read the damn book.

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When Capes & Clockwork was published, you interviewed me for Shapescapes, your blog located at the following URL: http://shapescapes.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-i-think-about-stuff-capes.html. What other content can visitors find on your website? Can any of your short fiction be found there? If not, where can they find it?

Well the blog is filled with articles on roleplaying, comic book reviews, the first pages of a webcomic that was not meant to be, the occasional rant about the state of pop culture and yes, some of my short stories, filed under ‘Fairy Tales From Far Away’. As for where you can find my stories. Fiction Vortex has published ‘Nth Chance’ and ‘The Vilkacis’; Black Denim Literary recently went online with ‘Crucible Invictus’; Aphelion Online still keeps a copy of ‘The Gears that Ground The Hearts of Children’ in an online back issue. You can find UnFortunate, on DarkFire publishing’s website and the list goes on and on. But for a full list, then just click Here (http://www.doyoubuzz.com/konstantine-paradias_1) and you can find my complete list of published short stories.

Besides Shapescapes, where can we find out more about you and your work online?

I am currently employed as a book reviewer for Albedo One, where I post some of my work. A number of my stories are available for free on other websites but my personal favorite is Chris Boyle’s audio rendition of my short story ‘Echoes in Porcelain’ on ep 33 of Bizarrocast.

But if you are looking for a flash fiction fix, then why not try the page that I am maintaining with a few other indie writers, titled Augmentations on Facebook? There you can get your weekly cyberpunk fix in 250 words or less, with an awesome bit of art by independent artists to seal the deal! https://www.facebook.com/Augmentations?fref=ts

Battle Royale Slambook cover

As far as your own work goes, what are you working on currently?

At the moment, I am pitching a serial, trying to get a comic book going and trying my hand at a Young Adult novel. One is about a magical product reviewer in a world where science has discovered magic, the other is about serial killers trying to stop the world from ending and the third, about a young girl monster Hunter, struggling to live a normal life in the worst place in the world.

I don’t honestly know when these are going to be done, but I am guessing sometime within the year, before the advent of Tezcatlipoca’s wrath.

Science Fiction Sampler 2014 cover

What will be coming out next for you? And where can we find it?

At the moment, my work has been published in the 2014 Science Fiction Writer’s Sampler, which is available on Amazon, free for a limited time. My essay on Battle Royale has been published by Haikasoru, in the BR SLAM BOOK and my short story ‘Oi, Robot!’ is coming out in Third FlatIron’s Master Minds anthology, all of which is available on Amazon.com

Thanks for sitting with me today and telling me a bit about you and your work, Konstantine. It’s been enlightening and quite entertaining. Hopefully, we’ve helped to connect you with more readers. Best of luck with your creative endeavors. Look forward to reading them.

You can click any of the cover images in this interview to find out where to buy Konstantine’s various works, and the Shapescapes banner should take you right to his blog.

You can find him on Facebook at the following URL: https://www.facebook.com/konstantine.paradias?fref=ts

Follow him on Twitter @KonstantineP