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If you haven’t heard of the On Fire anthology, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. And here’s our final author. Meet Gregory.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to interview Gregory for this series, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate his contribution to the anthology with an excerpt.

From “The Arsonist” by Gregory L. Norris:


His name was Ray McCandless, and he was an arsonist.


 Sonny McCandless, Ray’s stepdaddy, gave the boy his last name when Ray was only ten. The same year, on a miserably humid Sunday, Stepdaddy Sonny also gave Ray the first of several scars on his arms with a line of cigarettes.

Ray screamed when the embers seared his skin as though the sun jumped down from the sky to feast upon his flesh.

Stepdaddy Sonny laughed.

“You tell anyone, I’ll burn you worse,” Ray’s stepdaddy said. “I’ll burn you real bad.”

Ray wore long sleeves after that, even on hot summer days.

He got good at keeping secrets.


 He set fire to the Big Woods near their house.

Curlicues of crisp smoke drifted up from the pine needles. The flames spread, conquering whatever green things it encountered. They leapt onto branches, sipped the oily pinesap, spread indiscriminately to hemlock and paper-white birch. The hungry, hissing music sang to him as knots in the wood blew apart.

Smoke billowed into a cloudless sky. The blaze did not last long before discovery, but the match was struck, the message sent.

Ray soon grew high on the dense smell of burning forest. He couldn’t break away until the man in the devil costume stepped out of the inferno.

A man in a silly, cheap Halloween costume, shiny red satin cape, with a plastic pitchfork in hand, and fake horns on his head. His face was thin and average with one of those slender mustaches applied with eyeliner for a bad community theater production.

“There you are, Smoky,” the devil said, his voice infused with a soupçon of British accent.

“My name’s not…”

The man moved beside him, planted his plastic pitchfork like a farmer or Poseidon with his trident. Together, they watched the forest fire spread, its hunger expanding with shocking speed.

“You know, Smoky, you’ve done an impressive job here. Do you hear all those wild Lady Slipper orchids screaming out as the flames reduce them to carbon?”

“I’m Ray, not Smoky. And orchids don’t scream.”

“Just because you can’t hear them doesn’t mean that they don’t. Still, I’d like for you to aim higher.”


The devil leaned closer and whispered. “Sonny.”



Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under his rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line—the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing. In 2017, Norris was hired to pen the novelization of the classic made-for-TV movie, The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity—which he watched when he was eleven. Follow his literary adventures at www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.

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