K.N. Johnson, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet K.N. Johnson.

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What are your hobbies?

Legend tripping and ghost investigations feed my story ideas. I love visiting new places – especially small towns. I’m partial to painting with acrylics; I’ve made a piece with drywall mud and would love to try encaustic wax. I enjoy reading, moderate hiking trails, and Netflix bingeing. I have a Nikon camera and one of my photographs was actually published in a literary journal.

What are the genre(s) of the stories you write and why?

In general, I write horror. But it’s not the slasher gore most people consider horror. It’s more cerebral, strange, unsettling. I’ve always suffered from vivid nightmares and those inspire scenes and plots for my stories. My upbringing included family issues like alcoholism, mental illness, and fundamentalist religion, so no matter what I tried to write, it always came across as dark and creepy. Horror is my natural voice.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most difficult stage is when a solid idea bursts forth, and I’ve crafted a detailed first or second draft, but I feel like something is missing. And I scour the story for places to improve character development, plot twists, or the ending.


From “The Clearing” by K.N. Johnson:

She stared into the night at her two planks of cedar. They remained untouched. Rain trickled down the window. Like the complainer, she’d received no messages this summer. Neither herself, nor her sister. Of anyone, they deserved a message. And if the gods despised her for taking a season to mourn, for withdrawing after the gods skipped the boards and carved a message into her sister, well then, they could despise her. But they should honor the one they’d marked. She crossed her arms, watched message after message delivered to the boards of others.

Goran stood, smiling. “That was mine. We got a message, Elka.” He reached his arm behind her. “The gods sent us a message.”

Elka’s eyes widened, and she slid from the bench. Her stomach churned. Unsure how far Iris sat from them, she fought to keep her voice low. “The gods sent you a message. The gods have sent me nothing.”

“Elka.” He frowned, tried to pull her back down to the bench.

“You made a mistake.” She closed her eyes to the vision of her sister slamming into the wall, the memory of her freshly burnt flesh. She pressed her face against the window, wiped at the misty glass. “And you made a mistake thinking the gods told you to give up Iris.”

Goran sprang from his seat, stood like a wall to absorb Elka’s words.

“I did not give up Iris.” Lightning flashed. He paused to compose himself, but his words charged louder than either of them expected. “The gods did.”

A participant called out, “Oh, that one’s mine all right.”

A ball of lightning sizzled in the sky, struck at yet another board. Again, not hers. She couldn’t leave tonight’s ceremony without a message. She sprinted past Goran, past each participant seated with their hands in their laps, the lightning casting blue across their faces, and lunged for the lever near the driver’s seat. She heaved the handle and the door slammed open.

Rain sprayed her face as she marched into the clearing. She ignored the yelling, the admonitions thrown at her from the bus. Small lights dotted the sky, dropped into the woods like specters drifting by parachute. For a moment, blue light flickered behind the tree trunks, turned them into black pillars edging the field. This would be the storm. The one that would bring her a message.


K.N. Johnson’s short story “Frigid” won Mythraeum’s Pygmalion contest and is being developed into a short film by Mythraeum Productions and Loste Films. Filming begins January 2018. Her work has appeared in Proximity Magazine and Incandescent Mind literary journal. Her short stories are included in the anthologies A Journey of Words, A Haunting of Words, and Polterguests and the upcoming anthology Terra Nullius published by Kristell Ink.

She serves as an Acquisitions Editor for Mighty Quill Books, an Advanced Reader for Tin House Books, and an Associate Member of the Horror Writers Association. While she hunts ghosts for fun, she’s not sure if she’s ever seen one… but she’s definitely been terrified, her skin chilled by strange sounds and shadows. She enjoys responsible legend trips and takes way too many photos during her adventures. Visit her at http://www.knjohnsonauthor.com.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.


Closing Circles: New Year, New Goals, New System.


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I know a lot of people are writing about their years and their plans right now, but I want to reflect on the difference between crashing into 2017 and peacefully stepping into 2018.

Last year, I wasn’t prepared for the type of growth I would have in my business and all of the little things I didn’t know how to do at the time. It’s good that I’m a quick learner, because the transition could have been disastrous.

Don’t get me wrong, I barely held on and still sport some road rash from it, but ambition has a way of whittling down the fluff of dreams—something I desperately need with my wild imagination and grandiose ideas.

This year, however, I got a relatively easy transition, watching Futurama with my husband and a little bubbly. My projects were complete, planned, and simply waiting for a few finishing touches. I didn’t have to scramble.

Boy, was that nice.

I must admit that this has inflated my inner dreamer, and she’s bursting with far too many new ideas—new circles—that will need closed or popped.

So, in echo of last year, when I wrote about how I think and plan and process, I’d like to give you a glimpse of my next year, literally.


Let me know what your plans are for 2018, how this year compares to last, and what system you use to keep on track!

Lorraine Sharma Nelson, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Lorraine Sharma Nelson.

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How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember. Actually, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories. The very first story I wrote at age five was about a lion in the wild that was lonely and wanted to be part of a family.

What are the genre(s) of the stories you write and why?

I write sci-fi, horror, fantasy and crime. I don’t pick my stories; they pick me. An idea will pop into my head and I’ll just go with it. It’s the idea first, the genre second.

What do you find to be the easiest thing about writing? What is the hardest?

The easiest thing for me is writing the first draft. I love watching the story unfold in my head and putting it into words. The hardest thing is editing the story. I hate cutting out chunks to fit the word length, but it’s something that has to be done.


From “Consumed” by Lorraine Sharma Nelson

Vijay stepped outside, blinking in the harsh sunlight. The usual cacophony of sounds came from every direction, people already out and about their daily business.

But a woman standing beneath a neem tree drew his attention from across the busy street. Something about her beguiled him: the way she cocked her head and smiled. She was dressed in a beautiful blue sari, the color of the sky at twilight, and her dark hair braided in one loose rope hung down over her right shoulder to her tiny waist.

Déjà vu assailed him. Why did she look so familiar? Before he realized what he was doing, Vijay crossed the street, dodging scooters, cows, and tuk-tuks, the tiny cabs that permeated the city.

An overcrowded bus honked at him just as he reached the sidewalk.

And she was gone.

Frowning, Vijay looked around the square, at the dazzling array of women in colorful saris weaving in and out of the crowd. But none of them were her.

She couldn’t have gotten far.

No matter.

Who cares who she was anyway?

He had things to do.

Important things.

After breakfast.

He bought two butter naans and a steaming-hot cup of chai, which he ate at the beach, away from the crush of humanity.

The film cast and crew were gone. He sat on a sand dune and enjoyed his breakfast in relative peace and quiet. Still early, the beach would soon be packed with people, and he would move on.

As he popped the last piece of naan into his mouth, the woman from earlier appeared by the water, the surf crashing around her bare feet and ankles.

And she was watching him.


Lorraine grew up globally but now calls the United States home. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature, and a Master’s in Mass Communications. In addition to being a writer, Lorraine is also a wife, a mother, an avid sci-fi geek, and a New England Regional Board Member for UNICEF USA. She loves travel, reading, movies, and coconut cupcakes (though not necessarily in that order).  Lorraine is published in sci-fi, horror, fantasy and mystery/crime. She can be found at her website, at Goodreads , on Twitter, and on Pinterest.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

Alisha Costanzo, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing, usually. This time, you get to meet me, Alisha Costanzo.

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What advice do you have for beginning authors?

Just write. Don’t let anyone tell you what to write or that what you write isn’t worth writing. Just write.

Which of your characters was the hardest to write about and why?

In Loving Red, Kaia was my most difficult because of how different she and I are. She’s far more capable than I am in the wild, untrusting, and a faithful Christian. I asked the woman who created the character with me in role playing a lot of questions to be sure I did her justice.

What do you think your main strengths and weaknesses are as an author?

My main weakness as an author is scene set-up. I always feel as if I’m blathering on too long when I’m describing a setting. I’ve been working on this for years and am developing a style that allows me to give snippets of sensory detail rather than dumping it all at once. My strengths are character development and dialogue. I love to give my characters different voices that make them distinct, like Boden’s lack of articles and how he misuses prepositions. I also like that all of my characters are broken in various ways.


From “The Mark of the Phoenix” by Alisha Costanzo

Aderyn chased the headlights across the ceiling and the fleeting feeling of Tatiana’s touch along his skin. He ached. So badly.

Digging the pipe from his satchel, he broke and sprinkled a nugget and burnt it under his thumb. The smoke eased the ache in his shoulders and back, but his chest blistered inside from the fear of rebirth. Of disintegrating into ash and dust. Of painting the cosmos with fire and losing himself.

A long life without love meant little.

Another puff sank his elbows to his knees, numbing limbs and leaving that sucking blackness in the center of his chest.

He deserved the girl.

Another puff.

Didn’t he?

The herb knocked him backwards into the bed, drowning him the lack of attachment he had in this world. What would he leave behind? A vague memory for a woman and a child he would never meet? One that would be hunted down to live the same life as him, wandering alone to cleanse the world with fire?

A hard burden for anyone to carry.

But it was his, and he didn’t want to give it up.


Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of the Blood Phoenix saga, Loving Red and is co-editor of Distorted, Underwater, and After the Happily Ever After. Lucifer’s Daughter, her new novel, is in its creation for a hopeful 2018 release. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

Jaclyn Adomeit, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Jaclyn Adomeit.

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What motivates you to write?

Sheer will. The process of sitting down and typing the first couple words takes all my resolve, but as soon as I’m 100 words in, I’m loving every moment of it.

What do you find to be the easiest thing about writing? What is the hardest?

The best and worst thing is a first draft: the process of spilling out words onto a page and knowing I have all the power to change it and re-write it. Something that is new and visceral. The hardest part is talking about my work, particularly novels. When someone asks me what the novel I am writing is about, I start with the plot and somehow end up giving them a detailed summary of how tractors we distributed in the Soviet Union.

What interesting thing did you learn while writing your last story?

I’ve been doing research on the eastern front of WW2 for a historical fiction piece about teenagers coming of age during the war. There are so many small facts that I’ve found about these unknown (and horrific) things that happened in the war. I’m particularly interested in this group of women called the Brown Sisters. They were a group of nuns loyal to Hitler. They would sneak into Polish villages, steal young children that looked Aryan, and bring them back to Germany to be adopted by wealthy German families. There were thousands of children that were never returned to their Polish families after the war. Thousands of children who never found out that they were adopted. Many of these people are still alive in Germany not knowing that they could have full biological siblings living in across the border Lodz or Wloclawek. All of the small, terrible tales from war are something I could write endlessly about.


From “Red Curtain” by Jaclyn Adomeit

Before the Red Curtain fell, I watched dubbed Chinese cartoons on the old flat screen. We played rock-paper-scissors to see who would ride the bike to get the batteries charged up. Mags’s kid, Arlo, was too young to play, and Mags—even though she was eight years older than me—nearly always chose rock. Dad pitied her. He rode the bike for a whole hour, so we could see thirty-minutes of colour behind the glass. We spouted off Chinese phrases we heard in the cartoons: nǐ hǎo ma and bú kè qì, squawking on endless repeat.

As Dad would pedal, he’d say that he didn’t mind when the lights went down, so did all the cameras.

One cartoon was about Chinese teenagers with spiky, neon hair who travelled to different places in China, explored caves, and saved panda bears with glimmering gadgets. They drank rainforest-safe soda, and the ads featured anti-viral fruit snacks and cruelty-free dolphin jerky.

This one episode, the Chinese kids visited America and toured the rubble-strewn base that was once the Statue of Liberty. They saved school children from the unsafe rides at Disneyland. They climbed the Grand Canyon and met an obese, ruddy-faced family. The Americans marveled at the Chinese kids’ technical gadgets and sleek hair and didn’t bother with the geological beauty.

In my years walking across the country, I’ve seen hundreds of abandoned tanks and crashed fighter jets with the Chinese flag painted on their sides. In Texas, I passed a field marked with intermittent craters and cow carcasses. Land mines last a long time.

The cartoons didn’t show any of that. Not one blown-up road or debris-cluttered runway. The colours on the screen still flash on my eyelids in the dead of night. Not really shapes, but teal and red and blinding pink. Not that I’ll get any sleep tonight. When I look into the fire, I can see them.


Jaclyn Adomeit lives and writes in Calgary, Canada. In her spare time, she dances to old records in the kitchen, befriends stray cats, and attempts to rival her grandmother’s cooking skills. Her fiction has previously appeared in magazines and anthologies including Armchair/Shotgun and After the Happily Ever After. She is currently at work on her first novel.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

J. Lee Strickland, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet J. Lee Strickland.

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Do you Google yourself?

After I Googled myself a few times, I realized there were too many Jim Stricklands in the world. A few years back, I started marketing my fiction writing using my first initial and my middle name, J. Lee Strickland. That change has made all the difference in cyberspace. I’m pleased to see that a search for Jim Strickland still returns some of my older, non-fiction pieces among the politicians, baseball players, and felons.

What is the title of your next story and what will it be about?

Sabbatical, the story of a poet who takes a sabbatical from her teaching job at a California university for a poet-in-residence position at the home of a famous, deceased poet in a run-down, rust belt town in the eastern United States. Culture, esthetics and moral values all come in to play when she befriends a young woman working in a grocery store and plunges into the gritty authenticity of the city’s underclass while juggling a long-distance relationship with her husband and waning enthusiasm for the sterile, self-absorbed poetry of her past.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I always have several projects in progress at the same time. This is not a strategy. It happens because my imagination never lets me rest, but if I get stuck on one story, I can move over to another story and keep writing. Sometimes, I shut down completely. Then I go split firewood.


From “Fire Night” by J. Lee Strickland

I’ll go now to the well. That’s next, like every day. Water no less wet that William’s gone, and drinking no less necessary that no pleasure gives. That plate there on the sideboard needs a rinse and, too, the spoon, like every day.

Tiarella takes the two oak buckets and their yoke from the low shelf beside the door. They seem so heavy, although they hold no water yet. Not quite like every day. The forest canopy is thinner with loss of leaves. The still, brown autumn air, “like stale bread,” William would say, his favorite snack an old crust dipped in beer.

Tee-yah.” Above the trees a circling hawk cries out. “Tee-yah.” Almost like William’s voice calling her name, charged with excitement at some novel find.

She searches for signs of him. The axe rests where he left it beside the splitting stump. His heavy leather gloves hang like some dark animal on the post, the woodshed unfilled. All as it’s been for several days.

A small gray bird patrols the pile of logs.

Unbroken stillness everywhere but there.

The vesper marks the Changing. After sundown, the far hills will bloom with great fires as folks there match the coming cold and dark with light and heat. In past years, she and William climbed to where the rocky outcrop cleared the western trees to watch the far-off flickering display, fire heaped upon fire on hill heaped upon hill. Folks say it is a time when between this world and the other…

Is that where William is…? The other? A sudden gorge of sorrow clamps her throat as if a claw gripped her there.

She leans against the lichen-matted stones circling the well and squints against a tear. They first spoke at her mother’s well, William there to leave a tool he’d fixed.

What tool? She can’t recall more than a vague, long shape in deep-veined hands.

The words were nothing, ordinary things: she, offering a drink; he, grateful, praising Mother’s cherished well. But even then, she knew that he’d return, and she’d be there to greet him. So, they were, like water mixed with water, until now.


J. Lee Strickland is a freelance writer living in upstate New York. In addition to fiction, he has written on the subjects of rural living, modern homesteading, and voluntary simplicity. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sixfold, Atticus Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Workers Write!, Pure Slush, Mad Scientist Journal, Newfound Journal, Jenny, and others. He is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and served as a judge for the 2015 and 2016 storySouth Million Writers Awards. He is at work on a collection of connected short stories vaguely similar in format to the long-defunct American television series Naked City but without the salacious title.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

Tim Jeffreys, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Tim Jeffreys.

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What motivates you to write?

A need for escapism, intellectual stimulation, control perhaps, and – every so often – revenge.

Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time author if you could?

I do have another job working in a small office in a dental hospital four days a week, which you’d think would be fertile ground for horror stories but hasn’t actually inspired any yet.  I would like more time to write, but I’m not sure being a full time writer would be good for me.  I’m the sort of person who needs a reason to get out of the house and mix with people because left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t bother.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Generating ideas.  I write regularly and I don’t wait for inspiration, so I need a constant stream of story ideas. I also write quickly so the ideas in my notebook get burned up pretty fast and I have to come up with more all the time.  Coming up with an original idea that inspires me is the hardest part.


From “Combustible” by Tim Jeffreys

“Wait a minute. Want to see something cool?”

Eun sat back on her heels and gazed up at me. She nodded. “You do cool stuff like your brother?”

“Way cooler than that. Ritchie’s not the only talented one in our family.”

I held out one hand, palm upwards.

Eun stared at it. Her eyes shone in anticipation.

I concentrated as hard as I could. What I attempted was a difficult thing to do on demand. It usually happened when I got emotional—angry or excited or joyful. That was when I had to remind myself—watch out, it’ll happen. The amount of times I had scorched the sheets when in bed with Serena, the amount of times I’d had to rush out the next day and buy new ones to hide what I’d done. Or when we rowed, I had to remind myself to keep my hands balled into fists; and Serena sometimes looked at them as if she thought I was going to hit her.

Sensing that Eun was losing interest, I picked an emotion. Anger. I thought about the time I’d come home and found Ritchie and Serena alone together in the flat. They were fully dressed, sat in the living room on opposite sofas, drinking wine and chatting, but I knew something had gone on. I could feel a weird tension in the air. I could almost smell it.

“Hey, baby brother,” Ritchie said when he saw me, and I knew it from his voice, from his expression, from the too-casual way he sprawled on the sofa. I could see it in Serena’s smile when she looked up. I could see it in her eyes.

Eun fell back on her haunches as a small blue flame leapt up in the centre of my palm. She made a small grunting noise, clawed at the floor, then staggered to her feet. I held out my hand towards her, grinning, but she reared away.

“What you do?”

“It’s a talent of mine. I can make fire in my hand. See?”

Serena’s fears from earlier bloomed again in Eun’s eyes. I closed my hand into a fist, smothering the flame.

“Cool, huh?”


Tim Jeffreys is the author of five collections of short stories, the most recent being ‘Another Shore’. His novella, ‘Voids’, co-written with Martin Greaves was be published Omnium Gatherum Media in 2016.  His short fiction has appeared in various international anthologies and magazines.  He also edits and compiles the Dark Lane Anthologies where he gets to publish talented writers from all over the world.  In his own work, he incorporates elements of horror, fantasy, absurdist humour, science-fiction and anything else he wants to toss into the pot to create his own brand of weird fiction.  Visit him online at www.timjeffreys.blogspot.co.uk.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

Will Waller, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Will Waller.

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What do you find to be the easiest thing about writing? What is the hardest?

By far the easiest thing for me to do is come up with premises for stories to write. The hardest… I don’t know if difficult is really the operative concern, but my biggest fault as a writer is being too easily satisfied. Since I have so many premises, when I finish drafting and editing one, I want to be done. So, sometimes I’m too easily satisfied. Unfortunately, good writing rarely works like that.

What did you edit out of this story?

The mean-spirited parts.

What are you doing to market yourself?

I’m not, really. The audience I have I have because I’m mouthy and opinionated, and because I’ve been part of a few different publications, including The Fantasist Magazine, which I founded and still run with my fiancé. I’ve always been strange, I think, in that I don’t really enjoy talking about my own writing. Working in publishing gives me something else to talk about at the bar at a con, or any other context, really. If that helps me market myself, and I’m not sure it does, it’s really only because people remember me as the odd young person not trying to tell everyone who will listen about his novel.


From “Torch” by Will Waller

This is the story of Stingy Jack:

You’re a blacksmith in a small Irish town. You’re a gigantic fucking asshole, so naturally people try to kill you, but this is a fairy tale, so even with an axe in your back, you get to bargain with the Devil while you both get a pint. You say, “I have a great idea,” and nothing good ever happens after that. There’s a thing with a coin and a plan to steal some souls, then a cross, and it all ends with you getting another year of life. You spend that year having an affair in a small town with a woman who doesn’t tell you she’s already pregnant. After she leaves, the Devil corners you under an apple tree, but you’re still not ready to let it go. Again with the crosses, but this time, you’re stupid. While he’s stuck in that tree, you make him swear to never take your soul. When you try to catch up with the woman, she tells you about her new baby girl. You’re supposed to act like the summer never happened. The pearly gates are closed. She doesn’t want you near her good china. So, you hit bottom and head to Hell to set up shop, but when you get there, the Devil laughs at you. He won’t let you in. You made him swear he wouldn’t, but he remembers your college days, and he has a sense of humor. He sticks some Hellfire in a turnip, so the burning smell can light your way while you wander. He says it’s to help, but the fire carries the memory of the summer, and the memory, with the smell, clings to every new relationship. You fall into old habits and become a shadow of yourself, but the only thing that people see is a hopeful, little light bobbing in a stinky mist. Other people mistake your light for guidance and lose themselves in a swamp they don’t see following your little light. Knowing you’re lost anyway, you wander west, chasing an old college friend, hoping he can set you right.


Will Waller is an author of speculative fiction, scholarship, and experimental writing originally from the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York. After two years in San Francisco spent working as an editor for Eleven Eleven Journal, he relocated to St. Louis to found The Fantasist Magazine. His writing focuses on memory, music, and the weather, and has been featured by Bay Area Generations, Heavy Feather Review, Rivet Magazine, and the On Fire anthology of Transmundane Press.

Follow our Amazon page for On Fire’s release this December 1st!

Sean Padraic McCarthy, a Featured Spotlight


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If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Sean Padraic McCarthy.

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Are you a full-time author? If you have another job, what is it and would you like to become a full-time author if you could?

I’m not a full time author. I work in the mental health field as a human service coordinator. And yes, if I could support myself from writing, I would; although I would like to teach part time.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I’m always working on at least a few stories—and usually a novel—at the same time, so if one stalls, I just jump to another. I also find that writer’s block is much more torturous when thinking about writing; once you go into your writer’s mind—with either pen on paper or fingers on the keyboard—the answers are usually more accessible.

Who is your favorite character in your current story and why?

Both Sophie and Kinsley.  I love Sophie’s heart and innocence, and I love Kinsley’s alertness, practicality and wisdom, and I love the way the two of them look out for each other.


From “A Solstice Memory” by Sean McCarthy

Inside the house the twins stood waiting for me. They’re not identical, but they look alike. Sophie has darker hair, a slightly lazy eye, and freckles on her nose. A little taller. Kinsley is more compact, and more assured. An athlete.

“Dad,” she said.


“That wasn’t a dead cat you were burying this morning.”

“What do you mean?”

She beckoned for me to follow her, and slid open the door onto the back covered deck. Cheryl has always kept the back deck looking nice. A bar, and our grill, a teak dining table. More hanging plants, and potted herbs. And on the side wall of the house hangs a collections of faces. Masks. One, wooden, is a tree spirit, a bearded face in the bark. One is Pan, painted dark green, leaves in his hair. One is a gray stone cherub. And one is from Haiti. A tear drop shaped, with a bone through the nose, eyes in panic, and the mouth locked open in scream. Wild strands of hair, standing on end. My brother-in-law, a sociologist, game me that one. He told me it is very old, and one of kind, probably worth a lot of money, so we probably shouldn’t hang it out here, free to steal, but Cheryl insisted we do, insisted we hang it with the others, so she didn’t have to look at it every day.

Kinsley was already down on the lawn. “Come on.”

I looked at Sophie.

“I’m not going down there,” she said. “Not again.”

Kinsley stopped some twenty feet from the shed, from the pet cemetery.

I caught up.

“Look.” She pointed.

But she didn’t have to.

The hand stuck up from the earth. Rotten and gray. The yellow finger nails clawed at the soil.

“He wants out, Dad,” Kinsley said.

“Well, let’s see if we can stop that.”

“You can’t be burying dead guys in the yard. Mom’s gonna get really mad.”


Sean Padraic McCarthy’s short stories have been published or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, The Hopkins Review, The Indianola Review, South Dakota Review, The Sewanee Review, 2 Bridges Review, Prole, Water~Stone Review,  Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shadowgraph Magazine, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and South Dakota Review among others. His story “Better Man”–originally published in december magazine—was  listed as a “Distinguished Story”  in The Best American Short Stories 2015, he was recently named a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction, and he is a 2016 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowship in Fiction Award. 

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I have been thinking about Ria’s parents for a long time. What their stories are, how they came together to make Ria—the spontaneous meeting that changed the world.

And no, I’m not being dramatic. Although Ria is not the one, she’s the catalyst for the one.

Cue the fake stadium roar that kind of sounds like a ghost instead.

Aderyn proved to be more of a mystery than Tatiana did, but his growth into mortality has made him such an interesting person for me as does his connection with the children in this story.

I rather enjoyed the surprises he’s brought me. So, let me introduce him to you:


New York City was heavy with fog and exhaust as Aderyn Tanguy returned to Tisch Hospital to check on his person of interest. Little Avery’s long limbs reanimated with uncanny energy, but the pale sheen to her dark skin drove suspicion into his gut.

The night before she’d been so close to death that he pulled out every trick he had to keep her heart beating, but he left her weak and steady when her mother arrived for visiting hours. This, however, was miraculous and not his handiwork.

Her wide nostrils flared as he stepped into her new room, closing the door behind him. “Morning, precious. How long have you been awake?”

She blinked at him, long lashes and wild eyes. Her nostrils flared again.

Cachu hwch, he’d given her everything she could handle, but she’d died anyways.

Freshly awake. Must have been. Avery sat with her hands bunched in the white sheets around her lap. Disinfectant and bile lingered in the room. No hints at fresh blood. She hadn’t bitten anyone yet.

Thick canines pressed against her plump mouth as he breached the end of her bed.

“Where’s your mother? Hmm? Had any other visitors?”

Uninhabited hunger dilated her pupils, but she posed him little danger. Vampires rarely attacked healers. Most creatures didn’t. Perks of being a phoenix. The phoenix.

“It hurts.” Her words slurred, saliva sputtering from her thick lips.

“I know it does, precious. I know.”

Her fingers loosened from the sheets, but Aderyn grabbed her face and immobilized her with his gaze. Delving into her mind produced a blur of muted colors and bright red blood. Cold. Sharp. Prickling. Pain. The soft edges of a face passed through her vision before nothingness.

She didn’t remember anything. Just as well.

Aderyn snapped her neck, cringing at the blow that rebounded within him as he laid her back against the white pillows. “Sorry, precious. You didn’t want that life, no way.”

Layers of lemongrass lingered on her pillow, but no other traces were distinct enough to lend to a trail. Pushing back the curtain for the yellowed window. Entrance after he’d left was possible, but no clues. The place was clean, as it should be.

Eyes closed on the way out the door, he’d take the memory of her with him—the one’s full of hope instead of death.

Fog danced with his boots on the streets of lower Manhattan. Four blocks north, he used a payphone to check in, popping a quarter and dialing his handler.

What?” Fury seethed in the breath on the other end of the line.

Why was the big guy answering the phone? “Sir, no go on the mini-human.”


“Minimal.” Aderyn leaned over the payphone box and cleared the smell death from his sinuses with a shift in the air. Lemongrass weaved through wind.

“Stick around.”

The phone clanked dead, and he replaced the receiver.

Not an investigator, Aderyn scouted the street. Beyond the wet gravel and litter, the ghost of other paranormals laced through the human scents.

At his back squatted a small storefront with a sparkling window. Inside, a mane of blonde curls shook and shimmied under the command of two equally pale hands. Her hair shifted to reveal startling blue eyes, lined with extravagant lashes, and guarded by a spattering of freckles. They looked right through him.

Into him.

Her smile rivaled the sun.

And it disappeared before the ching of storefront bells revealed her again.

“Bad news?”

“That obvious?”

An elegant one-shoulder shrug lifted the sage in her hands. “Well, when you have to answer a question with a question, you’re in deeper than you want to be.”

Disposable lighter flicked under her thumb, the sparks refused to light, and he took it from her before he thought not to. Aderyn ignited the fumes spitting from the top.

“Well, you’re handy to have around.” She leaned in, dropping the end of her bundle into the flame and blowing it out to plumes of smoke. Stepping around him, her fingers trailed over his shoulder, and she waved her smudge stick in the corners of the entrance.

Holding the door open, she peeked out. “Pure enough to follow me inside?”

He did.

“Lock the door. My foot traffic doesn’t start until the afternoon.” Smoke circled in on itself as she looped the store and stubbed the stick out gently. “Back here, bad news.”

She disappeared behind a waterfall of beads, fingers catching the cascade like a mating dance. The back was warm and dark, illuminated by Christmas lights. As the heat closed in around them, Aderyn caught the hints of nutmeg and clove.

“Did you want to talk about your trouble?” The space maneuvered him beside her, but she didn’t seem to mind. Her touch danced up his arm, filling his senses like a drug. “Or forget about it?”

The way her thumb brushed his mouth drowned him in hope. This type of thing didn’t happen. Not to him.


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