Kenneth: Embers is a bit of a big deal for me in that Crystal Lake Publishing decided to take on the project. It’s a collection of 25 short stories, 3 of which are reprints. And while the stories aren’t related in any obvious way, there’s a thread that runs through them all the same. It’s slight, but it’s there.
Sharon: Do you prefer to read short horror stories or horror novels? Is writing short horror stories easier than a horror novel?
Kenneth: I read both actually, as well as listen to several podcasts that feature short stories. Typically I listen to podcasts or audiobooks while I ride my bike or mow the lawn, pretty much any chance I get. I’m a slow reader, so I often read short stories at the same time I read a longer works.
For me, the process is quite similar. Though I came out of the gates with a trilogy, I’ve learned quite a bit since then. I write what gels at the time, and I don’t worry about length. Letting my characters choose their lives is an important part of my current process, so I’m merely along for the ride. Sometimes that’s a short and quick hit, such as the stories in Embers. Other times it’s a long journey, which might require more time to finish and edit to make everything sync. I think in my case it’s the editing that takes the longest, so perhaps a novel length work is slightly more difficult in that way.
Sharon: What kind of biking do you do? Are you talking motorcycle or bicycle? Where do you like to ride?
Kenneth: Ha! I wish a motorbike, but my wife would kill me. It’s only a stationary bike to break up sitting around in a chair all day. I had some chronic pain issues for a long time that kept me mostly stationary, but I’ve gotten those somewhat under control now. So I’ve been riding that stationary bike in hopes of getting back in shape. It’s a long and slow process, but it affords me some time to read or listen to an audio-book.
I have a mountain bike, too, which I sometimes take out in the summer. But we’ve only lived in this house for two years, and it sits atop a steep hill, so I’ll have to work up to that. I’m getting there, though.
Sharon: You have two other collections. Tell us about the covers. Did you come up with that freaky little concept? (Tales collections)
Kenneth: It’s kind of a funny story actually. I’d given up on writing and asked my wife Heather what I should with all “these old tales” which had been accepted at a press that went defunct. And it struck me then what to do with them. But Heather couldn’t have been more supportive at the time, though she didn’t like the idea of me giving up on my dream.
Originally I had some poetry thrown into the collection, basically anything I felt had some significance, and I hired this great cover artist, Philip R. Rogers, who I knew from the forums of that defunct press. I had this scene in mind with the play on tales/tails, and I was pretty specific about what I wanted for the cover art. Philip nailed the artwork, which made it easier for me to apply the graphic design I wanted.
Truth is I wouldn’t have come back to writing if it weren’t for Gene O’Neill, who left a message on my Facebook wall about how much he enjoyed the These Old Tales. Gene is one of the nicest writers I’ve met in this business, a truly inspiring guy and great writer. Since then, the poetry has been removed and the stories edited a couple times. But that process led to Fresh Cut Tales.
I’d gained a little confidence when I started Fresh Cut Tales. My only goal was to improve on These Old Tales, and I think I even mention that in the notes at the end of the collection. Anyway, I went into this one wanting the same play on tales/tails, but I thought the elegance of a rose in a vase would separate that cover from the last. The dead rose was sort of a play on beauty in death. It’s somewhat more frightful than the first cover in a way. Anyway, I hired Paul Michael Anderson to edit the collection and went out looking for blurbs. Among others, Mort Castle was kind enough to offer something, which I still very much appreciate. Mort has also been quite inspiring in my short career. He gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with Embers.
Sharon: Do you think the modern horror fan is desensitized by the constant use of gore, so stories like on The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock don’t have the same impact like they did?
Kenneth: My daughter will watch horror films with me now and then, and she’s quite desensitized to the gore. It’s interesting for me to see her reactions, how they differ from my own. In fact, we watched several episodes of The Twilight Zone together, and she didn’t think them scary at all. She did like the plot twists and overall enjoyed the first season. So, in a way, yes—I do think readers have seen the gore to no end and have become slightly desensitized to it.
But there’s always that sense of wonder in people, a need to know what makes things tick. When we see horrific things on the news, we can’t help but wonder what made that person commit such terrible crimes. It’s that curiosity where stories like those depicted in The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond exist. For instance, I do think many of us wonder what comes next, so it’s fun to play on the afterlife and speculate what that could be, even if it’s just slowly decomposing in a bed of worms.
Sharon: Great point about the curiosity… What was the last good horror movie you’ve seen?
Kenneth: My daughter started watching horror movies with my wife and I a couple years back. So she picks a lot of what we watch in that regard. The last one we caught was Sinister. My daughter is big on the jump scares, and Heather is terrified of most everything in those movies. Sometimes I’ll slam my hand down on the couch right when the music gets tense to scare them. It’s good for a few laughs.
Sharon: Finish this song lyric: I’m too sexy for my_______.
Kenneth: Lawn chair.
Sharon: Sticking with the music theme, what group(s) would you pick to create a soundtrack for Embers?
Kenneth: I’m so fond of Pink Floyd. I love their body of work and all the solo albums, so I guess I would choose Roger Waters. He’s always had a sort of vision I admire, his ability to move people with music. Though David Gilmour’s guitar can really convey emotion, so maybe I’d pick him. Wow, this is a tough question. Either way, I’d really want something atmospheric and filled with emotion.
Sharon: I’m a Floyd fan too! Saw them in concert back in the 90s. They have a haunting sound as opposed to a heavy metal sound.
Kenneth: They’re my favorite band. I’ve seen them three or four times without Waters. Heather and I have seen Waters on tour six times. We’re hoping to catch his tour this year, too.
Sharon: Do you have a hobby or collect anything?
Kenneth: I’m a huge fan of baseball, especially the St. Louis Cardinals. So I collect baseball cards and other memorabilia. I also collect books I’ve really enjoyed. Perhaps my most passionate hobby, though, would be my reef tanks. I spend much of my free time tending to them.
Sharon: Cool! Beautiful tank. My husband keeps a salt water fish tank (90 gal) We like the Braves. Been to many Cardinal’s games?
Kenneth: Thanks. I’ve been in and out of saltwater tanks for 30 years. It’s quite the rewarding hobby. There’s nothing like taking a break and checking out the fish and corals. I’ve only recently started selling homegrown corals on the side.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and the Cardinals were close by, so you’d think I would’ve caught a bunch of games. But I think I saw them once or twice back then. Nowadays I try to catch a game or two whenever they’re in town. I also subscribe to MLB.TV, so I’m able to watch most of their games if I want.
Sharon: Truth or Dare?
Katie: Have you ever eaten food resting on the top of a trash can?
Kenenth: A donut, once. But I was pretty hung-over, if that makes it sound any better. It was a dare in fact.
Sharon: If you could have any piece of art in the world, what would you pick?
Kenneth: This one is another tough question. I have a BFA in fine arts, so I’ve seen so many great works from so many different artists. I love strolling through an art museum, taking it all in. I have the added benefit of living close enough to the Barnes Foundation to have visited it on several occasions. The Barnes features works by so many great well-known artists that you find in books in most cases. But go big or go home, right? So I’d pick The Moses by Michelangelo. There’s something so mesmerizing about that statue.
Sharon: Nice choice…where would you place it?
Kenneth: Heather would skin me alive, but I’d figure out someway to fit it in my office. One way or another I’d get it in there.
Sharon: What is your favorite dipping sauce? What is your favorite thing to dip?
Kenneth: It’s not good for me, so I don’t have it often, but I love this Mango Habanero sauce from Dominoes. I’ll dip anything from crackers to hot wings in that sauce.
Kenneth: Since I’ve already experienced a swarm of bees I guess I’ll go with a good mauling by a bear.
Sharon: Please, elaborate!
Kenneth: Years ago I met this woman who was a big hiker. So I asked her out on a date and when she said yes, I took her to a local lake for a stroll around the perimeter. I’d brought along an old machete for brush, and at some point we came to a spot at the far end of the lake that was fully blocked. There I was hacking away at the shrubs, trying to make an opening, when I spotted a hive. I don’t think I’ve ever run faster. I tried to lose them by diving into the lake, but with the water being only a few inches deep, that didn’t do much more than bruise up my body. I abandoned the lake and handed my date a limb, thinking she could use the branch to scrape the dozen or so remaining bees off my back. She nearly beat me to death with that limb. I can’t help but laugh thinking back now, as it was quite the humorous adventure. Pretty easy to see why we never went on a second date, isn’t it?
Sharon: Coke or Pepsi?
Sharon: *Leaves the room. Cursing heard. Enters room again. Glares. Eats Moon pie*
Sharon: Night owl or early riser?
Kenneth: Unfortunately, I’m a bit of both. I’ve never slept well, so it’s always a bit of a struggle for me. It feels like wasted time. Imagine all we could accomplish if we didn’t have to sleep.
Sharon: Scooby Doo or Cujo?
Kenneth: Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could combine those two? I guess if I had to choose, I’d go with Scooby.
Sharon: Yes! How about a Jekyll and Hyde version…? He would change whenever he got a Scooby snack.
Kenneth: Ha! Now that sounds fun.
Sharon: bionic arm or bionic eye?
Kenneth: I grew up watching the Six Million Dollar Man, and he had both, of course. But who hasn’t struggled with a jar of pickles or the like? So I guess I would go with the bionic arm.
Sharon: Me too! I was thinking of Steve Austin when I asked this.
Kenneth: I loved that show as a kid and recently showed my son the whole Bigfoot fight scene. He looked at me like I was crazy. I guess some shows hold up better in our memories.
Sharon: Alien or Predator?
Kenneth: Another tough choice, but I’ll go with Predator.
Sharon: crushed ice or cubed?
Do you have a link to a free short story online?
I’m currently giving away my novella Jade for those who sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/caUofP
Also, here’s a link to an excerpt from “In The Shadow of The Equine,” which is a story that’s in Fresh Cut Tales. It starts after the short essay I wrote for the Horror Writers Association’s Halloween Haunts event: http://horror.org/halloween-haunts-2013-equine-anatomy-by-kenneth-w-cain/
$.99 kindle: http://amzn.to/2nIxjZV
$.99 kindle: http://amzn.to/2nIxjZV
Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction
by Kenneth Cain
From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain’s soul.
In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown. For instance, “The Chamber” focuses on a hardened veteran of World War II who has committed heinous crimes. He seeks only to find peace from his conscience, but sometimes that comes at a great loss. “Valerie’s Window” visits a small town amid a tragic end to humanity. Only things are not as they seem, and the more Valerie comes to know herself, the more her reality is revealed. “The Benefit of Being Weighty” has a humorous side, but the theme of this story revolves around fat shaming and the price one must pay for being so ignorant. Hopefully, these three short descriptions have increased your curiosity to read the book.
When the dark comes, light a match. Let the fire burn bright and hot. So that when it dies the embers warm you.
Table of Contents:
• The Chamber
• “Valerie’s Window”
• “A Window to Dream By”
• “Each New Day Unknown”
• “Under the Drift of Snow is Another World”
• “Blackbird’s Breath”
• “Lost in the Woods”
• “Final Breaths”
• “Flocking Birds”
• “To Save One Life”
• “Of Both Worlds”
• “Breathing Cave”
• “Soul Tapped”
• “The Water People”
• “Water Snake”
• “Buried Beneath the Old Chicago Swamps”
• “The Bad Men”
• “Strip Poker, Crabs, and Blue Women”
• “The Benefit of Being Weighty”
About the Author:
Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since.
Cain is the author of The Saga of I trilogy, United States of the Dead, the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales, and the forthcoming Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.
an ecopy of Embers
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