After hours at the 24/7 Demon Mart – An interview with DM Guay

Let’s welcome DM Guay (“Denise”), author of the wildly inventive “24/7 Demon Mart” series as first official participant in what I’m calling “Out of State Weird.”

In this new series of blog posts I’ll be interviewing upcoming and established indie authors on their Urban Fantasy and Horror Comedy series.

DM Guay - Smirking like she knows more than we do...she does.

Denise was kind enough to be the willing Guinea Pig in what I hope is a successful addition to the site. Thanks, Denise!

First, let’s start by talking about the new series, “24/7 Demon Mart” and the inaugural volume, “The Graveyard Shift.” I’ll let Denise explain it to you.

Martin: What’s your latest book about? Tell us all about it.

Denise: One loser, one karate-shopping bombshell, and one talking cockroach are all that stand between you and hell on earth. That’s the tagline for 24/7 Demon Mart: The Graveyard Shift and that pretty much sums it up. 

It’s a horror comedy novel in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead and Evil Dead 2. I definitely wrote it for geeks like me who enjoy lots of laughs alongside their demon vomit and Lovecraftian beast battles.

Our hero is the hapless Lloyd Wallace, who is a lovable loser in all respects. He’s young, broke, in debt, and has made a lot of questionable decisions that have landed him back at home, living with his (very concerned) parents. He takes a job at the 24/7 Dairy Mart, which transforms into the 24/7 Demon Mart at midnight. He doesn’t really understand that the beer cave is the gateway in and out of hell, or that he isn’t there to stock beer. He’s now part of the border patrol between hell and earth. 

So is DeeDee, the goth girl of Lloyd’s dreams, who is a total karate-kicking badass. And so is Kevin, the night manager. Kevin is a talking cockroach who is also happens to be a huge Ronnie James Dio fan. 

The burning question is will Lloyd—with the help of DeeDee, Kevin, and his guardian angel, who works via Magic 8-ball—choose to be a hero and save the world? Or…not. With Lloyd, it really could go either way!

Martin: This sounds like my kind of story. Are you sure Lloyd doesn’t live in Weird Florida? So, do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Denise: Uh, of course. Hello Easter eggs! Don’t we all? 

Demon Mart is also a tribute to horror comedy and absurdist fiction geeks like me, so there are a ton of subtle and not so subtle references to horror and fantasy movies, video games and books. The story still works if you aren’t into those things, but if you are, it adds a whole other level of comedy to the experience. I’ve sprinkled in bits of Evil Dead 2, Lovecraft, Fido (The Zombie comedy), and of course, Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

But, it’s also got a lot of very personal jokes. The 24/7 Demon Mart series sprang, in part, from the six months I spent working the graveyard shift alone at a Plaid Pantry convenience store in Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s. Dude. You see some weird stuff out there, working the retail front lines from midnight to six a.m. If a demon had popped out of my beer cave? I’m not sure it would have fazed me, because it wouldn’t have been much weirder than the actual humans in the store every night. (I tell some of the wacky real stories in the “Book Sausage” section at the end of every book.)

I can’t help it. There are a ton of my own personal jokes in every story I write. Like, a friend and I have been debating the merits of Ronnie James Dio for about fifteen years now, so that argument was the basis for Kevin’s running commentary about Dio in the book. Pretty much if it makes me laugh out loud? I find a way to put it in there. (Sorry Michael Bolton…)

Because we all need more laughing and silliness in our lives. Real life can be such a downer sometimes, right?

Martin: Lloyd sounds like my kind of guy. Speaking of guys, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

Denise: You honestly stumped me with this one. Because, I’m not sure? Lloyd was a natural voice for me, even though I’m clearly not a 21-year old man. (I think I nailed it, but of course, I could be wrong.)

Lloyd didn’t feel like a stretch for me because I worked in the service industry for most of my teens and early twenties, and I met a lot of Lloyds. (Many of whom are still close friends.) Heck. I have been or felt like Lloyd at different times in my own life. 

At the same time, I definitely don’t think I could write a story from the perspective of an old, grumpy, high-class rich man. But a twenty-something broke guy? Yeah. I’ve been twenty and broke before, and I’ve been around plenty of other people who were twenty and broke. I can relate. 

I’ve also benefited from a lifetime of deep, meaningful friendships with a lot of people who are very different than me. Older. Younger. Richer. Poorer. Urban and rural. Gay, straight and other.  The whole spectrum. I tend to be friends with people who have no filter. We say exactly what we think about everything all the time and why. It’s refreshing, and it’s extra great in my line of work. You get an insight into how people think and feel, which can serve you well not just in writing fiction, but in all parts of your life. It’s all about empathy, right?

Martin: You certainly appear to have everything under control, but I’m guessing like all of us you’ve got your strengths and your weaknesses. What would you say your writer Kryptonite is?

Denise: Well, this could go several different ways. 

If it’s something that stops me dead in my tracks from writing and throws my world into a tailspin, it’s noise. Okay, that sounds weird, but hear me out. I believe, truly, that every person has at least one legit super power. Mine are 1. the ability to fill out forms that make other people’s heads spin. And 2. I have super sonic hearing. As in, I can hear someone breathing two rooms over through a closed door. I’m not even joking. I hear every little noise. So does my Mom. So did her Mom. I think it’s a real, genetic thing. And that would be great if the real world weren’t so effing loud. And if loud noises didn’t rip me right out of the story mid sentence while I’m writing. So yeah… noise. I wear noise-canceling headphones, that aren’t plugged into anything, all day every day. And I can still hear you breathing….

Wait. I should probably be a super villain by this point, because the super hearing is a curse, not a gift.

Now, if it’s something that trips me up in the writing process, it’s the F bombs. Dude. I curse like a sailor. On paper and in real life. I had to remove fifty extra F bombs from the book in the final round of editing. No joke. There’s a point where, if your grammar checker puts “F*ck” as one of your top ten most used words, you have to ask yourself if you’ve sprinkled them in a little too liberally. 

Don’t worry. I did leave a few in there, because if a thousand-eyed beastie from beyond popped out from behind the Pabst Blue Ribbon in your corner store, I doubt you’d choose the polite way to express your fear! But I do have to stop and remind myself that not everybody is as cool with the F bombs as I am.

Martin: Remind me to visit your corner store next time I’m in town. Now, do you have a favorite novel that might be considered under-appreciated, if so, what is it?

Denise: Oh geesh. There are so many gems out there. SO MANY!! 

But, my favorite writer right now is Michael McDowell. He died young, sadly, but left behind a body of horror fiction that is amazing. Like ahhhh-mazing. He wrote mass market horror paperbacks in the 1980s. My favorites are the Blackwater Saga, The Elementals, and Cold Moon Over Babylon. 

This man can seriously write. He was even Stephen King’s favorite writer. McDowell grew up gay in Alabama in the 1950s. He really hits the Deep South out of the park. The settings. Yes. So much yes. He definitely belongs in the ranks of Great Southern Writers.

His books really capture the subtle social relationships between economic classes, races, and inside Deep South families as well. His monsters are also brilliant. Even if you know who and what the monster is, you can’t ever predict what it will do. Heck, part of the time you’re even rooting for the monsters! He can write a Gothic haunted house story that works on a bright hot sunny beach without a cobweb or stormy night. And, he also wrote the screenplays for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, so what’s not to love?

Martin: Deep South? Let me get my banjo and play you the song of my people! As a fellow supernatural writer, what would you consider your spirit animal or mascot and why?

Denise: Oh, boy. Spirit animals. This is the part where most normal humans pick something awesome, like a tiger or a panther or something, because they want people to believe that they are as awesome as those majestic beasts. But let’s be honest here. Most of us are sloths and golden retrievers. Which is great! Don’t hate on the sloths, y’all. There’s no shame in going at your own pace. Own it. 

This question also brings up things like who we want to be versus who we are deep down, even if it isn’t glamorous. So here’s the deal: I’ll tell you who I am deep down, even though it isn’t always the spirit creature I wish I was deep down. 

I have several spirit creatures. 

My spirit muppet is Dr. Teeth because he’s relaxed and chill, but on top of things. He does his own thing, follows his own groove, but when it comes down to it, he’s always got a philosophical answer. Of course, I wish I was as naive and energetic as Gonzo, but no way. I think way too much. Sad but true. So Dr. Teeth it is. 

If I were reincarnated, I would choose to be a sea dragon. Because dude, bobbing with the current, chilling out in a kelp forest all day, is my jam. Plus, the boys have the babies, so I’d never have to be pregnant again. Seriously. Birth is like the chest burster scene in Alien. And, once your belly button pops out like a turkey timer, you’re never getting your abs back. Trust me on this. 

But if I had to pick an animal to represent my current self, it would definitely be a domestic cat. I am so much a cat it isn’t even funny. I love naps and lying in strips of sunlight. I don’t like people messing with me, unless I’m in the mood to be messed with, and then I’ll seek them out. I would totally sleep all day and stay up all night banging around the house if life would let me. And, I like to prowl around the neighborhood, running, taking walks, being in nature. Checking out the birds, bees and butterflies. So yeah. I’m pretty much a house cat. Plus, I like tuna, especially if it’s on a tuna melt.

Martin: Denise, you have been such a fun guest to have on “Out of State Weird.” Thank you for answering my questions.

Denise: Thanks so so much for having me!

You can find DM Guay’s inaugural entry in the wildly inventive “24/7 Demon Mart” series, “The Graveyard Shift” on Amazon.

Buy it, read it, Lloyd needs your help!

Cover the Walls

Desktop

Dead Set is finished. The first book in the Tales of Weird Florida series is complete and sitting in the hallowed halls of Amazon awaiting delivery to readers.

So what am I working on now?

Well, aside from doing a few revisions to book two in the hopes of handing it over to you all by the January/February, I’ve been looking into some way to mark the occasion.

But how best to do that?

I considered getting a copy of the cover printed out and hung up on my wall, but that didn’t really feel like enough. Thankfully Regina (the photographer that took all my photos) recommended printing something on metal.

Metal?

A few internet searches later… Yes, metal. Beautiful colors, super light, amazing pop. Where have you been all my life?

Since we are Weird Florida, I did a little searching to see if there was a local firm I could use, and you know what?

There was.

Enter Matt and the team down at Shiny Prints down in Jupiter, Florida. They took Jake Caleb’s amazing cover and turned it into this.

So much awesome!

Amazing work! Really and truly, these guys knocked it out of the park. Forty-eight hour turn around, shipped FedEx, and absolutely beautiful.

Looking for a way to commemorate your latest release? Matt send me a coupon code for you guys to use. Don’t know how long it will last, but 20% off is 20% off.

CODE: ms20

So go, get yourself a “shinyprint” and mark the moment. You’re worth it!

Martin

On Magick…

The following is an excerpt from the personal archive of Eugene Law, Tampa’s finest—and possibly only—Magician. 

It’s Friday and I’m sitting on a chair in the backyard swatting at mosquitoes. While it’s comfortable and bug free inside, Porter insists I never use these chairs anymore and I plan to prove her wrong. 

Cathy just dropped off a beer from my favorite local brewery and took a minute to point out my terrible handwriting. I feel so blessed to have a teenager to make me aware of these things. Still, the beer has earned her a reprieve.

Please ignore the blood stain on the paper—mosquito number nine sends her regards.

Now, where was I? That’s right! My wife thinks it’s high time I write some of the Magickal world we live in down on paper. 

“You know, should someone else come along and need to make sense of all this crazy stuff you talk about.”

I tried to explain to her that I’d be around to tell them, however she astutely reminded me just how often I narrowly avoid death and dismemberment—hence the reason I’m swatting at mosquitoes writing in this journal.

Anyway, the first thing I thought I’d cover was Magick in general. Yeah, not the rabbit-out-of-hat variety, rather the cosmic powers of the universe stuff. That’s what we Magician’s deal in, and to be honest, there are plenty of days I wish I didn’t have to deal in it, but that’s just life. 

You can’t spend all your time drinking beer—terrible but necessary life rule.

So, right, what was I saying? Magick.

Magick is sort of a spring of power that exists somewhere inside each and every Magician. Yes, some of us call ourselves wizards or witches, but honestly, I don’t go in for that stuff. It’s a little too Hollywood if you ask me. Besides, who would take Eugene the Wizard seriously? Not I.

Now the next logical question you’d have is, how do I make the Magick happen? Do I use some sort of wand?

No. I do not use a wand. Again, it’s not really a hard rule, but I tend to avoid carrying around objects that make me look like an out-of-work conductor for the Florida Orchestra. 

Where was I? That’s right—the Magick.

In order to unlock those cosmic powers and get things humming I’m rather partial to Latin. First, it sounds really good, and second, its rare to meet anyone who knows exactly what it is I’m doing. Sure you get the one off dead language professor who can properly conjugate Latin verbs like a boss, but those are far and few between—I do live in Florida after all.

Anyway, with the words come in the intent, and that’s really all Magick is, my will vs the rest of reality. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it ends in frighteningly concerning results. 

However, that’s a story for another day. Cathy just stuck her head out to tell me dinner is on. It’s taco night, I gotta go!

-Gene

Who writes short shorts?

I write short shorts!

Sorry, I just had to get that out there.

If you haven’t guessed, I am a huge fan of pulp style short fiction, in fact, Tales of Weird Florida was built on the back of a single short story, and while that lovely yarn didn’t place in the contest it was entered in, it quickly took on a life of its own.

Why short fiction?

A few years ago I took a course from Writer’s Digest on Pulp Fiction, it was a great introduction to the genre, and it inspired me to really dig into the concepts of Lester Dent and his pulp model.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me, while I wax a little about the magic of this simple model. Basically, the Lester Dent Pulp Fiction model is a simple, generic formula, that results in very readable, fast-paced, and exciting fiction. I won’t go into the details here, as there are plenty of other places to get the full model (Living Sensical has a great copy here,) but I will go into what I think makes it work, and why.

Lester astutely figured out that many readers (myself included) like to see a story that moves forward, doesn’t get bogged down in the details, and really swings for the fences at the end. In doing so he built his story scaffolding around that concept.

Let’s take a look at the high-level process.

Cut your short story into four sections, each with 1,500 words, and each ending with a twist. Let me give you my take on that.

Part 1

Kick it off fast, you should be in media res here. In other words, that lead character should be pretty darn close to, if not right on top of, the action. Introduce any other characters pretty soon, but do it organically. If the hero is calling for a certain item, perhaps his or her sidekick has it. There should be a sense of impending danger, and you’ll want to make sure this 1,500 ends with a twist. In fact, that’s something you’ll want to focus on for each section, ending with a “gasp” moment.

Part 2

Lester talks about this section as “shoveling more grief on the hero,” and I couldn’t agree more. This is the time to make a bad situation worse. The train is out of control, but the throttle is stuck! Pile to grief on and keep your hero struggling just enough to keep their head above water. Again, you’ll want to end with a twist. For example, they reach fight the throttle back only to discover gravity is pulling them toward the valley, etc.

Part 3 (Empire Strikes Back Part)

This is my favorite part in the Lester Dent model. This is the moment when you let the hero have some success, only to dash their hopes against the rocks like Luke Skywalker losing his hand and his whole world view to his father, Darth Vader. Basically, the hero makes some headway, and it looks like they might pull it out, but it’s this part that sends them spiraling into failure. I’ve always found the key here is to make the trouble and setback bad enough that as a writer you are forced to stop and think. In other words, if it isn’t making you pause, then it might not be bad enough. As Lester says “the hero gets it in the neck, bad.” So, get them in the neck!

Part 4

In the final 1,500 we find our hero is such bad shape there’s no way they can get out, but, as the writer, we find a way. The hero has to solve the dilemma on their own, or largely on their own. This isn’t the time for the cavalry to ride in, or the marines to show up, this is the time for the hero to think up (or muscle up) a solution. This is also where you have your last twist, and you get to flex your writing muscles with a nice “snapper ending.” Your goal is to create resonance. You want to ring your reader’s bell such that the story is stuck in their head for a little while (and you hope just long enough for them to tell others.)

That’s the Lester Dent model, and I am so appreciative he took the time all those years ago to write it down, and others before me took the time to place it on the internet. You’ll find that basically every Tales of Weird Florida short story follows the model.

Thanks, Lester! I owe you one.

-Martin

One man’s trash is another man’s…

Sewing Machine

I get a lot of questions about how I come up with the wild and crazy ‘Magickal’ items that make up the Tales of Weird Florida universe. It’s simple, for the most part each and every item has had some impact on my life growing up.

It all started when I was very young. My grandfather was a depression era gentleman with a penchant for collecting ‘almost working’ items from anyone who would part with them. It started small, as most obsessions do, but soon grew to unbelievable dimensions. In the beginning he had a two car garage you could get two cars in, but in short order one car was relegated to the driveway, and it didn’t take twelve months before the second joined the first.

The garage continued to expand. The floors consumed by half-filled paint cans, upon which antique tables sat, precariously stacked high with sewing machines, toasters, old speakers, and all manner of cutlery in various stages of rust removal (and addition.)

As I got older I was allowed to accompany the man on his visits to the various flea markets that pockmark the state like good Swiss cheese. As a young boy it was a larger than life experience. My grandfather was a well known figure at many of the larger shows, and there was always someone there with a box of something ‘you just gotta see.’ I’d grow up to learn that most of what he filled his garage with was worthless, but as a kid it was a treasure of untold worth.

I think that’s why Tales of Weird Florida includes the artifacts it does. All of them came from ‘Walt’s Garage,’ and to me, every one of them was magic in its own way.

While he’s not with me any more, I like to think he would appreciate the legacy I’ve given his treasures.

Q & A with Eugene Law

An old Mazda pulls into the parking lot and I have to hurry. I’ve known Gene for a few years now and that means I know he hasn’t had his coffee yet. A quick wave gets me the waitress’s attention. The look on her face tells me she’s seen his car too and is already off to prep the jet black rocket fuel my favorite Magician enjoys.

Martin: Morning, Gene. How are you doing this fine day?

The mid-aged father of two takes a seat at the table across from me, running a hand over his pre-dawn stubble, and trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes.

Gene: I’m here, Martin. Not that I really had a choice. Really would have loved an extra hour of sleep, you know.

Martin: I bet, if I recall correctly, you’ve got to get the kids to school soon, right?

Gene: You’re the one telling this story, but yeah that sounds about right. Listen, while you’re at it, any chance I could get you to tell me what to get Porter for our anniversary? I can’t help shake the feeling I really screwed that up last year.

Martin: You did, but I’ll make this year’s more memorable.

Gene: Oh, great, and now I’m sure that’s going to mean terrible things in my future. Thanks, Martin.

I shuffle up my notes for an anniversary short and thank my lucky stars when the waitress arrives with Gene’s coffee.

Martin: So Gene, our readers have a few questions. Would you mind?

Appropriately mellowed with his black coffee, my favorite Magician nods.

Gene: Sure, shoot.

Martin: Great! All right, our first question comes from a reader from upstate New York. She writes, ‘Gene, I’m a big fan. How do you juggle being a dad with all of the challenges of Magick in the Sunshine State? Don’t you ever worry about your kids?’

Gene: Simple. You screw up a lot. Seriously, I’d say it all comes down to compartmentalization, when you’re with the kids, you try to make it all about the kids. When you are out in the real world and some Shade from the fifth circle of Hell is trying to chew your face off, then you focus on that. To say I have a plan would really not be fair to planners everywhere. I prefer to think of it as a loose set of guidelines. First, focus on what’s in front of you. Second, don’t let it cut your fingers off and snack on them like jalapeño poppers, and third, make time for your family, because without them you really don’t have anything to speak of.

Martin: That’s a great answer.

Gene: Well, I’m glad you liked it, you came up with it.

Martin: Oh, right. Let me grab another question. This one I hear all the time. A reader from Maine asks ‘I love your relationship with Porter. How did you two meet?’

Gene: Crazy story. We met in college. It was right about the same time I was trying to disentangle myself from Morgan Crowley and–

Martin: Whoops, hold on Gene. That’s the entire plot of ‘Gathering Gloom,’ the second book in the Tales of Weird Florida series. We can’t let you give that up before they get a chance to read it.

Gene: Really? Did you get it all in there? Shorty the talking shrunken head? My old roommate, Ed Lovely? What about the–

Martin: Yes, I got it all. Now, let me jump ahead to the next question. A reader from Orlando writes, ‘Do you ever leave Tampa? Florida has a lot of great nooks and crannies, any chance you visit more of them?’

Gene: All the time. I know for a fact I spent way too much time in the Green Swamp trying to survive Alligator Men, a Darkling, and–

Martin: Whoa there, buddy. That’s the plot of ‘Beaten Path,’ the third book in the Tales of Weird Florida series. We don’t need to cover that today, our readers will get that one early 2020.

Gene: What? I suppose you’re also going to tell me I can’t talk about Miami, Viktor, Delia, and the Flock?

Martin: Nope. That’s ‘Bloody Deed,’ also coming out in 2020.

Gene: We’ve had a hell of a run, haven’t we?

Martin: Right, Hell. That’s ‘No Fury,’ also coming out in 2020. Would really appreciate it if you didn’t share any spoilers from that one.

Gene: Oh, right. Well, is there anything else I can answer for you before I have to get the kids to school?

I shuffle through the questions, more than half of them would result in tons of spoilers for future books.

Martin: Wow, uh. Hmm. I guess we’ll end with a personal question. What’s the best place to get a beer in Tampa?

Gene: Easy. Coppertail. Go get an Unholy and tell them I sent you, but watch out for Migel’s garage and the Skeet–

Martin: That’s enough spoilers, Gene. You’ve gotta get the kids to school, and I’ve got to get these books out.

Gene: You got it, author man. Thanks for the coffee, next time not so early.

Autumn Nights: 13 Spooky Fall Reads and how they came to be…

Books in a library
Available now on Amazon

So, a few months ago I get the call. I’m hip deep in revisions for ‘Gathering Gloom’ and can barely see straight, when the loving and highly talented KA Miltimore reaches out to me on Twitter and asks if I’d be interested in joining on as an author for the ‘Autumn Nights: 13 Spooky Fall Reads’ anthology.

For those who don’t know, KA is the author of a very interesting and enjoyable series of paranormal cozy mysteries. (Find me a better Urban Fantasy series with a Chinchilla, I dare you!)

Be careful, reading this will make you hungry…

She put me in touch with the always lovely and highly motivated Cassandra Kim. Cass is the author of the unique and wholly different take on the ‘half-pocolypse’ that is “Wilders.”

Come for the unique premise, stay for the monsters!

In a remarkable twist of fate, both women were willing to take a chance on me and allow the inaugural Tales of Weird Florida story, “Magician’s Weekend” to grace the pages of Autumn Nights.

Magician’s Weekend: Insanity is a pizza pie best served cold, or at least that’s how it’s going to be by the time Eugene Law gets to it. A quiet evening without the family turns into a madcap parade of critical rolls and saving throws in this tale of Weird Florida.

I could not be more thankful to have been a part of the anthology, but also to have met so many great writers.

I would like to extend a very special thanks to the following members of the Autumn Nights team that I am very glad to have met.

Special Authors

KA Miltimore – Thank you for taking the gamble, and for getting me off the bench and out on the field.

Cassandra Kim – Thanks for including me, and for being equal parts den mother and fierce badger of courage. You wrangled fourteen authors into a loosely focused amoeba of confusion that somehow moved forward in spite of our selves, for that alone you deserve sainthood.

Edison T. Crux – Mr. Cover Art, and my personal Ned Flanders. Edison is a man’s man, a great person and overall true soul.

There’s more to Wisconsin than beer and cheese…

So, if you haven’t already, take a minute to check out these authors, and to grab a copy of Autumn Nights. I think you’ll like what you find…

Martin