Christmas Takeover 16: Steve Thompson: ‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

A Story by Steven Thompson
220 words

“Did you call that number I gave you?” Ted asked

“Yea, the damn line’s been busy all day.”

“Well I suppose, ’tis the season and all that crap, but they are the best at what they do. Keep trying.”

“Yea, yea I will,” John said, “but are you sure they can help me with this?”

“Look, they’re fantastic, and will advise you how to do it right the first time, and if you don’t think you can pull it off on your own, they’re more than happy to come and assist you.”

John reached for his phone and dialed the number again.

“It’s ringing.”

I’m sorry, due to a higher than normal volume of calls all our agents are busy. Please remain on the line and an agent will be with you shortly. The annoying robotic voice squaked at John.

“It’s a recording, I’m on hold.”

“Stay on the line, you don’t want to lose your spot in the queue.”

John laid the phone down and put it on speaker and Burl Ives sounding like he was stuck in a tin can began singing Holly Jolly Christmas.

“Can’t you help me with this Ted?”

“I can’t, you know that. They have a license for this and I don’t.”

It’s a holly jolly Chris…

“It’s ringing again.”

“Merry Christmas, Suicide Hotline.”

Steve Thompson is the author of two short and flash fiction collections. You can check out his 2 latest short stories “Kill Point Club” in the anthology When the Clock Strikes 13 from his In Your Face Publishing that he started in June 2019 and “Malignant” which he co-wrote with Kenneth W. Cain which is in the Shallow Waters 2 flash fiction anthology by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Kenneth W. Cain

Meghan: Hi, Kenneth. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Kenneth W. Cain: Yes, it has, and thank you so much for having me again. It’s been a busy year, not unlike last year, but different. I’ve taken on more editorial work as of late, working for some new publishers like In Your Face Publishing and Silver Shamrock Publishing. There’s some good opportunities coming for writers out there, so stay tuned.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Kenneth W. Cain: That’s a difficult question, as I’m not sure I really know anymore. I’ve been doing a bit of soul-searching on that question as of late, actually. I like to think I’m a good listener, in part because I care about most everyone I meet. I’m a bit of a bleeding heart, and I believe in treating people as I would have them treat me, so I strive to respect people, even when that favor isn’t returned. I guess I’m just a bit of an old hippie.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Kenneth W. Cain: Nervous. I’ve made huge strides in my writing career, yet that has never changed. I often feel ashamed of my writing, that it’s lacking too much, that I’m a hack. It’s quite difficult to turn that off, the critic, but that’s likely also part of why I’m making those leaps to begin with.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Kenneth W. Cain: Well, it’s both. It takes a lot of talent to write something good, so I have the utmost respect for anyone who does. But it’s not a great paying gig, so in that respect it’s a curse. And people can fling a 1-star review at you in seconds, after months (maybe years) of hard work. Also, it’s hard to turn off. I’m ALWAYS thinking about writing. ALWAYS.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Kenneth W. Cain: I grew up in more of sports-related family. It was expected I would be playing Major League Baseball by now, but that wasn’t in the cards for one reason or another. I guess I’m lucky I took an interest in writing when I did, or I might not have that to rely on. It’s been the best job I’ve had, though my boss is always nagging me. ☺

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Kenneth W. Cain: I was actually just thinking about this the other day. Someone asked on Facebook or Twitter and it got me thinking. I’m not really sure. I’ve researched an ungodly amount of harrowing topics, but perhaps my research on Nazi Germany was the most terrifying. I wouldn’t say strange—not at first—but things pop up that shock the hell out of you. Then, next thing you know, you’re diving down a rabbit hole for hours on end, jotting notes about this and that, wondering if there’s a story there.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Kenneth W. Cain: The beginning. Most stories start in the wrong place, so that’s the first challenge.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’m a pantser, so I’m always flying by the seat of my pants. That means I know as much as the reader, and I do think that helps me determine whether a scene is working or not at times.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Kenneth W. Cain: I celebrate. Tear down the walls. Draw outside of the lines. Be different. It’s a lot like real life, unpredictable at times, as it should be. We should celebrate our differences. Grow from them. Same with our characters.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Kenneth W. Cain: I sit and write. Nothing more to it. Though, without my morning coffee, I might be lost.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Kenneth W. Cain: Slow, but yes. I’m always listening to podcasts that have stories or audiobooks, or reading my Kindle, and I’m typically editing at least one book by another writer, so there’s that too. I wish I was a faster reader though, because I’m ungodly slow, and my TBR pile is through the roof.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Kenneth W. Cain: I like reading in my genre mostly, but I like self-help books and Sci-Fi. Space operas and such.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Kenneth W. Cain: Some work, most don’t. People will crucify me for this, but I thought The Count of Monte Cristo was better than the book. Same with The Postman.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Kenneth W. Cain: Too often, I suppose. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice. I’m currently shopping a novel where the main characters all die somewhere in the middle of the story. Don’t worry. It will make sense when you finally read it.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Kenneth W. Cain: Absolutely. Suffering is part of life. It’s part of growth. We learn from our mistakes. Our characters are no different.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Kenneth W. Cain: I recently wrote a flash piece from the POV of a tree. I guess that’s kind of strange.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve had a lot of great writers pay me compliments, and that’s been humbling. Very much so. But I try not to focus on those things, as they can distract from growing as a writer. But if I had to pick one, it was being compared to Matheson. I mean, that’s pretty awesome for me. Not so much for him.

The worst was an early rejection that informed me I should never write again. And I almost listened to her, too. Her rejection has a lot to do with how I carry myself in this industry now. It was a highly unprofessional response.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Kenneth W. Cain: I love to hear from them. Love to get notes, reviews, blog posts. It’s overwhelming. I’m completely honored anyone is taking the time to read my writing.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Kenneth W. Cain: Ig from Joe Hill’s Horns. He’s just a well-rounded character. I feel like I really got to know him better than most characters.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Kenneth W. Cain: Koontz’s Frankenstein series. First off, I LOVE the original. Shelley was a master. Second, it’s an awesome series with some really cool concepts.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve been asked to collab with a few, but haven’t gotten into it so much. It could be fun, and I’d like to try it, but the writing styles would have to gel. And the personalities. My list would be long as to who I’d like to collab with. A better question might be, who wouldn’t I want to collab with?

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Kenneth W. Cain: If I can sell everything I’m shopping around right now, you’re looking at two new short story collections, a novella, two novels, and several short stories (a couple of which have already been sold). October saw two of those short stories out, though one is a reprint for a charity anthology.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kenneth W. Cain: All my social media links are on my website. Check it out. Stay a while.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Kenneth W. Cain: Mostly, thank you for having me… again. And to all my readers, I’d say what I always say: Pleasant nightmares.

Kenneth W. Cain is a prolific author with four novels, four short story collections, four novellas, and several children’s books among his body of work. He is the editor for Crystal Lake Publishing‘s Tales From the Lake Volume 5 and When the Clock Strikes 13. The winner of the 2017 Silver Hammer Award, Cain is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association, as well as a volunteer for the membership committee and chair of the Pennsylvania chapter. Cain resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Steve Thompson

Meghan: Hi, Steve. Welcome to the new Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Steve Thompson: I live in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada with my girlfriend, Lisa. I recently retired from my day job as a housekeeping supervisor at our city hospital after 30 years of service. I’m now dunking my foot into the unknown depths of the publishing world and hoping I don’t drown. I have 8 pets at home, 4 dogs and 4 cats that take up a large part of my day. 3 of those dogs are Boston Terriers and one is a Chorkie, and never in my life did I ever think I could love any animal as much as those dogs; the cats, well, they’re just evil.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Steve Thompson: 1- I never graduated from high school because I was given the choice to quit or get kicked out 3 months before graduation. 2 – Most people know I am scared of heights, What they don’t know is if I get into a situation that I am up too high, I need to get down ASAP, even if it means jumping and I don’t know what is the greater fear, the heights or wanting to jump to get out of that situation. 3 – When I was 15, I broke into a portable classroom and peed in the desk drawer of a teacher I didn’t like because he bullied a lot of his students. 4 – When I was nine or ten years old I loved to burn things with a magnifying glass; plastic car models, the long grass in the fields next to our house and insects, I burned a lot of insects, and I didn’t turn out to be a serial killer. Got 4 out of 5.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Steve Thompson: The Stand by Stephen King

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Steve Thompson: Finishing up In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland with Jeff Strand’s Five Novellas on deck.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Steve Thompson: Jackie Collin’s Hollywood Wives. I read this back in the 80’s because it was the only book in the house at the time that I hadn’t already read.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write?

Steve Thompson: Reading Stephen King books is what turned me on to reading and writing.

Meghan: When did you begin writing?

Steve Thompson: About 25 years ago, but mostly it was just farting around, writing short stories for myself and some friends. I only started to take writing seriously about 6 years ago.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Steve Thompson: In my computer room/library.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Steve Thompson: Nope.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Steve Thompson: Everything, but mostly it’s the show don’t tell I struggle with but it is getting better the more I write. Also keeping my focus on one story at a time. Right now, I have 7 short stories that are half done and I keep jumping back and forth between them, writing a line or 2 on one story than a line or 2 on another.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Steve Thompson: That would be my short story “Kill Point Club” from the anthology When the Clock Strikes 13. It was a fun story to write and I had a great time with it. I used the names of some of the other authors in the anthology as characters and then killed them off. Fun Times.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you?

Steve Thompson: The Stand by Stephen King, Animosity and Odd Man Out by James Newman. These are the only books I can remember ever pissing me off to the point I almost threw the books across the room and to make me shed a tear.

Meghan: Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Steve Thompson: Stephen King, James Newman, and Richard Laymon to name a few.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Steve Thompson: Believable characters that grow on you and you care what happens to them, because if you don’t care the story just feels flat and lifeless. If something happens to a character, I want to be able to feel something for them and not just Johnny fell off a bridge and drowned and think who cares I wish they would all fall off a bridge and drown so this story would end.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character?

Steve Thompson: Again, I’ll say believable characters. Characters you can relate to and it doesn’t matter whether you love them or hate them as long as you feel something.

Meghan: How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Steve Thompson: I try to make my characters as real as possible, I use characteristics from people I know or myself and then throw in a few quirks.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Steve Thompson: There’s a little piece of me in all my characters, so there really isn’t just one that is most like me.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover?

Steve Thompson: No, bad covers don’t turn me off. There’s a ton of great books out there with crap covers. It’s what’s inside that counts.

Meghan: To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Steve Thompson: I had pretty much full control on my book covers for better or worse, except for When the Clock Strikes 13. I wanted all the authors involved to be ok with the cover before I finalized it.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Steve Thompson: I learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Steve Thompson: There was a rape and torture scene in my short story “Pearl” that was hard to write and I ended up cutting most of it out because it was too graphic. I still got some flak for it from a few readers telling me they didn’t like what happened to the girl and I would just reply well, you’re not supposed to like it and if you did, I’d think there was something wrong with you.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Steve Thompson: I don’t really know, but all my stories are written in a very simple form that anyone can understand. You definitely don’t need a dictionary beside you to read one. Nothing takes me out of a story faster than not knowing the meaning of some words.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Steve Thompson: The title is very important and can sometimes be hard to choose the right one. I try to make the title reflect what is inside the book.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Steve Thompson: I have never written a novel or novella for that matter; I love short stories. Reading them and writing them.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Steve Thompson: My short story collections are a mix of sci-fi and horror with one collection having a few non-fiction stories in it from periods of my life that have stuck with me. I just hope readers will enjoy the stories. If only one person likes the story, I still call that a win.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Steve Thompson: I tend to ramble on at times and then delete most of it.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Steve Thompson: Body parts. Just kidding. Or am I. Actually, I’m thinking about turning one of my short stories (Johnny Dewitt) into a novella.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Steve Thompson: Right now, I am working on a short story collection and hopefully going forward with a signed limited-edition chapbook with one of my favorite authors.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Steve Thompson: Amazon, Facebook, and In Your face Books.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Steve Thompson: I would like to thank you for doing this interview with me, my very first one, and thanks to everyone that read it until the end.

Steve Thompson is the author of two short and flash fiction collections. You can check out his 2 latest short stories “Kill Point Club” in the anthology When the Clock Strikes 13 from his In Your Face Publishing that he started in June 2019 and “Malignant” which he co-wrote with Kenneth W. Cain which is in the Shallow Waters 2 flash fiction anthology by Crystal Lake Publishing.

When the Clock Strikes 13

Tick – tock 
Tick – tock 
Tick – tock

Your time is running out. When the clock strikes 13, all manners of hell will break loose.

When the Clock Strikes 13 is a collection of thirteen short horror stories by some of the best horror and dark fiction authors writing today. Inside, you will find stories to frighten, shock and gnaw at your inner fears, and take you places that belong only in the dark recesses of your mind. There are monsters on these pages; some are human, some are not. 

Table of Contents 
Introduction by Joe Mynhardt 
“The Boy in the Pond” by Mark Allan Gunnells 
“Open Waters” by Richard Thomas 
“Memories” by John R. Little 
“Detrition of War” by Kenneth W. Cain 
“Comes the Red Man” by Tom Deady 
“Mommy’s Girl” by Somer Canon 
“Taking Up Carpentry” by Justin M. Woodward 
“Kill Point Club” by Steve Thompson 
“Calm Down Time” by Richard Chizmar 
“Carrion: My Wayward Son” by James Newman 
“Bear” by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason 
“When Arachnids Attack” by Sheri White 
“A Song Above” by Glenn Rolfe 
Afterword by Steve Thompson