Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview with Terry Phillips

On to our next Silly Tree author interview. This time we talked with Terry Phillips. His story, “Gemini Wraith”, is a tale of the true evil of which humans are capable. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did.

1. When did you start writing professionally?

Probably about five minutes ago now.

Seriously though, Gemini Wraith will be my first published work, and whilst I have been writing for many years and have long dreamed of moving into the sphere of professional writing, it’s only within the last year I finally pushed all the lame excuses aside and have started pursuing it seriously.

I’m still yet to discover whether I shall be successful in pursuit of my goal, but at least I won’t be left wondering “what if” in 20 years time.

2.     What inspired your story for the Silly Tree anthology?

The story is actually a prelude to the events in a novel I’m currently working on, and I wanted to go back and build some back story to that particular work.  I had been toying with the concept of a Victorian era detective novel for quite some time, and finally began setting words to the page as a result of my current Masters studies. 

I also need to say that I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Matt, my old university flatmate, who has graciously allowed me to turn his computer gaming pseudonym into a sadistic sociopath with a penchant for flaying his victims alive.  I owe him a signed copy when the anthology is released. 

3.     Have you ever hated anything you wrote?

I really can’t say that I have.  There have been some pieces I have written in the past that have not been as polished or well conceived as I would have liked, but as far as I’m concerned they’re still potential fodder for a good resurrection and rewrite.

From my point of view there is no one idea which is so bad it doesn’t possess some redeeming features or future potential in a successive redrafting.   The only real problem lies in deciding when something is actually ready to see the light of day.

4.     How do you stay motivated?

I tend to get cranky with myself if I haven’t at least done some form of writing on a daily basis.  Even on incredibly hectic days (which with 3 kids, 6 and under is pretty much every other day) I like to try and ensure I’ve at least gotten something down before my head hits the pillow.

I’m also the sort of writer who likes to be a bit obsessive in my planning and preparation phases for a piece, and I usually like to ensure I’ve got a fairly sturdy skeleton on which to build before I get too far along in the writing process.  I know a lot of other writers who would prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, but I have found that in the past that approach only gets me so far before I run headlong into a creative dead-end.

For long pieces, I’ve been known to select a “theme song” of sorts which I listen to as part of a writing ritual to help get me in the right frame of mind when my motivation begins to lag.  It’s almost a little bit of operant conditioning Pavlov style – but then my wife always said I was a simple creature.

5.     What is your favorite genre to write?

One of the things which I am discovering from my current studies is how much I enjoy being shifted out of my traditional comfort zone and trying my hands at styles and genres I would not have normally considered.  That being said though, I have definitely noticed a tendency for my works to drift backward in history into the realm of historical fiction and fantasy more often than not. 

I know a handful of sci-fi writers, and whilst I’m a fan the genre I’ve never really had the inkling to head seriously into creating a fictional future realm – perhaps that’s something I may need to seriously consider stretching myself toward sometime in the near future.

6.     Do you have advice for other writers?

There’s so much good advice already floating around out there, I struggle to think what I might have to offer on top of all that.  Perhaps what I would suggest is try not to fall into the trap of thinking of writing as a purely solitary activity.  There are countless opportunities out there for writers looking to share and hone their craft alongside their fellow artisans – everything from formal writing courses, writer’s networks and festivals, online communities and blogs.  Don’t think you can just lock yourself away in a darkened room with no human contact and produce a masterpiece.

Oh, that and caffeine.  Caffeine is your friend.

7.     What books or authors have most influenced your life?

I still remember very clearly that in primary school all the sporty kids went off on Friday afternoons to compete in interschool sport.  In the meantime, my grade four teacher would take all the athletically challenged kids who remained behind out to sit underneath this old tree and read to us.  One afternoon he decided to introduce us to The Hobbit, and the chapter Riddles in the Dark with Gollum just totally blew my 9-year-old mind.  I’ve never been quite the same since.

Ever since that moment I had always been a voracious reader, and growing up my mother owned some wonderful books including both a set of the complete Sherlock Holmes and a volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s collected works which I would have read and reread ad nauseam.  I remember that during a year 8 poetry recital assignment, I was getting quite a few strange looks being the only kid to choosing to recite The Raven.

8.     Would you like to share a bit about your current work in progress?

I can be a little bit ADHD in my writing practices, as I’ll usually have a couple of projects at various stages of completion at any one time.  That being said, for the last few months my main priority has been working on the novel which follows on from the events depicted in Gemini Wraith.

In the novel we are introduced to the dishevelled and controversial Inspector Carto, as he seeks to capture the killer whose gruesome tableaus are appearing in greater frequency across the city.  Yet Carto’s unpredictable methods, combined with his blatant disregard for the Constabulary’s hierarchy, quickly earn him an unwelcomed sidekick in the form of junior Constable Jonsen, who we meet briefly in this piece.

It’s really a classic Victorian era detective tale with a little dash of the supernatural thrown in.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the process on this one, and can’t wait to get it finished.

9.      When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
In 1998, the late David Eddings made the following comment in his foreword to the Rivan Codex which really resonated with me:

‘Want' has almost nothing to do with it. It's either there or it isn't. If you happen to be one, you're stuck with it. You'll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won't be able to help yourself. When it's going well, it's like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It's better than any dope you can buy. When it's not going well, it's much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

For me personally, I think I first discovered that I was a writer around the same time Bilbo Baggins and Gollum slapped me firmly into the wonderful world of the written word as a youngster. It was around that time I can recall writing my first ever short story on our old Amiga 500 and printing it out on our dot-matrix printer.  Funnily enough, it was a detective story about a thief who stole the last piece of pizza.  Twenty-four years later I’m still writing detective stories.

10.  Where have you been published?

Gemini Wraith will actually be my first published piece, but I also have a fantasy story Cauldron of Annwyn which is shortly due for release in Beyond the Pillars: An Anthology of Pagan Fantasy, and I have a few other stories currently circulating in the ether of potential markets.

I also have a self-published illustrated children’s book The Little Stegosaurus and the T-Rex which is available via the iTunes bookstore.  Go and buy it, with all the profits I might be able to afford a pack of gum shortly.

No seriously.  Buy it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Third Call for Submissions

Silly Tree Anthologies is excited to announce our third Call for Submissions. Submissions will be accepted until October 31, 2013.  

The theme for our next anthology (to be published in January, 2014) is: “As one year closes and another begins, you realize that some things need to be left in the past for the next year to truly be new.”

Affix your thinking caps, latch onto your keyboard, and type away!  Any story fitting within our Submission Guidelines and adhering to the above theme is eligible.

Please submit sooner than later. We can’t wait to read your stories. Acceptances/rejections will be sent out in November. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Interview with Tim Baehr

Tim Baehr submitted an interesting story to Silly Tree. We hear about people preying on the poor all the time, but not quite the way Tim’s main character does. At least she cleans up after herself.
We hope you enjoy the interview with Tim Baehr as much as we did.

1. When did you start writing professionally?


2. What inspired your story for the Silly Tree anthology?

I used to volunteer at a weekly supper for street people. I've also had some experience with 3 different Hobart sanitizers. I wondered what would happen if one of the volunteers was not what she seemed.

3. What is your favorite genre to write?

No favorite. I've done sci-fi, romance, detective, general fiction, fantasy.

4. Tell us about your story in the Scared Spitless anthology.

Ana, a volunteer at a church-based soup kitchen, is drawn to a handsome man who seems funny and kind, and just the type this mousy, plain woman has been looking for. At some point, she took over the story.

5. Do you have advice for other writers? 

Make your readers see, hear, and feel your story; for shorter pieces, try to start with a bang and end with a twist; do research if necessary, to make sure your setting and physical objects and any historical events are accurate; follow submission guidelines to the letter; make sure spelling, grammar, and mechanics are perfect. Even more important: have a first reader who pulls no punches and can tell you what doesn't make sense.

6. What books or authors have most influenced your life?

Lord of the Rings, Hardcore Zen, The Essential Rumi, Elements of Style, Ishmael, The Story of B.

7. Would you like to share a bit about your current work in progress?

I'm starting to revise and perhaps extend about 75 flash fiction stories. I'm also working on a revision of a self-published book, Practical Zen: An Introduction. I'm trying to find time to compile an anthology and to do some translating (Spanish poetry).

8. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 

Seventh grade.

9. Where did you hear about Silly Tree Anthologies?

Creative Writers Opportunities website.

10. Where have you been published? 

Early years were all work-for-hire in educational publishing or staff positions in high-tech doing user manuals. Fiction has appeared in Bacopa (Writers Alliance of Gainesville), Soundings Review (Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, Freeland, Washington), Tawdry Bawdry (website), Earth Vision (website at Heijira), Reflections (Senior college, University of Southern Maine), and monthly essays on my website (


Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview with Nicole DeGennaro

We’re on our second interview with the Scared Spitless authors. Nicole DeGennaro’s story, Home Coming, is a true horror story. A haunted house and frightened children, an unwilling accomplice and true menace abound in this chilling story. We’re sure you’ll be seeing more from Nicole.


1. What inspired your story for the Silly Tree anthology?

I wanted to write a combination ghost and haunted house story, but there was no specific inspiration. As I brainstormed the idea, and wrote and rewrote, it morphed into something far more interesting. 

2. Have you ever hated anything you wrote?

I have a terrible habit of disliking almost everything I write at first. Maybe that’s true for all writers. Once I think I’m finished (either with a first draft or subsequent drafts), I have to let a story sit for a while before I can return to it and be objective. Eventually, and with the great help of my close friends that serve as first readers, I can get some stories to the point that I’m ready to send them out into the world. 

3. How do you stay motivated?

One of my innate skills, unfortunately, is being a great procrastinator. But I know that the ideas I have will never become stories if I don’t write them, and my curiosity for how an idea might develop is usually what draws me back to writing. It’s sheer willpower in my case. However, when I’m feeling particularly unmotivated, I try to fill my free time with activities that have sparked ideas in the past; most often this means reading a book (or two or three), but sometimes it’s even listening to a particular song or album on repeat and letting my mind wander. Doing something that engages my mind or evokes strong emotions will often lead to creative bursts.

4. What is your favorite genre to write? 

I’ll try my hand at anything. However, I do write a great deal of speculative fiction. I like to ask questions about society and culture, and sometimes to explore those ideas I have to create a whole new world, but other times some version of our world will suffice.

5. What is your favorite genre to read?

Speculative fiction, without a doubt. Science fiction and fantasy are my familiar friends. I tend to group some psychological horror into the speculative category as well because those stories often pose terrifying questions. I enjoy the ‘what if’ aspects of the genre, and I like seeing how other writers go about exploring their chosen questions.

6. Do you have advice for other writers?

Don’t let someone else’s negative opinion about your writing discourage you. If you write because you love to write, you’ll always find it rewarding. 

7. What books or authors have most influenced your life?

Ursula K. Le Guin has taught me a great deal about humanity, open mindedness, and everyday courage. Douglas Adams always reminds me to see the humor in the mundane. Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling have taught me to appreciate the magic in everything. 

8. Would you like to share a bit about your current work in progress?

I have a number of works in progress; I’m always working on multiple stories at a time. The one that I’m focusing on right now is a fantasy novella inspired by a friend’s painting. The main character saves a man from the Ice Forest, and then she has to deal with the consequences of the rescue. 

9. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

To be honest, I don’t remember it ever being a realization. My mom is constantly pulling out little poems and stories I wrote when I was a child, to embarrass me with in front of friends. I mean, in some of them my spelling is so bad you can barely tell what I was trying to write! We get a good laugh out of it now. I read a lot when I was young, and I still do, so I think for me writing my own stories was just a natural progression. 

10. Where have you been published?
My short story "The Keeper" is going to appear in the Gothic Blue Book III – The Graveyard Edition horror story anthology from Burial Day Books. It should be available sometime in October. I also share writing excerpts on my blog, along with my general thoughts on reading and writing. When other stories of mine get published, I'll announce it on the blog.