About the Book:
A heart that’s a building, a dog that’s a program, a woman who’s sinking irretrievably – stories about love, loss, and movement. A collection of speculative stories from author and editor B. Morris Allen.
- Chambers of the Heart – when someone else’s heart is your home
- Building on Sand – your own child or the child that needs you now?
- Blush – when everyone else wears a mask, what’s it like to bare your face?
- Minstrel Boy Howling at the Moon – magic, music, and … buffalo?
- Fetch – she may be a simulation, but out on the edge, she’s one man’s best friend
- The Humblebract Expedition – a play date for a dying child can only end in tragedy, right?
- When Dooryards First in the Lilac Bloomed – a doorway to opportunity and change, if only they can understand it
- Some Sun and Delilah – a sunny island, an abandoned temple, and … truth?
- Crying in the Salt House – the house is built from tears, or so they say
- Full of Stars – jar half empty, jar half full
- Memory and Faded Ink – the aliens are perfectly human … and just as flawed
- Fountainhead – arranged pairings never work, especially with different species
- Adaptations to Coastal Erosion – what do you do when your spouse just sinks away, literally?
- Outburst – Earth is dead, and the one remaining orbital can’t be saved, can it?
- The Irrigation Ditch – they came to hide, but didn’t realize it was from each other
- Dragons I Have Slain – take hope where you find it
Cover art by Bonnie Leeman.
“Chambers of the Heart” excerpt.
Despair and Ecstasy are the simplest. Ecstasy is the small and cozy room of a cottage that looks out on a broad meadow in the forest. In the spring, elk come to posture and to mate, and the wildflowers bloom on every side. In the fall, mist dances in silver swirls framed by gold and bronze and copper trees. It is always spring or fall.
Despair is a vast, dark hall of low ceilings and small windows. In winter, snowdrifts sometimes cover the windows so that they are only squares of gray against black stone. In the summer, shafts of hot, bright light do nothing to warm the room, and only blind us to the room’s darkness, so that we must carry candles to the Master’s hard throne. It is always winter or summer.
Ecstasy and Despair are the simplest chambers, and the worst, and they are where the Master spends his time.
1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
I started writing a long time ago, when I was about 6 (so about 50 years ago). One of my very earliest pieces was preserved by my (probably mystified) parents, and can be found here: “The Orange Donkey” (https://www.bmorrisallen.com/oddities/the-orange-donkey/). I’m not sure it was my greatest writing accomplishment, but it is an early one.
Our house was full of all sorts of books, and I became a voracious reader from an early age, but I didn’t really try to write until college, but I didn’t have much tenacity — lots of starts, very few completed stories. One of those did become my first published story much later, but I didn’t take writing seriously until I finally decided to treat it like a job. I was, for the first time in decades, between jobs, so when my spouse left for work, I sat down to write all day. Much to my surprise, it mostly worked.
2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
Ideally, I write when inspiration strikes, but I found after decades of trying that that’s a really terrible approach for me — inspiration and opportunity rarely coincide. Instead, an ideal time would be on a non-workday, after breakfast, with my spouse out gardening, the music on, and me covered with animals. It’s really a question of mindset; once I get going (which can take an hour), it usually flows reasonably well. Of course, there are some days when nothing works, and everything I write is terrible. On those days I just give up and do something else.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere. I get ideas constantly and forget half of them. But I have a file with hundreds of others. Sometimes the file notes are cryptic — there’s at least one that I know was a great idea, but I just can’t decipher what it was. I get a fair number of ideas from misheard lyrics. Or, much more rarely, from correctly heard lyrics that really struck me. That’s the case with at least two stories in my latest collection: “Minstrel Boy Howling at the Moon” is a straight steal from the title of a Jimmy La Fave song. “Dragons I Have Slain” is similarly a lyric from a Jon Lord song that bothered me, since I wouldn’t kill a dragon; the story was my way of working it out.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
Both. I’m definitely a discovery writer — I find out about most of the story as I write it. But I almost always have a sense of the mood that I want to leave the reader with at the end, and I will often have a broad sense of the arc — where the story starts and where it ends. Sometimes I have a clever line, or an image, or a concept. I don’t usually start with characters — they emerge from the piece as I go.
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
I almost entirely write science fiction and fantasy. I have a number of mainstream novels in mind and have written a number of mainstream stories, but there’s just limited time to write, and the SFF ones are the ones that are most fun.
My interest in SFF very definitely came from a childhood Christmas present — the complete set of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books (recently made into the terrible movie, John Carter of Mars. I’d read some SFF before then — Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a few others — but when I found Barsoom, I immediately turned away from most of the ‘serious’ literature I was reading and turned mainly to science fiction and fantasy.
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
My latest book is a short story collection, Chambers of the Heart, so I’ll answer instead with my first novel, Susurrus. It’s essentially the story of how an evil sorceress came to be one, tracing a sweet, desperately poor orphan as she finds a foster father and learns a little magic. In this world, each country has its own magic, and she’s uniquely able to learn more than one type, and to carry them across borders. Only, the more magic she learns, the worse her life gets, until she turns bitter and cruel. It’s a dark story (but there’s a happy ending), and it’s focused on this one woman, so I’d want a strong, talented actor to play her — Viola Davis would be perfect for the role.
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read whenever I can. Sadly, between a full-time day job and running an SFF magazine (Metaphorosis), that’s not as often as I’d like. My favorite authors are probably Patricia A. McKillip, Roger Zelazny, Orson Scott Card (politics aside), James Thurber, Richard Adams, Richard Llewellyn, Dava Sobel, M.J. Engh, M.K. Wren. I could go on for ages. And of course I’m a fan of the authors I publish in my magazine and anthologies — newer voices like Vanessa Fogg, Molly Etta, L. Chan, Jason Baltazar, L’Erin Ogle, Laurel Beckley… Again, I could go on and on.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m re-reading M.K. Wren’s fantastic SF romance, Phoenix Legacy trilogy; Gate Thief, the second book in Orson Scott Card’s Mither Mages trilogy; Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best collected from his Year’s Best Science Fiction; and I think one or two others.
9: What is your favourite book and why?
That is a remarkably difficult question. If I really had to choose one, it might be Songmaster by Orson Scott Card. But I’d try to sneak in The Owl Service by Alan Garner; How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn; The Prince in Waiting by John Christopher; and After the Festival by George R.R. Martin.
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
Read. In my view, the key to becoming a writer is to read — a lot. Read constantly and read widely. I said that I read mostly SFF, and that’s true, but I’ve read a lot of other things as well. You don’t even, frankly, have to think analytically about what you read — just read a lot and you’ll absorb a sense of what works, as well as a rich vocabulary. Equally important, a sense of what you like and why.
Write. This sounds obvious, but many writers will tell you the same. You’re not a writer until you actually write something down, and ideally tell a complete story, and this latter part is much harder than it sounds. Don’t do what I did and waste decades assuming inspiration and opportunity will coincide. They won’t. Take writing seriously and work hard at it. Eventually, someday, what seemed daunting and impossible will turn easy and fun.
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
About the Author:
B. Morris Allen is a biochemist turned activist turned lawyer turned foreign aid consultant, and frequently wonders whether it’s time for a new career. He’s been traveling since birth, and has lived on five of seven continents. When he can, he makes his home on the Oregon coast. In between journeys, he edits Metaphorosis magazine, and works on his own speculative stories of love and disaster. His dark fantasy novel Susurrus came out in 2017.
Find out more at www.BMorrisAllen.com