Monday, January 29, 2018

Oliver Baer on Summoning Results of an Eldritch Composition

Writing is rewriting. This is something that many writers say when asked about their process. Editors tend to speak about their craft in sculpting or smithing terms.

I’m a born editor. I think I’ve been editing myself and other people since before I knew that’s what I was doing. I also love languages and grew up in a multilingual household. So, I guess editing was my way of trying to figure out how to convey ideas across languages. Or to figure out why people thought of things the way they did. It really is part of who I am. Sometimes so much so, it can be annoying. It actually gets in the way of my writing.

I start with a concept in my head. Instead of just writing my ideas down, I do a lot of writing and rewriting in my head. Then after a period of time, sometimes weeks or months, I put it down on paper. These words also get edited, fleshed out or rearranged. There’s a point where I have to tell myself to stop doing this process and let the story or poem be what it is. The next step is to get an outside opinion because once I’ve stopped myself it is hard for me to make any further changes. I believe outside opinion is a crucial tool in helping one decide to rewrite a piece or not.

Unlike editing, writing is a magical act. It is ritualistic, requires specific components and many times what you have summoned has a different interpretation than what you intended. These summonings are the result of good storytelling. Good stories are a series of relatable events with believable characters. Even if the characters are fictional, the reader needs to believe the characters’ interactions within the universe that is created. Once this is established, you can work on the originality of how the story unfolds. Sometimes this originality takes the shape of the style or format in which the story is presented.

My story, “Results of an Eldritch Composition”, in Hell’s Bells is a result of taking elements from some pulp fiction authors and reworking them into a different format. While it is written in the format of a letter to the editor of a magazine, the idea for this came about when a friend of mine suggested we collaborate on a story together. He suggested that it be in a letter format because we were both fans of how Dracula was written as well as the idea that all the Sherlock Holmes stories are Dr. Watson reporting Holmes’ cases. We had also discussed how we liked stories that were written in the first-person perspective such as in much of genre fiction. My friend wrote the first letter, I was to respond, then him to me and the story would evolve that way. We were hoping for a sort of verbal Exquisite Corpse. It took me several years before I created the response because I had joined another friend in creating a magazine called Cthulhu Sex. We were trying to figure out how to get people to let us know what they thought of the magazine when I suggested creating a “Letters to the Editor” section. I mentioned that people might be tempted to write in if they saw “Letters” already there. I decided this would be the opportune time to continue the collaboration mentioned earlier. The story did flesh itself out to the point where “Results of an Eldritch Composition” is actually a slight modification of an excerpt of a larger “Letters to the Editor” story. Hopefully, this story will soon be made known to the world.

Make your stories known to the world by repeating the ritual of writing. It is best to just do it, then let someone else read it. They will let you know what you have summoned. Then, you can send it on its way.


Oliver Baer does many things. He was the editor of Cthulhu Sex Magazine and Two Backed Books. His writings have been included in Cthulhu Sex MagazineDream People, Bare Bone #8, Horror Between the Sheets, Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Vol. II, Boog City and Hell’s Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Crazed Instruments. His book of poetry, Baer Soul came out in 2011. His CD of poetry set to music, which came out in 2013, spawned a biannual poetry set to music show A Conclave of Baer. His true face has been seen periodically at the Lovecraft Bar. He is also visible using the virtual spectrum of social media. Follow him on Twitter @obaer and/or Facebook Much of his work can be found at

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rayne Hall - The World Behind the Story

Hell's Bells is an anthology that features great original tales of the wicked and macabre. Author and contributor, Rayne Hall, was kind enough to give us a sneak peek into the world of her story The Bellydancers of Seddlebourne Pier.

The title is certainly unique and got me reading right away. How did you come up with the idea?

Ideas are like jigsaw pieces in my head. Thousands of them dance around in my mind all the time. Sometimes, several of them click together and form the beginnings of a picture. That’s when the story creating begins.

This happened here too. The first jigsaw piece was the medieval German legend of the rat catcher of Hameln. (Some of you may know the fairy tale derived from the legend, The Pied Piper of Hamlyn.) This premise of the story always struck me as timeless. A big client hires an expert who performs a great job, and then the client finds excuses not to pay - this happens nowadays too, not just in the Middle Ages. I often wondered how the events would unfold today.

The anthology’s theme provided the second jigsaw piece. I always try to write about something I know, because this gives the story authenticity. When the editor asked me to write a story for Hell's Bells: Wicked Tunes, Mad Musicians and Cursed Instruments, I wondered what instrument to write about. Well, I used to be a wizard with finger cymbals, probably one of the best players in the country.  What if the ‘pied piper’ didn’t play pipes, but finger cymbals?

This led to jigsaw piece number three: bellydancing. Corporate clients don’t hire finger cymbal players, but they hire bellydancers who play. Years ago, I performed as a bellydancer at church fetes and weddings, in restaurants and Women’s Institutes. Sometimes the clients made excuses for not paying. (“I don’t have cash because tonight’s customers have all paid by credit card, and I have to wait for the bank to send me a new cheque book…”)  What if a client didn’t pay the bellydancer, and the dancer took her revenge?

Jigsaw piece number four was the location. I like to use specific, unusual, atmospheric settings. I fancied writing a story with a British setting, somewhere close to the sea. Where on the seaside might a bellydancer perform? Many years ago I’d been hired to entertain on a pier. Pleasure piers are a British institution. Initially intended as landing places for passenger boats, in the Victorian and Edwardian periods they grew into leisure centres, and they still play this role today.

At the time I lived in St. Leonards on the East Sussex coast, just a ten minute walk away from Hastings Pier. I took my notebook and pen, and while I sipped cappuccino on the pier, I looked around, listened and absorbed the atmosphere. 

Might a bellydancer be hired to entertain on the deck of a pier, perhaps as part of a pier festival? A troupe of bellydancers was more likely than a solo performer. What kind of dancers were they? I imaged the show. What kind of dance would they perform? How would the audience react? Would the sound of the cymbals carry in the open windy space?

Are any of these events real, or is most of the story made up?

Bits really happened. I’ve led a troupe of amateur bellydancers, and know what it’s like to be sneered at for being mature women instead of nubile girls. I know how to mesmerise and entrance an audience. I’ve performed out of doors (and know, for example, that in a windy location such as a pier the dancers would perform with finger cymbals rather than with veils). And I’ve dealt with clients who made a big profit from our show and then tried to cheat us out of our agreed fee.

But the story itself unfolded only in my imagination. (Unless you count the possibly true event in the city of Hameln over 700 years ago.)

When I first read your story I was asking myself: Does Seddlesbourne Pier actually exist, or is it a fictional place?

I invented the town of Seddlesbourne and the pier, but I imagined Seddlesbourne to be like a typical small British seaside town, and I drew inspiration from Hastings Pier near where I lived at the time. After a destructive fire, Hastings Pier was rebuilt in a minimalist style. Instead of Edwardian pavilions and cast-iron railings, it has a vast expanse of nothing at all, just a windswept deck. Unsurprisingly, not many tourists travel to visit this attraction, and the locals don’t exactly hang out there a lot.

I walked around the pier, notebook in hand. The first thing I noticed was the many signs prohibiting things: No Fishing. No Cycling. No Smoking. No Food And Drink Unless Purchased On The Pier. This didn’t exactly create a welcoming atmosphere.

I took note of the grey planks and the screwheads gleaming silver in the light. I touched the cold railings and listened to the rustling of waves underfoot.

Although the Seddlesbourne Pier of my story doesn’t look exactly like Hastings Pier, local people laughed when they read my story, because they recognized the inspiration.


Rayne Hall writes fantasy, horror and non-fiction, and is the author of over sixty books. Her horror stories are more atmospheric than violent, and more creepy than gory.
Born and raised in Germany, Rayne has lived in China, Mongolia, Nepal, Britain and Bulgaria. For many years, she resided in St Leonards on the coast of East Sussex where she penned many creepy stories, including the tales in this anthology.
Rayne has worked as an investigative journalist, development aid worker, museum guide, apple picker, tarot reader, adult education teacher, bellydancer, magazine editor, publishing manager and more, and now writes full time.
Visit Rayne’s website where you’ll find free creepy horror stories. Follow her on Twitter for writing tips and photos of her cute book-reading black cat.

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