Our next interview is with Duane Pesice, or better known to WritingForums members as Moderan.
Duane makes marks on blank pieces of paper and wields a piece of wood with wires on it. He is a self-taught college graduate and communicates through the ether.
He writes weird fiction, strange songs, and a thrice-weekly column about the Chicago Cubs. His stories have appeared in a great many places, both online and off. He has at present one self-published ebook, about to go into a second edition with a new title, new stories, format, and deadtree options. More books are coming – three more are planned for this year, and he is the editor-in-chief of a weird fiction anthology called Test Patterns, which is in crowdfunding stage. He has somewhere around 500 mostly progressive rock tunes posted in various places on the internet.
Thank you for joining us, Duane. Please tell us a little about yourself including hobbies and interests.
I like to cook and play music and generally just make stuff. My hands don't like to be idle. I also read. A lot. I read anything I see that has words on it. I read sf and horror and weird fiction in the main, but I consume a lot of scientific journals and I'm a politics junkie. I like to eat and I have a background in restaurant cookery, so there's usually something tasty happening. I'm diabetic but I manage that decently and eat as little starch or sugar as possible-which is hard because I love my bread and beer.
I have 45 years of guitar playing under my belt, and I also play bass, keyboards, and percussion. I can also read music-all of which come in handy when I make music as I can function as a band without help.
Who or what sparked your interest in weird fiction?
Dr. Strange. That comic led me to Lovecraft and then Poe and Verne and Wells and on out from there. Eventually I started writing the stuff...though it was just 'dark fantasy' then.
For those not familiar with this genre and are probably too embarrassed to ask, please can you outline why it is considered 'weird'?
Typically, a 'weird fiction' piece does not fit within the canonical genres that people think of as 'science fiction', 'dark fantasy', or 'horror' but often treats with those themes.
Which well known authors best represent this genre?
Outside of HP Lovecraft, the best-known is probably Brian Lumley. The best representatives are probably guys like Laird Barron, Joe Pulver, Wilum Pugmire, that consistently produce wildly imaginative prose. Michael Cisco is another writer that delivers a solid kick.
Your first book before Crazytown was self-published as an e-book. What made you decide to take this route as opposed to that of traditional publishing?
It was an experiment, actually. I was tinkering with the form, trying to see what could be done with an ebook as far as formatting and content. What I was really after was making an ebook have page numbers. I haven't conquered that yet. But the first edition has a lot of blank space and line glitches due to this experimentation. I just left it that way after it started selling.
What is the book about?
It's a collection of stories that were expanded to become another book...named Crazytown, which has become my version of the Last Dangerous Visions. They range from flash fictions to long short stories, in various genres.
Which genre would you not attempt to write and why?
I can't think of one I wouldn't do. I slip in and out of them habitually. I like crossbreeding. Like Barbara Cartland and HPL, or HPL and Hunter S. Thompson. I have this idea, lifted from Philip Jose Farmer, that all fictional universes intersect at some point. I set my things in those streets and then let them run.
With the world and his wife all fighting for airspace on social media to promote their books, what other methods did you use and how successful did they prove?
I advertised before Crazytown, the Smashwords version, on Facebook for a week. It cost me ten bucks and I sold 82 copies. That put me eight bucks in the hole, as my overhead/production cost was eighty dollars. I gave away a bunch for reviews that never came, and then hit upon the idea of direct sales. Following that, I put the thing on Amazon, but the Smashwords version outsold the Amazon version ten to one, so I removed it. Later, when I wanted to put it back, they wouldn't let me.
From lessons learned on your self-publishing journey, what marketing advice can you pass on to our readers?
Damned if I know. Honestly, I suck at that by any rational standard.
Your latest book monochrome is due for publication in March. Please can you tell our readers what the book is about?
monochrome is the updated version of before Crazytown, with an introduction by JB Lee, a few new stories, and the interstitial bits removed and refashioned into a postscript.
Please can you share a short extract?
Sure. This piece was actually a noncompeting "Judge Entry" into the LM, here at WF:
I'm not sure when I first noticed that I wasn't in control of my right hand. I was trying to finish some panels of my webcomic.
The panels were partially drawn...at least the backgrounds were, and I had drawn some of the character lines and done some of the erasing, sort of unconscious work, the kind I don't pay much attention to. What I'd drawn in wasn't quite what I had intended, though.
Instead of my familiar goggle-eyed fake-anime protagonists were a couple of severely ugly little critters with dozens of little beady eyes, big flappy ears on the sides of their misshapen heads, no mouths or noses, and bodies that looked like fat carrots or stacks of tires that got smaller as they went up. Pipestem arms with cartoon-mitten hands, no legs, no feet.
My left hand obeyed my request to reach up and grab the gum eraser, but my right refused to obey the command to erase and instead busied itself making thought balloons freehand.
I was alone in my studio, nobody else in the house at the time. My wife had gone grocery shopping, and had taken the kid with her. So there was no help for me.
My right hand continued working. What was in the thought balloons wasn't in any language I'd ever seen.
New panels were appearing on the page, and the odd rugose creatures were drawn in greater detail, and closer up. I didn't like the way their eyestalks bent to peer at me from the paper, and I really didn't care for the idea that they would leap out of the page at me when they got big enough, close enough. That occurred to me in a grisly little flash. I got an idea of what they'd like to do, as well, and it wasn't pretty.
My hand removed the stopper from the bottle of black ink, fitted a new nib in the penstock, and commenced making the creatures more lifelike. I watched in horrified fascination.
Broke the spell long enough to reach for a cigarette, flick the lighter, and sweep the inkpot from its recess and disperse its contents onto the page.
Regaining control of my hand, I tore the ink-soaked page into tiny bits, tossed the bits into the ashtray, and set them on fire.
I'm still not entirely sure of what happened, but I know I was wide awake. The ashes tell me so. I hope it doesn't happen again.
Where and in which formats will monochrome be available?
Smashwords and Amazon, probably B&N eventually, as ebooks, and Amazon and eventually Lulu as paperbacks.
Who designed the cover and what in your mind does the picture represent?
Candra Hope, an ex-WF member, painted the cover from a photograph of the front of my old apartment building, for the Crazytown collection. It was used as a black-and-white photo for the cover of before Crazytown, and has been chromed for its monochrome incarnation.
Will monochrome be traditionally published, or are you going to self-publish?
Self-published. Looking for a publisher takes too much time and I'm allergic to agents.
If traditionally published, how did you find a publisher?
Depends on how they're cooked. Heh. Actually, I know a few, and I respect them, and things of mine might end up there if they're not careful.
You are serving as editor-in-chief, publicist, and 'general henchman' for an anthology of literary weird fiction called Test Patterns. What was the inspiration behind the anthology?
Old black and white tv and the signal at the end of the programming day.
Test Patterns is an interesting title. Why Test Patterns?
Because the test pattern comes on when you're nearly entering dreamland, when the borders between what is real and what is unreal are fuzzy. And because it would cost a fortune to license the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits' trademark, so we had to come up with something that evokes that era of storytelling.
I notice you are crowd-funding this project. How much money do you need to raise?
Five thousand dollars American to do everything we want. We're paying professional rates and offering an unique and quality product. Thirty writers at present at 5 cents a word, 1500-3500 words. One cover artist, three interior artists, binding and all that stuff. I say that so you can kinda do the math -- it's hard to produce an anthology.
How do people donate?
They can go to the GoFundMe page or they can have plain brown envelopes delivered to my place of business. No checks please.
Which movies or TV series, that might be familiar to the readers, comes closest to the weird fiction genre?
Stranger Things, Dark Mirror, those are probably the easiest to point to currently. American Horror Story has a lot of those same elements. Old sf horror like Phase IV, stuff like the Dunwich Horror, any movie Bruce Campbell stars in...
Which music would you choose to soundtrack monochrome?
Industrial ambient. Musique concrete, but with a salsa twist.
Have any notable science-fiction writers influenced your style?
Yes. John Brunner, who was in turn influenced by Burroughs and John Dos Passos. Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny. Burroughs, Ballard. My work is more science-fictional in nature than most weird fiction, which tends to cluster around horror or noir.
Finally, what is the most important advice you can offer a new writer?
Don't expect to get rich. Do it for the love.
A further snippet ...
I was born shortly after Marvel Comics, in 1961, in Caribou, Me. My pop was an airman and we had to wait a little while before he got out of the service. Something about missiles and pigs. We moved to Chicago where I grew up near train tracks in neighborhoods full of kids and perfected my technique of being sent to the principal's office so that I could study on my own.
This habit of reading books instead of doing what I'm supposed has persisted to this day.I kind of attended high school after grade school, preferring to stay home and do bong hits, and had a tremendous score on the SATs, which meant that all of the people who had been writing "does not apply himself" on my report cards had been vindicated.
I inveigled myself into college, masqueraded as a student/athlete for a time, developed an interest in journalism. My then-wife liked money, though, and I took a degree in computer science as well as the journalism degree. Went to work in the grey corporate world while moonlighting as a bass player. Sleep was optional, another habit I have continued and improved upon, along compulsive workaholicness and drug-taking.
After I got divorced I moved back to Chicago, went crazy and became a cab driver in the western suburbs. My midlife crisis led me to Arizona and then to western New York and back. A year after returning to Tucson I was struck by a horrible disease that resulted in the loss of the use of most of my lungs and I've taken that opportunity to try to write for a living as nobody wants to buy recorded music any more and my oxygen cord would trip people in a kitchen.
His Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.com/Duane-Pesice/e/B00X707580
His Goodreads page is here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/sho...9.Duane_Pesice
Test Patterns GoFundMe and information: https://www.gofundme.com/39qw5ps
Before Crazytown, first edition: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/490707
Cub Tracks column: http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/cub-tracks
Lots of music: https://www.reverbnation.com/moderan
Duane can also be reached on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/moderan) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/moderan13)
The titles due this year are Monochrome (Before Crazytown II), The Forgotten God (chapbook and ebook), Fear and Loathing In Innsmouth (novel), Nightmare Grove (themed collection).