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And she is stealing my roses. I fly down the narrow stairs and through the back door. The ground is slick, but I know it well and I race through the thorny paths toward the girl. There is an ugly sound falling from my lips. Something like a roar or a growl or a sob. It startles her. She lifts her eyes and I know what she sees.

I have neither cloak nor boots to temper my appearance. My dark hair has not been washed in days, my shirt hangs loose over my torso, and my face, well, my face. But that is not what surprises me. Her fingers curl protectively around a single rose. It is small and reedy, its gentle pink petals folded more tightly around one side than the other, dusting outward in an uneven, misshapen skirt.

It is surrounded by a collection of more perfect versions of itself. It is ugly. A small smile bends her lips. This girl who smiles at my hideous face, whose cheeks curve like rose petals, who reaches for the rose no one would want. My mind curls around a memory of my own name. The name my parents gave me when they were still proud of who I was.


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The name they took back when they sent me away to live far from their line of sight, when they made me the thing people fear and hate and dread. The only people who come here are looking for a glimpse of something horrible. I do not flinch, yet Love sees the small change in my skin. Her eyes study my chin where the new scale grows with such honest concern that I turn away.

For a moment, that glimmer of kindness leaves me unsteady. My bare feet sting with the cold of the wet ground and my skin tightens against the chilly air. This time of year, the Treluna Sea is lively with traders, the sky tinted with chimney smoke, the air bright with the sounds of a village readying itself for the Quiet Season. There will be a festival soon. One I loved as a small child and grew to hate. The first time I slicked down my hair and darkened my lips in the way the boys did. Why are you doing this to me? I turn. Her fingers are once again circling the imperfect rose, her attention focused on its asymmetrical pattern.

I should tell her to take it and leave. It should make me furious to think it, but something about this girl stays my ready anger. Stop doing this. Just take it and —. Take it and leave. Her fingers are warm and soft and, somehow, unafraid. Love lifts her hand to brush along my scaled, hardened cheek. I feel every ounce of his revulsion and fear and confusion and rage. It rings through my body like I am a bell, hollowed out to echo his feelings. I feel the first pinch of the transformation begin when he says, You are a beast. Rage simmers in me again, threatening to transform me into something I did not choose.

The breath I take is icy. But I see what Love sees. I see grace and elegance and strength. I see beauty. I gasp. Natalie C. She lives on the Kansas prairie with her wife. Lia was in a car, and the car was getting away. She was passenger side, window down, ski mask completely off, hair loose and making a wild escape out the open window in my direction as if a part of her had some regret for leaving me behind.

In real life, I froze in the back exit, watching her drive off in the getaway car. I stood there thinking it could still happen, she could still come back, she was about to, she was going to, her hair trailing in the wind, my breath caught in my throat…. I held still, the alarm system we triggered blaring behind me, and I realized the thing I should have figured out right away: That car had been waiting out back only for Lia.

The night we set off to hit the store, the operation that would finance our glorious future and allow our great escape, Lia took extra time at the mirror. She wanted to get her face right, even if it would be dark and, if all went according to plan, no one would ever know we were even there. While she painted her face, I watched. Most of what she did, she did while I was watching. Sometimes I nodded and agreed with what she said, because she liked that, but mostly I watched and listened and was physically nearby in a way that showed I could be counted on.

At the mirror Lia put her eyes on, one at a time, thick black lines that arched out to points at the sides, the lashes coated and the smokiness soft yet intense. Closer than any friends that had come before. I was her true friend, and I proved it in the courtroom. I proved it during the proceedings and through all of sentencing.

I proved it when my parents cried and got the lawyer to beg me to snitch and save myself because I was a girl who could have used some saving. I kept steady and strong, and nothing got through me, so much so I practically let myself drop off a bridge. I was trying to do my face like hers, and I only half-succeeded. My smoke was sloppy. My lines wobbled. One eye seemed darker than the other. Mostly I did the work fast so I could keep watching her. This was our last night in town, I was thinking. This was the last night of our old life and the first step into something extraordinary.

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I remember this and it was good. This was hours later, the night we got caught— I got caught—the night we robbed the store. It was the mirror that did it.

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She was staring at herself, and I was there, too, pretending to check my face, but really only paying attention to hers, and that was when everything shifted. They landed on mine, but not at all in the way I wanted. Maybe what I was thinking was what would it be like to be her, to stop in the middle of illegal activity for a breather, to know nothing could go wrong because nothing ever went wrong. All the things that came so easy for Lia and yet were insurmountable obstacles to hungry, freakish, unsmiley me.

It had to be a mistake, you see. A miscommunication. In here, no one even knows who Lia is. What I did, even though she was right there with me. It was her idea. What was it called when someone refused to testify against their own spouse and no one could make them? It all came together from there, a story inspired by a very beautiful, but completely unattainable barmaid and I never did find out her name, btw! The footnotes in The Night Porter , as mentioned above, are almost a character onto themselves.

What inspired the decision to use that device, particularly in a novel? One of my favourite authors is your countryman, David Foster Wallace, who unfortunately — and tragically — passed away late last decade. He was a prodigious user of footnotes which, for a fiction writer, is certainly an innovation.

DFW used footnotes for digressions, explanations, histories, lists, stories-within-stories, and internal monologues, thus keeping the body of the narrative clean, sharp and linear. I was desperate to try this technique out and so, when the idea for The Night Porter came to me, it seemed the ideal opportunity. I also use footnotes in a wry way. I loved writing those. TNP is a satire of publishing and indie at heart, and these footnotes are an ironic joke.

Not entirely popular — and they are not available on the e-version but the paperback is such a beautiful book, why bother with the e-version! I would do it again and I have not ruled out a return to footnotes in subsequent books. Violence and crime play a starring role in your work, certainly in your most recent novel, Once Upon a Time in the City of Criminals , yet you somehow always find the heart and humor within the darkness. Talk a bit about that signature mix. In Criminals , I was keen to crack jokes and sprinkle the book with black humour.

My friend, Georgia Rose , herself a mean writer, says that with Criminals , one minute she found herself laughing, the next, crying. I started out as a comedy writer particularly with sketches about relationships and my first audiences were predominantly female.

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And yes, while I enjoy a good punch-up in my fiction, I enjoy cracking jokes and, in particular, exploring the complex interactions between men and women, a lot lot more. I believe you have to throw something light into the mix to make it palatable. If you could change one thing about the independent publishing world, what would it be? One thing? The market is drenched with books, the review system is extremely dodgy, and everyone, talented or not, is fulfilling their I-Can-Write-Better-Than-That ideations.

And fair play to them, but, in a lot of cases, they discover they cannot, yet still publish anyway. BB is something my friend, Phil Pidluznyj, and I started a year and a half ago. Funded by the British Big Lottery Fund, we take role models into schools — success stories from industry and commerce, sports and the arts — and get them to address and enthuse reluctant readers of which there are many. Then, over eight weeks, we encourage the kids to write short stories and we publish the outcomes in an anthology that they keep forever.

So, there you have it: a snapshot of the prolific Mr. Barry: a good excellent author writing good excellent books. Photos by permission of Mark Barry.


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  • Tweet image by permission of Brenda Perlin. Please take a moment to enjoy the very funny, astute, and really touching write-up Mr. Mark Barry wrote up about the state of fiction in general, and my fiction specifically. Thank you, sir; you are a reminder of what a wonderful circle of wagons the indie community can be! Contemporary Fiction is the unwanted, bastard stepchild of Independent fiction.

    Come and join me at the shelter where, just outside the soup kitchen, you can find ten, fifteen, twenty Contemporary Fiction writers huddled around the brazier, polystyrene mug of powdered Minestrone warming fingerless mitts and coating trembling, arid lips. We starve for our art.

    Vampire — preferably the stuff that sparkles. Erotica — atm, LGBT erotica in particular. The really clever authors who are sitting on biblical piles of paper moolah the size of the Tower of Babel are those who write dirty vampire romances for teenagers. The more fantastic, the more unreal and out there, the more it is likely to sell.

    Contemporary fiction writers can usually be found hunting for food in skips outside conferences full of genre authors, which is a shame as generally contemporary fiction authors, as writers, knock genre writers into a cocked hat. These boys and girls can write. I loved it. It was in the top three books I read last year and in the top thirty of my lifetime.

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    It is that good…. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. For more than 20 years, Geoff Symon has been using his expertise and experience as a federal law enforcement special agent to put away the bad guys. He has specified and certified training in the collection and preservation of evidence, blood spatter analysis, autopsies, and laboratory techniques.

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    He lectures and consults with writers to bring meaningful detail to the depiction of crime and investigation, and his Forensics for Fiction series has become the go-to resource for genre authors. She is a former classroom teacher and a lifelong advocate of bringing joyful literacy to every child. Kat has also spent various points in her life working as a deli waitress, a Hollywood script reader, and a dog trainer for film and TV. Erick Mertz is a professional writer, editor and manuscript consultant based in Portland, Oregon.

    He has over fifteen years experience as a fiction, non-fiction, memoir and business book ghostwriter. He has produced best-selling manuscripts for high profile clients throughout the US and the world. His short fiction and poetry has been widely published in literary journals. Dante Medema is a mother to four girls, an amateur cake decorator, and a Young Adult author. Brooke Hartman is an Alaskan mom and author of silly, serious, and sometimes strange stories for children and young adults.

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    Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for fifty years. After twenty years in the classroom, she retired to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult historical fiction novels are set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. She was raised in a suburb just outside Washington, D. She is the youngest of seventeen children and credits her artistic background to her sister Linda, who taught her to read at the age of three!

    She completed her first novel, a contemporary multi-cultural, in Cheryl now resides in majestic Alaska with her sexy husband. He is her knight in shining armor and the inspiration behind her novels! Their four children are in college. Together, they enjoy bicycling, spending time with her supportive parents, and spoiling their grandchild and each other.

    She is an asexual transgender woman of Athabaskan descent who transitioned alongside her husband. She writes sweet, optimistic ownvoices romance with a spoonful of humor and a dash of grit, centering transgender and sometimes asexual characters. I used to do other stuff. Now I write sexy books. When I'm not writing, I sing in the shower--terribly, inadvertently kill all the flowers I plant and shop for high end shoes at bargain prices on the internet.