Thank you to Spilling Ink for having me! Tons of fun and lots of laughs. GO WATCH IT HERE.
Been a minute since I updated, so forgive me. Let’s do some news reveals!
APRIL SECOND: A release party will be held for Alabama: Nightmares & Urban Legends on Facebook. The party starts at 2pm – 7 pm Central Standard Time. We have some free goodies and e copies in books up for grabs so come spend the day with me. You can find the event HERE.
April 9th: My first book signing! If you happen to be in the Walker County area, come to the Jasper public library between 2-4 pm Central Standard Time. I will have autographed copies of The Rise of UMBRA and Alabama: Nightmares & Urban Legends for sale. I will also have 11 x 17 framed posters of the book covers for sale at $25. UMBRA will be $15, Alabama: Nightmares & Urban Legends will be $20. You can find the library’s facebook page HERE.
July 22: Talon: The Spider’s Web is finally coming out! Everyone’s favorite fanged Alabama resident makes his formal debut. Five Points South, Smith Lake, Homewood–a whole bunch of local places get featured as this Vampire tears a bloody path through the state. You don’t have to be an Alabama resident to enjoy this dark fantasy adventure. Get ready…it’s almost time!
I am openly working on The Rise of UMBRA sequel while waiting on Talon’s edits. I have tons going on. Keep coming back. I promise to be more active.
The Rise of UMBRA: Get it HERE.
Burning Willow Press: Find their awesomeness RIGHT HERE.
NEW ANTHOLOGY RELEASE THIS MARCH: Death & Pestilence featuring my story “The Board.” Find it HERE.
Since “The Rise of UMBRA has been so successful, selling nearly 30 copies in just over a week, I immediately started working on the sequel. The title will be: UMBRA: The Nightmare Squadron. All your favorite characters are back facing an enemy that they know nothing about. Full of action, snarky wit, and all the things you loved about the first. So far, I’m three chapters in and closing in on 10k words! Stay tuned! UMBRA ain’t done yet!
In the hotseat today we have Charles Lee Mullenix. He’s another author at Burning Willow Press and quite a character. First, let’s start off with what you already have released “The Future is Built on Ashes.” This is a wild mash-up of Cyberpunk fantasy and dystopian and has just about every niche of those genres in it in some capacity. Please, tell the readers what they’re missing by not reading this gem.
They would be missing everything found in genre fiction. Literally…everything. That’s not like when hipsters say literally, and mean figuratively. I’m talking literally everything. This book was born out of my frustration from years of writing low-budget screenplays. My imagination was always being restricted by the limitations of money, time, locations, available actors, etc, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought if I switched to books I could write anything I wanted with no creative ceiling, and I went f@#king crazy. From dragons to cyborgs to ninjas to monsters to myths to Gods/Devils to Demon/Angels, and even put my spin on classic literary icons. I like to play a game where I have somebody try to think of something ‘cool’ from genre fiction, and no matter what they think of I have it within this book or the series of books to follow. It’s got it all. My main protagonist is an original ‘being’, and I created a couple new monsters/technologies totally unique to this franchise.
But this book about EVERYTHING RIGHT HERE.
Not only are you a writer but I’ve heard you’re a Martial Artist. Considering S.L. Kerns is a body builder I’ve thought of having you two square off in a Burning Willow Mortal Kombat fight, but that’s for another day. What got you into the Martial Arts and what discipline or disciplines do you practice?
I’ve seen that dude with his shirt off, S.L. Kerns, so I’m tellin’ ya right now that I’m not fighting fair. I will have a knife on me. Haha I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and it’s historically a fighter’s city. Tons of world champs, or well-known pro fighters have come from here. We have streets named after boxers, and I think for whatever reason it’s just genetically in us. We’re a scrappy town, so I was always into fighting kids as early as elementary school. But, in first grade I saw Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, and it was over. I was hooked. I would watch movies, kickboxing fights, MMA stuff before it was even considered MMA, and anything I could find Martial Arts related and I would study it. Watch entire movies, and fights in slow motion. Break down the body mechanics until I could do it myself. We’re talkin’ second or third grade. My mom bought me some instructional videos, and by 15 I was training at a local Jeet Kune Do gym. That’s the Martial Art that Bruce Lee created which was meant to be a blend of styles not limited to just one. My Sifu had studied under the man who took over Jeet Kune Do from Bruce after his death. The school was filled with top notch talent, and pro fighters. I’ve trained with some well-known icons and fighters during my time. All in all I’ve studied 26 arts in the equal number of years, so there’s a ton of disciplines in there. I’ve just kinda made them all my own. Pick and choose what works for me, but try to learn as much as possible.
Okay, that being said…Bruce Lee vs Chuck Norris in real life with both in their prime. Who takes it and why?
I’ve gotta go with Bruce for obvious reasons, but I will give Chuck credit. Not only did Bruce handpick him for the final fight in Way of the Dragon, but he did so to spar with him. Norris was a beast back in the day.
Bruce approves of this answer.
Were you a fan of Kung-Fu movies as a kid? I know I was. If so, what were your favorites?
Huge. Huge, huge fan. Enter the Dragon was epic. I grew up in the ‘80’s, and that was the height of the ninja phase of low-budget movies. Sho Kosugi is a God. All his movies. Enter the Ninja, Pray for Death, Ninja 3: Domination, and Black Eagle with VanDamme. Jean-Claude was a big deal too. Bloodsport. Kickboxer. Dude, there’s too many to name.
Okay, we’ve covered that…but wait, kids. There’s more! You’re the lead vocalist of a metal band? You are quite literally getting cooler by the moment. What bands influenced your music and/or are just your favorite to listen to?
Thanks, man. You’re cool yourself. Best questions ever. Um, Guns n’ Roses in third grade changed my life. I’m adopted, and I’d tell people Axel Rose was my father. He’s not. I’ve been in mostly metal bands, so I’m inspired by a lot of wild, heavy sh@t that nobody has heard of. Every Time I Die, Dillinger Escape Plan, this Japanese Death Metal Goth band Dir En Grey is the most insane thing on this planet, but I also dig a lot of Hip Hop, Blues, Jazz, and Classical stuff.
Did Charles’ mom take Axl to Paradise City? You decide…
So….greatest metal band ever: Black Sabbath….or Black Sabbath? Lol Okay, I’ll be fair, you can pick any band you choose. (whispers: the correct answer is Black Sabbath)
If I ask Ozzy, or Dio version of Black Sabbath will I get slapped? Haha Love the Sabbath I do, but my favorite is actually Led Zeppelin.
This debate still rages to this very day.
Hypothetical question: You can pick any two authors, alive or dead, and spend the day with them (one at a time) to pick their brains. Who do you pick and why?
Bret Easton Ellis. He inspired me a lot in my early twenties, and is still to this day probably my biggest influence. I’d love for him to show me the New York City that he knows while doing mountains of cocaine. Even though I’m sober now I’d come out of retirement for that. My second pick would be Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes books were a huge deal for me as a kid. I’d just like to sip tea, and chat writing with him at an old library. He was English. He’d like tea, right?
Mr. Ellis, you have been officially paged.
And if y’all thought we were done with Charles’ extra curricular activities, WRONG! You’re also a filmmaker about to start production on your first feature film. What’s the film name and what is it about? Who in the film industry has been an influence to you? Do you find film making and authoring to be related? Is the transition easy or is it hard? Sorry, that’s a lot of questions, so take your time answering.
I don’t want to give too much away about the movie, but like all my work it shares a unified universe with everything else. It is going to be a wild ride filled with sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and Kung-Fu that ties into my books/comics. Quentin Tarantino was a big deal in my early teens, Japanese director Takashi Miike is a punk rock god who has directed like a hundred movies, Gareth Evans is a genius, and yes I think the mediums are related in ways. Maybe not for everyone, but it is all storytelling to me. One you just have to think of camera angles. I don’t think one is easier, or harder, but there is a lot more freedom when writing novels.
Quentin can do my segment, as long as I don’t have to be “Mr. Pink.”
Last, but not least, you have a release coming out this summer I believe it is called “Block.” I’ve already been given a brief run down on it and it sounds intriguing. Tease the people with a little info to get them salivating for that pre-order date to get here.
“Block” follows a writer with writer’s block named Arthur Turk, direct nod to Arthur Conan Doyle, who is growing insane from frustration not being able to write anything of quality while navigating the world of a writer trying to get published. He’s strangely offered a dream job writing by a mysterious man named Mr. Mayflower, and from there he sees a supernatural world open before his eyes. One that was always there, and now he has become a part of it. Don’t wanna give too much away.
One last question, and I’m stealing this one (I’ll admit it). If Heaven’s real and God one day opens up the pearly gates for you, what do you want to hear him say?
Hey, everybody. Chill the f@#k out.
Thanks for your time, Charles. Looking forward to that new release!
Thank you, sir. This has been fantastic. Really fun. Thank you for your time, and I hope everybody checks out my work as well as all other Burning Willow Press authors. The entire crew over there from top to bottom are really great, talented people. Very passionate about writers/writing, and driven to help authors get their work to the masses.
Mr. Charles Lee Mullenix. Tell me that’s not punk as fuck! 🙂
Well, would you? There’s a couple ways to ask. You can either email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org (please put “Interview Request” in the subject line) or you can message me on facebook through my authors page which is located RIGHT HERE.
There will be a brief pre-interview question session so I can properly ask you relevant questions and help the readers get to know you better. I am all about posting links to your work and what not, so that’s part of the Author Spotlight.
And you don’t have to be an author. Are you a publisher? An artist? Heck, even editors and beta readers welcome! Anything and everything to do with the business, I’d love to have you! So contact me if you are up to the oddest interview series on the internet!
Today, we are joined by S.L. Kerns. I came to know Lloyd as we were both included in the Burning Willow Press Anthology, Crossroads in the Dark 2: Urban Legends. How about you start by telling us about that story before we get a little deeper into what you have in the works?
Foremost, many thanks for the warm welcome and the opportunity to discuss my life and my writing. Also, congrats on the release of your first novel. The Rise of Umbra has some very impressive cover art and sounds action-packed. I’m holding out for a paperback edition.
“The Spirited Children” is a post-apocalyptic short story about a momma’s boy from Kentucky. Once his mother, a globetrotting woman, innocently brings a Luk Thep doll—check them out on YouTube to be freaked out—back from Thailand, Hell ensues.
The dolls are housing homeless spirits brought on by black magic in their Pali-Sanskrit tattoos (known as sak yant—it’s a real thing), and these souls are hungry for retribution. They have the ability to corrupt the people near them, turning them into possessed, zombie-like creatures who must make sacrifices for the spirits inside the dolls. Our unlikely hero’s family suffers a tragedy that sends him on a journey to rid the world of the popular doll that trended heavier than Furby and Cabbage Patch ever dreamed of.
My story “Ugly as Sin” is also slated to appear in Crossroads in the Dark III: Monsters Under the Bed. Big shout out to Edd Sowder and all at Burning Willow Press for believing in my writing and for all their great releases. A great many of them I have recently read.
I have to bring this up, because I’m a HUGE fan of Queen. I heard you were in a charity Freddie Mercury anthology. Could you tell the reader what inspired you to write that particular piece and what charity it supports, and please, give us a link because I’m all about helping out charities.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate the songwriting and vocal talents of the late Freddie Mercury. Not everybody likes Queen, but a performance by Freddie commands respect and awe. My favorite clips are those of him serenading the masses with “Somebody to Love” on the grand piano. Breathtaking.
Chris Thompson of Penny Dreadful Publications must agree because he put together this great anthology to benefit the Mercury Phoenix Trust for HIV Research Foundation, with all proceeds going there. I had worked with Chris before on two volumes of an antho inspired by David Bowie, and he is an honest and pleasant guy. My stories “Guizhou Girl” and “Silhouettes and Shadows” were included with all proceeds, again, going to cancer research.
Please support the causes and read my heartbreaking tale “Mon Ami, Le Papillon.” One reader said it had “a beautiful ending.”
Want a copy? Get it RIGHT HERE.
Not everyone might know this, but you actually live in Japan now. How’d you get over there? Was it a culture shock? Would you recommend it? From what I hear quite a few Americans are looking at alternative living locations… snicker
When I was eleven-ish, I distinctly recall telling Mom my plan to relocate to Japan after school. My best buddy, Ken, has and American dad and Japanese mother, and with little diversity in my farm town in Kentucky, I was fascinated by him. Every visit he made to Japan, he’d return with futuristic-looking magazines showcasing the Land of the Rising Sun’s uniqueness. I was mesmerized.
It was while studying at Western Kentucky University—the home of the fake “Bowling Green Massacre” reported by the Trump squad—I had the opportunity to befriend several foreign students and, long story short, met my Thai wife. This ultimately derailed the plan to uproot to a place famous for samurais and robots, and instead I spent six years in the Land of Smiles. I still love Thailand, but the clock of life is ticking and there is much to do. My wife and I made the transition to Takamatsu, Japan two years ago and it has proven to be an experience to cherish.
Thanks to my wife, I have seen more of the world than I ever dreamed. I’ve been to Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and of course, Japan and Thailand. I’ve met people from countries I’ve never heard of, and I can’t fathom what people back home are so afraid of. Every person in every place has been welcoming.
Just got to throw this out there: sushi or pizza?
Well, my wife and I often buy sashimi and frozen pizzas from the local supermarket and combine the two in the oven. You gotta try it! Of course, that is only for my weekly cheat meals. I got to stay in shape for the annual bodybuilding competition. It’s held each August in Takamatsu.
Leading to the next topic: you’re pretty heavy into bodybuilding. For those of you who don’t know, the man is ripped like a Bruce Lee villain. I kid you not! You don’t see a lot of authors chiseled from stone. What’s it like balancing that creative side with your drive in bodybuilding? Do they ever get in the way of each other or do they balance themselves naturally?
Honestly, I don’t watch must television. My new home doesn’t even have a TV. So that shaves a few hours wasted off of each day. Doing competitive bodybuilding and writing on top of my full-time teaching job is very challenging. Both take tremendous effort. My dad taught me to be a hard worker by following his example. And bodybuilding has taught me discipline. To paraphrase the Austrian Oak, everything is possible with reps. Just like training pound after pound, writing is all about repetitions of words. Same goes for my guitar playing and learning languages. Just repeat. Training is two hours of my day, tops. Dieting is non-stop. If a person can handle that, I reckon they can accomplish anything, and if I did it, anyone can. I used to think I’d never get defined abs…like it was genetic. It’s not. It’s discipline.
Photo taken August 8, 2016 in my first competition by my incredibly gifted friend, Kevin Cozma.
I know from some of our previous discussions that you’re a criminology minor. I also know one of the manuscripts you’re writing stars a criminologist in a psychological horror. How much did the schooling influence the story? I imagine if anything it should lead to the story being much more authentic as you have a background in that career path. And please, feel free to share as much of the plot as you’re comfortable sharing.
This is still in the works, but I know where it’s headed. Tentatively titled “Rut”, this story is a psychological horror. The main character is writing his second non-fiction manuscript. In doing so he meets a serial killer who believes in hypnosis and mind-control. This murderer is part of a cult who believe they can earn rankings in Hell and experience Satan’s power on earth. This is also believed by some denominations of Christians on the opposite end, dealing with the Holy Spirit and God’s divine power.
The writer’s life spirals out of control as he begins to question things. He is not sure if the hypnosis worked or if he is living out his own dark desires. His marriage is in a rut and his wife only falls back in love with him after a loved one passes away. She has an extreme fear of death, and it has a way of sobering her up and reminding her what’s important. How far will her husband go to save his marriage? Is it possible to love someone too much? Could he kill for her?
I’ve always wanted to use my degree—outside of the way I use it daily to analyze and scrutinize any and every thing. In writing this tale, I’ve had to go back and brush up on a lot of theories I had learned at university. It’s been enlightening. I grew up in a religious town, but not a very strong Christian upbringing, so I’ve also been spending several hours with the Bible in conducting research for this book. The Bible has always been interpreted in several different ways and I am giving my own interpretation of some aspects here. It may not be correct for all, but I think it’s accurate, or enough so to be believable. It definitely works for the world the characters live in.
Horror, Sci Fi, or Fantasy? (And yes, you can only pick one)
I’m not a big of fantasy. I read the Hobbit and enjoyed it. One of my best friends wrote a fantasy called Twelve Cataclysms that I loved. (Mr. Rob Queen, I know you are busy on the new novels, but I need the second book like yesterday.) I have a thing for realism and realistic scenarios. Twisted people scare me more than monsters and aliens, so if I must choose one, I’ll side with horror. Stephen King got me into horror, but since I’ve read several other greats, including many that are working their way up like fellow BWP authors Mark Reefe, Kerry Alan Denney, and even your short stories, Mikey. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented group. I’d also like to give a shout out to my poetic friend A.S. Coomer. His debut novel, Rush’s Deal, is important and must be purchased immediately. It’s two stories in one, and includes a non-visual comic. Not sure how that works? Well, check it out. It most definitely works!
By the way, I’ve heard you have a baby on the way! Congratulations! Can you tell us if it’s a boy or a girl yet? And do you have any names picked out?
Let’s see how I do with balancing writing and bodybuilding after our baby arrives this June. This is our first child, and we are over the moon. The docs just confirmed we are having a daughter and now I can’t stop imagining how adorable she’ll be in her itsy Black Flag and Faith No More t-shirts. My sister doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll be making some for me.
Names? That’s tough. I can tell you she will have a Thai first name, English middle, and my surname.
I heard you also have some experience in the musical field. You’ve got that “jack of all trades” going on, sir. What’s harder: writing a song or a story? Which is more rewarding?
Music was my life. I played bass in bands from middle school to the age of 27. My old band in the states were fortunate enough to be a minor part of the Vans Warped Tour 2005 and toured around the USA in a van on a low-budget diet of peanut butter and apples. This was with Ken, my earlier mentioned buddy. He taught me most of what I know about playing. Since, then, my buddy and ex-guitarist Jordan has moved on to playing in a group called Mona who are turning some heads their way.
My band, Polar Bare Knuckles, in Thailand was also a blast. There are some vids on YouTube if you are interested. I now suffer tinnitus in both ears and have given up the loud rock. I pick a little folk and classic country at home these days, and am a fan of John Prine and Blaze Foley.
To answer your question, both are rewarding. For me writing a great song is tougher than a novel. Novels can be planned to perfection, but a song, for me, comes from the soul. However, sharing a novel with the world is more terrifying and likely to be criticized. It’s a bigger risk because it takes longer to create, longer to decipher, and involves more stakes. At least, that is true for me at this stage in the game.
I know you also have a contemporary novel in the works about a washed up punk rocker who has to take a change of careers to support his family and the stress and struggle that causes. Tell everybody what you’ve got going on here. You told me a bit before our interview and it sounds very fascinating.
“Slack on the Wheel: Punk-Trucker Blues” is a contemporary novel that has had some positive feedback from potential publishers with appraise for the writing style and one saying the author—ahem!—has “an amazing talent.” Unfortunately, it never fits what they are looking for. It’s between a romance and “gritty” realism.
The story is told through the POV of two characters: Tommy, the washed-up punker, and Fiona, his ex. Tommy is a hard worker who loathes wasted time. After moving from LA to Kentucky, where he settles for a career trucking to provide for his family, he loses hope and it costs him his marriage. Between the distracting attention of local women, a difficult boss, and the opposing political views of the locals, he can’t stay out of trouble.
Fiona is the love of his life and the mother of his only child—who resides in Thailand with his transgendered fiancé. All Tommy wants is to win her back and get to his son’s wedding overseas. But while Fiona knows she is Tommy’s only light, she realizes he will never change, never stop using his fists to settle his problems, or dreaming, or grow up. Since their split he has also become a sleaze, and the thought of him with other women sickens her, even if he is only with her because she let him go.
However, a frightening date that ends terribly puts things back in perspective. Is she too late? Has Tommy moved on? Maybe she can get him back before he gets killed by the locals or the authorities. Before he finds someone else.
This is a brief summary. There are several minor conflicts that beg attention from the modern world. It’s all relevant to the issues that get debated daily in America.
An appropriate tag line would be: Humor is his only defense against the death of all hope.
Is there anything else you’d like to promote and where can our readers find you on social media?
The next release I have is a collection of poetry called Rise: an Anthology of Power and Unity. Mark Lipman put this together and has set up a release event in California. I’ve been invited but can’t make the jump from East to West that easily. The anthology features two of my poems, “An Amendment in Angst,” and “A Gun to my Head.” Both came about after news of mass shootings and police brutality back home. It pisses me off and, though I’m not a poet, I wrote these frustrations out. Here’s a link to purchase the book and gander at the powerful cover art: http://www.vagabondbooks.net
I don’t tinker much with twitter and haven’t set up an author’s page hardly anywhere. I’m busy with other things, but I do update www.slkerns.wordpress.com quite often. After one of these novels finds a home, I’ll be using every tool I can to market my work and offer some giveaways for any diehard followers. I hope they exist.
Another Sci Fi book. There’s a million of them right? Well, this one is just a wee bit different. This story mashes up genres like few books can.
Yes, it’s Sci Fi, but there are elements of Adventure, Military, Spy, Dark fantasy and even a touch of horror on it. To put it bluntly, this book has a bit of EVERYTHING in it, including a sense of humor that have people comparing it to Joss Whedon’s “Fire Fly.”
Other comparisons have been made to “Dark Matter” and “The Killjoys.” This book has a little bit of everything and is an adrenaline fueled ride into chaos.
Blurb–“Where the Cartel erred, we will not. We will not only work from the shadows, we will become the shadows. The umbra is the darkest part of the shadow, a place where no light can penetrate, and that’s what we’ll be. We will be the UMBRA, and the world will bow to our every whim.”–Dread
Autumn, along with the other last surviving members of the Earth Crime Cartel, are asked to go on a suicide mission to Mars. If they succeed, all records of their existence will be wiped clean. If they refuse, they’ll be hunted down and executed for their crimes. So what’s a bounty-hunter to do?
Too bad the Martians have left a little surprise for Autumn and her rag-tag gang of rogues on their ship. Yeah, it’s gonna be bumpy ride back home to say the least. Heads will roll and blood will spill as you watch the rise of UMBRA.
Kindle comes out on Friday but paperback is available now! Order it RIGHT HERE.