Episode 88A – Michael Potts – Death Rattle and other Dark Tales

Overview

Michael is a professor of philosophy, which makes him one of the most prestigious guests we’ve had. Not to mention, he plays in chess tournaments.

He has written several books, including a horror poetry collection. His more recent short story collection is all horror. If that wasn’t enough, he’s writing a screenplay.

If that wasn’t enough, he’s working on turning one of his books into a movie.

His Book

Favorites

https://www.2ndandcharles.com/ – 2nd and Charles bookstore

YouTube

Transcript

[00:00:48] Stephen: Oh. Um, I want to welcome you. A great new episode of covered wordsmith. Got Michael Potts with me today. He is actually a professor and has a PhD. So he’s [00:01:00] probably one of my most prestigious guests that I’ve had on here. He’s published some interesting things, including some horror poetry. So it’s a great listen.

We had a great chat about this. Um, and I’m sitting here. It’s the first, really big snowy day of 2022 for me, uh, and, uh, joined the snow. Have a good podcast to listen to. So sit back and enjoy and words of wisdom for any of the writers out there. If you’ve come up with 27 new story ideas today, but you haven’t finished the other 362, you might be a writer.

So here’s what. First of all. Tell me the names of your books. I don’t think I had that in any of the emails. We haven’t really started the interview. This is just a talking a little bit, so I know. And then we’ll get started.

[00:01:49] Michael: My first book was a poetry book that was won the Mary Bell Campbell awards from the North Carolina writers network.

And it was from field. And that was [00:02:00] published. And 2006, it was really a nice addition. I don’t have many of these left. I reprinted it with my own edition and published it myself later on when I read out of most of these, but it’s mainstream poetry. And then my next book was in 2011. This was end of summer.

It’s a Southern fiction book published by WordPress press in Tullahoma, Tennessee. And unpardonable sin was 2014, I believe. Yeah. From word towards craft press. That is a horror, novel, love crafty and horror and obedience. Cool. Nice cover here is going to be made into a movie. Hopefully we can get the funding by a.

Rule 14 pictures, which is associated with my publisher work graphs. And it’s also a horror novel. Then I self published a hiding from the reefer [00:03:00] and other horror points as that was my first collection of horror poetry. It’s hard to publish horror poetry. I would say a lot of well-known writers in horror poetry have to self publish.

On that. And then my latest shoot this year, I have the death rattle and other dark tales, and I worked through breath to digital on that one. And that means it’s an ebook only I sent you a copy, which you should receive

[00:03:32] Stephen: and have to go look through the emails, but yeah,

[00:03:35] Michael: that’s fine. And that was my first anthology of short stories.

Published and the nice thing about drafted digital, they let you name a press, any press. You can give it any name you want. So I just called mine heart’s blood pressure and make it sound creepy. And then I also published another collection of dark poetry, not really [00:04:00] horror poetry, but mainstream dark poetry with a few horror points in there.

And that’s called Slipknot and other dark points. And that’s my. That would be my literary books. I have an academic book that I edited called beyond brain death and came out in 2000, but, and I’ve got a crap load of academic publications as well as individually published

[00:04:30] Stephen: the second. Pick a topic like an author topic, something you’ve run into or concern to discuss, but do you have an idea of what like to discuss on that second half?

One note

[00:04:44] Michael: IDI had was small press versus self-published. That’s right. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Because a lot of authors want to know because it’s very difficult to get an agent and the other [00:05:00] ones, a big brushes, and they don’t do that much for you anymore. Anyway, they don’t really do a lot of publicity.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think that

[00:05:07] Stephen: if you’re all set, if you’re all set, we’ll just get going.

[00:05:13] Michael: All right. I’m set.

[00:05:16] Stephen: All right. Good morning, Michael. Welcome to discovered wordsmith podcast. How are you doing this morning?

[00:05:21] Michael: I’m doing fine. How you doing?

[00:05:23] Stephen: I’m good. And I must say, I think you’re the most dressed up guest.

I’ve had long distance phone calls like this working from home and all that people tend to wear what I’m wearing. T-shirts. Well, that’s

[00:05:35] Michael: true, but I’m dressed for school. And I guess I have a personal preference to dress up when I teach

[00:05:41] Stephen: that’s a little bit about yourself, about where you’re from and what you like to do and what your day job is at the time.

[00:05:49] Michael: I’m originally from the Smyrna Tennessee, which is about 20 miles Southeast of Nashville. I went through the school system, public school system there and went to David [00:06:00] Lipscomb university in Nashville and received a bachelor of arts in biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew. I have an equivalent of an M div from a Harding school of theology.

It was then called heart red school. In Memphis. I have an ma in religion from Vanderbilt and the PhD in philosophy from the university of Georgia. I taught half-time therefore a year and then taught half-time or taught full-time at Kennesaw state university in Marietta. And then, and the fall of 1994, I got the tenure track position at Methodist university.

And my title is a fish as professor of philosophy there at methods in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as far as. Go ahead.

[00:06:48] Stephen: I’m sorry, go ahead. No, please tell us a little bit about some of your hobbies and things you’d like to do.

[00:06:53] Michael: I like to play chess. I play in tournaments a lot about a middle of the road tournament player.

[00:07:00] Uh, not really great, but not really bad either. I enjoy vegetable garden. I grew up in the country and I like living in the country for being such an intellectual. I’m really a simple soul at heart and like doing a lot of simple things. I love to read about every subject imaginable. And I liked going to parks and out in the woods and museums and things like that.

[00:07:26] Stephen: Love museum. And I noticed your bookshelf back there. You’ve got a couple for dummies books. I love that because all through my life, all my careers, I’ve had four dummies books. I need to learn a new subject, start with the, for dummies book.

[00:07:40] Michael: Pretty good. And you can learn a lot through them. So I, for fields I’m not familiar with, sometimes I’ll just get one of those and try to learn the field on my own.

[00:07:49] Stephen: Yep. I agree. I saw most of them are good. I remember getting the computer ones back in the day, how they started. So you’re a teacher. Why did you want to start writing? And you write [00:08:00] poetry and horror fiction mostly. So why’d you want to start doing.

[00:08:03] Michael: I started writing seriously in 1996, I had a friend that I used to talk to a staff member at Methodist, and she was going to take Audrey course.

And he said, why don’t you take it too? So I signed up for it while she ended up deciding well too much for my work schedule. So I kept taking it and it was a wonderful pores with my former colleague. Who’s retired now, Robin. Who’s a very good poison herself. And I fell in love with poetry at that time and wrote us mainstream poetry then.

And 2005 later on, I asked him this was after I’d gotten into poetry and I had gotten the poetry accepted, but my first contest that I won, I went to the writing [00:09:00] workshops. So one was. Through what is now called PSU, which is an online program. They call it the writer’s loft at the time. It’s a two year program.

It’s a certificate program and it’s not quite as hard as an MFA, but it’s a lot of work. And that same year I went at least my first year in that program. I think it was the year I graduated from that program. Got into the Odyssey writing workshop, horror science fiction, fantasy writing workshop up in Manchester, New Hampshire.

And that is an extremely intense workshop. Learned a lot there. I would recommend anyone who is interested in writing and science fiction fantasy. To go to that workshop, check it out. It’s not that expensive for what you get. I like her because I just always have, I’ve watched a dark shadows when I was a kid [00:10:00] on TV.

I was, it scared me too much. I read a lot of horror. I look, oh, and then I of course read king and high school when a loved his word. And later on, of course read the classic Lovecraft and some of the other contemporary horror writers, Robert McCammon and others. And I just liked to be scared. And I liked the,

[00:10:24] Stephen: tell us a little bit more about the actual books.

You’ve got an interesting, you got a horror poetry collection in there, but you’ve got a couple of other things mixed in and they’ve been doing this for a little over 10 years.

[00:10:37] Michael: Yes. Yeah, I did probably a little longer than that. I, it took me a while to write my first book. I wanted to do that when I wrote the first draft in three, three weeks, pretty much.

I went to a weight loss center in North Carolina, where you could just write the whole time by yourself. And I wrote the first draft, but then it had to be refined. I did [00:11:00] that through the writer’s law program and that was the. A lot of writers will say, every writer writes, it’s a coming of age story. It’s based partly on my own memory.

My parents didn’t like the fact that I killed off my parents early on in the book, the parents of the character, but I told them, look, I’m dealing. I don’t want to deal with too many characters. I want to focus on the boy and his grandfather. That’s the only reason I did that. And it’s a kind of a sweet Southern fiction novel, and boy is his grandfather and he’s dealing with that.

And can he overcome that? And he has at least maybe some kind of experience that helps them overcome that. Very Southern, very rural anyone who’s grown up in a rural area anywhere really can appreciate that. It does have a few horror elements, some nightmares I used to have as the kid about my granddaddy turning into a skeleton and things like that because I was afraid he would [00:12:00] die.

So that was really probably my, one of my most popular novel. A lot of people like it because it reminds them of home. If they grew up like that. And I got tired of my mother telling me to write another sweetener. So I decided to go all out on the other direction and wrote unpardonable sin, which is basically a,

[00:12:29] Stephen: uh, the parents dying in the first one.

Here we go now. Yeah,

[00:12:34] Michael: it got worse. I took out, I pulled out all the stops on that one. I it’s definitely for adults only horror, but it’s consistent with my world view, which is basically religious worldview. So it does come out the right way so to speak. But it’s basically, it’s about a love crafty and demon who pretends to be a demon in the Christian tradition to scare this fundamentalist boy [00:13:00] into killing himself.

And, uh, the issue is how can he overcome that? He’s being pressured so much and the demons that are basically bothering him all the time. And I gave the demon a sense of humor to my weird sense of humor. So the demons talking for example about people that are easy to do. And then he says, and the easiest of all college administrators and hope I don’t get in trouble for that.

But anyway, obedience

[00:13:29] Stephen: was, yes, I

[00:13:32] Michael: did. Obedience was next as far as pulling out all the stops. No, but it’s unique. It’s a bout a fundamentalist preacher that was written his daughter’s a main carer because she’s having to deal with her. Going bad that he goes mad because Satan decides to change his appearance, to look like Jesus and tell [00:14:00] the father the only way you’re going to save your daughter’s soul is the killer.

You better do that before she stands. She’s having a. Keep him from killing her and their friends involved. It’s a teenage kind of story. Like you get in some of Stephen King’s novels and I hope any, any fundamentalist evangelical knows it’s a fake Jesus. It’s not, it’s the demon. It’s say pretending to be Jesus.

And that’s the one that’s going to be made into. And then there was a horror report that I mentioned before. And then of course I reprinted from a field ticket, the mainstream poetry, and these last two, I just wanted to get two more books out this year. I’m not getting any younger, so I will want to continue to produce.

And I had a lot of horror, short stories too, had been public. And one [00:15:00] of them, I couldn’t find, so I couldn’t use it, but it was actually probably one of the really strongest stories in the bunch. But I took a death rattle which had been published and some of the other stories which were unpublished and put them into a volume of short stories.

And I’d never done that before. Horror stories, all and a death rattle and other dark. And since I had a lot of hard poetry, I’d sent the poetry book to a horror publisher and they were going to publish it until COVID. And when COVID came along, they said, we have to focus on fiction because poetry is not going to sell that well, and financially we just can’t do that right now.

So I decided I might as well publish it Slipknot and other dark. I had published through the draft of digital service and they let you name a press name. So I just said [00:16:00] for those that went in, the previous book is published by heart’s blood press. And I liked the titles and

I was happy about getting those out. So I do have some projects

[00:16:15] Stephen: in mind. Okay, let me ask this first you’re in the academic world, you’ve written some papers and academic articles in that. Why did you want to write fiction and horror specifically?

[00:16:29] Michael: Because I thought it might be a way to buy, not to present a particular world view through a story without being preachy or teachy so to speak.

That is the story. Send the message. Otherwise it’s bad art, any art that’s preachy is bad art. That’s a problem about, with a lot of Abigail fiction, there are exceptions like Ted Decker and Frank ready [00:17:00] later. Ready. So I wanted to send basically a message of a, kind of a Christian worldview, but not preachy, not.

But through the storyline, through the plot, through the camera. Now, some may not believe that given some of the language and unpardonable sin, but that, that is what I was trying to do. I’m not going to limit my language because there are people who speak using rather colorful metaphors. And I think if I’m.

Present that character correctly. I have to present them the way they really are. That would be in real life, the grade. So it’s

[00:17:45] Stephen: not. So you said you had, oh, sorry, go ahead.

[00:17:50] Michael: It’s not really Christian fiction in the sense. You get at a shelf at a lot of average ethical store, but in [00:18:00] a way it is, it’s more like some of the great Catholic novels that are not preaching.

I just read one recently that was about vampires and, and were a priest was going to was a vampire killer. It was actually very well-written and was not preachy at all. So that’s really what I’m trying to do.

[00:18:20] Stephen: Got it. So you mentioned you have other projects on the horizon in your mind. What are you working on next?

[00:18:26] Michael: I’m working on a novel and a screenplay. The screenplay is about a man who is visiting his grandfather. His grandfather is in his nineties. He’s already teaching in college and he discovered. Some evidence that his grandfather may have been a serial killer in the past. What does he do? And they’re unplanned.

I think I’m going to put a twist on it at the end too, but I’m not going to go into that [00:19:00] yet, but I think there’s going to be something that’s a bit of surprise. And the other project is a novel. And it is a mixture of Southern fiction, Southern Gothic, and a little bit of magic realism. It is about a boy whose grandfather is an elder at a church.

And this evil woman stirs up people against your grandfather and kicks him out as elder. He dies of a heart attack. And he decides to get revenge and he, and a friend of his and their young, fairly young boys are 11 or 12. They definitely get their revenge. And then after they grow up, there might be a price to pay for that revenge tune.

So that’s the general plot line.

[00:19:56] Stephen: Nice. And when do you expect those to be.

[00:19:59] Michael: I [00:20:00] think the screenplay, maybe by the end of the summer, I’ll try to shop it around because say it requires quite a bit of revision. Now I have a draft, but it’s gotta be reworked. So really to work this little surprise and I plan on it and the novel I I’m having to.

Develop the character of the Walmart a little more. You don’t want somebody evil to be totally evil. You want them to have a good side to them as well as a bad side, even though that good side may be very small, but you have to portray them sympathetically at some point. So I want to portray her journey.

Just shift from chapter to chapter, as far as which character has the point of view. And that’s what I’ve been working on is filling it in when it’s finished. It will be probably my longest novel. It’ll be probably around 80, 85,000 words. Nice.

[00:20:57] Stephen: Okay. And here are the stories that are out. What [00:21:00] type of feedback are you getting from readers?

[00:21:02] Michael: My friend, Cathy, Catherine . Who was on your podcast? Let’s see, she said about death rattle. See if I can find the quotation here. Okay. Here we go. A terrifying journey into a grotesque fun house in which the darkness of the universe is complimented by the blackness of the human soul. Hope it’s not that pessimistic, but I do have stories.

It doesn’t mystically because I’m just saying you hold this luck. This is really bad. This is, this is despair.

[00:21:45] Stephen: It really wasn’t a let’s end on a happy note type of

[00:21:47] Michael: writer and he was not. And I think of Stephen King’s novel revival, plastic crafty, and style novels, which I really love that novel by the

[00:21:58] Stephen: way.

It’s interesting because [00:22:00] I didn’t care for that one as much. I didn’t like the ending,

[00:22:05] Michael: but I understood he was writing. Look rafting. And it’s the old ones. They’re not going to treat dead people very well or living for that

[00:22:17] Stephen: matter. I guess that just goes to show. Novel, every story there’s somebody that would like it.

That’s one of the great benefits in today’s world with independent publishing is a novel that a publisher may not have picked up and put out there can get out there and things like lit RPG have come out and people love it, but nobody probably would have published it. So that’s the message.

[00:22:44] Michael: That’s true.

And that’s really the advantage of having both small presses and also a self published opera, self publication opportunities. These days, that publishers. And they don’t always guess rightly either. And we’re

[00:22:59] Stephen: going to [00:23:00] talk more about publishers in the second half, right? So you mentioned one of your books you’re working on turning into a movie.

Have you thought any of your books would be good as a TV show with all the new streaming TV stations we have

[00:23:15] Michael: as a TV show, you could probably do something like that. With obedience. You’d have to have the female lead investigating. Cases or have a teenage investigator, maybe of cases that are weird, like the, what was it?

The Knights soccer or whatever, the 60 series. Yeah, something like that. But with teens, I mean that probably could work developing a TV series, a lot of work. I think you have to think of numerous plot lines. I’d have to have somebody helping me if I ever did that. There are some very good series. I guess my favorite would be twin peaks as nice, but I don’t think I could [00:24:00] ever be close to the brilliance of David Lynch.

[00:24:04] Stephen: Yeah, he’s a genius. Definitely. So let me ask you, Michael, what are some of your favorite books and favorite authors? You mentioned a few authors earlier on, what are some of your favorite books? You mentioned that

[00:24:16] Michael: fiction book is not a horror novel. It’s called a death in the family by James H. It was a Southern writer from Tennessee and it is absolutely wonderful.

The beauty of the language, the characterization, plodding, everything about that book is perfect. I can’t think of a better book, a better written fiction book, a writer with a similar style though. Certainly not that level, but still very good. Would be a Bray Bradbury dandy line. Wine is a very fine novel and I like his horror stories, but pretty much everything he does [00:25:00] that sense of nostalgia without being sentimental.

He’s very good at that. So he has such a beautiful Lang. Which contrasts quite a bit with the language he used in public.

[00:25:16] Stephen: You have any favorite bookstores that you like to go visit?

[00:25:21] Michael: I like the Barnes and noble and Fayetteville and that’s because I just like to browse there. That’s just a lot of stuff in there.

And I also liked the second and Charles, which is a used bookstore. I wished that we had a Books-A-Million here because I can get a. Those are very nice trying to remember the name of the publisher flame treif fiction, playing three fresh. They do a lot of very nice covers on classic ghost stories and classic horror stories.

Beautiful covers on the books and along with some new stories. And they’re all very good [00:26:00] and they look right on a bookshelf lined up next to each other too. And they’re only $10 a piece there, but unfortunately that’s a good. 40 minutes away. So I would say margin noble probably would be the local one that I liked the best.

[00:26:16] Stephen: Got it. Okay. All right. So before we wrap up, talking about your books and move on to some author discussion, tell everybody why they should buy your books to read

[00:26:27] Michael: they, the books will affect you at multiple levels. They will affect you emotionally. And the case of the horror books. I, I do like. Definitely a creepy sense of humor.

You have one of these senses of humor you read and you say, oh, that’s funny. Why am I laughing at this? And, and there’s definitely some areas of suspense in them that should, where you don’t know what to expect. And of course it’s the holding back that makes us Spence work, rather [00:27:00] than just having a pop out all the time.

You want to hold back and Petland. And I think the imagery can be a rather horrifying as well. They’re in one of the, one of my books, a kid is in an old car. All right. I’m just basing it on a little car that I knew as a kid that was at my there’s a trash pile at my grandparents. There was an old 1940s car.

There was a kid goes in there and the demon appears in the form of a snake. Crawling on him and has yeah. The demon of the trashy and for people who don’t like snakes, that would be quite horrifying. And they also are designed to make you think they’re they’re more than just, okay. I’m going to read them.

Yeah. That’s a nice story. I can read say something by TM, right? So yeah, this is a nice John restory. This is nice. John rhe book. I enjoyed that. Read it an afternoon and it’s done, [00:28:00] but. My books to have people continuing to think after they’ve read them, oh, what does this mean? Is there something more to this?

So that’s my philosopher side there. You don’t want to be teaching about it at least through the plot and characterization. I want them to be able to think through some profound issues about the reality. Got it.

[00:28:25] Stephen: Nice. Great, Michael, thanks for sharing the books with us. We’ll include links to those in the show notes.

Thanks for being on. Talk about them.

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