Monday, March 19, 2018

#Interview ~ Balec by James Austin McCormick ~ @jimbomcc69

By James Austin McCormick

Interview with James Austin McCormick:

Crystal: Today I have the pleasure of hosting James Austin McCormick. Welcome, James. I'm so excited you are here to visit today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?

James Austin McCormick: I'm a college lecturer from England and a fan of all types of speculative fiction, most notably science fiction, horror & sword and sorcery fantasy. Where possible I try to blend these elements together in my own writing. In total I’ve been writing for about twenty years.

Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?

James Austin McCormick: One scene I especially like is the prologue to my horror novel, Balec. I always imagined it like a movie, that’s how the story played out in my head. The prologue is very much in keeping with this, a gripping initial scene which gives us a glimpse of what’s to come yet leaving so many questions unanswered we’re left dying to know more (hopefully anyway).

Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?

James Austin McCormick: The last work I published was a short novella by the name of Long Scratchy Toenails. It was inspired by a scary story my father told me and my cousins when we were little. The eponymous figure was an old, crazy man, locked in one of the rooms of an old house. From time to time he would escape during the night, unleashing toenail slashing violence on anyone unlucky enough to be staying in the house at that time. And how was this crazy, long toenailed lunatic eventually dealt with? His toenails were cut. I changed the story, and turned “scratchy” into a good fairy instead of a mad old man in my young adult fantasy version, but my dad definitely earned himself a co-writing credit for inspiring me with his early version.

Crystal: What are you currently working on?

James Austin McCormick: I am currently re-writing a steam punk/ dark fantasy. It’s tentatively titled The Rift Makers. It actually began as an attempt at a young adult fantasy but just got darker and more surreal as I worked on it. I’ve no idea when it will eventually be ready to publish though. There’s so many ideas in it, I have to make them all fit together, or not as the case may be.

Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?

James Austin McCormick: None at all. I write something most days, but in short bursts of about ten to thirty minutes. I tried the 500 words a day method but it isn’t for me. My unconscious is always working on ideas though, even if my output isn’t exactly prolific.

Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?

James Austin McCormick: I’d like to say yes but the truth is part of the enjoyment of writing my stories is world building, I like my settings to come entirely from my imagination. So, unfortunately, I don’t have any interesting facts to share. Sorry.

Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?

James Austin McCormick: Robert E. Howard and H. P Lovecraft are way, way up at the top of this list and have been the biggest influence on my own writing. Next would be Clive Barker, then Stephen King for horror, whilst Frank Herbert, Bob Shaw, Larry Niven are my favourite science fiction writers. In fact, Dune is probably my favorite novel of all time.

Crystal: Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?

James Austin McCormick: Without a doubt a thriller. The problem is though whenever I try to write anything ‘grounded’ my imagination takes over and I end up writing something entirely different.

Blurb from Balec:
Adam Chance, a divorced, world weary PI has his life shaken up when his son goes missing in mysterious circumstances.

What begins as a missing person investigation soon turns into an exploration of the supernatural as Chance finds himself lost in a world of the undead, demons and modern-day sorcerers.

Buy link:

Excerpt from Balec:

Tyler was scared, real scared. He’d been running for a long time through the dark, rainy Bronx streets. He knew it was after him, something terrible that haunted the night and traveled on the wind. All he hoped was if it did catch him it would kill him quickly. There were a lot worse things than death. He knew that now.

Although he was only sixteen his chest felt as if it were on fire. He’d been a heavy smoker these last couple of years and was paying the price for it now. No discomfort could make him stop, however. Not until he knew he was safe.

A sound made him look up. He couldn’t be sure amidst the noise of the driving rain but he thought he could hear wings beating overhead. He stared into the night sky but could see little apart from the drops of rain glowing under the streetlights.

He turned a corner and finally came within sight of his goal. It was funny. He’d never before thought of Stevie’s place as anything more than a dive where he could hang out while they smoked dope and got wasted. Now it was his only hope of getting out of the city alive.

He stopped, breathing hard as he pressed himself against a crumbling brick wall, listening. He stayed that way a long time. Apart from the rain he could hear nothing, no giant wings, no inhuman cry. If there had been something there, now it was gone.
For the moment he was safe. He pushed himself away from the wall and raced once more into the open. He ran until he made it to the dilapidated apartment block where his friend lived. Ignoring the cuts and scratches to his arms and legs, he scaled the creaking fire escape to the third floor, jumping onto the rusted, caged veranda outside.

He stooped, peering into the grimy window and with relief saw the flickering light of the TV. He grabbed the lower part of the frame and tried to lift it. It was shut tight. He rapped a couple of times on the glass.

“Stevie,” he yelled. “Open up.” He waited some moments, then hammered on the pane with the flat of his hand. The TV continued to flicker but there was no answer. His friend was probably out cold on the couch, a can of beer in one hand and a joint in the other.

In desperation he picked up the trash can close by and prepared to break his way in. He was mid-swing when a gaunt, fatigued face appeared at the window. When the figure saw what his friend was planning his eyes went wide and he held up a hand,

“Wow, you crazy son of a bitch,” he shouted. “Calm down. I’m letting you in okay?” The moment he undid the lock, Tyler flung it open and dove inside.

The apartment’s inhabitant stepped back and scratched his head. He looked his younger friend up and down. “What’s going on man?” he asked. “Can’t you let your buddy chill out on a Friday night?” He saw the anxiety on his visitor’s face. “Don’t tell me we got a job to do. No way, not at this hour.”

His anxious guest took a deep breath. “Listen to me,” he began. “I don’t have time to explain but we got to get out of here, fast.”
Stevie frowned, “What’re you talking about? You spaced-out or something?”

Tyler shook his head. “Something happened today. Something made me realize how we’re all being used. Think, Stevie. Is what we’ve been mixed up in these last few months normal? Are the things we’ve seen normal?” He placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders.

“I don’t know,” Stevie answered. His fingers crept their way to the snake pendant at his neck. As they did, the serpent’s ruby eye began to pulse softly. The man’s eyes clouded over. “It’s so hard to think.” His voice was slurred.

Tyler shook his friend roughly. “Fight it,” he told him. “The fog that comes over you when you try to think, the one you’re feeling right now, it’s how Darius controls us. We’re like frigging slaves.” He tore the necklace from his friend’s throat. “This is how he does it.” He waved the pendent in front of Stevie’s face before hurling it aside. “Think back, remember all the weird stuff you’ve seen, you know it ain’t right.”

     Stevie took a deep breath, trying to conjure up the memories. Slowly his expression changed,the strange haze falling from his eyes. “What the hell are we involved in?”
     “Evil,” Tyler replied, “and I’ll tell you what else, sooner or later we all end up dead. Remember Ben, Jason, Earl, Ray?
     As soon as they had that brush with the cops they disappeared.” He snapped his fingers, “Just like that. And those guys who crossed Darius. He sent his creatures for them. You saw what happened to their bodies, ripped to pieces.” An involuntary shudder went through him. “We got to get away before we get taken out, too.”

His friend gazed at him. “How did you get free?”
Tyler reached into his coat and pulled out a small, flat object covered in a red kerchief. “The Curator. The one Roland told me to steal this from. He did it.”

“How?” his friend shot back.

Tyler frowned. “I don’t remember. Somehow he broke the spell. He also told me what this is really for.” He pulled part of the kerchief back revealing a computer disc. “I’ve seen what’s on it. We’re in league with the devil.” He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “I can’t drive so we’ll need that beat-up old Chevrolet of yours and some cash. How much you got?”

“About two hundred dollars,” the other man answered.

He indicated the wallet lying on the arm of the couch.

“That should be enough,” Tyler said. “I got my mom’s credit card in case we need more.”

Stevie was silent for some moments, lower lip between his teeth as his mind raced with the recent revelations. “Okay,” he said finally. He went to the table, picked up the wallet and then the car keys off the arm of the couch. “Let’s go.” He turned to leave but at that moment the phone rang. He instinctively went to answer it.

“Don’t,” Tyler cried, turning so fast he almost overbalanced. “It’s Darius. I know it.”

Stevie shrugged. “So, I’ll just bullshit him.”

Tyler shook his head. “He’ll know by your voice.” Stevie pulled his hand away as if the
receiver were suddenly too hot to touch.

Tyler looked out the window, his fear rising. “He suspects I’m here. Which means it won’t be long before his creatures come here as well.” His eyes fell to the disc still in his hands. “He can’t get hold of this.” He glanced at his friend. “You have to destroy it. I’ve tried, but somehow I can’t do it.” He held it out.
Stevie stepped forward to take it but something made him hesitate. “Why not?” Fear flickered in his eyes.

Tyler shrugged. “Something stops me. It’s like there’s a kind of spell on it or something.” He flung the disc onto the table and picked up the baseball bat laying under the window. He threw it to his friend.

Stevie nodded, twisting the grip in his hands. He lifted the bat, nervous eyes fixed on his target. His arms wouldn’t move. If he’d tried to explain it he would have said there was a whisper in his mind preventing him. He looked at friend. “It’s no good.” He shook his head, letting the bat drop from his fingers.
His companion nodded. “We’ll find a way.” He snatched up the disc, wrapping it up again. “Let’s split, while we still can.”

They were heading for the door when the sound of beating wings outside made them freeze.

“You hear that?” Stevie hissed.

Tyler fingered the kerchief. “Darius can’t get his hands on this.”

His friend pointed to the TV. “Next to the set, there’s a loose board I use it to stash my gear.”

Tyler dove for the board and pulled it loose. He hurled the disc inside, then dragged the TV over the area.

“Now, for the love of God, let’s go,” Stevie pleaded. A winged shadow, huge under the
yellow street lights, appeared outside. Moments later there was a thud as something landed on the fire escape. Two red, glowing points stared in at them.

Both yelled in unison. Stevie was the first to gather his wits and race for the door. As he reached the outside landing, he stopped. His companion came slamming behind him.
“Move, move, move,” Tyler cried, clawing at his friend. Stevie motioned to the stairwell.
      Something was coming up the creaking wooden steps, something that also had red


Behind them the window shattered.

About the Author:

James Austin McCormick is a college lecturer from Manchester, England and his free time enjoy writing speculative fiction, mostly science fiction, horror and a little sword and sorcery fantasy. He is also a particular fan of classic Gothic and Victorian horror tales and is currently in the process of writing updated versions of these with a science fiction spin.

Find out more about James at:


  1. Tense excerpt. I like! Very real feeling.

    1. Thanks so much Linda- all the many, many re-writes paid off then :-)

  2. I love your scratchy toenail story. I found myself chuckling. I dont know if you meant it to be...Your dad sounds like he’s a character.

    Well-done interview. Good luck with your new novel.

    1. thank you- I think I'll return to Scratchy some time soon- there's a bigger story to tell I think

  3. Nice, tight style James! looks like a good read - best of luck with it!

    1. Thanks Paul- I always do my best to make the prose as lean as possible

  4. I've read Balec and always felt there should be a sequel, with Adam and a more grownup Tyler making a monster-fighting team.