Weldon, Smart Rhino & Zippered Flesh, Oh My…

I met Weldon Burge in the fall of 2014 at the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity Conference, more commonly known as C3 Con. We got acquainted over a pre-panel snack, discussing our affection for scary stories and the joys and pains of writing. Weldon, being a soft-spoken gentleman, put me at ease. I confided in him about my nerves. I’d never spoken on an author panel before, and he assured me that I wouldn’t ruin my budding career by simply opening my mouth. Weldon was right. Since then I’ve appeared on several panels, at various conferences and even had the honor of sharing the panel-stage with him in 2015. Now I know a little more about Weldon. Most interestingly is that when he’s writing, he transforms into a heavy-metal-rocking horror enthusiast.

Weldon Burge, a native of Delaware, is a full-time editor, freelance writer, and publisher. His fiction has appeared in Suspense MagazineFutures Mysterious Anthology MagazineGrim GraffitiThe Edge: Tales of SuspenseAlienskinGlassfire Magazine, and many other publications. His stories have also been adapted for podcast presentation by Drabblecast, and have appeared in the anthologies Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological HorrorDon’t Tread on Me: Tales of Revenge and RetributionGhosts and Demons, Something at the Door: A Haunted Anthology, and other collections. In 2012, Weldon and his wife, Cindy, founded Smart Rhino Publications, an indie publishing company focusing primarily on horror and suspense/thriller books.

 

In a few short years, Smart Rhino Publications has produced 10 books. My introduction into the works of Weldon Burge started with Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancement Gone Bad! This is the first anthology by Smart Rhino Publications and contains twenty tales of monstrous transplants, appalling amputations, bizarre implants and nightmarish body enhancements, written by some of the best in horror, suspense, and science fiction. These twisted tales are not for the faint-of-heart, but are a delicious treat for any fan of dark fiction. So, when Weldon told me he was planning to release a third installment in the Zippered Flesh series, I knew I had to be a part of it.

Gehenna Division – Case #609, the story of a brother who undergoes body modifications to pose as a demon and enter the gates of Hell to save his sister’s wrongly condemned soul will be one of the stories featured in the 2017 release of Zippered Flesh 3. Besides my excitement over having my story included in such an industry-respected series, are the greats that I’ll be joining: Jack Ketchum, Graham Masterton, Jeff Menapace, Shaun Meeks, William F. Nolan and Billie Sue Mosiman, just to name a few.

And now let’s hear from the man who is responsible for all this mayhem.

Weldon, what first “hooked” you on the horror genre?

W.B. I’ve always loved horror movies and horror fiction, going back even before I learned how to read. I remember my Uncle Donald and his box of EC and Warren comics, which he shared with me despite my mother’s admonition, “Don’t show him that trash! You’ll ruin his brain!” Too late, too late. I was probably 4 or 5 at the time, and I came to love those comics filled with the walking dead, vampires, and gruesome death. I was an avid reader, and read every ghost and eerie story I could get my grubby hands on.

As for my love for writing horror, I can point to a fine little anthology titled 11 Great Horror Stories, published by Scholastic Books. Yup, I now write nasty stories thanks to Scholastic! I can even pinpoint one story that changed my life and inspired me not only to read more horror, but to write it. This happened when I was 13, when I read Anthony Vercoe’s story, “Flies.” Vercoe’s story was unlike anything I’d ever read before, it was so in-your-face, so no-holds-barred when it came to the gross out. I’ve certainly read stronger stories since then, and there were many other pulp stories of similar caliber, but “Flies” made a difference for me. This is the first story that I recall having a visceral reaction to, actually feeling sick to my stomach while reading it. I first had a “Wow!” reaction when I finished the story, and then thought, “You can really get away with writing this kind of stuff?” Something clicked in my head. I knew immediately that I wanted to be able to write stories like this. I clearly remember that decision, even today.

Smart Rhino has published 10 books to date, the majority being anthologies. Is this a personal preference, professional or by chance?

W.B. If you look at my home library, you’ll see dozens of anthologies and short story collections. Plenty of novels and nonfiction as well, of course. But I’ve always loved reading and writing short stories.

When I started Smart Rhino Publications, I intentionally began with an anthology, Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad! Besides pulling together a fantastic diversity of fiction on the topic, my rationale was to develop a strong marketing platform. As a small, indie publisher publishing its first book, marketing was a big deal. So, creating a book with 20 authors guaranteed at least 20 networks promoting the book. The success of our first anthology fed the success of the following books, and our anthologies are still our best sellers.

How did you come up with the idea for Zippered Flesh, and was the initial plan for a series?

W.B. I’ve always been fascinated with the psychology around body modifications—and, of course, the horror often inherent with the topic. If you think about it, the topic is open to a wide range of potential story lines. As for the title of the book, I was looking for something different yet memorable. (There’s also a tie-in to an experience I had in my past … but we’ll save that for another time.) I originally planned for a trilogy, so the upcoming Zippered Flesh 3 at least meets that goal. Will there be a Zippered Flesh 4? We’ll have to wait to see …

When will readers be able get their hands on Zippered Flesh 3?

W.B. I’m hoping the fall of 2017, maybe later if we run into any unforeseen issues. It really depends on how the Kickstarter campaign fares. If we meet the stretch goals, we’ll be able to add more stories and include illustrations. And that may make the release later than expected … but it would be well worth the wait!

Kickstarter is a great avenue for artists, writers and other creative types to launch projects. Let’s hope this one is a huge success! (hint, hint)

There is a lot of hard work and dedication that goes into indie publishing, what would you say is your greatest reward?

W.B. By far, the opportunity to work with other writers. At this point I’ve worked with about 80 writers, thanks to the variety of stories that have appeared in our anthos. What’s not to like? I’ve learned so much from collaborating with so many talented authors, far more than they’ve learned from me.

Just for fun, is there anything you are too scared to write about?

W.B. Nah, not really. Maybe Alzheimer’s. The thought of slowly losing your thought processes, losing your memory, is horrifying to me. Could I write about it? Probably. But it definitely wouldn’t be fun. Yikes!

What else is in the works for you and Smart Rhino?

W.B. Another anthology, A Plague of Shadows, is currently being planned with the Written Remains Writers Guild. I’m a member of the group. Smart Rhino previously worked with the Guild to published the Someone Wicked anthology, and we’re hoping the next book will be just as successful. There will be another anthology in our Assassins series, focusing more on suspense than horror in those stories. And then Smart Rhino has a few other surprises in the works, so stay tuned!

Very exciting stuff, Weldon! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.


Our main goal for this Kickstarter campaign is to increase our payments to our authors, aiming for professional rates. Our superb writers deserve it! As a small independent publisher, Smart Rhino Publications strives to publish quality books and provide venues for talented writers. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated … and rewarded!

Check out the many great rewards we’re offering for your support! We’re sure you’ll find something of interest, especially if you love horror and suspense fiction.

Click here for Zippered Flesh 3 – Kickstarter


 

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