May we introduce the first of many fantastic indie authors featured in our upcoming anthology "It Calls From the Forest: Volume Two". Learn about his writing journey and get a sneak peek at his dark story "Atchafalaya" below.
A.S. MacKenzie is an Atlanta based author who loves all things thriller, sci-fi, horror, comics,
and fantasy. His work includes shorts, novellas, and an upcoming novel, along with a several ongoing serial stories through his monthly newsletter. You can find him most days on Twitter (@a_s_mackenzie) going on and on about comics, movies, music, books, and so much more. Also, he is on Instagram (@a.s.mackenzie) where he shows off his love of cooking, travel, and other bits of randomness. He lives with his wife and a weirdo of a dog. (he/him)
Head to www.asmackenzie.com for some free short stories and how to sign up for the newsletter and the exclusive serial stories.
There are currently three short form eBooks for free download through Prolific Works https://www.prolificworks.com/author/asmackenzie
Also, Unwelcome Space and Other Stories is coming late 2020 from Demain Publishing UK for the Short! Sharp! Shocks! Series.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I’ve always had some creative outlet throughout my life. Whether drawing, photography, model building, woodworking, or set design, there was always something to make and create. I had written a few small stories and tried my hand at two books over the years before I decided to get serious about writing in 2016. It was dinner with a friend that year who agreed to be my permanent editor that I then decided to pursue this fully.
What is your favourite genre to read?
Might as well ask which finger on my hand is my favorite or name a favorite Muppet! It’s just not possible to pick one. I will say that I don’t typically read romance or literary dramatics, but pretty much everything else is fair game. Once I read a synopsis, if it seems intriguing, then I read it. That’s how I’ve been my entire life. My only bit of self-bragging is that I am a fast reader. I started reading well beyond my age when I was young and when you read quick, you run through most school libraries fairly quickly. So, I learned to find the story, not the genre. If I really like a book, and have the available time, I can get through one in a day without taxing myself.
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
I definitely remember as I decided to go all in when I started in 2016. For some reason, I got it into my mind that a serial story told a chapter at a time through my own newsletter would be the best idea. After calling out for subscribers to a completely unknown’s newsletter, I sent the first one in July that year. I nearly threw up when I hit “send” in the email marketing program. The little message appeared congratulating me for sending out the email and I immediately thought, “what have I done…” Thankfully, it was pretty well received, and my subscriber numbers started to slowly climb. Now, I’m on my third serial story and a couple thousand subscribers. Though, I still feel a little queasy when I hit “send”.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
I started out writing exclusively on an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard so I was writing whenever/wherever I could. My full-time job has me travel a lot (25-30 weeks a year, until this year obviously), so I learned how to take whatever environment I could to sit down and write. Coffee shops, restaurants, offices, airports, airplanes, etc. I now use a MacBook Pro for all my writing (I love Scrivener), but otherwise it is still the same of whenever/wherever. The only thing I do need as a constant in all of this is some sort of natural noise, so I’m not distracted. I’ve found a lot of different resources for various rain recordings and the like, but https://noises.online/ has been the BEST resource for just some distraction free natural noise.
Horror occasionally veers into the paranormal or supernatural, that's what makes it fun in my opinion. Do you believe in the supernatural?
My stuff pretty much always goes into the supernatural, even when I don’t intend it to. As for me personally, yeah, I think there is something to the supernatural world out there. It may be what we writers have come up with, or it may be unlike anything we could imagine. Either way, to deny something bigger than our limited understanding of the world around us just doesn’t make sense to me. You don’t want to believe in a deity or religion, that is fine. But, don’t take that willingness not to believe in a religion to not believe in anything outside our natural view of the world. That is just short-sighted in my opinion.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest: Volume Two”. What inspired you?
My story revolves around a real swamp in Louisiana named Atchafalaya. I have only been on the outskirts of the swamp but it was by all accounts the most iconic looking swamp I’ve ever seen. Having grown up in Florida, swamps are nothing new and I’ve been in plenty of them. But, none have looked like what a stereotypical swamp would look like until I saw this one. When I was a kid, we were taught to not play around the edges of the water and to always watch where we put our foot down or brought our small john-boat to shore. This was because for everything you could see in a swamp, it was the stuff you couldn’t see that could hurt you. Alligators, snakes, and turtles were rarely seen until they saw you, which could often be too late. My story plays on the idea that there is something in this swamp that sees you long before you see it.
And now for your reading pleasure, a snippet from "Atchafalaya" by A.S. MacKenzie
The cicadas were buzzing so loud, and so incessantly, that the sound was a near-constant drone that bore into his head. Maybe that’s what the deer flies were after, he thought, because all they seemed to want to do was bite him there. Working together, he bet, one bug helping the other.
This area of the Atchafalaya was even more inhospitable than most, and that's saying something for a bottomland, hardwood swamp that covers over 15,000 acres. There’s a lot of non-hospitable land in this basin, but this piece edged out in front of the pack.
He sat so still in his spot that you’d think he was one of the cypress tree’s knees he sat between. The constant pattern of deer flies landing and departing on his face, neck, and hands did nothing to incite any movement. His breathing remained slow, steady, and controlled.
He was a sight to behold. He knew this, but out here it didn’t really matter. There wasn’t anyone around for miles to tell him he smelled awful and looked worse. The mud he covered himself in, literally covered, was the primordial slop from under the water not far behind him. Multiple millennia of decomposing vegetation gave the mud great properties to help keep him cool, and it prevented most bugs from attacking him. However, it smelled like millennia-old vegetation decomposing on him.
The mud covered his head, face, neck, arms, and hands. The rest of him was covered in his ghillie suit, his own distinctive design that was meant to mimic the surrounding swamp as well as it could. The many shades of green and brown covered the various, tattered strips of cloth stuck around him in a skewed pattern. There were a couple of small branches that held some Spanish moss sticking out from his back, and there were palmetto fronds sticking out from the side of his right leg.
His left leg was smooth and brown, a near-perfect replica of the cypress knee directly beside him. The suit had a hood he loosely flopped over his head, but it didn't cover his ears or face. He knew he was cloaked well enough in mud to not be seen, not that there was another person around for miles to see him. He constantly reminded himself of this as he sat on a small mound of moss and dirt, which seemed perfect for his task.
His legs were positioned in front of him, knees up and relaxed. Between his legs sat a tripod, which held the CZ-USA's 550 American Safari Centerfire Rifle, loaded with .458 Lott rounds. The man who sold it to him last year asked if he was going to hunt elephants, because that was about the most ethical thing you could do with that caliber round.
He had laughed then, explaining it was mostly for show to one-up his shooting buddies at the base.
He didn’t laugh now.
The rifle was equipped with a Leupold 3-15x56mm scope, which allowed for 15x magnification and an exceptionally wide field of view. The FireDot reticule and the low light compensation meant that his target would be easily viewable in the dim, low-light of the swamp.
His hands were controlled, holding the rifle lightly. His elbows were propped on his knees, and his cheek hovered above the stock. He didn’t rest his cheek on it because he didn’t want to waiver his view and smear his mud; the latter being the more important to him since any weakness in the mud barrier meant instant deer fly attraction.
His spot was three feet from the water’s edge, which was in front of him. Though, to be fair, he wondered if it could even be called water at this point. The green slick of algae on top, and the sweet tea color of the liquid underneath, meant that this little stagnant area wasn’t exactly 'fresh water'.
The cicada drone didn’t waiver, nor did the buzz of the deer flies. The scene around him was unchanging. Still trees. Still water. Buzzing deer flies. Eventually a noise broke through the din of cicadas and deer flies. A single, loud crack - the sound of old wood snapping in half. It came from an area about 300 yards away from him, towards his 2 o’clock.
There wasn’t a follow up sound.
He thought he might have imagined it at first, fighting against the rising adrenaline in his system. The noise had startled him, and he was using every trick he’d ever been taught to remain motionless.
Breath in for a three-count.
Hold for a three-count.
Breath out for a three-count.
Hold for a -
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Other Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oneposthorrorstory/
They warned us not to enter, but we didn't listen. The call too strong to ignore. And now there is no one left to save us.
Beware, these things within the forest will rip out your heart and devour your soul. You will tremble as they revel in your madness, taking everything from you and leaving you with nothing. Delve inside this anthology of what truly lurks within the shadows of the trees.
Eerie River Publishing brings you another round of exceptional horror by award-winning authors from around the globe.