August 29, 2016

The Games of Spies: an interview with Jeffrey Wilson and Brian Andrews, authors of "Tier One"

In a world violated by terror, the old lines have blurred. Meet the next generation of covert ops.

John Dempsey’s life—as an elite Tier One Navy SEAL named Jack Kemper—is over. A devastating terrorist action catapults him from a world of moral certainty and decisive orders into the shadowy realm of espionage, where ambiguity is the only rule. His new mission: hunt down those responsible for the greatest tragedy in the history of the US Special Ops and bring them to justice.

But how does a man torn between duty and revenge walk the line and preserve his soul?

As Dempsey struggles with the games of spies, the case propels him across the globe in a desperate effort to prevent a new, horrifying attack on American soil.

Once, John Dempsey followed orders blindly. Now he sees behind the curtain, and the security of the civilized world rests on one question: Can a Tier One Navy SEAL adapt and become the world’s most lethal spy?


Q: By definition, Tier One and Special Operations Task Forces, like the one you were deployed with as a SEAL, are covert. Missions, even identities, are rooted in deception. In a line of work where the only truth you can believe is your own, how—and who—do you learn to trust?

Jeffrey Wilson: Without exception you trust your team. The bonds of brotherhood that are formed in war are deep and lasting, and are not unique to the Special Warfare community. It has been often said that in combat you no longer fight for ideology, or cause, or even country. You fight for the man beside you. You fight for that brotherhood. In covert operations there is a suspicion of those “outside” of your own brotherhood. We try to bring that forward in the book.

Q: Some veterans return from combat, never to speak of it outside the family they fought with. Not you. Your deployments inform your storytelling. Just how real is your fiction? Is re-living the danger through your characters a thrill, or is it therapy?

Brian Andrews: It would be disingenuous to say that our military experience doesn’t inform our storytelling, but the mechanics of that influence are not what you might think. It’s not the tactics, the weapons, or the nitty-gritty details that we resurrect for our readers—it’s the emotions, stakes, and the human toll. These are things that matter in conflict and combat. These are the things that drive human decisions, in both fiction and real life. For me, the act of storytelling is cathartic and exciting because it poses questions that matter to the widest possible audience within the context of a thrilling adventure. So when you read TIER ONE, keep the following in mind: What message are these guys really trying to communicate? How many layers deep in TIER ONE do I have dig until I hit the bedrock of truth?

Q: In TIER ONE, Senior Chief Jack Kemper, already estranged from his ex-wife and teenage son, "dies" to protect his family, as he creates a new covert ops team to take down the enemy. How does the death of his identity mirror his reinvention from SEAL to secret agent? What's harder for him to lose— the people he loves or the job that defines him?

Andrews: One of the most fascinating epiphanies as writer is recognizing that characters, like people, have differing degrees of self-awareness. If you were to ask Jack Kemper what matters most in his life, his answer would be family, but as readers, we might disagree. As readers, we see that Kemper’s actions speak louder than his words. As the story unfolds, we learn that his wife has already left him because when forced to choose between duty and family, he always chooses duty. But through the process of reinvention, he finally gains a level of self-awareness he’d not had before. The tragic irony of his character, is that only “in death,” does he actually desire to place family above country, and only in death, is that opportunity truly lost to him.

Q: In the book, both sides use honor as justification to avenge the deaths of their loved ones. Infidel or jihadist—if one's a villain, does that make the other a hero? Or do we have more in common than we'd like to believe?

Wilson: That is absolutely correct! We work hard in the TIER ONE series to show just that, and I believe it is imperative to make the villains as realistic, complex, and motivated as the heroes if you want a story to resonate as true. To the Jihadists, it our Ember Team that are the villains and they are as passionate about their cause as John Dempsey is about his own. To not do this is to lower the stakes in your story.

Q: "Radical Islam" is a term used by some to describe ISIS and al Qaeda. Others believe it confers a religious legitimacy on terrorists that they don't deserve. Aren't the suicide bombers in the book—and in real life—motivated as much by politics, retaliation, and altruism as they are by religion?

Andrews: Yes, I believe so, but don’t discount the power of indoctrination, peer pressure, and the desire for elevated station in the afterlife as contributing factors. The decision to become a suicide bomber is not one that is made on a whim, rather it is a gradual process of psychological corruption. Even the most benevolent mind can be usurped, when exposed to a lifetime of religious dogma and manipulation.

Q: In TIER ONE, the bureaucrats and the boots on the ground are equally driven, equally flawed. Ideologues set the agenda, and the few who seek compromise seem to be played for fools. So you think the suspicion and stereotypes too entrenched to be overcome?

Wilson: God, I hope not. In TIER ONE we created an entity in Ember that could operate outside of the bureaucracy for the greater good of America. In this truly diverse and highly “joint operations” environment, those stereotypes must be overcome for the unit to reach its potential and achieve its goals. Of course, someone—in the case of our fictitious Ember that is Jarvis—has to serve as the bridge between the bureaucracy and our team of driven operators. By being that self-sacrificing buffer he allows Ember and Dempsey’s Special Activities to operate with a purity of purpose. I hope very much there are teams like our fictitious one out there somewhere.

Q: At the end of the book, it's revealed that a high ranking U.S. official betrayed his country in an effort to manipulate public opinion, trading the lives of the SEALS for a hard line foreign policy with Iran. “(He) thought he was an American patriot, but in reality he was an American jihadist." What's the difference? 

Wilson: When your dedication to a cause allows you to step over the line to put your agenda above the safety and well-being of American citizens or warfighters then you are no longer a patriot, in my view. You can’t pursue a greater good for your country by sacrificing its citizens, most especially those most committed to her defense. That blind zeal that makes your cause more important than the lives it affects is the difference between patriotism and Jihad.

Q: In TIER ONE, the wife of a SEAL declares her son's Bar Mitzvah "an acronym-free" celebration. "No one but you guys know what a ‘SCIF’ is," she says. What is a SCIF, and what is it about the acronyms, the "invisible tether," and other rituals that brand a Team identity and forge an unbreakable bond?

Wilson: Well, a SCIF is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It is essentially a secure building, or area within a building, where highly classified information can be reviewed and discussed. Only those with adequate security clearance (SCI level clearance) would be permitted to even enter a SCIF and no cell phones or other electronics would be permitted.

Q: The Iranian ambassador to the UN is one of the more complex characters in the book. His wife believes "he wanted to be the voice of a rational, peaceful Islam," yet the reader can't help but question his motives. You've said that you create "characters (who) face the same moral crises that we all face...." What is it about this terrorist that makes him relatable? 

Andrews: As one of only a handful of POV characters in the book, we get to see the world through his eyes. He’s a brother, a husband, and a father. He’s professionally accomplished and respected. Like all people, his motivations are driven by his wants and needs which are under constant pressure from the people in his life whose opinions matter most. In the case of Modiri, his brother and wife fill the metaphorical roles of the devil whispering in one ear, angel in the other. Ultimately, his moral compass is swayed by grief, fear, and insecurity— forces which I think everyone can relate to—and he chooses the path of vengeance.

Q: You dedicate the book "To the heroes of Extortion 17, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom on August 6th, 2011." Tell us about the mission that caused the single greatest loss of American life in the Afghan war, and the 38 souls who died. 

Wilson: The loss of Extortion 17 was the greatest single day loss of life in SEAL Team history. I can't give any specifics about what happened that day because the details of the mission are still classified and even if I could that day is difficult to talk about on a personal level—I lost a number of friends that day and also suffer along with other friends who were not aboard but share the loss. What that day, and the loss we suffered because of it, means for the Naval Special Warfare Community is broader—and simpler. Like those brave men—the SEALs, the NSW support personnel, the aircrew, the Afghani partners—it is imperative that each of us remain committed to never give up the fight—whatever that fight may be today. This is part of the culture of Special Warfare. I have no doubt that each of these men, given the knowledge of what may happen that day—that they were perhaps being targeted—would have still, without hesitation, kitted up and boarded that helicopter. There were brothers in need and enemies at the gate.  



Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson are the co-author team behind the TIER ONE covert ops series and the Nick Foley thriller series, penned under the pseudonym Alex Ryan.

BRIAN ANDREWS

Midwest born and raised, Brian Andrews is a US Navy Veteran who served as an officer aboard a 688 class fast attack nuclear submarine in the Pacific. He graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a degree in psychology. He is a Park Leadership Fellow and holds a Masters degree from the Johnson School at Cornell University.



JEFFREY WILSON

Jeffrey Wilson has at one time worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, a diving instructor, a Naval Officer, and a Vascular and Trauma Surgeon. He also served two tours in Iraq as a combat surgeon with both the Marines and with a Joint Special Operations Task Force as part of his service with an East Coast based SEAL team.

August 25, 2016

If I'm Mayan, I'm Dyin': an interview with Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, authors of "Mayan Blue"

Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.
These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.


What was the impetus of Mayan Blue?
M&M- We got the idea from a television show about how the Mayans could have migrated into the southern states of America. We were very intrigued by the possibility that it could be true. We have always loved learning about ancient civilizations and mythology so the concept of this book was really right up our alley. We saw it as an opportunity to have our first novel be something unique so we just went for it.
What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from other titles?
M&M- This was our first novel so the outlining and story mapping was far more extensive.
How have you found your progression as writers thus far?
M&M- We can see that our writing is getting better as a whole. We’ve learned through trial and error as well as through our peers and those we look up to how to put together a better story from starting point, to keeping people invested in reading the rest of a story, and also some things from our editors to help our sentence structure.
Who do you count among your writing influences?
M&M- There are so many but to name a few here we would say Ronald Kelly, Brian Keene, and Jack Ketchum.
How much emphasis do you place on setting as a character?
M&M- We think it’s really important for a setting to be looked at as a character because it is also influential on the outcome of your story, the same as any character. Will it be unforgiving or a place of refuge? Different areas are like different characters with their own personalities in way. In Mayan Blue the setting is dark and obviously deadly, but we added hints of light that could be seen as hope to the characters.
What do you consider to be the saving grace of the genre?
M&M- It will never die; people can try to kill it but it returns like Jason Vorhees. That is because of the true horror fans that keep it in their hearts and won’t let it fade away. The saving grace is the true horror fanatics that support it through thick and thin.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
M&M- There really isn’t any bad writing advice, but there really is no magic formula for success either. Too many people ask for advice and think that suddenly everything will fall into place and they will just blow up. People are taking notice of us now but we did struggle for years and still do…but that is writing. We can only tell new writers to find a schedule that works for them to write, work hard, and accept constructive criticism and rejection. Read and acquaint yourself with what makes a good story and never give up once you start.
What kind of guilty pleasure do you have when it comes to books or movies?
M&M- SUPER CHEESY MOVIES AND BOOKS! We love horror, sci-fi and fantasy books and movies of all flavors. It’s fun to check out some silly stuff like terrible B-horror movies or some beast master flicks. Or spend time going through the cheesy monster porn on amazon and reading the descriptions. We’re dark and evil but have good senses of humor. Sometimes laughter is all you have left after a hard week.
What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

M&M- We’re just finishing a sci-fi book for a Kindle World. We sent in a horror manuscript that hopefully we can talk about soon. We’re already working on another horror novel and next year we have a horror novel and a dark fantasy novel lined up. We are on Facebook and Twitter if people want to follow along 

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza have been writing together since they were little girls and were dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editors of Fireside Press. They are constantly working together on new stories in the horror and dark fantasy genres. Their work has been included in FRESH MEAT published by Sinister Grin Press, WISHFUL THINKING by Fireside Press, WIDOWMAKERS a benefit anthology of dark fiction.

Praise for Mayan Blue
From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There’s plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.” –Michael Hicks, Author of Convergence
“Their short works are wonderful to read. However this book proves that they can tackle longer works without missing a beat.” –Tom, GoodReads
”These two show no quarter dragging the characters--and by extension, the reader--into the depths of the Mayan version of Hell. There's vividness to the scenes they craft that made me want to make sure I was reading in full daylight, or at least with most of the lights on.” –John Quick, Author of Consequences
Purchase Links
Barnes & Noble

August 18, 2016

Body Horror: a guest post by Ivan Ewert, author of "Famished"



Having defeated the Gentleman Ghouls of the Farm and the Commons, Gordon Velander—and his attendant spirits, Orobias and Sylvie—head west. They seek to destroy the most remote branch of the cannibal cult that founded America and gnaws at the roots of the free world.
However, Gordon now fights a battle both within and without. His contentious allies first struggle, then revolt, following their own agendas. At the same time, Rancher Dylan Wildye has chosen a new tactic to preserve the family bloodline.
Warring for mastery of his own body, mind, and soul, Gordon must choose not only sides, but also his fate.

BODY HORROR
by Ivan Ewert
When Jennifer Brozek at Apocalypse Ink asked me to write about what scares me most, I took the ball and ran with it. At the time, I thought I was writing within the primary horror genre. I’d never given much thought to the various and very different fields within horror.
In fact, I had never heard the words “body horror” until one of my readers applied it to my first book, FAMISHED: THE FARM. The more I investigated, the more I learned about my worldview, and how that informs my work.
Life is strong, but flesh is a fragile thing. I was fortunate enough to get through my adolescence before any of my relatives succumbed to the ravages of old age, but when they began to fall, it shook me. Possibly because I had been so lucky as to escape decay in my formative years, it struck me all the harder when it came.
It came in a restaurant.
One afternoon on summer vacation from college, I took my grandmother to lunch. I was mesmerized by the translucence in the skin of her hands, the shake with which she brought spoon to lip, the smear of creamed corn soup going unnoticed against her cheek.
I loved my grandmother as much as any callow young man, but in that moment, I was both revolted and confused. How could this happen to someone I remembered as strong and vibrant? She was old, sure. I knew she wore a wig to cover hair gone wispy and thin. But now the skin around her arms was the consistency of crepe paper, and she needed me to help her walk.
On top of this, she forgot words. She forgot things which she had just told me. And throughout, that palsied, spotted hand ferrying tasteless food to a senseless tongue. She was disintegrating before my eyes, both physically and mentally.
Up until that moment, death was a distant thing which I vaguely knew would come. At that meal, however, on a rainy afternoon in our little downtown square, I realized with full force that it was coming to us all. The uncaring universe I had internalized through the writings of Lovecraft and the rationalism of my father became suddenly, immediately personal.
Decay enshrined itself in my consciousness, and wedded itself to a lifelong sense of alienation. I must have been a hit at parties.
That combined sense of bodily horror and personal struggle for identity informs all three books in my Gentleman Ghouls series, but nowhere moreso than the third, FAMISHED: THE RANCH. There were many scenes from which I had to walk away prematurely; and each time, one of my alpha readers would prod me to show more, to make the scene harder to stomach, to stop turning away from the reality I had created on the page. I worked through their pressure to focus on what frightened me, and was rewarded when my editor labelled me as “a bad, bad man.”
I look forward to the labels others might apply.

Bio: Ivan Ewert was born in Chicago, Illinois, and has never wandered far afield. He has deep roots in the American Midwest, finding a sense of both belonging and terror within the endless surburban labyrinths, deep north woods, tangled city streets and boundless prairie skies. The land and the cycles of the year both speak to him and inform his writing; which revolves around the strange, the beautiful, the delicious and the unseen.
FAMISHED: THE RANCH is the third in the Gentleman Ghouls series, published by Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Ivan can be reached at www.ivanewert.com and on Twitter @IvanEwert.

The Farm and The Commons are both on sale for $2.99  http://www.apocalypse-ink.com/page/More-Information-Famished-The-Farm.aspx

August 17, 2016

Writing 101: Just Have Fun: a guest post by Glenn Rolfe, author of "Chasing Ghosts"

Chasing Ghosts by Glenn RolfeThe Cobbs were ignorant woods-people that died off and left nothing to fear.. Locals in Naples, Maine think they know this story. But are they wrong?

Luke Howard and his mom move to Naples and Luke’s eager to make new friends. When Jason and Davey invite him out to the abandoned Cobb place for a game they call “chasing ghosts,” he’s ready and willing. However, the boys will come to discover that some vacant houses are better left to die alone.
Meanwhile, a punk band set to play in a rented cabin out of town feel eyes upon them. Somebody’s watching, but not their usual audience. When their lead singer strays too far from the group and disappears, his band mates set out in the darkness to find him.
Police Chief Walt Henderson is about to discover that there’s more going on out in the woods of his town than he ever imagined.
Chasing ghosts is more than just some children’s game.

“Writing 101: Just Have Fun”
By Glenn Rolfe, author of Chasing Ghosts

One of the things about my latest novella, Chasing Ghosts (Sinister Grin Press), that may surprise some people is that it was both the quickest piece I’ve written and the most fun. Like many authors, the tug of war between good/great story versus piece of crap/junk box story is the norm when crafting everything from a short story to a five-hundred-page novel. I am no exception. I find myself hitting quicksand and doing numerous re-writes throughout the entire process. But sometimes…. sometimes things come together in an amazing way. I liken it to songwriting. The best tunes I’ve ever written happened in a flash. When I wasn’t trying too hard, when I was just playing around, when I was just having fun.
I think back through the pieces I’ve written over the last five years and find the same feelings and results as I have from my songwriting days: lightning strikes when you’re having fun. For my werewolf novel, Blood and Rain, it happened when I decided to re-write the story with the big reveal at the front of the book. For Abram’s Bridge, it was when I let go of the idea that it was just a short story. For Chasing Ghosts, it started one summer day when I was trying to decide which book to re-read, Richard Laymon’s The Woods Are Dark or Jonathan Janz’s Savage Species(both excellent novels). I ended up grabbing Laymon’s book just because it was shorter. I think I made it about twenty to thirty pages in when inspiration hit. I used to play in a punk rock band with a couple of dudes named Connor and Ian. I just imagined us getting an offer to play in a cabin in the woods and then wondered what say Laymon or Janz might do to us. The very first thing I typed on my laptop was Dedicated to Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, and Jonathan Janz for all the guts you give me to tear out someone else’s. That set the tone and sent me on an eight-day writing binge. I had the first draft done. I’ve never written a story I love so much so fast. It was a total perfect storm of circumstances. My wife and kids went to bed early all week, I shut the TV off as soon as they went upstairs and pulled this story out, and I just had to know how it all ended.
At the end of the day, I love how it turned out and I’m looking forward to venturing back into the woods to scribble out another piece involving my evil villains, The Cobbs. I hope you guys get sucked in like I did. I hope I toss the match into your gasoline eyes and have you burning through this viscous tale. Who knows, maybe I’ll inspire you! Whatever the case, just remember to have fun.
Cheers!


Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Hunter Shea, Brian Moreland and many others. He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram's BridgeBoom TownThings We Fear, and the forthcoming, Chasing Ghosts; the short fiction collection, Slush; and the novels, The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain.
His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released in March 2016.
PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon Sinister Grin Press Also available in paperback!

August 16, 2016

Not Just a Book: a guest post by Duncan P. Bradshaw, author of "Hexagram"

Hexagram by Duncan Bradshaw: Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.
Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.
We are all made of stars.
When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet...the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.

Not Just A Book
By Duncan Bradshaw, author of Hexagram

First up, this is not a post about which format is better than another. Personally, you cannot beat a Kindle for when you go away on holiday, saves so much space, which is then used by my wife for the extra clothing she takes, to cover all bases.

But…I will say, that when I am putting my books together, there is something really cool about creating the files for the physical copies. For that, I have to rewind around thirty years, to when I was a littler version of myself, and absolutely besotted with Roald Dahl. Not only were his books the perfect fodder for me, irreverent, gross, completely OTT and silly, but they also had kickass illustrations inside. Quentin Blake’s work not only complimented the words so well, but they set the tone for what was inside, just by looking at the covers.

Now, the last thing I want to do when I’m putting together a book, is copy what they did, it’s just not possible, plus, it worked well as a kids book, not for adults. Particularly within genre fiction, it would look out of place. It’s not to say that you can’t do something though.

I played it pretty safe with my debut, ‘Class Three’, a few different fonts, some black and white zombie pictures, nothing too much. When I got to the first book in the Class Four trilogy, ‘Those Who Survive’ though, I wanted to up the ante a bit.

There are a couple of parts in there, which lended themselves perfectly to having something a little extra done for them. The main one, is the Trevor Norman’s Penny Gaff section. When our protagonists are ‘treated’ to a show, each travesty of nature has its own poster, turning them into a focal point, and giving them a bigger presence.


Another part of the narrative focused on survivors relaying their tales to others in a support group. These were singular stories, and again, provided the opportunity to give the reader something cool to find, and breaks up the wall of words. There were some other design choices made too, which I feel, added to the story. So much so, that when I created the book, I released it the same size as a graphic novel. It’s those little touches that most people won’t even be aware of, having opted for the digital version.

When I released my first bizarro novella, ‘Celebrity Culture’, a poke at the obsession with vapid people, there are forty three made up diseases. To highlight the extent to which brands invade our lives, each of these diseases have their own font. So, diseases released by the same person will have their own brand and image.

Again, is it needed? No, not at all, but for me, I love these little touches. Writing is fun, reading is fun, I want people who pick up one of my books, to go through it and have a little smile on their face when they do so.

Hexagram though is probably my most serious book, so these touches I wanted to keep at a minimum. There were a number of things I wanted to do though. When I sent the brief to Mike McGee for the cover, I wanted each point of the Hexagram to be each of the main characters. Not just that, but by each, there would be an image, which is part of the story, which makes up the point of the star. For example, Pastor Jim Gimbal gets a drug loaded syringe:

These also adorn each chapter cover, which has a quote, date, location and countdown to the end of the world. Plus, you’ll see that each story has a different font used for the chapter numbers. I just think this helps to frame the story, add a little extra detail in there, it’s not required, but I think it just helps to make a product which stands out as something different.
At the end of the Gimbaltown segment, there is a transcript, an ‘after-action’ report if you will. Given the subject matter, I looked up the Waco reports, and in particular the transcripts of the tapes of David Koresh. At the front of each, a disclaimer was printed, which I thought would be cool to use, just to add a dash of authenticity to the words:

So when you get to the end of that story, you feel like you’re rooting through history, which ultimately is what Hexagram is trying to convey. The final thing was that there is a wraparound story, which I use to bookend the entire narrative with. I wanted something that would just give you a final impression, before you closed the book and put it away on a shelf.

There’s a guy called Neil Baker, who runs April Moon Books, a small press in Canada. He published a novella by Rich Hawkins, called ‘Black Star, Black Sun’, within it, are a number of creepy black and white illustrations. Similar to the cover, I had an idea in mind, and contacted him to see if he would be up for doing something. I received it about a month or so after the last edits were done, and the proof copy has just been ordered, a blank space reserved for his work.
This is what he sent in, and to me, it captured perfectly what I was after. A father and daughter, standing in the heavens, watching a star burst, marvelling in the creation of the universe. It takes up the whole page, in a 5x7 book, chosen instead of the industry standard as it is was the closest I could get to being the same size as a King James’ bible. I believe that every aspect of the physical product should be considered, and if something can be done to help it fit with what you have written, do it.




Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.
Why not pop over to his website, http://duncanpbradshaw.co.uk/ or give him a like over on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/duncanpbradshaw or read his ravings on his blog, http://duncanpbradshaw.blogspot.co.uk/


August 12, 2016

Boundaries Between the Living and the Dead: a guest post by Greg Chapman, author of "Hollow House"

No one in Willow Street pays it any notice, not the disgruntled Campbell family next door, not Alice Cowley and her suicidal daughter, or Mr. and Mrs. Markham down the road. Not even Darryl, the loner at number seventy, who is abnormal himself, thinks much about it. It is just the old Kemper House, forgotten and abandoned. 

Until it makes itself known. 

When the stench of death wafts from Kemper House through Willow Street, and comes to the attention of recent resident and newspaper reporter, Ben Traynor, it starts a chain of horrors that brings Kemper House's curse into their own homes and leads others direct to its door. Kemper House not only haunts its neighbours, it infects them with an evil that traverses time and reality itself.




A Guest Post by Greg Chapman

The idea of breaking down boundaries between the living and the dead is an area I love to explore in my horror fiction, none more so in my debut novel, Hollow House.

Boundaries - cages and walls, both in the physical and metaphysical sense are scattered throughout my story.

The characters all live in their own houses, their own little worlds of private torment and sorrow. Throughout the book I cross each of these physical boundaries and show you the goings-on inside. With one character in particular, Darryl Novak, I go even further by showing you the other “house” where he keeps his greatest secret. The other characters too are themselves their own little houses, where they keep their thoughts and their pasts safe. Some build walls around their courage, some around their sadness, and others to keep in things that need to be said.

But I break all these boundaries down and bring the characters together (albeit reluctantly, or not of their own choosing at all) by breaking down the walls of The Kemper House – the door between life and death. It’s actually the smell of death that is the first sign that the rules are changing in Willow Street.

The idea of a thin veneer separating the living and the dead has been around since time began and in Hollow House, I push this concept to its extreme. The Kemper House is the epicentre of the story, but instead of looking inside it, I let it break down the boundaries of all the other houses. The people around the house are what it needs, and it forces each of the people inside to escape their emotional facades. Walls come crashing down and evil enters effortlessly.

The only true barrier to remain strong is the one around the architect of this horror – Eric B. Kemper, the builder of the titular house. You will learn some of his plans and motivations, and see the purpose of the house, but ultimately readers will only touch the surface of its mystery – and after all, isn’t that what makes a memorable haunted house story?

So if you prefer a haunted house tale, where the story is more about living souls haunted by their own everyday fears, and an evil that feeds upon those fears, then Hollow House might just be the horror story for you.

Ironically, by writing this novel, I also broke down the barriers around myself. This is my first novel (and hopefully not my last) and it felt great to finally be able to escape my own lack of confidence and reach this goal. I hope you take a chance on my story. If you do, I thank you and hope you enjoy the ride.


Greg Chapman is a horror author and artist from Australia.
After joining the Australian Horror Writers Association in 2009, Greg  was selected for its mentor program under the tutelage of author Brett McBean.
Since then he’s had more than a dozen short stories published in magazines and anthologies in Australia, the US and the United Kingdom.


Bio (via Greg's blog) Greg Chapman is the author of four novellas, TormentThe Noctuary (Damnation Books, 2011),Vaudeville (2012) and The Last Night of October (Bad Moon Books, 2013).
His debut collection, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares, was published by Black Beacon Books in September, 2014.
He is also a horror artist and his first graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, written by Bram Stoker Award® winning authors Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton was published by McFarland & Company in 2012.
Witch Hunts won the Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel category at the Bram Stoker Awards® on June 15, 2013.
He also illustrated the comic series Allure of the Ancients for Midnight Echo Magazine.
His latest illustrative work is the one-shot comic, Bullet Ballerina, written by Tom Piccirilli, for SST Publications in the United Kingdom.
In January 2016, Voodoo Press published his fifth novella, The Eschatologist.
Lycan Valley Press will re-release a second edition of Torment in 2016 and Greg recently signed with Omnium Gatherum Media to publish his debut novel, Hollow House in the autumn of 2016.

August 11, 2016

Horrific Hypothetical: a guest post by Brent Coffey, author of "ISIS in North Korea"

When twenty-two-year-old Bae Ji-woo is promoted from interrogating prisoners at Ryongdam, a concentration camp, to protecting the Outstanding Leader, Kim Jong-un, she achieves the pinnacle of success in the Hermit Kingdom. But her luck is short-lived. The day that she joins Jong-un’s security detail, Ji-woo is forced to arrest her mother on national television, dooming the elderly woman to penal labor at Ryongdam. Hours later, ISIS abducts the Outstanding Leader and holds him hostage, demanding North Korea’s plutonium-239 warheads in exchange for his safe release. 

Now, armed only with a stolen smartphone, Ji-woo is held at gunpoint by two ISIS fighters. After she and Jong-un are pummeled in the same room, Ji-woo learns firsthand that he isn’t a demigod. And she learns that paradise isn’t worth more than her mother’s love. 

With time running out, Ji-woo must stop the Outstanding Leader from surrendering his nuclear arsenal to the Islamic State, while trying to rescue her mother from a concentration camp. 



A Guest Post by Brent Coffey

Think you know ISIS? Think again! Oh, sure, we’ve all seen the predictably bearded jihadists on TV, decked out in black attire and sporting severed heads like they’re hairy bowling balls. The group calls to mind an angry version of the Amish: unsophisticated in technology, and drab in appearance. Or perhaps a chatty version of Jeffrey Dahmer. That is, if he joined a bowling league and made low-quality home movies.
But what if ISIS wasn’t just some guy who’s loony as Fruit Loops and willing to drive a truck through a crowd of partygoers in Nice, France? Or merely a few gunmen shooting up a concert at the Bataclan on Voltaire Boulevard? What if ISIS, and this is rather terrifying, but stick with me, what if the Nero’s of the desert succeeded in acquiring nuclear weapons? It’d be like injecting a swarm of mosquitos with the Bubonic Plague and turning the winged demons loose in Time Square. What had previously been an annoyance would become the death knell of posterity. Entire people groups would be obliterated. The ecosystem as we know it would be forever gone. And whole cities would be left empty, making it difficult to distinguish between the spread of Sharia law and the abandonment of modern technology. One thing’s for sure, if ISIS’ head honcho ever presses the big red button, our species (or what’s left of it) will see the second coming of the Stone Age.
Whew! Pretty scary, huh? It’s a good thing that North Korea’s plutonium-239 warheads are safe from ISIS’ clutches. And it’s a damned good thing that Kim Jong-un, the current cult leader of the Hermit Kingdom, isn’t willing to sell his nuclear secrets to terrorists. And since that’s that, we can all rest assured that the warheads at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are safely out of reach from the suicidal grasp of religious Kamikazes.
… Only, what if, and this is just a possibility, a mere suggestion, that’s all, so think nothing of it… But what if ISIS got clever? Say, really clever, even for people who don’t believe in funding higher education.
Clever, as in, sharp.
It was a handful of box cutters that took down the World Trade Center. Five, maybe six blades, each no longer than the tip of your thumb. Hard to believe that they leveled the skyline of New York City, but it’s true.
And it was an equally small blade, a lens in a camera, but a lens with a razor-sharp edge, that was smuggled into Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, for an interview with Kim Jong-un. When the journalist from Afghanistan moved in for a close-up, Mr. Kim smiled and said, “Why, of course! My office is your office! Move about as you like.” And when the journalist twisted the camera’s glass eye, pretending to adjust the camera’s focus, but actually retrieving the circular blade that he’d put to Mr. Kim’s throat, the leader of North Korea sat frozen behind a look of concentration. Patiently waiting. Hands on his chair’s armrests. With smug assurance that the two reporters from Afghanistan only had a camera, that’s all.
Hhhmmm… that’s gonna be a problem, because ISIS ain’t just mosquitos from now on.
Guess you’ll have to check out my thriller, ISIS in North Korea, for the rest of the story.



August 8, 2016

Supernatural Erotica: a guest post by Nick Jones, author of "The Shropshire Stalker"

If the British Library was categorising my new novella ‘The Shropshire Stalker’, it would probably have to be ‘supernatural erotica’.

My previous book ‘King’s Cross’ (published last August by Book Guild), included a torrid love-making scene between a mentally-disturbed Englishman and a Sicilian nun who had been dead for two years. She haunts his life until he finally commits suicide – at King’s Cross station.

‘The Shropshire Stalker’ is equally unsettling and not for the squeamish. In the opening chapter, thrice-married multi-millionairess Eva Carlssen (the ‘stalker’ of the title) tells her quarry, bookshop owner Anthony Metcalf: “I’m a fully-qualified witch, you know,” threatening to wreck his marriage by fair, foul or supernatural means. “Oh really? Are they doing Open University courses in witchcraft, now?” he facetiously enquires. A foolish quip.

But Eva’s plan comes to naught, despite springing several supernatural ruses on the hapless Anthony. Hurt by his rejections and intent on having the last word, she sets up an elaborate trap which finds him in the dock, charged with her murder.

‘The Shropshire Stalker’ is published by YouCaxton Publishing on 8th August

- Nick Jones



August 4, 2016

Intergenerational Horrific: a guest post by Robert Eggleton, author of "Rarity from the Hollow"

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn't great. But Lacy has one advantage -- she's been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It's up to her to save the Universe.
 
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. She doesn't mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
 
Will Lacy Dawn's predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?
 
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children's story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.



Intergenerational Horrific
a guest post by Robert Eggleton

Do you think that Godzilla is cuddly? When did you start identifying the social and political allegory of King Kong instead of being afraid that he might jump off the screen and tear you to bits?

I remember watching The Exorcist in 1973. The females seemed to be enjoyably alarmed, but one guy with us at the theater covered his eyes with his palms and started shaking, barely making it to the end of the movie. I suspect that we have all become so desensitized to horror that many would consider these scenes mild today: “Desensitization to Violence” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4522002/

In contrast, the same mainstream desensitization does not appear to have occurred with respect to language that includes sexual references. The famous and popularizing line in The Exorcist, “…your mother sucks cocks in Hell…,” might be more likely edited out of a film today. After all, in 2002 Spielberg caved in to the pressure and edited out the equally popular and very similar insult in his rerelease of ET: “…penis breath….”

Of course, ET was not horror, but its roots may have been: The Thing (1951), War of the Worlds (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Village of the Damned (1960)…. All of these films, regardless of original genre, are most likely now watched for comedic effect and not just because of their low budgets and melodramatic performances. Horror has undergone continual assessment and modification due to desensitization. I’m not saying that Spielberg imitated anything, only that he probably watched numerous films about extraterrestrials and laughed, thereby blending horror and comedy: The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971), The Stuff (1985), The Beyond (1998)….

I never intended Rarity from the Hollow to fit within the horror genre, or within the comedic horror subgenre. One book reviewer disagreed and knocked a hole in my theory that audiences have become so generally desensitized to horror that they would be increasingly difficult to scare:

“I didn't manage to finish this book. Mostly because I found it a little too disturbing for my tastes. I am a 19 year old who still enjoys Disney and can't watch a horror film because they are terrifying after all. But for fans of horror movies and Stephen King this book is perfect. It is psychologically disturbing at a different level to what I have seen before and this made it hard for me to read, especially the scene describing her friend’s death. The writing style is very good, you can actually imagine it is written by a child right from her thoughts as she struggles through her life of abuse. But the book just wasn't right for me, I would urge you to make your own opinions up about the book and if you are not easily scared or disturbed like I am, then I would urge you to give it a go for yourselves….” http://thereadingrose.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/review-special-review-request-title.html

A little surprised by this review, I modified my pitch to other book reviewers to include a disclaimer:

“Except for a scene involving domestic violence in the third chapter, there is no violence or horror -- no blood, guts, gore, vampires, werewolves, but there is one comical and annoying ghost. There are no graphic sex scenes in the novel. The renewed romance between the protagonist’s parents does include off-scene sexual reference, but nothing that is beyond real-life typical teen exposure. The android coming of age during his pursuit of humanity is reality based. Any boy above thirteen years old would attest. However, Lacy Dawn never lets the android get farther than to kiss her on the cheek, once. The android expresses no interest in sex. He falls in love, all consuming love by the middle of the story. The “F word” is used twice, but there is little other profanity. There are two mild sex scenes past the middle of the story that could disturb some folks with conservative values on the subject, but one of the scenes is comedic and the other involves the habitation of a maple tree by the ghost mentioned in this paragraph, so Rarity from the Hollow is not erotic.”

I also began to wonder if this book reviewer’s alarm to the novel was based solely on the fact that there is nothing more horrific than child abuse. Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, begins the adventure at age ten and it takes her until she is fourteen to save the universe. The term, “dildo,” is used in a punch line of the opening scene. Is the novel experiencing an ET-like reaction similar to the phrase “penis breath”? I added a line to the book’s blurb:

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children's story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.


An aspect of the intergenerational horrific in Rarity from the Hollow that cannot be edited out and that may upset some readers of mainstream fiction in any genre is that of family violence. All the scary movies with the best special effects, masterpieces in fiction, will never desensitize anybody to the horrors that some children face. Building upon concepts implemented by many authors, the horror was mitigated with comedy for impact:


“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/

The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow will be released soon. With respect to sexual references, mostly puns, it was toned down a little to reduce shock effect. The annoying and spontaneous erections experienced by the android and joked about in the story were made less prominent.

But, the everyday horror, harsh child discipline, child abuse, and domestic violence, found in early chapters couldn’t be minimized – it’s reality. If you can’t face real-life horror, despite the general impact of desensitization to it among subsequent generations in our society, please don’t go to work in the local Emergency Room or read my novel. If you do decide to give the story a try, the original, uncut version is still available and the early tragedy amplifies the subsequent comedy and satire.

I wonder if one day, especially given the impact of cyberspace on pop culture, whether we will all have been exposed to everything in every conceivable book. I hope not. That would be a very sad time for any generation.


Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next -- never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children's psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

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