May 23, 2016

Grounded in the "It Could Happen to You" Camp: an interview with Brett McBean, author of 'The Invasion'

It was supposed to be a quiet end to a long day: five close-knit family and friends settling in for some much-needed sleep after coming together for an early Christmas party.

Instead, it’s the beginning of a shocking night of brutality when six intruders break into the sprawling residence of Debra Hillsboro, a middle-aged romance novelist with a fierce devotion to her loved ones and a strong kinship with her home of almost thirty years.

Armed with smartphones and a modern brand of madness, the intruders – an internet-age cult disconnected from humanity and addicted to causing fear and mayhem – have come to the secluded property for one purpose: to terrorize, and ultimately kill, everyone inside all while filming their heinous crimes.

Outnumbered and cut off from the outside world, the terrified occupants find themselves trapped in a fight for survival as a once place of safety is turned into a deadly maze of darkened rooms and forbidding hallways. On this sweltering summer night, they must somehow find a way to escape before the cult turns the beloved home into a house for the dead.

Gef: As far as finding a new twist on the sub-genre of home invasions, it sounds like you've got a doozy here. What was the impetus behind The Invasion?

Brett: I wanted to explore my fear and fascination of home invasion crimes and decided to write a series of horror/thriller novels based on three real life cases that have affected me and stuck with me ever since first reading about them. The Invasion is the first in my home invasion trilogy and is inspired by the horrific Tate-LaBianca murders committed by followers of Charles Manson. This is a case that I first read about as a teenager, and it has haunted me for over twenty years. However, when it came time to write my novel based on those murders, I didn’t want to simply do a recreation. I didn’t want to set in the 1960s or make it about hippies, as that was a well-tread path. So, I thought: what if Manson was around now, how would he gather his followers in this day and age? The answer, of course, was the internet. So, I updated the story. I moved it into the present and to my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. I used a lot of the details of the case, but made my cult one born from the age of Facebook and Instagram rather than Aquarius. The young people in my story come armed with smartphones as well as weapons.

Gef: What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from your previous titles?

Brett: It’s by far my smallest novel, in terms of setting and time-frame. The whole novel takes place over a period of about five hours, and is almost completely contained within the walls of a single house. That was a challenge in of itself: how to create a novel full of suspense and surprise, one that still felt like a proper journey with well-rounded characters, with a story that takes place in a very short space of time and in an extremely limited location. I had to approach the story as if it was large in scope while still maintaining a claustrophobic atmosphere. I did this, in part, by sectioning off the house; making each chapter a separate room, almost like each room was a completely unique location in which the story takes place.

Gef: How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

Brett: In a way, I’ve come back to where I started. My first few novels were non-supernatural horror/thriller stories that dealt with horror grounded in the everyday, and were influenced by real life crimes. I veered off that path of gritty, psychological horror for the next few books, trying my hand at stories with a supernatural element. Now, I’m back in the land of realism with The Invasion, which is very much grounded in the it-could-happen-to-you camp, and I plan on staying there for a while to come with future works. Stories dealing with real life horrors have always been my first love. I’m a true crime nut, and find delving into the dark side of the human condition fascinating. I only hope my writing is stronger now than at the beginning, that I’ve learnt some things along the way and that I only get better as I explore the darkness within us all.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Brett: Now that’s a long list! So many wonderful authors have influenced me for so many varied reasons. To name but a few: Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, J.G. Ballard, Charles Bukowski, Joe Lansdale, Brian Keene, John Steinbeck, Jim Thompson, Stephen King...

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Brett: I place a great deal of emphasis on setting. To me, it’s a vital component of my writing. I’ve always loved stories that have a strong sense of place (including movies), with a penchant for ones taking place in a limited setting. I love it when the setting becomes another character, it helps define the tone and atmosphere. In The Invasion, setting is as important as any of the human characters; the house is a major part of the story, and I definitely saw it as another character (I even gave it a name and some back story).

Gef: Some folks turn their nose up at horror. What do you consider to be the saving grace of the genre?

Brett: There have been so many great stories written within the horror genre, from the quiet to the brutal, gothic to modern realism. I think the problem lies mostly with the perception of what constitutes a horror story. Sure there’s generic horror, badly written horror, and unfortunately it’s this kind of puerile, formulaic work of blood, gore and cardboard characters, that a lot people think is all that horror is about. But horror can be –and often is – as brilliant as anything outside the genre. Horror is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It’s John Fowles’s The Collector. It’s Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. It’s Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. It’s Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. The horror genre is as rich and varied as the fears they draw from. People who turn their nose up at horror need to open up their minds to the broader world of the genre.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Brett: I honestly can’t recall any truly awful advice I’ve received. As far as writing advice I wish would go away? I’m going to be general here and say any that favour formula over experimentation and originality. That reduces writing to a literary version of paint-by-numbers. Of course novice writers need to hone their craft or, as Stephen King puts it, fill their writer’s toolbox. But inventiveness should always be encouraged. Daringness and a willingness to go against popular opinion should be rewarded. There’s too much generic material clogging up the bestseller lists and not enough books that shock or provoke or offer something utterly unique to the reader. So, any advice that helps to foster formulaic writing should be jettisoned.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Brett: I have a number of reprints of older work set to come out this year. Both my second novel, The Mother, as well as my Jungle novella trilogy, will be released soon as eBooks. Then, a little later in the year, my coming-of-age novel, The Awakening, will have its first US paperback and eBook release. As far as new work, I’ve completed the first draft of the second home invasion novel, and am currently hard at work on the first book in a crime-thriller series. Readers can find out more about me and my work at: or hit me up on Facebook:

Brett McBean is an award-winning horror and thriller author. His books, which include The Mother, The Last Motel and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game, have been published in Australia, the U.S., and Germany.

He’s been nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar, and Ned Kelly awards, and he won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award for his collection, Tales of Sin and Madness.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife, daughter and German shepherd.

Find out more at:

Purchase Links

May 11, 2016

Sweet Suspense: an interview with Martha Conway, author of "Sugarland"

A New Mystery by Edgar-Nominated Author Martha Conway

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears. 

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

SUGARLAND mixes the excitement of a new kind of music—jazz—with the darker side of Prohibition in a gripping story with “real suspense for anyone who likes a good mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

Find SUGARLAND on Amazon and Goodreads!

Gef: What was the spark that made you sit down to write this book?

Martha: I was listening to an early piece of jazz—“Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” played by the great Sidney Bechet, and I realized I was imagining a story in the back of my mind. A woman was going down a cold, winter road looking for something or someone. That’s all I knew.

Gef: How long have you been toiling away at your craft, and how have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

Martha: I’ve been writing since I was about five years old, only back then it was with crayon on wallpaper. Since then I’ve graduated to paper and computer. My first novel, unpublished thank goodness, was what you might call a “starter novel” — this is where I began learning the nuts and bolts of creating characters and building plots. Every novel is a learning experience.

My first published book, 12 Bliss Street, was a mystery, which I think is absolutely the best genre for a new writer to cut her teeth on, since writing a mystery really teaches you how to build up a plot, and prepare (and exploit) reader expectations. In mysteries, every plot point is a development of something that has happened previously. There’s no wandering (even if it seems, at times, like there’s no clear direction). That’s good practice for any kind of writer.

As I move into historical fiction I find that, whether my novels include crime-solving or not, I want the plot to move fast and have a lot of twists. But every twist has to have its own logic within the story. You have to make a case for it. Sometimes I think that writing is a lot like being a lawyer.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Martha: Dickens, definitely, for his sense of fun and his amazing characters. Also Laurie King, Caleb Carr, and Walter Mosely.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Martha: I studied with a teacher who used to say, “Never go into a character’s head or heart.” This lends distance to the story, in my opinion, and makes it much harder for readers to care about or engage with the character.

I also dislike this advice to new writers: “If you can do anything else, do it.” Sure, writing is hard and can be frustrating and you may not succeed with your project. But I think if you want to write (even if you can do something else—William Carlos Williams sold insurance) you should try! Why not? We’re not all of us going to be Toni Morrison, that’s true, but being creative is an activity that is rewarding in and of itself. At least, I think so.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Martha: I love Patrick O’Brian, all his sea-faring tales. Reading read him and Jane Austen is like eating comfort food.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Martha: My next book will be coming out in 2017; it’s called THE FLOATING THEATRE, and takes place on the Ohio River in Antebellum America. A socially awkward costume designer gets caught up in the Underground Railroad— that’s all I’ll say.

In terms of my many shenanigans, you can always check my web site:


Martha Conway is the author of Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery [Noontime Books], available via Amazon as of May 12, 2016. Conway’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her second novel, Thieving Forest, won the 2014 North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly Review, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Connect with Martha on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website:

May 3, 2016

Vicki Waiting: an interview with Somer Canon, author of "Vicki Beautiful"

One last taste of perfection…

Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.

Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.

A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…

Gef: What was the impetus behind Vicki Beautiful?

Somer: I actually had this really bonkers, disturbing dream about a fancy dinner party that I attended at my friend’s house. In my dream, my friend was a glamorous woman with a very distinct beauty mark on her cheek, but she was nowhere to be seen. I sat down to dinner and the server placed a plate in front of me that had this pale, jiggly piece of meat and on the meat was that distinctive beauty mark. That dream stayed with me for days, and as I thought about it and chewed over what might have caused such a thing to come about, I got ideas as to why. On about the fourth day of this dream bothering me, I sat down and I wrote Vicki’s final letter to her friends. The rest of the story sort of grew around that.

Gef: The cover reminds me a bit like the original cover for Stephen King's collection, Everything's Eventual, with an idyllic dining setting spattered with blood. And it wound up matching the tone of the titled story. Did you have much input on the cover for Vicki Beautiful, and do you find it matches the tone you offer up in the novella?

Somer: I now no longer need to celebrate Christmas or my birthday because having any piece of my work compared to Stephen King, even if it is the cover art, makes me beyond happy!

I actually had a lot of input into the cover art. Samhain was really great about getting the author’s opinions on how the cover art should look. I attached probably six pictures of these fancy catered dinner settings to the cover art sheet that Samhain provided as well as the specification that it simply must have peonies (Vicki’s favorite flower). When they sent the finished cover, I knew that they had nailed it. I really think that the cover beautifully conveys the feel of the story and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Gef: How much of a balancing act is required when highlighting a very real and prevalent horror like cancer in a story that offers its own sensational forms of horror?

Somer: Those real-life horrors like cancer and pain caused to our loved ones, I think, are something that grounds a story to keep it from being a little too fantastical and “out there.” Things do tend to go off the rails in this story and I wanted to have this anchor to it so that the actual pain of what these characters are feeling could make their actions believable. The most difficult parts of this story for me to write were the realistic horrors, and I think that it’s important to stay in touch with that side of yourself so that you can convince your readers that the pain and hopelessness is real and relatable. It’s very much a balancing act to inject a relatable horror to a kind of horror that surprises and thrills, otherwise it’s just a bizarre yarn and not a story with characters feeling real emotions that cause them to do things that a more cool, rational mind might reject.

Gef: Is novella-length fiction something that you're normally drawn to?

Somer: As a writer, I love the novella-length work. I worry about too much fluff and I do like delivering a story in a direct manner. Novels have their merit, certainly. That’s why they tend to be more standard! There’s a lot of building and backstory and a richness to them that maybe sometimes you can’t convey in a novella, but a novella can be like a great slice of a story that gets the thrill across in an efficient and casual manner. As a reader, I consume novellas by the handful, sort of like how I eat potato chips. I love them.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Somer: I have to put Stephen King on here first because to me, he is one of those writers who is great at making his readers feel the big emotions like love, hate, anger, fear and even joy. Those big emotions make you so very attached to the characters so that the horror is even deeper, more prevalent, when things start to go wrong. I also love Ruby Jean Jensen. I stole my grandmother’s copy of The Haunting when I was maybe ten-years-old and that book rattled my teeth. Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison are also phenomenal writers who really inspire me with their incredible characters.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Somer: I love setting as a character in my capacity as a reader. Nothing sucks you into a story more than really feeling like you’re there, in a place that has an attitude and a feeling to it. As a writer, I feel like I’m still in my infancy as a fiction writer and although it is something that I would like to include in future works, I’m not quite there yet.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Somer: There is so much writing advice out there that it really was intimidating to me. It felt like I had to get past these gatekeepers who were glaring down at me, asking me who I thought I was, thinking I could actually get published. A lot of the advice is overly complicated, a lot is overly simplistic. I think that new writers need to see a lot of this advice but they need to understand that it needs to be tailored to their own needs and working style. Saying that All Writers Read might be a piece of advice that touches one person and makes another completely livid. Bad writing advice is this: do exactly what I did. Don’t take that kind of advice, please. I’d actually like to see that go away. Don’t buy books by someone telling you exactly how to do it. This is not a one-size fits all thing. There is no one way to do it, but that’s also one of the things that makes this lifestyle so incredible. I’m still learning and I’m still getting advice, I just hope that I’ve got a good filter.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Somer: I love biographies of old Hollywood legends. The scandals and horrible treatment by the studios is incredible because so much of it was glossed over. We remember glamour and real movie stars, but that’s a heavily crafted image. It was so screwed up in reality. As for television…oh man I have to admit this to someone so okay, here we go. I have the entire series of Roseanne on DVD and I sit down and marathon watch the entire thing at least twice a year.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Somer: Well as many know, my publisher Samhain is closing down. I had two other works contracted with them and as of now, their futures are uncertain. Hopefully they will see publication because they are terrific stories. I also just finished and have started submitting a new book about an online journalist who covers gruesome murders for a sensationalistic website and while investigating a pair of truly bizarre murders she crosses the path of an old powerful creature who is not interested in making friends. I’m still working and still trying to get around, so stay tuned!

You can find me on Twitter @SomerM

I also have a website . Please look me up!

Purchase Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Samhain

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.
Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.
Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website You can also connect with Somer on Twitter:

April 29, 2016

The House That Threw Them Out: a guest post by Catherine Cavendish, author of "The Devil's Serenade"

The House That Threw Them Out
by Catherine Cavendish

My new novel – The Devil’s Serenade – mostly takes place in an imposing Gothic style mansion built by Victorian industrialist Nathaniel Hargest. When Maddie Chambers inherits it from her Aunt Charlotte, she soon discovers she has acquired far more than mere bricks and mortar. From the strange appearance of tree roots growing in the cellar to the manifestations, noises and a nostalgic wartime song played again and again, Maddie’s fears grow and intensify. What is going on here – and who, or what, is seemingly hell-bent on driving her insane?
Of course, my novel is just that – fiction. But, in real life, there have been numerous reports of houses cursed or possessed by demons. Sometimes these emanate from the ground on which the house was built. Other times, the builder of the house has somehow managed to impart his – or her – evil into the fabric of the place so that it becomes irrevocably woven into the walls.
Around five years ago, in Hollyhill on the north side of Cork in Ireland, a family fled their house after being terrorized by a supernatural force. They summoned exorcists to try and cleanse the house of its unwanted and uninvited ‘guests’.

According to Ritchie Hewitt and Laura Burke who lived in the house with their son, Kyle, the strange phenomena started off quite slowly with holy pictures and icons being thrown around. They heard screams in the night, and then their son was lifted off the bed and hurled to the floor while he was still asleep.

The family also reported seeing orbs flying around, in mid-air, from room to room.

They were left convinced that their house was possessed by an evil force that wished them harm. When they tried praying for it to leave, all they heard was the sound of furniture being moved around upstairs. Drawers were turned out, clothes tossed around the bedrooms.

They asked local people for any help they could give in tracing the possible cause of all the disturbances, but drew a blank. It seemed the house did not have any prior reputation for hauntings or poltergeist activity.

Mediums have reported strong impressions of a young man hanging himself in the house and they believe it is his negative energy that has infected the household. On stepping over the threshold, one such medium – John O’Reilly – had an instant impression of “Someone who is very angry.”

The house itself is owned by the local council and they refused the family’s request for a transfer. Neighbours were reported as having turned on the family accusing them of a “scam” – that the family’s claims were a ruse to get them moved off the estate and into more ‘salubrious’ accommodation. This is a claim the family have vehemently denied. Furthermore, they continued to pay rent on the property even after fleeing from their home to live with relatives.

As for the house itself, its previous owner, Adam Payton, lived there for 26 apparently poltergeist-free years prior to selling it to the council. Other people living on the estate said the property was empty for several months, during which time it had been frequented by gangs of youths. There were even reports of séances being held there, often involving Ouija boards.

A local radio station facilitated a visit by Shaman Paul O’Halloran who detected the presence of hundreds of spirits trapped within the house. These included children and famine victims.

The family have never returned there and the house has not been re-let. At the time of writing, it remains boarded up and empty.

Now, to give you a taste of The Devil’s Serenade, here’s the blurb:
Maddie had forgotten that cursed summer. Now she’s about to remember…
“Madeleine Chambers of Hargest House” has a certain grandeur to it. But as Maddie enters the Gothic mansion she inherited from her aunt, she wonders if its walls remember what she’s blocked out of the summer she turned sixteen.
She’s barely settled in before a series of bizarre events drive her to question her sanity. Aunt Charlotte’s favorite song shouldn’t echo down the halls. The roots of a faraway willow shouldn’t reach into the cellar. And there definitely shouldn’t be a child skipping from room to room. 
As the barriers in her mind begin to crumble, Maddie recalls the long-ago summer she looked into the face of evil. Now, she faces something worse. The mansion’s long-dead builder, who has unfinished business—and a demon that hungers for her very soul.
Here’s an extract:
A large flashlight rested on the bottom stair and I switched it on, shining it into the dark corners. There wasn’t a lot to see. A few broken bits of furniture, old fashioned kitchen chairs, some of which looked vaguely familiar, jam jars, crates that may once have held bottles of beer.
The beam caught the clump of gnarled and twisted roots that intertwined with each other, like Medusa’s snakes. I edged closer to it, my heart thumping more than it should. It was only a tree, for heaven’s sake! The nearest one was probably the willow. Surely, that was too far away? I knew little about trees, but I was pretty certain their roots couldn’t extend that far.
I examined the growth from every angle in that silent cellar. The roots were definitely spreading along the floor and, judging by the thickness and appearance of them, had been there for many years. Gray, like thick woody tendrils, they reached around six feet along and possibly four feet across at their widest point. I bent down. Close up, the smell that arose from them was cloyingly sweet. Sickeningly so. I put one hand over my nose, rested the flashlight on the steps and reached out with the fingers of my free hand to touch the nearest root. It wriggled against my palm.
I cried out, staggered backward and fell against the stairs. The flashlight clattered to the floor and went out. Only the overhead bulb provided any light, and it didn’t reach this darkest corner. Something rustled. I struggled to my feet, grabbed the torch and ran up the stairs. I slammed the door shut and locked it, leaned against it and tried to slow down my breathing. A marathon runner couldn’t have panted more.
I tapped the flashlight and it flickered into life, seemingly none the worse for its accident. I switched it off and set it on the floor by the cellar door. Whoever came to fix those roots was going to need it.

You can find The Devil’s Serenade here:

And other online retailers

About Catherine Cavendish: Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She was the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits in the Shadows.  Other titles include: The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine, Dark Avenging Angel, The Second Wife, Miss Abigail’s Room, The Demons of Cambian Street, The Devil Inside Her, Cold Revenge and In My Lady’s Chamber.

You can connect with Cat here:

April 28, 2016

A Rude Awakening for Readers: an interview with Adam Howe, author of "Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet"

From Adam Howe, winner of Stephen King’s “On Writing” short story contest, comes three original novellas of hardboiled crime, graphic horror and pitch-black gallows humor.

DAMN DIRTY APES - Washed-up prizefighter Reggie Levine is eking a living as a strip club bouncer when he’s offered an unlikely shot at redemption. The Bigelow Skunk Ape – a mythical creature said to haunt the local woods – has kidnapped the high school football mascot, Boogaloo Baboon. Now it’s up to Reggie to lead a misfit posse including a plucky stripper, the town drunk, and legend-in-his-own-mind skunk ape hunter Jameson T. Salisbury. Their mission: Slay the beast and rescue their friend. But not everything is as it seems, and as our heroes venture deeper into the heart of darkness, they will discover worse things waiting in the woods than just the Bigelow Skunk Ape. The story the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape tried to ban; Damn Dirty Apes mixes Roadhouse with Jaws with Sons of Anarchy, to create a rollicking romp of 80s-style action/adventure, creature horror and pitch-black comedy.

DIE DOG OR EAT THE HATCHET - Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.

GATOR BAIT - Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man’s wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin’ Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense.

Gef: What got the ball rolling on this collection coming together?

Adam: My debut collection, Black Cat Mojo, was promoted as being written by ‘the winner of Stephen King’s On Writing contest.’ Hey, you’ve got Steve King’s seal of approval, you’ve gotta use it, right? I’m not sure how many readers came to Black Cat Mojo expecting King-type stories, but I imagine those that did got a rude awakening. Of Badgers & Porn Dwarfs ain’t exactly The Shining. So my initial plan was to follow Black Cat Mojo with a more ‘traditional’ horror/crime story. Which seems funny in retrospect, considering how crazy the novella Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet turned out. By the time I’d finished Die Dog, I really didn’t know what I had, or if it even worked – I wasn’t hiding behind my humour so much, and it seemed so relentlessly dark. (Readers seem to like it, so it all worked out.) I thought I’d better cover my ass with a solid B-side story: Gator Bait. By this time, Black Cat Mojo had been released, and the readers who’d found it seemed to dig the offbeat humour. On the one hand, that was a huge relief. But now I started worrying Black Cat Mojo readers would expect more of the same. So I wrote Damn Dirty Apes for them… In other words, this collection came about due to my own insecurities and self-doubt. I figured if I threw enough shit at the wall, something had to stick.

Gef: You had previously released Gator Bait on its own as an e-book exclusive. Was that as an appetizer in the lead up to this collection's release?

Adam: Gator Bait was released in advance of the collection, at a reduced price, to lure readers to the rest of my work, particularly crime fiction readers, who might be otherwise leery of the horror stuff. (I find that a lot of crime fiction readers are ex- horror hounds who feel they’ve ‘outgrown’ the genre.) Gator Bait has some graphic horror/monster moments, but it is, at heart, a hardboiled crime piece. I envisioned it as James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice meets Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive.

The experiment seemed to work. Gator Bait reached a lot of new readers. For a limited time, it was available to download as a freebie, and charted at #1, making me one of those dubious ‘bestselling’ authors we see so many of on social media.

Gef: Parents swear they don't have a favorite child, but authors can't usually get away with that sentiment towards their stories. So which of the three stories is your favorite?

Adam: Thanks for the Sophie’s Choice, Gef… I’m proud of my work on Gator Bait, and dig that 30s pulp tone, which I’d like to revisit in future works. But the story I’m most fond of is Damn Dirty Apes. That was a lot of fun to write, and I think it shows on the page. I can reread that one and still get a kick out of it – which is rare for me; usually all I see are the glaring errors. (And oh, but they’re still there…) I enjoy the characters, especially my hapless hero, boxer turned strip club bouncer turned monster hunter, Reggie Levine. In fact, I liked Reggie enough that I’ve written a sequel, Tijuana Donkey Showdown. Depending on how readers like that one, I may even prolong Reggie’s misery to a third misadventure. We’ll see how it goes.

Gef: With Gator Bait, you had a fast-paced story, but is a faster pace necessarily inherent with novella-length fiction?

Adam: Depends on the tone of the story. A traditional ghost story, for instance, might call for a slower, more insidious pace. Personally, I like a fast pace, especially when reading on my Kindle, and for indie writers like myself, eBooks are mostly where it’s at. My pacing comes from my experience as a screenwriter, when you have enter scenes late, and leave ‘em as early as possible; there’s no time for filler in a feature film screenplay. I apply the same discipline to fiction, novellas especially, which makes for an intense, cinematic reading experience. My novellas aren’t screenplays adapted to prose, or movie treatments, but I want the reader to experience them as they would a movie. I’m a visual storyteller, at heart.

Gef: Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet has that psycho slasher vibe. Where did the influences for this one come from?

Adam: For sure, this one reads like a down n’ dirty retro slasher flick. If it existed as a film, it would have been banned during the UK’s video nasty craze of the 80s.

Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw is the biggest influence on Die Dog. Hooper, despite catching lightning in a bottle with Texas Chainsaw, is not a great filmmaker. But in his early pictures, he was unusual in allowing his camera to linger on and humanize his monsters, most effectively with the demented family dynamic of Texas Chainsaw’s cannibal clan. There are similar, albeit lesser moments in Eaten Alive and The Funhouse, where we see Hooper’s maniacs shambling around their decrepit environments, muttering crazily to themselves. That was something I tried to replicate with Die Dog’s Ritter brothers.

Hitchcock’s Psycho was another influence. In particular, I wanted to use The Psycho Switch as a plot device, shifting point of view from one character to another. So the character of escaped serial killer Terrence Hingle was my Marion Crane, running afoul of a pair of Norman Bateses in the Ritter brothers.

I was interested in pitting ‘urban’ versus ‘rural’ psychos. Ted Bundy vs. Texas Chainsaw’s Sawyer clan. Then I threw an innocent female victim into the mix, as the meat in the maniac sandwich, and stood back to watch the sparks fly… As I’ve said, when I wrote Die Dog, I didn’t have the collection in mind. This one written with an eye towards the ‘extreme’ horror market. It’s not gore for gore’s sake, but it is very graphic at times, and reader discretion is advised.

Gef: Damn Dirty Apes goes the cryptozoological route, and a skunk ape runs a different vibe than the giant gator in Gator Bait. Were you lookin' to write something from the deep south's folklore and this jumped out at ya?

Adam: With a story as bizarre as Damn Dirty Apes, it’s hard for me to claim any real method behind the madness. I’d learned about the ‘furry’ subculture – people cosplaying as animals – and the inevitable sub-subculture of ‘furry’ porn. Each to their own, I guess. From that I had image of a Bigfoot-type creature abducting a porn star during a backwoods porn shoot. I chose to use the skunk ape, rather than Bigfoot, because it fit the story’s hick-lit tone, and I felt that skunk apes had been woefully underused in creature fiction. I was soon to discover why.

During my research, I stumbled across an article in the Fortean Times about legendary skunk ape hunter Gerard Hauser, and his doomed final expedition in the Arkansan backwoods, in which an amateur cryptozoologist tragically lost his life in a hominid snare. Hauser became the basis for my fictional skunk ape hunter, the Ahab-like Jameson T. Salisbury. I then made the mistake of requesting an endorsement from Lambert Pogue, General Secretary of the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape; I thought it might make for an unusual blurb, than the typical gushing praise by other writers.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pogue objected to my Salisbury character, recognizing him as a caricature of Hauser, and threatened legal action against me. My publisher’s Facebook page was besieged by angry hominologists, and I personally received death threats. It was an extraordinary situation. I’m convinced that the scarcity of skunk ape fiction is a direct result of the vigilance of the S.P.N.A.S.A. Rumor has it that they even picketed the offices of Hanna-Barbera, and prevented the skunk ape appearing on a first-season episode of Scooby Doo, Where are You!

Frankly, for all the aggravation caused, if I could do it all again, the creature of Damn Dirty Apes would be a plain old ‘squatch or Bigfoot, and not a skunk ape.

Gef: Is southern gothic something you see as a home base as far as your writing goes? Any other genres you're keen on diving into?

Adam: I do keep coming back to the South. As a reader, I enjoy Southern gothic/noir. I like the swampy locale, and the rhythms of the accent. As a British writer, for some reason, the Southern voice is one I can passably mimic. It’s not intended to be 100% accurate, just good enough to fool the ear and serve the story. Like a British singer adopting a twang to sing rock n’ roll. My stories exist in a kind of heightened reality that perhaps wouldn’t work if I was setting my stuff in recognizable big cities. In terms of genre, for the foreseeable future I see myself staying in the crime/horror wheelhouse. But I’ll take the band on the road eventually. I’ve got a ‘Nam story I’d like to write. And my long-delayed novel-in-progress One Tough Bastard is set in Hollywood. To be honest, I’m at the mercy of my muse, telling me: “Git r dun, git r dun!” These crazy Southern stories are the ones demanding to be written right now.

Gef: What else do you have up your sleeve heading through 2016?

Adam: My partner and I are expecting our first child in July – wish me luck – so all plans are on hold while we make the adjustment, or in my case, fall apart completely. But as I’ve said, I’m putting the finishing touches to Tijuana Donkey Showdown, the follow-up to Damn Dirty Apes. I’m hoping to have that one out by the end of the year. I’ll also have an original story in the upcoming Necro Press anthology, Chopping Block Party; a charming tale about the gentlemen’s pastime of ‘gerbilling.’ (If you’re unfamiliar with gerbilling – liar! – I assure you it’s perfectly safe to research on a public computer.) And Adam Cesare and I are collaborating on a crime/horror project we’re pitching as Michael Mann’s Public Enemies meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. But due to other work commitments, we’re behind schedule on that, so chances are it won’t see the light of day until next year.

Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book; he was also granted an audience with The King, where they mostly discussed slow vs. fast zombies. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, The Horror Library, Mythic Delirium, Plan B Magazine, and One Buck Horror. He is the author of two collections, Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, plus the eBook single, Gator Bait. Future works include Tijuana Donkey Showdown, One Tough Bastard, and a crime/horror collaboration with Adam Tribesmen Cesare.
Find him on Twitter at @Adam_G_Howe.
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April 21, 2016

A Brief History of My Hallucinations: a guest post by Nicole Cushing, author of "The Sadist's Bible"

How well do you know the people you chat with on a social network? 

Thirty-seven year old Ellie Blake is about to find out. Her Bible Belt community wouldn't dare accept her if she came out as a lesbian. Her husband, her pastor, and her neighbors would be scandalized by such a disclosure. But Ellie's desire for another woman's intimate touch grows stronger with each passing day, as does her desire to be dominant – to tell another woman just how to please her, to tie up another woman so that she'll never, ever leave. 

Ashamed of these feelings and hopeless of ever satisfying them, Ellie goes to a secret group on the social network and seeks out a partner for a suicide pact. There, she finds twenty-four year old Lori Morris--a woman who also claims devotion to death and lust. She agrees to meet Ellie in a hotel for an intense night of decadent sex and torture before suicide. But Lori has another agenda, too: to escape an oppressive force that might be God or might be the Devil. A force that even suicide may not allow her to escape. A force that wants Lori, Ellie, and all of humanity broken and brought to its knees.

A Brief History of My Hallucinations

By Nicole Cushing

When I was six years old, I attended my grandfather’s funeral. My mother took me up to see his body in the casket. I didn’t know it was taboo to touch him, so I gently patted his hand (as if to comfort him).
It was, of course, cold.
Very cold.
My brain tells me he couldn’t have been that cold. (He couldn’t have been any colder than room temperature, right?) But my heart tells me his dead hand was the coldest thing I’ve ever touched. In any event, this guest post isn’t about that particular moment. It’s about what happened afterward.
After touching his hand, I experienced this strange mental image of him falling endlessly through empty, black space. I say “mental image” but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It was more powerful and confusing than a mental image. My conscious mind didn’t create the image. It just arose involuntarily out of my six year old subconscious. It didn’t last very long (maybe only a few seconds). But here I am, writing about it over thirty-five years later. So it’s safe to say it shook me up.
I never mentioned it to my parents, because the image seemed to conflict with my Christian upbringing. I saw no clouds of Heaven. I saw no fires of Hell. I only saw blackness and oblivion. I’ve never considered this to be a genuine experience with the supernatural. At the time, I just thought of it as a weird, scary daydream that I didn’t want to dwell on--just a flash of an image that expressed my grief. And that’s still, basically, how I think of that vision. My neurons cobbled together an image to help me understand something that no six year old can ever fully understand.
That was the first such experience, but it was far from the last. Throughout my life I’ve experienced strange half-hallucinatory daydreams and vivid nightmares. When I was seven, I had an extremely strange, vivid nightmare about Hell that led me to wake up in a panic and run for my parents. (I still remember my mother saying my heart was “beating like a racehorse”.) When I was a teenager, I had another surreal nightmare (this one about the crucifixion).
The visions I’ve had in my adult life have touched on similar themes. They’re always disturbing and they’re often about metaphysical subjects. And I can assure you that none of these experiences have involved alcohol or drug use. I’ve had visions of strange, unholy chimeras and of saplings that bloom strangled fetuses. I’ve had nightmares about cosmic clowns.
All of these have served as inspiration for stories. Now, I should probably point out that visions and nightmares provide strong, emotionally resonant imagery but lack narrative structure. So it’s not just a matter of me getting a story zapped into my head by my subconscious. There’s a lot of work to do after getting the initial inspiration. I have to work out how the image relates to a fully-realized character and a compelling plot. But the inspiration is certainly fun. Even when the images shake me up, I can’t resist exploring them in fiction.
I used to think that every writer worked this way. (Or, at least, that many horror writers did.) Over time I’ve come to realize that I’m probably in the distinct minority. (And that may be an understatement.) Suffice to say: I’m not the kind of horror writer who can look at the hottest subgenres and plan my next three books accordingly. Pop culture tropes work for many folks (and if you dig them, fine). But, for me, visions and nightmares are where it’s at.
I think this is why my work is often described as “taboo”. When you’re working from visions and nightmares, you open the door to taboos. (As that’s where they routinely lurk, in all of us.)
Which brings me to my new novella, The Sadist’s Bible. This book was inspired by a vision I had while resting on a rooftop in New Orleans a few years back. What was that vision? Well, I don’t want to spoil things by revealing it. But I will say that it’s among the most vivid and disconcerting of the entire batch.
But this book isn’t just about a vision.
This is a book about two women who are, in their own unique ways, both brave and broken. It’s a book about sexual trauma and sexual repression. It’s about ugly institutional and interpersonal hierarchies and the groveling they inspire. It’s about the animalistic aspects of sex and spirituality. It’s about Heaven and Hell and that ugliest of all realms--Earth.
Intrigued? You can get it for $1.99 at, the Kobo Store, or directly from the good folks at 01Publishing.


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