November 24, 2014

The Kind of Girl Who Gets Murdered: an interview with Mercedes M. Yardley, author of "Pretty Little Dead Girls"

Mercedes M. Yardley writes the kind of stories that will rip your heart out, then pet it, and love it, and squeeze it, and call it George. She's good like that. Anyway, she has a new novel out this fall through Ragnarok Publications, Pretty Little Dead Girls. I know, great title. Great cover art, too. Great premise on top of all that. Anyway, I had the chance to shoot a few questions at her and she shot some answers right back. Check it out.

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Pretty Little Dead Girls? Am I right in thinking this one was a bit of a more personal journey for you compared to your other work?
Mercedes: You’d be right in saying that. It’s exceptionally personal.
The story of PLDG came two-fold. Back when I lived in Seattle, this stranger came up to me while I was standing in line at the bank. He was obviously upset. He took my hand and said, “You know, you’re the kind of girl who gets murdered.” He literally had tears in his eyes. I mean, this gentleman believed what he was saying. And I responded with, “I know.”
His words never left me. And one day I was dragging my feet, working on some self-imposed novel that I wasn’t interested in. I decided to throw it off and write something completely new, in a unique voice. It wasn’t for anybody but myself. I sat at the keyboard and wrote the first line of Pretty little Dead Girls, which is “Bryony Adams was the type of girl who got murdered.” And I finished the story three weeks later. I was obsessed with it, with the sheer joy of it. Breaking the fourth wall and writing this strange, dark, lovely little story. I cried when I finished it. I was afraid I’d never write anything I loved so much again.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing fiction as opposed to nonfiction, which is where I first took notice of your work in your essays through Shock Totem?

Mercedes: There really isn’t much of a shift for me. Telling a story is telling a story. Nonfiction is easy because the story already happened, so you’re simply recapturing those thoughts and putting them into words. It can be painful, as the Shock Totem articles were. But writing fiction is painful, as well. You’re putting bits of your own truth and your own experiences into the work. I’m grateful that I’m able to move between fiction and nonfiction so easily. Poetry is something I struggle with far more, which is strange. My pose is fairly poetic, so why shouldn't poetry be a snap? I have a mental block there. One of my goals is to put out a book of poetry.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Mercedes: Some people get lost in their research, and that makes them very happy. Personally, I’m more interested in the actual process of writing. I do enough research that I don’t look like a fool when I write, hopefully. For example, I had a few motorcycle maneuvers in Nameless: The Darkness Comes that I asked a bike driving instructor to perform so I could see them. I wanted to see what was feasible and what wasn’t. Turns out one of the maneuvers would have snapped Luna’s leg clean off, so I rather sheepishly changed that. But I don’t get too caught up in the research. Most of my writing is heavily on the magical side, so I don’t need to be caught up in the day-by-day minutia of, say, exorcisms or demonic entities or blood-thirsty deserts. They can be however I choose to create them.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of this genre?

Mercedes: It’s so insanely fascinating. So many people say, “Oh, I don’t read horror. I don’t watch it. I don’t want anything to do with it.” But they do. Horror has gone mainstream, but there’s still this knee-jerk reaction to it, as if it were something shameful. “Do you like The Walking Dead or The Following or American Horror Story?” “Oh, I love them.” “Well, they’re horror.” “No, they aren’t. I don’t watch horror. They’re just shows.”

And horror is so connecting. We all love a good scare. When you introduce this Big Bad, then little personal squabbles fall away and it gives us something to unite against. Everybody has fear. It’s one emotion we all have in common. It’s a fantastic way to bond with a stranger. “Did you see that? Did you hear that?” Horror gives us a THEM to fight again, which means that suddenly we become an US.

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?

Mercedes: I’ve received some pretty awful advice. “Cream rises to the top, so marketing doesn’t matter.” “Use a pen name for each genre you write.” “Write what sells.” The last one is probably the worst. I mean, sure, you can definitely write what sells and earn an income. But as an artist, that kills my soul. I’d rather write something I’m in love with and have abysmal sales than write something that bores me. But I also don’t have to live off of my writing income, so I have that luxury. “Write what sells” should definitely be tossed off the face of the earth, in my opinion.

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

Mercedes: This is no secret, but I’m in love with terrible B monster movies. LOVE THEM. I joined something called “The Bad Movie Club” a while back and we watch awful shows together. I also have an affinity for the old 80s TV shows. I’ll watch The A-Team before I go to bed. We have a chicken named Jessica Fletcher. These things comfort me. I remember watching them with my mother as a child, so they make me feel safe and happy.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Mercedes: You would ask me that! I’m like the one person who doesn’t do a list! Let’s see. I loved “The Moon Sisters” by Therese Walsh as a book this year. Gorgeous and very up my alley. I also finally played Fatal Frame 2: The Crimson Butterfly this year. It’s an old PS 2 game that is truly creepy with a very cool ambiance. I played it with my writer’s group one night and we all ended up squished together on one end of the couch like a group of children.

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

Mercedes: I have a novella coming out in the Grimm Mistresses compilation from Ragnarok. It’s titled “Little Dead Red” and it’s a horror, modern-day retelling of Red Riding Hood. This particular story disturbed me quite a bit, which is a good sign, I think. I’m also working on the sequel to Nameless: The Darkness Comes. And I’m in a few anthologies here and there that will be coming out. It’s a busy and happy time.

I’m all over the place! I’m active on Facebook. I’m on Twitter as @mercedesmy, and my blog is Swing by and some see me! I’d love it.

November 21, 2014

One Year After the Storm: a guest post + giveaway by Ira Gansler, author of "The Things in the Darkness"

About The Things in the Darkness: An accident puts Kevin Tremmel into a coma. Upon waking, he is not the same. Is it psychological trauma or something darker at work?
Until recently, Kevin Tremmel was at peace with his life. He had a wonderful family, a meaningful career, and his life is finally settling down. Everything seems to be going great - until the night he dies in a car accident.
When the doctors revive him, it's evident that he's not the same. Strange urges and images haunt his waking hours, and he finds himself fighting frightening new impulses. Has the trauma of the accident caused a mental illness -- or has he brought some malevolent being back with him?
In order to save his sanity, his sense of self, and his family, Kevin must discover what force is at work on him and how to overcome it. It’s that, or give up all he loves and become a servant to the things in the darkness.
"Terrifying and engaging, impossible to put down." Henrique Couto, Writer/Director of Babysitter Massacre and Director of Haunted House on Sorority Row and Scarewaves.

"Creepy, contemporary riffs on Lovecraftian themes!" John Oak Dalton, Screenwriter - Among Us, Haunted House on Sorority Row, and Scarewaves.  

ONE YEAR AFTER THE STORMan excerpt of The Things in the Darknessby Ira Gansler

He could feel that something was in store for him that would change his life forever. The darkness held promises of something approaching. It spoke to him. It pulled to him. It wrapped itself around him like the intertwining limbs of a lover and its words spoken directly to his mind whispered of pleasures to come. The ecstasy that was promised went far beyond the pleasures of the flesh that he had once experienced with his wife. It even went beyond any desires for the women that had come before her or even the more depraved titillations he had with the girl that was currently bound and bleeding in front of him. But, that was before he had started his worship with her. Although, those indulgences had been of the variety that he had never dared dream of, but which the darkest regions of his subconscious had desired without him even knowing it. He had thought that he was taking no pleasure in her pain and suffering, but realized now that he had only been trying to fool himself. In truth, her suffering was rapture to him.
Picking the girl had been easy. For his first piece of art, his homage to the darkness, he wanted the most pure, desirable creature he could find. She called to him from where he waited and watched. Her light green sweater had revealed nothing, but had not really been able to hide her sensuality either. She could not hide the curves of her breasts, even though the shirt hung loosely below them instead of hugging them in a tantalizing embrace the way most women’s clothing did. The curves of her hips and smoothness of her legs were not evident in the loose fitting pants she wore. She was not trying to be unattractive, but was not trying to draw attention either. She just was being herself, and that was perfect for him. He would take her unrecognized beauty and make it reveal the beauty of the darkness within us all.
He followed her from a distance over the next few days. He was far enough away from home that he didn’t have to worry about being noticed, but at the same time, his recently acquired scars made him stand out, so caution was necessary. He made sure to always watch her from a distance. Whenever he thought there was even a chance that she had spotted him, he turned a corner or entered a nearby store. He never went on foot if there was not a crowd present. When she got closer to home each day, he alternated between following her in a recently stolen vehicle or a rental car he had chosen for the occasion. The rental car fit in with the other small, trendy cars of her college town, so it drew little attention. He only followed her enough to ascertain that she did, in fact, live alone and had no frequent visitors. Then it was just a matter of waiting for a time when she would not be missed for a few days.
The opportunity arose and he seized it without hesitation. It was a four-day weekend at the university where she attended school. She returned to her home located just off of campus that Thursday evening and sat at her kitchen table with a novel in front of her, sipping a glass of wine and listening to some classical music pouring from the stereo on the nearby counter top. It was still early enough in the evening that a knock on the door did not draw suspicion. He lightly rapped on the front door and looked around to make sure that the street was still empty. It was. Dusk was coming on and most of the students and faculty living on the street had already left for the long weekend. A faint breeze blew and whipped around some papers that had been laying on the side of the road. A dog barked in the distance. He returned his focus to the door when he heard her footsteps approaching.
She opened the door and he was momentarily struck by her beauty, which was even more striking up close. She had pale green eyes and auburn hair that lay all around her shoulders. She crossed her arms beneath her breasts, unintentionally showing off her form. “Can I help you?” He voice was as soft as the breeze blowing down the street and as sweet as the song of spring time birds. He knew intuitively that if she ever gave a presentation she must need a microphone to be heard in the back of a lecture hall, but that she would hold her audience captive with every word.
“Yes,” He finally stuttered. “I know this sounds cliché, but my car broke down and I need to use your phone.” Steam poured from the hood of the rental car parked in front of her house. It had taken some effort to damage the vehicle just right without drawing attention as he did it, but he thought he had done a fine job. He found it funny that the extra cash he had slipped the clerk at the rental firm to acquire the car without a credit card would likely not cover the damage. He was using his best classroom voice, the one that said, “You can trust me, you can let down your guard around me, and I am safe.” He smiled and even with the slightly disfigured face, it served to disarm her concerns.
“Don’t you have a cell phone?” she asked, more out of curiosity than concern.
“Afraid not,” he replied, keeping the smile and the even tone of voice. “I never have believed in them. They just strike me as an electronic leash.” She looked at his left hand instinctively and noticed the wedding band. In seconds, she had assessed the situation and deemed him harmless. It was the last mistake she would ever make.
“Come in,” she said, nodding her head towards the hallway. She walked in front of him down the hall, not knowing that she was experiencing her last moments on her own two feet. “The phone is over this way in the kitchen.” As she walked ahead, he brought a wrench out of his pocket, lifted it up, and brought it crashing down on the top of her head. She crumpled to the ground like a marionette with the strings cut. She had no idea what had hit her and did not even suspect that the harmless man she had just allowed into her house might have been responsible. She did not have time to change her mind on the subject before she blacked out.
When she awoke, she was tied to her bed and naked. She struggled briefly with her bindings, but found herself without an inch of wiggle room. She lifted her head slightly and saw, with mounting horror, that her arms and legs were tied so that she was spread eagle on the bed. She screamed and wailed for help. She shrieked until she heard the laughter coming from the side of her bed.
She looked over and saw the man she had let in earlier. Instead of the feeling of security his smile had given at that time, now it just filled her with dread. She was not naïve in any way and knew that in all likelihood, she stood little to no chance of reasoning with this man. This had been planned. The smoking car, the convenient lack of a cell phone, maybe even the wedding band, had all been but a ruse to get her alone and vulnerable. She knew there was no hope, but she had to try.
“Please,” the tears streamed from her eyes and her voice hitched even as she tried to control it. She didn’t want to seem weak or possibly anger him. “Please…why…why are you doing this? Why me? I don’t…I don’t even know…you.” She managed to spit out between sobs.
“Oh, but you know on whose behalf I am here, even if you won’t admit to it.” His eyes gleamed and she thought she could see the madness behind them.
“Know who? What…what are you…talking about?”
He just continued to smile. “The darkness beckons. And if you aren’t familiar with Them now, you will be shortly.” He rose and began to strip out of his clothes. Her eyes revealed the terror at what she knew was coming.
“I will admit,” he said not pausing his undressing, but going on as he spoke. “I wasn’t planning on taking part in you like this, but it seems such a waste. I want to experience the before AND the after so that I can see if Their presence in you makes any difference.”
“I don’t…I don’t under…stand,” She cried harder at the invasion she knew was coming. She really didn’t understand. Aside from the scars, he was not a bad looking man. Surely, he did not need to resort to this for sex? Then she recalled the look in his eyes when he told her that she knew why he was here and she knew that there would be no reasoning with someone who had lost any mind they ever may have had.
“So few people do.” He now stood naked over her. “But you are going to help me change that!” She closed her eyes as he entered her and prayed for it to be over quickly.

He moaned loudly as he slammed into her, pounding his crotch against hers. There was no gentle caress, no consideration for her feelings or physical pleasure as there had been with all the women before her. He yanked her hair with one hand until she screamed and continued to pound into her. He leaned down and bit her breast until she bled. She screamed more and with every scream, he pounded into her harder. She begged even though she knew he would be deaf to her pleas. She prayed, but there was no answer to be heard or felt. He bit down on her again and she shrieked as his teeth clamped down with tremendous force, separating the nipple from the rest of her breast. She wished and prayed to pass out if nothing else, but relief was not to come from above. Surprisingly, even if only temporarily, relief came from her rapist as he simultaneously had his release in her and pressed an odd-smelling cloth over her nose and mouth. She slowly watched the world grow blurry and then go black.
Enter to win one of two great prizes during the #DarknessEmerges Tour. Ira is giving away a GRAND PRIZE of a signed print copy of his book, The Things in the Darkness, plus a signed copy of his “Office Case” segment from the movie, Scarewaves. As a second prize, he’s giving away another signed print copy! Enter to win through the Rafflecopter below. Enter now until Dec. 1, 2014. This is a tour wide giveaway, and open to U.S. Residents only due to shipping. If you want to enter from outside the U.S., and you can, but if you win, you’ll receive an e-book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ira M. Gansler is the father of three girls whom he adores and hopes to one day mold into fellow horror fans! He has been married to his fantastic, supportive wife for almost twelve years. Ira focuses on honing his writing craft through fiction, blogging, and screenwriting. He was one of the writers for the film Scarewaves, having written the screenplay for the “Office Case” segment.
Ira has been an avid horror fan since the time at age five when he ran screaming back to his bed after having witnessed the scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street where Freddy was dragging a bloody and dying Tina across the ceiling. Since then, he has embraced all types of horror. The Shining, anything by H.P. Lovecraft, and the original Night of the Living Dead will always hold a special place in his twisted heart. He prays that when the zombie apocalypse does come that it consists of slow zombies and that the Elder Gods show mercy on us all.
You can follow Ira M. Gansler on his blog, The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void at, on twitter @RageCircusBlog, or on Facebook at Ira also writes reviews and conducts interviews for the From Dusk Till Con Network at

November 19, 2014

The Horror Near to His Heart: an interview with Christopher Golden, author of "Snowblind"

When Christopher Golden isn't collaborating with Mike Mignola on Hellboy or Baltimore tales, he's writing tie-in novels for celebrated franchises like Sons of Anarchy and Uncharted and others, and when he's not doing all that he's writing his own celebrated novels, the most recent of which is a return to the horror genre with Snowblind. I had the chance to ask him some questions in the lead-up to the book's paperback release. Enjoy.


Once upon a time, Coventry weathered a horrific blizzard, one that left many people dead—and others mysteriously lost. Twelve years later, the town is still haunted by the snow that fell that one fateful night…and now a new storm is on the way.

Photographer Jake Schapiro mourns the little brother he lost in the storm and, this time, he will see another boy go missing. Mechanic and part-time thief Doug Manning, whose wife was never found after she wandered into the whiteout, is starting over with another woman—and more ambitious crimes. Police detective Joe Keenan has never been the same since that night, when he failed to save the life of a young boy…and the boy’s father vanished in the storm only feet away. And all the way on the other side of the country, Miri Ristani receives a phone call—from a man who died twelve years ago. Old ghosts are trickling back to life as a new threat rolls in. Could it be that this storm will be even more terrifying than the last?

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Snowblind, since it's been about a decade since you last put out something resembling an outright horror novel?

Christopher:  I was talking to my editor at St. Martin's and he told me that what he wanted was the novel I would write if I could write anything, the one that would be nearest to my heart.  I'd had several of the ideas in SNOWBLIND percolating for years and they really just gelled together when I started thinking about this sort of small town New England tapestry of people. People recognize the Stephen King influence, obviously, but there's a big early Dennis Lehane influence in there, too.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a stand-alone novel as opposed to a series--or comic books for that matter?

Christopher:  I always find it hard to answer those questions.  I'd say it's easier writing a standalone for the obvious reason--you know you need to bring it all to a close.  But at the same time, there are always threads that you could continue following into future novels.  Right now I have no such plans for SNOWBLIND, and I don't think I've ever written a sequel to anything that wasn't intended to have one.  But never say never.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Christopher:  It wasn't really a research heavy book.  I did a little poking around in folklore books, but that stuff is my bread and butter, so I knew where to look to refresh my memory.  I have a friend who's a local cop here in town and he was hugely helpful with that sort of thing. The character of Detective Keenan is named after him.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

Christopher:  Horror, as Doug Winter famously said, is an emotion.  But within the confines of what is considered the horror genre, you can really write about anything.  There's more room in horror to talk about the human condition than in most genres, and because characters are in extreme circumstances, you can really unravel them and see what's going on inside.

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?

Christopher:  Early on, certain people told me I'd destroy my career by doing media tie-ins. They're certainly not my primary work, but I don't regret them (well, most of them).  And, obviously, those people were wrong.  During the lean times, some of that work--Buffy, in particular--kept me working.

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

Christopher:  I rarely feel guilty about that stuff, but if you're asking what kind of crap do I like in spite of it being crap...shit, I still don't know.  I could muster a defense for pretty much anything I enjoy.  I mean, who's going to tell me Matango and War of the Gargantuas are bad movies?  I've been really enjoying the new Taylor Swift album.  I bought it for my daughter, but I think it's a terrific call back to different era of pop--and I listen to almost zero modern "pop."  I guess some of the Marvel comics I read are guilty pleasures, but some of them are still great.  No guilt.  Just enjoy the things you enjoy and to hell with anyone who wants you to be embarrassed about it.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Christopher:  SO MANY GREAT BOOKS, many of which I've read as advanced copies, so the actual books won't be out until next year.  THE SILENCE by Tim Lebbon.  GOLDEN SON by Pierce Brown.  UPROOTED by Naomi Novik.  THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey.  STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel.  Musically, it's HOZIER's two EPs and Glen Hansard's EP DRIVE ALL NIGHT.  Movie-wise, I haven't seen any of the big fall dramas yet, but come on...what was more fun than GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?  Nothing.  On TV, of course, we're getting to the end of SONS OF ANARCHY and it's such a twisted ride.

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

Christopher:  My next novel, TIN MEN, is due out in June.  Later in the year, look for DEAD RINGERS, a new horror novel from St. Martin's.  I've edited a new anthology called SEIZE THE NIGHT--more on that soon.  I'm at and on both FB and Twitter (@ChristophGolden)


You're quite welcome, Christopher. As for the rest of you, you can find the new mass market paperback edition of Snowblind is available for pre-order right now and due to be released on November 25th.

November 18, 2014

Chasing Tale [11/18/14]: What's Worse Than Amazon?

Let's say you're depressed by the present state of the publishing industry. You probably look at Amazon as a carnivorous behemoth devouring publishers and authors alike in a manner befitting the Cookie Monster. Or a giant squid getting handsy with a fleet of ships. Whatever imagery works best for you. Well, the horror story that trumps the most Machiavellian schemes attributed to Amazon, at least for me, is the idea that Facebook could become the new hub for book consumers.

Is Facebook a Life Raft for Web Publishers or the New Gatekeeper?

Basically, it posits the notion that book publishers and book sellers may come to rely on Facebook in the way news media has come to subsist on "Likes" and "Shares." Given the rather insidious and dishonest tactics employed by Facebook regarding its Fan Pages, with a miniscule percentage of subscribers actually seeing posts and such on their Timeline, A book wouldn't stand a chance in such a climate.

I mean, have seen the Olympian-caliber stretches authors and publishers have had to go to just to get a modest signal boost via Facebook? The percentage of followers that actually see posts with any regularly is infinitesimal. And with the "protection money" Facebook asks of content providers to raise that percentage, and the relatively small budgets with which writers have to work with, Facebook's influence would make any strong-arm tactics from Amazon appear charming and quaint by contrast.

Amazon may not be a paragon of virtue, but it is a helluva lot more friendly to authors and publishers than Facebook, in my estimation.

Agree? Disagree? Lemme know, and also leave a comment with what books you've discovered lately. Here are a bunch that found their way onto my TBR pile.

The Year I Died Seven Times (Book #6 & Book #7by Eric Beetner - The serial novel comes to a close this month with the seventh and final installment now out. I think the novel is going to be released as an actual novel next year, but there's no need to wait if you want to read it all now.

Devouring Milo by Tonia Brown - A short novel from Tonia with some new twisted take on werewolves. It's been a while since I read her twisted take on zombies in that weird western of hers, but that was a good'un so I expect more of the same here. And Luke Smith's narration in the audio sample is brooding and creepy.

Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Richard Chizmar and Brian James Freeman - This is a new anthology series coming soon, helmed by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance fame, so you know the quality of stories will be top notch.

SuperGhost by Scott Cole - Some more bizarro fiction has found its way onto my TBR pile. "Mad science, giant monsters, and a whole lot of severed limbs ..." Well, sounds like it's off to a good start so far.

The Dark Fantastic by Stanley Ellin - A college professor set to go on a killing spree and a private eye out to stop him. It's set in Brooklyn. Funny, with a wild premise like it, it would be well-suited to Florida in real life considering the craziness that goes on in that state.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King - Stephen King may be rich, but it's the second-hand bookshops that are making the coin when it comes to my buying his books most of the time. Got a copy of this one and dove right in.

The Dark Servant by Matt Manochio - Just in time for Christmas, Manochio's debut novel tackles the Krampus myth with an American backdrop. I actually interviewed him a couple days ago, so you can check that out if you're curious. Just click here.

The Hammer of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert - I wasn't expecting a sequel to The Nine Lives of Dr. Valentine, but it looks like we've got one and it's like finding out you're getting something you never knew you wanted. This time around, the doc has his sights set on some scoundrel journalists. Ooh boy, this oughta be good.

Rough Magick (Gnomesaga Book 1) by Kenny Soward - I was lucky enough to win a paperback copy of this one from Kenny during a little Ragnarok Publications release party. The sequel, Tinkermage, should be released sometime in December too, so this series is officially off and runnin'.

Leytonstone by Stephen Volk - Here's another new one from Spectral Press from a fella that wrote my favorite novella of 2013, Whitstable. I'm not too sure what this book is about,  but I fully expect it to hold up with the quality of storytelling  I've come to know the guy for.

November 17, 2014

#TheTreeofWaterTour Catching Up with the Deep Down: an interview + giveaway with Elizabeth Haydon, author of "The Tree of Water"

Find it on

Little is known for sure about reclusive documentarian and archanologist Elizabeth Haydon.

She is an expert in dead languages and holds advanced degrees in Nain Studies from Arcana College and Lirin History from the University of Rigamarole. Her fluency in those languages [Nain and Lirin] has led some to speculate that she may be descended of one of those races herself. It should be noted that no one knows this for sure.

Being an archanologist, she is also an expert in ancient magic because, well, that’s what an archanologist is.

Being a documentarian means she works with old maps, books and manuscripts, and so it is believed that her house is very dusty and smells like ink, but there is no actual proof of this suspicion. On the rare occasions of sightings of Ms. Haydon, it has been reported that she herself has smelled like lemonade, soap, vinegar, freshly-washed babies and pine cones.

She is currently translating and compiling the fifth of the recently-discovered Lost Journals when she is not napping, or attempting to break the world’s record for the longest braid of dental floss.

She was kind enough to answer some questions about the latest of Ven’s journals, The Tree of Water. Here is what she shared.

Dr. Haydon, can you give us a brief summary of The Tree of Water?

Certainly. Ven Polypheme, who wrote the, er, Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, lived long ago in the Second Age of history, when magic was much more alive and visible in the world than it is now. His journals are very important finds, because they tell the story of ancient magic and where it still may be found in the world today.

In the first three journals we saw how Ven came to the mystical island of Serendair and was given the job of Royal Reporter by the king of the island, a young man named Vandemere. The Royal Reporter was supposed to find magic that was hiding in plain sight in the world and report back about it to the king. As you can imagine, this could be a fun but dangerous job, and at the beginning of The Tree of Water, we see that Ven and his friends are hiding from the evil Thief Queen, who is looking to find and kill him.

Amariel, a merrow [humans call these ‘mermaids,’ but we know that’s the wrong word] who saved Ven when the first ship he sailed on sank, has been asking Ven to come and explore the wonders of the Deep, her world in the sea. Deciding that this could be a great way to find hidden magic as well as hide from the evil Thief Queen, Ven and his best friend, Char, follow her into the Deep. The sea, as you know, is one of the most magical places in the world—but sometimes that magic, and that place, can be deadly.

The book tells of mysterious places, and interesting creatures, and wondrous things that have never been seen in the dry world, and tales from the very bottom of the sea.

The main character in The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series is Charles Magnus "Ven" Polypheme. Tell us about him.

Ven was an interesting person, but he really didn’t think so. He and his family were of a different race than the humans who made up most of the population where he lived, the race of the Nain. Nain are an old race, a little shorter and stockier than most humans, with a tendency to be on the grumpy side. They live about four times as long as humans, are very proud of their beards, which they believe tell their life stories, don’t like to swim or travel, and prefer to live deep in the mountains.

Ven was nothing like the majority of Nain. He was very curious, loved to travel, could swim, and longed to see the world. He was actually a pretty nice kid most of the time. He had the equivalent of a baby face because only three whiskers of his beard had grown in by the time The Tree of Water took place, when he was fifty years old [around twelve in Nain years]. He had a great group of friends, including the merrow and Char, who were mentioned earlier. It is believed that his journals were the original research documents for two of the most important books of all time, The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic. The only copies of these two volumes were lost at sea centuries ago, so finding the Lost Journals is the only way to recover this important information.

What kind of research do you do for the series?

I go to places where Ven went and try to find relics he left behind. Usually this is with an expedition of archaeologists and historians. I am an expert in ancient magic [an archanologist] so I don’t usually lead the expeditions, I’m just a consultant. It gives me the chance to learn a lot about magic and lets me work on my suntan at the same time, so it’s good.

What is/are the most difficult part or parts of writing/restoring the Lost Journals?

Here’s the list, mostly from the archaeological digs where the journals have been found:

1] Cannibals
2] Crocodiles
3] Sunburn
4] Sand flies
5] Dry, easily cracking parchment pages
6] The horrible smell of long-dead seaweed
7] Grumpy members of the archaeological expedition [I could name names, but I won’t]
8] Expedition food [when finding and retrieving the journal for The Tree of Water, we ate nothing but peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives and yellow tea for six months straight]
9] When salt water gets into your favorite fountain pen and clogs it up. This is very sad.
10] Unintentionally misspelling a word in the Nain language that turns out to be embarrassing [the word for “jelly” is one letter different from the word for “diarrhea,” which caused a number of my Nain friends to ask me what on earth I thought Ven was spreading on his toast.]

What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your other books?

Getting to write about a lot of cool magic stuff that used to exist in our world, but doesn’t anymore. And getting to travel to interesting places in the world to see if maybe some of it still does exist. Also getting to show the difference between merrows, which are real, interesting creatures, and mermaids, which are just silly.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

I hope, in general, that it will open their eyes to the wonder of the sea, which takes up the majority of our planet, but we really don’t know that much about it down deep. There is a great deal of magic in the sea, and I hope that if and when people become aware of it, they will help take care of it and not throw garbage and other bad stuff into it. I have a serious dislike for garbage-throwing.

Probably the most useful secret I learned that I hope will be of use to readers is about thrum. Thrum is the way the creatures and plants that live in the ocean communicate with each other through vibration and thought. As Ven and his friends learn, this can be a problem if you think about something you don’t want anyone to know about when you are standing in a sunshadow, because everyone gets to see a picture of what’s on your mind. Imagine how embarrassing that could be.

Are there more books coming in this series?

Well, at least one. In the archaeological dig site where The Tree of Water was found was another journal, a notebook that Ven called The Star of the Sea. We are still working on restoring it, but it looks like there are many new adventures and different kinds of magic in it. The problem is that it might have been buried in the sand with an ancient bottle of magical sun tan lotion, which seems to have leaked onto some of the journal’s pages. This is a very sad event in archaeology, but we are working hard to restore it.

As for other books, it’s not like we just write them out of nowhere. If we haven’t found one of Ven’s journals, there can’t be another book, now, can there? We are always looking, however. We’ve learned so much about ancient magic from the journals we have found so far.

You are a best-selling author with other books and series for adults. What made you want to write books for young readers?

I like young readers better than adults. Everyone who is reading a book like mine has at one time or another been a young reader, but not everyone has been an adult yet. Young readers have more imagination and their brains are more flexible—they can understand magical concepts a lot better than a lot of adults, who have to deal with car payments and work and budget balancing and all sorts of non-magical things in the course of their days.

Besides, many adults scare me. But that’s not their fault. I’m just weird like that.

I think if more adults read like young readers, the world would be a happier place.

Tell us where we can find your book and more information about where you are these days.

You can find The Tree of Water anywhere books are sold, online and in bookstores. There are several copies in my steamer trunk and I believe the palace in Serendair also has one. I also sent one to Bruno Mars because I like his name.

At the moment, I am on the beautiful island of J’ha-ha, searching for a very unique and magical flower. Thank you for asking these interview questions—it has improved my mood, since I have only found weeds so far today. I am hoping for better luck after lunch, which, sadly, is peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives, and yellow tea again.

All the best,

Dr. Elizabeth Haydon, PhD, D’Arc

Thanks, Elizabeth. And as for the rest of you, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Elizabeth's latest book, and you reside in Canada or the United States, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and I will randomly draw a winner's name on Friday. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 14, 2014

Grieving Las Vegas: a review of Kate Jonez's "Ceremony of Flies"

Ceremony of Flies
by Kate Jonez
DarkFuse (2014)
232 pages

If Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas made a baby with Natural Born Killers, that baby's name might be Ceremony of Flies.

Now, I'm not going to get too much into the nitty gritty of this novel's plot, because I think it is best experienced if you go into it cold. Heck, you should probably avoid the book's back cover blurb if you can help it, because even that gives too much away to prospective readers. Sufficed to say that when you think this book is heading in one direction, it veers wildly and you can't help but hang on for dear life.

Basically, you've got a gal named Emily stuck in a dead-end job at a Vegas casino. It beats her life in New York and that horrible ex she left back there, but when she goes a little ... crazy one night and stabs her Vegas boss, she has little choice but to run for her life. To where? Where all fugitives from justice go? Down Mexico way.

She can't do it on her own though, and soon finds herself in the company of a stranger named Rex, who at first blush seems equal parts mystery and menace. But looks can be deceiving, as Kate Jonez's imagination illustrates along Emily & Rex's road trip into the desert. Tension mounts incrementally as Emily's rather insidious tendencies spring forth, almost from out of nowhere, but even then the true threat of the story is yet to be revealed.

Okay, I've probably given too much away with that. It's an engrossing read and a superb introduction into the dark machinations of Jonez's storytelling. The story has its hiccups here and there with pacing and swerves in the narrative, but overall the characters leap off the page in beautiful and horrifying detail. As much as you are kept guessing what might happen next, you are also left guessing just how Emily and Rex will react and how long their tenuous allegiance can hold.

If you haven't given this one a go, you should remedy that, because Kate's got the goods.

November 12, 2014

Krampus His Style: an interview + giveaway with Matt Manochio, author of "The Dark Servant"

Matt Manochio is the author of The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing, November 4, 2014). He is a supporting member of the Horror Writers Association, and he hates writing about himself in the third person but he’ll do it anyway.

He spent 12 years as an award-winning newspaper reporter at the Morris County, N.J., Daily Record, and worked for one year as an award-winning page designer at the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail. He currently works as a full-time editor and a freelance writer.

Matt’s a dedicated fan of bullmastiffs, too. (He currently doesn't own one because his house is too small. Bullmastiff owners understand this all too well.)

The highlights of his journalism career involved chronicling AC/DC for USA Today: in 2008, when the band kicked off its Black Ice world tour, and in 2011 when lead singer Brian Johnson swung by New Jersey to promote his autobiography. For you hardcore AC/DC fans, check out the video on my YouTube channel.

To get a better idea about my path toward publication, please read my Writer's Digest guest post: How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller.

Matt doesn’t have a favorite author, per se, but owns almost every Dave Barry book ever published, and he loves blending humor into his thrillers when warranted. Some of his favorite books include Salem’s Lot, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

When it comes to writing, the only advice he can give is to keep doing it, learn from mistakes, and regardless of the genre, read Chris Roerden’s Don’t Sabotage Your Submission (2008, Bella Rosa Books).

Matt grew up in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and son. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in history/journalism.

About The Dark Servant: Santa's not the only one coming to town ...

It's older than Christ and has tormented European children for centuries. Now America faces its wrath. Unsuspecting kids vanish as a blizzard crushes New Jersey. All that remains are signs of destruction—and bloody hoof prints stomped in snow. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. Already feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, Billy's devastated when his dream girl rejects him. When an unrelenting creature infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion—that cannot be stopped.

Find it on and Samhain Publishing's Online Store.

Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for The Dark Servant?

Matt: From my boss. He came into work in early December 2012, and, knowing that I’m a fan of obscure pop culture, asked me if I had ever heard about Krampus. I hadn’t and he directed me to I was both horrified and amused to the point of laughter when contemplating that Saint Nick would discipline bad children by unleashing a monstrous horned beast from Europe on them. I remember that day because it marked the first time in a while when the writing bug infested every part of my body. I couldn’t wait to explore a story with this creature set in the United States.

Gef: How has the process of working with Samhain in getting the book ready for release been an eye-opener for you?

Matt: It’s the first time I went through the process from start to finish. I submitted the manuscript to my editor in May 2013 and got an offer a few weeks later. I signed the contract in June and delivered the “final” manuscript on July 1, 2013. I received the cover art that same summer and was allowed to give input as to what I envisioned it would look like (which was nice). So, from essentially July 2013 to July 2014, all I did was query established authors for blurbs, and had success getting 10 of them. I also wrote another book. Things really picked up in August 2014. My editor sent back his marked-up, copy-edited version of the book. I was allowed to review it, make small changes (nothing to the plot/no major rewrites), and then resubmitted it in about a week. I received the advance reading copies (ARCs) a week later, along with the cover copy and blurbs to proofread. I was busy sending out ARCS to reviewers and bloggers in September 2014, now eagerly awaiting my pub date of November 1. I’m glad I went through the process so I know what to expect (knock on wood) the next time. One thing people must know about commercial publishing—it takes a while, and the waiting can be excruciating. And when things finally happened, they happened fast.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Matt: Not very intense. I visited websites that worshipped Krampus to get a feel for the creature’s origins. It was entirely Internet research. I searched for US news stories (there weren’t many) that chronicled the monster, just to get a feel for how the US media approached the legend. While I wanted to give readers Krampus’s back story, I didn’t want to overwhelm them with every tidbit related to him, just enough to familiarize them with the monster, and to keep the story humming.

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

Matt: I haven’t received any advice, solicited or otherwise, that stood out to me as being bad. Nobody told me that I should outline my book before writing, and I know there are authors who religiously outline stories before going to town on the computer. I’m not saying outlining is bad. I prefer to simply sit in front of my laptop and fire away, let the story develop as I go.

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

Matt: I’m a Star Wars nerd. I followed The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network until it abruptly ended following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. I was bummed because I dug the show—and I wasn’t the only one. I’m now getting into the new animated Star Wars offering, Rebels. I have a toddler, which means I rarely can simply pick up and go to the movies. For me and my wife to go to the movies sometimes takes months of planning in advance. Parents reading this who have toddlers know what I mean.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Matt: Godzilla, which my wife and I saw in Florida on vacation (our son was with grandma and grandpa in New Jersey). You see what I mean? For my wife and I to see the eagerly awaited Godzilla, we had to fly to a different state. (At least that’s what it felt like.) I’m looking forward to seeing the final installment of The Hobbit in December. I’m negotiating with a babysitter now.

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

Matt: I’m eagerly awaiting word from my editor on revisions I made to my second book, hoping he likes what I did enough to sign me up for my next Samhain book. It’s a supernatural Western set in South Carolina during Reconstruction. And that’s all I’m saying for now. I’d love for people to follow me on Twitter, visit my Facebook author page, my Goodreads page, and sign up for my newsletter. And they can do all of that by visiting my website:

Tour Giveaway!
For everyone! CREATE a PINTEREST board by choosing one of the following themes: Krampus, Old World Legends, Vintage Holiday, Old World Christmas, Christmas Around the World, Traditions and Legends,  Myths, Monsters, and Horror, or something very similar.
Second rule: You must pin Matt's book cover and Amazon purchase link or Samhain Horror Purchase link. Third Rule: Follow Matt Manochio and Erin Al-Mehairi.
Third Recommendation: Extra points for pinning extra things about Matt, such as tour page, articles, etc.
Your board will be judged on the above PLUS your creativity and effort in the project! Send Erin at your Pinterest page to enter by Dec. 8. Of course you can continue to use it through the Holiday if you wish!
Prize: A "Santa Checked His List and I'm on the Naughty Side" package. This will include your choice of Krampus themed apparel (t-shirt or sweatshirt, men or women, visuals to come) and a signed paperback of the book.

November 4, 2014

Chasing Tale [11/4/14]: Not So Swift

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the most recent books to wind up on my to-be-read pile, along with a rant on whatever is on my mind.

Taylor Swift has a new album out, and I'll be damned in that "Shake It Off" song ain't the catchiest damn thing I've heard in a while. If that song was Ebola, we'd all be dead right now.

The thing is, however, that with the release of this new album and her record labels desire to ensure its success in sales, they have pulled her entire music library from streaming services like Spotify. It's a bold move, and some are wondering how she could cut off an income source like that. Well, when you see the pathetic share of royalties an artist receives from those streaming services, it's not like they are missing out on any great fortune. We're talking fractions of a penny for each time a song is played by a user.

Now, the music industry and the book industry are pretty much apples and oranges, but MP3s did serve as the canary in the coalmine for the major record labels, and ignoring the changing technology earned them a big ol' kick in their complacency. As for the book industry, we have seen the age of ebooks take hold, and now we are even seeing Amazon roll out their "Unlimited" service to subscribers that allows them to read a slew of books for free with publishers and authors scrabbling for a mysterious share of the royalties as calculated by how many times a particular book is read.

For now, publishers and authors are not obligated to place their books on the Unlimited service, but what if that changes? And what if that change has an adverse reaction on their revenue streams? It's just something that has me wondering. It's a nagging feeling. Maybe I should try to shake it off.

Ah, see what I did? ... Anyway, more books have found their way onto my shelves. Have a gander and let me know what you've picked up this week.

Bad Mojo by Shane Berryhill - "Southern-fried" supernatural noir? I think I might enjoy that. This came out over the summer via Ragnarok Publications, which is showing a keen eye for cool titles.

Descent by Sandy DeLuca - Published by Uninvited Books, this one involves a painter getting tangled up with a love interest who has some underworld connections. Interesting, and likely a quiet little thriller considering DeLuca penned it.

The Pumpkin Man by John Everson - I won this book last month as part of Everson's launch party for his latest release through Samhain Horror, The Family Tree, which I bought upon its release. I received it a little late for Halloween, but it's never too early to start up for next Halloween.

Eyes Deep: A Clandestine Daze Novella by Tim Marquitz - A new novella with a gritty urban fantasy story. Considering it's coming from Tim Marquitz, I've little doubt it will prove to be a rollicking, and possibly profanity-laden, adventure.

The Big Adios Western Digest (Fall 2014) edited by Ron Earl Phillips - A new periodical kicked off this all, and a western one no less. One Eye Press has gathered up some new names (new to me, anyway) to go along with the likes o David James Keaton and Tom PItts as contributors. I have high hopes for this one.

The Whitechapel Demon by Josh Reynolds - Here's some pulpy fantasy adventure set in 1920s England, and penned by quite the pulp monkey himself, Josh Reynolds. This new series sounds promising as heck with a sequel out earlier this year, too.

Strange Ways by Bryan Smith - I've bought a few of Smith's novels over the last few years and I see his latest features a coven of witches. Somehow I don't think this is going to be quite like The Craft or Bewitched.

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley - I tend to enjoy my Lovecraftian horror when it is penned by someone other than Lovecraft, so when this book came up on sale a week or two ago, I figured there was no harm in adding it to my Kindle, since I've heard nothing but good things about it.


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