March 16, 2016

Old Fears in New England: an interview with Glenn Rolfe, author of "Things We Fear" and "Where Nightmares Begin"


by Glenn Rolfe

Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.

School’s out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer. Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she’s afraid of being hurt again. Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.

But they’re about to learn real fear. Fairington is home to a monster. Phys Ed teacher Matt 
Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile. He’s a killer and he’s got his sights set on Emily.

Who at Fairington will conquer their fears? And who will fall to a psychopath’s hellbent rage?

Gef: Where did the idea for Things We Fear come from?

Glenn: Don D’Auria asked for novellas for the Childhood Fears anthology Samhain put out last year. I was too busy at the time, but then I thought back to when I was a kid and how much I feared drowning. As I started writing it, more characters came in, each with their own fears or insecurities. They were all adults, so I decided it wouldn’t work for the project that Don was working on. I finished working on a different project and then went back and finished Things We Fear.

Gef: When it comes to writing a novella, how big a consideration is pacing compared to other aspects?

Glenn: There’s no time for deep side treks into character’s pasts. You need to keep to the narrative and keep the story moving forward. At the same time, you have to flesh out the characters enough to make people care. That’s the tricky part. You’re going to upset somebody somewhere with the streamlined approach, but I think in a novella, readers (most anyway) understand the situation and forgive you for not giving us the protagonists childhood and work history.

Gef: Where it's more expansive than a short story and more condensed than a novel, how does the novella length suit you?

Glenn: I love it. I feel like I can’t write short stories anymore. I feel like these are my short stories now. I feel like I’m definitely taking a harder look at my novels. I’m starting to get comfortable in what I do and can’t wait to push myself and see what else I can do. There’s much, much more improvement waiting.

Gef: Now this time around you've got a tale probably closer to the thriller genre than the horror genre. Do you make a distinction between the two? What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from the previous titles?

Glenn: I don’t plot. That leaves my stories wide open to take me where they want to go. I didn’t sit down and say this is going to be a thriller-that’s just where it took me. That being said, there’s definitely a difference. In a thriller, you have to get people to the edge of their seat and try to keep them there as much as possible. They have to care about the people involved. I think the difference with horror is that the readers goes from this intense worry to being all out terrified. For Things We Fear, I wondered myself while writing it if it was going to have a real monster. I had Aaron’s nightmarish vision, but then I found Matt. The human monster took the lead. After reading a batch of Jack Ketchum books (most recently, Red and Cover) which are more thriller than horror, following Matt felt like the right move. And it was.

Gef: What was it about the seaside town of Old Orchard Beach that felt like the perfect backdrop for this exploration of fear?

Glenn: There are really three settings here. Fairington which is modeled after the towns I grew up inland. Farmingdale, Hallowell. Portland, where we have a hotel that an important part of the story takes place, and of course, Old Orchard Beach, a little seaside town that I love going to every summer. You see the pier on the cover of the novella. There’s a sort of boardwalk, a carnival type place called, Palace Playland, a tons of shops, tons of tourists…and the beach on the ocean, of course. One of my lead characters, Aaron, has a phobia about the water. Yet, he faces that fear every summer by renting a tiny bungalow off the beach. I thought that would be perfect. I couldn’t think of a better set up for Aaron. That close to his big fear, so many things could go wrong. Everyone around him is smiling and having a blast. I guess it touches on the whole Jaws vibe there. Something awful happening when you go to your happy place. That makes me think of when Happy Gilmore went to his happy place then Shooter McGavin shows up and steals his girl. I shudder just thinking of it.

Gef: Did you sneak in any easter eggs into this book as far as your own fears or phobias go? Any bits of catharsis played out with a school serving as a setting--an antagonistic teacher from your past meeting an untimely literary end, perhaps?

Glenn: Sure. I have the fear of drowning. I went to a swimming hole we called The Ropes. I fell in and blacked out. At the same time, my best friend is an Ed Tech for an elementary school. I’ve heard all kinds of stories. When he used to substitute at the high school, he was always telling me that the Phys Ed guy this perfect smile macho guy…. all the ladies loved him. The real guy was really nice though, so I took that and twisted him into a psychotic stalker. Another character in the book, Heather, deals with some body image issues. Who among us doesn’t face that problem every day? Many of the women in my life are very vocal about such things. Some of the guys , too.

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

Glenn: Well, after these last two pieces from Samhain, I have a new short story collection coming in October. That will be followed in January or February by my first release for Sinister Grin Press. That will be my fourth novella, Chasing Ghosts. That novel traverses more of a Richard Laymon -type “in your face” horror.

After that, the future is wide open.

Thanks for having me Gef!

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.
He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will also be released in March 2016. His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming by 2017.
He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

March 14, 2016

An Excerpt of "The Blood on My Hands" by Shannon O'Leary

The Blood on My Hands is an autobiography by Shannon O’Leary. It was published in February 2016 and is available for sale on Amazon.

Set in 1960s and ‘70s Australia, The Blood on My Hands is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.

The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.

The Blood on My Hands is a heartbreaking—yet riveting—narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.

I have felt the cold steel of a gun in my mouth and against my temple.
I have tasted warm blood on my lips and witnessed horrific scenes of mutilation, where nameless people took their last breaths. In my life, I have experienced poverty, met people who had plenty, and lived through fire, floods, and drought. I have befriended the intellectually challenged and physically impaired and have known the mentally ill and misfits who were geniuses. I also assumed anonymity with my mother and brothers without people realizing we had disappeared.

In my youth I was exposed to many facets of raw emotion.

I’ve seen a living heart, beating and pulsating for its last time; seen broken fingers tossed in the wind; and watched a severed head dance. Tormented by recurring memories, I have chosen to write this book and put these ghosts to rest.
I first contemplated suicide at the age of four.
I devised my death plan down to the very last detail but never had the courage to see it through to completion. Instead, my mother’s face would keep interceding, begging me to stay alive. Faced with the fact that I could not inflict my death upon her, I’d pray for miraculous intervention. During hysterical bouts of entreaty, I would beg Jesus to strike us dead at exactly the same moment so that neither of us would feel the pain of enforced separation or the prolonged agony of death.
As a child, I dreamed of better things to come and lived in spiritualistic hope that one day my world would change. I thought my trauma was normal and didn’t know what other families experienced. I thought fear, sad- ness, and horror were just the by-products of a barely tolerable childhood. My self-esteem was nonexistent, and after a while I sought approval through the creative arts. I loved to sing, and as my voice was strong, I sang to cover my feelings of inadequacy and desolation. To me, music represented true happiness, a make-believe world where I could cling to melodious sounds instead of the tortured screaming of my nightmares.
As an adult, I have felt exhilaration when audiences clapped and called my name. At the same time, I have felt myself torn in two, experiencing the immobilizing fear of personal exposure when not protected by the proscenium arch of a stage. When I present myself without camouflage or without a scripted character to protect me, my gut wrenches itself into a catatonic knot, an all-enveloping state of fear. If I feel I am being examined on a personal level, my arms and legs become frozen, and I feel my soul moving toward automatic pilot. I smile and behave in the correct manner, but I’m mentally blank and devoid of all feeling.
I know what it’s like to be branded, to be labeled, and to work within the confines of a title. As a child I was called brilliant, genius, a child prodigy, and a precocious little troublemaker. I was also called an actress, liar, and evil. My teachers admitted they didn’t understand me and often left me to myself. As an adult, I experienced national fame as a children’s TV personality. I have brought joy to thousands of children by teaching them the elements of performance.
It brings me great fulfillment to see children experiencing happiness. It puts my own life in perspective.
I cannot find the words to describe my childhood. Words such as “passionately naive,” “emotionally lacerated,” and “holistically experiential” all pale in significance, in the shadow of living itself. My childhood was so creatively textured that it carried into adulthood without allowing me to become consumed by the insanity playing havoc around me. I am sane and strong, and for that I am eternally grateful. I have felt and seen extreme emotion. I have smelled my own flesh burning. I know what it feels like to have baby snakes wriggle across my body, to smell decay, and to see an eyeball popped between someone’s fingers. Alone, I have spent what seemed like hours in a blackened hole, a makeshift grave with a steel curtain, waiting for death.
Through all this, I stayed courageous and strong.
I treasure the power of love and the absurdity of shock, and I deal with these emotions on a day-to-day basis.
This is the story of my childhood.

Praise: The Blood on My Hands is a powerful, dark memoir… O’Leary tells how she and her family suffered at the hands of an abusive father with a multiple personality disorder. O’Leary actually witnessed her father murder people and animals. No one, not even the authorities, would help O’Leary and her family. This is O’Leary’s story about how they eventually got away from her father, but never truly escaped him or his heinous acts… parts of the book are so graphic that you do not want to believe that these things actually happened. Parts like these made it hard for me to put the book down. I knew what was about to happen, but I could not force myself to look away… This is a story that is going to remain in my mind for a long time.” - 4 Stars, Reviewed by Jessyca Garcia for Readers' Favorite

About the Author: Shannon O’Leary is a prolific writer and performer. She is the author of several books of poetry and children’s stories, and she has won many awards for song-writing.

Shannon has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company.

She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science. She is a teacher and academic, has five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in Sydney, Australia.

Her memoir The Blood on My Hands was published in February 2016 and is available for sale on Amazon and Createspace.

Readers can connect with Shannon on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads.

March 11, 2016

Devils and the Pale Moonlight: an interview with Jonathan Janz, author of "Children of the Dark"

by Jonathan Janz

Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning.

Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened.

And very few of them will escape with their lives.

Gef: What was the impetus behind Children of the Dark?

Jonathan: It’s funny. For me, I never really know why I set out to write a book until I look back at what I’ve written. I start writing something because I have this ungovernable urge to write it, and if I don’t, I’ll risk complete insanity.

So looking back, I can say that I must have had an urge to write about my childhood home, which was exactly as it’s described in the novel. The main character’s house, the graveyard, the spooky woods, all of it. My mom was a great mom, so that part is different, and I had a cat instead of a little sister. But other than those things, the protagonist’s life is remarkably like mine used to be.

Additionally, I guess I had the urge to write in the first-person, which I did in both novels that will be released this year. The only other time I did that in a big way was in EXORCIST ROAD (2014), and I guess I fell in love with that a little. I think the narrative voice is strong in CHILDREN OF THE DARK, so I’m pleased that I explored it.

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

Jonathan: Well, the truth of the matter is that I set out to write a YA horror book. Only after the terrible things started to happen at the midway point of the novel did I realize that this story was for an adult audience rather than a YA one. I mean, I still think teenagers would enjoy it and get a heck of a lot out of it, but its main audience is adults.

To answer your question, I tried extremely hard to see through the fifteen-year-old protagonist’s eyes, and while that’s no different than what I do with any character, it was the first time I’d seen through such a young lens for an entire novel. So that required channeling my younger self, remembering emotions and incidents I thought I’d forgotten. Many images returned to me that I hadn’t replayed in years, and overall, it was a healthy, illuminating experience for me. I got to exorcise some demons and to express some of the thoughts and emotions I possessed back then but was too young to articulate or understand.

Gef: Just looking at the back cover blurb for this book, it sounds like you're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at your protagonist. Did you just have a sadistic desire to see how much you could pile onto the poor fella?

Jonathan: Hah! Yes, my young protagonist is subjected to a whole boatload of terrible things. I teach my Creative Writing students the Kurt Vonnegut rule of characterization—“Be a sadist”—and I suppose this is an example of practicing what I preach. I do think, though, that all the disparate parts end up dovetailing nicely. There are dangers from five different directions: Will’s mother and her problems, the local police, the bullies that torment Will, a murderer named The Moonlight Killer, and one more I’m not going to get into (because this group forms the most frightening aspect of the story). To make matters worse, all Will loves will be threatened, particularly his friends, the girl he cares about, and especially his six-year-old sister.

I guess I could have just answered your question with a “Yes,” but I think the better answer would be that all of these things emerge naturally from the story, and though they’re all terrible, I think they’re each integral to the tale and to Will’s growth as a person.

Gef: There's a bit of the coming-of-age tale in this one, which has always seemed to have a home in the horror genre? What is it that makes adolescence and horror work so often?

Jonathan: I think horror, more than any other genre, deals in truths. This means that the shattering of illusions, the disabusing of delusions, and the unveiling of painful revelations are the natural currency of horror. No time in a person’s life is as rife with the aforementioned struggles as adolescence. When we’re in junior high and high school, we learn that life isn’t always fair. We discover that adults can be petty, callous, and cruel. We realize that the scripted futures we’ve constructed and to which we’ve clung probably won’t transpire in the manner that we desire, and we grapple with those difficult lessons at a time when we’re emotionally unequipped to do so.

All of this makes the coming-of-age story the most natural of subgenres for horror writers, for in these tales we’re afforded the opportunity to work out these problems on the page and to tell harrowing stories while we do so.

Gef: How have you found the experience in working with Sinister Grin Press so far?

Jonathan: Thus far it has been really enjoyable. I think what I’ve enjoyed the most is the consistent communication and the enthusiasm they’ve shown. They really love my book, and that love shows in their words and their behavior.

Gef: The cover art for this book is quite distinctive. How much input did you have in finding the artist and the eventual design?

Jonathan: I agree it’s distinctive. I’d also add that it kicks some serious booty. As for my input, this was pretty interesting really. I had seen Matthew Revert’s artwork several times and loved it, so I hired him to create a new cover for the re-release of my novella WITCHING HOUR THEATRE (which will be published some time in the second half of 2016). I loved the cover he came up with and was getting ready to request him with my Sinister Grin book, when lo and behold, Matthew messages me and says, “It looks like I might be doing another cover for you.” Which means that on the day I was going to request him, Sinister Grin approached him without any prompting from me and asked him to do the cover.

Then, the two of us communicated about it, and after some brainstorming and back-and-forth, he came up with the cover you see on the book now. I absolutely love it and think it has a beautiful old-school eighties slasher movie vibe.

Gef: This is a bit of an obscure reference here for readers that don't follow you on Facebook, but I'll ask it anyway. When are we going to see a "Hey Girl" line of merchandise? I definitely see potential for a pin-up calendar. :)

Jonathan: Hah! Let me illuminate this reference for the rest of your readers. My wife is quite a jokester, and she began…oh, about four months ago? She began posting high school pictures of me on Facebook with these ridiculous and, yes, admittedly funny captions. It has since become a bit of a phenomenon, so maybe there will be a calendar in the future. I have to think it would sell some copies at the upcoming Scares That Care 3 convention, since so many of my friends and readers will be present.

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

Jonathan: Man, things have been happening so rapidly that I have a difficult time keeping up. CHILDREN OF THE DARK drops on March 15th. WOLF LAND is only a few months old. Two books—WITCHING HOUR THEATRE and EXORCIST FALLS—will likely be published in 2016, and I’ve got several projects in various states of development for 2017.

As far as keeping up with me, I’ve got my blog (, which is about to become something much bigger; my Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon pages; a Twitter presence (@jonathanjanz), and an Instagram account (jonathan.janz). I love interacting with readers, so please feel free to contact me at any of these places! 

Thank you so much for having me, Gef. You’ve been good to me from the beginning, and I always enjoy returning to your wonderful site! 

Gef: *blush*

Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, and in a way, that explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows “the best horror novel of 2012.” The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, “reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story.”
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species, Publishers Weekly said, “Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror–Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows–will find much to relish.” Jonathan’s Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
Jack Ketchum called his vampire western Dust Devils a “Rousing-good weird western,” and his sequel to The Sorrows (Castle of Sorrows) was selected one of 2014’s top three novels by Pod of Horror. 2015 saw the release of The Nightmare Girl, which prompted Pod of Horror to call Jonathan “Horror’s Next Big Thing.” 2015 also saw the release of Wolf Land, which Publishers Weekly called “gruesome yet entertaining gorefest” with “an impressive and bloody climax.” He has also written four novellas (Exorcist Road, The Clearing of Travis Coble, Old Order, and Witching Hour Theatre) and several short stories.

His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author’s wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.

March 9, 2016

Blood Drive: an interview with David Bernstein, author of "A Mixed Bag of Blood"

by David Bernstein

From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Gef: So how did the creation of this new collection come about? Was A Mixed Bag of Blood something you'd been shopping around, or something that kind of came up in conversations with your publisher?

Dave: The wonderful John Foley from Thunderstorm Books contacted me. He’d been a fan of my work and wanted to know if I had a novella or short story collection that I’d like to submit to Thunderstorm Books. (Of course I was thrilled as I’ve been a huge fan of Thunderstorm). I started out my career writing short stories, then moved on to novels and novellas, so I had quite a few shorts published over the years. I sent him a number of tales, and he and Paul Goblirsch, the owner of the company, sent me the contract. It’s my first official collection and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. I like to write a variety of “horror” or “dark fiction,” so this collection ranges from subtle horror to flat out weird and gross.

Gef: How much of a gearshift is it for you going from working on a novel to a short story? Do you have to approach the story differently when you only have a few thousand words to work with, or is the story length something you figure out later as you're writing?

Dave: I don’t really get all artsy with my writing, even my short stories. With short stories, I feel as if I can jump right in and get to it. My short stories are like shrunken versions of my longer works. This might make them appear rushed to some. Short stories need to get to the point, so I try to do that. With a novel there is a grand journey ahead, planning to a degree, and details to reveal. Major character development and pages to fill. Writing shorter lengths has never been a problem for me. I struggle more with longer works.

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

Dave: I hope I’ve improved! Lol. Stories I wrote years ago are so awful. I think with any craft, the crafter improves over time. And not just with writing, but with reading. Reading a variety of authors and genres helps with this. It allows the writer to see different styles, learn rules and have questions answered. Some “rules” are not even concrete. Different places say different things. Different publishers require different ways of how they want things done. For example: Spell out a number instead of using actual numbers. Samhain wanted numbers written out, while Severed Press didn’t care how I wrote them.

All in all, I’d like to believe I am improving my craft with each book I read and each word I put down.

Gef: When it comes to putting together a collection, how much thought are you putting into which stories to include and in what order, or is that something left best to the editor?

Dave: I worked with the publisher on the order, but how I had it was fine. No changes. As far as content, there was only one story taken out for another because the stories were too similar. I also consider myself very easy to work with. Laid back. I am the writer. I like to let the “seller of books,” the PUBLISHER, decide what they think might work best, including the cover art. Almost all the publishers I’ve worked with have been more of a partnership when it came to all that. I have my input, but it’s ultimately up to them. Of course, this isn’t with all authors. Some like to have a lot of input, and that’s fine too.

Gef: Where do you think the horror genre shines more: in novels or in short stories?

Dave: Novels. No doubt. Short stories aren’t for everyone. Sales prove it.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Dave: I hate to say it, (because so many people do say it) but Stephen King. His novel, It, got me into reading. That’s where it all started. From there, hell, pick a former Leisure author. But I’ve always been creative. Wrote horror stories when I was in elementary school. Besides television, like the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I had no influences that I am aware of back then. But if we’re talking more recently, like during the last 20 years to present time: Jack Ketchum, Simon Clark, Joe McKinney, Robert McCammon, Ray Garton, Edward Lee, Preston and Child, Tim Waggoner, Douglas Clegg, Michael Crichton, David Morrell, James Herbert, Tim Curran, etc. I could go on.

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

Dave: I am more of a story-first writer. I start there. Take an idea and develop it. I have to work extra hard on characters. I like their actions to show who and what they are, and not worry too much about what they look like or what they are wearing. I like to leave it up to the reader as to how the characters appear, but I know people want descriptions. The story and action come so naturally to me.

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

Dave: I completed a B-movie kind of horror/crime novella that involves toxic waste, protected forest land, a bank robbery and young adults camping out in the woods with a nasty monster lurking about. That’s coming from Great Old Ones Publishing. The fantastic reissue of Fecal Terror from Bizarro Pulp Press (WOW, what a cover!) and a new novella with them called Retch. I’m finishing up a new novel called Episodes of Violence for Sinister Grin Press and working on Jackpot 2 for them as well. I have a couple of short stories in anthos.

Twitter: @bernsteinauthor

March 8, 2016

Blood in the Snow: an interview with Kristin Dearborn, author of "Woman in White"

by Kristin Dearborn

Rocky Rhodes, Maine.

As a fierce snowstorm descends upon the sleepy little town, a Good Samaritan stops to help a catatonic woman sitting in the middle of the icy road, and is never seen or heard from again. When the police find his car, it is splattered in more blood than the human body can hold.

While the storm rages on, the wave of disappearances continue, the victims sharing only one commonality: they are all male. Now it's up to three young women to figure out who or what is responsible: a forensic chemist, a waitress struggling with an abusive boyfriend, and a gamer coping with the loss of her lover.

Their search will lead them on a journey filled with unspeakable horrors that are all connected to a mysterious Woman in White.


Gef: What was the impetus behind Woman in White?

Kristin: My friend Melissa Robitaille works for the Maine State Crime Lab, and she took me on a tour of the facilities a few years ago. I didn’t have a specific work in progress in mind, so as I took in all the equipment and heard about the work they do there, my mind was a blank slate. I thought a lot about the blood, and how everything in the lab has to be kept sterile. I kept chewing on the blood piece as we went through the whole lab.

I love “winter” horror novels, where the weather is as much an adversary as the villain. I decided I finally wanted to write my own, and during the snowy drive from visiting the Crime Lab back to Vermont, the two things congealed in my head and the story seeds were planted.

Gef: While this book has a small town backdrop with a bit of an isolated vibe, you still have three main characters squared off against whatever is responsible for all of the grizzly deaths. Was this a story that you had to plot out ahead of time to balance out the attention towards each character, or are you more of a "pantser" when writing?

Kristen: I’m a devoted “pantser” and tend to write my first drafts off the cuff. I knew I wanted multiple POVs, and knew I’d need to rotate chapters within my manuscript. I found it pretty easy to keep track of who was doing what as the three MCs came together. Each of them, Mary Beth, Lee, and Angela, had distinctive voices and personalities, and I really enjoyed spending time in each of their heads.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character? Also, what is it about Maine that lends itself so well to horror stories?

Kristen: Setting is a key character in any book, and I think winter and snow make a wonderful horror setting. The film The Thing, Dan Simmons’ novel The Terror, Stephen King’s The Shining all make excellent use of setting as character, including snow and cold temperatures. I think all of New England lends itself to horror, something about how old it is (as far as America is concerned) the perceived stand-offishness towards outsiders, and the variation in the seasons contribute to the spookiness. I don’t know how many readers have lived through a New England Winter, but the days are short, the nights are long, and if you’re not an avid skier, it can be a daunting, depressing time. Maine in particular lends itself to horror because of how big it is—compared to Texas or Alaska it’s not much, but most of Maine is extremely remote and isolated. The phenomenon of not having cell service is a very real phenomenon in most of the state, and you can walk for days in the woods without seeing another human being.

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

Kristin: Well, 2015 was the first year I claimed my writing income on my taxes, so in that sense it’s coming along well! I credit all of my success to Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, where I got to immerse myself for the first time in like-minded writers. The program focuses on both the art and the craft of genre fiction, and teaches the business side so we can actually sell the books we produce. I’ve looked at writing as a job and not just a hobby, and have worked very hard to make it a priority in my life.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Kristin: My three biggest influences are Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King. Koontz writes excellent monsters and villains—the Outsider from Watchers, the Pollard family from The Bad Place, and the monsters in Darkfall come to mind. Crichton, particularly early sci-fi Crichton, comes up with some of the most amazing plots and scenarios I’ve ever read. Favorites include Sphere, Andromeda Strain, and of course my beloved Jurassic Park. I feel these and many of his early works could be claimed by the horror genre as opposed to sci-fi. Stephen King writes the best characters in literature, vivid real people you can imagine knowing. The Body, the underappreciated Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Christine make some of my favorites, but as I’m thinking about the characters, almost every one of his books has personalities that seem ready to stride off the page into fully realized lives.

Gef: How do you feel about the state of the horror genre these days? And what do you consider to be the saving grace of the horror genre?

Kristin: This is a tough question and one that’s often chewed over at horror conventions. I think the genre is going strong, though I feel the real gems are being carried on the backs of zombies and vampires. Urban fantasy (which seems to be waning at the moment—don’t worry, it’ll be back) seems to have paved the way for mainstream shows like Walking Dead and The Strain. I was recently at a BAM! and noticed they did have a horror section, which was exciting, but it was all zombies and Stephen King. I feel like we have a ways to go before a lot of the real meat of the horror genre is mainstream, and maybe we don’t ever want it to be.

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?

Kristin: Ugh. “Write what you know.” I consider myself a well-balanced human being, have never seen a ghost or monster, and certainly have never murdered anyone, summoned a demon, or been abducted by aliens. If I wrote what I knew, you all would be reading about energy efficiency, motorcycle riding, and me going out for Vermonty craft beers with pals. That’s all well and good, but I want to explore darkness through my words, and since I’ve had a pretty blessed life where not much bad has happened to me, that would be impossible if I stuck specifically to what I know. Thank goodness I have the internet to do my research.

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

Kristin: You know, the whole “guilty pleasure” thing is so subjective…I feel like most of what I write and read and watch falls into that category, but I take no guilt. When it comes to movies, I love creature features: Piranha, Tremors, Night of the Lepus…all great and fun. As for books, I love a lot of the lurid paperbacks from the 80’s with awesome 3-D or hologram covers. Paper thin plots and characters, dripping with gore that you can feast on in one sitting.

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

Kristin: I’ve got a few projects I’m wrapping up right now, my novel Stolen Away will be released in paperback and ebook with Raw Dog Screaming Press this summer, and my novella Whispers will be out in the fall from Lovecraft eZine. This story is a modern retelling of H.P. Lovecraft’s Vermont story, Whisperer in Darkness. I’ve got a few novels I’m tweaking and wrapping up. One is about the English in Egypt in the late 1800s and the Egpytian gods Bast and Apep. The other is about Skunk Apes and a teenage prostitute in the swamps of Florida. Just think of how dull those would be if I wrote what I knew…

You can keep up to speed on most of my writerly adventures at

March 7, 2016

Sweet Vampires and Bitter Enemies: an interview with Dobromir Harrison, author of "Rachel"

by Dobromir Harrison

Under the neon lights of Tokyo, vampires live out uneasy nights in a city where anyone can lose themselves. Dragged from her native England, one of the youngest vampires in Tokyo acts out her anger and grief through endless hollow nights. Rachel's existence has shrunken in on itself. Violence, blood, and running from her memories keep her going, the city serving as safe haven and prison. 

When someone starts killing the vampires of Tokyo, Rachel will be forced to confront everything she's fought to forget for over a hundred years. Trapped between her vicious mentor and the implacable force of the monsters she shares the streets with, she will have to confront the most painful secrets of her past to survive... or she and the woman she loves won't see another night alive.

Gef: What was the spark that started Rachel rolling through your mind?

Dobromir: I’ve always loved vampire stories, from way back when I used to play Vampire: the Masquerade as a teen. The main spark for the story happened when I was living in Thailand and drove past a karaoke bar called Sweet Vampires, and it got me fantasizing about a foreign vampire living there. I should mention that the bar was in no way gothic or vampiric, it was just a silly name!

However, the main elements didn’t fall into place until I moved to Tokyo a few years later. I was in a huge city, surrounded by dark suburbs and abandoned buildings – places where monsters could live, skulking around in the quieter parts. In a way, Tokyo became the catalyst for the story, and placing Rachel in it just worked so well from the very beginning.

Gef: You've mentioned before that while Rachel the novel was hard, Rachel the character was easy. Was this a case where you let Rachel run wild? How far off did she veer from your original concept?

Dobromir: Honestly, she didn’t change that much in terms of personality. I put a lot of myself into her – my own insecurities, and how I felt as a foreigner and outsider in a different culture. The character almost appeared fully-formed when I started writing the first draft.

There were times I had to tone her down, though. One of my main ideas for the book was having a protagonist who you felt for and wanted to see succeed, but who did awful things to survive. In the early drafts, she was a lot more violent, and it was fun just letting her loose in the city to make a mess. I had to take a lot of it out later, though, when it became absurd.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting with your writing? What was the allure of Tokyo for you to set the story there?

Dobromir: Setting was everything in this book. Tokyo is a fascinating city, with so much history and culture condensed into this crowded area. It was a place I loved, and I wanted to write it well, make it feel real and not a cliché. I knew setting the story in Japan would bring people into it, and help the book sell, but I wanted people to feel they were right there along with Rachel, stalking the dark streets at night. I set many parts of the story in places I knew and lived, which helped the writing flow.

Tokyo is pretty safe for such a big city, and I used to go walking at night, just pick a direction and see what I found. Over time, I started to see the city as she did, looking for abandoned buildings where she could sleep, quiet areas where she’d be left alone, the love hotels where she would meet her girlfriend. The writing flowed quiet easily after that.

I think one of my strengths as a writer is getting the settings right, making them feel real and lived-in. Hopefully, that comes across to people reading the book!

Gef: Outside of zombies, vampires just might be the most oft-used monster in all of horror and fantasy. How daunting was it in trying to create a unique enough take on vampire lore?

Dobromir: I encountered that thinking quite a bit! When I had the book in a somewhat-finished state, and was looking for a publisher, I found a few companies that said clearly, “no vampires, werewolves or zombies!” It was somewhat disheartening, to be honest.

I think it’s important as a writer to have confidence in your ideas, though it’s not always easy. I wrote vampires because I love the genre, and I figured other people felt the same way I did. Luckily, that turned out to be the case. Vampires have been “over-used” throughout the 20th Century, but are still going strong. Recent books and films, like Let the Right One In, have shown that there’s still a market for well-written vampire stories.

Vampires are still one of the most potent horror monsters, and part of their appeal for me is how malleable they are in terms of what they stand for. They’ve been symbols of sexual freedom, drug addiction, LGBT rights, teenage lust, and so much more, and different audiences have taken different things from them. I don’t think that’s going to go away any time soon; there’ll be new takes on vampires along with the more traditional versions, and both will sell well and delight readers.

Readers’ reactions to Rachel have been great so far and no one, to my knowledge, has commented negatively on it being a vampire novel. That makes me feel I was right, that I’m not alone in being drawn to vampire fiction!

Gef: It seems you lucked out in the book cover department, too. How has the experience been for you thus far with Evil Girlfriend Media and seeing Rachel come to fruition?

Dobromir: The cover is amazing, isn’t it? That was Dean Samed of Conzpiracy Digital Arts, a very talented artist. Some of his other book covers are even better than mine! When I first saw the Rachel cover, I was thrilled, and I think it sells the book by itself.

You know, when I was looking for a horror publisher, one of the first I found online was Evil Girlfriend Media. I honestly thought right then and there that Rachel would belong with them. It was a bit of a surprise to me when they responded and I was proven right!

Rachel is the first book I’ve written, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the experience has been amazing. Katie Cord and everyone else at Evil Girlfriend are a delight to work with, and their enthusiasm for publishing great work is infectious. I got to work with amazing editors, like Lillian Cohen-Moore, who helped tighten up the writing and narrative. And now it’s paying off with Rachel selling really well.

Publishing can be a long, slow, nerve-wracking process, so working with people you respect, and who are excited about your writing, is such an important thing. I feel extremely lucky for having had the opportunity to do that.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Dobromir: I grew up reading a lot of Clive Barker, and I still love his mix of fantasy and horror, along with his world-building. His earlier horror stories were fearless and gruesome in all the right ways, and I hope my writing can come close to that.

Apart from that, the biggest influence on Rachel was probably the novel Stainless by Todd Grimson. It’s a modern-day vampire story set in LA, and it contains all the things I love about the genre; the gritty urban setting, the weight of history that comes with being an immortal monster, and amoral characters with a predilection for gore. The main relationship in that book feels so real to me in its complexity and weirdness, which is something I wanted to achieve with Rachel and her girlfriend Yoshi in my book.

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?

Dobromir: Wow, there are so many answers I could give to this! I’m not a huge fan of writing advice in general, because every writer has a different way of working. I think as long as you can write well, are able to listen and respond constructively to criticism, and have the self-discipline to actually finish what you start, you have what it takes.

I guess the advice I hate the most is that you should force yourself to write every day. I know writers who do that – and they’re very prolific! – and I know writers who don’t. Life is complex and strange, and it sometimes gets in the way. There’s no shame with taking a break, or not being too hard on yourself, as long as you’re able to actually finish projects. Writing is a business, and it takes some dedication, but I feel we should also enjoy it.

Neil Gaiman said it best, I think, when he talked about writing one word, then another, then another, until you finish. How writers accomplish that is really up to them to discover for themselves, I think.

Gef: How can folks keep up with your future projects and other shenanigans?

Dobromir: I have a website,, which also has my personal blog. At the moment I’m writing posts about the settings of Rachel and why I chose them. I’m also @dobharrison on Twitter, which is where I share everything. That’s definitely the best place to follow me. Feel free to let me know what you think of Rachel, good or bad, or ask questions about it!

March 4, 2016

A Farmboy in Epic Fantasy: an interview with Phillip Tomasso, author of "Severed Empire: Wizard's Rise"

SEVERED EMPIRE: Wizard's Rise by Phillip Tomasso - A war is coming. There is no way to prevent it. The only thing for certain is that there will be one loser. . .and one winner. 

For over two hundred years the Rye Empire enforced drastic measures outlawing the use of magic. To avoid capture a handful of remaining Wizards escaped royal persecution and made it into hiding. Shortly after the decree the empire crumbled, but the laws remained in place. . . 

The Mountain King’s ambitions of becoming the next Emperor will be realized. With forced help from an enslaved sorceress, he will stop at nothing until he achieves his dreams. The easiest path to victory can be obtained by retrieving buried talismans. With those enchanted items in his possession he can summon the Wizards, steal, and harness their power. 

In an effort to save the Old Empire from a growing, sinister magic, seventeen-year-old farmboy Mykal and five friends begin a desperate journey. They must collect the talismans before the Mountain King. Their trek will force Mykal to face fears, and accept truths he’d never known existed. There isn’t much time. A war is coming. Their chances of winning will depend on whether they succeed or not. If they fail, a terrible darkness will steal the light from the Grey Ashland Realm. . .forever. 


Gef: What was the impetus behind Wizard's Rise?

Phillip: I tried writing this book years ago, but stopped. The odd thing about me (or one odd thing about me -- since this isn’t a therapy session . . . I don’t think?) is that only recently have I started reading fantasy novels. I’ve always loved fantasy movies, but never got into the books. (The shear size of some of those books made me apprehensive). And then along came the HBO show, Game of Thrones. The show blew my mind. I immediately book all five books (tomes) . . . and a new me was born. And along with the new me was a desire to write a book in the fantasy genre. In no way is Wizard’s Rise comparable to Game of Thrones. I love grimdark fantasy (Mark Lawrence, John R. Fultz, Joe Abercrombie, etc.), but decided I would (for now, anyway), focus on the more innocent protagonist who embarks on an epic journey in order to thwart evil, while facing different enemies, and challenges along the way (more Eddings, Jordan, Sanderson, Brooks, Goodkind style, but again, do not dare compare my first fantasy novel to the legends these authors are).

However, I didn’t become consumed with writing fantasy until I had a story worth telling. Enter Mykal. The main character. He is young, flawed, and has been raised by a crippled grandfather. Thing is, he is happy with his life. Taking care of their small parcel of land, and animals is good enough. Unfortunately, he is forced out of his comfort zone, and must embark across the Old Empire with the hope of preventing war. It isn’t something he wants to do, it wasn’t something he dreamed of doing, and yet if he does nothing countless lives will be lost. A conundrum to say the least. (That was what I started with. And from there …)

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

Phillip: Stick with me on this answer. It is going to sound all over the place. I am pretty sure I can tie it together, though. So, Sounds of Silence, was the first young adult book I’d ever written, and is about a 12 year old who contracts meningitis and becomes deaf. He believes his dreams of ever playing professional baseball have been shattered. It was written specifically for a younger audience, and is a very straightforward, first person narrative. Aside from short stories I had published in the late 1990’s, Wizard’s Rise is my first fantasy novel. I wanted to create a novel that was enjoyable for both young adult, and adult readers. This meant incorporating more (and multiple) complex storylines, as well as including enough action, character depth, and world building to please an array of fantasy-lover ages.

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

Phillip: Setting was very challenging, and perhaps the most fun, while writing Wizard’s Rise. When I write I buy a new composition notebook and fill it with story details while I write. I have several separate Word documents where I also add information. And then there are the random squares torn from paper, and napkins, and whatever I can get my hand on at the time, that hopefully helps me keep everything in order while telling a story. In creating this “world,” I knew skies would be blue, grass green, autumn chilly, winter cold, spring wet, and summer hot. I toyed with the idea of “religion,” but consciously left out any for of god/God reference, or inference (despite endless notes about ancient monks, and monasteries, the Jedi’s use of the Force, etc.). While I don’t have parallel lines from that world and ours, there are some subtle hints that may lead readers to wonder “where” and/or “when” this actually takes place. (There may be revelations in later installments, so I do not want too much exposed just now). In short, (or is it too late?), the setting played a major role as a supporting main character in Wizard’s Rise. A major role.

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

Phillip: My progression. Hmmm. It has progressed. No doubt about that. Sold my first short story (about being a busboy) when I was fourteen years old. That was in 1984. (Wowzers). Anyway, the goal was always to write novels. I decided to work on a portfolio of short stories. From 1984 until 1999, I’d sold roughly 200 short stories and articles. In 2000, I’d sold my first suspense novel to a small press out of California. (I was almost 30 at the time). Currently, Wizard’s Rise is my 21st novel (and for the record, I am 45). In between 2000 and 2016, I have written suspense/thrillers, a legal thriller (as I used to work as a paralegal in a corporate law firm), children’s books (under the pen name Grant R. Philips -- which are the names of my kids, Grant, Raeleigh, and Phillip), young adult novels, a Christian suspense book (under the pen name Thomas Phillips), a science fiction novella, several horror novels (mostly zombies), and now a fantasy series with Mirror Matter Press.

Too many times I have thought I should stick with one genre. More often, my mind and my inspiration dictates otherwise. I feel like I have to write the story that is begging to be told. It is difficult, though, because many times my “readers” have expectations. If someone is waiting on the next zombie novel, and I put out a book about a deaf ‘tween playing Little League Baseball, I risk losing that reader.

Let me say this, I have enjoyed the progression. I can never complain about where I was, where I’ve gone, or where I am. I have been flown to conventions first class, have been picked up by limos, been interviewed in magazines, for ezines, on blog sites, and on television. I have done book signings where I’ve sold every copy in the store, and times when my pen and the bowl of M&Ms are the most interaction to be had for hours. I love being a writer.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Phillip: My influences are all over the place. My love for reading began when I discovered S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. It only grew from there. After reading her books, I moved on to devour everything by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robin Cook, and John Saul. Robert Parker, John Grisham, and Walter Mosley gained my interest next. I spent some time with James Patterson, Scott Turrow, and Mary Higgins Clark. Only recently have I begun reading fantasy. Tolkien, Goodkind, and Terry Brooks. I read The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, and the Harry Potter books. My apartment is filled with bookcases packed with a wide variety of novels. My inspiration comes from every book I’ve ever read. The good, the bad, and the un-put-down-able. To pick just one writer, or a few, I just can’t narrow it, though I’ve tried to pinpoint the influence more specifically many, many times.

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?

Phillip: Truth is, I don’t think I can recall a terrible piece of writing advice. I have learned, or have taken something positive from any information shared with me. Before my first novel was published I used to go to local book signings. Horror legend, T.M. Wright, and his twin brother T. Lucien Wright, often sat at tables at the mall’s Waldenbooks. I was “that guy” who stood there between signing lulls and talked their ears off asking questions about how to “break into” the writing world. (Of course, I bought whatever book they were promoting, and still have quite the collection saran wrapped in a safe, warm, dry place). These guys were nothing but gracious, and helpful. They pointed me toward writer’s groups, and instructed me on to-dos and not-to-dos, and from there, I only grew in the craft, and learned the (then) ropes of submissions, and contracts, and such. I spent a lot of time with Writer’s Market books, and becoming familiar with understanding submission guidelines, simultaneous submissions, and waiting. It is all about waiting, but being patient while doing so. (Way easier said than done at times)!

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

Phillip: I work full time as a Fire/EMS Dispatcher for 911. I spend a lot of my life working. We’re a family, deranged, and demented at times (most times), but close. Anyway, the point is, they know not to ask me for advice on what movies to watch. I can find the good, or grasp the message, or see the positive in most any movie I watch. There are very, very few movies I hate (Halloween III). I am, admittedly, a Netflix & Hulu junkie. I binge watch shows like at any moment my cable will be cancelled. I can watch any of the LOTR, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Jurassic Park movies, any and every time they are on TV (plus I own the Blu Rays). Cheesy B-Horror films are my favorite. The toughest thing about having grown children is that of everything I’ve just listed, Disney animated/Pixar films are my favorite (with the exception of Cars). Unless I can convince my 18 year old daughter to go with me to the theater, I am stuck waiting for them to be released on DVD. (I am trying to find someone with kids to hang out with, because the sequel to Finding Nemo is hitting the big screen soon. I am not waiting for the DVD). TV shows I love, and can’t miss, are as follows: Game of Thrones, Vikings, The Last Kingdom, The Walking Dead, The Shannara Chronicles, Outsiders, Modern Family, Bob’s Burgers, Arrow, Flash, Daredevil, Kimmy Schmidt, and Angie Tribeca. (How do I get any writing done, right? I know. I know. SMH).

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

Phillip: The Severed Empire series is just revving up. Wizard’s Rise is book one. Out this summer is book two, Wizards’ War. These two books tell one complete story. Each is roughly 400 pages (in paperback). Book three, out hopefully by winter, is a standalone and tells the origins tale of a secondary character, Blodwyn (The Assassin’s Promise). Additionally for Mirror Matter Press, I am writing a science fiction thriller, (currently untitled), loosely based on “actual events,” and then a fourth Severed Empire installment with a working title of Wizard’s Reach. Lastly (for my writing commitments in 2016), I will be writing a science fiction horror novel for Severed Press (also untitled at the moment).

Thank you for the interview, for the amazingly tough questions, and the opportunity for me to share some of me with some of your readers. I greatly appreciate the opportunity.

If people are interested in keeping up to date on my work (fingers crossed), below are some ways!