November 23, 2016

One More Than There Should Be: an interview with Scott Burn, author of "The Enemy Within"

Seventeen-year-old Max has always felt like an outsider. When the agonizing apocalyptic visions begin, he decides suicide is his only escape. He soon finds himself in an institution under the guidance of a therapist who sees something exceptional in him. Just as he begins to leave the hallucinations behind, Max discovers the visions weren't just in his head.

There are three others who have shared those same thoughts and they've been searching for Max. Like him, they are something more than human. Each of them possesses certain abilities, which they're going to need when a covert military group begins hunting them down.

As the danger escalates, Max doesn’t know which side to trust. But in the end, his choice will decide the fate of both species.

Gef: What was the impetus behind this The Enemy Within?

Scott: I work in Hollywood as a screenwriter. While there is a certain amount of freedom about what you create, if you’re looking to sell it or would like to be kept on board for rewrites, you have to be cognizant of the market and what studios are after. For years I had wanted to write something that was completely mine and could be, for good or bad, precisely what I wanted it to be. I had been looking to build a story around the idea of teenage alienation, but didn’t quite know what it was. Then one day I heard a fascinating tidbit about how NASA knows precisely how many satellites are orbiting earth at every moment. I thought, what if one day they found one more than there should be - that led to the first page of The Enemy Within.

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

Scott: Setting really is a character unto itself. My goal is to make the reader feel like they’re there based on the setting descriptions, but not have it be so overdone that it takes over the action and emotion of the moment. Deciding what that perfect balance is took only about 15 drafts.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Scott: There are the standards that I’m sure most of your followers have read, like Heinlein, Zelazny and Bradbury… but I also grew up loving black comedies by authors like Thomas Berger and Jerzy Kosinski. Their gift for language and story craft was extraordinary. Great writing is all about creating that human connection in unexpected ways, and that transcends genres.

Gef: What is your favorite aspect of the scifi genre? Were scifi novels your gateway drug into reading?

Scott: They were indeed the gateway. There were way too many hours in libraries at closing and late at night delving into the next story and getting carried away to fantasy and sci-fi realms. But I think the best of them had one thing in common - sci fi was a backdrop and it was much more about the main characters emotional journey that made the story compelling. Great twists and action sequences are always fun, but unless there’s a real bond to the heroes, as well as the antagonists, the story won’t reach beneath the surface level (for me).

Gef: What is the biggest misconception about "new adult" fiction that you've heard from readers--and writers for that matter?

Scott: I’ve been working on and off for years on a slightly older coming of age story set in college. To me it’s New Adult. But when I talked to my agent or other people in publishing, NA always tends to have erotic over (under?)tones. That’s a bit silly - just call it erotic if that’s the case. I see NA as being for a more mature than YA audience, but not quite into their late 20’s adults.

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

Scott: That you need to stay in your genre and build your brand in that genre. There may be sense to it, but I think it’s awful advice. Writers are story tellers and that story may be a coming of age story today and an action adventure story next year. Write what you’re psyched every day to get up and write. Although your agent may advise differently...

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

Scott: I don’t know if it’s guilty, but House of Cards is one of my great pleasure. I binge on that and watch a full season in 2 days. The same with Bloodline. Love it!

Gef: What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

Scott: When something catches me off guard and takes the story in a great but unexpected direction, that’s such an awesome experience. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas had that effect on me. 

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

Scott: Research is such a huge part of the process - whether in screenwriting or novels. I always take time and dig into articles and reach out to people who are experts in their field. I don’t always understand what it is they tell me, which is all the more reason to dig deeper - because it’s the writers job to find way to make complex ideas relatable. And that only happens once I understand what I’m talking about. I wish there were tricks. But really it’s rolling up your sleeves and diving in until you are an expert in it - or can fake being one.

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

Scott: I have different film projects at various studios. Hopefully one of them winds its way into production soon enough. And I’ve been working on a new supernatural thriller that will be ready for human eyes in a few months (a few being anywhere between 3 and 20).

They can look at my website to get a sense of the type of things I do outside of The Enemy Within:

November 21, 2016

Planes, Veins, and Apocalypse Meals: an interview with Amber Fallon, author of "The Terminal"

Air travel during the holiday season. Yuck. Stupid people, flight delays, and long lines at security are pretty much the worst things ever - or so Dirk Bradley thought until a horde of bloodthirsty psychopaths from beyond the stars invaded the airport, cutting a swath of death and destruction through everything he knew and loved. Can he survive the attack and live to tell the tale? What hope does an average Joe have against a race of brutal killers bent on world domination?

Amber Fallon's The Terminal is available on

Gef: So where did the inspiration for The Terminal come from? A particularly maddening holiday flight, perhaps?

Amber: Close! I wrote the first half of the Terminal on a spring vacation to Alaska. On the way there, we had a connecting flight in Chicago and there was an incredibly annoying woman in front of us in the boarding line (I bet you can guess what she was wearing!) . As a horror author, I immediately started envisioning her death in fun and creative ways and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Gef: Was this a story you had intended as a novella from the get-go, or did the story length only come into play through the editing of it?

Amber: I can't honestly say that I ever have intentions (lengthwise, anyway) when I start writing. I just put the words down and see where they take me. I will say this, though: The story isn't over.

Gef: Compared to writing short stories, how did your writing process for The Terminal differ?

Amber: Most of my short stories are written in a single sitting. The Terminal took several months, which meant that I had to live in that headspace, with those characters, for a lot longer than I was used to. That had the unexpected side effect of making me grow more emotionally attached to them than characters I could rid my brain of after a day or two. 

Gef: Along with the novella, you have a chapbook of Joey's Story. Was his point-of-view originally included in The Terminal? What made you want to explore the events through his eyes as well?

Amber: No, Joey exists as both a foil and a McGuffin. Without revealing too much about the book... I needed something to happen which meant that I needed someone to do it. Joey was that someone. The idea for the chapbook came from a friend joking about how Joey was the only character I'd written that was less likable than Dirk, my protagonist. So I wanted to explore him more as a character.

Gef: When it comes to horror, what would you say is the biggest misconception about it, and what is its saving grace?

Amber: I find that a lot of people assume that all horror is of the blood-and-guts variety. While The Terminal definitely falls into that category, I write and read much that does not. I'm not quite sure why the stigma exists... but I do know that a book marketed as a thriller or as dark fantasy has better chances than one marketed as horror, even if they are otherwise identical. As to a saving grace... Stephen King. His books (and by extension, other media) are so popular that they somehow manage to escape the stigma. Also more mainstream, popular horror properties like The Walking Dead have that effect. If those things draw more people to my favorite genre, I'm all for it.

Gef: What was your initial draw to horror?

Amber: Oh, that's a good question! My mother loved Poe and would often read his stories to me when I was very young. When I got to be a bit older, I raided both of my parents' libraries and discovered more Poe, Lovecraft, Shelley, Stoker, Wells, and Jackson among my mother's books and lots of King, Ketchum, Koontz, Barker, and Straub among my father's. I loved the stories I read (even if I didn't always understand them) and from there sought out more.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Amber: JF Gonzalez was a huge influence on me. From the moment I read Clickers, I fell in love with his fun, energetic storytelling. Brian Keene is another inspiration. Guy N. Smith, Ruby Jean Jensen, David Robbins, Thomas F. Monteleone, Poppy Z. Brite, Mort Castle, Rick Hautala, Shirley Jackson. Even if they didn't have a direct impact on my narrative style, they impacted something about the way I write.

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

Amber: I'll give you both! Worst: That you have to stick to just one project at a time and finish it before starting something else. For me, I work far better having at least two things I can bounce back and forth between. That way, if I get stuck on something in a particular story, I can take a break from it and go work on something else until I figure it out. That's also how I combat the dreaded Writers' Block. Thing I wish would go away: That you have to work with an outline. That just isn't true. Some people work better seat-of-the-pants style. And even those that do outline sometimes do it very differently: everything from short, couple sentence plot points to very complex detailed high school English paper style outlines. Just like anything else in life, figure out what works best for you and do that.

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

Amber: There is a sequel to The Terminal in the works! I also have a story appearing in Fossil Lake IV: Sharkasaurus. And my next book will be coming out from Eraserhead Press next year. My website ( is a good place. It has links to my various social media accounts as well as news, episodes of my podcast, book links and more!

November 11, 2016

The Dark Times Are Nigh: an interview with Gene Lazuta, author of "Vyrmin"

The Vyrmin Will Rise…

Hidden among us are the wicked. Their vile deeds have been retold from generation to generation down through the ages.
They are hidden among us—evil men and women, always dangerous, always Wild.
They are hidden among us—and they become beasts…during the Dark Times.

The Blood Prince Awakens…

One man is the key. He will renew the Hunt. But who is the Blood Prince? What horrific things happen when he enters the woods? Can anyone stop him? Will anyone even try?

The Dark Times are Nigh…

When the beasts that are men return to the Wild.
When the beasts that are men return to the Hunt.
When the Blood Prince takes the hand of his demon lover in the sky.
When the screaming starts under the cold silver gaze of a pitiless, hungry moon. 

The Vyrmin Will Feed!

Gef: Pete Kahle and Bloodshot Books have republished your 1992 novel, Vyrmin, this fall. How did that relationship come about?

Gene: From my perspective, the relationship with Pete Kahle came right out of the blue, or maybe the more appropriate reference would be straight out of the black. Pete tracked me down through the magic of the Internet and sent an email asking if I had retained the rights to Vyrmin. If I did, he wanted to know if I would be interested in having his specialty press re-release it. Not being a particularly trusting soul by nature, my first reaction was, “Yeah, sure. I’m sure you would be happy to print up copies of my book for a fee.” But after speaking to him on the phone that night I quickly realized that he was the real deal—a guy with a passion for the horror genre, and a really excellent writer in his own right. I was, and remain, very flattered that he included Vyrmin among the first of the books he wanted to re-introduce to a new generation of horror readers, and I really appreciate and admire his enthusiasm for the work.

Gef: Finding a new approach to old monsters can always be tricky. What was your mindset when you decided to create a story involving the werewolf myth in some fashion?

Gene: For me, the werewolf concept is probably the purest “monster,” psychologically, that you imagine. The idea that there is this rage, this wildness that just expresses itself as fury and fangs, triggered by something, like a full moon, or whatever, is just straight up bad-ass…not to mention a direct reflection of the reality of the human condition, to one extent or another, for us all. But somehow, the werewolves I encountered in most horror fiction and movies missed the mark for me a bit. They usually got the savagery, the fur and fire, down pretty well, but there were two things that always left me wanting…something…more.

The first was the why of it all. Why did it happen? I know that the affliction was usually the result of a curse, or an inherited family trait, or an infection inflicted by a bite...but those were sort of mechanical, and didn’t really get to the heart of the matter. I believe we all have the angels of our better nature, and the demons prepared to lash out if given half-a-chance, roiling around in our hearts pretty much all our lives. So why did it happen that one person became consumed by that whirlwind of blind aggression, and the rest of us didn’t? I wanted to introduce a catalyst to the mix that would basically separate out the members of society that had that killer instinct, that destructive force that is every bit as much a part of nature as is the sunshine and flowers of a peaceful day on the farm, from those of us who don’t…those of us who are just not inherently predators. The predators always outnumber the prey species in any ecosystem. And that’s how I imagined it would work for the Wild and the Flock. So that was the first thing: I wanted to create an underlying logic to it all, a reason that served to demonstrate, quite physically, that there are just some very bad people in the world, and all it takes is the right trigger to bring that evil out into the open.

The second thing I wanted to address was the human aspect of the werewolf. The classic werewolf has long hair and fangs, claws and red, angry eyes, but he or she still retains an essentially human frame. Two arms, two legs, bipedal, walking upright. That, to me, always pointed directly to the fact that the beast was not all beast. That there was still a human being deep in there somewhere. And, if we are nothing else, human beings are clever. We are, in fact, more clever than any other species on the planet, and we have therefore come to dominate this globe, for good or ill. The werewolf, having that spark of humanity retained as part of his essential nature, to me, needs to be far more than just a savage explosion of flashing teeth and claws…the werewolf should be directing that savagery to a purpose! That’s what scares me: the idea that a hurricane could have an intent, that it isn’t a random act, that it’s part of some kind of plan…and in that plan I, and everyone else like me, my family, the people I love, the good people, are targets—we’re prey. It’s kind of like terrorism, or genocide, or any of a range of uniquely human atrocities that are fundamentally appalling specifically because, to someone, not to us all, but to someone, they make perfect sense.

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

Gene: Place is the palette, the tableau, the air that breathes life into a story. It is as much a character as anything alive or dead in the narrative. Think of the Overlook Hotel, the Titanic, Hamburger Hill, Jack the Ripper’s East End…think of the snow, or the black-water sea, the jungle leaves dripping with oily humidity, and chilled fingers of fog slowly describing eddies in the invisible currents beneath a gaslight’s flickering glow…and you are already anticipating the events, believing that yes, no matter how unusual or unique, no matter how horrific or amazing, those thing could happen here…those things must happen here, exactly here. In Vyrmin, the Killibrook Valley is the stage. It’s the place where the moon physically reaches down and touches the Earth—and where the Earth and moon touch, anything can happen.

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

Gene: This is where I might run into a little trouble, since I’m a bit old school in my thinking around horror and its value as a way of expressing various perspectives on life and living. I’m not a nihilist. I don’t advocate the virtues of Grand-Guignol, violence for the sake of violence, horrors that happen and leave nothing but emptiness and despair. I’m not criticizing that kind of work, I’m just saying that I don’t consume it, I don’t seek it out, and really, to be brutally honest, I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s because I’m a little older now. At 57, I know enough about life to understand that bad things are going to happen. And they are going to happen to good people. It’s how you deal with them, and create support systems between people that makes life bearable, and the challenges meaningful. The saving grace of horror, I think, is its ability to engage the audience intellectually, spiritually, and physically…you can get that rush of adrenaline, that jolt, that sense of peril experienced in what is in fact a place of safety, that is so transportative.

For me, it all goes back to my grandmother. She was Slovak, from the old country, and she used to tell me stories when I was very young, four, five years old, that came from the folk tales her grandmother told her, who got them from her grandmother, going all the way back to God-knows where. She literally would scare me out of my wits…I mean it. There was no mercy. And then, at the end, when my eyes were as big as saucers and my heart was pounding, she would finish and say, “Wasn’t that a good one? Wasn’t that fun?” She taught me that a great story is a scary story, and that experiencing a tale told can be intense. And I do mean intense. But it needed to resolve. There needed to be a point, a lesson, a purpose and meaning. That was all part of it…it needed to build to something that you could hang onto. That you could take away and cherish as one of the things that could get you through even something as scary as the story it took to teach it to you.

So to me, horror’s saving grace, is that, when done really well, it can actually make you feel as if you, yourself, were saved.

Gef: When it comes to the world building involved in Vyrmin, was it made up from whole cloth or were there some bits of local folklore that you found to include?

Gene: The world of Vymin came about very organically, almost of its own volition, to be honest. I had a pretty thorough background in old Eastern European folk tales that started in my childhood, I was a classic horror obsessive, and I am fascinated by the psychology of crime, which includes the purported “wild men” of the forests that stretch back for hundreds of years in popular legend. But I never consciously lined up bits and pieces of different stories with the thought of “weaving” something new. Each attribute just felt right, and it never felt so much like I was creating something new as I was revealing something that had always been there. If that makes any sense.

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

Gene: The worst piece of writing advice I ever personally received, and I’m sure many, many other writers have gotten it, and I am equally sure that it is always given with the very best of intentions is, “Write what you know.” I understand what that is supposed to mean: don’t try to write a first person account of flying an airplane if you have never even flown somewhere on vacation. The inauthenticity will kill you. But it can be stifling too. If you only write what you “know,” then how can you ever write fiction? Fiction, by definition isn’t known…it doesn’t exist before you imagine it. If you write a novel, the word “novel” means unique and new. It’s not that writing what you “know” is bad advice in itself, it’s also about when you usually first get it, which is traditionally at an impressionable time, when you’re first taking a creative writing class and first stretching your imaginative legs. It can thunder down at you so hard, and it seems to make a kind of intuitive sense. But the declarative aspect of it, like “stop on red,” feels like a command that you must obey…when I think it really isn’t saying what it sounds like it says anyway.

I think this particular piece of advice would be much better stated as “Weave what you know into something that only you could write.” Build your writing on a solid foundation of references, perspectives and descriptions that feel real because you have first-hand experience with them, then embellish that skeleton, that framework, with the imaginative expanse of your vision.

So weave what you know into something that only you could write…that’s my advice to anyone who wants advice about writing, every time I am asked.

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

Gene: This will sound crazy, I’m sure, but I have gotten to the point in my fiction now that I don’t really do any traditional research. It started when I was doing the “Bill Hawley Undertakings,” which was a series of murder mysteries about a funeral director who winds up solving murders. I was an undertaker in a family business for 13 years…and no, I am not making that up. To save time, and help me concentrate on the story and not the setting, and simply to help keep all the characters straight, I started basically writing about myself. Bill Hawley looked and acted like me, his wife was a mirror of my wife, the place he worked looked like the place I worked, and everything took place in Cleveland, where I was born and raised. I thought of those books as my diary of things that never actually happened to me. It started as a kind of thought experiment, but it turned into something kind of cool in that when I’m writing, it feels a little other-wordly…like what I’m documenting is just a hair’s breadth away from being a fact. It’s fun…and it is very much a technique I’ve incorporated into my writing, all my writing, ever since. So, sure, I do some research, everyone does. But I don’t let the research become the fabric of the story. The story needs to feel like it is reality captured on the page, and transmitted into the mind’s eye of the reader. And nothing feels like real life, than real life…even if it is twisted up a little and presented in a way that never actually happened—which is about the best definition of “fiction” I have ever encountered.

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

Gene: The project I’m working on now goes back directly to Pete Kahle. When he resurrected Vyrmin, I revisited it after having been away from it for almost 25 years, which made me remember that Vyrmin was really supposed to be the first in a series of books about the Wild. It is a violent, bloody birth that was supposed to then play out in a much larger story with some pretty dark observations on mankind and the direction of our history. At the time that it first came out, I my first murder mystery-type book, “Forget Me Not,” which led to the Bill Hawley mysteries, which I wrote as Leo Axler, and the next thing I knew, years had gone by, I started down a new path that took me into healthcare, and I just never returned to the Wild.

When Pete brought Vyrmin back it reminded me that there is a lot more to this story than what happens in the first book. Actually, the first book is a tiny slice of where the story will eventually go…and, as frightening as it is, especially after all these years, I’m going back and picking the story up where I left it over two decades ago. What’s really amazing is that the story I had in my head, in many respects, has actually been happening in the world since the year 2000. I think readers will see it too, as the logic of the story unfolds. I’m very grateful to Pete for bringing this part of my life back for me, and I actually think that the final events that will move the Vyrmin through the years will be much more powerful because I’ve been away so long.

I love this story. I know that, as a book, it may not be for everyone. It’s strange, and harsh and, in places, deranged. But it comes from a very deep place in my memory, and it feels right to be walking through those shadowed trees once again.

As far as keeping up with me, Pete Kahle has also introduced me to Facebook. Which is new for me. I’m just getting acclimated to it, but I have a Gene.Lazuta page. I’m going to start putting stuff on it, too. I promise. You’ll see. So anyone with any interest in Vyrmin, the next book in the series which is tentatively titled, “Dark Times,” or the outstanding group of writer and other horror-obsessed friends I’ve made through Pete’s gentle remonstrations, should check it out. Apparently, the Book of Face is all the rage now a days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Gene Lazuta was introduced to dark stories of fear and the supernatural by his grandmother, who cultivated his taste for fright and fascination with a never-ending stream of folk tales from her native Slovakia. Following college, where he studied literature and psychology, he worked as an undertaker for nearly thirteen years before finding a professional home as a communication specialist at one of the nation’s most recognized and respected healthcare organizations. He is the author of ten novels (six horror-based and four murder mysteries), numerous journal and trade publication articles, and a new non-fiction collaboration. Following the release of the Bloodshot Books edition of Vyrmin, he is returning to the supernatural genre by starting work on a story that carries the mythology that Vyrmin introduces in a wider, more ominous direction. Gene lives in Berea, Ohio, with his wife of over thirty years, Sue, his inspiration, his motivation, and the woman to whom every book he has ever written and will ever write is dedicated.

November 10, 2016

Jake, Judd, and the Day Job: an interview with Nikki Nelson-Hicks, author of "Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective"

Nikki Nelson- Hicks' Jake Istenhegyi, the Accidental Detective, returns for a new adventure in the Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series- ROAD TRIPS, ACID BATHS, AND ONE-EYED BASTARDS!

Amateur detective and professional trouble magnet Jake Istenhegyi has once again traded the pan for the fire. He's on the run, on a cross-country trip with a beautiful, immortal alchemist, both of them chased by an ancient order of killers. At the end of the road? Maybe the conclusion to Jake's search for the salt of life, or maybe betrayal and sudden death at the end of a one-eyed man's gun.

ROAD TRIPS, ACID BATHS, AND ONE-EYED BASTARDS is the fifth standalone digital single short story in the JAKE ISTENHEGYI, THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE ongoing series, part of Pro Se Productions' Pro Se Single Shot Signature line.

Gef: What was the spark that got your engine running for the fifth Jake Istenhegyi story: road trips, acid baths, or one-eyed bastards?

Nikki: All of the Jake stories run sequentially so, in Jake Time, only 6 months has really passed in his world. I picked up from where #4 (Fish Eyed Men, Fedoras and Steel Toed Pumps) ended where (SPOILERS) three mystery men attempted to kidnap Jake and Giovanna ‘resurrected’ so I had to run with that for the next installment. It helps plotting a story if I have questions to use as stepping stones: Why did she resurrect? Who were the mystery men that attacked Jake? Who were they working for? It’s the way of serial adventures. Always leave your audience hanging off a cliff so they’ll come back for the next story.

Gef: What has been the craziest or most surprising bit of research you've encountered while writing Jake's adventures?

Nikki: Even though my stories all have some kind spooky or supernatural element to them, I do try to keep them anchored in reality (As long as that reality doesn’t get in the way of a good story, that is; I am a liar by trade.) so they do require a bit of research.

I’ve built a library on myth, lore and superstitions of the South that I peruse quite a bit as I look for new story fodder.

One of the most interesting nuggets that I found is the Boo-Daddy. It’s a piece of South Carolina hoodoo. Basically, what you do is create a creature using swamp mud, oyster shells and magic. You send this creature out as a curse to someone who has wronged you. I decided to use it in Jake #3, Boodaddies, Bogs and a Dead Man’s Booty but instead of making it a boogey man, I used creative licensing and turned it into a guardian spirit that saves Jake’s butt over the course of the story. It’s still out there, in the Jake Universe, living in the swamps. Who knows? It might turn up again if Jake needs saving.

Gef: Are you the kind of writer who will slip in people from your life and inject them into your stories surreptitiously? Any IRL nemeses who've met untimely ends in this series?

Nikki: Many people have asked me to kill them in a story. I’ve killed people as birthday presents and one gentleman asked me to kill him as payment for a monitor. Finding people who will line up as victims is not a problem.

However, there have been those lucky, lucky few who I’ve killed as a personal catharsis for some wrong they have done me. The one who comes immediately to mind is Judd.

I wouldn’t be able to pick Judd out of a lineup if I were to meet him on the street. I’ve never seen him. But I remember his voice. There was a nasally whine to the baritone pitch. My stomach churns and my blood pressure goes up a notch just thinking about it.

I was at my day job, answering phones as the floating lunch relief for the receptionist on the 7th floor when Judd called. He was stuck in traffic on Monteagle Road and wanted to know what I was going to do about it, you motherfucking, cock sucking, whore bitch. As I tried to find out what the problem was on that stretch of highway, he would hang up, call back, curse me out, hang up, call back, curse me out, etc, etc. In the space of an hour, he called me a dozen times. It got so that I jumped whenever the phone rang. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. Maybe it was the phase of the moon. Maybe I was feeling extra sensitive that day. Maybe it was just the repeated abuse, over and over again, and the feeling of powerlessness. Whatever it was, it shook me up so badly that I went home early and the ordeal completely wrecked my entire weekend.

It was on a Sunday afternoon as I was taking a walk, trying to calm my nerves about having to go to work the next day and PERHAPS MAYBE have to face Judd on the phone again, that a little voice whispered in my ear, “Hey, why don’t you kill him? The body count in this latest Jake story is pretty high, so why not add Judd to the pile?”

So, I did. I had the magically reanimated corpse pop off Judd’s head like a Pez dispenser. Blood and gore rained down on poor Jake like something out of a Tarantino flick. And it was glorious.

Gef: What's been the biggest learning experience in writing an ongoing series?

Nikki: The Jake Istenhegyi stories started out as a challenge: write a straight pulp story involving chickens, 10k limit. Seriously. That’s how this mess got started.

It did not start with any plan to be anything more than a one shot deal. I had no story arch or developing plotlines.

It was after writing Jake #4 that it hit me, “Holy shit, this is real. I need to start making up a bible or someway to keep track of all the characters, places, plotlines, etc.”

So, the biggest learning experience for me has to been learning out to plot out storylines not just for the story at hand but for future ones. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. To write a story, all I need to know is the Beginning and the End. All that mushy, squishy part in the middle just sort of comes magically. However, if you are going to do something long term, you need to plot. And it’s hard especially when it’s not in your nature. It’s like trying to map out a tree that hasn’t even started sprouting limbs yet. It can be really frustrating but absolutely necessary.

Gef: Do you ever see yourself hunkering down for a full-length novel featuring Jake or is he best suited for the more serial approach?

Nikki: When I wrote Jake #3, Boodaddies, Bogs and a Dead Man’s Booty, I challenged myself to write something 30k or longer. I just wanted to see if I could. Jake #3 turned out to be over 37k.

So, yes, I could do a Jake novel but it would be a standalone adventure, something outside the stories I have going now. Perhaps something happening present day. That would be fun. It would just take time, planning and plotting. And a contract.

Gef: What's the biggest misconception about pulp fiction?

Nikki: That it ended in 1930.

I was at a writers convention last summer and went to a panel about Pulp Fiction. All they talked about was early stuff. From Savage to Spade, that was as far as their expertise went. When I asked about the New Pulp Movement, they looked dumbstruck. I had to go full Hermione on them and educate them about the new pulp that is out there.

Gef: Do you see an end game for Jake or do you hope to keep writing him in perpetuity?

Nikki: I’ll write his stories as long as Pro Se keeps me on contract or as long as people want to read them. The stories are good fun to write and I do enjoy torturing Jake.

Gef: I hear you got something in the works for early next year as well. Tell us about that and anything else you have in the making.

Nikki: I am currently working on a novella called RUMBLE that should come out early 2017. Okay, here’s the scenario: a shady corporation has a mining camp in the Gobi Desert. Shenanigans ensue when they find out they set up camp in the middle of a Mongolian Death Worm and Cannibalistic Mole Men SMACKDOWN. It’s gonna be a blast. Someone get SYFY on the phone. I have the next Sharknado right here, baby.

Also on my plate:

  • A new Sherlock Holmes story called Not Quite a Murder. It’s going to be a bit darker than my first Holmes story, Shrieking Pits, as I delve into body snatching, the rise of photography and anatomists.
  • Jake #6, yet untitled. It’ll be a longer story, around 30K. A private investigator from LA is on Jake’s trail and a lot of chickens come home to roost in this story. #zombiechickensrule
  • Writing a very script for Forcone Films, Interesting premise: a mockumentary about Superheroes in Therapy.
  • Every Wednesday (or so), I do a funny little thing on FB called Dinosaur Cubicle Fun Time. Imagine a Dilbert/Jurassic Park smashup. That’s an ongoing thing.
  • PLUS a bunch of projects I really want to tackle in 2017:
    • The Bogie Bar stories. It’s a place where legends, old gods, and monsters drop in for a quick drink. Humanity’s lack of belief in magic is causing trouble in their world and a civil war is at hand.
    • The Travis Dare Ghost Files. He’s the real deal. He comes from a long line of Ghost Layers (don’t laugh). He hooks up with a paranormal investigative team and shenanigans happen. I’ve got three stories under my belt that need to be edited.
    • Delilah Ditch: The Galvanized Girl. It’s a Steampunk/Superhero story. I wrote a 10k version for an anthology but they took 2 years to publish so when my contract ran out, I took my rights back. It’s a good story. I want to lengthen it into a novella.
    • Mother’s Home – it’s a Steampunk Horror story I wrote for an anthology that never went to print. I’d like to lengthen it to a novella. It’s a very cool, nasty little piece of work. Think Stepford Wives, Steampunk Edition.

Anyway, that’s what I plan on tackling in 2017. We’ll see what I come up with by 2018…if the world hasn’t exploded by then.

November 9, 2016

Depravity Du Jour: an interview with Gary Fry, author of "Siren of Depravity"

ABOUT GARY FRY'S SIREN OF DEPRAVITYHarry Keyes hasn’t seen his brother Dexter for over ten years, but during his daughter’s seventh birthday party, he gets an unexpected call claiming that Dex has found something which may change their dysfunctional family forever.

Asking for Harry’s help to locate his mother, what is Dexter trying to achieve? Is it anything to do with the dark experiments he’d practiced as a boy? And will it really involve terrible entities rumored to occupy different underground parts of the country?

So begins a chilling investigation into their childhoods, growing up in a rural village with a cruel father and possibly worse monsters. Harry learns about many terrible things, including kidnappings, torture, and attempts to summon undead creatures from the earth’s ancient past.

And all that’s needed to waken them is a siren…a siren of depravity.

Gef: What was the inspiration behind Siren of Depravity?

Gary: I think it was an aspirational to write an investigative horror story involving a family secret and all the power that such hidden material has, how it impacts across generations. Also, reading King's Revival gave some focus to a plot which had original oriented around Lovecraft's Dexter Ward.

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

Gary: It's the first novel I've written in the 1st person, which was interesting. Everything that's experienced has to be restricted to just one character. I hope I've pulled it off.

I've seen some early reviews alluding to Lovecraftian horror in their comparisons. Was this something intentional on your part or do you find readers instantly invoke H.P.'s name whenever cosmic horror comes into play?

Yes, as stated above, I definitely had Dexter Ward in mind while plotting the piece. I am trying to evoke similar cosmic material in my native UK. Lovecraft is the boss.

Gef: You've had several titles published by DarkFuse now. I take it the relationship with them has been amicable thus far? How would you gauge your progression as an author since the first book came out?

Gary: Yes, DarkFuse are a highly professional outfit and I've enjoyed working with them a lot. My progression? Well, I've had chance to write a range of materials, from cosmic stuff to British occult to weird psychologies. I've appreciated the freedom to do what I enjoy.

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

Gary: Quite a lot, in that I set my stuff in my native northeast England, an area I know well and which has both urban and rural environments to explore and invade. I'd like to be considered a regional writer.

Gef: Is theme something you have in mind when your writing the story, or is that something that kinds of reveals itself later in the process?

Gary: Yes, definitely. I often use fiction as a vehicle through which I can explore certain issues or ideas. I'm unusual as a horror writer in this regard, perhaps, and some folk like it while others struggle. But it's what I do.

Gef: What do you consider to be the biggest misconception of the horror genre?

Gary: That it's all about the gore. It isn't. And anyone who insists on this simply hasn't read enough of it.

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

Gary: Not sure I've ever received any bad advice. Any shortcomings down the years have been entirely my fault. One piece of advice I'm wary of is the one about not copying others and developing your own style. I'm sorry, folk, but it's only by copying others that you do develop your own style. Good artists steal!

Gef: What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

Gary: All kinds, although I have a fondness for cosmic horror, that sense of being exposed to the cold machinery of the universe. Lovecraft got there a few times, and so have several others. But it's an unforgiving aspiration and I can only hope to achieve it.

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

Gary: I have a new novella due next March, a sequel to Lovecraft's 'The Call of Cthulhu'. It's out from Horrific Tales and is called 'The Rage of Cthulhu'. Folk can read it as a direct sequel or as a standalone piece. I'm also working on a lot of new short stories, and news about these and other projects (along with my peer reviews) will be posted on my website at

November 8, 2016

The Man on the Moon Hill: an interview with Anthony J. Rapino, author of "Greetings from Moon Hill"

Greetings from Moon Hill is a collection of darkly bizarre horror stories culled from the deranged mind of Anthony J. Rapino, author of Soundtrack to the End of the World.
Somewhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania, nestled between the forests and foothills of the Poconos, you’ll find the forgotten town of Moon Hill. It’s a surreal place of arcane magic and natural wonder, where a hint of autumn lingers in the air, the leaves are always turning, and the shadows grow long no matter the time of day. 
You might say Moon Hill is special, an eerie pocket of Americana frozen in time, filled with eccentric characters and deathly secrets that transcend reality. And like most small towns, it also has a dark side. 
This book is a roadmap to the lost town’s terrifying mysteries. Wander through the brush of Moon Hill State Forest and explore its otherworldly flora in “From Your Body They Rise.” Bear witness to the interdimensional war raging above Old Road in the novella, “Reality Engineers.” Conjure autumnal spirits with Handy Weber in “Halloween on the Hill,” sample the peculiar glowing ale brewed by Slow Ewan in “Struck by Golden Lightning,” and pay your respects with blood at the old Whistler place in “Just Once More, Little Sister.”
As you explore Moon Hill’s darkened corners, you will discover a town built upon a foundation of nightmares, proving once again that Anthony J. Rapino is not only a master storyteller, but also a dark architect of the imagination.
Welcome to Moon Hill. Your definition of weird is about to change.
Purchase from Amazon

Gef: When did Moon Hill first come into play through your writing?

Anthony: Shortly after waking up in the town. Let me explain. First of all, never mix absinthe, red bull, and kale puree. If you do, never drink five mugs of it. If you do, don’t eat fully-loaded nachos right before. If you do, don’t have tapioca pudding for dessert. And if you do, absolutely never do so while hitchhiking.

The aforementioned series of events led me to discover this out-of-the-way destination with which I’ve been obsessed. Once finding my way home, I immediately began work on the first of many “Moon Hill” stories. Initially I used it as a mere backdrop, but as time wore on, I realized Moon Hill held a kind of magic, and I very much wanted to know its origin.

Gef: Was this connected universe of stories something you had wanted to approach from the get-go or did it kind of sneak up on you?

Anthony: Yeah, it sneaked up on me like that plate of fully-loaded nachos. What started as a convenient setting for my stories slowly grew into a community of intertwining narratives. As I awaited the publication of my debut novel, Soundtrack to the End of the World, I decided to take those “Moon Hill” stories and compile what eventually became Welcome to Moon Hill.

I released that first collection when the notion of Moon Hill was still in its infancy, and the results were telling. Though
Welcome to Moon Hill garnered an abundance of positive reviews, the main complaint was the lack of interconnectivity.

When Todd Keisling of Precipice Books approached me about re-releasing
Welcome to Moon Hill, we knew we had a great opportunity to not only re-edit the stories, but in many cases rewrite, expand, and add on to the existing document.

The result is
Greetings from Moon Hill, a wholly immersive experience that leads the reader through a living, breathing town filled to the brim with eccentric characters and deathly secrets.

Gef: With some years now between now and when you first wrote many of these stories, how would you gauge your progression as a writer?

Anthony: It’s always interesting to look back. In many cases so much time has passed that I don’t remember having written the story, and it feels as though I’m rediscovering some part of me that has long ago grown or changed in some way. I think over time my writing style has become leaner, more descriptive, and less reliant on exposition. During the editing phase, Todd was invaluable in picking out areas where I could improve, usually with statements such as, “Drop kick this paragraph in the face and tighten it up, Rapino!”

He’s a true professional.

Gef: What was the biggest surprise or learning experience through the Kickstarter campaign?

Anthony: The biggest surprise was that there were enough people interested in visiting Moon Hill to get fully funded. I know that’s self-depreciating (and for the record, Todd never had any doubts), but crowdfunding is far from a sure thing, and I was on pins and needles the entire time.

As for the learning experience, I’ll be honest, Todd did most of the heavy lifting when it came to actually running the campaign. But what I did learn from him is that preparation is key, and to always play it safe when it comes to costs, because fees and shipping charges will sneak up on you and obliterate your goal. Luckily Todd did everything right, and I feel lucky to have had him in my corner.

Gef: Another of your big passions along with writing is sculpting, which came into play through the rewards portion of the Kickstarter. When did you first decide to take a stab at the sculpting and molding? And where did the inspiration come from?

Anthony: I first decided to start sculpting about two years ago when I got it into my head that I’d like to create my own Halloween props. I never got that far because I absolutely fell in love with the sculpting process and decided to instead focus on horror miniatures (magnets, busts, figures, etc). The inspiration is largely the same I have for writing, and that is the desire to create interesting and horrific things.

We always planned to tie my sculptures into the release of Greetings from Moon Hill. Part of our vision for the release was to expand the interactive universe of this dark, autumnal town as much as possible. So it seemed logical to create a map of the town and artifacts that come from it.

Gef: We're just coming off the best time of year, that being Halloween, and with 80s nostalgia being in full swing the last while too, how would you compare your experiences as a kid compared to as a grownup for All Hallow's Eve, because through your YouTube channel alone you seem like you want to wring as much fun out of this season as possible?

Anthony: Nostalgia is all about reliving or revisiting memories you had as a child or young adult. Often because those memories are happy ones, and it’s comforting to wrap yourself in a warm blanket of the past to shield from the cold bite of winter’s present.

I find it incredibly important to remember that so I don’t fall victim to avoidance. In that way, I love to embrace Halloween traditions from my childhood (carving pumpkins, watching
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, roasting pumpkin seeds) while allowing new traditions to form (going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, exploring new haunted houses, trekking through the woods on an autumn hike).

If I let myself indulge too deeply in pure nostalgia, what I find is that Halloween would never live up to the ones of my childhood. But by opening myself to new experiences within the framework of nostalgia, Halloween is a bright light shining in the darkness, opening the gateway to the holidays.

Gef: Now you're the kind of writer that seems as comfortable approaching a story from a Bradburian mindset as you are from a Barker-esque mindset. Do you have a personal preference in your style of horror, whether in writing or film or whatnot?

Anthony: I don’t have a preference. I could joke that I just do what the voices tell me to, but that’d piss them off, and I hate getting on their bad side. I don’t outline, draw up character sketches, or otherwise prepare for my writing sessions. In that way, each story is a journey of discovery for me, and they become what they become. As a fan of all types of horror, it seems only natural that my stories and novels would vary in execution. If I had to choose a preference—speaking in subgenre terms—I like dark comedy. So if there’s anything that plays through most of what I write, it’s that light side of the dark. I try to find the humor in the malicious, whether absurd or not. If you’re not sure how evisceration can be humorous, you haven’t read my work.

Gef: If you could do a crossover story, kinda like Alien/Predator or Magnum P.I./Jessica Fletcher, with Moon Hill and another horror-themed universe, which would it be? Castle Rock? Nightvale? The Whedonverse?

Anthony: Oh wow, I actually think a Moon Hill/Whedonverse story would be hysterical. I suppose the easy answer is Castle Rock, and probably the truest answer as well. However, in realistic terms, you may eventually see a Moon Hill/Monochrome crossover. For those who are unaware, the Monochrome is Todd Keisling’s sandbox, and one you should really visit.

Gef: What do you see happening next for Moon Hill, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Anthony: The next time you visit Moon Hill will be in my novel The Shadows of Flies, of which there is an excerpt in Greetings from Moon Hill. This novel has been a long time in the making, and will hopefully be completed in 2017. I’m hugely excited for this novel and feel it will be the fullest treatment of the Moon Hill mythology to date, and perhaps the last.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, my website, and my Storenvy page.

Thanks so much for having me over, Gef.   

ANTHONY J. RAPINO is a horror writer and sculptor. He’s also a teacher, and somehow that makes more sense than it should. He spends his days among people and things that demand shaping: Words, clay, or minds, it amounts to the same job. Though the minds are a hard sell, you can find his fiction and sculptures online. Discover more at,
Tony’s Facebook Page (Candy Corn Apocalypse), Tony’s Twitter (@anthonyjrapino),

Praise for Greetings from Moon Hill/Rapino

“Anthony Rapino's collection Greetings from Moon Hill is his best work so far. Don't miss these fascinating and scary stories from a master of the craft.” --Kate Jonez, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Ceremony of Flies and Candy House
“Anthony Rapino’s work is uniquely infused with horror and a type of childlike innocence that makes the darkness that much darker. Greetings from Moon Hill invites you to a place that is both tragic and extraordinary. Once you enter, you’ll never be allowed to leave.” – Mercedes M. Yardley, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Little Dead Red and Pretty Little Dead Girls
Greetings from Moon Hill […] displays Rapino’s range, which is vast and varied, yet unique, and always dark as well as entertaining. With effortless grace and ease, and weaved like a seasoned professional, this collection proves that Rapino’s career is destined to be a long and fruitful one. I cannot think of a higher compliment.” – Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky
“A master at the art of tale-spinning, Anthony Rapino infuses a sense of creeping dread that immediatelyentrances and bewilders. To enter his world is to become unsettlingly accustomed to those tales that exist in the shadows." Mary Rajotte, Bloody Bookish
“Want thrilling, scary, moody stories that put you on edge and play with your emotions? Well if you're looking for that and you're looking for an experience rather than just entertainment, one author comes immediately to my mind and that author is Anthony Rapino.” -- Benjamin Kane Ethridge, award winning author of Black & Orange and Divine Scream
“In Greetings from Moon Hill, Anthony Rapino is at times a sorcerer, and other times a madman. His work is both that of a puppeteer and a sadist. He tends to detail much like a chef, as he parses imagery throughout his work morsel by morsel, which we ravenously consume, until we realize that with his fiction, actually it is us that are being consumed.” – Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbags and Hashtag

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