Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: 2016 in Review

When I first sat down to write this, I had something completely different in mind for it. It was going to be a long, drawn out thing that really had no bearing on anything, and was ultimately a rehash of things I’ve already said several times before on this blog. So I changed my mind, and decided to do something a little different.
If you want to see what all I was up to this year, just read back over this blog, or check out my posts on Facebook or my tweets on Twitter. The story’s there, if you care to look. Instead of repeating all of that, I’m going to go in a little more personal direction with this year-end wrap up.

See, for most of us, 2016 was a harsh year, a year in which icon after icon fell before our eyes. If only we’d known when Lemmy left us last year, it was Death cracking its knuckles as a warm-up for the events to come. However you voted in November, we now find ourselves in a place we can’t predict, and that’s a little terrifying, too.

But for all the bad, 2016 had some great moments, too.

See, my goal for the year was to publish a book, with the expectation that I didn’t care if anyone bought it. I met that goal, and wildly exceeded my expectations.

With Brian Keene, Starline Books, Chattanooga, TN, July 2016Over the last year, I’ve discovered some incredible authors in the horror genre, both new and old. I’ve read more good books than I can count, and find myself eagerly anticipating more from those folks. And the icing on the cake? I’ve come to know many of them through social media, and feel as though I’ve been welcomed to the cool kids’ table at school. I’ve gotten the chance to meet and talk with some of my influences, and have found them to be more welcoming, open, and kind than I’d ever imagined.

I’ve met some incredible people behind the scenes as well, from Tristan Thorne who was one of the first to help guide me along the path while I was getting CONSEQUENCES out, to publicist, editor, and friend extraordinaire Erin Al-Mehairi, who has taught me more about this business than I ever thought I’d want to know. I’ve gotten the opportunity to banter back and forth with the awesomely kooky and cool (whether she believes it or not) Somer Canon, and have laughed out loud trading insanity with Toneye Eyenot, whose propensity for swapping “I” with “eye” might put some people off, but only served to endear him to me even more. I discovered that Glenn Rolfe has just as much of an admiration for some of the obscure eighties hair metal bands I grew up with as I do. I even got to smile and chuckle a bit as Chuck Buda proclaimed how badly I was kicking everyone’s ass in NaNoWriMo, despite the fact he was right there with me on those word count updates.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to so many people, from all around the world, people I never would have met had I not decided to walk this insane road called publishing, and I have to say my life is better for it. I’ve shed my share of tears over the course of 2016, just like we all have, but when I look back at it now, I see the joy shining through the clouds.

For me, 2016 was the year I found my calling, for good or for ill. I am going to remember it fondly as I look ahead to what 2017 and beyond will bring.

To everyone who’s reading this, or picked up one of my books, or even just encouraged me to keep going, you have my most heartfelt thanks. To all of you, and everyone else, I hope you have a very happy new year; and as it progresses, may all your dreams come true.

PS: To all those folks who have told me what a machine I am when it comes to writing, I was going to try and prove you wrong by posting my total word count for the year. Once I looked at it, and then looked at it again, then walked away and ran the numbers a third time I decided to simply agree with you instead and leave it at that....

Monday, December 5, 2016

Have a Drink on Me: Three Shots and a Chaser has Escaped!

2016 has been a strange year, both rough and rewarding by turns. Today, in one of those rewarding moments, I am pleased to announce that my second release, a short-story collection called THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER, is now available in both digital AND print editions!

If you’ve read my first work, CONSEQUENCES, you experienced brutal, bloody horror in the style of the old slasher movies from the eighties, only told in my own way. But that’s not all there is to me; this collection demonstrates that quite clearly.

Here, you’re going to find a more subtle horror than I did before, horror not only of sight and sound, but of mind. And if you heard Rod Serling say that line, well, you’re on the right track. See, this time, it’s not Jason or Freddy or Michael or Pinhead that influenced me. Instead, it’s a Twilight Zone, reaching for The Outer Limits, and telling a few Tales from the Darkside.

I’m celebrating, but it’s YOU who gets the reward! In honor of this collection’s release, not only is CONSEQUENCES going on sale, but I’ll be giving a signed copy to one lucky person! So take the chance; if you haven’t read it already, here’s your opportunity to do so. I suggest you read it alongside THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER, see for yourself the range of my creative insanity. I’m curious which one you prefer: fast and bloody, or subtle scares!

Either way, if you enjoy yourself, if you lose an afternoon or two in the worlds I’ve created, then my mission is accomplished. Just don’t lose yourself too much… you’ll want to be back for everything else that’s to come!

This giveaway will be running through the end of December, so you've got a little time. That said, don't wait too long! And good luck to all who enter!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cleaning Up

Today, my short story collection Three Shots and a Chaser found its way onto Kindles everywhere. There's a paperback version coming in the next few days, once I approve the final proof for it, but either way, it meant I needed to do some updating on the website.

To that end, I also ended up doing a serious overhaul on the Bookshelf page. Previously, I listed everything I'd finished at least a first draft of, but as I looked at it today, it occurred to me that it was starting to become a bit hard to keep track of or see the important bits anymore. So, I cleaned it.

Now, it only shows things that are actually released, or are in the pipeline for release, or that have been submitted for possible release. This way, it's going to be much easier for me to keep it current and updated, and when you all want to see what's out there, you'll be able to much, much easier than before.

What happens when my actual release list gets as long as the written list that was already there? Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. But for now, it made my life a little easier.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Arm Cast Podcast Appearance

For those who are interested, you can catch me on Armand Rosamilla's Arm Cast Podcast today along with fellow horror author Frank Edler; you can check it out here, or just listen to the embed below!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Strange Day, A Strange Reality

It’s a strange day in America.

As I write this, the country is waking up to a new president-elect, one that so many expected would be nothing but a blip on the radar as election night results came in. That blip became an all-consuming one, though, and suddenly—understandably, in many cases—people were forced to see that the country wasn’t what they thought it was.

The arguments have already begun, the fingers are being pointed as people try and figure out how it happened. We are experiencing our own version of Brexit, where everything indicated things would go one way and now that they’ve gone the other, no one is quite ready to accept it or believe it. Maybe in another four years, or eight, or maybe even more, this will fade, once the future arrives and we can reflect back on everything, but for now, it’s still very, very raw.

I'm not all that surprised that things turned out the way they did; this was always a possibility, no matter how remote it seemed. But that so many people are shutting down, closing themselves off, and generally refusing to be anymore. Facebook is never the most wholesome environment, but as I’ve scanned the posts in my feed today, I can’t help but be amazed at how bleak it’s become, how despondent, how utterly devoid of hope and joy. The rest of social media is the same, and the feeling is that it’s not just people’s online behavior that’s been affected. Hate is running rampant, hate and fear, and that’s the tragedy here.

I do understand this to some degree. People had much of themselves invested in this, one way or the other. There are many people rejoicing today, just as there are many who are in mourning. Emotions are high. Some need a chance to heal, to process, to come to whatever acceptance they’re able—if they’re able at all. Others feel vindicated, and need the chance to express that vindication publicly. In many ways, we're experiencing something akin to the shock after 9/11: the country had to process what happened in whatever way they could, good or bad, and then it began to move forward again.

What I hope is that we will see the same thing happen now that happened then. After the initial shock wore off, people pulled together, ignored their differences, and stood united against the common enemy. There were fringe elements, of course—there always will be—but for the majority of the nation, we stood as one. For what might be the last time I can remember, we felt like the United States, and not a bunch of people with their own agendas, all our differences set aside for one brief, uplifting moment amidst the turbulent storm we endured.

As I sat glued to the television, night turning to early morning, watching returns come in, I took one thing away from it all above everything else. We are not a united nation. We are a nation that is dramatically divided. Race, class, creed, morality, distrust; everything is on the table. The things that brought us to this point cannot be laid at the feet of any one thing; to try and do so is a disservice to the reality we all witnessed unfolding. The only way to fix it is to come together like we’ve done in the darker moments of our nation’s past, and go forth together, united as one people, no matter what our background or heritage.

I’m not deluded; I fully understand that is much easier said than done. But it is the only way we can come through this without destroying ourselves.

If you’re one of those people who need to heal and to process, please, by all means do so. Take the time to find the strength within yourself that you’re going to need in the days and years to come. Come to remember what you were so passionate about in the first place, and please don’t let your voices stay silent for long.

If you feel the need to gloat and revel in your victory, one of the great things about this nation is that you have every right to do so. But please understand that hate and intolerance have played a large part in bringing us to this point. You must be willing to find common ground if the country is to heal itself and move on. You don’t have to agree with what someone else believes or thinks or feels, you just have to accept that they believe it or think it or feel it. Differences aren’t all bad; it’s the uniqueness of every individual person that grants us such potential for greatness. You can dislike what someone does, but remember that they are still a person, too, with hopes and dreams and feelings, just like you.

Things look bleak today, but they will only remain that way if we let them. Let’s not do that. 

Everyone talks about how much they love to be an American, so let’s get back to the key word in our country’s name and become the United States once again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Things Past and Things to Come

Another month is gone, and so I figure it's about time for a quick update on what's going on in my world lately.

First, it is now November, which means NaNoWriMo is officially underway. I'll be working on my coming of age novel, tentatively titled What Sleeps Beneath. After the first session last night, I'm already over 3k words in, so it's off to a fantabulous start. For the record, the progress meter is showing a completion based on the projected final word count, and not the 50k expected for NaNoWriMo. If you want my progress on that, check out my profile under JohnDQuick on the official NaNoWriMo site.

Also, my upcoming short story collection Three Shots and a Chaser is still available for pre-order at only $0.99 for the rest of this month. Once it releases on December 1, the price goes up to $1.99, so make sure to use the links on the right side of this page and grab your copy early!

Additionally, there's some exciting things afoot for Consequences, things I can't really discuss yet. I'll just say there's still more to come from it, and leave it at that. Feel free to grab a copy if you haven't already; the links are conveniently provided for you on the right side of the page.

I did end up having to take a two-week break from the writing thing around the beginning of October while I dealt with a pretty rough case of bronchitis. I am happy to say I'm mostly recovered from that now, at least to the point I'm past the utter exhaustion that seemed to accompany it. It's been a little rough getting back into the swing of things, but it's finally starting to click again, so there should be much more to come from me in the months ahead.

Also, there's some things I'm starting to put together for next year, both related to the impending release of The Journal of Jeremy Todd and in just building my brand. I'm beginning to find my voice, so keep watching for the launch of a newsletter (probably monthly, though I'm still planning this), and possibly something a little more... let's say "vocal". Obviously I'll give more details as they arise.

That's pretty much all I've got. Keep watching for more reviews as I start to get caught up on my backlog, and hopefully I'll have some other things posted on here, some things that have been gestating in my brain for a while now, soon.

Keep watching, and thanks for all the support!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Review in Two Parts: Jonathan Janz's Witching Hour Theatre

Let me go ahead and get something out of the way right up front: this is going to be different from what I normally do with my reviews, but this is how inspiration works, so bear with me. I’m going to be talking about Jonathan Janz’s novella Witching Hour Theatre, which has just been re-released with some additional content and an essay for the afterword where he talks about some of his influences, his early writing development, Stephen King, and his wife. Since I’m one of those people who read books cover to cover, I read the essay as well, and realized that if I did this, it would be a review in two parts. For part one, I’m wearing my reader hat, and will talk about the story itself. For part two, I’m going to switch perspectives and put on my writer’s hat, and comment on the essay itself. If you’re just curious what I thought about the book, feel free to skip part two, but this was what I was inspired to say, so that’s how I’m compelled to do it.

First, the story itself.

Witching Hour Theatre is a story about Larry Wilson, a horror fan with low self-esteem who spends three nights a week at the local cinema, where they show a triple bill of horror movies at midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There’s a lot of inner monologue here, which is considerably more compelling than you might think at first glance. We get to know Larry well as he goes through the ritual of buying his ticket, getting his snacks, and settling into the experience the movies provide. The problem is that there’s real horror in the theater, and Larry’s real life gets more and more stressful and adventurous as the flickering images on the screen progress.

I enjoyed the interplay between Larry and the other recurring patrons, their shared bond forged by a love of horror movies—the worse, the better, in some cases. It is very true to what I’ve witnessed myself among the horror community and made the world that much more believable. Also, his interactions with Nichole, the girl at the concession stand, were brilliant, and reminded me of the time when I was single and would find a girl I liked and the trepidation that sometimes ensued when attempting to follow through with those feelings. How it all came together at the end was well-done, and had me on the edge of my seat as the third act—and even the epilogue—scrolled across my Kindle.

There’s some rough edges here, but as the foreword states, this was by design. This is a story from the very start of Janz’s career, and rather than rewrite it with all the knowledge and skill he’s gained since then, he chose to keep it the way it was. This turns out to be a brilliant decision, and one I’m sure was not reached lightly. The end result is seeing what makes a story good; namely, the story. Also, as a fan of Janz’s other works, it was interesting to see his growth in such clear-cut terms. This was by no means bad, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise. It’s just interesting to see, especially being a writer myself.

All in all, definitely pick this one up. It’s a fast read, but it more than achieved the goal of entertaining me for a while, and also had me smiling after I’d closed it when I thought back to the bits that I really liked.

You can grab a copy for yourself here.

And now, let me switch hats and talk a little about the essay and what I got from it as a writer.

While I’ll be the first to admit I’m still a babe in the woods when it comes to this whole “being a published writer” thing, I’ve still managed to come to several realizations since I started that no one tells you about when you first dip your toes into these waters. Primary among those discoveries was that there is a lot of self-doubt that comes along with it. Some people tend to think writers are needy, and constantly seeking some kind of validation, and there’s some truth to that, but it’s also been said that this is a lonely profession at times, and that is also true. When you sit down to write a story, it’s just you and the blank page before you—that’s it. So it’s natural to want someone to tell you that what you’re doing is worthwhile. It doesn’t even have to be direct encouragement; sometimes all it takes is to know that you’re not the only one who’s gone through this, and that it’s completely normal and natural to feel this way, no matter what stage of the game you’re in.

In the essay Janz includes as the afterword to Witching Hour Theatre, amusingly called “My Wife, Stephen King, and Witching Hour Theatre” (which he stresses should not be taken to mean that his wife is Stephen King), he talks about his influences and how he’s absorbed and analyzed them, his burgeoning desire to be a writer and the path he took to get where he is, and how his wife has supported him beyond all measure in his drive to see his work in print. He is open and candid as he discusses these topics, and whether it was his intent or not, it was this approach that made it feel as though he was speaking directly to me as I read it.

See, as it turns out, Jonathan Janz has experienced that same self-doubt. He is familiar with that feeling of nervousness and yes, sheer terror that accompanies handing a story you’ve just spent however long creating to someone—anyone—else and you wait to see if they tell you that you’ve created something worthwhile or that what you’ve typed up is best served lining a waste can. He has felt that frustration as you try to find your own unique voice and move past pale imitation of those other writers who’ve influenced and inspired you to try it yourself. For him, much of this is years in the past; for me, it’s considerably more recent.

Which is why it means so much to read this. While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Janz, or talking with him at length about this sometimes insane path we’re walking, he still reached out and patted me on the back and said “it’s okay, this is normal, we all feel this way, just keep pushing.” To me, this is what makes someone an influence, and a sure sign of someone who will leave a lasting impact on those who follow in his footsteps. As proof of this, there are only two others who managed the same feat through the written word alone: Stephen King, with On Writing, and Richard Laymon, with A Writer’s Tale.

I can’t say that Jonathan Janz is my biggest influence; that honor, as with many writers of my generation and before, belongs to “Uncle Steve”. But I can say that Janz has cemented himself among my stronger influences, and I can only hope to prove myself worthy of that one day.

Stephen King has been branded the “King of Horror Fiction”. I’m going to go on record and say that there is without any doubt a “Prince of Horror Fiction” as well.

His name is Jonathan Janz.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Happy Birthday Vicki Beautiful

I am pleased to host a special announcement from Somer Canon, author of the wonderfully morbid Vicki Beautiful. See what she has to say, and be sure to check out the book as well! See my review for it here.

Congrats on six months of Vicki Beautiful, Somer!

Vicki Beautiful Celebrates Six Months with Giveaway. Have You Ate Dinner Yet?
By Somer Canon, Author

Do you know what happened on April 26, 2016? Yes, that was six months ago. Surprise! It was the day that my novella, Vicki Beautiful, launched.  Yay! It has been a wonderful six months wherein I was welcomed into an amazing community of writers, editors, reviewers, readers, and publicists.  Having my little story that barely made it to press be published has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life and to all of the people who have read, reviewed, and helped spread the word, I am eternally grateful.  Happily, 2017 will see Vicki Beautiful offered in print when it is republished so that it doesn’t disappear from the world just yet.  I hope it continues to be something that makes people question what, exactly, are they being served for dinner! *wink*

In honor of Vicki Beautiful’s six month birthday, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner! I hope you’ll enter but I also hope you might spread the word about my first novella to round out the year and gain it momentum for the next. I look forward to talking about the book a lot longer with you all.

You can enter the giveaway here on Rafflecopter! 

Be sure to come back and tweet each day for extra entries! Thank you! This giveaway will run through mid-November!

If you haven’t checked out the book, here are some of the reviews it received:

“Vicki Beautiful is a very solid, quite unnerving, and.. well… beautiful read. How far would you go to fulfill your lifelong friend’s last wishes?” – Zakk, The Eyes of Madness

“I wouldn’t call the unique direction Vicki Beautiful takes as scary, but it is a story that causes immense feelings of dread and shock. That is horror. I wasn’t expecting Vicki’s request, and had no idea what to expect from Canon from that point on. A lot of horror is predictable, you see certain aspects and angles coming a mile away, but occasionally we get a sneaky, delectable treat.” –Glenn Rolfe, Author of Blood and Rain

“I generally don’t get too squeamish when it comes to horror books as I have read just about every type of horror story imaginable, but this one definitely sent chills down my spine. I think what makes it such a great story and an unsettling slice of horror is that Canon does a great job of blending moments of normalcy into a completely bizarre situation.” –Rich, The Horror Bookshelf

“Beyond the fact it is a short read, the story twists your guts and makes you question a lot in the most extreme and unthinkable ways. I will say proudly though, Canon has such a twisted and bright future ahead with this being her first novella.” –Jay, Horror News Network

“A simple story, but all the more powerful for its simplicity. Four stars. The author has guts and skill.” –Outlaw Poet

Vicki Beautiful, Synopsis

One last taste of perfection…

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

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

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

Somer Canon, Biography

Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of
being found out as a weirdo.  When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.

Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.

Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website You can also connect with Somer on Twitter at @SomerM. 

Purchase Links

Want to Feature Somer Canon?

If you would like to conduct an interview with Somer Canon, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media:

Monday, October 24, 2016

NaNoWriMo: What Sleeps Beneath

I have decided this year to make a stab at the whole National Novel Writing Month project. Since I've been averaging a novel a month, I figure it's a pretty good thing to try to keep me motivated and have some fun with the process as well.

Image courtesy of

The novel I'm going with is tentatively called What Sleeps Beneath, and will be my "coming of age" tale. I don't have a synopsis as of yet, just a basic idea of what the story's going to be, but I will definitely be posting more about it as it develops. Of course, I won't actually be starting on it until November 1, so don't expect too many updates between now and then.

As to what this means for Stripped, which I've been working on now, that all depends on where I'm at when November 1 comes around. If I'm close enough, I'll work on both at the same time. If I'm not close to being done, I'll probably put it on hold until the end of November and focus on What Sleeps. We'll just have to wait and see.

So far, though, it seems like fun, so let's see how it goes!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

One Week: The (Not-So) Glamorous Life of an Indie Writer

Even for only having one book out, I've heard the fun comments: wondering why I have a day job still, or the ones that really set my blood boiling, that writing can't really be that hard. That kind of thing. So in the interest of showing just how glamorous and "easy" it is, here's how my week has gone so far:

Sunday: Work at the day job, so try to spend a little time with the family beforehand. That's tough, since I didn't get home until 1 AM from my shift the night before, and was enough of a glutton for punishment that I decided to write anyway. Not that it wasn't worth it, mind you. Just makes it tough to get up early. Get home from the day job at about 10:30 PM. Change clothes, grab some Scotch, head outside to write. Check Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads for anything going on and to wind down, end up in bed at around 3 AM.

Monday: Day job again, but did get to relax some beforehand. During the shift, have to deal with employees doing stupid things that won't be resolved tonight, and will drag on to the next day: something to look forward to (and yes, that's sarcasm). Get home at 10:30, Scotch and writing. The Scotch flows a little heavier this time, since I'm stressed. Answer some emails regarding something I'm working on (that will be revealed in a couple of weeks), set up to mail out a signed copy of Consequences, then in bed around 2.

Tuesday: Admin day at the day job, so in early. Get things done, deal more with the employee issue and discover it will drag on another day before it's resolved, but at least it's not a hard night after that. Home around 11. This time it's just beer during the writing, which is easier. In bed around 2 again, but not as stressed as the day before.

Wednesday: Off day from the day job, but I feel like crap thanks to the weather change here, which means I'm nowhere near as productive as I should be. I manage to get some work done on the thing I'm vaguebooking, but that's about it. That night is my weekly tabletop gaming night, but I feel so bad I can't really enjoy it. No writing today, but at my publicist's request I do get Skype set back up so I can be on some podcasts she's setting up. Wind up chatting with a friend on Facebook for a while to wind down. The conversation goes well, so not in bed till like 4:30. Still, while my head is stuffed up, I feel less stressed, so that helps. On the plus side, the issue with the employee at my day job reaches a resolution, so there's that at least.

Thursday: Second day off, and a bit more productive. Wake up at 9AM to deal with a couple of minor crises at home, then back in bed in 9:45. Finally wake up for good at 2. Coffee, then more coffee. Get some more things done on the vaguebook thing, and get to spend some family time. Actually feel a little better. Start putting things together to take care of the things around the house that are falling apart due to my insane schedule. Finally get to watch a movie with the wife and kids (The VVitch, which was incredibly awesome, by the way), and munched on some pumpkin pie, the first stage of my acceptance that summer's gone and fall is here. Back to the writing, then discuss the SP with the person helping it, then a FB chat with a friend. Since I slept so late, not in bed till 4.

As I write this, it's Friday, and things for this whole weekend are looking to be interesting. The signed book arrived damaged beyond belief, so I get to do the insurance claim on it, and send another copy. Sending the copy I don't mind; dealing with the post office on an insurance claim, yeah, that's going to suck. Back to the day job, so I'll get home around 1 AM or so tonight, and will work on the SP a bit before going to bed. Probably no social media this time, since it looks like I'll be pulling a double at the day job tomorrow. As a result, I'll get home at 1 AM tomorrow and just collapse into bed. Then it's Sunday again, and the entire process will repeat itself.

I wish I could say this is unusual, but it's not. This is actually a fairly typical week in my life. Why the day job? Because I need to pay my bills. Maybe in ten years, or more, I'll be able to write full-time and only keep a part time job to help with expenses, but remember, I'm just starting out, and didn't go through a traditional publisher to get there. "But I thought your book was doing well?" It's been well-received, and has sold more than I expected it to, that's true. But it's one book. Royalty payments aren't going to be that awe-inspiring on one book.

Besides, the money was never the point. If it was, I wouldn't have done it to start with.

So why do it at all? Why subject myself to this if I'm not making money hand over fist? Simple: because this is my passion. This is my calling. Simply put: this is what I want to do. I'm a storyteller; it's what I was made for, so I do it.

Here's the thing: I'm at a point in my life where I can do it this way. I have a wife that understands my compulsion, and supports it. I have kids that are a little older, so they are okay with me doing this, and also support it. I have a day job to pay the bills while I pursue my dream. Do I want to sustain myself on this alone at some point in the future? Absolutely. But I know that takes work to get there, and I have no problem at all in doing it. After all, aside from the time I get to spend with my family and friends, I find myself most at peace with the world while I'm sitting in front of the computer with a blank page before me and a story pouring out of me.

If nothing else, that alone would make it all worth while.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Modern-Day Rosemary's Baby: A Review of Stolen Away by Kristin Dearborn

I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with Kristin Dearborn’s work, but after reading her latest effort, Stolen Away, I’m going to be taking more notice in the future.

The story’s familiar, especially if you’ve read Ira Levin’s book or seen the movie Rosemary’s Baby. That said, this isn't just a simple re-hash of the same old territory. Where Stolen Away differs is in how it blends the subtle creepiness of the old with the directness of modern horror. And while there are many out there who’ve attempted this and failed, Kristin Dearborn succeeds at the task admirably.

We’re introduced to Trisha, a former drug addict who is trying to get her life back on track for the sake of her two kids. When her infant boy is taken by a “monster” one night, she finds herself in a desperate race to save him from Hell itself. She brings her ex, Joel, along for the ride, after convincing him that she’s not crazy. Unfortunately, this also catches the attention of the men who’ve been after Joel to collect a debt they feel he owes them, adding to the danger.

Where this story really shines is in the character of Trisha herself. She is obviously a broken person when we meet her, despite her best intentions, and while she is in a better place by the end of the tale, the transition is not a fast one. It’s gradual, born from desperation and necessity, making it feel extremely natural and even subtle at times. I found myself smiling as she reached each milestone of her development, and mentally cheered her on as she worked toward the next. More telling, I think, is that while Trisha seems like the type of character to elicit pity or sadness, Dearborn has written her in such a way as to avoid those traps, leaving her a strong female lead in a genre that definitely needs more of them.

The supernatural element here is also played brilliantly, adding a creep factor that keeps you sucked in to see what happens next. From Trisha and Joel’s attempts to learn enough occultism to combat their foe, to the brutal scenes of possession and exorcism presented, it all felt firmly rooted in both reality and fantasy, a balance that is needed for the subject matter and is sometimes hard to find.

I had a harder time feeling that terror when the main villain, DEMON, was on stage, though. Rather than coming off as a powerful demonic force, he came across more as the jerk frat boy who stayed out of trouble because of his parent’s money and connections. Maybe this was the image he was trying to present to better lure his prey, but for me it fell a little flat. Still, his manipulations and the way he acted while getting into Trisha’s head made him a worthy opponent, at least when things left the real world for the supernatural one.

There were also a couple of spots near the end where it got a little jumbled, but not enough that I was pulled out of the story or felt it detracted too greatly. Overall, I would say this was a solid effort by Kristin Dearborn, and one that should put her on any horror fan’s radar for a long time to come.

4/5 Stars

Synopsis for Stolen Away
  • Publication Date: June 24, 2016
  • Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
  • Publication Length: 220 pages
Trisha will admit she's made a few mistakes in her life but that checkered past is behind her. She loves her kids, even if it's tough being a single mom. But her loyalties are put to the test when her infant son disappears in the middle of the night, and his big sister says a monster took him.
Now Trisha has to face the full truth behind the one-night-stand that produced Brayden in all its scaly torridness – Brayden's father wasn't human and isn't interested in sharing custody. However, even though DEMON has pulled this stunt many times before, he made a mistake when he chose Trisha. The one thing she won't do is give up her son without a fight. Along with her ex-boyfriend, Joel, Trisha is dragged back into the seedy underworld in a desperate fight to reclaim her son, only this time she's got a lot more to lose.
About the Cover

The cover was created by Italian artist Daniele Serra. He is a winner of the British Fantasy Award and has worked with companies such as DC Comics, Image Comics, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales Magazine and PS Publishing. Recently his work was featured as interior art in a scene of Stephen King’s The Cell, with Samuel Jackson looking it over. Visit his web site to see more of his art:


If it screams, squelches, or bleeds, Kristin Dearborn has probably written about it. Kristin has written books such as Sacrifice Island (DarkFuse), Trinity (DarkFuse), and had fiction published in several magazines and anthologies. Stolen Away was recently a limited edition offered from Thunderstorm Books, which sold out.
She revels in comments like, “But you look so normal…how do you come up with that stuff?” A life-long New Englander, she aspires to the footsteps of the local masters, Messrs. King and Lovecraft. When not writing or rotting her brain with cheesy horror flicks (preferably creature features!) she can be found scaling rock cliffs or zipping around Vermont on a motorcycle, or gallivanting around the globe. Kristin’s latest DarkFuse release is Woman in White.
Find more about Kristin online at or Facebook.
Praise for Kristin Dearbon
“In Stolen Away, Kristin Dearborn writes with a confidence and ferocity that demands you keep turning pages. Where lesser writers would flinch and look away, Dearborn tells the tale the way it should be, with cruelty and fascination for both her characters and the story. Kristin Dearborn isn’t just a writer to watch, she’s a writer to watch out for. If she’s swinging, you might want to duck, because she hits hard!—Bracken MacLeod, author of Mountain and Stranded

“Kristin Dearborn’s fast-paced horror thriller, Stolen Away, will possess readers as they strap in for a demonic thrill ride of sin and redemption.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, author of An Exorcism of Angels

“Gripping nonstop suspense and unsettling horror that blazes the pages from start to finish. You’ll swear Stolen Away was written by a seasoned veteran of best-selling novels. Expect to want more after reading the second novel by Kristin Dearborn, an author whose work will shoot her straight to the top of reading lists.”—Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Evolutionist

“Kristin Dearborn catapults readers into an intricately layered world that is bleak and terrifying but never so damned as to be without hope or redemption.  If the devil, so to speak, is in the details, then this book raises hell, exploring not just demons internal as well as external, but also all the beautiful, heart-wrenching, contradictorily complex, powerful little things that define human experience. This book earns a prominent place of the bookshelf of any fan of demonic fiction.” —Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower trilogy and Chills

“Horror born straight from a nor’easter, Dearborn’s Woman in White is a great read for a winter night—with a monster I’ll never forget.” —Christopher Irvin, author of Federales and Burn Cards

“Kristin Dearborn’s Woman in White is a rip-roaring monster tale with sharp-eyed characterization and something to say about the power dynamics between men and woman. Thought-provoking and entertaining as hell!” —Tim Waggoner, author of Eat the Night
“Great stuff! Suspenseful, quickly paced, unpredictable and wonderfully evil tale. Kristin Dearborn’s best yet!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure
“Dearborn has a wonderful sense of the macabre, along with the ability to balance the spookier aspects of her work with well-rendered, solid characterizations…Sacrifice Island is a blazing fast read, with engaging characters and a compelling narrative.” —The Maine Edge
Sacrifice Island is a fresh and interesting take on a tried and true horror setup.” —Examiner
Purchase Links
Find out more about RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS
Want to Feature Kristin Dearborn?
If you would like a copy of the book for review or to conduct an interview with Kristin Dearborn, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at Hook of a Book Media:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Random Musings: A General Update

It's strange to look at the posts I've made on here the last month or so and see mostly reviews for other folks, and notices on the Summer of Consequences Publicity Tour, and little else. Don't get me wrong, neither of those are a bad thing at all; it's just a little surprising considering what I expected this blog to be when I first started out with it. So if you'll indulge me a little selfishness, here's a snapshot of what all's going on with me right now.

First, I want to explain why all the reviews. It's simple, really. Since I published Consequences, I've discovered how supportive the horror community is. Doing all these reviews is my way of paying that back somewhat; no more, no less. Plus, I read a lot, so why not toot the horn for some of the great books I've had the privelidge of enjoying the last little while? To that end, there's another one coming later this week, and I'm sure there will be many more in the future.

On the publishing front, Consequences has been getting rave reviews, which still blows me away. I never expected this kind of reception when I put it out there, but I am eternally grateful that it's done as well as it has. To think that I managed to break the stereotype of self-published books being poorly written, poorly edited, and therefore poorly received is a relief. And there's more on the horizon! The Journal of Jeremy Todd is currently expected to be released by Sinister Grin on June 1, 2017 (though that can change, in either direction). My short story "In the Moonlit Forest Glade" will be coming out in Full Moon Slaughter, edited by Toneye Eyenot, from JEA Press probably in October. And, to top it all off, I'm working on something now that has me kind of excited. I'll say more when I know more, but keep your eyes peeled for an announcement pretty soon.

I've also been writing like crazy. The killer catfish tale that started as a joke is now finished, as you've seen if you monitor my progress bar. Mudcat ended up being much different from what I expected, hopefully in a good way. Time will tell. It's currently simmering while I work on other things, awaiting the time I start in for the second draft. Alone in Babylon, my post-Apocalyptic tale, is nearing its end as well, and I'm a little sad by that. I really connected with my main character here, and am not looking forward to letting him go. Unfortunately, that's how it works. I've reached the point where I know how the story ends, which means it won't be long now before I type "The End" and move on to whatever's next. I'm thinking something a little lighter in tone for the next one, and have a couple of ideas, so we'll see what pans out.

My self-edits have taken a bit of a back seat as other things play out, like the secret project, and changes at the day job, but as things begin to settle back down, I'll be getting back to them more consistently. I'm currently working on the second draft of Off the Beaten Path, with a long-overdue edit to the third Cochran book, Blood Games, to follow.

Speaking of the Cochran series, Demon at the Window is still making its rounds through submissions, so hopefully I'll have some news on it soon.

And that's pretty much where I'm at right now. Lots going on, but it's all behind-the-scenes stuff that translates to a waiting game. I do have some more meaty posts rattling around in my head that I just need to sit down and write once I have the time. Until then, thanks for stopping by, and keep checking back for more as it comes!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Making Vampires Fun Again: A Review of Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski

As promised, here's the second review for this week; this time, it's the latest from Stephen Kozeniewski, Hunter of the Dead.

Let’s get something out of the way right up front: after the post-Twilight vampire craze, I was pretty burnt out on vampire fiction. While I know that great improvements and new takes have come out recently (Jonathan Janz’s Dust Devils and Kristopher Rufty’s Vampire of Plainsfield come to mind), it’s just been hard for me to get into anything once I see the “V” word in the description.

I’m pleased to say that Kozeniewski has managed to reverse my thinking on the matter.

We’re thrown in right away, with the prologue introducing us to all the factions we’re going to need to know about later in the story. There’s the vampires, of course, split into thirteen houses that are filled with political intrigue and in-fighting amongst each other; the fixers, who function the way they would for the mob, only they’re undead; the Inquisitors, fighting against the bloodsucking legions; and then the eponymous Hunter of the Dead, who doesn’t seem to much care which of those factions he’s killing so long as doing so fulfills his mysterious purpose.

When the story itself kicks off, playing out over the course of four nights, all of these elements come together in something that’s as filled with fun as it is adventure.

The characters here were well-crafted, from the lone-wolf Inquisitor to his erstwhile apprentice and the parallels with the head of House Cicatrice, most powerful of the vampire lords, and his new get. All of these characters get their moment in the spotlight, and all of them manage to shine. Even the protagonists of the story aren’t typical moustache-twirling bad guys. Like true villains, they all believe that what they’re doing is the right thing, even if their motivations are not exactly pure. The Inquisitors, who you might think should be the heroes here due to their mandate to fight the evil bloodsuckers, aren’t even spared from fault, and make some decisions that end up with decidedly unpleasant consequences for the city of Las Vegas.

There’s a depth and history to the ancient characters, too. There’s a danger when exploring that kind of thing to bog down and become mired in exposition hell, but Kozeniewski manages to avoid that here, making what amounts to a history lesson feel exciting.

I also feel the need to mention that the way the vampire’s code is laid out, the way they’ve split themselves into different houses, all felt very familiar to me as a former player of White Wolf’s old Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying game. The biggest difference, though, is that Kozeniewski presents lore done the right way, and not something that becomes bogged down on itself after a while. Still, I think I’ll be very surprised if I discover he wasn’t influenced by that old game, at least in some small way.

Overall, Hunter of the Dead is one of those books that delivers on every front. While the ending had me swearing out loud, it does seem to promise more from these characters, and more for this world. At least I seriously hope so!  I, for one,  cannot wait for the chance to lose myself again in the world Kozeniewski has created sometime soon.

5/5 Stars

Follow along with the hashtags: #HunteroftheDead #VampireCivilWar #HookofaBook #SinisterGrinPress

Hunter of the Dead, Synopsis and Info
·         File Size: 931 KB
·         Print Length: 314 pages
·         Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
·         Publisher: Sinister Grin Press (August 15, 2016)
·         Publication Date: August 15, 2016

Someone has begun targeting vampires. 

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit. 

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice. 

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

Stephen Kozeniewski, Biography

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced "causin' ooze key") lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.

Praise for Kozeniewski

"I have never enjoyed a writer's writing as much as I have with Stephen Kozeniewski. I cannot wait to get my hands on HUNTER OF THE DEAD!"
- Phillip Tomasso, author of the VACCINATION series

"Kozeniewski is a rich voice that booms over his peers. I am coming to think of him as the closest thing to the reincarnation or spiritual successor of Ray Bradbury."
- David Sharp, Horror Underground (now Cinema Bluster)

"Kozeniewski never fails to entertain with his bizarre and cavernous stories."
- K.P. Ambroziak, author of A PERPETUAL MIMICRY

"I don't know how he does it, but every one of Kozeniewski's books offers something totally unique and compelling to the reader."
- Sharon Stevenson, author of the RAISED and GALLOWS series

"As many people know by now, I am a fan of Kozeniewski, maybe even a bit of a fangirl...It doesn't matter to me what he is writing, I will read it."
- Sheilah Randall, Cellar Door Book Reviews

"I'm not usually a standalone novelist sort of fellow but a friend of mine asked me who I thought was the best standalone novelist I read in independent fiction...after a long time, I decided the answer was Stephen Kozeniewski."
- C.T. Phipps, author of the SUPERVILLAINY SAGA

"What I love most about Kozy's work is that they're unique...It's something fresh and new every time."
- Shawn Remfrey, Literary Litter

Purchase Links

Find Hunter of the Dead and more great horror titles for any taste at the Sinister Grin Press site. Horror That’ll Carve a Smile on Your Face!
Also available in paperback!

Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Hunter of the Dead, or feature Stephen, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Obsession Through Time: A Review of Hexagram by Duncan Bradshaw

In an attempt to catch up on all the books I’ve agreed to review, I’ll be posting two this week. First up, Duncan Bradshaw’s  rather unique Hexagram.

When I got this one, I was told to take my time so I could see exactly what Bradshaw was attempting to do here, and I have to admit that was good advice. This is not a book you just want to blast through as quick as you can; it’s one you’ll want to savor instead.

The basic premise is that the ancient Inca believed we are all made of stardust, and if they harvest enough, they can call down their God to save them from the Conquistadors and make the world a better place. When the ritual is interrupted, though, the belief turns to obsession that lasts throughout history until finally enough has been collected that it can be completed.

Don’t think this is just a straight horror novel. While it has elements of it, certainly, it also touches on science fiction, alternate history, and straight fantasy. This is in no way a detriment, either. Bradshaw weaves these things together into a story (or should I say, series of stories) that are compelling and powerful in their own right.

I particularly enjoyed the way he interspersed real-world events such as Jack the Ripper and Jonestown into the story, giving a method to the madness of those who actually committed those atrocities. While I seriously doubt the Ripper or Jim Jones (who goes by a different name here) were harvesting stardust from their victims, it’s a nice thought experiment to think that maybe they did.

Also of note is the way the stories connect to one another, but are their own tales. Each even seems to have a slightly different writing style, based on the point in history they occur, the location, and the characters involved. It kept me entertained since there was always something new right around the corner, and is a testament to Bradshaw’s writing ability to flow so seamlessly between those sometimes disparate styles.

The only complaint I have is that the Prologue and Epilogue felt a little rough in comparison to the rest of the book. While the connection to the whole is there, it still felt a little like an entirely different meta-arc from what we got in the rest of the tales through history. Definitely the most fantastical of the tales woven together here.

Still though, I definitely say this is a book worth reading, and in fact worth re-reading as well. I plan to, if for no other reason than so I can look back over Bradshaw’s presented history with the foreknowledge of where it’s all going to see better how it all fits together. If you’re looking for something a little different from the typical horror fare, grab Hexagram; you will not be disappointed.

4/5 Stars

Follow along the tour with these hashtags:  #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram, Synopsis
·         File Size: 3282 KB
·         Print Length: 232 pages
·         Publisher: EyeCue Productions (July 25, 2016)
·         Publication Date: July 25, 2016

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.
Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.
Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.
We are all made of stars.
When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.
Yet...the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.
Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read.
Why not pop over to his website, or give him a like over on Facebook, or read his ravings on his blog,
Praise for Hexagram
“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy
“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!
Praise for Bradshaw's Writing
“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer
“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews
“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews
“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene
“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror
Purchase Links
Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?
If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at