Thursday, December 26, 2013

Showcase with William Cook: Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors

Showcase with William Cook: Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors: Reblogged from Kristen Lamb's Blog When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But af...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Interview with Joe Mynhardt about Crystal Lake Publishing

Today, I am talking with Joe Mynhardt, owner of Crystal Lake Publishing,  Crystal Lake is a small press operating in South Africa and specializes in horror and dark short fiction and anthologies.  And now, on with the questions.

Do you think books encompassing different genres have helped or hindered the industry?

That’s a catch 22 situation.
On one hand, anything that gets more people writing and reading is great. With so many online outlets (Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords etc.), writers don’t have to worry so much about where their book should be on a bookstore shelf. Bookstores invented names for the genres, not writers. We write stories, and sometimes those stories want to go wherever they need to go. I can’t tell my imagination, “Sorry, but we’re not allowed to go in that direction.”
But then you have to keep marketing in mind when you write a book. You need to know who your target readers are. So sometimes you have to pull your characters back a bit and keep the ending as well as the genre in mind. When a reader looks at a cover, they should know immediately what waits for them inside.
I’d say stick to one genre in general, because you will let your readers down if you don’t, but nothing stops you from adding romantic subplots, fantasy worlds or a funny character. Your horror book will be so much better for it if you do.
Otherwise, write different genres under a pseudonym. I write and read horror and thriller stories, or just plain weird and dark, but there’s always room a bit of romance, comedy and so on. I’m actually working with an author on an erotic horror novella for 2014, with a lot of twisted humor in there for extra fun.

Do you prefer writing and publishing short stories, novellas or novels?

For now I prefer short stories and novellas. I’m not able to fully represent a novel yet. I can’t offer authors an advance or the massive advertising budget a novel requires. This company is still young, so I’m sure we’ll get there some day.
I also read more short stories as well, since they’re just what someone with a little bit of time in need of entertainment looks for.

To be a writer you need to be a reader. Do you agree?

Definitely. There’s no way around this. Unless of course you’re writing screenplays, but even then it’s always wise to know what’s being written and read throughout the world.
I always find it funny when someone says they want to be a writer, but they don’t like reading. If  you love something, you’d better love all of it.

What made you decide to get involved with this side of the business?

I just love working with other writers. It’s one of the best perks of being more than just a writer.
Also, sport injuries hinder me from sitting hours and hours behind a computer, so it’s pretty cool that I can now work according to my own schedule; although it’s still pretty hectic.
Plus, my main goal in life is to create, whether it’s a book written solely by me, or an idea that becomes a great book, like the two anthologies I’ve published this year.
I can’t begin to describe the amazing stories I’ve read and edited so far. It’s pretty awesome to be able to read top notch stories months before the world gets to see it – to be part of such an amazing process with other writers. Writing tends to get lonely, but compiling an anthology or working with an author and the cover artists is pretty damn cool.
I just love being involved and helping authors along their career paths. If I can help an author reach more readers or even just make them a bit more money, I’m a happy man.

You are a writer, publisher and editor, three very different hats. Which one fits you best?

I’d have to say publisher. I’ll never stop writing my own stories, but there’s just no greater reward than working with others. I’m a pretty good editor. I still have lot to learn and experience to gain, but I have a very sharp eye when it comes to mistakes.
With the publishing, I’m a lot more driven and fulfilled. I do my best to promote their work, or push them to become better writers by teaming them up with other writers.
The authors tend to push themselves when they share a TOC such other big-name authors, focusing on their strengths and improving their weaknesses. That’s another reason why I love anthologies so much, it introduces readers to other writers they might enjoy.

Why do you think what you do matters?

Well, stories are a written history of the times the writer lived in. And if we can entertain, scare or help a reader forget about the daily grind for a while, then we’re all psyched.
It matters because it fulfills our lives like nothing else can.
Don’t tell anyone, but I think I was quite unhappy before becoming a writer, and I’m even happier now that I run Crystal Lake Publishing.

Crystal Lake Publishing started in August 2012, and has gone on to launch quite a few books since then. Was the response to Crystal Lake just positive straight from the start?

Definitely. I think it was a combination of timing and knowing the right people. I published my own book (Lost in the Dark) first, just as a tester to sort out any kinks before taking on other authors. I’d rather screw up my own book, and then learn from my mistakes. It was quite the learning curve.
I chatted with Ben Baldwin about doing a cover, who I met through a project with my friends over at Dark Minds Press. I commissioned Ben to make the cover of my book and the next book, which would be an anthology.
I played it smart, and only started filling the TOC once I could show the authors the cover. Authors love nice covers. I then posted the cover on Facebook and continued to invite authors, adding them onto the ever-growing TOC, right there on Facebook where everyone could see it. I quickly received messages from authors I actually wanted to invite anyway, asking if I’d consider their work. I couldn’t stop smiling.
After For the Night is Dark, I contacted Daniel I. Russell about doing a collection of his own. And things just picked up from there. I knew that, although it came down to quality, I had to put in the hours and really push to get a few titles out within the first year or so. Nobody takes a publisher with only two titles very serious.
So I spent a lot of time studying the market and learning more and more about publishing and marketing (still busy), but it’s a combination of a lot of strategies, contacts and effort that helped launch this company.

Why should people read Crystal Lake’s work?

Straight answer, because I enjoy reading every story I’ve published. I’m a horror fan, but mostly a fan of stories. Whether the story comes in the form of a book, comic, movie, series, play or even a song doesn’t matter. So I write and therefor publish what I would like to read. I’m not naïve enough to believe there are no people out there like me. Lots of people enjoy the same stories I do, and the better I become at the craft of writing and editing, the better I can bring all these stories to life.
I’m actually just happy just to see people reading more. I don’t shy away from promoting other indie publishers or great authors, no matter where they’re published. A lot of my best friends are publishers.

Any advice for budding horror and dark fiction writers?

There are so many things to say, but I’ll give you a quick run-through:
-Join and participate on a forum.
-Read non-fiction horror books, especially about marketing. You’ll need it eventually.
-Always be open and ready for opportunities.
-Have confidence in yourself. Every small step becomes part of the bigger journey.
-Have a story or two on standby at all times.
-Write every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes.
-Learn how to edit your own work.
-Be as visible as possible on the internet.
-Be professional in everything you say and do. Growing a tough skin goes a long way in not
acting like an emotional rollercoaster on social media.
-Help others as much as you can, even if you just share or retweet their stuff. Celebrate
their successes with them, and don’t be jealous.
-Eat, breathe and sleep stories, but take time to rest. Writer’s fatigue is no joke.
-Take some time to just sit and think about creative things to do, whether they’re story or
promotion ideas.
-Don’t listen to negative thoughts. You’ll have off days where you’ll just have to ignore
-Take care of your body, especially your back and wrists. Being an author is not a race, but
a marathon that never ends.

Do you think it’s fair that some publishers are selling collections and anthologies, but aren’t offering writers any advances or royalties?

It’s definitely not fair for one person to make money off a book that many worked on. When I started writing, I submitted to a lot of for-the-love anthologies, which is fine for a beginning writer, since you won’t be up against the established writers. I mean, you have to start somewhere to build up a CV and learn about the industry.
But the authors I work with, the ones that do this for a living or are attempting to write full time, they need to balance their time with possible income – time is indeed money in this industry. And I don’t even pay nearly enough when it comes to anthologies, but I’m working towards it.
I give 45% royalties to short story collections and novella authors, which is a lot more than they’d get from other publishers. And I pay it with a smile. Seeing them make money and advance in their careers is more rewarding than making money for myself. In any case, all the money I make go right back into the company. For me it’s all about building the company, which will in the end be very beneficial to the authors and horror lovers across the globe.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Criminal Minds: Blinders On!

Criminal Minds: Blinders On!: by Alan Last week, I finished the first draft of a new novel. It’s a slightly different genre than most of my books, and I had a fun time w...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guest Post - Robin Burks, author of Zeus, Inc

Welcome, Robin to the Blog World of Kat Yares.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who is absolutely going to love what you have written here.  Personally, I love mythology.

Using Mythology in Fiction

I am certainly not the first author, nor will I be the last, to use mythology in fiction. Mythology has long inspired novelists, and its usage includes such works as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, just to name a few. But what is it about mythological gods, goddesses and creatures that inspires us?

Mythology is the truest form of the fantasy genre. Thanks to wonderful tales given to us by the Greeks, the Norse, the Celts and other ancient civilizations, the stories are already there. However, those of us who wish to retell them need to take what we know and build upon that. It gives us a way to re-invent old stories and make them new again. The inspiration that these stories give to an author is invaluable.

Mythology also gives us characters that are fascinating. Mythology gave us our first superheroes: beings that were far more than their mortal counterparts. Whether they be humans with extraordinary powers or gods and goddesses, these beings are able to do things that mere humans cannot. That in and of itself makes them interesting characters. But even better? These characters aren’t perfect. In fact, they often succumb to very human weaknesses: anger, jealousy and love. They might be infallible, but they are also flawed. And most authors understand that a flawed character is more interesting to read about than a perfect one.

Mythology also gives us fantastic monsters. Think of something like Cyclops: a giant with one eye. He is absolutely terrifying! An author can imagine how a modern-day character would react upon meeting such a beast. These ancient monsters offer a great horror element to storytelling that many authors have embraced.

I embraced mythology in writing Zeus, Inc., for all these reasons. I have always been intrigued with the Greek gods and goddesses and when it came time to write a story about them (after an interesting dream about a world where they existed), I could not stop myself. They served as my inspiration and became characters in a world that I created. I cannot imagine my made-up universe without them.

Don't miss the Zeus, Inc. Blog Tour giveaway. You could win ebook copies of Zeus Inc. , along with a $25 Amazon gift card. Even better? Winning is easy: see details on how to enter below.

To be entered to win:

  1. Pick up a copy of Zeus, Inc. for $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo or anywhere else ebooks are sold.

  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below.

  4. About Zeus, Inc.
    (Biting Dog Publications) - 50 years ago,  mysterious Zeus, Inc. CEO Joseph Brentwood saved the world from a major energy crisis by discovering a new unlimited energy resource. Now, in 2069, Mr. Brentwood has gone missing and private eye Alex Grosjean has been hired to find him. Alex’s search leads her through her own murky past and into the fantastical depths of Hell itself, where she discovers that no one is who or what they seem to be.
    Robin Burks is not only a journalist for and, but also for her own site Robin has just published her first novel: Zeus, Inc. with Biting Dog Publications and is working on its sequel The Curse of Hekate. A science fiction trilogy, The Book of Revelations, is also currently in the works. An internet addict, she can often be found on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  She also loves to read , act, sing, play video games and travel. Robin currently lives in Missouri with her four cats. She also occasionally speaks French and loves Doctor Who. Visit Robin on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or GoodReads.
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    Wednesday, October 2, 2013

    Quit Spamming my Email

    Yes, I'm aware lots of folks know that I review books and products for Amazon, Hellnotes and other outlets.  That's cool.  But what isn't cool, it opening my email in the mornings and finding 20 to 30 requests for reviews that aren't anything similar to what I normally read or test.  Today's fun things were bath salts and artworks.  I've never reviewed either before so why should I start now?  Neither interests me.

    Yes, I know a number of websites collect Amazon top reviewers emails and sells them to new authors.  Yes, I know how important reviews are for books (after all, I'm an author myself), but I guarantee that if you send me an email (often in a very bullying tone) wanting a review of your book - I will delete that email with the rest of the spam I get daily.

    Bottom line, I review only in certain genres and certain gadgets.  If your stuff doesn't fall within those limitations, you're wasting your time (and mine).  Your best chance of getting a review out of me (especially for books) is friending me on Facebook, building a relationship and then pitching.  If I'm interested, I'll request your book (or product) for review.  Something else to keep in mind, especially for product reviews, is I will not pay for the product in any way and that includes shipping charges.

    And for the publishers that I've requested books from - thank you for sending them.  But, please, don't send an extra book that I haven't requested.  Chances are that extra book will never get reviewed.

    If this sounds a bit whiney, it probably is.  My time is just as valuable as the next person's and I hate having it wasted by those who refuse to take the time to understand how and why I do what I do.

    Friday, September 6, 2013

    Whirlwind of an Exciting Week

    We've had a lot of good news this week with the first being that our short movie The Truth of Becoming has been accepted into the Hot Springs Horror Film Festival.  For two years, this is the festival we wanted to be a part of and we are very thrilled and humbled by the acceptance.  The festival runs September 26 thru the 29th, although we don't officially have the date or time for the screening.  I'll update the moment we find out.

    For those that might want to read the story that the movie is based on it is available on Amazon for a mere 99 cents.  You can find it here.
    In other news, Amazon has all of my print books on sale.  And while I'd love for you to rush out and buy them, you might want to wait until next month.  Amazon is rolling out a program called Matchbook and if you wait, not only can you purchase the print book - you will also get the eBook version for your Kindle for free.  Pretty good deal, huh?  I think so!  But, if you really can't wait, you can find the whole list of my books here.  
    And finally, although we've known for a while, Kevin ('that' man) and I are going to become grandparents for the fourth time come February.  We are so very excited for our son, Justin and his beautiful, lovely wife, Christie.  I'm really looking forward to holding and loving on a baby again.  :)

    Saturday, August 3, 2013

    Back Side of Fifty

    Sometimes, you just step back and wonder - where did the years go.  My birthday is next week, and it takes me past the point where I can no longer reverse the numbers and jokingly say I'm younger.  Ah well.

    So, in honor of that upcoming birthday, I've dropped the prices of all my books by a buck.  Well, all of them except the short stories.  Why would I do that?  Perhaps to entice new people to try out my books.  Also, a few extra sales might help fund some Jamison Irish Whiskey for my backside of fifty party next weekend.  Okay, so not really a party, just a few of our kids coming up to hang with us for the evening.

    In order to make it easier I you - I've collected all the links right here on this post (even though, you can get to all the retailers by clicking the titles above).

    Amazon UK
    B&N Nook
    Apple iBooks

    As hard as I tried, I couldn't get the prices changed at Sony, Smashwords or Diesel.  And I apologize for that.  For some reason Smashwords kept crashing my browser when I tried to fill out the appropriate information.  :(

    Also, in case you missed it  - an interview with my little self was featured on the wonderful Aaron Speca's blog yesterday.  Check it out here:

    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    A New Interview ad a New Story

    I was lucky enough to be a part of an in-depth interview with Tim Flanagan on his blog "The Writing Life of a Simple Storyteller". It was a fun interview, because he made me think. Very few of the usual questions - more thought provoking ones and I think I took several days to fill it out completely.

    You can find Part One (about being a writer) here

    Part Two (focusing more on the publishing aspect) here

    By tomorrow, my latest story, a 10,000 word novelette, should be available on Amazon for the Kindle. Titled "The Well" it combines myth and old style horror in a simple tale of a single mother and the need to have fresh water available for her family. It's a fun story and one of my daughters favorites (or at least that is what she told me years ago).

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    A Double Spotlight on Cassandra Dean

    Owner of the Diamond Saloon and Theater, Alice Reynolds is astounded when a fancy Englishman offers to buy her saloon. She won’t be selling her saloon to anyone, let alone a man with a pretty, empty-headed grin…but then, she reckons that grin just might be a lie, and a man of intelligence and cunning resides beneath.
    Rupert Llewellyn has another purpose for offering to buy the pretty widow’s saloon—the coal buried deep in land she owns. However, he never banked on her knowing eyes making him weak at the knees, or how his deception would burn upon his soul.
    Each determined to outwit the other, they tantalize and tease until passion explodes. But can their desire bridge the lies told and trust broken?

    Christmas in Freewill
    Christmas Eve, the Diamond Saloon is empty of its people, and Pearl la Monte has a hankering to retire early. A pounding at the Diamond’s door rids her of such a fool notion. Her irritation rises when she sees the prissy, polite-like Garrett standing outside.
    Ethan Garrett has a powerful need to gain succor. When the saloon’s voluptuous redheaded singer scowls at him from the threshold of the Diamond, he doesn’t stop to think on how his ire at her has disappeared. Or how he just wants to spend some time in her company.
    When a blizzard storms in, trapping them, will they spend their time arguing or find their irritation for each other disguises something more?

    Authors Bio:

    Cassandra Dean

    Cassandra grew up daydreaming, inventing fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures. Once she learned to read (First phrase – To the Beach. True story), she was never without a book, reading of other people’s fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures.

    Fairy tales, Famous Fives, fantasies and fancies; horror stories, gumshoe detectives, science fiction; Cassandra read it all. Then she discovered Romance and a true passion was born.

    So, once upon a time, after making a slight detour into the world of finance, Cassandra tried her hand at writing. After a brief foray into horror, she couldn’t discount her true passion. She started to write Romance and fell head over heels.

    The love affair exists to this very day.

    Cassandra lives in Adelaide, South Australia.

    Her website -

    Links for Cassandra

    Buy links:



    A giveaway will be done for the tours! How many copies throughout the tour?
    Yes. Four US$5 Gift Cards + four ebook copies of any Decadent Publishing book from my backlist (not including Rough Diamond & Fool’s Gold)  Check the bottom of this post to enter.


    Lifting the glass, Alice studied its contents. “There is nothing quite like the enjoyment you get from a good whiskey. There’s the look and color of it, and the way it burns in the light.”

    “It’s the same color as your eyes,” Llewellyn breathed, his own wide and empty of thought.

    A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. That’s right. Fool me into thinking there’s not an ounce of calculation to your words. “Is it? Mighty kind of you to notice.”

    A happy grin was her response.

    Well now, she was surely going to enjoy this. Setting her own half-smile, she tilted her glass, watching as the whiskey caught the light of the candle. “Have you ever noticed the feel of glass? It’s smooth against your fingers, and though the whiskey burns you, the glass is cool. It seems strange, doesn’t it? That such fire could come from something so cool.”

    Intensely aware of his gaze upon her, she brought the glass to rest on her bottom lip. “You lift the glass to your lips, and all that coolness rests upon your flesh. The scent of the whiskey hits you, sweet and fiery. Your mouth waters, and you can’t wait to have it inside you. Slowly, so slowly, you tip the glass, teasing yourself as long moments in want of its taste stretch unbearably.”

    He no longer wore a smile. Dark eyes watched her as strong fingers dug into the glass before him.

    A prickle washed over her skin, her heart a steady beat in her chest. With hushed voice, she continued. “Liquid slides down your throat. The flavor explodes inside you, a glorious rush of sensation that overwhelms and consumes. You curl your tongue, enjoying the lingering sensation in every part of your mouth. Then, you look at the bottle.” Finally, she met his gaze direct. No subterfuge. No tease. “And you know you can do it again.”


    Turning on her heel, Pearl marched off toward the stairs.

    A weird kind of panic jolted through Ethan, one he’d never felt before in all his days. It was…he didn’t…. She couldn’t leave him. “Where are you going?”

    She whirled to face him, her irritation plain. “I was seeking my bed before your arrival, and now I’m seeking it again. Help yourself to whiskey this one time. I got better things to do.”

    Shoving to his feet, he strode to her. “Don’t just walk away when we’re discussing things.”

    “We ain’t discussing nothing. You’ll be down here, waiting out the blizzard. I’ll be in my bed, doing what I was gonna before you arrived. That’s the end of it.”

    Taking a step, she made to leave him. Again.

    He grabbed her arm. “Don’t leave me.”

    “Don’t tell me what to do.” Glaring at him, she stood before the bar, her magnificent hair slipping from its pins, her breasts rising and falling.

    Abruptly, his mouth went dry. Clearing his throat some, he said, “You’re supposed to offer succor to those in need.”

    “We’re closed, remember?” Paint-less lips pressed tight together, she glared up at him.

    They were so close he could see the faint marks of freckles on her skin.

    Pearl La Monte had freckles.

    A kind of haze came over him, tightening his skin and bringing with it something all-fired powerful and completely unstoppable. All the years he’d known her crashed through him, all the times she’d flirted with him and meant something else, all the times he’d seen her perform on stage and wished he could have held such fire.

    Grabbing her upper arms, he hauled her against him and, ignoring her shocked gasp, he covered her mouth with his.

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    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    NEW RELEASE BOOK BLITZ: JUMPER (Time Travelers) by Jeff LaFerney

    Title: Jumper (Time Travelers)
    Author: Jeff LaFerney
    Publisher: Tower Publications
    Publication Date: April 30, 2013
    Genres: NA, Action/Adventure
    After spending three years in jail and others completely alone, twenty-four-year-old Cole Flint discovers an amazing ability—he can time-travel and teleport. He’s a jumper. So what should the motorcycle-riding, cage-fighting tough guy do? He should protect an innocent eighteen-year-old girl who happens to be in possession of the Staff of Moses. Following the direction of a trio of angels who are determined to shake things up in the Middle East, Cole pairs up with Hannah Carpenter and her pet grizzly while he also tries to change his past and learn the mystery of his birth. Curiously, the King of Jordan knows all about Hannah, and he’s determined to gain possession of the staff. He’ll do anything to possess its power, but is it possible that he’s no more than a pawn, manipulated in time along with Cole and Hannah? Jumper is a mysterious roller coaster of action and a time-traveling adventure that will keep readers guessing right to the very last page.
    Amazon     *     Barnes & Noble
    Jeff is currently an 8th grade English teacher for Davison Community Schools. He coached for 25 years. In the past three years, he stopped coaching and has published three mystery/suspense novels. Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, and Bulletproof are three stand-alone novels featuring Clay and Tanner Thomas. A fourth novel, a time-traveler action/adventure called Jumper was published on April 30, 2013. Jeff loves sports, reading, writing, and spending time with his awesome family.
    Blog     *     Website     *     Facebook     *     Goodreads     *     Amazon

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    The Wednesday Horror Writer Blog Hop

    Yep, it's another one of those self-interviews, but I was asked by Mandy DeGeit to do this, so here I am.  Was also supposed to get three other people to sign on for next week, but, alas, two more was the best I could do.  So without further ado - here's my latest rumblings and mumblings.

    What are you working on right now?

    A dystopian novel set in the near future.  It is tentatively titled Party Lines and uses the locations and some of the people established in my novella Vengeance Is Mine.

    How does it differ from other works in its genre?

    Unlike many dystopian novels I've read - the story line of Party Lines is not very far-fetched considering today's political climate.

    What experiences have influenced you?

    Everything I've done, everything that has been done to me tend to show up in my stories.  What I write allows me to confront the demons or the demonized and work it through in my own brain.

    Why do you write what you do?

    I try to write the story I want to read.  For me, it's a way of figuring out what is happening in the world around me - whether that be a real or imagined thing.

    How does your writing process work?

    Idea, notes, research, plot, plan, write.  Basically in that order.  Then comes revise, rewrite, edit, rinse and repeat several time.  Pass the story on to my beta reader and then to my editor.  Rewrite and revise after each until it is the best story I am capable of writing.

    What is the hardest part about writing?

    I think if you ask any Indie Author - the writing is the easy part.  Editing is a booger for many, but I think the hardest part is the promotion.  Trying to get your work in the hands of those readers who will enjoy it the most.  That's the hardest part.

    What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't yet?

    I think I've tried writing in most genres already (except romance).  Some I've done well at (horror and thriller) other's like sci-fi, I've completely failed at writing anything coherent.  But everything I've tried has helped me grow as a writer - even if much of it will never see the light of day.

    Who are the authors you most admire?

    In the traditional world, there is of course Steven King, Robert McCammon, the late Michael McDowell, Margaret Atwood and Anne Rice to name a few.

    In the Indie world, the first person to come to mind is Billie Sue Mosiman.  Not only can she tell one hell of a story, she's also prolific and helpful to those of us that are new to this whole publishing world.  She my hero and my friend.

    Who are new authors to watch out for?

    SuziM, Jaime Johnesse, Stacey Turner, William Cook and John Paul Allen.  All write incredible horror.

    What scares you?

    Snakes in the physical world (even in the nightmare world) - can't look at them on TV, in Books and will almost throw the laptop across the room when someone I'm friends with on Facebook posts a picture of one and it appears in my feed.

    In the mental world - Alzheimer's - to lose my sense of self, I think would be the worst horror that could happen to me (or anyone else).

    Look next Wednesday for posts from these fellow horror authors.

    Kevin Saito

    Kristen Duvall

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    John Paul Allen Visits

    Today, I have a very special guest on my blog.  The wonderfully talented, phenomenal story teller John Paul Allen.  This man writes horror that will stay with you long after you finish the last pages of one of his tales.  I have read everything this man has written and published and I consider him a friend (although I may simply be a stalker or groupie) and I recommend  his work to everyone I talk to and every chance I get.  So without further's John, in his own words.

    I Want You to Like Me
    John Paul Allen

    I wrote a book. That’s what my being here is all about, the reason Free Book Dude was nice enough to ask if I was interested in doing a book tour. This is actually my second tour. For those who might remember, I spent a week promoting the Fresh Blood, Old Bones anthology back in December. I had a choice and instead of plugging something solely mine I decided to hype something I was a part of – not completely - just to see how it went. It must have turned out fine, because I’m back.

    How this whole thing works: I write a clever blog, you read it, it makes you click the link where you check out my book, you buy it, I become rich, and I quit my day job. I’m here to promote a product … actually two products: my book and also me. You’re not going to read what I wrote unless you like me.

    So in my quest to be liked, let’s go back to the steps of the plan where it reads that you make me rich. That’s humor, possibly bad humor - total nonsense for your entertainment none the less. If every person reading this, every person who reads the other three blogs I write this week, every person  facebook friend (4,000 plus), and all those following me on Twitter bought my book it wouldn’t make me rich. It would of course allow me to eat better, but that’s not financial security. The point I’m getting at is that I do not write blogs, post on facebook, tweet, or go to mega social media websites because of money. If that were the case, there would be thousands of less offering by almost as many writers and you’d be content with those names you already know. Oh and you’d probably be paying a hell of a lot more for your reading material.

    Still I need you to like me enough to learn more about my writing and if not for the money – why? Because it’s what I do best – least that’s what I’ve been told, and I want to share it with others. That’s why most of us do it, and those who are fed by dreams of riches are new to the business. Nine years ago, in the midst of a happy existence, I fell into writing. Unlike many who say they dreamed of this all of their lives, I didn’t. Hell, I didn’t even read horror and now I’ve got several frightening tales available with every major ebook supplier in the world. In 2002 I wrote a story for a college class and people liked it enough for me to reconsider my life purpose. A year later my first novel, Gifted Trust, was released and I was hooked to this genre.

    Not convinced yet? Understandable – so let’s go slow (baby steps):
    First read my free short story, House Guest, at and get a feel of my style. You’ll see from the reviews that it’s loved and hated by many and my work might not be for you.

    Second, if you want to read more, look at Gifted Trust-Revised Edition, and click on the cover (left side of page). You can read most of the first five chapters. Warning: My work is not for everyone. GT is pretty violent and there is sexual content, but if what you read interests you then I’m asking that you consider reading the entire book.

    That’s it – like me yet? If not then check out my facebook page, and become a friend. Reading me is not a requirement – many of my friends don’t, but if you do I promise you won’t forget it.

    Thanks for reading this far. I’d also like to thank the folks with Free Book Dude for the many things they’ve done for me and other writers. Check them out at: and also Dave Dinsmore and Biting Dog Publications who has supported me and other writers over the last decade. Their link is

    More about John Paul Allen:
    John Paul Allen refers to himself as a Semi-Complete Unknown. That said, his popularity seems to be growing. "It's all material." Allen says when asked where his ideas come from. "Life is the best source, and nothing is off limits."

    What He Writes: Stories without borders. John Paul Allen is known for crossing lines and warns readers, "Nothing is off limits, if it edifies a story. If you want safe, there's a lot of that being offered. I expect my readers to go beyond the content, in order to enjoy the story."

    Gifted Trust Book Blurb
    In 1930 Max Belote, a Dallas literary agent, heard the voice of Virago. “Tell her, just be good,” it whispered and he’d repeat before mutilating or killing his victim. Wanting to stop the evil entity inside him, Max ended his life. In 1970 convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Michael Roberts also heard the words, and until his execution he fulfilled its desires. In 2003 Virago spoke to Edward Paine, a high school teacher, who sought help to destroy the creature within. One soul, three lives, and the evil entity that commands them. 

    Death is not the end... It’s a brief interruption.

    Join indie author John Paul Allen as he follows the voices in his head around the internet. They will talk about his book Gifted Trust, share some insights into the workings of a twisted mind and hold an awesome book giveaway.

    Gifted Trust Tour Stop List
    March 25 – Earth's Book Nook – Guest Post from John Paul Allen
    March 26 – The Blog World of Kat Yares – Guest Post from John Paul Allen
    March 27 – The Dead Centre – Guest Post from John Paul Allen
    March 28 – My Cozie Corner – Review of Gifted Trust
    March 29 – Huw Thomas – Guest Post from John Paul Allen
    March 29 – Timothy Dean's Pirate Radio – LIVE Interview with John Paul Allen
    March 30 – The FlipSide of Julianne – Excerpt from Gifted Trust

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Cursed Casino - The return of Sara Brooke

    Once again, I am very happy to host the lovely, talented Sara Brooke on my blog.  Her latest book, Cursed Casino is a fabulous read and I hope many of my readers will go and check her and her book out.  So, without further ado - here's a wonderful excerpt from Cursed Casino.

    August 21 – 5:00pm
    He wasn’t going to do it.

    He didn’t care what the news was reporting. He wasn’t going to do it. Hell, they always tried to panic people anyway.  Twenty four hours of nonstop reporting on the skies or the puff of wind that happened to blow through.  

    It was ridiculous.

    Despite the storm, the Van Vincent Hotel was at half capacity.  Numerous flights out of Biloxi and New Orleans had been canceled due to the hurricane and many people were stranded.  

    It all happened so quickly.

    Hurricane Jill had come out of nowhere.  Several days prior it had been a simple storm system churning out in the Atlantic Ocean.  But a sudden change in the water temperature and wind direction baffled the National Hurricane Center and created a strengthening storm that was heading straight for the Gulf Coast.

    Many people evacuated, but others like the tourists, were hesitant to leave.  The projected storm track had been so unpredictable that people were questioning the validity of the reports.  They’d spent so much money to stay at one of the luxury hotels along the Biloxi coastline that the idea of leaving was unappealing.  They wanted their dream vacation.

    So, when the corporate office called him, Richard Windler, the general manager of the Van Vincent Hotel, decided that he was going to recommend they keep the hotel open and allow stranded tourists to find refuge from the storm.  

    And gamble while waiting it out.

    The Van Vincent was known for its lavish and sprawling casino.  A floating barge of nearly 100,000 square feet, it was connected to the primary hotel structure and constituted  a vast array of twinkling lights, music, and luxury mahogany tables surrounded by gamblers of every type.  Thousands of people tread through the brightly carpeted floors and tried their hands at lady luck.  

    Richard looked out of his office window at the gray skies overhead.  

    It doesn’t even look that bad outside, he thought. 

    Sighing, he picked up the phone and contacted his primary night manager to inform him that the hotel would remain open throughout the storm.


    Sandra Sheehan was running low.  She had agreed with her husband that she would only spend $200 on the slot machines while he tried his luck at the $20 blackjack table, but the machine she was on hadn’t been good to her.  Once in a while, she would hit, but instead of stopping, she would continue gambling and lose all of her winnings.

    Come on, come on, she thought.

    Watching the dials on the screen spin in an almost hypnotic fashion, Sandra became aware of a sound in the distance. It sounded like the white noise made by a TV that had lost its signal. The storm outside had begun.

    Glad I’m in here, she thought.

    Sandra and Jake Sheehan lived in Lake Worth, Florida and were not accustomed to vacations.  With a combined household income of $60,000 and a few children to take care of, they spent most of their time working and taking brief excursions to the movie theater or the nearby water park.  But they rarely traveled anywhere farther than the state line.

    So, they were extremely excited when a friend recommended the Van Vincent Hotel.   Due to the recent recession, the hotel was offering numerous specials for Florida residents.  The one Sandra and Jake took advantage of was offering a 3-night stay at $100 a night.  That included coupons for the buffet and a reduced rate to take a day-trip to New Orleans.  

    But soon after they arrived in Biloxi, the news started talking about the Hurricane and how the trek of the storm might take it straight up through either New Orleans or the nearby cities.   

    Instead of trying to find a flight home, the Sheehans decided to take their chances and thankfully, the Van Vincent wasn’t kicking them out.

    On the other side of the casino, Jake wasn’t doing much better than his wife.  After winning several hands initially, the house changed dealers and now he had a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in giving him some extra cash.  She stared straight ahead, unsmiling and proceeded to take his money over and over again.

    Finally, Jake sighed and decided to grab his chips and cash out.  They still needed spending money after all, and the trip to New Orleans promised to be a fun day of drinking and general debauchery.

    If the fucking storm doesn’t hit first, he thought grumpily.

    Stepping away from the table, Jake slowly made his way across the casino towards his wife.  He’d been drinking for several hours, so figured that the ground underneath his feet wasn’t shaking, it was just the alcohol.

    But when the shaking started to get really bad, he realized that it wasn’t his alcohol consumption.  The barge was vibrating.  

    Some of the gamblers on the slot machines didn’t pay attention. They simply held on to their machines to steady themselves and continued pressing the “SPIN” button over and over again.   What finally caught their attention was the loud roar that suddenly filled the casino.

    Jake felt it almost immediately.  He was several feet away from his wife when he felt an invisible force suddenly suck him backwards.  He barely had time to scream, when his body was suddenly pulled through the air and yanked into a hole that was now growing in the middle of the casino’s back wall.

    Sandra screamed and shouted for her husband, but the sound of her shrieking disappeared into the howling winds.  Chaos erupted around her as air rushed out and water rushed in.  

    People charged in a mad stampede towards the casino exit, but were caught by the rushing of water as waves tore through the barge and began filling any available space.   Some were killed instantly as they were pushed down and trampled, their heads caught underneath the salty torrents of water. 

    The hole quickly began to enlarge from the force of the waves, while the freestanding tables and chairs floated in the water for an instant and were then sucked back by the wind, piling up against each other as they flew backwards in a tumbling motion of mahogany, water, and screaming people.

    Sandra held on to the slot machine that had taken all of her money, no longer caring that it had cheated her.  It was the only thing left between life and death.  And as her hands began to slip and she felt her body being pulled backward as the barge disconnected itself from the hotel, she thought about her relatives safe and sound in Florida.

    We should have gone to Disneyworld…

    Two years later

    The landscape flew by in a quick, shimmering flash as the SUV sped across the highway, just slightly above the speed limit.  Darla Carlson rested her head against the window, watching the view and thinking about all of the faces she would come in contact with.  The idea wasn’t entirely appealing, given how difficult high school had been.

    And the people who made it difficult, she thought.

    Venturing to Biloxi, Mississippi for her 20th high school reunion had been Jackson’s idea.  Her former teenage sweetheart, turned husband was pretty adamant that they attend and see all of their former friends and teachers.  He had been popular in high school; a star athlete on the football team, entirely too good-looking, and sporting a confident personality that made most girls swoon within minutes of a ‘hello’.

    Darla wasn’t sure how she’d snagged him but somehow Jackson had been taken in by her calm, quiet manner.  They’d also dated throughout college and tied the knot shortly after graduation.  Things were good, despite her fears that she wasn’t good enough for him.  It was insecurity that haunted her regularly, but one she tried to isolate and minimize.  Her handsome husband never really noticed this tendency, and she wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing.  His inability to understand her deepest weaknesses worried her and she wondered if perhaps he was a bit shallow.

    There was no question in her mind that the people they were meeting up with were definitely shallow.  At Jackson’s insistence, she had agreed to come to the reunion a few days early to meet up with his high school friends Ryan, Anthony, and Anthony’s wife Sherry.   Darla could recall being dragged to numerous parties where she had to listen to Ryan and Anthony talk about the women they’d slept with, telling fart jokes, and laughing together as if the punch line was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.

    She was pleased that over the years, Jackson’s friendships had changed to people who were more mature and settled. They knew numerous couples who they could spend time with and who were a bit…classier….more her type of people.

    But now, they were heading towards a weekend filled with fart jokes, loud people…fake people.  And Darla just wasn’t sure how she would handle all of it.

    I’ll just get really drunk and make sure we win lots of money, she smiled.

    The only positive aspect about the upcoming reunion week and the planned activities was that Ryan had somehow secured a gig as the General Manager of the upscale Van Vincent Hotel.  Darla was familiar with the hotel, as were many others, thanks in large part to the evening news that had conducted significant coverage about Hurricane Jill and her attack. Hundreds of people perished in the storm, as the surge from the hurricane tore the casino to shreds, destroying millions of dollars worth of property.  Lawsuits and bad press had nearly bankrupt the Van Vincent, but a handful of investors had come forward and funded a historic two-year renovation that had been meticulously detailed on all of the local Louisiana news channels. 
    Darla wasn’t sure how he had pulled it off but somehow, Ryan had been hired to lead the re-opening of the hotel as well as oversee all daily operations.

    As a gift to his closest friends, he was inviting a handful of them to stay at the Van Vincent a few days before the grand opening, granting them the opportunity to test out all of the hotel amenities, including the casino.  Darla had to admit that even though the idea of spending time with Ryan and the others was less than appealing, she was definitely looking forward to living like royalty for a week.  

    Suddenly, Jackson whistled as they pulled up to the front of the hotel.

    “Good lord, would you look at that.  This place looks even better than it did before! They must have just finished an amazing renovation.” 

    The Van Vincent was as regal as its name.  A large flowing fountain greeted their arrival as they pulled around to the front glass doors backlit against the grand entranceway.  The sprawling hotel was in the center of a vast compound that included an emerald golf course, gardens, and private cottages nestled deep within the surrounding woods.  The vast Gulf of Mexico cradled the back half of the hotel, offering picture-perfect oceanic views. The Van Vincent was also home to numerous shops and amenities that were encapsulated deep within the building and served as an indoor shopping mall.  Indoor theaters offered off-Broadway plays and comedic acts, while themed restaurants tempted the taste buds with everything from Asian-Fusion to basic roadside grill fare.

    Darla and Jackson stared wide-eyed as they walked into the luxurious lobby.  The renovation was truly remarkable, with every small detail…from the bright marble floors….to the golden crown molding…meticulously applied and arranged.  They waited together for Ryan to come greet them and relaxed as the silence was calming and strange.

    “Well, hello there!” bellowed Ryan as he swept into the room.  

    Ryan Bard was a handsome, careless spirit.  Standing 6’4, he smiled regularly and had a mischievous glint to his eye that usually meant he’d done something troublesome.  In high school and college, he’d been relentlessly pursued by a bevy of attractive women, but never settled on one specific catch.  Instead, he would spend short periods of time with one female, and after he had his fill, would move on to the next victim.  Still, despite his careless attitude and lack of concern for the emotions he was playing with, the women he left were never really mad at him.  All it took was a grin and a selfless shrug and he was excused as being ‘one of those guys who never gets serious’.

    Despite his easy manner, Ryan was sharp.  His intellect extended far beyond what his friends realized so when graduation approached, it wasn’t difficult for him to land one good job after another.  And when the owners of the Van Vincent had contacted him about what they called “the opportunity of a lifetime”, he knew that it was something he simply couldn’t pass up.

    The reopening had been stressful. Ryan spent many months overseeing the different aspects of the architectural and design stages of the renovation.  Carpeting, color matching, materials had been overwhelming – but with the help of several qualified consultants, the finished product had finally been approved by corporate.  

    And now, it was time to share the new hotel with the world.

    “So, did you find it ok?” Ryan asked as he led Darla and Jackson through the lobby into the myriad of shops and restaurants that lined the large snakelike pathways.

    “Yeah,” Jackson said eyeing the shops. “It was an easy route.  This stuff looks expensive.  You probably get some rich tourists staying here.”

    Ryan chuckled. “Yes, the Van Vincent caters to all types but the upper echelon definitely has stayed here in the past.” Then, his countenance changed and grew serious. “That is, before the storm rolled through.  We aren’t sure how it’s going to go now.  The media was crawling all over this place after the storm and the images weren’t pretty.”

    Darla nodded and recalled what she’d seen on the news.  The body count had been so high that some of the stations had broadcast video of rubble washing up on shore with shoes and purses still lodged within the stones – reminders of the gamblers who’d been caught up in the storm.  She shivered as a chill traveled through her bones.  

    What an awful way to die, she thought.

    The trio passed by another cluster of shops and entered a large atrium filled with plants and waterfalls. A large outdoor restaurant sat in the center, with silver chairs and tables surrounding it, offering a way to relax and watch the flow of people.

    Just beyond the restaurant, a large expansive set of floor-to-ceiling French doors drew their attention.  
    Ryan smiled. 

    “That…is the casino. Want to take a look?”

    The answer was obvious and they made their way across the brightly lit atrium and stood in front of the doors.  On the wall, a magnetic black rectangle was affixed near the hinges.

    Ryan paused and pointed to the sensor. “Since the storm, we decided that instead of allowing people to pass through in and out, we’re going to monitor our capacity.  It’s one of the ways we can keep track of who is leaving the structure and moving into the barge.  Most people don’t realize that they’re not actually on solid ground when they walk into the casino, but we’re always keeping track.”

    He slid a card out of his pocket and placed it in front of the device.  A short “beep” emitted, followed by the sound of metal gears shifting into place.  Ryan waited for a telltale clicking sound and pushed the large center doors open.  


    “This is amazing!” exclaimed Jackson.  

    Darla had to agree.  Despite her initial reservations about the trip, she was beginning to warm up to the idea of spending the next week at the hotel.  The accommodations were definitely high end, but the casino made it even more appealing.

    It was vast, spreading out in many different directions.  In the center, rows of mahogany gaming tables waited for cards and gamblers.  Lights flashed from every direction as virtually thousands of slot machines sang and glittered.  On the outer edges of the casino, restaurants and buffets stations sat and waited for the throngs of hungry to arrive.

    Standing amidst all of the glitter and blatant gauche décor, Darla suddenly felt a bit strange.  She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt like there was something phony and even…dangerous in the air.  The space was large and animated, but it also felt desolate.  

    “Hey Darla, wake up,” Ryan joked as he led them around, providing descriptions of each nook and cranny. 
    “So, is the bar stocked?  I mean, are you gonna make sure we’re well fed?” Jackson joked.

    Ryan grinned and walked over to a nearby bar. He motioned for Darla and Jackson to come over just in time to see him flip on a light that illuminated rows of liquor.  Then, he motioned to several stainless steel refrigerators that were hidden underneath the countertops. “Check it out.  You’re going to eat and drink more this weekend than ever before.  We’ve got each bar stocked and there’s a ton of food in the kitchen.  After some of the overnight chefs cook and serve dinner, we’re on our own as I’ve given the staff the rest of the night off. But tomorrow you’ll be treated like rock stars.” He laughed and grabbed a beer out of one of the refrigerators and looked at his watch.

    “It’s getting close to dinner.  Why don’t we go back so you can unpack in your room and then we’ll meet down here for some grub?  Sound good?”

    Jackson and Darla agreed. As the three made their way out of the casino, Darla felt the need to use the bathroom.  

    “Ryan, do you mind if I use the ladies room before we leave?”

    “No problem.” He motioned in the opposite direction. “The bathrooms are in the back, to the right. We’ll wait here for you.”

    Darla nodded and quickly walked past rows of singing slot machines.  In honor of their arrival, Ryan had turned on all of the power in the casino and she could imagine how each machine waited anxiously to spin its wheels and gobble up a gambler’s livelihood.  Still, the pull to play and potentially win was undeniable.
    This was going to be fun. But, there were other things to take care of first.

    Finding the bathroom, she pushed open the silver door and gasped as soon as it swung open.
    It was pitch black inside.

    Flustered and a bit frightened, Darla felt along the wall for the light switch.  Her fingertips passed over smooth tiles that lined the walls, until she finally felt the telltale ridge of the plate. Just as her fingers connected with the switch, she felt something soft gently rub against her arm.  

    Shrieking, she jumped back and rushed out.  The door swung shut and she stood in the hallway for a moment.  Backing up, she felt herself bump into someone and screamed just as Jackson put his arms around her.

    “Hey, are you ok?  I figured I’d use the men’s room before we head back out.”

    Darla tried to calm her frayed nerves and smiled. “Yes, I’m fine. I was just looking for my cell phone.”
    Jackson gave her a weird look and then headed to the door marked “Men”. She watched as he pushed the door open, expecting to see it dark inside, but the men’s room was brightly lit from a set of mini chandeliers that hung overhead.

    As he disappeared within the bathroom, she decided to try again.  Pushing open the door slightly, she was prepared to quickly flip on the switch and run in.

    The light inside was on.

    How is that possible? She thought. It was just dark a second ago.  Maybe I hit the switch after all.
    Moving quickly to an empty stall, she finished up and washed her hands, glancing nervously at her reflection in the mirror.  Silence surrounded her, but she felt the little hairs on the back of her neck shivering as if someone was watching her.

    Feeling a bit braver, she threw open each bathroom stall door and looked inside.  Convinced she was alone, she headed outside to meet Jackson.