Archive for the ‘Guest Posts’ Category

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from R.S. Belcher, who just released the second book in the Nightwise series through Tor Books. The Night Dahlia is an urban fantasy with noir elements and has been described as “Supernatural meets L.A. Confidential“. The Night Dahlia continues the story of Laytham Ballard, a once member of the Nightwise, a group of mages tasked with protecting the world from evil supernatural forces. R.S. Belcher decided to stop by and share his inspiration on creating the main protagonist of Laytham Ballard and some of the things that inspired him while crafting the world the series takes place in. 

I would like to thank Rod for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf and Anna at Tor Publicity for helping set everything up!

 

“The Knave’s Knigdom: Laytham Ballard and the world of the Night Dahlia” by R.S. Belcher

My new novel, The Night Dahlia, being released by Tor Books on April 3rd, is the second book in the Nightwise series, the first being 2015’s Nightwise.  The Nightwise universe is built on the foundations of my favorite kind of fantasy, the contemporary genre, where the supernatural and the mythic rub shoulders with the world we live in, and the Noir genre of fatalistic, flawed heroes prowling worlds where the odds are stacked against them, criminals, and street hustlers working angles and plotting capers.  

I wanted my protagonist, Laytham Ballard, to be a kind of occult “rock star” after the VH1 “Where Are They Now” episode.  He had immense power, and he could have been this great world-changing person, but he fell to arrogance, selfishness, pride and self-aggrandizement.  I wanted Laytham to be someone the reader would probably not like, but probably knew and probably understood.

It’s quite a dance to make a character an asshole and still want the reader to follow them in their story, and root for them.  There is a line in Nightwise that Ballard says that all my beta readers and my editor didn’t like, and for good reason.  It implied all the worst aspects of the character and confirmed for the reader what a lying S.O.B Ballard was.  I’ve had several people tell me they threw the book and cussed my character out when he said this thing. But as far as I know, everyone picked the book back up.  If you didn’t, please do, you may be pleasantly surprised.

I try to present the world we live in as much as I can in the series.  For example, I include stuff like Pokemon Go, kids in Black Panther T-shirts, a wizard that crafts spells through Twitter, social media data mining, and real world individuals, some of them pretty nefarious (one of which died on me in the time between finishing the Night Dahlia and publication, good riddance by the way).  

It can be challenging to include stuff that’s topical and current when you’re writing several years out from publication.  Part of it is trying to forecast things you don’t expect to be flashes in the pan, and part of it is listening to your instinct about what’s going to bounce around for a bit in the societal echo chamber.  Some are hits, some are misses, but I’m pretty happy with how many of my little Easter eggs remain at least a little relevant.

The end result for the Nightwise series is, hopefully, to create an urban fantasy world that is markedly unique from what readers may be used to.  You can judge for yourself by checking out the Night Dahlia on April 3rd.  I wanted to thank Rich and the Horror Bookshelf for giving me the privilege of posting today.

LINKS

R.S. Belcher’s Official Website

Tor Books’ Official Website

Purchase Darkest Hours: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About R.S. Belcher

Photo Credit: David Hungate of Dominion Images

R.S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter.

Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly.

The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. It was his first professional fiction sale.

Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, was published in 2014 and the third book in the Golgotha series, The Queen of Swords was published in 2017. He is currently at work on the fourth book in the series.

His novel, Nightwise, was released in August, 2015, and was reissued with additional material in January of 2018. The sequel to Nightwise, The Night Dahlia, will be released in April of 2018.

Rod’s novel, The Brotherhood of the Wheel was published by Tor in March of 2016. It was a Locus Awards finalist for Horror in 2017, and is currently in development as a television series. The sequel to Brotherhood, The King of the Road, is scheduled for publication by Tor in December 2018.

He lives in Roanoke, Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.

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Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Mike Thorn, who released his debut collection Darkest Hours towards the end of 2017 through Unnerving. Thorn’s Darkest Hours is a collection of 16 stories that run the gamut of the various horror sub-genres from bizarro to splatterpunk and everything in between. Just a few of the things you will find in Darkest Hours is alternate dimensions, deadly cults, ghosts, manipulations of reality, human monsters and so much more. I will be posting my review of Darkest Hours tomorrow, so please stop by and check that out as well. Today, Mike stopped by to share his favorite Stephen King books from each decade of his career. What are your favorite King books? Does your list look like Mike’s or a little different?

I would like to thank Mike for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf, and be sure to grab a copy of Darkest Hours from the links below!

“Favorite King Book for Every Decade” by Mike Thorn

1970s – Rage (1977)
Runner ups: The Shining (1977), The Long Walk (1979)
Published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, Rage is aptly named. This novel brings brutal, furious social diagnosis to bear on a plot that’s condensed in time and space. The bulk of the narrative plays out when twisted protagonist Charlie holds his high school classmates hostage, subjecting them to a forced, Lord of the Flies-inspired psychotherapy session. This is a stunning early novel, driven by King’s already-polished sense of voice and carefully channeled anger. It also anticipates many of the author’s career long fixations – the damage caused by abusive adults; the bestial instincts lurking beneath societal veneers; and the psychological processes of outsiders. I devoured the entire novel in one sitting, but its readability should not be mistaken for disposability. This is a thoughtful, challenging novel and a glimpse of even greater things to come. Sadly, it feels more prescient than ever, given the recent tragic events in the United States.

1980s – It (1986)

Runner ups: Christine (1983), Pet Sematary (1983)
To my mind, the eighties saw King at his peak (which is no minor statement, given his remarkable output in other decades). It showcases the author at his boldest, most ambitious, and yes, his most reckless. The novel is excessive, teeming with ideas of micro- and macrocosmic scale that amount to nothing less than a series of lofty, summative statements: this book is about horror itself, both as a genre and an affect, but it’s also about the social cultivation of violence, prejudice, and the problematic notion of nostalgia. Is the titular monstrosity the result of socialized human beliefs and behaviors (especially those rooted in ignorance and fear), or is it much bigger than that? Is it in fact the face of some malicious cosmic order? King’s novel suggests that It might in fact be both, but this author does not set up camp in the same pessimistic territory as, say, Thomas Ligotti. No, even when he’s dishing out his most horrific material, King argues for humankind’s positive potential; even It finds affirmation within all the damning critique.

1990s – Dolores Claiborne (1992)

Runner ups: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999), Hearts in Atlantis (1999)
Alongside Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne was published in the first year of what appears to be a distinct cycle in King’s oeuvre rounded out by Rose Madder (1995) and, to a lesser extent, Insomnia (1994). To varying degrees, all four of these books deal with patriarchy and its profoundly negative impact on specific women. If you ask me, Claiborne is the most focused and beautifully written of the four. Written as a sprawling exercise in stylized first-person narration, this novel depicts its title character’s long, excruciating marriage to an abusive man. Claiborne lends attention not only to domestic context, but also to the ways in which social institutions fail to help Dolores and her daughter. It is by no means King’s first or last “non-horror” work, but it is one of his finest novels written outside the genre.

2000s – Dreamcatcher (2001)

Runner ups: From a Buick 8 (2002), Lisey’s Story (2006)
Stephen King allegedly penned this epic novel by hand while under the influence of Oxycontin — in 1999, he had been struck and nearly killed by a van, and sitting at a typewriter for long periods of time was too painful to manage. This is the author’s first post-accident work, and it’s a bizarre book indeed – set in It’s fictional town of Derry, Maine, Dreamcatcher nearly matches that 1986 novel’s wild ambition. This is an alien invasion story filled with grotesque body horror, telepathic connections and alternating timelines. It’s also filled with a palpable sense of pain and longing for the past, addled by drug-induced visions and teeming with playful pop culture references. It’s a tonally ballistic book, maybe weighed down by the range of its ideas and the conditions in which it was written, but I absolutely love it just the same. It was one of the first King books I read; the impact has been long-lasting and profound.

2010s – Full Dark, No Stars (2010)

Runner ups: Mr. Mercedes (2014), The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015)
Comprised of four absorbing novellas, Full Dark, No Stars shows Stephen King at his bleakest and most despairing. It’s an intensely moral book, underscored by severe reflections on the costs of violence and selfishness. Sometime around the late 1990s (I notice the shift most clearly with Bag of Bones [1998]), King’s prose style seems to change – it’s leaner, more focused than ever, often foregrounding inner and spoken dialogue rather than description. Some of his recent output veers surprisingly far from the unbridled, emotional energy of his early work, but Full Dark, No Stars appears to see the author back in the space that inspired him to write books like Roadwork (1981) and Apt Pupil (a novella from Different Seasons [1982]). It seems to me that the legendary writer has never been more lucid and fearless than he is here, charging headlong into the toxic terrain of human misdeeds. I look forward to reading whatever else he produces in the decades to come.

LINKS

Mike Thorn’s Official Website

Unnerving Magazine’s Official Website

Purchase Darkest Hours: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About Mike Thorn

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. He completed his B.A. with honors at Mount Royal University and his M.A. in English Literature at the University of Calgary. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Dark Moon Digest, Behind the Mask – Tales from the Id and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine. He co-authors the horror-themed series “Devious Dialogues” with A.M. Stanley for Vague Visages. Visit his website (mikethornwrites.com) or follow him on Twitter @MikeThornWrites.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Alma Katsu, the author of The Hunger and The Taker trilogy. I first heard about The Hunger from Max Booth III’s “15 Most Anticipated Horror Books of 2018” list on Litreactor, and Max’s blurb had me hooked right away. I have always loved history and I’m a big fan of horror novels that either focus on a historical event, or are set in a different time period. So naturally The Hunger immediately became one of my most anticipated books of the year. The Hunger takes the grisly and devastating events of the Donner Party and adds in an element of supernatural horror. Doesn’t that sound like a killer set-up for a horror novel? Alma is stopping by The Horror Bookshelf to share the inspiration behind the evil that plagues the Donner Party in The Hunger. I will have a review of The Hunger on The Horror Bookshelf soon and after reading Alma’s guest post, I can’t wait to tear into this book! The Hunger will be available March 6.
Before I turn over the blog to Alma, I want to thank her and Emily of Glasstown Entertainment for putting this together!

“The Monster in The Hunger” by Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger and The Taker trilogy

In the late summer of 1846, a wagon train heads down a little-known route through the American West in the hope that it will shave hundreds of miles off the trek to California. Instead, it takes them through a hellish landscape that proves nearly impassable, throwing them weeks behind schedule. And just as they arrive at the last mountain pass standing between them and their destination, the worst storm of the century descends on them. Out of food and already pushed to the point of starvation, they have only one choice if they want to survive.
One horrible, unimaginable choice.
This is the story of the Donner Party. It’s such a great story that you might think it doesn’t need any embellishment. But I saw the potential to tell another story.
I added the supernatural.
It’s hard to believe this hasn’t been done already (though it very well may have. There are so many books about the Donner Party, fiction and non-fiction, that it’s impossible to be exhaustive.) But as I researched the real events, it seemed to me that the wagon party seemed cursed from the start. There were injuries, deaths: a sick old man was left to die alone in the desert. Another man, worried that he was going to be robbed, went off to bury his treasure and was never seen alive again. They were followed by bad luck and tragedy every step of the way.
And it got me thinking: what if all this bad luck wasn’t the result of natural causes? What if they were being followed by something with evil intentions?
The problem was finding a supernatural creature that could stand up to the horror of the real-life Donner Party. When you’re already facing cannibalism, what monster would have the power to scare you?
Luckily, the supernatural is everywhere, if you know where to look for it.
In my research, I looked at Native American folklore. The Donner Party was traveling through Native American lands, after all. They would hear stories of terrifying beasts from the tribes they came in contact with. One such creature is the wendigo. Originally from Algonquian folklore, some sources describe it as a spirit that’s able to take over a human body; others say it started as a man but was made into a monster by greed. In all its variations, however, it is at its heart the same: an ever-hungry creature driven to cannibalism.
I also looked at another ever-hungry creature, the werewolf. While werewolves are generally credited to European folklore, there were stories of werewolf sightings in America around the time of the Donner Party. The wendigo and the werewolf strongly influenced the supernatural element in The Hunger but that’s not exactly what you’ll find in the novel. The Hunger is about that dark side we all have inside us. Whether that monster triumphs is up to individual.
I’ll stop here because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of The Hunger. In the end, it will be up to the reader to decide what’s pursuing the wagon party—or if there’s something supernatural on their trail at all. It’ll be up to you, the reader, to decide what—or who—the monster is. Or if we’re all monsters.

LINKS

Alma Katsu’s Official Website

Alma Katsu’s Facebook Page

Putnam’s Official Website

Purchase The Hunger: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

About The Hunger

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”

About Alma Katsu

Before she started writing novels, Alma Katsu was both a music journalist and an analyst for the likes of CIA and RAND. She has pounded the halls of the Pentagon, been in the West Wing of the White House, and interviewed rock stars. Her novels—The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent (which, oddly enough, have nothing to do with music or national security)—have been published in more than a dozen languages.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Eddie Generous the creator, editor, designer, and publisher of Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine. The most recent release from Unnerving is the anthology Hardened Hearts, which is described as “17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths.” I’m a relatively new Unnerving fan, but I love everything Eddie Generous has been doing so far. I’m pretty excited to dive into this one as the theme and list of authors sounds fantastic. Eddie is stopping by The Horror Bookshelf to share 5 Stephen King adaptations that he thinks are better than the source material. I’m curious to see the reactions to Eddie’s article as Stephen King fans have a wide variety of favorite stories and adaptations. I hope Eddie knows what he may have gotten himself into!

Before I turn over the blog to Eddie, I want to thank him and Erin of Oh, For the Hook of a Book Publicity for having me on the tour for Hardened Hearts.

“The Film was Better”

By Eddie Generous, Owner/Editor of Unnerving

Stephen King is in a rare category where there have been enough film adaptations of his writing that any number of lists can exist, and guess what, here’s another one of them. Starting with the closest to par, below are (in my ultimate and perfect opinions) the adaptations of Stephen King’s literature that were better than the original story.

  1. Cell – Novel 2006 – Film (director Tod Williams) 2016 release (2014)

Cell is the worst Stephen King book I’ve read (note, I’ve not read five or six of his titles, so maybe something’s worse). It’s all over the place, poorly edited, and slapdash in follow through. Not that there aren’t good points, because there are, but upping on the book is a pretty low bar.

Playing against itself, this adaptation was long without a distributor and found itself dated by years upon release. Much like the source material, this bad boy jumps around, relying on pacing because if nothing else, it’s quick. What really put Cell, the film, above the book was the finale, it’s rewarding and offers that lovely horror grin (changed by King due to customer complaints).

Plus, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson never seem to fail, so there’s that too.

Cell trailer

  1. 1922 – Novella 2010: Full Dark, No Stars – Film (director Zak Hilditch) 2017

1922 is recent film and a relatively recent story. It’s one of four novellas in the collection Full Dark, No Stars. It’s been a few years since I read the collection, however, unlike the film, 1922 was not at all the standout, nor was Fair Extension to get right down to it. Big Driver and A Good Marriage were both deep sinking tales that awed and stuck with me. 1922, while not bad, was a somewhat stale tale relying on nostalgic notes, referencing Hemingford Home to tug the good ole’ strings of the Constant Reader. It’s a melancholy story that drags the reader along, never giving the hint of hope and thusly never giving much to hope for.

The adaptation did much of the same, but in a way that was loud when necessary and creeping under the skin at other times. The acting is fantastic and visuals alongside the almost Kubrick-esque score put it into one of the finest King adaptations ever.

 1922 trailer

  1. The Dark Half – Novel 1989 – Film (director George A. Romero) 1993

The Dark Half is a well-intentioned book that worked for me about half the time. There were bits that blew me away, but the characters were tough to connect with, if it wasn’t for George Stark and his loud pulp appeal, this thing might’ve floundered into something fully disappointing. The adaptation was screaming, faster, darker, and the visuals worked in a way that my imagination did not. The Dark Half is an ok book and a damn good film.

 The Dark Half  trailer

  1. The Mist – Novella 1980: Dark Forces, 1985: Skeleton Crew – Film (director Frank Darabont) 2007

The Mist is a novella that dwells, most availably, within short stories in Skeleton Crew, Stephen King’s second collection. The most recent adaptation was absolute garbage, worthy of cancellation, the characters were absurd and gaudily written, the acting was befitting of the writing.

Now, the film The Mist from 2007 is everything the original story was and more, particularly in the finale. The film version saw a horror twist that the master of terror did not and for that, it’s over the edge.

 The Mist trailer

  1. 1408 – Short Story 1999: Blood and Smoke (audio), 2002: Everything’s Eventual – Film (director Mikael Håfström) 2007

The adaptation of 1408 has an advantage over the others in that the original story was a sparse short story with huge space to roam in afterthought. The film explored everywhere it needed to be in order to be one of my favorite horror movies. The acting is perfect, there’s scope to connect and understand, letting empathy become toeholds for the terrors in room 1408 in the Hotel Dolphin.

Making a great film from a good short story is something worth noting and better the work of Stephen King is something special.

 1408 trailer

This list is right and perfect in every way, which is why you’ve nodded your head repeatedly since reading the first paragraph. I’m glad we all see this exactly the same way, so there’s no need to send me hate messages or question my views.

Hooray for Stephen King (also John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and Thomas Jane)!

Links

Follow on Twitter: @GenerousEd

Unnerving Magazine Site

Eddie Generous’ Site

Purchase Hardened Hearts: AmazonBarnes & Noble, and many other fine online retailers.

 

About Eddie Generous

Eddie Generous is the creator, editor, designer, and publisher of Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine. Besides other books he published this year, he also is the editor and publisher of the anthology Hardened Hearts. In early 2018, Hellbound Books is publishing a collection of his novelettes titled Dead is Dead, but Not Always, and also he is teaming up with Mark Allan Gunnells and Renee Miller to release Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath, a collection of short stories.

 

About the Hardened Hearts Anthology

 

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.

Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

The Author Line-up

Foreword by James Newman

“It Breaks My Heart to Watch You Rot” by Somer Canon

“What is Love?” by Calvin Demmer

“Heirloom” by Theresa Braun

“The Recluse” by John Boden

“40 Ways to Leave Your Monster Lover” by Gwendolyn Kiste

“Dog Tired” by Eddie Generous

“The Pink Balloon” by Tom Deady

“It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” by J.L.Knight

“Burning Samantha” by Scott Hallam

“Consumed” by Madhvi Ramani

“Class of 2000” by Robert Dean

“Learning to Love” by Jennifer Williams

“Brothers” by Leo X.Robertson

“Porcelain Skin” by Laura Blackwell

“The Heart of the Orchard” by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

“Meeting the Parents” by Sarah L. Johnson

“Matchmaker” by Meg Elison

 

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Todd Keisling, the author of Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors – which is out now through Crystal Lake Publishing– and a ton of other great books. I will be reviewing this in the future, so I won’t get into the book too much, but trust me when I say this is an outstanding book you will want to add to your collection. I reviewed Ugly Little Things – Volume One a few years ago (review) and ended up listing it as one of my top collections of the year. This edition features those stories along with other entries in the Ugly Little Things series and Keisling’s outstanding novella, The Final Reconciliation and I’m positive it will end up on this year’s “Best Of” list. Todd stops by The Horror Bookshelf to share 11 facts about the collection that will give readers a look behind the scenes at what went into crafting this collection.

Before I turn over the blog to Todd, I want to thank him and Erin of Oh, For the Hook of a Book Publicity for having me on the tour!

Ugly Little Trivia: Eleven Facts about Ugly Little Things

By Todd Keisling, author of Ugly Little Things

1: Many of the stories were written while I was suffering through a period of intense depression. The title Ugly Little Things refers to all the dark, nasty things that lurk inside all of us. The stories were my way of facing those demons, giving them names, and exorcising them. Several of these stories seem haunted to me because of this, like little totems representing a particularly dark point in my life.

2: The title Ugly Little Things was originally the title of a story in the collection. That story eventually became “The Harbinger” in order to avoid confusion.

3: The ULT “sessions” began in early 2013 and stretched through the end of 2016, but ideas for several of the stories go back nearly ten years. The aforementioned story, “The Harbinger,” originally began in 2007 as a Lovecraftian mythos tale set in West Virginia; “Saving Granny from the Devil” had multiple beginnings going as far back as 2009; and “House of Nettle and Thorn” was originally conceived in 2004 when I was still in college, with a working title of “Papercuts.”

4: Charles Boid, the antagonist of “Human Resources,” is a recurring character in a couple of unpublished tales involving his communion with an eldritch being that lurks in a digital domain. He may receive a proper story in the future, but for now, he pops up here and there as he pleases.

5: The opening scenes of “When Karen Met Her Mountain” were taken directly from a dream I had.

6: A limited-edition hardcover of the first four stories was printed in 2014 with the title “Ugly Little Things: Volume One.” There were only 45 in total. Henry Rollins has one of them.

7: I am my own worst critic and fully expect everyone to hate what I write. When I gave my wife an early draft of “The Final Reconciliation,” I did so with the warning that she probably wouldn’t like it. As fate would have it, that’s actually her favorite story of mine. Go figure.

8: Sometimes, I see my stories as images in my head. They’re mini-movies, their characters acting and speaking on their own behalf, and I’m just there to record things as they happen.

9: I’m currently at work on a novel titled “Devil’s Creek” that takes place in the hometown of the band from The Final Reconciliation. It’s also has some ties to “The Harbinger.”

10: Many of the events in “Saving Granny from the Devil” actually happened, including Granny seeing a man in black from her living room window.

11: Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors isn’t a book of “feel good” stories. They’re dark meditations on the human condition, and if you aren’t careful, they’ll cut you in the most delightful of ways. You’re going to have a bad time. You’re going to hurt. And I think you’re going to like it.

Links

Todd Keisling’s Official Website

Crystal Lake Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

Ugly Little Things: Collected Horrors Synopsis

UGLY LITTLE THINGS
Short Story Collection by Todd Keisling
Includes the Novella, The Final Reconciliation
Published by Crystal Lake Publishing

 

THIS IS GOING TO HURT.

 

The eleven stories in Ugly Little Things explore the depths of human suffering and ugliness, charting a course to the dark, horrific heart of the human condition. The terrors of everyday existence are laid bare in this eerie collection of short fiction from the twisted mind of Todd Keisling, author of the critically-acclaimed novels A Life Transparent and The Liminal Man.

Travel between the highways of America in “The Otherland Express,” where a tribe of the forsaken and forlorn meet to exchange identities. Witness the cold vacuum of space manifest in the flesh in “The Darkness Between Dead Stars.” Step into the scrub of rural Arizona and join Karen Singleton’s struggle to save her husband from a cult of religious fanatics in “When Karen Met Her Mountain.” Visit the small town of Dalton in “The Harbinger” and join Felix Proust as he uncovers the vile secrets rooted at the heart of Dalton Dollworks. And in the critically-acclaimed novella “The Final Reconciliation,” learn the horrifying truth behind the demise of the rock band The Yellow Kings.

With an introduction by Bram Stoker Award-winner Mercedes M. Yardley and illustrations by Luke Spooner, Ugly Little Things will be your atlas, guiding you along a lonely road of sorrow, loss, and regret. This is going to hurt—and you’re going to like it.

WATCH THE TRAILER

Praise for Todd and Ugly Little Things

“Todd Keisling is a born storyteller, drawing the reader into artfully constructed narratives that scout the darker end of the literary spectrum with skill and bravado.  A pleasure to read, his stories linger well after the last page has been turned.  Excellent stuff.” – John Langan, Bram Stoker award-winning author of The Fisherman

“Keisling writes in the shadows, his words like that first long drag on a cigarette after work. I couldn’t help coming back for more, and before I knew it, that one story, that one cigarette, turned into the whole pack.”—Stephanie M. Wytovich, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Brothel and The Eighth.

“In Ugly Little Things, Todd Keisling ventures deep into the dark abyss of cosmic horror. What he finds there—or what’s found him—will terrify you. This varied collection is tailor-made for fans of existential dread. Prepare to face the void. Try not to scream.”—Brian Kirk, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Are Monsters.

“Todd Keisling’s promise delivers with Ugly Little Things. The only time you will dare to look away from the page is when you stop to look over your shoulder. He’s earned his right to sit on the shelf alongside King, Koontz, and Ketchum.” –Eryk Pruitt, author of Dirtbags and What We Reckon.

“Todd Keisling’sUgly Little Things contains 11 tales that sing with lyricism while they move the reader with suspenseful, clever, humorous and often wonderfully elegiac developments. The author has a keen, lucid understanding of suffering, which lends each plot-line extra heft and depth. These stories contain tenderly and humanely rendered characters who are drawn towards various forms of uncanny annihilation. After reading this excellent collection, I’m eagerly awaiting whatever Keisling produces next.” –Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism

“One of the few perfect story collections I’ve ever read. Todd Keisling will keep you guessing page after page. He also has a knack for surprise endings you will not see coming!” – Armand Rosamilia, author of the Dying Days series

“Keisling always gets down to the essence of good storytelling. His no-nonsense approach arrests us, showing us worlds and characters that expand our imagination, leaving it tainted with horrors only the author can deliver. These stories are a testament to one of the bravest and scariest new voices in horror fiction.” —Ben Eads, author of Cracked Sky.

“Herein lie stories told in the traditional manner of spooky tales told round the campfire. Read this collection on a dark and stormy night and don’t answer the door if someone knocks.” —Kristi DeMeester, author of Beneath.

“A soundtrack to darkness, Ugly Little Things is hauntingly inviting and absolutely horrific. Keisling deftly weaves together a web of genre-bending terror in this must read collection.” – Michelle Garza, co-author of the Bram Stoker nominated Mayan Blue

 

About Todd Keisling

TODD KEISLING is the author of A Life Transparent, The Liminal Man (a 2013 Indie Book Award Finalist), and the critically-acclaimed novella, The Final Reconciliation. He lives somewhere in the wilds of Pennsylvania with his wife, son, and trio of unruly cats.

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Twitter: @todd_keisling

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Want to Feature?

If you’d like to feature Todd in an interview or guest article, or review Ugly Little Things, please contact Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Jason Parent, the author of the dark, brutal thriller A Life Removed – which is out now – and a ton of other great books. I have a review scheduled for tomorrow, so I won’t dig too much into the novel, but if you are familiar with Jason’s work, you will love this one. Jason’s post is a follow-up piece to the guest post from Stuart R Brogan on publishing. Both authors make great points and I recommend checking out both of them for some insight on their experiences in publishing.

Before I turn over the blog to Jason, I want to thank him and Nev of Confessions Publicity for having me on the tour!

Early in May, Stuart R. Brogan, author of Jackals, wrote a guest post for The Horror Bookshelf entitled, “Going It Alone,” in which he explained why he chose to self-publish instead of going the traditional or small press route. I enjoyed the article and even commented on it at the time, not realizing I would be doing a guest post for the same blog a month or so later.

First let me say this: I don’t think any author being honest with himself/herself would balk at a book deal with one of the Big 5 if he/she has never had such a deal before. To have one’s books in brick and mortar stores all over the U.S. or U.K., maybe in bookstores on several continents, is a dream most authors share, not necessarily for the fame or the (perceived) money, but to be read and to know that one’s words are being felt, enjoyed, pondered, and maybe even considered and dismissed by readers everywhere. At least for me, that’s all I want: for others to find meaning in my work, and if it’s a whole lot of others, then I know I am not alone in my beliefs and world views.

But only a select few horror authors are actually published by the Big 5, and a few more if you count those that pass off their horror as “thrillers” (not that I know anyone who would ever combine horror and thrillers, wink wink, nudge nudge). Many of the best, most popular, and most critically acclaimed horror writers have never had a deal with the Big 5.

So, I don’t waste my time and don’t really have the time to waste. I would need to find an agent, be prepared to market the book strenuously, both on the publisher’s and my own schedule, and give up a whole lot for potentially big but more often than not, little gain. Just finding an agent takes a ton of research, the sending of query after query, and hours upon end that could have been spent writing. That is not to say that the right agent would not be a boon for a writer’s career, and a great agent always will be. I had an agent once, and though it didn’t pan out to anything, I do not regret the experience and would undertake it again if the right circumstances arose.

But for most small presses, where my books find their homes, I have not needed an agent. Again, good agents open up more doors, so they can be very helpful. In the small press world, they are simply not a necessity.

Which brings me to why I choose small presses over self-publishing. Without the guidance of an agent or other business professional, I’d be a mess. The road to publication would be much longer as I lack the know-how with respect to formatting, cover art, and other aspects of book creation that the small press brings to the table. For those with this know-how, like Mr. Brogan, self-publishing may be the right way to go, as the author maximizes his royalties, though while simultaneously bearing the burden of all costs.

I’ve been published by several small presses now, and I have turned down a few others. Different presses have different strengths and weaknesses, but all should provide quality editing, a decent royalty split and strong cover art. Never should they charge the author any sort of fee. They provide varying degrees of promotion as well, some having publicists or setting up blog tours, while others submit to Net Galley or book promotion sites. With more hands in the pot wanting the book to succeed, it would stand to reason that there’d be more people desirous of putting out quality work.

Obviously, if one self-publishes, he or she goes all these routes alone. The quality of the work he or she produces depends on the extent of his/her knowledge, integrity, and commitment to producing a work worthy of the reader public and that of the persons he or she enlists to assist.

What is better for one may not be better for another, and there are good and bad small presses just as there are good and bad self-publishers. For my needs, and sometimes overwhelming schedule, the single most important plus with respect to small publishers is the time it saves me after the writing and editing are done.

For now, I am happy where I am and with the small presses I have chosen (and who have likewise chosen me) to work with. That said, the future is a hazy thing, and I could easily see myself self-publishing or rolling the dice on an agent with a novel I think a good fit with a Big 5 publisher. Of course, any agent or Big 5 publisher that wants to seek me out, make like the Price is Right and come on down!

LINKS

Jason Parent’s Official Website

Red Adept Publishing’s Official Website

Purchase A Life Removed: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Red Adept Publishing or grab a copy from your favorite bookstore!

A Life Removed Synopsis

Detectives Bruce Marklin and Jocelyn Beaudette have put plenty of criminals behind bars. But a new terror is stalking their city. The killer’s violent crimes are ritualistic but seemingly indiscriminate. As the death toll rises, the detectives must track a murderer without motive. The next kill could be anyone… maybe even one of their own.

Officer Aaron Pimental sees no hope for himself or humanity. His girlfriend is pulling away, and his best friend has found religion. When Aaron is thrust into the heart of the investigation, he must choose who he will become, the hero or the villain.

If Aaron doesn’t decide soon, the choice will be made for him.

About Jason Parent

In his head, Jason Parent lives in many places, but in the real world, he calls New England his home. The region offers an abundance of settings for his writing and many wonderful places in which to write them. He currently resides in Southeastern Massachusetts with his cuddly corgi named Calypso.

In a prior life, Jason spent most of his time in front of a judge . . . as a civil litigator. When he finally tired of Latin phrases no one knew how to pronounce and explaining to people that real lawsuits are not started, tried and finalized within the 60-minute timeframe they see on TV (it’s harassing the witness; no one throws vicious woodland creatures at them), he traded in his cheap suits for flip flops and designer stubble. The flops got repossessed the next day, and he’s back in the legal field . . . sorta. But that’s another story.

When he’s not working, Jason likes to kayak, catch a movie, travel any place that will let him enter, and play just about any sport (except that ball tied to the pole thing where you basically just whack the ball until it twists in a knot or takes somebody’s head off – he misses the appeal). And read and write, of course. He does that too sometimes.

Please visit the author on Facebook at , on Twitter, or at his website for information regarding upcoming events or releases, or if you have any questions or comments for him.

 

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from Stuart R Brogan, the author of the brutal thriller Jackals which is out now. I have a review scheduled for tomorrow, so I won’t dig too much into the novel, but Jackals is a very impressive debut. This was the first work of Brogan’s that I was able to read, but I left very impressed and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future! Brogan’s post is about his thoughts on self-publishing and his experience with it when it comes to his own writing.

My own personal thoughts are that while I have no issue with major publishers or horror titles that are released through one of the major publishers or affiliates, I have to say some of the best horror fiction I have read since starting this blog (or even before) has come from independent presses and self-published authors. Brogan makes some good points about how some self-published books can be sloppily put together, but I know of a ton of authors who have gone into self-publishing and done an incredible job.

Before I turn over the blog to Stuart, I want to thank him and Nev of Confessions Publicity for having me on the tour!

Going It Alone

By Stuart R Brogan

A seismic shift has occurred within the publishing world over the last few years. Many of the big players within the industry have battened down the hatches and tightened their belts with regards to the number of new books released and the new authors they take on. Even those eagle-eyed literary agents searching for the next big thing have cut back regarding new clients, thus the hopes of many an author securing that dream deal have been pretty much dashed. But should we retreat and sob into our cereal bowls and hurl abuse to anyone that will listen regarding the injustice of it all? Or is there another way to attain that craved recognition regarding our work, regardless of the genre we dabble in?

For many years, the term “Self-Publishing” was looked upon with disgust. The mere mention of those two words was only whispered among the echelons of literary power and deemed a “Vanity” rather than a viable publishing platform. However, it seems that now the whole world and his/her dog is involved in it to some degree, proving that it is a monster that shows no sign of retreating any time soon.

Let’s be brutally honest, self-publishing is a veritable minefield. It is a double-edged sword that can destroy a career before it even begins, or catapult an unknown author into Bestseller-Dom. One only has to trawl the most popular sites to witness the vast array of titles vying for our attention, most of which are subpar for even the most ardent fan. It is a sad fact that the internet is awash with ebook’s and trade backs that suffer from horrendous formatting, editing, cover design and a whole host of other issues. It would appear this new technology has unleashed a tidal wave of authors, all clinging to the dream that their book is bound for Hollywood.

But herein lies the problem. With such a sea of titles, how can we make ourselves stand out from the crowd? In essence, we are just one blade of grass in a field of green, all competing for that one shot and trying to secure our name as a quality brand.

The cold hard truth is that ninety-nine-point nine percent of self-published authors will sell next to no books; even fewer will catch the attention of a “big name” agent/publisher. Even less still, will be able to make a living from it. Even the big boys have noticed a dramatic change in our reading habits. When once it was acceptable to sell “X” amount of books when released, it has now diminished to half that number. So, you see, even THEY are worried regarding sales figures and look what kind of media/promotional machines they have behind them. What chance do we have?

But hold your horses; we have a few things that can work in our favour. For one, we have the tenacity to dance to our own tune and behold to no-one. Secondly, we have total control over content / rights and the marketing plan and thirdly, we have the passion to become better and to push ourselves. Without the corporate machine pushing us, we are reliant on our own resolve and determination to propel our career forward. This, of course, is down to our own individual level of dedication; some may flourish under such pressure while others may fold.

I myself tried to obtain that elusive agent to take me on with the hopes they could find me a home, and while I got excellent feedback, I had no takers. But before you call me a failure, I would like to state that looking back, it was a great thing because it galvanized me into action.

I would do it myself damn it and see what happens. Of course, I have faith in my work, but going at it alone was as scary as it was exciting. I have to say, I have been lucky to have made contact with some truly fantastic people within my genre. To be honest, I thought that it would be a dog eat dog scenario but I am glad I was proved wrong because instead of polarising authors, self-publishing has brought us together. Everyone helping each other and spreading the word. I was amazed by the openness shown to me and I am truly humbled by the advice and help given. It is something I shall never forget.

Don’t get me wrong I am not selling millions of books (not yet anyway) but have slowly got my name out there amongst those who matter. I have to say that I was (contrary to my earlier statement) amazed by how many big-name authors have left or turned down deals with major houses to go it alone. It would seem that being signed to a big boy isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Some of them seem to be doing very well in terms of making a living and all because of going at it alone.

So, there you have it. Self-publishing is either a gift or a curse depending on how you approach it. Will you curl up in a little ball, scared of rejection or will you stand on your own two feet and go for it? I know what I would do.

In fact, I’m doing it!

Until next time…

LINKS

Stuart R Brogan’s author Facebook page

Purchase Jackals: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Jackals Synopsis

From the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.

About Stuart R Brogan

 Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.

Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from John Quick, who I featured quite a bit over the summer. I reviewed his debut novel Consequences, which is based on a real-life serial killer legend from his hometown. One of the things that I really loved about Consequences was that it was written in a style that is reminiscent of vintage slasher films and featured well-developed characters and a vicious premise. In case you missed my full review, you can check that out here. I also got to have an interesting conversation about the inspiration and history behind Consequences and some of his upcoming projects.

John has a new short story collection out now called Three Shots and a Chaser and it is one I am looking forward to reading! Consequences was an excellent debut and there is no doubt in my mind that John is going to have a bright future and I can’t wait to check out his upcoming release for Sinister Grin Press. Check out this guest post from John and then enter the giveaway for a chance to win a signed print copy of Consequences. The sale on Consequences ends tomorrow, so for all you late night readers snag a copy before the sale ends!

From Slasher Novel to Short Story Collection: Enter to Win Debut Novel CONSEQUENCES

By John Quick

three-shots consequences

2016 has been a strange year, both rough and rewarding by turns. 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.

While the stories here are still based in horror, there’s more than just horror, too. There’s a bit of a sci-fi bent, a little fantasy. Add a hint of the supernatural, and a dash of my normal dark humor, and you’ve got some idea of what you’re in for. There’s even a bit of that old-school anthology feel, where there’s a story around the stories, too. For that idea, though, I have to credit Patrick Rothfuss and the Kingkiller Chronicle for showing how it can be used this way.

Basically, this is something different, something to show I am more than a one-trick pony. And honestly, while I’m a bit nervous about trying something so vastly different from what I’ve done before, I’m also excited as all get-out for everyone to read these tales!

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 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 around for what comes next!

Enter the GIVEAWAY for a Print Copy of Consequences!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b33/?

Purchase the e-copy on sale!

You can purchase CONSEQUENCES at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E6B9ZV8

Three Shots and a Chaser, Synopsis

Three twisted tales to tempt your palate…

A man who drives the back roads looking for something interesting finds more than he bargained for….

A woman with a very special gift for her husband on their wedding day….

A couple headed for the beach who find themselves tasked with a responsibility they never anticipated….

These are the tales told by the patrons of the Last Hope Bar, a way for them to pass the time while waiting for another new face, someone looking for a drink, or a place to wait out a storm, or just someone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Someone like you, perhaps?

Step right on in, have a seat at the bar, and order up THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER.

You can purchase THREE SHOTS AND A CHASER at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2ZITNS

About John Quick

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John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world. He is the author of the novel Consequences and theshort story collection Three Shots and a Chaser. His work has also appeared in the Full Moon Slaughter anthology from JEA Press. His second novel, The Journal of Jeremy Todd is due for release from Sinister Grin Press in the summer of 2017.He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and four dogs that think they’re kids. When he’s not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at www.johnquickfiction.com,  Facebook at johnquickbooks, Twitter @johndquick, and Instagram at johndquick.

 

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from David Bernstein, who is currently promoting his diverse and highly entertaining short story collection A Mixed Bag of Blood (review), which is out now through Sinister Grin Press. I loved reading this collection, the diversity of the stories guarantee that there is never a dull moment throughout the 86 pages that make up A Mixed Bag of Blood. David’s post takes a look at the troubling trend of characters making baffling choices in a story and how authors can write themselves into a corner. I can definitely relate to what David is saying. It happens more with the TV shows that I watch, but I am sure I get on my wife’s nerves when I say something along the lines of,  “You know, if those characters would have just done this….”. Usually its a solution that would have cut an hour-long episode down to roughly ten minutes.

Before I turn over the blog to David, I want to thank him and Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

Don’t Treat Your Audience Like They’re Morons

By David Bernstein

mixed_bag_blood_PB

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the characters did something so ridiculously stupid you turned off the television or chucked the book across the room? Characters making stupid decisions seem to be happening more and more. I like to call it dumbed down writing, or writing yourself into a corner. More and more writers are treating their audiences like morons and I’m tired of it.

For example, I was reading a book, and really into it, when the characters did something that I just couldn’t get past. A bad guy was holding a gun on three people. He’d been after them for most of the book. One of the three people managed to clobber him on the head with a pipe and knocked him out. His gun slid a few feet away. Now what do you think happened next? Did one of them pick up the gun? Shoot the bad guy dead? Tie him up? Nope. They simply turned and ran away. And you know what the bad guy did? He woke up, picked up his gun and the chase continued. I was like—WHAT? Why wouldn’t the people at least pick up the gun. Why leave it there? Even if they were anti-gun nuns who would never kill. Why just run away? Because the author wanted to continue the story and had written himself into a corner and said to himself that the audience will buy it because they’re stupid.

Another case: I was watching a TV show where a bad guy was holding a gun on two people. One of the two people had a German Shepherd with him. The bad guy also had a friend with him, but with no gun. One of the good guys manages to grab a shovel and knock out the friend of the gunman. The dog is sicced on the gunman and latches onto his arm and starts gnawing on him. The gun is dropped and tumbled a few feet away. So what do the characters do? Pick up the gun? Knock out the guy who is fighting the dog? Tie up the bad guys? Nope. Not only do the good guys run away, the dog owner calls the dog off and tells it to run. Why? Because the writer wanted to continue the story. Why didn’t one of the good guys pick up the gun? Help the dog? They could have called the cops while keeping the gun trained on the guy. The show should’ve ended there. And do you know what the bad guy did after the good guys ran away? He picked up the gun and shot one of the fleeing good guys. Then the chase continued. For me, this is a complete turn off. I will stop watching a TV show that does this. It tells me the writer, editor, producer and all else involved think very little of the viewers.

This may seem like a rant, and it is, but I would also like to get people to stop accepting this sort of bullshit. Make a writer work and believe that his audience is intelligent. And as writers, we shouldn’t be doing this sort of garbage. Cheap thrills to progress a story that should’ve ended at that point are silly. And if you don’t want to end your story, then don’t write scenes like the above. Treat your readers/viewers like they have a functioning brain. I’d sooner believe a man can fly or lift a house over his head before making the kind of decisions the above characters made.

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LINKS

David Bernstein’s Official Website

Sinister Grin Press’ Official Website

Purchase A Mixed Bag of Blood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookstore!

A Mixed Bag of Blood tour graphic (1)

Use these hashtags to help spread the word about A Mixed Bag of Blood! – #AMixedBagofBlood #DavidBernstein #shortstories #horrorstories

A Mixed Bag of Blood Synopsis

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

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Praise for A Mixed Bag of Blood

“Dave Bernstein let his mind wander and his pen write where I know you’ll want to read. With an introduction by Kristopher Rufty, this is a reason to stay at home and read on a pleasant Saturday afternoon like I did.” –Cat After Dark

 Praise for David Bernstein

“David Bernstein delivers a fast-moving tale of desire and destruction that gives new meaning to the words, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Relic of Death twists reality and will leave you reflecting on your own personal Achilles heel long after you finished reading…” —Allan Leverone, author of Mr. Midnight

“A fascinating, unpredictable, ever-shifting tale of greed and desperation. Highly recommended!” —Jeff Strand, author of Pressure

“Fast-paced, cinematic, and excellent. Horror fans gather around, it’s time for another chilling tale from David Bernstein.”  —Keith Deininger, author of Within and Ghosts of Eden

“A harrowing, brutal thriller, Skinner is Bernstein at his best!” —Peter Giglio, author of Shadowshift

About David Bernstein

david bernstein

David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills. He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh. He’s grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there. He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence. David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror. He loves hearing from his readers. You can reach him on Facebook, athttp://www.facebook.com/david.bernstein.3. Visit him at his website: davidbernsteinauthor.blogspot.com email dbern77@hotmail.com, or on Twitter at @Bernsteinauthor.

Today’s post on The Horror Bookshelf comes from C.M. Saunders, who is currently promoting his new novel Sker House, which is available now through DeadPixel Publications. I am excited to have Saunders on the site as I loved his novella Out of Time (review) and his riveting story of psychological horror “The Elementals and I” that appeared in Grey Matter Press’ Dark Visions – Volume Two. Saunders’ post takes a look at the practice of “wrecking” and the role it played in the history of the real-life Sker House. I love history, so I really enjoyed this post and learned a lot about the practice of wrecking, which is something I didn’t even know about. Wrecking plays a significant role in the novel and I look forward to reading how Saunders’ incorporates it into what sounds like a truly creepy haunted house story!

The Wreckers 

By C.M. Saunders, author of Sker House

SKER-OPTION3_SMALL

Every country has elements of its history it would rather forget. A black mark against Wales would be the unsavoury practice of ‘wrecking,’ deliberately luring passing ships to their doom, which was rife during the 17th and 18th Centuries. In fairness, it didn’t just happen in Wales. It was prevalent in most, of not all, coastal areas of Britain, and probably elsewhere in the world. However, one location in Wales that will be forever linked with wreckers is Sker House, a large, isolated mansion in Kenfig, Glamorgan.

sker house

During the Industrial Revolution, the Bristol Channel, the stretch of water Sker House overlooked, was one of the busiest waterways in the world, carrying a steady stream of vessels between Britain and the Continent. It was also one of the most perilous. As well as the strong currents and ever-shifting hidden sandbanks, the submerged bank of rocks known as Sker Point could literally tear ships to pieces. At that time, smuggling and looting were considered legitimate (if not lawful) enterprises, and shipwrecks were so common in the area that they were seldom investigated in any depth. Local landowners routinely claimed ‘Right of the Wreck’, whereby they were legally free to salvage whatever ‘lost’ cargo happened to wash up on their property. This is why some less scrupulous locals were said to engage in wrecking, which they usually achieved by tying lanterns to cattle or grazing sheep and leading them along the seafront at night. From a distance, especially to unfamiliar eyes in bad weather, the lights would look like those of ships lying safely at anchor. The captain would steer a course for the lights, only to run his ship aground. A cautionary tale often told is that of the Welsh wrecker who helped lure a passing ship onto rocks, killing everyone on board. While he busied himself looting the ship’s cargo, the bodies of the unfortunate passengers and crew were brought ashore for burial. Only then did the wrecker see the body of his own son who was returning home unexpectedly after a long voyage.

A pivotal event not just in the history of Sker, but in the practice of wrecking as a whole, occurred on December 17th 1753, when the French merchant ship Le Vainqueur was en route from Portugal when she struck Sker Point. It is generally held that then-owner of Sker House Isaac Williams and his cohorts were responsible for its untimely demise on Sker Point. No sooner had the ship hit the rocks, impoverished locals and respected nobility alike descended on the wreck like vultures and plundered it for all it was worth, stealing her cargo of fruit, rifling the bodies of dead sailors, and even setting fire to what was left of the ship in order to recover the iron nails that had once held it together.

Due to the delicate diplomatic relations between Britain and France at the time, the fate of Le Vainqueur was treated as a serious international incident. In the aftermath, no less than 17 people were arrested, including Isaac Williams himself, who was at the time an influential local magistrate. When questioned, he claimed to have stored goods from the wreck found in the cellar of Sker House there for safekeeping. Remarkably, he never went to trial, but his reputation was tainted forever and he died a ruined man. Of those who did go to trial, one wasn’t so lucky and was hanged by the Crown to set an example to others. In the years since wrecking was abolished, countless witnesses claim to have seen ghostly ships off Sker. Also frequently spotted is a solitary light hovering over Sker Point. Locally, this is taken to be a prelude to bad weather, but is eerily reminiscent of the Canwyll Corph, a well-known Welsh portent of death.

And that’s not all, whether connected to wrecking or not, over the years Sker House has gained a reputation for being one of the most haunted locations in Wales. It’s most famous ghost is the Maid of Sker, Isaac Williams’s daughter, who he allegedly imprisoned at the house until she agreed to marry the man of his choosing. Local legend insists that she never left. There have also been numerous reports of shadow figures, poltergeist activity, strange howls, and a crushing sensation of dread felt by visitors.

LINKS

C.M. Saunders’ Official Website

DeadPixel Publications Official Website

 Purchase Sker House on Amazon 

Sker House Synopsis

Dale and Lucy are two students with a fascination in the supernatural. One weekend, they travel to Sker House, South Wales, a private residence with a macabre history which has recently been converted into a seaside inn. They plan to write an article for their university magazine about a supposed haunting, but when they arrive, they meet a landlord who seems to have a lot to hide. Soon, it becomes apparent that all is not well at Sker House. An air of oppression hangs over it, while misery, tragedy and ill-fortune are commonplace. Gradually, it becomes clear that the true depth of the mystery goes far beyond a mere historical haunting. This is a place where bad things happen, and evil lurks.

Little by little Dale and Lucy fall under Sker’s dark spell, and as they begin to unravel the mysteries of the past, they realize that nothing stays buried forever.

Welcome to Sker House, a place where past and present collide.

About C.M. Saunders

cmsaunders

New Tredegar-born C.M. Saunders began writing in 1997, his early fiction appearing in several small-press titles. Following the publication of his first book, Into the Dragon’s Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales (2003), he worked extensively in the freelance market, contributing to over 50 international publications including Fortean Times, Loaded, Record Collector, Forever Sports and Nuts. In addition, he has written several novellas and had over thirty short stories published in various magazines, ezines and anthologies. He taught English and creative writing in China for five years, before settling in London where he works as a writer and editor in the sport, fitness and men’s lifestyle sectors. His latest release is the fact-based novel Sker House on DeadPixel Publications and he is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.