Getting personal with Kenneth W. Cain

Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since.

Cain is the author of The Saga of I trilogy, United States of the Dead, the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales, and his latest Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

 

1. How old were you when you wrote your first story?

Five or six, I believe. It was an awful rendition of the whole Baba Yaga thing.

 

2. How many books have you written?

Written or published? Written, I would say, so far: 6 novels, 5 novellas, 4 collections of short stories, and maybe a hundred stories that aren’t in those books that will likely end up in other collections. As well as a bunch of poetry, a lot of which is in a themed collection, most of which is still unpublished. The most recent releases will be a novella titled A Season in Hell (due out September 7th) and my next collection, Darker Days (due out December 7th).

 

3. Anything you won’t write about?

No, I don’t believe in taboos. There are stories in every taboo. They say not to kill the dog, but there’s a story there as well. It’s been done, too. I have to tell the story I have to tell. If it’s in me, it’s going to get out, like it or not.

 

4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…

I’m 48, married to a wonderful woman with two kids. I write pretty much full-time, other than keeping up chores around the house and coaching my son’s baseball teams.

 

5. What’s your favorite book you have written?

It has to be A Season in Hell. This short book tackles many modern issues, things that matter to me. It’s hard-hitting, and a love story for the game of baseball.

 

6. Who or what inspired you to write?

If I had to put he onus on just one person, it would have to be my mom. She loved horror, and growing up, I saw several movies (The Omen, Psycho, etc). They fueled my passion, but so did discovering the stories in the various Writer’s Digest books my parents kept on their shelves. It’s there I discovered Poe. Or perhaps it was hearing that Baby Yaga story for the first time.

 

7. What do you like to do for fun?

Read. That’s fun for me. I also like to check out an original series now and then. Nothing that’s been rehashed or rebooted but something really original. Like Dark on Netflix. I also like gardening, fishing, coaching baseball, trying to play my guitars, drawing and painting, hanging with my family, and enjoying the beauty of this world.

 

8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?​

Wine! A bottle of Merlot, something like Smoking Loon.

 

9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?

I have an office…now, with a desk and all, though it’s more like a dungeon to me. As for music, it varies. Sometimes it’s music, which can be anything from Pink Floyd to Metallica to Sinatra. Other times, I listen to baseball games or baseball chat. Then there are the podcasts I listen to, sometimes chat about the craft and other times stories. My brain is usually able to separate the two, so I can write a story and still hear what I’m listening and process it. Kind of weird. But there’s also times I need silence.

 

10. Anything you would change about your writing?

Well, I would have started much earlier for one. I don’t know why I started so late, but it often feels like it’s too late. And I’d be far more patient, not taking the first offer, honing my craft before I rushed out there. I likely wouldn’t have hurried to get so much out there.

 

11. What is your dream? Famous writer?

I’m living my dream. At least I think I am. I get to write a lot, read a lot, do all the things I enjoy. I married an awesome woman who is SO supportive of all my endeavors and two really bright children who are blossoming into great adults. And sometimes, once in a very great while, someone will leave a kind review or contact me or make a post about something I wrote, and it will touch my heart deeply. Who could ask for more?

 

12. Where do you live?

Chester County, Pennsylvania.

 

13. Pets?

I recently got rid of all my reef tanks, but I’ve had several over the years, as well as many, many birds. Right now, though, I have two dogs, a Catahoula leopard mix named Iggy and a Labradoodle named Kady. They’re both sweet, loving dogs.

 

14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Getting it all out of my head. It’s cathartic; helps me sort my thoughts and feelings in a way I can deal with them. I’m putting myself out there for my readers, getting naked with my feelings. Hopefully they get something from my stories that elicits a similar feeling.

 

15. What is coming next for you?

A young adult novella entitled Shadows in the Storm where Nita faces off with Shade, leader of the Shadow People. Though I still have to work on finding a publisher for the book.

 

16. Where do you get your ideas?

My inspiration typically starts with a seed from something I know quite well. For instance, with A Season in Hell (due out September 7th from Crystal Lake Publishing) I drew from my long career playing baseball, as well as coaching. The story is about a woman playing baseball in the minor leagues back in the nineties and what she must endure just to play the game she loves. For that story I took from my own personal experience, even down to the smallest details like taping up a torn muscle with duct tape just so I could play the next game.

 

There’s another element to the process, what I call the “what if” moment. You’ll see a lot of that in my shorter work. For instance, there’s this story in my collection Fresh Cut Tales entitled “Split Ends.” I was sitting at a pool while on vacation watching a mother furiously brush the knots out of her daughter’s hair and thinking about the “what if.” In this case, what came to mind was a disease, one the mother and daughter thought was very real, and it was but only mentally in this case. So that story is about the struggle of a mother not to succumb to that mental disease.

 

Additional info:

 

I have three books coming out this year (all three through Crystal Lake Publishing). Details for all three books follow

 

The first is a novella entitled A Season in Hell. Due out September 7th.


 

“Kenneth W. Cain takes timely social topics and explores them against the backdrop of America’s pastime. What begins as a baseball story quickly delves into something rich, deep, and dark.” – Mercedes M. Yardley, author of Pretty Little Dead Girls

 

Synopsis:

When Dillon Peterson is honored for his baseball career, he must face a ghost that has long haunted him. He is transported back through his memories to a single season in the nineties that broke his heart. That was the season he met Keisha Green, the first and only woman to play baseball in the minor leagues. He sees what she goes through, what she must endure just to play the game both of them love, and this struggle leads to their friendship. As matters escalate, Dillon finds himself regretting his role in it all, as well as his career in baseball.

 

“A Season in Hell is a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking story. You won’t soon forget Dillon or Keisha. Her struggle is as timely today as ever. A Season in Hell is also a love letter to baseball and how, despite everything, the game can still heal and bring people together who seemed impossibly far apart, and can do so through intimidating odds. A timeless story of true humanity.” —John Palisano, Vice President of the Horror Writers Association and Bram Stoker Award-Winning Author of Night of 1,000 Beasts

 

The second is Tales From The Lake Volume 5. Due out November 2nd.

 

Poetry:

“From the Mouths of Plague-Mongers” – Stephanie M. Wytovich

“Malign and Chronic Recreation” – Bruce Boston

“Final Passage” – Bruce Boston

 

Short stories:


“Always After Three” by Gemma Files

“In the Family” – Lucy A. Snyder


“Voices Like Barbed Wire” – Tim Waggoner


“The Flutter of Silent Wings” – Gene O’Neill


“Guardian” – Paul Michael Anderson


“Farewell Valencia” – Craig Wallwork


“A Dream Most Ancient and Alone” – Allison Pang


“The Monster Told Me To” – Stephanie M. Wytovich


“Dead Bodies Don’t Scream” – Michelle Ann King


“The Boy” – Cory Cone


“Starve a Fever” – Jonah Buck


“Umbilicus” – Lucy Taylor


“Nonpareil” – Laura Blackwell


“The Midland Hotel” – Marge Simon


“The Weeds and the Wildness Yet” – Robert Stahl


“The Color of Loss and Love”  – Jason Sizemore


“The Loudest Silence” – Meghan Arcuri


“The Followers” – Peter Mark May


“A Bathtub at the End of the World” – Lane Waldman


“Twelve by Noon” – Joanna Parypinski


“Hollow Skulls” – Samuel Marzioli


“Maggie” – Andi Rawson

 

The third is my fourth collection, Darker Days. Due out December 7th.


 

Darker Days, the latest collection of short stories by Kenneth W. Cain, delivers on its title’s promise. From the very first story readers are dragged into seemingly ordinary situations that serve as cover for dark secrets. Ranging from subtle horror to downright terror, from science fiction to weird fantasy, Cain demonstrates a breadth of styles that keeps you off-balance as you move from one story to the next. There is something for everyone in this collection–as long as you don’t want to sleep at night!” – JG Faherty, author of The Cure, Carnival of Fear, and The Burning Time.

 

Now that you’ve warmed by the embers, submerge in darker days.

 

The author of the short story collections These Old Tales, Fresh Cut Tales, and Embers presents Darker Days: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond andAlfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing.

 

There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 26 short speculative stories arise from a void, escaping shadows that ebb and weave through minds like worms, planting the larvae that live just under the skin, thriving upon fear. These are Cain’s darker days.

 

In this collection, Cain features stories from the Old West, of past lives and future days, the living and the dead, new and unique monsters as well as fresh takes on those of lore. Once more he tackles themes of loss and grief, and the afterlife, always exploring the greater unknown. In “The Sanguine Wars,” Cain takes us to a future where soldiers are made to endure the horrors of war. He explores the complexities of global warming and what lengths men and women alike sink to in “The Reassignment Project.” And, as often is the case, he ends on a lighter note, with “Lenny’s New Eyes” and “A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse.”

 

When the darkness comes, embrace it. Let it wrap you up in cold. Don’t worry, it’s not your time…yet.

 

INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING STORIES:

“A Ring For His Own”

“Heirloom”

“Rust Colored Rain”

“Prey”

“Passing Time”

“What Mama Needs”

“My Brother Bit Your Honor Roll Student”

“Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 1 – Henry Wentworth”

“The Sanguine Wars”

“The Hunted”

“Her Living Corals”

“Puppet Strings”

“The Trying of Master William”

“By The Crescent Moon”

“Mantid”

“The Underside of Time and Space”

“Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 2 – Gemma Nyle”

“The Griffon”

“Adaptable”

“When They Come”

“The Reassignment Project”

“Presage”

“One Hopeless Night by a Clan Fire”

“Lenny’s New Eyes”

“Outcasts: The Sick and Dying 3 – Anna Kilpatrick”

“A Very Different Sort of Apocalypse”

 

 

You can connect with Kenneth W. Cain here:

 

Website: https://kennethwcain.com

 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKennethWCain/

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KennethWCain

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kennethwcain/

 

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-W.-Cain/e/B004HHALF6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

Some of Kenneth W. Cain’s books:

 

 

 

Getting personal with Chris Miller

Chris Miller is a new author. He has a self published book called A Murder of Saints. It is an amazing read and one that you don’t want to pass up. I have had the honor of reading his next novel that he is working on and trust me when I say it is even better than the first one. He has an awesome sense of humor that you will love.  He is married and has 3 Adorable kids that are the sparkle in his eye. Chris also is a very good guitar player and singer. He even has a YouTube channel. Look him up! Make sure that you get to know him and read his book you won’t regret it!!!

 

Please welcome Chris Miller to Roadie Notes……………….

 

 

1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?

—I was about 10 or so. I thought I was going to write some new Narnia books, though I’d only read the first one at the time. I had Mr. Tumnus in it and everything. It was terrible, and I didn’t get very far, but I found I really liked telling stories.

 

 

2. How many books have you written?

—Only one published at the moment, but I’ve got a total of three novels completed in various drafts, two novellas, and an epic-length book almost finished. Plus a short-story or two.

 

 

3. Anything you won’t write about?

—Probably wouldn’t write anything about a world overrun by spiders. I’m not a romance writer either. Or Zombies. Unless I could stumble upon a super original way to do a Zombie story. But I doubt it.

 

 

4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…

—I’m 35 years old, happily married to a gorgeous and sexy woman, three children, and I work at my family owned water-well company, C. Miller Drilling as Service Superintendent, but I also oversee other departments. Just whatever’s needed.

 

 

5. What’s your favorite book you have written?

—Probably The Damned Place, which is the epic-length one that’s still unfinished. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s the only time I’ve written about kids, which I’ve found great.

 

 

6. Who or what inspired you to write?

—Oh, lots of people and things inspire me. Stephen King is my biggest inspiration. Favorite author, and I’ve read most of his work. I’m also a big fan of Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, Jack Ketchum, Clive Barker, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and a hundred others. Inspiration comes from all over the place, be it the news, interactions with people, ect. You just have to keep your eyes open and keep the creative engine running. The ideas will just come.

 

 

7. What do you like to do for fun?

—I enjoy going to the movies, a nice dinner out—especially sushi—seeing a live band, playing guitar. But writing is actually a lot of fun for me as well.

 

 

8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?

—Aside from grinning widely and pouring a gin and soda, not much. I geek all over myself and text a few friends to tell them like an excited school-girl.​

 

9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?

—two main places I write are at my desk in the front living room of my house, or at my desk at work when things aren’t busy (which is rare). I can’t work to music. There can be background noise, like kids playing in the other room or something, but I just can’t focus on the writing with music. Probably because I’m a musician myself, I’ll start focusing on the lyrics and writing them in my WIP or I’ll start air-guitaring to a great riff. No, quiet is best for me.

 

 

10. Anything you would change about your writing?

—I’d like to be a little more literary if I could. Like the level of the writing in something like The Shining. That book isn’t just a ghost story or a fun novel, it’s genuine literature. I’d like to rise to that level one day. But the fast and fun stuff is also absolutely great to write.

 

 

11. What is your dream? Famous writer?

—My dream is to be able to make a comfortable living doing what I love: writing. I wouldn’t mind being a ‘famous writer’ persay, but I also don’t want to be someone who’s hassled on the streets or at the grocery store. “Hey, you’re that famous writer!” But that’s the good thing about authors, even famous ones (with a few exceptions), most people don’t have a clue what we look like. They may love our words, but our mugs are irrelevant. Which is nice.

 

 

12. Where do you live?

—Little town in East Texas called Winnsboro. Grew up near there, and ended up settling there as an adult.

 

 

13. Pets?

—We have two dogs, a French Bulldog named Socrates (Socs) and a Yorkie named Shoe Shoe Fontana.

 

 

14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?

—The escape of it all. It’s like inter-dimensional travel. We go into another universe and get to explore there, see what it’s like, how different or similar it is to our own world. And on top of exploring it, we get to build it…and sometimes destroy.

 

 

15. What is coming next for you?

—I just finished up a novel and a short-story, so I’m working on polishing those, but next I’ll probably go back to The Damned Place and finish it. I’ve been working on it for two years now, and it’s so close to done (first draft of course) and I’m ready to cross the finish line with that one. Then I need to figure out if we can sell it as a single book or if it needs to be two…I’m telling you, when I say epic-length, I mean it. It’s huge.

 

 

16. Where do you get your ideas?

—You name it. Conversations with friends, with my wife, my kids. News. Sometimes I’ll be inspired by someone else’s work. Like the inspiration for The Damned Place, I had just reread ‘IT’ by Stephen King, and also had recently watched the first season of Stranger Things on Netflix. Those two things had my head swirling and this idea was birthed from them, with nods to both, but also something uniquely its own. Those are sometimes my favorite forms of inspiration.

 

 

You can connect with Chris Miller here: 

facebook.com/chrismiller1383

twitter.com/CMWordslinger

Instagram.com/cmwordslinger

 

You can pick up Chris Miller’s book here: 

Texas Schlock by Bret McCormick

 

Usually used in reference to movies/music/art.

1. Crap

2. Of very poor quality, esp. as a result of being made with insufficient funds or too quickly.

Who was depraved enough to come up with this schlock?

B-Horror movies

 

 

This is my first exposure to Bret McCormick and definately not my last! This book is big and beautiful. So well put together. The tales about the movies inside are some of the best I have read in a long time. I can’t say enough that you want to read this! You need this book in your life. I had no clue that Texas contained so much talent but I sure am thrilled to know. Bret McCormick where have you been all my life? Seriously…..

There are 15 stories in this anthology and not a one of them are bad. They are informative and totally entertaining. Well written and I truly learned a lot that I didn’t know. They each deal with a different movie and the writer tells about making it and the cast and characters. Following this there is an interview and questions asked. As a blogger and interviewer I always enjoy seeing what people ask and the responses the writers give. While reading this I giggled, and cringed. I am a huge fan of horror as everyone knows and love a good movie. I have added a few that I have not seen to my now incredibly long list of things I want to do.

There is no doubt about it that writers do what they do for the pure love of it and not for the money or fame. I have nothing but love and respect for these men and women and they just amaze me with their talent and passion for what they do.

While I don’t want to elaborate on the contents of the book too much I do want to express how much I loved every word and I highly recommend it to any horror lover, movie buff or creative. You will be delighted with it!

 

You can pick up a copy here: 

https://www.amazon.com/Texas-Schlock-B-movie-Sci-Fi-Horror/dp/069206995X

Jeff Stand’s Newsletter

Posted with permission **

 

Contents

1. Introduction. Wherein I briefly welcome you to the newsletter.
2. Latest News. Wherein I encourage you to purchase my latest projects in a non-pushy manner.
3. Upcoming Appearances. Wherein I share my whereabouts with potential stalkers.
4. 10 Simple Ways To Further My Career. Wherein we investigate if you’ve really been doing all you can do to help me achieve massive success.
5. Short story. Wherein you read “Jigsaw Puzzle.”
6. Links. Wherein I share ways for me to be part of your life much more frequently than this monthly newsletter.

Introduction

This issue of the newsletter doesn’t have a new novel announcement, either. The next one probably will, so prepare yourself in whatever manner you deem most appropriate. I’m being super-secretive about it, but expect something quite a bit lighter in the wake of Sick House and Bring Her Back.

Lots of my books are on sale at this very moment, so keep scrolling to learn the details. This issue also contains the sinister tale “Jigsaw Puzzle.” My newsletter stories tend to veer toward shameless silliness, but this one is reigned in quite a bit. Is that good? Bad? I dunno. Feel free to let me know what you think.

This also contains “10 Simple Ways To Further My Career,” a helpful guide that’s been sort of buried on my website for about a decade, but I’ve dusted it off to share with a new generation.

Latest News

Sales! Sales! Sales! This week (July 12-19) a bunch of my Kindle titles are on sale for 99 cents each! (US/UK only; I explain the reason for this on my blog.)This is your chance to go click-crazy! Fill your Kindle! Fill the Kindle app on your phone! Buy them and don’t even read them because they’re just so cheap that it doesn’t matter! A dozen books for less than twelve bucks! Somebody shoot me with a tranquilizer dart before I do this again!

Everything Has Teeth

Cyclops Road

Blister 

The Haunted Forest Tour

Kumquat

Pressure

Dweller

Dead Clown Barbecue

Benjamin’s Parasite

Mandibles

Elrod McBugle on the Loose

And Gleefully Macabre Tales but that doesn’t start until the 14th.

But that’s not all! Dark Regions Press is offering a trade paperback bundle of Wolf Hunt, Wolf Hunt 2, Dweller, Dead Clown Barbecue, and Gleefully Macabre Talesfor only $45! There’s even a bonus–Christmas Horror Volume 2, which includes my story “December Birthday.” Get it right HERE.

August will bring two new anthologies with stories by me! A Sharp Stick in the Eye has my story “Bob the Necrophile” and Welcome to the Show has “Parody.” Expect full details on these in the next issue, though you can read an advance rave review of Welcome to the Show right HERE.

The Horror Aficionados group on Goodreads is currently having a Group Read of Bring Her Back. Thus far it has mostly been a Q&A, so if you’ve got any Q’s for me to A, stop on in!

Bring Her Back is, of course, available in both Kindle and paperback editions. The Thunderstorm hardcover limited edition should be announced soon (I’ve seen the awesome cover that Frank Walls did, and the signature sheets are on my desk at this very moment). I won’t be sending out a special newsletter when it goes up for pre-order, so be sure to follow me on Twitter (@JeffStrand) if you don’t already.

I wasn’t allowed to speak of it, but a chapbook of my 10,000-word story My Werewolf Neighbor was included in the very first Rue Morgue Coffin Box. It’s a bimonthly subscription box by the fine folks who do Horror Pack, featuring movies, shirts, toys, and various other horror-themed goodies. They’re unlikely to include anything else Jeff Strand-related anytime soon, but they may do other awesome chapbooks, so click the links and check it out! My Werewolf Neighbor has yet to pop up on eBay, but 750 of them went out, so I’m sure it’ll happen eventually.

My novella Cold Dead Hands finally has a publication date: December 2018. I’ll let you know when the hardcover limited edition goes up for pre-order.

Upcoming Appearances

July 19-22, 2018NECON. Bristol, Rhode Island. The most fun convention of them all! About as goofy and laid back as a horror convention gets. I’m on the Young Adult Horror panel, and also co-emcee with Nicholas Kaufmann of the infamous Necon Roast!

August 3-5, 2018SCARES THAT CAREWilliamsburg, Virginia. I attended in 2015 and it was one of the best conventions I’d attended…and then the next two years it was the same weekend at Necon, and I felt great sorrow. But now I’m BACK!!! I’m doing a reading, and also appearing on a panel discussion of the anthology Welcome to the Show.

August 24-26, 2018KILLERCON. Austin, Texas. The best barbecue I’ve ever had was in Austin. I’m not sure I’ll eat any that’s served at a horror convention in Texas, though… I’m doing a reading, moderating a panel on creating villains, and–foolishly–participating in the Hot Wing Challenge. So if you try to speak to me and I response with only hacking sounds, that’s why.

October 13, 2018MERRIMACK VALLEY HALLOWEEN FESTIVALHaverhill, Massachusetts.  An insane number of horror authors will be converging upon the Haverhill Public Library.

February 9, 2019CON-TAGIONCharlotte, North Carolina. I’ll be giving my talk “Stick With It: Sustaining Your Writing Passion in a Brutal Business” at this inaugural event.

Ten Simple Ways To Further My Career

If you’re reading this, no doubt you pre-order all of my new books in a flurry of “Oh, jeez, please don’t let it be sold out…please, please, please don’t let it be sold out…all I ask is this one small–oh, thank God!!! Woo-hoo! V for Victory! Yeeeeeee-ha!!!”

That’s cool. You have my utmost gratitude. Unfortunately, it’s been brought to my attention that many of you think that your role in the process ends with purchasing and subsequently reading the book. Well, that kind of lackluster effort puts a frowny face on my face. I thought we were in this together. I’m not saying that you should be as committed to my success as I am, but is a 65 / 35 split too much to ask?

The process should be: 1) I give you the precious gift of writing a new book. 2) You buy and read my gift to you. 3) You try to help me make it wildly successful. 4) I get paid more for giving you future gifts of writing new books. We’re good with 1) and 2), but 3) and 4) are a bit shaky. Perhaps it’s my fault. I haven’t provided enough guidance. Therefore, I’ve helpfully compiled a list of ten (10) ways that you can assist me in selling lots of books Please select three (3) tasks from the list and complete them at your earliest convenience.

1. Buy Extra Copies. This is the easiest way you can help. Order several extra copies (several = 3 to 7) and leave them in strategic points around your city, such as a bus stop or a Starbucks. This allows a stranger to discover the book, think “Here now, what’s all this then?”, read a few pages, and–BOOM!!!–I’ve just acquired a new fan. All for the rather effortless act of changing the number in your online shopping cart from “1″ to “7.” See how easy this is?

2. Spam. Spam like your frickin’ life depended on it. Look, when I spam, it’s spam, but when YOU spam, you’re merely sharing news about your very favorite author. Possible subject lines include: “OMG!!! Jeff Strand RULEZ!!!” and “STRAND HAS MAD SKILLS!!! LOL!!!”

3. Defend Me From Critics. Sometimes there’ll be a social media thread, and somebody will say “Gosh, I can’t wait until my copy of Jeff Strand’s new book arrives,” and some other cretin will say “I consider his work overrated.” Well, pardon my use of the f-word disguised with asterisks, but f*** them! Don’t allow those Whiny Walters or Negative Nellies to poison the populace against my work! When somebody posts something like that, reply back (in all caps) that you’re going to kick them right in the teeth. Include a picture of some teeth and Photoshop a picture of your foot kicking them.

4. Write Your Own Jeff Strand Fan Fiction. If it’s slash fiction, include relevant illustrations.

5. Act All Impressed And Stuff By Good Reviews. After you’ve read the review, print out 75-80 copies and post them around your hometown. Stand next to the flyer in the highest-traffic area, put on your most winning smile, and tell passing strangers that we roomed together in college.

6. Drive a Species To Extinction in My Name. This sounds ambitious, but I’m not talking about a major species, like manatees or humans. I just mean that if, maybe, you’re walking down the sidewalk and you see this weird-looking beetle, and you remember from some science documentary that only one of them remains, that you stomp on it and shout my name. No big deal.

7. Include the phrase “That’s all well and good, but what does it have to do with Jeff Strand’s fiction?” in all of your daily conversations. I think this one is self-explanatory.

8. Post videos of you gazing lovingly at my books. The key here is to figure out the tipping point where it becomes creepy, and stop recording a few seconds before that. If you can purr as you stroke the book’s spine (or your Kindle), even better. Do NOT make it look like you’re going to have intercourse with the book. That crosses the “creepy” line.

9. If You Still Use E-Mail Instead Of Texting Like These Damn Kids Today, Add Strand Promo To Your Signature Line. What does your current signature line have? A funny quote? A life-affirming statement? Promo for YOUR book? Sorry, but that me-me-me attitude isn’t going to sell more copies of Bring Her Back, now is it? Change your signature line to say something like “Buy Jeff Strand’s superb novel Bring Her Back or you suck!” Post often. Send a flurry of one-line e-mails with vapid content that won’t distract the recipient from your signature line. Bonus points if you create a flashy, obnoxious, eye-melting banner that links to my website.

10. Every Time You See a Computer, Visit My Webpage. At work? At your public library? At your local Circuit City? [Wow, I wrote the original draft of these rules so long ago that Circuit City existed.] Anyplace there are computers around, just pop the URL www.jeffstrand.com into the web browser and walk away. If they’re seated in front of the computer and try to slap your hand away, pretend to enjoy the physical contact a little too much.

Okay, everybody got it? Let’s get the Strand army into gear and RULE THE WORLD!!! March on, punks!

(Actually, just leaving a review on Amazon is fine. And maybe the occasional retweet.)

Short Story

“Jigsaw Puzzle”

Copyright 2018 by Jeff Strand.

Gabriel excitedly walked into his apartment and tossed the jigsaw puzzle box onto his kitchen table. It was Friday evening, Diane was out of town, and he was all psyched up to put in an all-nighter on this one.

He was thirty-six, and had never lost the love of puzzles he’d acquired in pre-school. Of course, back then he did six-piece Cookie Monster ones, but now he could put together anything the most devious minds could create. Puzzles that were entirely one color. 3-D puzzles. Puzzles without a straight edge. Puzzles that offered clues to a mystery story. He’d completed them all.

Gabriel wasn’t even sure what this one had to offer. The non-descript box merely called it “An Insanely Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle Experience.” Sounded like the perfect way to spend the evening.

He walked into what passed for his living room and started up his Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Blu-Ray to provide background noise. Then he returned to the kichen, sat down at the table, and opened the box.

He poured the 500 pieces onto the table and began the quick process of turning them all face-up. It wasn’t a double-sided puzzle and there seemed to be a wide variety of colors in the completed image, so he wondered what made this one so difficult. He hoped he wasn’t getting ripped off.

Gabriel sorted out the straight-edge pieces within a few minutes and found the four corners. The straight-edge pieces were mostly white with some brown, so he fit the brown pieces together first. Looked like wood. The white pieces weren’t much of a problem, and he soon had the entire frame of the puzzle completed.

He arranged the remaining pieces by colors. There were more white, the same wood-brown, some red, black, silver, and some flesh-tones and hair.

The red pieces almost looked like blood.

He decided to start with the white. This puzzle didn’t appear to be nearly as insanely difficult as the box had promised, so he might as well give himself an extra challenge.

However, it wasn’t that much of an extra challenge, because the lighting on the white made it easy to match up the pieces. He had a third of the puzzle complete before the Oompa-Loompas even had their first musical number.

He moved on to the red pieces.

It became quickly clear that it was not blood, but rather a shirt.

When he’d completed the puzzle, it depicted a smiling middle-aged man in a red shirt. While it wasn’t the easiest puzzle he’d ever put together, it was no more difficult than any other 500-piecer. What a disappointment.

His cell phone rang. A local call from a number he didn’t recognize.

“Hello?”

“Hello, Gabriel. This is the manager of Trystan’s Games. Congratulations on completing the puzzle.”

“How did you know that?”

“We were spying on you, obviously.”

“But how?”

There was a pause. “Uh, what year do you think this is? Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to call to congratulate you for finishing the first part.”

“The first part?”

“Yes, Gabriel, the first part. Check outside your door.”

Gabriel hurried over to his front door. He looked through the peekhole to see if anybody was out there, but the hallway seemed empty. He opened the door just a bit, until he saw a large cardboard box. He tried to lift it but couldn’t, so he dragged it into his living room and then closed the door.

“Got the box?” asked the man on the phone.

“Yeah,” said Gabriel.

“There’s an envelope on top. Open it.”

Gabriel tore open the manilla envelope and slid out the picture. Diane.

“Your wife is fine,” the man assured him. “That picture will be the puzzle for our next customer, but only if you fail to complete this one.”

Gabriel felt like he was going to throw up but forced himself to remain focused. “What do I have to do?”

“Treat the puzzle you just completed as the box lid for this one. That’s who you’re putting together. All five hundred flash-frozen pieces of him. You have until he thaws. Good luck.”

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Links

If you want our relationship to be more than a once-a-month thing, here are your various options short of peeking in my windows:

My website, http://www.jeffstrand.com, which is also my blog.

You can, of course, follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeffStrand

I have two Facebook pages, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t quite figured out how to differentiate them. In theory, one is for friends and one is for fans, but, c’mon, you’re all my friends. Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/JeffStrandAuthor and “Like” me at https://www.facebook.com/JeffStrandAuthorFanPage/.

Yep, I’m on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/207708.Jeff_Strand

And Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/jeffstrandauthor/

Copyright © 2018 Jeff Strand, All rights reserved.
At some point in your past, you made the odd decision that you wanted to subscribe to the Jeff Strand newsletter. I can’t explain it.

Our mailing address is:

Jeff Strand

Getting personal with Stephanie M. Wytovich

How old were you when you first wrote your first story?

The first story I wrote was in middle school and it was about a rogue vampire clan who killed a young girl’s parents, which then caused her to spend the rest of her life tracking them down so she could avenge her family. It was super violent, and my teacher actually sent the story, and me, to the guidance counselor. *smirks*

 

How many books have you written?

I’ve written five poetry collections with Raw Dog Screaming Press (Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Brothel, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare) and my debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

 

Tell me about you.

I’m 29 years old, obsessed with dogs, and recently married to my best friend. When I’m not writing, I work as an Adjunct Professor at Point Park University (Composition, Literature, and Creative Writing) and then I teach/lecture in two graduate programs: Western Connecticut State University’s MFA Program for Professional and Creative Writing and Southern New Hampshire’s MFA Program for Creative Writing. Also, if I can spare a few hours here and there, I work as a writing tutor at Point Park as well.

 

What’s your favorite book you have written?

This is a really tough question for me. I think I’m most proud of The Eighth because it was my life’s goal to write a novel, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare was my bravest foray with writing. But honestly, writing Hysteria was so much fun that it’s hard for me not to show favoritism towards her. I mean, that book allowed me to explore abandoned lunatic asylums, sit in the jail cells of prisons, and walk through the hallways of a haunted geriatric hospital. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

Who or what inspired you to write?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, so in a lot of ways, it seemed natural to start to want to tell my own stories. Furthermore, as a kid, I was obsessed with mythology, particularly Greek and Egyptian history, and reading stories about the underworld and Hades and mummies buried in decorative tombs was clearly a gateway drug to me when it came to writing horror and dark fantasy.

 

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to travel, read, and be in nature, take pictures, garden, and write every chance I get. I’m a big wine fan, and Dennis and I are total foodies, so trying new cuisines and cooking is high on my list as well. I also really enjoy art, music, and theatre, and I collect rare copies of Alice in Wonderland.

 

Any traditions you do when you finish a book?

I like to buy/do something that represents either the theme or the research I did for that particular project. For instance, when I finished writing Mourning Jewelry, I went out and bought a gorgeous 19th century Romanian Gypsy portrait of two children that hangs in my office. I researched and looked through a heavy amount of wake photography while working on that collection, so this seemed appropriate, and to this day, it’s one of my favorite pieces of art I own.

 

Where do you write? Quiet or music?

For the most part, I write in my office at home, but sometimes I’ll write on campus between teaching classes. Regardless though, I always write on my laptop and I have to have music on, sometimes even a movie playing in the background. I work better in chaos, and if that’s not enough, when I’m home, my dogs are usually in my lap or asleep on my feet, too.

Anything you would change about your writing?

I’ve spent the bigger portion of my writing career writing poetry, which is something that I will always do no matter what, but I made myself a promise last year (my new year’s resolution) to write and concentrate more on prose, so that’s what I’m aiming for moving forward. Once I tied up the few projects I’m working on now, I’ll be diving back into the sequel to The Eighth.

 

What is your dream? Famous writer?

My dream is to travel. My husband and I have a huge list of places we want to explore, and I pretty much want to go everywhere and see everything, all the while writing, drinking good wine, eating great food, and taking fabulous photographs. Plus, I think traveling and going to places you aren’t familiar with is good for the soul, not to mention good for your writing.

 

Where do you live?

Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Pets?

Oh yes! I have two dogs: an English Bulldog named Edgar Allan Poe and a Pit bull named Apollo. They’re my world.

 

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love the world building. To me, it’s so much fun to create the landscape, history, and rules of a place that only I know about and control. It feels a lot like playing pretend as a kid, and I like to think I have an even bigger imagination as an adult.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. Music, art, other stories, conversations I have with people, the weather, an injury I might get, nightmares, death, birth…there are stories all around us just waiting to be picked out of the sky and grown into something. It’s all about finding what calls to you.

 

What is coming next for you?

I’m about halfway through with my next poetry book, an apocalyptic science fiction collection titled The Apocalyptic Mannequin. I’m also finishing up a weird horror novelette that I’m been working on for about three years now. Aside from that, I have a story titled “The Girl with the Death Mask” coming out in Fantastic Tales of Terror, and another story “The Monster Told Me To” appearing in Tales from the Lake, Vol 5, both out this year from Crystal Lake Publishing.

 

 

Author Bio:

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Shadows Over Main Street: An Anthology of Small-Town Lovecraftian Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others. 

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press. 

 

 

You can connect with Stephanie M. Wytovich here: 

Follow Wytovich at http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Social Media:

Website: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00DTKIN2K?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

Latest release: Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

Facebook: Stephanie M. Wytovich

Twitter: @swytovich

Instagram: @swytovich

 

Some of Stephanie M. Wytovich‘s books: 

 

Marge Simon Interview

I’m pleased to have Marge Simon on board for an interview. Marge’s story will appear this year in Tales from the Lake, edited by Kenneth W. Cain, Crystal Lake Publishing.

 

Where did you get your concept for “The Midland Hotel”?

 

The Midland Hotel began as a poem. The poem was inspired by a trip my husband and I took to meet up with some friends in Tampa, FL. They booked us rooms overnight at a hotel.  

 

Several stories high, It looked okay from the outside, but once in our room we were less than pleased.  Rather than a pile carpet, it had tile floors. The bedspread was thin, with one flat pillow per bed. The bathroom offered a used bar of soap and half a toilet paper roll. There were no amenities — not even paper cups, no phone, no remote for the TV. It was so bad, I wrote a poem about it, imagining the guests who’d have visited such a place. What sort of travelers would they be? But then, I got to thinking –why not make it the opposite sort of accommodation?

 

And then?

Then I wrote from a different perspective, refined and obliging to guests. Or rather, obliging certain guests with what they need rather than what they had once wished for. Eventually that morphed into “The Midland Hotel”, a very fine old hotel indeed – set in England. A good friend of mine from Manchester helped a great deal with the details, including the name of an actual “haunted” hotel, The Midland.  My unpleasant but simple trip to Tampa, Florida turned into an account of five different sorts of people spending the night in the old Midland hotel outside of London, England.

 

About me:

 

I’ve sold and published at least twelve collections of poetry or short fictions, or a mix in the past decade or so. I find that prose poetry and flash fiction are my forte. I’ve never wanted to be a novelist. I used to say that this was because of a short attention span. But actually, writing an excellent short fiction  — whether telling OR showing or both, whether or not with dialog, and whether or not with naming the protagonist(s) is my kind of challenge.  

 

Aspiring writers’ advice:

 

What kind of degree would I have wished to pursue if I were in my twenties? Today, I would avoid an MFA like the plague. You don’t need an MFA to be a good writer, IMO – and of course, that also depends largely on having a good teacher. College courses in writing can screw up your mind. Attending an excellent writers workshop like Clarion or Borderlands Boot Camp would be a good start after or while pursuing a general degree in the arts. Don’t ever expect the world to come to you. The world is under no such obligation. I also suggest joining the Horror Writers Association, which provides so much for writers just getting started – the only element for your stories needed is one of darkness, which – if you think on it, is contrast needed for all kinds of stories including fantasy and science fiction. It doesn’t have to be gore. I don’t write zombie stuff. You don’t have to include violence. I prefer psychological horror, myself.

 

Generic Advice:

 

If you marry or hook up with a lifemate, hopefully it will be someone with like interests who supports you – as you support their needs/interests in your own way. Some idioms I advise: 1. Never marry a musician. 2. You get what you pay for. 3. Don’t postpone today what you could do tomorrow. 4. Show up, preferably on time. 5. Do a job good enough to do what it’s for. (This applies to your own stuff OR depending on the job and your salary.) Say like washing your dirtycar when it is very hot or very cold or you are tired.  I am tired just thinking about it. 6. Finally, to your own self be true. To me, this means avoid deception. There are too many fake people as it is. This also applies to what you chose to write. You need to believe in it, if it is to have merit.

 

Thank you so much Marge for taking the time to speak with me! It has been such a pleasure getting to know you.

 

You can keep up with Marge here:

http://www.crystallakepub.com/

South Southwest Wales by David Owain Hughes

Now, it is no secret that I love David’s writing. His stories are absolutely amazing. Most all of what he has written has been horror. There was one previously that was one of my favorites and still is that was not horror. He will scream when I say it was one of the best he has written. That book is Collision Course. I also have a copy of it in my bookshelf. That being said this book definitely shows that David can write in any genre he wants to dive into. That folks take true talent. Trust me you want to read this book. It is a real barn burner. Don’t wait…. go get it right now.

 

The story starts with a washed up detective named Sampson Valentine. He use to be the best of the best until booze got ahold of him. He is twice widowed he find himself embroiled with the mob in a hair-raising battle of wits, twist and plenty of real gut wrenching gun fights. There is never a dull moment in this book.

This story is set perfectly in the 1940’s. The vivid descriptions will pull you right into the story and you will not want to put it down. I didn’t. I read this in one sitting and didn’t even answer the phone.

The characters, like all of them in David’s books, are full and you come to love some of them and even feel like you know them. The entire feel of this book is brilliant. I don’t care if you like crime novels or not you will absolutely love this. The bad guys in the story will make you cringe and want to hide. They are evil and you feel this with every word you read.

There honestly isn’t anything negative I can say about this book except it ended. Of course that just means that it was good.

Im always afraid to say to much about the story line for fear that I will ruin the experience for another reader but trust me when I say get this book! Thank you David for another awesome read! Here’s to many more my friend!

In my humble opinion David has a real winner here!

 

You can buy the book here: