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It seems writers are more and more vulnerable now than ever before. With most things being done through e-mail and online these days, and with so many smaller presses popping up around the world, it’s hard to tell which ones are there for the writers and which ones are there for themselves.

Let’s not kid ourselves for even a minute here: businesses are designed to make money. If they’re not making money, then they are losing money, and if they’re losing money, they won’t be around for long. The publishing business is just that: a business. And publishing companies, large and small, want to turn a profit like any other business out there.

Things are a little different with publishers. They have two sets of clientele. The first set of clientele is the readers, the people who will purchase the books from the publisher. Without the readers spending their money, books don’t move and when books don’t move, the publisher takes a loss. The other set of clientele? The writer. As important as the reader is, without the writers there is nothing for the publisher to sell. The writer is vital to the publisher. Without them, publishers close shop, go home, do not pass go and do not collect two hundred dollars.

So, why is it that so many publishers don’t do right by their authors? I’m not going to get into all of the Permuted stuff today. That’s a dog that’s snapped its chain and bit the mailman quite a few times over the last couple of years. But what I am going to get into is a blog post by Angela Meadon. You can find the blog post here: http://meadon.co.za/go-to-hell-my-experience-with-damnation-books/. I encourage you to go check it out, before or after you read the following interview with Mrs. Meadon.

Here’s the set-up for you: Mrs. Meadon’s book A Taste of You was published in December of 2012 by Damnation Books (DB going forward). At the tail end of 2013 she receives a royalty check from DB (instead of having the money deposited into her PayPal account, per the contract). She receives three more checks at one time. The problem? For her to cash the checks it would cost her money. A back and forth takes place between DB and Meadon and to make a long story short, she hasn’t received some of the royalties due her. If you want all the information, please read her blog, as linked above.

If you need to go ahead and read Meadon’s blog, do so now. We can wait.

Let’s get started.

AJ: At the beginning of your blog post, Go To Hell: My Experience with Damnation Books, you state “I want to break this down for you though, so that you can see how an author can do all the right things and still make bad decisions that end up hurting her in the long run.”

During this experience, where do you feel you made bad decisions that ended up hurting you?

AM: My biggest mistake was signing with Damnation Books in the first place, but I’ll go into that in detail in response to your next question.

I’d say another way I went wrong was in not sending those checks back to Damnation immediately. I didn’t trust DB to pay my royalties correctly after I received those checks. So I hung onto them for too long in the hopes that they would serve as a backup plan. I was wrong. They are worthless scraps of paper to me. I couldn’t deposit them because of the fees to do so. I should have sent them back.

My other big mistake, I think, was not seeking legal counsel for this matter. I felt like the case was fairly obvious, that DB was clearly in breach of contract, and that Kim Richards would do the right thing. I was wrong. But, legal advice costs money and how much are you prepared to spend to recover $50?

AJ: I asked that question first because, upon doing a bit of research, it appears DB doesn’t necessarily have the cleanest resume out there. It appears they have a bit of history with not treating their authors well. They had a spotty history up to that point and you considered that history before making your decision to go with them. At any point before signing the contract did the thought come up that maybe you shouldn’t go forward with them?

AM: Absolutely.

I saw a call for submissions from their “Submissions Editor” on Linked in and knew that A Taste of You fit the bill, I read up on them in all the usual places; Absolute Write, Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware. It seemed to me, at the time, that DB’s biggest problem was enforcing kill fees in their contracts and releasing books with bad covers.

However, from the responses that DB had given in these forums, it seemed like they had gotten their house in order. The complaints were more than 3 years old, and there was nothing recent that was cause for worry (that I could find). I decided that I would submit and see what happened. I wouldn’t be committed until I signed the contract, and if I wasn’t happy with the contract I wouldn’t sign. Simple, right?

The contract I have with DB is a solid, fair contract. I didn’t see any problems with it when I signed it, and I still don’t.

AJ: Let’s switch gears for just a second. DB stated they would market A Taste of You, but I’m guessing by what you wrote in your blog that they’ve done very little, if any, marketing. In your opinion, have they done any marketing for your book?

AM: They have listed it in a bunch of online book stores, and have sold a few copies at conventions they attend.

There was a poster at some point, which I think they used at a con, that had a whole lot of books by their lady authors on it.

I am not aware of any reviews they secured, or any other marketing they may have done.

AJ: The full basis of the argument between you and DB revolves around the royalty payment and how some of the payments were delivered. Instead of going into your PayPal account, according to contract, you were sent a check. I know you had a lot going on at the time and you didn’t think about it, but then you received three more royalty checks. Did this throw up a red flag for you? Or was it after you realized it would cost you about ten dollars a check to cash that you became concerned?

AM: I was concerned as soon as I received that first check, but I figured it would make a cute memento of my first ever published book.

Then there was radio silence for a long time, and I finally received all the checks in one go in the middle of 2014. I must point out that DB was never the best with timely royalty payments or statements. It would cost me $10 per check to cash them here. My bank can’t cash them all together. Cashing or depositing them would eat 80% of the value of the royalties.

Furthermore, I was concerned that cashing them would be tacit consent of receiving royalties by check. That was something I definitely did not want.

AJ: DB asked you to send the checks back and they would put the money in your PayPal account. Why did you hold the checks at first?

AM: As I mentioned in Q1, I mistakenly thought that having the checks might be a backup for me, in case Kim didn’t pay the royalties she owes me. I didn’t realize that Kim would withhold the royalties while she waited for the checks until she explicitly said so on the 12th of August. By that time our postal service was on strike.

AJ: Throughout the process DB asked you to send the checks back. You held onto them. Some folks might look at that as you being difficult, as if you held the checks ransom. Others, including yourself, would say you held onto them for leverage to make sure you received payment.

Eventually, you did send them back (around January 7th). Two questions here: Do you believe DB received those checks and are just denying it to keep from paying you what they owe you? Do you wish you had kept the paper checks, even though they were pretty much useless to you?

AM: I can’t speculate about what Kim is doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has received them, but I don’t know.

Actually, I wish I’d sent them back right at the beginning. All things being equal, that’s where I made my biggest mistake in this matter.

AJ: Do you think if you would have sent those checks back when DB first said to, would things have been any different? If so or if not, why?

AM: Again, I don’t like to speculate. In my heart-of-hearts I’d like to believe that Kim would have paid the checks to me, but my brain tells me she wouldn’t have.

She said she would pay the royalties all to me at the end of June. She didn’t. It took her until the end of October to pay royalties that were due in June, and September

I can’t believe that Kim is withholding these royalties simply for the paper checks. That doesn’t make sense when you consider that she could have cancelled them (I understand this would have cost her money, but she made the mistake and the onus is on her to rectify it) and I offered to void them and send her photographic proof.

AJ: At what point did you consider DB to be in breach of your contract?

AM: The minute she sent me royalties in check form without my mutual agreement in writing, which is the requirement in our contract.

AJ: In light of the issues a few years ago where authors were told they would have to pay a termination fee of up to a thousand dollars, did you consider trying to get out of your contract or were the possibility of termination fees in the back of your mind?

AM: That termination fee is in the front of my mind. I would rather wait out my contract than try and buy my way out of it.

AJ: You were accused of cyber bullying by DB. That’s a pretty heavy accusation. Do you think this was actually reversed, that DB was doing the cyber bullying?

AM: I don’t think that anybody was doing any cyber-bullying. I think that’s a buzz-word that DB threw in to the conversation to try and scare me into silence.

Since I released our email conversation, however, I know of at least one person who has emailed Kim to insult her and that makes me very unhappy. That was not my intention. I know I left her email address in the emails, but that address is publicly available on their website.

AJ: You brought this out into public with your blog. What do you hope to accomplish by doing this?

AM: I want people to see how DB flaunts contracts. The contract between an author and her publisher is the only thing regulating the relationship when all other avenues break down. If either party is unwilling to honor the contract, all kinds of abuse can take place.

DB has a long and sordid history of this kind of abuse. I want it to stop. I want other aspiring authors like myself to see how their excitement for their first sale can cloud their judgment. I want authors to know what they are getting into if they sign with DB, or any other publisher with a similar track record.

AJ: Are you concerned that by bringing this situation out into the public domain like this that you could be labeled as a difficult author to deal with?

AM: Of course I am, and I would absolutely hate for that to happen. I have learned from my mistakes here. I know what I’ve done wrong.

I think the fact that there are many other authors with similar stories about DB may stand in my favor though. DB doesn’t respond to politeness, or legally worded letters, or anything really.

AJ: We’ve seen this type of question before, but in light of your experience with DB, what advice would you give other authors when pursuing a publisher for their work?

AM: Besides the obvious (Google them and look at what Absolute Write, Preditor & Editors, and Writer Beware have to say), I’d say trust your instincts and don’t sign with somebody you don’t like and trust. Don’t let excitement cloud your judgment. I knew DB was a little off right from the start, but I was so thrilled at being offered publication that I rationalized my way into a deep hole of disappointment.

Don’t do that. If one agent/publisher is interested in your book, another one will be.

AJ: After this experience, would you consider working with other small presses again, and if so, how would you go about selecting one to publish with?

AM: I would, of course, if they would consider working with me.

I would follow my own advice: Research, and relationships, and a solid contract.

AJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AM: I’d like to thank everybody who has shown me support in this matter; your kind words have helped me keep my head up through it all.

Thank you Jeff, for this opportunity.

If anybody has any questions, you know where to find me.

Publishers and writers should be in this business for the same reasons: to give the readers a good product. Yes, we want to make money, but taking advantage of writers isn’t the way to go about it. Sadly, there are quite a few publishers who act like the writers need them, when in truth, they need us just as much as we need them. It’s a relationship built on trust and when that trust is gone, such as the situation Angela Meadon is dealing with, well, it’s difficult to gain it back.

As writers we have to remember that not all publishing companies do business this way. We just have to find the ones that do it the right way. Also, as writers, sometimes we make mistakes in this process as well. We have to recognize our mistakes, as Angela has done and as DB should, and move forward from there. As I said earlier, this business is all about relationships, as are most businesses. How we do business is how we will be known.

As always, until me meet again, my friends, be kind to one another…

Sometimes you discover a writer that not many folks know about. Sometimes that writer is a breath of fresh air, so much so that, even though you want to shout their names to the universe, you still kind of want to be selfish, and keep their words all to yourself. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hey, check this out.’

But what do you do when that writer is actually two? What do you do when they are brothers? Do you compare them to the Brothers Grimm? You can, but really, what fairness is that for a comparison? It would be like saying, ‘you have a lot to live up to.’

Today, I want to introduce you to the Brothers Dunne, Justin and Robert. They hail from Australia and you, more than likely, have never heard of them. If you have, then consider yourself fortunate. If you haven’t, prepare to. With a combined voice that comes across as just one united style, this duo could go a long, long way.

Oh, and I hear they like needles, so they’re in the right place. Welcome to the Donor Center, Justin and Robert Dunne.

For the first few questions I’ll let you guys fight it out on:

Which one of you is the dominant voice in the writing?

RD: Justin is definitely the dominant voice in the writing. We tried writing separately, but you could really tell the difference between writing styles. Some bits I would write and Justin would tweak them into his “words” or when Justin wrote, I would just add in small bits to add my flavor.

JD: I spend more time playing with the words. Sometimes it works well, other times Rob disagrees. He keeps me honest. I look at it like making a movie, with roles for director and producer. We both want the same thing, we both put in ideas, but only one of us can hold the camera.

Which one of you is more creative?

RD: I wouldn’t say either one of us is more creative. I would say I have more ideas but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Say I have ten ideas, only three of them might be any good. Justin might only give five ideas, but 3 of them are good.

JD: I look at being creative as a muscle you can work out. The more you use it, the stronger and easier it becomes. It doesn’t have to be with writing a story. Rob strengthens his creative muscle designing beer labels. Do you even create, bro?

Which one of you cooks better? (Yeah, totally unrelated)

RD: Hands down it’s me that cooks better! (ask Justin about chicken and corn) He does make a mean mushroom risotto though. While we are on the subject I like to tell people that there are usually two types of twins – the smart and funny one and the sporty good looking one. Well I am the smart and funny and athletic and good looking one… and he is Justin J

JD: Rob’s answer to this question has offended me…because the truth hurts.

Which one of you is older?

RD: Mum didn’t get it quite right the first time so she had me 13 minutes later and I think she got it spot on. I have been a twin my whole life!

JD: I sometimes regret not enjoying those 13 minutes more while I had the chance.

Which one of you started writing first?

RD: I think we both started writing first J. I can only speak for myself here, but I have always done small bits of creative writing, I even wrote a few songs in my day. Which is strange considering I hated Enlish Studies at school and actually flunked out. JusBug (call him JusBug, he loves it) started writing the short stories first and it was his idea to combine to make a series of short stories that eventually evolved into a small novel.

JD: Don’t call me JusBug. Nope. I was writing first. 13 minutes before Rob…also, I did pretty good in English at school.

Justin, I met you a while back through the Tales of the Zombie Wars website. I’ve been fortunate enough to read your first published stories and I have seen you grow in confidence. Being that you are fairly new to the publishing world, what factors can you look at as confidence builders?

JD: Nothing is better than honest feedback from strangers. It’s all well and good your mum telling you your awesome, but…she has to. I have a fear of being arrogant, so for me confidence and arrogance walk a fine line. I just to try to learn, and have fun as I go. If I am happy with the end product and happy that it is of a level that I would enjoy reading, I am confident enough to put my work out there. Did that sound arrogant?

No, JusBug…I mean, Justin, it didn’t sound arrogant at all.

My brothers and I are completely different when it comes to hobbies and passions. Collaborating with them to write a story hasn’t really happened (except the one time my baby brother asked me to write a story based on an idea he had). What is it like collaborating with each other on a story or project?

RD: It’s easy. We don’t really worry about each other’s feelings too much so if we don’t think something is working we let the other one know (politely of course) With technology the way it is now, it’s as simple as emailing each other the progress and doing it in our own time. When inspiration strikes! I’ll often see something in my day-to-day that might give me an idea and text Justin while I remember. Little things like that make it easy to collaborate.

JD: This is how it goes. We work on a bit. Rob’s idea or mine, but I’ll spend time trying to craft the words. Rob will turn around and say, nope, yuck, don’t make sense. Not to all of it, but parts that he doesn’t like. I won’t say anything, but will have arguments loaded and ready to go. Then I take a step back, actually listen to what he has said…and normally agree. I don’t agree just because he said so, I agree because sometimes I take the easy road out. He points out the direction we should take. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. The structures and nuances take a lot of work, and sometimes more work is needed.

Do you guys write separate stories or do you collaborate on all of them?

RD: We write separately all the time, but I like to get JusBug’s input to see what he thinks and I think Justin likes it when I give him feedback, too. Either way, I like giving him feedback. The story is the important thing at the end of the day, and if you can find someone that can help you make it the best version it can possibly be then I think that’s a good thing.

JD: Yeah, what he said. I have written quite a few stories all by myself, but Rob is always the first to read them.

Do you guys keep some of your ideas to yourselves or do you bounce them off of one another for additional insight?

RD: I bounce most of mine. Sometimes they are stupid and I don’t realize they are stupid until I hear the words coming out of my mouth, but I’m always bouncing.

JD: Half of the fun is in the bounce.

You both have stories in the zombie anthology: The Gathering Horde. Did you both intentionally write stories for this anthology or did it just kind of happen that you both got in?

RD: Zombies On A Plane was a (very) re worked concept that we/Justin changed for the anthology. It was originally a mother and daughter. The Woes of Albert Cross was a story that more spewed out of me. I wrote it in one sitting and only gave it a quick edit before submitting it. I didn’t think it was going to make the cut to be honest and was ecstatic to know it made it in. If you read those two stories, I’m sure you will see the difference in our writing styles.

JD: I also co-wrote another story in that anthology. I do enjoy a co-write, (wink wink) because I enjoy the conversation about writing almost as much as I enjoy the craft of it. I was asked by Jeff Clare, a magician of a man, if I would like to expand an idea we had already played with.

You both wrote The Nothing Man, an as yet released series of stories. Tell me about TNM, what inspired it and what each of you put into it.

RD: The Nothing Man has evolved from very humble beginnings. Without giving too much away it was originally an idea for a graphic novel, but it turns out we can’t draw. Then it was supposed to be a series of short stories all with a common theme and then it became its own monster that we don’t think people will have seen before. To begin with we used to joke about writing a whole book, something with an actual front and back cover, something we could show our Mum and give to the kids when they are older. Now that it’s happening it is a very proud time. We have only written for fun and at our own pace and not a lot of people have read the story so it will be good to hear what people think.

JD: I had a short story I was working on and Rob didn’t know about. It was missing something. Rob came to me with a paragraph, the gist of which spurred on the character, The Nothing Man. The theme of the paragraph was, What is Nothing? I put The Nothing Man into my short story. That was the first in the series. We discussed him as if he were a comic book character, and tried to theme the stories to have that sort of painted feel.

The style of TNM and the stories in The Gathering Horde are very distinct. Is that style collaborated on or is it more one of your voices and the other brother adapted to it?

RD: I write as if I’m picturing it in a movie. I try get into the characters minds and describe their surroundings and feelings in a way I think they would see and feel things. So it depends on who the character is as to what the writing style is, but again, most of TNM is JusBug’s unique style because you could tell the difference between our writing.

JD: He called me JusBug again…Have you ever made yourself smile because of a conversation you have had in your head, with yourself? I try to narrate like an honest train of thought process. With TNM we created individual characters and tried to write like the thoughts in their heads…that make sense?

Absolutely.

JD: I have tried different styles, but nothing is easier for me, than writing thoughts. They are already there. It’s wrapping them around interesting story ideas that work, aren’t predictable, or boring and don’t leave too many unanswered questions that makes writing, the craft, fun for me.

Portions of TNM originally appeared on the website, Tales of the Zombie Wars. However, I hear that the entire storyline has been picked up by All Things Zombie Publications. How did that come about?

JD: Basically, I thought we were finished. It has taken about two years and lots of wine bottles to get to where we are now. I asked some friends about publishers, word got back to the people at ATZ and they showed some interest so I asked them if they would like a look. They picked it up. Tales of the Zombie Wars have been so good to us. They gave honest, good feedback early on and I can guarantee, without their support and the feedback from the readers there, Tales of The Nothing Man, (yes, ‘Tales’ is in honour of the site) would not be nearly where it is today…which is in editing. Also, there is way more to the story than what appeared on the site. Probably shouldn’t be such a long answer when I started with the word, basically…

Can we expect non-zombie themed stories from one or both of the Brothers Dunne?

RD: I don’t know if I could go away from the zombie theme, or at least horror. I love this genre because it can make a good story great. Zombies in writing are kind of like bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Seriously though, with the horror theme you can see people stripped down to their bare bones, comment on sociological and religious beliefs and then add the horror of something that doesn’t care about your social role, your religious beliefs, your race, sexual preference or any of the things we all seem to worry about day to day.

JD: I will never say never. But here are my thoughts. Even though there are so many books in the zombie genre, I really do think there is room for more. It has that aesthetic appeal where you can tell a story of a rich man on a plane, a beggar in the streets or a drug dealer in the Bronx and then add zombies. Mystery Zombie. Crime Zombie. Funny Zombie. Romantic Zombie…ok, maybe not romantic zombie. Every time I write something, it always ends up with zombies in it.

We mentioned earlier that ATZ Publications has picked up TNM. When can we expect a release for this title?

RD: It’s in the editing stage at the moment and we are working over the next month to finish the cover art so it should be ready for release…. Actually I still don’t really know. Couple of months? Jus, do you know? Did I mention this was our first book?

JD: We are taking our time. You only get to release your first book once, and we want it to be the best version it can be. So…we don’t really know.

I want a funny story about you two from your childhood.

RD: There are a lot of funny stories, too many to just pick one. So I’ll let Jus answer thisJ. All the ones I could think of were life threatening. From running away from king brown snakes, being in a tree that falls down and unknowingly swimming in a creek with river snakes and crocks.

JD: In our childhood they all involve near death and dangerous animals. In adulthood they all involve near death and alcohol.

How can folks get in touch with you two?

JD: At our facebook page, www.facebook.com/brothersdunne or via email, thenothingmantales@gmail.com

I think you have enough blood from the both of us, but before we go I’d really like to take the opportunity to say thank you. You have given guidance and encouragement from the beginning. It is an honour to call you a mate. Until we meet again, my friend. Always wanted to say that.

Thank you, guys, for coming by. There’s orange juice and cookies at the exit.

Let me say this: I have been very fortunate to get to know Justin over the last couple of years or so, and Robert over the last few months. I’ve read everything that Justin has let me read and I truly enjoy their style of horror and humor and the humanity to which their stories are told. The story, Boys In Times of War quickly became one of my favorite stories–not just zombie stories, but stories overall–with its look into life during the apocalypse as children. The gut wrench of one of the scenes is so powerful I found myself holding my breath.

I don’t think the Dunne Brothers are good storytellers. I know they are. With that said, here’s a little teaser to The Nothing Man:

The fire is already visible, flames dance above trees and thick black smoke chokes the skyline, blocking the sun. It’s only early evening but I have to flick the headlights on to see. Like little demons playing hopscotch, the flames hop and skip from here to there, with us ultimately in their path. In no time at all we skid to a halt at the western gates of the property. The Nothing Man is off the bike and at the gate, but he struggles, fumbling with the lock. He doesn’t seem to care if we live or die. I look back over my shoulder and wish that I hadn’t. A wall of fire reaching up to the heavens is rushing down from the hills. Flames first lick, then swallow, turning everything in their path to black. The devil has sent its angry pet here to devour everything and it makes its presence known with a bellicose deafening roar. The heat is so intense I can’t tell if I’m sweating or melting.

Rooted to the ground the trees have no escape, they crack and shriek and pop. The wind howls, thunder still booms. The fire roars and here in front of us a small herd of four or five Clickers …Click…

Impending doom in the form of a raging inferno threatens our existence, but still they hunger.

Anger boils in my stomach. I get off the bike and easily knock the useless stranger out of the way. Death threatens from every possible angle. Sweat drips in my eyes. My hands shake with fear and the metal locks are extremely hot to the touch. The pressure of the situation asks me to rise and so I do. Forcing my mind to calm, I manage to quickly undo the lock on the gate and push it open, knocking down two Clickers. Back on the bike we take off again. I throw a leg out to knock a third Clicker down and maneuverer to dodge the scrambling others.

Scorching flames now racing alongside us, pushed on by the winds faster than the top speed of my old quad bike. I risk a quick glance off the beaten path to look behind us. Framed by a horizon of bright red flames an undead creature arcs it back, drops open its jaw, lolls its cracked tongue out and shambles down the rocky path after us. Moments later a bigger, crueller, less forgiving beast attacks it. Like a small shark getting swallowed by a bigger shark, the fire consumes the Clicker. Skin melts off its hands but still it claws its boney fingers at us. What meat is left on it sizzles and blackens until it cannot walk and tumbles down the path. Still a flaming mess, it opens its mouth, begging us to let it feed on us until, pop, its head explodes.

#

The Dunne Brothers gave you the links to contact them up above, but I want to add one that they didn’t give. If you would like to read a little bit of their work, including Boys In Times of War, follow this link:

http://www.talesofworldwarz.com/stories/?s=Justin+Dunne

As always, until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

And Your Mother Was There

Posted: February 27, 2015 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

My mom and I don’t always see things on the same level. We don’t always agree or see things eye to eye. We argue and sometimes those arguments get heated. Sometimes things are just bad. There’s no other way to explain it. We’re both opinionated and bull headed. We both speak our minds, which is not always good, especially when we are in disagreement on something.

If there’s one thing we agree on, it’s my dad. We both love him and the thought of something bad happening to him terrifies us both. So, when he went in for quadruple heart surgery we both had a shared interest: his health. There was no arguing or bickering or petty disagreements. There was a silent bond that wasn’t spoken. Yet, there was a story told, one I didn’t know of, though my mom swears she told it to me before.

This story, which I will tell you about in a moment made my mom’s eyes tear up. It was a result of Dad coming out of surgery and going into recovery. We would be allowed to see him about an hour after the surgery. Mom asked if I wanted to see him. Of course I did, but not with tubes in his mouth and all sorts of lines going in and out of him. I have seen these things before and it’s not something I haven’t been able to handle in the past. But this is my dad and I chose not to see him that way. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep the tears out of my eyes, even knowing he was going to be okay.

And this led to the story.

If you can, picture this: We sat in a large open room. Chairs were set up in a square in each corner where at least ten to twelve people could sit as a family or a group. We sat in the far corner, furthest from the entrance, but also in full view of that entrance. The woman(my mom)—not young, but not old either—had sat in the same spot for most of the time waiting for someone to tell us Dad was out of surgery. Across from her sat her second and third born children. That would be me and my baby brother, the one affectionately known as Mutt. Some of you will get that reference. Others of you won’t.

I had voiced my decision to not see Dad with all the wires, tubes and i.v.’s hooked up to him. I wasn’t sure what Mom would think about this or even what she might say. What she said surprised me a little.

‘I understand,’ Mom said. ‘It was like when you were in the hospital with all those wires hooked up to you.’

I gave her an odd look, I guess. She clarified her statement.

‘When you were a kid.’

The light came on. Long story short: When I was a kid I was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Some things transpired and I died.

Let’s stop here for a moment.

If I died, how can I be typing this? Yeah, I would ask that question, too. The answer? They revived me.

Now, stick with me for a minute as I try to recall Mom’s words, though I probably won’t get them a hundred percent right.

She said:

‘I prayed and prayed that God would let my baby live. And I felt like the prayers were getting pushed down, getting pushed back. I kept praying, God, let my baby live. And it kept getting pushed down. I knew what God wanted me to say, that His will be done, but I couldn’t do it.’

At this point there were tears in Mom’s eyes. I said nothing. What could I say? I never recalled hearing the story, so, to me, it was very new and very raw and very real with emotion.

She continued:

‘Finally, I prayed and I said, ‘Lord, I know what you want me to say, but this is as close as I can get to it, if it’s Your will, let my baby live.’

To steal from the movie Grease. I got chills, they’re multiplying.

‘Almost immediately after praying that, I got the peace that passes understanding and I knew you would be okay. I knew my baby was alive.

Two days later you woke up and you said…I was here on your right and your grandmother was on your left and you said, ‘I just visited the most beautiful place.’ And you turned to Momma (my grandmother) and said, ‘And your mother was there.’

‘You were in Heaven and you saw her there.’

My great grandmother died when I was two. I don’t remember her, though according to Mom, she loved me and hugged and snuggled with me and I let her do it and was content to be loved and hugged and snuggled.

Out of body experience? Mom believes so. I have no reason to disagree.

If you know anything about me, you know I write dark stories and that I’ve always been fascinated by the darkness of the human soul. Mom said she’s always thought that my interest in these things is related to that event. She may just be right.

And, if you know anything about me at all, then you know I have faith in God, in Jesus, and you also know I’ve always been a little different in my approach on a lot of things in life. I am my own person and I like it that way. Do I believe I paid Heaven a little visit and that I saw my great grandmother? You bet.

Do I believe in the power of prayer? Yup.

My mom wiped her eyes and gave me a smile. She understood why I felt the way I did. Why? Because she had seen me in a similar position when I was a little kid. She had seen me unconscious with wires and i.v’s hooked up to my body. It couldn’t have been easy for her.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it now: nothing makes you appreciate life more than death.

I lived through death years ago. I was prayed through it. Today, my dad is alive and he was prayed through it. I know many out there don’t believe in God and Jesus, but I do. My family does.

One more thing. I’ve thought on this story a lot tonight and I’ll probably think on it a lot going forward. It’s a story I am happy I heard. It explains a lot.

I got chills, they’re multiplying…

I don’t know how things will be going forward. But I know that moment will always be special, real and raw with emotion. And I understand a few things about myself that I never did before. It’s interesting how one story can make you see things differently.

Until we meet again, my friends, be kind to one another.

I don’t have a vagina.

Now that that’s out the way, let me explain. It’s true. I don’t have a vagina. And, you, the readers of the world and other writers of the world, don’t care. You don’t look at me and say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror and he has a penis, so we probably shouldn’t take his work all that seriously.’ You don’t do that, do you? Do you?

Of course you don’t. Why would you? It sounds absurd. Yes, absurd.

Let me break this down. It’s one thing to say, ‘hey, he writes dark fiction and horror so we probably shouldn’t take him all that seriously.’ I get that. Some people don’t think writing horror is difficult. I kindly point out that the two hardest things to do in entertainment of any type are to scare people and to make them laugh. It’s not easy. Go ahead, try. At any rate, horror may not be your cup of tea and if it isn’t, that’s fine and you would probably not think there is much literary value in the darker worlds horror writers create. I get it.

However, it’s something else all together to say, ‘he has a penis, so let’s not take him seriously.’ Really? What does my penis have to do with anything I write? Nothing. It doesn’t whisper to me the words to say. It doesn’t think for me.

A few hypothetical questions:

If I told you I was a horror writer, would you call me a whore? Would you say I’m a whorror writer? When you look at my bio image do you automatically say, ‘hey, he’s a hunk of a man, so clearly he can’t put two words together or even form a coherent sentence? (For the record, if you called me a hunk of a man, I would laugh, then I would cry, then I would laugh and cry at the same time—I know what I look like and I am what I am.) Would you think I wrote with my penis? If that were possible, I think I would sell How To Videos. But I just can’t make it hold a pen or type. It’s just not happening.

See how ridiculous that sounds? Nobody is going to asks these questions of a man. Nobody is going to look at a guy and think ‘he’s so hot he can’t write or that he uses his penis to write. It just doesn’t happen.

Now, let me ask you one more question. Are you ready for this? Here goes:

What if I was a woman and said I wrote horror?

Wow. Things got quiet in here.

I want you to think about this for a moment. If I were a woman, would you view me any differently? Would you view my writing any differently? Would you view my abilities to tell a good story any differently? Would you think that I am beneath you or subpar to you, especially if you are a man? Would you think I couldn’t write as well as any man out there?

The sad thing about this is, for some, maybe even many people that I realize, the answer would be ‘yes.’ And most of those people would be men.

And why is that? (Disclaimer: the thoughts to this answer are my views and opinions and are only accurate if they apply to someone who thinks this way. If it doesn’t apply to you, then you are awesome.) My honest opinion is that men (I’m generalizing here, folks) have a superiority complex and many of them feel that no woman is equal to, or greater than, the penis swinging gender. I don’t know where this heightened sense of self-importance and self-absorbance comes from, but its kind of meh…it’s kind of stupid. No, it’s not kind of stupid, it’s all the way stupid.

As a friend of mine put it so eloquently: this goes back to the cave man days where the man hit the woman over the head and dragged her back to the cave. ‘I am cave man, hear me roar.’

Have we not advanced any further in society than that? Do we still have the cave man mentality? Sadly, there are a few men out there that do.

Just because I have a penis doesn’t mean I am better than someone who has a vagina. In fact, that someone can do something totally amazing that I can’t: give birth to life. That is, as I’ve said before, bad-assery. Wait, there is more. Not only do they give birth to life, but they also love the life they created, even though that life destroyed their bodies. Okay, men, do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Go give birth to another person.

So, how did that work out?

It didn’t? Hmmm…

Okay, some of you are probably thinking this topic isn’t serious. But, it is. Very much so. February is Women in Horror month and I have seen more men bashing these writers than I think I ever have before. It’s ridiculous.

Recently, I read a blog post written by Stephanie M. Wytovich, a writer. The title? Take the Whore Out of Horror. You can find it HERE.

Miss Wytovich wrote of a conversation she had with an individual. The following is an excerpt from her blog post (used with permission):

Stranger: “Writer, huh. So what do you write?”

Me: “I write speculative fiction.”

Stranger: “What does that mean?”

Me: “Genre fiction. I’m a horror writer.”

Stranger: “A whore writer?” *immature giggles*

Me: “No, a horror writer? *death stare*

Stranger: “Same thing. So whore fiction, eh?

A whore writer? Really? That has never, ever happened to me. Is that because I’ve never come across someone so witty as to come up with that? Is it because I’m not pretty? No. It’s neither of those. I think it’s because I don’t have a vagina. I really do.

The term whore is degrading in and of itself. It is defined as a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money. Do you really, honestly, think it is okay to call someone a whore? If so, then know a lot of men who may fall under that term.

For the record, if anyone were to ever call my wife, daughter, sister, mom, nieces, female friends, this, I will beat the piss out of them. And I’m sure many of you men out there would feel the same way if someone said that about one of your loved ones. Why, then, would we call a woman that if it offends us when someone calls our loved ones that?

Answer a question: What does gender have to do with it? Seriously? What does gender have to do with how good someone writes or how good someone does his or her job? What does gender have to do with any type of artistic creativity? What does being female or male have to do with anything in this business of writing/publishing?

Nothing.

Let me repeat:

N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

I want to try and stick to the horror writing subject here, so I want to quote something else Miss Wytovich said in her blog about female horror writers:

We are WOMEN working in HORROR and we are PROFESSIONALS.

Why did she say this in bold and capitalizing three key words? Because of the paragraph before that:

This issue, beyond every issue that there is in publishing, and in horror, is what I have the biggest problem with. I’ve talked about stigmas and clichés a lot this month, but the notion that women in horror are nothing more than what their bodies portray them to be, is ridiculous. And it’s immature. And it’s offensive.

She’s right. But she left off a few things. It’s not only immature and offensive, it’s narrow-minded and outdated. It’s cave mannish. It’s a few other things, but I’m trying to keep from being snarky and rude.

I want to say this to anyone who thinks that women are lesser than men in the horror world, you clearly haven’t had the pleasure of reading the likes of Mercedes Murdock Yardley, Fran Friel, Belinda Frisch, Chantal Noordeloos, Anne Michaud, A.C. Wise, Lisa Morton, Tracie McBride, Mary Shelley and (my favorite) Shirley Jackson. These are all very good writers who happen to be women. Does that make them any less than writers who just happen to be men? Nope. Not at all.

Here’s the problem: this is a prejudice. It’s a mindset. In order to change a prejudice toward anything, you first have to change the mindset. We are all people, regardless of gender, color, creed or sexual preferences. At the end of the day, we are all people. What makes anyone better than anyone else? Nothing. I think it was the band Depeche Mode who asked what makes a man hate another man. I want to ask, what makes a man better than a woman?

Nothing. There’s that word again.

Just because you were born with a penis doesn’t make you better than someone born with a vagina.

As a person, I want to be treated with respect. I want to make a living and support my family. I want to enjoy any successes I earn and learn from the failures I have along the way. As a writer, I want readers and I want people to buy my books and I want to be treated equally among my peers. So, why shouldn’t our female horror writers be treated the same? Why shouldn’t they want the same? Why shouldn’t we, the male population, respect them the same way we respect other men? The answers, in order are they should, they should and we should.

I said it’s a prejudice and a mindset. It is. If someone looks down on someone because of their gender or race or whatever, then it is a prejudice, and prejudice is learned. Some will argue with me, and that’s fine, but I stand by this: prejudice is learned (and in many cases, taught). If someone hurt you and they are not the same color as you, then you may develop an idea that all people of that color would do the same thing. You learned something from an experience and then it was attached to all people of that color, as if every single person of that color would do the same thing. That’s not a good way to think. Or maybe someone taught you it’s okay to treat women poorly. Or maybe you just do it because you can. It doesn’t matter where the behavior comes from, it’s just not acceptable.

I am fortunate enough that I was taught to treat women with respect. I am fortunate that I was taught that every person should be treated with a bare minimum of respect, no matter who they are and that you should never, ever go below that minimum level. I am fortunate that I can sit back and take criticism from women and take advice from women and even seek that advice out from women. Why? Because I’m no better than they are, and in most cases, women are far better than I am.

Women have played significant roles in helping me with all three of my books. Tracie McBride edited Along the Splintered Path. Paula Ray helped me with the title and the bio. My wife helped me select the stories for Southern Bones and proofed them when the edits were finished. She also proofed Cory’s Way. Bailey Hunter did the cover lay out. Sue Babcock helped edit it and Paula Ray pointed out a few important things that, if they hadn’t been caught, could have had negative implications on what readers thought. I wouldn’t change any of the work they did on my books and I enjoyed working with each of them. Note the key word there: with. They didn’t work for me, we worked with each other, giving an equal amount of effort on the projects, the way it should be.

I guess I’m old school. I still hold doors for women. I still carry heavy items for them. I still let them get in an elevator before me and I offer to help them if I see they need help (and sometimes when they don’t). I still stand up in a crowded room and offer them my seat. I still hold women in high regard. When did we lose the ability to be gentlemen and don’t say it began with woman’s lib–that’s a cop out.

I want to take one more tidbit from Miss Wytovich’s blog. It’s very important, and it’s every single thing that the writing profession should be:

Let’s all just realize that the label of female horror writer shouldn’t even exist.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It’s as simple and true as that.

Miss Wytovich hit it on the head. You never hear someone say ‘he’s a male horror writer.’ Then why should you hear ‘she’s a female horror writer’? Gender doesn’t matter. The ability to tell a great story does. I don’t care if you are male or female, if you can write a story that I like, that engages me and that I connect with, then I will read your work.

We’re all writers.

We’re all professionals.

It really is as simple and true as that.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

(I would like to thank Stephanie M. Wytovich for allowing me to use portions of her blog post for this particular post. Also, please check out her blog, Join Me In the Madhouse.)

You guys and gals are in for a treat. Today I want to draw a little blood from a very talented young lady. If you’ve never read anything by her, then you are missing out. She writes in a smooth, easy way that even some of the more brutal scenes can make you squirm without you realizing you are doing so. Today I would like to invite Chantal Noordeloos to the Donor Center for a little Pinch. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much.

Draw blood? *blinks* They didn’t tell you how squeamish I am? Be warned, I might faint. I know, I know… I write really gruesome things. But that works for me… see, I know I’m onto something when I feel like I may lose consciousness at any time.

Chantal, before we get to your new book, let’s talk about Coyote. Tell me about her and the series she is in.

I love talking about Coyote! *suppresses a little squee* She’s one of my own favourite characters. Well, she shares first place with my version of Lucifer (Even Hell Has Standards and Celestials) and Soulman (Deeply Twisted), but she’s definitely up there.

So, what would you like me to tell you about Coyote? That her partner and best friend, Caesar, is a former slave, who knows a little magic? Or that she’s a bounty hunter who has a special kind of target? She hunts creatures that are called Outlanders. They’re not exactly aliens, but they are definitely not from this world. Outlanders travel through the rips of reality, from one world to the next, often by accident. The worlds can be completely different realities, but sometimes they are just an alternate dimension from the earth.

It’s up to the hunters to track the wandering Outlanders down. Not all Outlanders are dangerous monsters, so Coyote and Caesar have to find out which of their bounties need to be killed, and which need to be protected.

The series is made out of separate stories that make up one whole main tale.

I use a little bit of everything in there, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird West, which gives me a lot of freedom to play around with the setting. I use a few historical facts, and even characters, but I play around with them too. Bending them to my will, if you like. *insert devious laughter here*

Unlike my horror work, I’ve kept Coyote accessible for different ages, though I wouldn’t say it’s Young Adult. The characters are too old for that, for one, but I like to think a younger audience will appreciate the novels as well.

The Coyote series definitely expresses my more ‘fun side’.

Are there more books to come in the Coyote series?

*hooks thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans, and balances on the heels of her feet* Yup, there sure are. *drops the cowboy act, because she’s just not very good at it*.

There are two books out so far. Coyote: The Outlander is the first novel, and it is the introduction to the setting and the characters. Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly is actually the first book that digs deeper into the main story line. It brings out some of the bigger antagonists, and I get to play around with a mysterious circus, what’s not fun about that? The next book in the series will be Coyote: The Rip Walker.

I have at least five books planned in this series to finish the story line that I started. It really depends on how well the series is received if there are going to be more than five.

Now, let’s talk Angel Manor. Tell the readers a little about this novel, if you don’t mind.

I guess I can’t just get away with posting the blurb, can I? *cheeky grin*. Ehm, okay, a little bit about Angel Manor… Well, for one, it’s the name of the house Freya inherits from her batty old aunt. The mansion gets its name from the stone angels that are placed in front of it. They are the only remains from the old cloister that once stood in its place, which burned down in the 19th century, killing all but two people.

Sounds like a pretty stereotypical set up for a haunted house novel, right? I can tell you, it’s not. I may have put a few extra layers in there.

Angel Manor should come with a warning label, there are some very graphic and explicit descriptions in the pages. I like to think it’s not a full on ‘Splatterpunk’ novel, though. I did put a lot more emphasis on the story than I did on the gore, but it’s definitely bloody.

Where did the idea for Angel Manor come from?

Well, this nun came to my house and… no, just kidding. I’m trying to remember if I ever actually met a real nun…

But, I digress. Ehm… where did I get my idea from?

It started that I really wanted to write a haunted house story. They’re one of my favorite tropes within the horror genre, and I just had to write my own. Personally I love using tropes, and I always hope that I am able to do something a little surprising with them.

The idea behind it actually came from another series I’m working on, called Celestials. I’ve written the first book already several times, but I’m still not satisfied with it, so this year I’m rewriting it again (for the last time I hope).

There are elements in that series that I could use for something else too, and I thought it would be perfect for Angel Manor.

Initially I was going to do more with the dead children in the book, that was my first concept. The idea of Angel Manor having been an orphanage really creeped me out, but as I was writing it, the nuns took over for me. They were stronger characters than the children were, and most of the scenes I wrote with the kids were cut out.

The nuns were a conscious choice, they were a perfect fit with the back story, be a good choice to run a 19th century orphanage, and be scary on top of that too. *throws confetti* I call that a win.

As for the stone angels. I knew I wanted to throw in a hint of a Celestial presence, and I was totally inspired by Dr. Who’s weeping Angels. Though, these angels are very different, the visual image of them still plays a part.

Angel Manor is book one of a series? How do you envision this series going forward?

Without giving away too many spoilers, there will be two more books. All of them center around the house, however, the next two books will also have parts set in different locations. There will be more focus on the secret that lies beneath the manor.

As I mentioned before, there are ties with the Celestials series. Both will be set in the same time period, and their stories are interlinked. That doesn’t mean you have to read both series to understand the stories. They are two separate entities, but I think it will be fun for the reader to see familiar things when they read them. I might cross over certain characters, and I shall definitely be using similar events.

Horrific Tales Publishing put out Angel Manor. How was your experience with them?

Publishing is always a bit of a roller coaster ride. It’s nice when a book is well received and the sales are good. Horrific Tales does a lot to promote its books.

One last question: Do you think you’d make a good nun?

I don’t know if the other nuns would appreciate my lack of faith. *grins*. I am not a good follower, so, no, I don’t think I would make a good nun. And the thought of living with nothing but women for the rest of my life terrifies me. When I was a teenager I lived in a boarding school for a year, where the housing situation was ‘all girls’. (We went to school with boys too, but we weren’t allowed in each other’s houses, not even the common rooms). That was all the ‘all girl’ experience I’m willing to have in one lifetime.

Okay, see painless, right?

I had a cat put her claws in my leg as I was answering these questions, does that count? *cheeky wink*

***

Excerpt from Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly

“You won’t be the first bounty hunter I’ve killed, little girl.” The Outlander guffawed, spittle flying from his lips. “And you won’t be the last.” He puffed up his impressive chest, and Coyote could not hide her smile. She liked to see overconfidence in an opponent.

“Are you sure about that, fat man?” She ran the palm of her hand across the butt of her gun, the way an owner would stroke a cat. There is something alluring and powerful about having a shooting iron on my hip. “Because you won’t be the first Outlander I kill.”

“You need to be a good shot to kill me with that.” The Outlander’s froggy eyes gleamed with pleasure, and his large lips rubbed against each other. With two hands, he lifted his stomach a few inches and let it drop again. “And trust me, no matter how good you are, you won’t be good enough. I never stay down long.” The creature leered at her as if he had a secret, and Coyote nodded—her smile never faded.

“They told me that about you.” She pulled her derby away from her eyes. “That’s a neat trick, being able to come back from the dead. Oh, I’m aware of that particular talent of yours.”

The Outlander blinked at her, his face betraying his surprise.

“I can see how you killed a lot of bounty hunters with that particular skill. They probably never saw it coming.” She winked at him. “It’s a little inconvenient, to say the least, to shoot an Outlander and have him get back up.” Coyote squinted her eyes and then shrugged. “It’s nothing I can’t work around.”

The Outlander let out a boisterous laugh—more spittle flew from his liver lips—and he revealed a set of grey broken teeth.

“You can work around my immortality?” He laughed again, and his whole body shook.

“You’re not immortal, fat man,” Coyote retorted with a warm smile. “People who can’t die are immortal. You can die; you’re just hard to kill.”

The Outlander slapped the thick flesh of his belly and rubbed it slowly, the smile still prominent on his pudgy face. “You think you can shoot me with that pea shooter of yours?” His voice took on a metallic quality, like nails dragged across iron.

“I know I can shoot you with my pea shooter. I am one heck of a shot.”

“And you think you can kill me with your iron bullets?”

“Iron bullets alone won’t do the trick, but I hear that Huzela juice in your blood will help those bullets kill you just fine.”

The rubbing motion stopped and the Outlander gawked at Coyote.

“Caesar?” Coyote’s tone was soft and smug, and the Outlander jumped a little when Caesar touched him. The big creature turned just in time to see the little man with coal black skin run from harm’s way. Caesar held a large, intricate copper syringe with a curved needle in his hand, and Coyote chuckled at the sight. The fat creature roared in outrage.

“What have you done to me, you bitch?” He charged toward Coyote, and she could see the color in his eyes turn from yellow to red.

Excerpt from Angel Manor

The bodies of fallen children lay scattered around the room, their blood coagulating in a pool covering over half the chapel floor. The whimpers coming from the survivors were little more than a pitiful hum.

Agatha had thought her mission noble when she’d first joined the order, but this suffering overwhelmed her with nausea and regret. There was a better way than this needless waste of young life, Agatha was sure of it.

“We could save thousands of lives by sacrificing but a few. Sister Anne and I have studied the texts, and we’re pretty confident we can do it… tonight even. We made all the preparations, just in case you changed your mind. The sacrifice required is relatively small compared…”

The Reverend Mother’s hand lashed out, connecting with Agatha’s cheek with a loud crack. Pain spread out in tiny pinpricks across her face. Shocked, she clutched her face and looked at the Mother Superior.

“Enough of this!” Spittle flew from the Reverend Mother’s lips. “Your rituals are pagan, we serve our Lord here as we were instructed. You had best mind what blasphemous words you utter here, Sister Agatha. The Lord does not look kindly upon heathens.” The older woman’s face relaxed slightly, and her expression turned from angry to stern. “We will never speak of this again. Now go and make the sacrifices required of us.” The old woman shoved her forward with a force that belied her frail appearance. Agatha slipped on a puddle of blood, her legs sprawling under her like an awkward doe’s. She fell to the ground, her wrists and elbow hitting the floor hard. Pain shot up through her arms, her naked body shivering on the cold stones. She looked up to see the Mother Superior walk away, leaving bloody footsteps in her wake. Agatha’s eyes followed her until she passed the body of little Margaret. The young girl lay with her neck twisted at an impossible angle, eyes staring lifelessly at the horror within the chapel.

I must find Anne. Sister Agatha scrambled to her feet, her hands and legs stained with cold sticky blood. She glanced at the carnage around her and then she ran, the soles of her feet slapping against stone, the impact rattling her teeth.

She ran from the chapel, through the narrow passages, and across the great cloister. The Sister felt the cold eyes of the twelve stone angels lining the walls of the large open area look down on her. Slowing her pace, she glanced up at the imposing statues. Even knowing stone couldn’t judge her, she found it difficult not to imagine God peering down through those blank eyes. A shudder ran through her spine, and she picked up her pace, not stopping until she reached the library.

“Anne…” Her voice reverberated off the high walls, echoing parts of her words back at her. “Sister Anne?”

A voice came from behind her. “Sister Agatha…”

***

Whew. Smooth, energetic writing. If you haven’t read Chantal, you need to. I hope you enjoyed the interview. I know I did and I look forward to more from Chantal.

You can find Chantal at any of the following places:

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/pon4e66

Blog: http://chantalnoordeloos.blogspot.nl/

Website: http://www.chantalnoordeloos.info

Twitter: C_Noordeloos

Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/puy2t87

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/kb3oswg

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned before about the nurses and how some of them are slightly sadistic. Well, today we get to meet an old friend of mine who just happens to work in the medical field and he likes to kill people, but not in real life. You know, because that would be bad and well, it is what it is. Sadistic, maybe? Yes, I do think so. Coming to the Donor Center today is Kevin Wallis, a master of the pinch.

Let’s talk Soulmates, why don’t we? Tell us about your novel, Mr. Wallis.

Soulmates developed from an idea I had for a story about 15 years ago. I was shooting pool with a buddy when the song Eulogy by Tool came on the jukebox. In the song is the line “Not all martyrs see divinity,” and over the next couple of hours I was more interested in the story idea that had popped into my head than in the game. I’m sure I won, but still.

Over the years I had filled countless notebooks with, well, notes on the story, but of course the final version turned out nothing like what I originally had planned. Basically it’s the story of a man who discovers through an act of violence that he cannot die, and how he reconciles this with his desire to one day see his deceased wife in the afterlife. There are others with this ability, and I tried to explore the vastly different ways people would handle having such a gift, and whether they would use their immortality to help or hurt.

I have had some people respond to this idea with, “Oh, it’s Highlander,” but let me just clear the record and say I HAVE NEVER SEEN THE DAMN MOVIE!

Soulmates is your first novel. Before releasing it you wrote mainly short stories. Why did you decide on a novel?

When I first came up with the Soulmates idea, I had not started writing seriously yet. I had dabbled in fiction since I was a kid, but this idea was so intriguing I decided to give it a try. So I wrote the prologue to the novel. Basically 35,000 words of crap. That’s right, 35,000 words on a PROLOGUE. (For you non-writer types, this comes out to about 125 pages. Of prologue.) I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. It took many more years of writing short stories, gathering hundreds of rejections, finally gaining enough experience to land a few professional sales, and eventually publishing an anthology of my stuff before I had the guts to try a novel. I still have the occasional short story idea pop into my head, still often inspired by a song I might hear (Chevelle’s Hunter Eats Hunter gave me a wicked idea a few days ago), but I want to focus mainly on novels now. Hopefully people will want to read them.

Julie Ann Dawson owns and runs Bards and Sages, the press that published Soulmates. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple stories published by Bards and Sages Quarterly, but I would think working with someone on a novel would be different than working with them on a short story. What was it like working with Julie and her staff?

Julie Dawson and Bards & Sages have been nothing but supportive and professional in publishing both Soulmates and my previous collection in 2010, Beneath the Surface of Things. When I originally contacted Julie, it was with more than a little trepidation because B&S had already rejected several of my short story submissions. But I figured this meant they had high standards and only published what they saw as exceptional works, and this is what I wanted. I had a bad experience with another publisher at another small press company before, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth concerning the entire process, but Julie has since eliminated any lingering doubts I had on the professionalism of some small presses. Plus, she decided to turn my work into audio books, as well, so this makes me do cartwheels of glee. Which is the title of my next book.

Any chance we get another novel from Mr. Wallis?

Definitely. Just not sure when. I have the first few chapters of a new one written but it’s been slow going. The next one isn’t so much a horror novel, but more of a suspense story. Knowing me, though, it’ll wind up being my sickest one yet. They always do.

One last thing: Do you enjoy giving people shots?

Only if the needles are dull and rusty.

Folks, Kevin Wallis is a cool dude with a love of needles and horror fiction. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and alongside Kevin on various projects over the years. His short story collection, Beneath the Surface of Things is exactly as it sounds. He tried to get beneath the surface of the human persona and peel back the layers until exposing the true person inside.

Soulmates is a good, easy, fast-paced read that any fan of horror will enjoy. Check him out on Amazon and Bards and Sages Publishing at the following links:

Soulmates

Beneath the Surface of Things

Bards and Sages Publishing

Zombies. They’re the in crowd, the monsters everyone is talking about right now. They kill indiscriminately. One bite, even just a pinch of the teeth, and you’re as good as dead, well undead. With that in mind, let’s bring in Greg Ferrel, the author of the Humanity’s Hope series.

Let me get straight to the point: Why zombies?

Zombies rock. They are the epitome of an unstoppable enemy that wants nothing more than to kill you. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers they don’t scare me as much. They are one being, a serious threat, yes, but still just one being. They always seem to have a weakness you can exploit to survive. Zombies have one, too, but they are legion. Shoot one in the head four more come running, shambling, crawling or whatever and they wont stop until you run out of gas and become dinner. They have always been my favorite of the movie monsters, and as far back as I can remember I had a plan for the coming apocalypse more thought out then I had my plan if it didn’t happen.

Tell us about Humanity’s Hope, the series.

Humanity’s Hope came from my belief that it would be possible with the right people and the right mindset that you could survive the apocalypse and have hope again.

It starts out as a group of close friends who have built a safe haven in a neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, that one of them lived in when the outbreak happened fifteen months earlier. They have a wall built protecting them inside from the slabs, which is their name for the zombies, or even other humans who would want to take from them. They have weapons scavenged from overun military convoys and many other places. They have limited electricity from solar panels on one of the houses and ample food supplies. Life is looking good for them and they are survivng well.

All hell breaks loose on them though shortly afterwards. They face two impending threats from the north and the south and the camp comes under attack.

As the smoke clears there is loss and confusion as the survivors deal with the aftermath. A revelation from one of the residents reveals a much more sinister world that threatens their survival. But there is also hope as one of them goes through a change after being bitten.

While the people in Tallahassee are trying to survive another group of people scattered all around the world are attempting to reconnect with each other. These people have lived a very secretive yet powerful life and want nothing more than to regain their lofty position controlling the events of the world. Is there more to them then just their lofty position and what is their ultimate goal?

Hutch is a man on two missions. The first is to kill slabs and he is good at it. One at a time is too slow and he is not a patient man. With a twenty year carer as a Navy SEAL recently behind him he has the know how to cause massive damage to the slab population. His second mission is his secret. Follow him as he travels across the country doing what only he can do the way he does it.

The stories of these groups will become intertwined and a much more secret history of the world will be revealed as the series moves on. History is written by the survivors not the dead, what we know may not be the truth.

If you had to convince someone to pick up the Humanity’s Hope series instead of another book (or series), what would you say?

Humanity’s Hope is not just another zombie survival book. It is an adventure as you follow not just one group of people but at times up to four differnet groups of people in various locations of the world. The story will span 3000 years as the origin of the zombie plague goes back farther than we could ever imagine. Before it is over you will find out that the zombies aren’t the only monster the survivors will have to deal with but they might end up with a few on their side too.

It is also a more positive look at the apocalypse and I prove that you don’t have to go over the top with the language or violence to get your point across about what is going on. Even though there is some language in it I have had a few parents feel very comfortable letting their teenagers read it saying it’s nothing worse than they hear on network television.

It is a page turning, fast paced ride that many readers have written to me complaining that the book ruined any chance of getting a good nights sleep. They couldn’t put it down until long after they had planned on reading for the night.

Greg, what do you believe is the most important part of telling a story?

Make the reader want to turn the page. Keep it interesting and keep it moving. Some readers might want you to spend two pages describing the mole on the side of someones face, but I think most of them want to get a good story full of fun interesting characters. I love a good story where the action keeps coming at you to the point where you find yourself breathing faster and faster not even realizing you are doing it. But not at the expense of quality action. I feel it needs to have a reason for happening though, a gunfight or fistfight that has no impact on the outcome of the story is stupid it needs to carry through either changing the character or the outcome of the story.

Including Humanity’s Hope, what stories does Greg Ferrel have for us in the future?

I have just released my first non monster book on January 5th called Nothing Ever Happens Here. It is a coming of age story of two boys having the night of their lives, good and bad, as they try to get to a party to meet up with some girls they like. They face off against nudists, bullies, cops, witches, shotguns and so much more. The great part is that all the events are based on real life experiences I had growing up. It is something very different than my first two books and is being received very well by reviewers.

I plan on wrapping up the last three books as well as two or three short story books in the Humanity’s Hope series in 2015. As soon as I wrap those up I will be jumping right into my next series which will be a fantasy series I am keeping under wraps until I can get to work on it.

I have to ask this question because I think you and I are of the same mindset. You have a saying: “I’m not an author, I’m a storyteller.” I say the exact same thing. In your mind, what is the difference between an author and a storyteller?

I view the difference of the two are similar to the way you classify baseball players. You can play for years in the minors but wont be taken seriously about your skill until you make it to the big leagues. Then you are a professional ball player, a Major Leaguer. For me I feel like I am just a storyteller until I am taken seriously by my peers up top in the publishing world in New York. I do feel like I will one day accept that title of author even though at heart I will always be a storyteller.

Here is a brief excerpt from Humanity’s Hope : Camp H:

It has been three days since Hutch had arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and he has been on a recon watch since arriving. Not because of slabs, though. This time it is because of a human, he thinks. He came here to see the famed PGA golf course Harbor Bay, and he has arrived. But instead of finding a grossly-overgrown golf course; he, instead, finds that it is in incredible shape almost pristine. That doesn’t make sense, and he is on watch waiting to see who is taking care of it.

He had a hellacious time getting here as almost every bridge to the area was either destroyed or impassable. The only bridge to Harbor Bay was completely destroyed and under water from end to end. So he had to abandon his vehicle on the other side of the river and swim across, bringing as much weaponry as he could with him, which wasn’t much. Since arriving, he has not seen a single slab in the area or any human for that matter; but he has found several dead corpses lying around that indicates someone cleaned house here. And then he found the golf course and has been waiting for any sign of its keeper.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch catches the first sign of movement since he arrived; and it catches him a little off guard. In a small golf cart, with a set of golf clubs on the back, sits one lone old man.   He is dressed as you would expect someone heading out to play golf for the day to be dressed. He wears long black-and-white plaid pants with a bright yellow polo shirt and a straw hat keeping the sun out of his eyes. He watches as the lone man cuts his cart across the backyard of one of the houses bordering the fairway of the first hole and parks at the tee box and then approaches it with a club and ball in hand.

Hutch continues watching all this from his hiding spot on the third floor of another house bordering the golf course. He thinks at first that maybe he is imagining this scene before his eyes. And then thinks it again as he watches the little old man, who can’t be more than five feet tall and weigh about a hundred and ten pounds, hit his first drive and watches it go about 325 yards straight down the fairway. Hutch, with his physical shape, would love to one day be able to hit a drive that far, and he is impressed. However, none of this thinking is helping his confusion on what is going on around here.

Hutch watches the little old man scoot from hole to hole; and by the time he rounds out of sight heading to the fifth hole, Hutch has his score at two under par already. With him out of sight and no other human spotted, he thinks maybe it is time to approach the old man and see if he can get some answers. So he grabs one lone rifle and heads downstairs and out the back door to find him.

As Hutch opens the back door, he is startled by the sight of the golf cart he was just watching sitting on the back patio of the house. He turns to see where its occupant is and finds himself staring straight down the barrel of a .357 magnum with the old man looking down its barrel back at him.

“Can I help you, sonny?” The old man asks.

Okay, zombie lovers, let’s show Mr. Greg Ferrell some love. Feel free to leave comments at the end of this post.  Thank you, Greg, for coming in and spending a little time with us, here at Type AJ Negative.

You can find out about all of his books at www.humanityshope.com

You can also follow him at humanityshope series on Facebook.

 

Quiet reflection. Some folks may have seen the title of this blog and decided they didn’t want to read it, thinking that this is just another one of those posts about someone reflecting on the year that has passed. Well, quite frankly, they are right…and wrong. Yes, this piece is about reflecting on the past, but it’s also about the future, about a goal we all have: living life.

You’ve heard me say this before, so stick with me for a minute and I’ll explain.

Our world today is a very negative place. We hear about tragedies day in and day out. It gets kind of old. Cops shooting people. Terrorists beheading innocent people. Schools being shot up. Men beating and raping women. People hating others because of skin color or sexual preference or religious or political differences. People killing others because one didn’t like the other’s favorite sports team. Drugs and greed and divorces and suicides and crime. Just turn on the television and you see it in all of its overhyped glory.

But it’s not just tragedies that make the world such a negative place. There are people—a lot of them, by the way—who are not happy unless they are miserable and unless everyone else knows about it. And don’t let someone else have it worse than they do. So many people have poor pitty me syndrome. Misery loves company and all that. It’s mind numbing.

I want to do something positive. I want to do something that doesn’t bring people down, but lifts them up.

But before I can do that I must reflect on my life, on me for a few moments.

I’m not perfect. In God’s eyes I’m a sinner, though redeemed by Jesus’ blood. But I’m not perfect. I make a lot of mistakes, both accidentally and on purpose. What? How can a mistake be on purpose? That’s simple: if you choose to do something even though you know it is wrong or that it can hurt someone, then that is intentional, and it’s a mistake. I’ve done this. I will make many more mistakes during my lifetime. I will be selfish. I will be angry. I will be judgmental. I will, from time to time, be lazy or obstinate. I will intentionally not do something someone has asked me to do (I will also unintentionally do the same thing). I am human. It’s the one quality every person in the world shares, no matter race, religion, political standing, religious beliefs, economical status—we are all human.

When I was younger I didn’t care what people thought of me. I spoke my mind, regardless of someone’s feelings. I held grudges for a long time. If I didn’t like you, I let you know. I was all about loving some me. Man, what a jerk. But I’m older now and I’ve watched the world change, just as my parents did and their parents before them and so on. I can honestly say not all change is good, just as not all change is bad. I have changed. Just ask anyone who knows me. Some of it has been good. And other things, well, not so much.

For the record, I’m not setting goals for myself. I think most goals are set ups to fail. Why? Because a lot of goals are so lofty attaining them is near impossible. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think setting goals is a bad idea, as long as you work to follow through with them. But let’s face it, most people make New Year’s Resolutions to be better people or to lose weight or to find a new job or to not be so danged lazy all the time or whatever. By the second week of the year, for the most part, those goals are wrecked and often times we are left feeling as if we failed and that we can’t start back over and try again. Two things: You can try again and you can start over. Yes, they are one and the same. Thank you for noticing. There is always that whole, ‘it’s just a New Year’s resolution, and no one keeps them’ mindset.

One more thing before I get to the gist of this. As I mentioned earlier, I am reflecting quite a bit on my life right now. Over the last few months I have learned something about myself I don’t like: I’m very negative. I have a negative attitude on a lot of things, and I do not like that. Look, I used a negative in that last sentence, but that’s not what I mean (oo0, look, another negative). I’ve never really had a positive outlook on things. I’m always thinking the worst about things, and let me tell you, that is a bad thing. Why? Because people pick up on that negativity and it can rub off on others.

Now, here’s the deal:

I’m going to do something and I hope others will get involved with it. It’s called the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign. What is the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign? Well, I never thought you’d ask, but since you did: The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is taking a day and living it for someone else. No, not literally–you can’t live someone else’s life, unless you’ve murdered them and stolen their identity, but that’s frowned upon in society, so let’s steer clear of that. Okay?

The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is simply living your life every day. Living. Do you understand? So often we wait for tragedy to kick-start our lives. So often it takes a death or near death experience for people to open their eyes and see that life is a gift that we so often take for granted. The people in our lives are gifts that we also take for granted. Our health, our jobs, our homes, our abilities, the things we have both earned and been given. These are all gifts. Sometimes life sucks. I know. I’ve been there and probably will be there again. If I’m honest with you all, there is one part of my life that sucks right now and has for the last couple years, and I’ve let that suckage control a large part of the rest of my life. Again, if I’m honest, it’s a gift. One that I may not always want, and one that I definitely need in order to support my family, but one that I haven’t been happy with for a couple years now. Sometimes we just have to make the best of a situation we don’t like, and I haven’t done that, and that, folks, is on me. I have had a negative attitude in that aspect of my life and it affects everything I do.

It affects how I have lived.

Living…Let’s take the ‘I Lived For’ Campaign just a step further. We’ve all known someone or heard of someone who has passed away or who struggles with various issues in life. It is for those people that we live for. To take a moment during the day and say, ‘hey, I’m going to live my day for this person,’ and then remember that person as you go through the day. The thinking behind this is simple. If I had to live one day of my life for someone else I would want it to be something that person could remember. It’s like a dedication page in a book. I dedicate this book to Gramma Haygoode and so on and so on. Only, this isn’t a book, it’s a day of your life. And what better to dedicate to someone than a day of your life in his or her honor?

I know, it sounds cheesy, right? Wrong. How often do we see an athlete dedicate a game or a season to someone? How often do we see someone doing something nice in honor of someone else? How often do we hear someone say after accomplishing something, ‘this is for…?’ So, why not dedicate a day to a person?

Or, why not dedicate each day to someone different? This is what I want to do: I want to dedicate each day to someone. I want to live life, not live the mundane. No, I don’t have to do anything special each day. No need to jump out of planes or try to mark off things on a bucket list (which I do not have one of). That’s not the point. The point is to live life happily, to live life with a smile and appreciate every second of every day. The ‘I Lived For’ Campaign is about enjoying life, and if living a day or a series of days or even a year’s worth of days helps us live life happily, then why not do it?

Today, the first day of the year, I have chosen to live life, not just for myself, but for others as well. Today, the first day of the year, though I have not felt well, I have chosen to live this day for my son, Logan. He is my little buddy, and yes, sometimes he drives me nuts, but he, like my little girl, Chloe, is awesome, and today, I lived for him, not feeling well and all.

One more thing, try this: do a random act of kindness for someone you don’t know and expect nothing in return. Don’t boast about it. And be humble when you do it. Not only will you make someone else’s day, you will make your own day as well. I believe if we, as a people, did one random act of kindness each week, the world would be a better place.

I’ve always ended my blogs with ‘until we meet again my friends.’ Well, that’s changing. Why? Because I love Ellen Degeneres, and I love how she ends her shows. Going forward, I will end my blogs like this: Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…

Now Out, Cory’s Way

Posted: December 6, 2014 by ajbrown in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m going to make this quick today. After six years of working on Cory’s Way in one capacity or other, my debut novel has finally been released to the world in e-book format. You can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

You can also get it in print by either looking it up on Amazon or by going to my online store HERE. If you buy it through my store, then you save a few bucks and you get it signed by me.

If you haven’t heard about Cory’s Way, then read the next few paragraphs to learn more about it.

After his father leaves in the middle of the night, Cory Maddox and his mom, Gina, are forced to start over. Left alone while Gina tries to work her way out of debt, Cory deals with life as the new kid in school with no friends. Fleeing from the school bullies, Cory ends up under an overpass where an old homeless man lives. After being saved from the bullies, Cory and the homeless man, Mr. Washington, become friends.

But things don’t get any easier for Cory. Children are disappearing from around the state, and the bullies haven’t forgotten his escape the first time they went after him. And there is something wrong with Mr. Washington…something terribly wrong.

Accompanied by his only two friends and the unlikeliest of allies, Cory sets out to keep a promise to the ailing homeless man. Will Cory and his friends find a way to keep the promise, or will the journey prove too difficult for them?

Like it? I hope so.

The first two reviews are in as well:

An extraordinary story about a boy who learns that he must follow his heart when it comes to doing the right thing, even against Mom’s wishes. Well written, tense, and engaging, with all the emotional impact I love in a story, I found myself rooting for Cory through his difficult journey to find himself and keep a promise. The story wrapped me in Cory’s world and I didn’t want to put it down, even when finished. Because of the darker aspects of the story, it is best suited to anyone, young or old, over 13 or so. Highly recommended.

And:

Adult or Young Adult? That, friends, is the question. I’ve been accused of being an adult. Im in my early 30’s, so it’s probably a fair accusation. So what does it mean to be in your early 30’s in the year 2014? It means you were a child of the 80’s. What does being a child of the 80’s mean? It means I know what it is to be a Goonie. When I hear someone say they need to phone home, I point a finger in the air and say, ‘Elleee ot.’ Vanilla Ice is not a desert, and cowabunga is a real word. It means movies like Stand by Me and The Sandlot Kids are amongst my favourite of all time. A grown man enjoys watching movies about the hardships of being a kid? Why? Because I was one. As an adult you notice the things you didn’t as a youngster, you reminisce and you saviour. Also, I enjoy them now because I enjoyed them then.

This book, Corys Way, has that instant classic feel of an 80’s movie. You will connect, you will feel, you will know Cory. As an adult you will remember the simple conversations between boys and girls, moms and sons. As a Young Adult, I believe you will relate, but also, enjoy. Such a ride. The real horror, is because you feel like you know these kids, feel like you are one of these kids.

You will smile…but…beware. You will also cringe. You may even put the book down a minute, to catch your breath. Moments of horror and gore, maybe a bit too much for the young…but maybe it’ll hook them. For a young adult, this is the type of book to get you hooked to the horror genre.

So, Adult or Young Adult? Well that’s easy…BOTH! Feel the horror.

Though I don’t classify Cory’s Way as a horror novel, there are a couple of horrific moments within. To me, Cory’s Way is more of a coming of age story with a touch of dark content.

If you want a good read, why don’t you get your copy of Cory’s Way? It’s really only a click away.

Until we meet again, my friends…

Today, I get to pinch a fellow South Carolinian. With a new small press and a book coming out in January, I’d like you all to welcome Kindra Sowder to the Doner Center.

Kindra, your debut novel, Follow the Ashes, is coming out soon. Tell us about it.

Follow the Ashes is the first installment of a trilogy I began writing when I was fifteen, and there are possibly many more to come. I haven’t decided. It will be released January 11, 2015. The trilogy is about a woman named Robin (whose name was inspired by my beautiful mother) and she is the Executioner, a slayer of the evil and undead. Below is a brief description from the Burning Willow Press website.

What does it mean to be the Executioner? Is it the struggle between good and evil, and the fulfillment of a Gypsy legend?

For Robin, it’s simply another day in the park in downtown LA. It’s killing the undead as she attempts to juggle life and love the same as any other ordinary woman would. That is until she meets Gordon, a crazed demon with a conscience. Now she must battle an ancient evil far more powerful than she’s ever faced before, or risk losing the world to Lilith, the mother of all vampires.

Will she save mankind? Or will we all follow the ashes of destruction as we burn in Hell?

It will be followed by two sequels, Follow the Screams and Follow the Bloodshed.

Where will we, the readers, be able to find Follow the Ashes?

Follow the Ashes will be available in a number of places and formats. It will be available on Amazon as well as through e-book on Amazon and in print in stores and on shelves! Be on the lookout for it or you can request it if your local bookstore isn’t carrying it at the time. I’m really hoping I can get them on the shelves in Barnes & Noble to be honest as well as a lot of indie bookstores.

I see you are one busy lady right now. You have recently started a small press called Burning Willow Press. What made you decide to start your own small press?

Well, I decided to do this after the debacle with Permuted Press. When they changed their business model I was one of the many authors affected and I chose to dissolve my contract with them in search for something better. After that experience I wanted to be different so, while making the decision to self-publish my work, I made one very big leap. I decided to start my own small press, vowing to be an advocate for authors and their work instead of taking advantage of them like others do. Along with good friend and fellow author R.M. Willis and my husband Edd Sowder, we joined together to form Burning Willow Press to achieve that goal as well as to put out high quality work and to make an author’s vision for their work come to fruition.

For the writers out there, what types of work are you seeking?

At Burning Willow Press we are seeking science fiction, fantasy and horror. All submissions will go straight to our submissions and acquisitions team: Sheron Parris (fantasy submissions), Greg Crum (sci-fi submissions), and Steven Winfrey (horror submissions) to be brought to me by VP and acquisitions manager, R. M. Willis. We are very open to submissions that are a blend of these genres as well and we love unique work. One we just accepted is from former Permuted Press author, Michael Gardner. It is a pirate fantasy called The Blood of an Immortal. ARGGGHHH!

One last question, and I think I know the answer, but: Vampires or zombies and why?

Well, Jeff, while I do love zombies and am even a loyal Walking Dead fan, vampires have always been my favorite of the undead. They have been since I was a child and was captivated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even more as I continued to delve into the folklore. Then my favorite show, Supernatural, brought them out into the light, and well, who doesn’t love Buffy? If anyone wants to hook me, give me a really good and unique vampire story and you have my interest.

The following is an excerpt from Follow the Ashes:

My whole body burned. Every muscle fiber, every bone, every vessel. My chest felt broken but yet tightly held together like a huge hand was holding me. I couldn’t get a breath in, but could easily get a breath out. Lying there on my side I continued to try to choke in gasps, each one harder and more excruciating than the last. Blood was still seeping from the two puncture wounds on my neck. Some of that blood had even made its way into my hair and down my shirt. Great.

I could hear her footsteps coming closer to me. Or was that the heavy thud of my heart beating in my ears? With every step she took I knew I had to fight back. I could either fight for my life, or lose it by being a coward and giving into the pain. I was choosing life and I was going to fight for it with all the strength I had left. That’s if it was enough to even stand. If it wasn’t, fighting could be a different story altogether.

I rose to my knees and my body protested with nearly agonizing pain. I let the fire build up inside of me and it began to take me over like a tidal wave. This fire would save my life.

The woman’s steps stopped and I looked up at her, vowing vengeance and justice without even speaking a word. I didn’t see a flicker of fear in her eyes as she looked at me. I saw a gleam in her eyes that said she saw me as waste. Filth beneath her feet she could just walk all over and not even bat an eye. I was something not worth her time and something to be swiftly snuffed out. She had a plan, and she only needed to get rid of me to be able to fulfill it. I was going to be an easy kill to her, but I hadn’t yet revealed the rest of what I had in my arsenal. This fire inside of me wasn’t all I had. I had a will that no one could rival. Not even her.

My hand seemed to rise of its own volition, and the scream came out on instinct. The scream contained that familiar demonic edge that had distorted my voice the first time I let it overtake me. Fire blazed out of my hand and enveloped her in licking light and heat that was unforgiving. Her screams echoed through the night, and I let it pour out of me until every ounce of power had drained from my body, and I was nothing but a frail and hollow person. My vision began to fade, but I knew with everything I had that the demon was down on the ground. She was almost burnt to the point of being a charcoal briquette, but by some means still alive. I could still feel that strong buzz of her power throughout my entire body. No matter how much I wanted to extinguish that blaze inside of her, I determined I wouldn’t have the strength to do so.

I felt myself collapse and as my body made contact with the unforgiving ground every part of me cried with pain. I heard that same whimper come from between my parted lips. My vision was slowly fading, and as it faded completely to blackness I caught a glimpse of the man with an angel’s face coming to my rescue. I knew with certainty this would be when he would save me. Then everything went dark.

As I regained a moment’s consciousness I could feel myself being carried, and heard two distinct and panicked voices. I knew that I was definitely being carried by the man that I saw hovering over me as I blacked out. Thank you, powers of deduction. I could hear him right next to my head. Then I heard a door being opened with a squeak and somehow I knew it was the door to mine and Beth’s home. The familiar smell of the herbs she used in her spells hung in the air so I knew it was definitely our house. It was mostly the scent of burned sage that we used to banish the evil spirits of anything we had killed since we met. They had a tendency to stick around. Another clue was the slight creek in the maple floor board right in front of the door that had always been there.

The other voice was certainly Beth’s and I knew she was terrified for me, but she was scared by the man she had never met barging into our home. I could tell only that much. Every smell, sound, and sensation was muffled to the point I almost couldn’t tell if I was really sensing any of it at all. I even tried to open my eyes, but couldn’t. My eyelids felt like they had been sewn shut, and held down by heavy weight. It was like someone wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be opening them ever again. I wanted to be able to tear them open, and that same panic I heard in Beth’s voice started to rise in me as well. I was stuck in a darkness I couldn’t pull myself out of. As it overwhelmed me my body began to quiver and shake.

Then a new panic set in as another thought crossed my mind. How did this man know where I lived? What were his motives? But I realized I couldn’t worry about that at that moment. I had more important things to worry about. Like becoming completely conscious again and being able to communicate with Beth. I had to tell her about this mysterious creature that I had come across.

“I’m not sure what she was, but this woman has knocked her out cold. I’m not even sure how long she’ll be out for,” was all I could make out from the man carrying me into my home. I felt hair being moved away from the bite on my neck. It stuck sickly to my skin. “This will need to be purified. Now!” I could feel every ounce of pain in my body that I had felt before I drifted into darkness, and it was excruciating. I could feel the familiar buzz of terror from this man as he seemed to realize I could possibly die from this encounter. Wouldn’t that be a relief from what I was feeling at this moment, but no. I could possibly turn tonight. That woman wasn’t just anything, she was a vampire. A very old one at that.

I was swiftly taken through our home and my eyes were able to drift open long enough for me to see our kitchen doorway as I was laid on the kitchen island. I felt very large, warm hands on me that rolled me onto my side. One hand moved to my shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze as I heard rummaging through a cabinet. I knew what was coming. A holy water shower, followed by a silver nitrate shot. This was going to hurt.

I heard glass moving around and knew Beth had found the bottles of holy water. I was already shaking because I knew what was coming. I had experienced this pain before. We both had, but she wasn’t the one who had almost burned the house down because of it.

Fear gripped me and my eyes shot open and met his. Beth laid a glass syringe and an amber glass bottle on the corner of the island next to the three bottles of holy water it would take for the process. She glanced at me when her eyes met mine I saw pity and concern. She knew exactly what I was about to endure, and she felt sorry for me. I half expected her not to be able to do it herself, but as she picked up one bottle of holy water she removed the lid and gave me a reassuring look. I turned onto my stomach and gripped both side of the island, and braced myself for what was going to happen next.

Beth held the bottle over the wounds and hesitated. I could see her arm shaking as well. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to. If she didn’t, I was going to turn and they would be my first victims. I’d kill myself before I let that happen. I would not be one of the monsters.

I looked her directly in the eyes and nodded, giving her the okay. It had to be done. I gripped the counter even harder and squeezed my eyes shut, holding my breath. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and she hadn’t even poured anything yet. Then I felt the first sting as a few drops landed on my skin, and I gripped the edges of the counter even harder. Those few drops weren’t as bad as the barrage of acid that was about to be poured onto me.

A river of holy water touched my skin and sizzled. I felt like acid was being poured onto me and I was able to stifle a few screams. The river stopped, and then another started. I couldn’t stop it this time. Screams of agony ripped through the air and filled every corner of the house. There was no way to fight it. It stopped again. I opened my eyes and Beth was standing there, holding the bottle but not daring to pour anymore. I gave her another nod and closed my eyes. She then poured the whole bottle and then moved onto bottle number two, then three. I was sweating and soaking wet and could barely breathe by the time that was done. Now came the worst part. The syringe full of silver nitrate.

I slowly sat up, wincing, and put my arm out, rolling up my sleeve so she could get to the veins at the bend of my elbow. She touched the very tip of the glass syringe to my skin, looked me in the eyes, and pushed it into the vein right at the surface. I cringed, but held still. I knew once she pushed the plunger down I wouldn’t be as restrained. The man grabbed my shoulders from behind.

She pushed the plunger all the way down and at first everything was okay, then I felt a sensation was starting to build. My veins were on fire and as the burning grew, a glow began in the center of my chest and began to spread through those veins. The pain grew with it. I couldn’t hold it back. My head rolled back and I shrieked, a demonic scream being released with it.

The pain was unbearable and my body felt as if it were on fire and I went limp. My vision went black, but I was still aware of what was happening. The man picked me up and I could hear Beth directing him on where to go. As he laid me on what I could only assume was a bed I felt the coolness of the sheets, which was more than welcome as far as I was concerned. I wandered off into unconsciousness again, and everything was gone.

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