Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

Recently, Stitched Smile Publications put out a novel by the talented Pembroke Sinclair. The novel, Humanity’s Hope, is about seventeen year old Caleb, who survived the zombie apocalypse and his struggles there after. I had an opportunity to sit down with Pembroke and talk to her about writing, Humanity’s Hope and where her totally cool pen name came from. Please, sit back, grab a beverage and join me in my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair.

A.J.: Let’s just jump in here. Tell me, who is Pembroke Sinclair?

PS: Well, there are several answers I could give you. The funny “I’m an editor by day, zombie killer by night” response. Or the incredibly long response that explains why I started writing and how I came up with my pen name. Or I could tell you there is no Pembroke, only Zoul.

A.J.: I think I would like to hear the longer version. Why did you start writing?

PS: I’ve always been a writer. I remember as early as 3rd grade I wrote a story about a horse named Charlie that my teacher laminated. When we went back to Iowa every summer, my grandma had an electric typewriter that I would create stories on. None of those were laminated, and they should probably be completely forgotten. When I was in high school, I had a spiral notebook I wrote stories in, but I made sure it looked like I was taking notes. When I got to college, things got a little weird, and I had some professors who tore down my self-confidence and made it so I didn’t write for a very long time. I picked it up again after grad school while working at an environmental consulting firm. One of my friends convinced me it was worth trying again, so I started with a few short stories. I got addicted to getting published, but decided I didn’t like short stories, so I worked on novels.

A.J.: It never fails. Someone will tear down another person, and usually because they can, but I am glad you started writing again.

Since you bring up that tearing down and losing confidence, what was that like?

Pembroke SinclairPS: It was tough, especially considering I was taking a writing class and they were supposed to be helping me get better at writing.  Instead, they found every opportunity to inform me (and probably other students) that they would never amount to anything. One professor was a literary writer, and since I was a genre writer, she said she wouldn’t be able to fairly critique my writing. Isn’t good writing good writing no matter what genre? Either way, it cut deep.

Years later, I found out these professors (one in particular) had a habit of tearing down writers’ self-confidence—perhaps because they viewed us as competition. I don’t know. But it did give me a good view into what the publishing world would be like, and after getting over my initial hurt feelings, it helped me grow some thick skin.

I’m no longer angry at the professors for what they did. Was it mean spirited and ridiculous? Of course. But me still being angry won’t change anything. The only thing I can do is move forward and write.

A.J.: Pembroke, how did you move forward?

PS: Having encouragement from a friend really helped, and then getting some stories published really pushed that along. To be honest, getting a lot of rejections throughout my career helped, too, because I’m one of those people who loves to show others that I CAN do what you say I can’t, and I’ll prove it.

A.J.: You sound like me—I say the same thing. One thing I have learned is those who have been told can’t—or shouldn’t—do this business, are the ones who want it more and try the hardest.

PS: I think it’s because we think we have something to prove.  I absolutely question my ability to write every single day, but at the same time, I’m not going to let anyone tell me I shouldn’t be doing it.  That’s my choice, not theirs.

A.J.: You said you got addicted to publishing. Can you explain what you mean by that?

PS: If you’re an author, and you’ve ever received a slew of “NO’s” for your submissions, you know that it only takes one “YES!” to completely turn everything around. I love getting yeses—I think it goes back to my desire to prove I can and should be writing. And it’s just an amazing feeling to know my work is going to be available for people to read.

A.J.: I get that, completely. I, literally, received 100 rejections before my first acceptance, including one where the editor said I should never write another story again.

PS: I received a rejection for a YA story I wrote because a reviewer gave me a mediocre review on one of my middle grade books. I wasn’t even pitching anything to do with that particular story.

A.J.: You absolutely have to hate it when that happens.

PS: I was pissed. I did the thing you’re not supposed to do: I replied to the agent (I’m pretty sure it was an agent) and asked him what the hell he was talking about. He never responded.

A.J.: Oh my—I understand your anger, but you are right, never respond in that manner. In this day of social media, that is akin to literary suicide.

PS: I phrased it nicely, but that was the gist of it.

A.J.: Earlier, you mentioned possibly telling me where you got your pen name. Do you mind telling me now?

PS: When I was first setting out to get published, I knew I couldn’t use my real name because it’s pretty common and when you Google it, a country singer shows up. I needed a pen name so I could be found.

I was pregnant with my first child at the time, and we were looking for names for him. I thought, “Pembroke Sinclair Robinson. That kid would be destined to be a writer.” When I suggested it to my husband, his response was, “You want our kid to get beat up on the playground, don’t you?” My friend suggested I take it for myself, so I did.

Side note, Pembroke’s middle name is Alloicious.

A.J.: That is a great story—and your first child probably thanks you for not naming him that.

PS: He’s never really said …

A.J.: Let’s go back a little here. I want to touch on two things. First, why genre fiction.

PS: I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I’m an English major, so I’ve read my fair share of literary—and I don’t think anything is wrong with literary—but I don’t enjoy writing it. I’ve tried, and it feels weird to me. I have a much easier time imagining myself in another world or surrounded by monsters, and I prefer to be in those worlds. Writing is an escape from reality for me, and I want to get as far away as I can.

A.J.: Before I go to the second part of this, what do you consider literary fiction?

PS: I would say literary fiction are the classics you read that are based in reality. The ones that focus on craft and language, such as Toni Morrison, Faulkner (although I would argue some of his stuff is fantasy), Hemingway, etc. Does that help?

No, wait, Faulkner is literary. I was thinking Vonnegut Jr.!

A.J.: It does help, but literary fiction is still considered, by many, to be real writing, where as genre fiction is considered for hacks. What do you feel is the difference? Or is there a difference?

PS: Oh, I’m fully aware of the distinctions between literary and genre and how literary is soooooo much better. I think the distinction comes from how people want to be labeled. If they want to seem “smarter” and more high brow, they will be “literary.” If they want to appeal to the masses, they’ll be genre. Personally, both can be incredibly intelligent and complicated (have you read Dune or the Foundation series?) and, conversely, both genres can have their crap. It’s all in what a person wants to read/write.

A.J.: Great thoughts in there, Pembroke. I agree. You seem to have some strong feelings on literary fiction—just as I do. I can totally appreciate that. Is that, maybe because of the way those who write literary fiction frown on those who write genre?

PS: Absolutely. And of course, it’s not all of them. There are always those authors who support and encourage other authors and those who are just poops–in all mediums of writing. Again, I’m an English major so I enjoy literary works. I just don’t like writing them.

A.J.: I don’t like writing them either.

Let’s switch gears. You recently had a book released. Humanity’s Hope. Can you tell me about this?

PS: I’m a huge zombie fan. I love zombies in all their mediums, and I really enjoy writing about how people survive the apocalypse—especially teens.

In most zombie stories, the heroes have no quarrels about filling the role of savior and fighting for what’s left of the world.  But when writing Humanity’s Hope, I wanted to look at a character who was reluctant about that role; who didn’t want to be in that position and who has a lot of issues with surviving when others have died.

While I truly believe there will be those people who fight hard to defeat an undead threat, I also believe there will be those who only survive.  But I don’t believe any of us will come out of the zombie apocalypse unscathed.

On top of that, I also wanted to give my main character something to set him even further apart from his fellow humans, so he’s immune from becoming a zombie.

A.J.: I’m not going to ask how he is immune—that is for you to reveal in your work. I will say I love the zombie sub-genre as well. But I also find that so many people have written the same things over and over and there is little variation. What sets Humanity’s Hope apart from other books?

PS: Of course the same things have been written over and over. The same can be said about films. That’s what works and makes money!

You know, I was typing how Hope is different from other stories, and it’s not really. There are certain elements that exist in stories, and they are portrayed through different characters and settings, but they are always there.

I guess I can say it’ s not the same because I have zombies that are different. Other than that, it’s a story about someone trying to come to terms with losing his friends and family and struggling through his day to day exist with PTSD while the living dead roam the earth.

A.J.: Fair enough. Do you mind sharing an excerpt with the readers at the end of this interview?

PS: Not at all.

A.J.: Awesome. Okay, if you have a few more minutes, I would like to ask a couple more questions. What do you enjoy most about writing and publishing?

PS: I enjoy being able to escape. I enjoy exploring the question of what it means to be human (I haven’t found an answer yet). I enjoy sharing my stories with others and seeing readers enjoy them.

A.J.: Okay, on the flip side, what do you dislike about writing and publishing?

PS: The length of time it takes me to get a story on the page. It would be so much easier if I could plug the computer into my head and THINK my story onto the page. When it comes to publishing, I wish there could be more camaraderie and support among authors. We’re all in this together. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Not that everyone does this, but those that do need to stop.

A.J.: I absolutely agree, we are in this together. I’ve always viewed this as a family, even though there are some family members we want to just stay away.

Now, other than Humanity’s Hope, you have some other works out, correct?

PS: I do. Several fiction stories and nonfiction works.

I write the nonfiction under my real name. Just to make it nice and confusing.

A.J.: Okay, treat me like a writer just starting out. What would you tell me?

PS: Have fun. Publishing is full of rejection and others who want to see you fail, but if you write because you enjoy writing and have fun creating your stories, you’ve already shown the world you can be successful.

A.J.: I like that. I like that a lot. Sound advice.

Okay, before I let you go, is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

PS: Thank you for reading my work.  Without you, there’d be no reason to do what I do.

A.J.: One more thing: where can readers find you?

PS: You can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

A.J.: Pembroke Sinclair, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. It was nice to get to know you.

PS: Thank you!  I appreciate you taking the time also!

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Pembroke Sinclair. Now, here is a sneak peak at Humanity’s Hope:

1906894769Caleb sprinted across the dirt road. His leg muscles burned. He was barely able to get his feet off the ground. The backpack slammed into his lower back with every step—the straps dug into his shoulders. As he approached the low wall, he slid into a crouch, turning so his back would contact the stones first. The pressure of the backpack pressed into his ribcage—squeezing the air out of his lungs. He pressed his lips together and let the stream flow out of his nose. He tried his best to keep it silent—a task that proved difficult with every pant. His lungs screamed for air. He wanted to draw in large, gasping breaths, but they would be too loud and attract unwanted attention. The undead were just on the other side of the wall, unaware of his presence, and he intended to keep it that way.

Caleb’s gaze drifted back to the road and fell on his sister, Nina, and Len, his chemistry partner from school. They ran toward him as fast as they could with their heavy backpacks that hunched them over. Or perhaps it was an attempt to make themselves smaller so they were less noticeable—Caleb couldn’t tell. They slid up to the wall on either side of Caleb and attempted to control their breathing.

This was a terrible place to hide—they all knew it. It was too open, too exposed, but there weren’t any other choices. The squat wall was right at the edge of a fallow field, across the dirt road they had been traversing in the hopes of finding civilization. They found the wall in a vast, rural landscape. The three of them were lucky there was something. They had come around a bend in the road and up a small hill, and there they were—zombies—shuffling aimlessly through the countryside. Caleb had to suppress his shocked gasp. They came out here because the urban areas had become too dangerous. There were too many zombies. The supplies had either been pillaged or were too difficult to get to. The country was supposed to be their hope, their salvation. So far, it wasn’t. The farmhouse was still ways away, about 50 yards. At least that was what Caleb assumed. He was horrible at judging distances. It didn’t matter anyway. With the zombies in front of them, the house was as accessible as another planet. But they couldn’t stay out in the open, either.

The look on Len’s face reflected the turmoil Caleb felt inside. His eyes were wide, his face red from exertion. His head was cocked to the side, his jaw muscles tight. The look asked: “What do we do now?” Caleb had no answer.

When they set out that morning to look for food, they had told themselves the zombies had been confined to the cities. Why? Because they had to believe something. They had to think there was still a chance.

Caleb lowered his gaze to the ground. There was no way to respond to Len’s silent question. They just had to wait it out—make their move when they got the opportunity. Caleb glanced over his shoulder at his sister. She slumped against the wall, her legs sprawled out in front of her, her chin resting on her chest. His stomach tightened as he took in her pose. She wasn’t going to be able to move quickly from that position. She needed to be ready. Yet, he felt for her. What was the point of being ready if it meant they had to keep running? His legs shook underneath him as he held his crouch. It would have been such a relief to plop onto his butt and take the weight off his legs. He could’ve placed his arms around Nina’s shoulders and pulled her close. They could have relaxed in their misery. Instead, he gently backhanded her arm. When she looked at him, he thrust his thumb into the air. With an eye roll and deliberate movements, Nina moved into a crouch, removing the gun from the back of her waistband.

Caleb focused on the weapon in his hands. It was there so often, it was like an appendage. He rarely noticed it anymore. But neither of the guns would do them much good; there weren’t enough bullets to take out the threat. Even if they fired their remaining rounds, all it would do was draw more zombies to their location.

Caleb turned his attention away from his gun and stretched up to look over the wall. As soon as his eyes broke the surface, he scanned the area before sinking back down. His heart pounded against his ribs, his throat tightened. An undead lumbered close to the wall—too close. One wrong move or sound and they were spotted. He licked his lips and felt the sweat slide down his spine. If they stayed quiet, the zombies would keep moving. They just had to wait it out.

A low, soft grumbling filled the air. At first, Caleb wasn’t convinced he’d heard it. It was so low, he could have imagined it. He had hoped he’d imagined it. But then Len wrapped his arms around his midsection and squeezed. The rumbling grew louder. It was hard to hide the sounds of hunger. Caleb’s eyes grew wide. He shifted his stance so he could explode onto his feet.

The rotted hand reached over the wall and swiped the air between Caleb and Len. There were no other options. All of them sprang to their feet. The crowd of rotting flesh was converging on their position. Caleb extended his arms and lined up his sights. The crack of the gun echoed loudly in the country air; the corpse slumped onto the wall. All three of them jumped over the wall and ran toward the house. The path took them directly toward the zombies; they had to be fast enough to get by them.

Caleb’s extremities tingled with adrenaline, his footsteps thumped rhythmically on the hard, dry ground. He sucked in long gasps of air, but his lungs still burned for oxygen. He caught glimpses of the other two out of the corner of his eyes. The undead drew nearer. Their arms outstretched, waiting to snag their prey. Caleb zig-zagged across the field. He ducked under a pair of arms, then shouldered a zombie out of the way. Its bones crunched against his shoulder, teeth gnashed close to his ear, driving him forward with more urgency. The house grew larger with every step he took. Almost there.

A short yip followed by a grunt sounded behind him. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Len stumbled then fell. Caleb’s heart leapt into his throat. He skidded to a stop, turning to help his friend. Caleb was about to step toward Len, but he was stopped in his tracks. The action caused him to lose his balance. His arms flailed through the air to keep Caleb from falling over. An incessant, strong tugging kept him from moving forward. He turned to see Nina jerking on his backpack. Her eyes were wide and glistening with tears. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head violently. Caleb glanced again at Len, who reached for Caleb, his mouth open in a silent plea, tears running down his cheeks. Caleb reached toward him. Len’s plea turned into a scream as a zombie bit into his calf. A dark ring of blood stained his jeans and grew larger. Another zombie latched onto the fingers of his extended hand. The crunch as it bit through his bones rattled in Caleb’s skull. He pulled his hand into his chest.

Caleb turned at that point. There was nothing more he could do. His sister grabbed his wrist, and they ran into the house. They took the stairs two at a time and headed into a bedroom on the right. After closing the door, they scanned the area, checking under the bed and in the closet. Clear. His sister collapsed face first onto the bed. From the way her body shook, Caleb could tell she was crying. He leaned back until his pack connected with the door. His legs gave out, and he slid to the floor. Pulling his knees to his chest, he wrapped his arms around his head and tried to disappear into himself.

And then there were two.

On July 8, 2017, The Monster was found.

Let me give you some context. The Anatomy of Monsters anthology was released on this date. We here at Stitched Smile Publications hosted an online release party, complete with author takeovers and live readings. It was a blast.

At the end of the party, four of us Stitchers got together and did a ‘live write.’ This is where we took a predetermined topic and wrote a story. We gave ourselves 300 words each and only 15 minutes to write each part. Here’s the kicker: Each writer had to wait for the one before them to write their part so they could start. Oh, and the 15 minutes included reading the previous parts.

In honor of The Anatomy of Monsters release, we wanted to do a piece involving a monster of some sort. After a bit of brainstorming, the topic was decided on. A descendant of Frankenstein had discovered the location of the Frankenstein Monster. It just happens to be in the possession of one, Ichabod Crane (he of the Headless Horseman fame). The descendant wanted the Monster back. This is how he goes about acquiring the family’s monster.

Those participating in the live write, in order of who wrote what parts: Lisa Vasquez, Nick Paschall, Donelle Pardee Whiting and myself, A.J. Brown.

Please make not of two things. 1) I have separated each person’s section with ***. 2) This is completely unedited. When you only have 15 minutes to write, you have no time to edit. So, in keeping with the live write concept, we have not edited this 1200 + word story.

I hope you enjoy this piece. Please leave comments and let us know how we did.

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

The Monster

By: Lisa Vasquez, Nick Paschall, Donelle Pardee Whiting, A.J. Brown

Victor sat in the library where the smell of books took over the room mingling with the smell of the burning logs in the fireplace. Since he was a child, this room held a mixture of emotions for him whenever he entered. Now, at the age of 81, the shadows crept over his features and deepened the lines of time as he stared at his reflection in the glass he was holding. ~A lifetime~ he thought to himself, ~A lifetime of searching, only to come up with baubles of the strange and macabre.~

Releasing a sigh, Victor stood up and downed the rest of his drink, letting the fiery liquid warm his throat and chest. He walked over to a display in the center of the room, the protective, glass casing illuminated by the overhead spotlight.

UnknownHe studied the diary of his great-great-great grandfather, handed down through the generations, until he knew every single word. ~At least, the ones not written in code.~

The breakthrough came when he stumbled across a man who used to work as a cryptographer in the military as a young man, and happened to have an old 16th Century French encryption book from the court of Henry II. He’d been trying to wheel and deal with Victor for pieces of his other collections for years to no avail. Seeing this as an opportunity, the other man could not contain his excitement.

“If I break this code for you,” Jacquis said looking over his bifocals at Victor, “you sell me the Coronation Charter of Henry I.”

Victor let out a single laugh, keeping his gaze fixed on Jacquis,

“You’re paying with money you do not have yet. Crack the code, and we’ll deal.”

Three months later, Victor had the identity of the man who possessed what he desired … the body of the “Family’s Monster.”

***

Entering the ancient woods of New England in Northern New York, Victor pulled his coat tighter to his frame as his carriage bumped along the road. Pulling a pocket watch, he stared at the hands and tapped the glass once or twice, just to make sure the damnable thing was working correctly!

“Hurry up you fool!” Victor shouted, leaning out the window to breathe in the clean air of the New World, the woods of Sleepy Hollow filling his lungs as a small herd of sheep moved down from a close by hill.

“We’re almost their sire,” Gris said, the low-born child stammered, his imperfect form of speech landing him as a hand servant to the Frankenstein family instead of an orator,

“We’re pulling in now.”

“Good,” Victor said, leaning back to pat the satchel of gold he’d brought along with him.

The man who owned the body of his great-grandfather’s experiment was none other than the detective Ichabod Crane, an elusive sort that’d gone missing after reporting to Sleepy Hollow. It had taken three lawyers to find him, and two more after that to arrange this meeting, but they were finally meeting in the Crowsreach Tavern in Sleepy Hollow, at Dusk on the 8th of July.

It would go flawlessly.

When the carriage pulled to a stop, Victor waited a minute before his door was opened, Gris standing beside it with his mop of blonde hair glistening with sweat.

“Clean yourself up boy and be sure to bring in the payment when I call for you,” Victor said.

Gris nodded, walking behind Victor to go and set up the horses for feeding and bedding down for the night.

Opening the door, Victor scanned the crowd and was instantly attracted to a pair of dark eyes.

Ichabod Crane.

***

Ichabod Crane locked eyes with Victor, daring the older man to look away. He knew why he was there. He wanted Ichabod’s prize. He needed the monster. Victor doesn’t need it, Crane thought.

Maintaining a casual appearance, Crane walked over to greet his guest. He only invited the foreigner to his home because his letter said he had something of great interest to offer.

“You must be the detective, Ichabod Crane I heard so much about,” Victor said, presenting his hand in greeting.

i_640x503_361846397Crane glanced at Victor’s hand before offering his own. “I am. And you must be Victor Frankenstein. I heard a lot about your work.” Crane looked over Victor’s shoulder to see Gris standing there bouncing from one foot to other. “Your … man … can wait with the horses. I don’t expect this to take long.”

With a backward flick of his eyes, Victor tilted his head to tell Gris to move out of Crane’s line of sight.

“Of course. But I do think this will interest you.” The aged collector bent down to pick up the bundle at his feet. “Where should we go to discuss this rare find?”

Crane led Victor the library to the right of the entry hall. As they entered, Victor looked around at the deep mahogany floor with a quality Oriental rug in front of the fireplace between two deep cushioned pub chairs. The table between the chairs was empty.

“I moved the decanter to the side board. You can put … whatever it is there.”

Crane walked casually to the sideboard. Would you care for a sherry? Or a brandy? I am afraid I do not have anything stronger.”

“A brandy would be welcome on a cold night like this.” Victor moved to the empty table and set the bundle down. He turned his heavy ruby ring as he watched Crane pour the dark amber liquid into snifters.

***

It wasn’t long before they discussed the deal.

“You have the Monster,” Victor said.

“I do.”

“It belongs to my family.”

“It belongs to me.”

“I’m offering you a thousand gold coins, Mr. Crane, for the Monster.”

Ichabod let out a humorless laugh. “Not even a million gold coins will get you the monster.”

“Let’s be fair, Crane.”

“Let’s be leaving, Victor.”

With that Victor flashed him an angry glance, nodded and turned to leave.

“Nice doing business with you, Frankenstein.”

Victor said nothing, as he left, leaving the gold coins behind.

At the carriage, he motioned for Gris. “I thought this would happen. You know what you must do?”

“Yes, Master,” Gris said. A crooked smile crossed his face.

Victor climbed atop the carriage to the driver’s seat and snapped the reigns. The horses started forward.

Gris walked away, with papers in hand. As he passed strangers on the street, he handed the papers to them.

“The Horseman’s Head?” One man asked. “You’ve found then Horseman’s Head?”

Ichabod heard the clamor and went outside.

“Excuse me, Boy? Come here.”

Gris did as he was told.

“What is this about the Horseman’s Head?”

Gris extended one of the papers to Ichabod, who snatched it and stared wearily at the odd boy. He read the few words on it.

“Where is this?” he asked.

“At the manor across the way.” He pointed down the road.

Ichabod turned and went back inside.

Barely ten minutes passed and Crane was on his horse and heading to the manor a few miles away. As he did so, he passed a darkened carriage hiding in the woods.

Victor smiled, lashed the horses into motion and made his way back to Ichabod’s home. There, in the basement, he found the monster.

“It’s time to come home, my child,” he said as he opened the cage the monster was in.

Feel free to read this in the form of any action movie promo you’ve ever seen or heard:

COMING SOON TO A DIGITAL DEVICE IN YOUR HAND:

All We See is the End

runfortheflame_cover_feb19_2017From the minds of A.J. Brown and M.F. Wahl comes two horrific tales of struggle and loss you won’t soon forget.

Run For the Flame takes us into a world where an ice age has engulfed everything, driving life underground. The Sanctuary holds the last vestiges of humanity, but its walls are cracking and the ice is slowly encroaching. In their last grasp at survival, the community is forced to send their boys on an all important run for the flame … none have ever returned.

In Purple Haze, a crash landing on an uninhabited planet strands Adira and the surviving members of her crew. Surrounded by a quiet world of blue grass and purple skies, danger lurks within the beauty. Without contact to Earth and light years from home, they encounter a treacherous enemy that threatens to destroy them from the inside out.

Wahl, a #1 Wattpad featured author, and Brown whose stories have appeared in over 200 publications, use their easy styles to draw you in and hold you close. Welcome to their nightmares.

Available soon on Amazon, but you can get it free by subscribing to my newsletter at:  http://eepurl.com/cDEh9v

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

Welcome to The Pinch. What’s The Pinch? Oh, it’s simple. You know when you go to the doctor and end up getting a shot? You know how that nurse (who just loves her job so much she could be a serial killer in any psychotic movie) who smiles at you and says, ‘We’re going to give you a little shot. It won’t hurt much…’ I always wonder who the ‘we’ is here?

The nurse then goes on to say, ‘It’ll only be a little pinch.’

First off, she’s lying. Don’t believe her. I’ve never been given a shot that felt like any pinch I’ve ever had. Second off, she’s enjoying herself. While you’re sucking in all the oxygen in the room, she’s smiling away. Little evil serial killer wanna-be.

Okay, I’ve gotten a little sidetracked. The Pinch is an interview series. They are four or five short, quick questions (though the interviewee doesn’t have to give short answers), just enough to tease you folks out in Reader Land. It’s also my way of introducing you to writers you (may or) may not know.

Our first Pinch is a young lady by the name of Claire C. Riley. I just recently found out about her through a Facebook group (yes, a trusty Facebook group—isn’t that how everyone meets these days?). Without going into further unpleasantries, why don’t we just get started?

Limerence, The Obsession Series, is along the lines of a romantic horror involving vampires. This is something we’ve seen before in another series that shall go unnamed within these dark halls. For those readers who have been ruined on vampires because of that other series, how does Limerence differ from it?

Limerence was my debut novel and the second in the series came out in October, with the third and final installment set for release in 2015. How does it vary from the film that shall not be named? Pretty much everything about it is different, haha. I tried to take vampires back to the more old school route of Bram Stoker where vampires were dark and dangerous. I also tried to turn things on their head. In most books and film adaptations the woman wants to be a vampire, however in Limerence it’s the very opposite. So, there’s blood, and lust and danger and crazy-assed vampires!

You write about zombies as well. Why?

– I love reading about apocalyptic worlds, and some twisted part of me actually believes that zombies could possibly come about one day. Or something similar anyway. Plus for that reason, zombies are a big fear of mine, and I think it’s good to write about things that scare you. Facing your fears head on so to speak.

Tell us a little about Odium The Dead Saga.

Odium is set several years after the outbreak, and our main protagonist, Nina, lives in a walled city protected from the Deaders out in the world. However, the city has become less than a happy place and people are forced to either starve or sell themselves to survive. Nina has had enough, and when a young girl is being kicked out of the city for stealing, she decides to go with her.

Nina, however, is not a fighter. She can’t use a gun or a sword; she has no survival skills whatsoever. She’s just an everyday woman determined to survive in a world overrun by the dead.

She’s feisty and snarky, she’s inappropriate and says what she thinks. Some say bitch, but I say that it’s just her defense mechanism. It’s better to have no friends so she can’t lose any one. Along their road for survival, they meet other survivors that are surviving the best way they can.

I also have out – Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella part One and Two. These are accompaniments to the Odium novels and tell the back-story on some of the more important characters from each book. I LOVE writing these books and letting the readers know the TRUE story behind each character. And let me tell you, they are not what you expect them to be.

I love this line from your website: She writes characters that are realistic and kills them without mercy. Do you sometimes have a hard time killing off a character you love or do you really kill them without mercy?

– I genuinely kill them without mercy! Haha, I’m cruel like that. However, do I regret killing some of them off afterwards? Yes, a lot of the time. In fact, some of them still haunt me

Another blurb from your website that I like is the description of your writing: Claire C Riley’s work is best described as the modernization of classic, old-school horror. Is there an old-school classic that you haven’t tackled that you would like to?

– There’s a lot that I want to tackle in the future to be honest, it’s finding the time that I have the problem with. My fans are greedy voracious, and I love them for it, but it’s hard to keep them fed all the time with new tales! I have quite a few anthology contributions under my belt namely, Let’s Scare Cancer to Death (a charity anthology) State of Horror: Illinois and Fading Hope: Humanity Unbound.

I love them all, but the Fading Hope anthology is one of my very favourites because it talks about a subject that I haven’t covered before – monsters! Like, real old school monsters. And in this anthology there is no hope whatsoever. It was a great collaboration of authors such as Jack Wallen, Rebecca Besser, Eli Constant, and several more, and each of us wrote completely unique and hopeless stories. It’s brilliant and really goes out of everyone’s comfort zones.

Thank you, Claire, for your time and answers. Keep the band-aid on for at least 24 hours to prevent any bacteria and infection. Or risk getting infected and becoming a zombie.

The following are excerpts from two of Claire’s books. Enjoy:

From Limerence II

The dining room is quiet at this time of the day. It is neither lunch nor teatime; however, I know that there will be food prepared. There is always food prepared. I take my glass from the stand and move along the counter until I reach Mad Donny, the chef here. He smiles warmly at me, as he always smiles.

“Mia, how are you today?”

“I’m good.” I mirror his smile as I look at the selection. “Hungry.”

“Of course—aren’t you always? What would you like? Something sweet? Something spicy, perhaps?” He licks his lips greedily and rubs his hands together. Donny is always hungry, though he should have learnt to control his thirst by now. He is far older than Evan, and me, and even older than most of the other vampires around here. His eyes gleam at me with an insanity that he does not try to control; it’s what makes Donny Donny. I don’t know how he does this every day; the smell alone would send me over the edge, but he seems to relish in it. Perhaps his pleasure from it is because of his constant overindulgence.

“Sweet, please, Donny,” I say and hand him my glass. Sweet is always my preference, especially after an unfortunate April Fool’s Donny played on everyone, which involved hot chillies and blood. The poor human never tasted the same afterwards.

He turns to the selection of humans behind him and, reaching for a youngish man, he pulls the seal from his wrist and holds it over my glass. The man’s eyes are glassy and hollow as he stares ahead of him at nothing. His lips are bluish and dry, and his skin pasty.

My stomach grumbles as the glass begins to fill, and I urge him to hurry, my fangs unsheathing in expectancy.

Down, boys. Not this time.

Donny reseals the wound and turns back to me with my now full glass of sweet B negative.

“Thanks.” I smile wider this time and hurry to a table by the window. I want to sit and enjoy the sun on my face whilst I drink. It’s cold out, but the sun still rises each day in retaliation of the coming winter.

The first sip is always the best. That first millisecond when the blood touches your taste buds is as if every one of my senses are being caressed by the hand of God. Every stroke, every touch awakens my very soul, devouring my body from the inside out—though without doubt, not by any God I know of.

© Copyright Claire C. Riley

From Odium The Dead Saga

“Let’s go.” JD moves off round the corner, and we follow him as one and without argument.

There are stains smeared along the walls, handprints and the words help us written in dried blood. I shudder and look at Duncan. He lowers his gaze away from me and away from the words, knowing only too well that he caused this. He could have saved some of these people if he wouldn’t have been such a coward. Instead he locked them all inside and sentenced them to death.

There are the remains of a body or two on the floor, but not enough of either of them remain to be reanimated, and so JD kicks the bloody bones to the side and out of our way. We can hear more growling coming from behind a closed door; we seemed to have riled them all up, by the sounds of it.

“That’s the medic’s room,” Duncan whispers.

I want to shout out no shit, Sherlock! since there’s a big red cross on the door, but JD turns the handle before I can get my words out. I swallow them down and ready myself as the door opens inwards and reveals to us the five zombies within.

They head straight for us with long, hungry growls, as if mamma didn’t give them their last meal before bedtime. Sludge hangs from their jaws and a cold blankness fills their eyes. Their lips peel back to reveal blackened and broken teeth and they push and shove to get past each other and to their meal. Us. I shiver and swallow down the stomach acid that has worked its way up my esophagus and into my mouth.

“I got this.” Crunch steps forward, and with her two knives, she decapitates the first two zombies with relative ease (if there can be such a thing when killing the living dead). JD follows her in, and when a zombie lunges for him, he deals with it with a quick swoop of his scythe down its middle. From skull to stomach it splits, and everything left inside tumbles into a pile on the floor along with its body.

Crunch laughs as she circles another, kicking it away with her foot until it falls on its back. She stands above it, placing a foot on its chest, and drives her blade through its face slowly and with a maniacal glee that sends shivers down my spine. There is something like contentment in her expression as she pulls the blade back out, gunk spewing out of the hole left by her knife.

The last deader has reached the doorway, and Duncan takes aim with his gun.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers as he pulls the trigger and the zombie hits the floor.

©Copyright Claire C. Riley

Intrigued? Good. You can follow the links below to her website, Facebook, twitter, Google+ and Amazon author pages. Check her out, and thanks for stopping by.

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Back in 2008 I wrote a story as a prompt to a Halloween contest. My friend, S. Copperstone, created an interesting character for another story in the same contest. I was aggravated with myself. Why didn’t I come up with that name? I didn’t know—I still don’t—but I do know I liked it. She and I talked about this character, a Mr. Cade Aver, and I eventually asked her if I could write a story using the name. She was cool with it.

When I was finished, I sent her a copy of it and asked for permission to submit it somewhere. It got picked up by Estronomicon for Halloween of that year.

Today I present you with a rewritten version of Treats at the Aver Residence. Again, I contacted my friend, S. Copperstone, for permission to put this up. What, you ask? Why ask when it was my story? Why ask when she granted permission before? It’s simple: out of respect for my friend and the character name. I could simply change the name, but I don’t want to do that. I want Cade Aver and my friend to get the credit they deserve, because, honestly, if not for her, I would have never written the story.

So, please, enjoy, Treats at the Aver Residence, and if you wouldn’t mind, leave a comment. I would appreciate it.

***

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.

***

“They’re going to love this year’s treat,” Cade said, giddily. He moved around the large steel table with a carving knife in hand. His milky eyes dazzled in the yellow glow of the overhead lights. He began to sing a tune, changing the lyrics slightly. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The children are sneaking, and candy they’re seeking with great cheer. Oh yes it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

On the table lay the body covered by a sheet up to its head. The man squirmed, arms and legs pulling on the restraints that held him down. His eyes were wide orbs, glassy and full with fear.

“All those years of being a surgeon come in handy at this time of year, don’t you think, Mr. Mason.”

Cade looked down into Mason’s green eyes, red veins prominent on their whites. The man blinked, and a stray tear fell down the side of his face. He let out a groan, not one of pain, but fear. Cade was certain if the white cloth shoved into his mouth wasn’t there, Mason would scream for all he was worth—and at that moment, he was worth quite a lot to Cade.

“Don’t worry—you will only feel a moderate amount of pain, and that for only a few seconds, maybe a minute, and then you’ll pass out.” He stroked Mason’s sweaty cheek. “Then you won’t feel anything at all. At least until the children arrive.”

Mason shook his head, his eyes filling with tears.

“Oh yes,” Cade almost sung, and then patted Mason’s face. “It’s going to be a wonderful Halloween.”

***

In their homes, the children sang and danced as their mothers painted their off colored skin whatever shade of pale, brown or black that they chose. Halloween shows—It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy were their favorites—played on the television and those who were finished with their dinners sat and watched until the sun began to set.

The anticipation made some of them bounce in their seats. Toes tapped. Fingers drummed. Teeth even chattered. Betsy Wallabanger’s teeth fell out twice, and each time she put them back in, she had to adjust her lipstick. Excitement hung in the air.

***

“Would you like a smiley face or a frown? Or maybe a really scary face?”

Mason shook his head and moaned again.

“Hmm . . . none of those, huh? I have templates this year—got them cheap at the WalGreens in town. They practically gave them to me.” Cade rubbed the blade of his knife against the side of his head. A flap of skin peeled back and a few strands of dirty brittle hair flaked to the floor. “Wow, that’s sharp—I guess I should be careful where I put that.”

Cade pulled the sheet away like a magician putting on a show, and looked at Mason’s body. A pair of red underwear covered his privates but other than that Mason was nude. His belly was plump, the signs of a man who likes to eat, and eat well at that.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I shaved your body while you were asleep. You had a lot of hair and you know how kids are—most of them just don’t like hair on their treats. But I didn’t shave your head. Some of them like to keep scalps for souvenirs these days.”

Mason shook his head hard and let out a yell that was muffled by the cloth. He chewed on the rag as if trying to eat it so he could cry for help.

“Well, I’m sorry, but you needed the shave. What’s done is done—you just have to get over that now.”

Cade set the knife on a counter behind him and rifled through the templates. “Frankenstein? Oh, how about Shrek—he’s popular with the kiddies.” After going through all of the patterns, he set them down, and picked up a black marker. “None of those will do. Not for you, Mr. Mason. I’ll just have to come up with something on my own.”

He stood over Mason’s ample belly and drew an odd looking oval just below the ribs. He drew a second oval and then a triangle around Mason’s belly button. Cade tapped his temple with the marker and looked up at the ceiling. Many images ran through his head until the right one came to mind. A smile creased his face.

“Oh, you are going to love this.”

He drew the large squiggly line below the triangle and then brought it down close to his underwear line. Cade picked up the knife and looked at Mason. “Are you ready for this?”

Mason’s screams were muffled as Cade plunged the knife into his stomach.

***

“Come on, let’s get changed into your costumes.”

The children squealed with joy when the mothers beckoned them to get ready for the festivities. They hurried to their rooms and donned their different outfits. They were vampires and werewolves, neither of which sparkled or walked around shirtless. They were witches with warts on their noses and brooms by their sides. They were zombies—oh so many of them were zombies. Betsy Wallabanger dressed up as a corpse bride, her hair jutting this way and that way, her outfit a natural dirty shade, complete with stains across the front. Her mother had worn that very costume when she was Betsy’s age. There were no princesses or Batmans or video game stars. There were no cute little lions, tigers or bears, oh my. There was an Alice and she carried a bucket shaped like the tardy rabbit’s head. Every few steps it dripped blood—not too much, just enough to make it appear real.

They practiced the chants they learned from Halloweens past. Their voices rang up to the ceilings and none were off key.

“Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.”

Some of the kids added extra verses, having learned them from the older kids. “If you don’t I won’t cry. I’ll slit your throat and then you’ll die.”

Mothers gave approving looks and fathers ruffled the enthusiastic heads of the extra verse singers.

There were few idle threats of ‘behave or else.’ Those were reserved for parents in towns where Halloween was more of a burden than a rite of passage. Besides, the kids in Dreads Hollow knew the parents would never stick to their threats of no haunting the neighborhood—it was just as much fun for the adults as it was for the children. Then there was always the one house at the end of Corpse Avenue that did something different each year. If anything, the parents wanted to see how Mr. Aver had decorated. If there were no haunts for the kids, there was no visiting the Aver residence for the adults.

***

Cade pulled part of the flesh of Mason’s stomach away. He bit down on a piece of it, chewed and nodded. “Very tasty.”

He looked inside Mason’s stomach. He had deadened the nerves and cauterized the flesh around where he had carved away the precious meat. Blood still flowed from the chest cavity and Mason still breathed, though shallow as it was.

The carved face appeared gruesome but Cade wasn’t finished. He had left a long slit by the reamed out mouth. A mesh was in place, holding Mason’s intestines in.

Cade carefully moved Mason’s body onto a gurney he had procured from one of the medical catalogues he still received, though he hadn’t been a practicing surgeon in well over twenty years. Mason moaned and opened his eyes. A few seconds later, his eyes closed again and he was unconscious to the world around him. Cade pushed the gurney through the house and onto the front porch.

Out in the fresh autumn air, Cade took a deep breath. The coolness filled his throat, but burned his ancient lungs. “Ah, I love this time of year.” He worked like a cautious burglar, careful not to set any alarms off and give himself away. In Cade’s case, careful not to jar Mason’s body and have his efforts ruined by an act of clumsiness. He slid his arms under Mason’s legs and back and carried him down the steps. Cade sat him on a sturdy lawn chair, not bothering to brush off the leaves that had fallen on it or the spider web that hung between one armrest and the seat. Back inside, Cade grabbed the accessories, chip wrappers and empty beer cans. He littered the area around Mason with the garbage and placed one of the cans in the man’s hand.

Cade looked at his creation. The backdrop of his old house with its creaky steps, shuttered windows and flaking paint would give anyone from outside of Dreads Hollow the creeps. He smiled and shook with something akin to lust.

***

They walked the streets of the neighborhood, clothed in their homemade outfits and masks. Each child’s eyes beamed with excitement as they went from door to door. The welcome lights shone brightly at each house, luring the kids to knock and speak their chants. Neighbors opened doors, smiled and played along. They oohhed and ahhed at the costumes; they told the children how scary and terrifying and even how sickening they were; they gave them treats of lady fingers and animal eyes, of hair necklaces and cooked tongues.

“I got a rock,” one kid said when he left each house. The other children laughed the first couple of times, but eventually grew tired of it and begged him to stop.

Tunes of Trick or Treat rang throughout the night until they reached the Aver residence. It sat at the end of Corpse Avenue, the front yard lit by a dim bulb that cast shadows that looked like pointy fingers stretching across the ground. Cade stood on the porch, his face covered by a mask made of Mason’s skin.

Several of the children approached the house. Their bodies hummed with anticipation and their eyes darted about the yard. Mason sat in the shadows near the porch, one hand wrapped around the beer can. He moaned and the children stopped. Some of the parents leaned into get a better look.

“I call this Drunk Man,” Cade said and flipped a switch that lit up the yard.

A loud gasps echoed through the night as parents and children alike took in Cade’s work. Mason’s stomach had been carved out into a normal pumpkin face, the lining burned black. A trickle of blood still washed down into the man’s briefs. Mason’s eyes had been stapled open and crusted blood clung to his face. His intestines, which had been held in by the mesh, now dangled on Mason’s lap. It appeared as if they had been vomited out of the wide mouth in his belly. The cloth in his mouth from earlier was gone and his bottom lip trembled.

Betsy Wallabanger—six past a hundred years of age—approached the creation, cautiously. “He’s still alive,” she said and looked up at Cade.

“Go ahead. It’s okay, he can’t move,” Cade said with a grisly smile.

Betsy set her pillowcase bag on the ground and leaned down. She sunk her teeth into one of Mason’s thighs. He screamed as she worked her jaw from side to side. She ripped off a piece of muscle, her teeth coming out slightly. She shoved them back in place and chewed. After she swallowed, she smiled. “Delicious.”

“Come, little ones,” Cade waved. “Enjoy this year’s treat from the Aver residence.”

Children squealed as they lit in on Mason. His screams filled the night, much to Cade’s satisfaction. The parents looked on—and some of them even joined them—with a happiness that is reserved for their ilk as they watched them partake of the fresh treat Cade had provided.

“You really outdid yourself this year, Aver,” one of the fathers said before he walked away with his little boy. The front of the boy’s costume was soaked red and he licked his fingers clean of the blood that had been on them.

***

Cade sat on the porch in an ancient rocker that squealed like a wounded rat as it went back and forth. The sounds of singing, happy children had long since faded. What remained of Mason lay scattered on the lawn. There were bones here and there, a clump of hair by the sidewalk—the scalp had not been taken this year. One of the kids had bit off his privates. Or was it one of the moms? Cade didn’t know.

On his lap sat a skull. Part of it was still pink from blood and meat. He pulled a piece of flesh off of the cheekbone and plopped it in his mouth. He chewed, swallowed and then sang his favorite tune as he rocked back and forth.

“Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

What makes a horror story?

Yeah, I’m just coming out and asking. Just get right into the thick of it, as some editors say.

What constitutes a horror story? Why are certain stories considered horror as opposed to thriller or drama or any other genre/sub genre?

Are monsters needed, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, zombies, werewolves, the blob and so many others?

Does there need to be an abundance of gore and dismemberment, as seen in movies like Saw, Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street?

Does everyone need to die, as in all the movies I just listed? Not that everyone dies in those movies, but a lot do. Is it necessary?

Or could it involve the everyday events of life? A kid beating another kid to death with a baseball bat? A man beating his wife and children to show them who’s the boss (and worse yet, killing them if he so felt inclined)? An act of terrorism, such as what happened on 9/11?

Or maybe, could it be the subtleness of death alone? Someone dying of Cancer or the debilitating Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)? Or what about dementia or any other mental disease?

What is horror to you, the readers as well as you, the writers?

I think horror doesn’t necessarily have to be scary, but it can have horrific elements to it. Those elements often bring about that tremendous emotion of dread, something we horror writers shoot for.

Take Stephen King, the most well known horror writer of the last forty years. Sure, he has stories like It, Needful Things, Carrie, Salem’s Lot, Cell, The Dome, and many, many others. But isn’t he the same guy who wrote stories like Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Rose Madder, Apt Pupil, Cujo, and Big Driver among others? None of the stories in this last list are supernatural or have monsters in them (that is, monsters per say. As to what monsters are, there are very real monsters in all of those stories).

In my collection, Along the Splintered Path, there are three stories, only one of which is truly horror for what horror is. The other two could be considered not necessarily horror. Both stories have horrific elements to them, but I’m not totally positive I would say they were ‘horror.’ Yes, I used that word or a variation of it several times in this last paragraph.

If you ask me (and I know you aren’t, but…) the elements of horror are in every day life. Even literary writers are getting in on it, though they would never admit it. Boy meets girl, falls in love, but girl doesn’t love boy so boy kills girl, stuffs her in a footlocker and tosses her in the lake. That, my friends, is horror at its core.

If you turn on the television or read the newspaper, there’s something horrific happening every day.

Tornadoes ripped through Alabama last year, killing 239. We’ve seen the images and from what we’ve heard and read, we can piece together the last moments of many lives. There may not have been any monsters or murderers involved, but the horror was there.

How about the massacre in Norway on July 22nd of 2011 where 77 people were killed? Again, we’ve seen the videos of teenagers running for their lives, some of them bloodied. We’ve seen the images of bodies on the ground and the portraits of those who died. What if that had been a book instead of real life? Would it be considered a horror story or just another literary work?

What about the Tri State Crematory incident from 2002 where, instead of cremating the bodies of the deceased, they dumped over three hundred corpses in woods or stacked in sheds and the families were given nothing more than concrete dust instead of the remains of loved ones? Surely, finding the bodies would have been unnerving for anyone.

I could go on and on all day, citing examples of things that I would consider horrific, even in its subtleness. Amelia Earhart’s disappearance as an example. Wouldn’t her story–the actual disappearance–and what happened to her be both fascinating and chilling? Not to beat a dead horse, but what about the sinking of the Titanic? Or the San Francisco earthquake and fires of April 18th, 1906? Over 3000 people died that morning.

I’m a writer. And as I’ve perused over my stories through recent years, I’ve noticed more and more that I’ve pulled away from the monsters and more toward the realistic horrors of this world. Of the last 100 stories I’ve written, including two novels and several novellas, 39 or them had zero monsters, ghosts or supernatural elements to them. Those stories all are rooted in the real world we live in, yet even they, for the most part, have horrific elements to them. I call those RLHs, or Real Life Horrors.

So… what do you think? What constitutes horror for you? I hope for some reader participation here and I look forward to seeing what everyone thinks on this.

As always, thank you for reading.

Until we meet again, my friends…

I was going to sit and write about my book, about my thoughts on Along the Splintered Path and where I see my writing going. I may still write about some of that here and I guess part of this will be about my writing. But I would like to start with something else.

I will try to keep this short.

I want to state, quite clearly, with the revelations of last week and the mindset that I have, the way my heart feels deep inside, I will not preach to anyone. It is not who I am. It is not who I wish to be.

I think opportunities present themselves to the willing Christians out there who genuinely want to share their faith. I don’t, however, believe that I can approach anyone (especially folks I don’t know) with one agenda: to witness and witness alone. I think (mind you, I think) that witnessing is an important thing, but I also think there is a time and a place and the right circumstances have to be in place in order to do so.

I want to say something that may offend a few folks and if it does, I’m sorry. This is how I feel. This is how my heart feels. There are far too many Christians out there doing nothing to help better the world. Flip that coin over and look at the other side: There are far too many Christians forcing themselves onto people and running people off from the Lord. Neither of these approaches gets the message out there. Neither passiveness nor aggressiveness works.

The Bible says: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

To paraphrase here: They will know us by our love for one another.

A heavy handed approach rarely ever works these days. Compassion and love and gentleness and understanding do. Yes, I said understanding. Our world is such a diverse place to live in and people are so different in many aspects. We shouldn’t try to change them, but accept people for who they are. Trying to change people is a personal agenda. There are no two ways around it. However, Jesus commands us to love one another and it is that love that leads to understanding.

There is a lot of bitterness toward Christians and rightfully so. Too many Christians either do nothing or are too heavy handed in their approach. There has to be a balance and when there is balance there is opportunity. Find that balance and the journey, I believe, will be that much more rewarding for you.

One more thing and I will move onto something else: If you are a Christian, then your actions will speak louder than your words unless your words are spoken with an angry spirit. Just something to chew on.

***

The world is a vampire
–The Smashing Pumpkins
Bullet with Butterfly Wings

Welcome to my nightmare
–Alice Cooper
Welcome To My Nightmare

It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one

–The Animals
House of the Rising Sun

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facin’ up when your whole world is black.

–The Rolling Stones
Paint it Black

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day.
Tried to run
Tried to Hide
Break on through to the other side…

–The Doors
Break on Through

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
Focused on the pain
The only thing that’s real

–Nine Inch Nails
Hurt

Obviously, these are lyrics to songs, all of which I love. I think lyrics are some of the most powerful words written. Regardless of what the song is, someone (and it may only be one person) will get something from it. That makes song lyrics so powerful.

The lyrics above could be considered dark by many. For me, they are beautifully rendered truths that someone felt as they wrote them.

I said that to echo something a friend of mine said recently when trying to figure out the next step in my writing career and whether to continue writing at all. That friend would be Steve Lowe, my sick-o bizarro writer friend.

AJ – I would have to think that everything you have written reflects a period of your life and what you were experiencing, something that you felt compelled to document and seen through the lens you were looking through at that time. I see nothing to be ashamed about with that.

Several others chimed in with their thoughts, all of them uplifting and giving me some reassurance in, not my stories or my abilities, but what I’ve chosen to write.

I’m proud of my work. I’m proud of the stories I’ve managed to get published over the years. I’m especially proud of Along the Splintered Path, my three story e-book collection. They reflect me during a period of my life and that life, as I’ve said before, is an open book for anyone who wishes to know about it.

Admittedly, I’m heading into a new phase of writing, but let me say this: Horror and Faith can coexist. They have since before the serpent first tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

I’m a horror writer. That’s the bottom line. I’m a horror writer, and for the last week or so I’ve debated, prayed, and discussed with folks the very idea of writing what I love to write and balancing it with my faith.

I’d like to think my stories are told honestly, that there is truth in the words and actions of the characters. It’s that truth that I enjoy writing about.

It takes a special person to write horror. No, I’m not talking about monsters here. I’m talking about the horrors of the world; the way the world is today. True horror is all about good and evil. Not just good. Not just evil. Both of them and the battle that takes place between them.

There is a lot of redemption in horror stories. The good ones rely on the spiritual warfare going on inside a person’s heart and mind. Good horror reflects on life and the decisions people make. Good horror is truth and it is that truth I wish to continue to bring you. I hope I continue to succeed at that.

Thank you for visiting Type AJ Negative and for reading. There is no greater sadness for a writer than to have no readers.

Until we meet again, my friends…

As a writer, I like when someone comments about one of my stories. I also like when I make someone wonder about me.

One day last week, a young lady that works for the same firm I do was getting on the elevator with her friend. I got on behind them. Normally (like there is really anything normal about anything I do anymore) I would joke around with them and tell some tale about elevator etiquette. Before I could do so, the young lady–we’ll call her V–said to me:

“Can I ask you a question?”

In my experience when a female ask that question, I am either a) in trouble or b) about to be in trouble.

“Sure. I may not have an answer, but I’ll try.”

She scrunched up her nose and her upper lip curled up on one side. It was a really good Rocky impersonation. “Where did that dark side come from?”

I knew what she was talking about, but I tried to play dumb, which for me isn’t that hard and it’s really not an act.

“What are you talking about?”

She shook her head. “Come on. The book.”

“Ohhhhhhh… yeah, I’ve always been like that.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. I’ve always liked the darker things.”

And that’s the thing: I work with people every day. Most of them have no clue I’m a writer. For the most part, I keep the two separated, simply because I write horror and a lot of people view horror writers as twisted, demented people who should be locked up in cages in someone’s basement. Oh wait. That’s not right, but they do think we’re twisted and demented–how else could we come up with the subjects we write about?

The answer to that last question is… ummm… real life gives us most of our subject matter, but that’s for another day.

The point is: most of the people I work with know me as a nice, helpful person (for the most part. Sometimes the niceness goes right out the window and I revert to my normal persona). So, when they read something I’ve written, it opens their eyes… or maybe it scares them a little. A few even view me differently now.

I’m okay with that.

V said, “I was reading and saying, oh… oh my…”

What V was referring to is my short story collection, Along the Splintered Path, three stories about splintered lives. She mentioned the second story in the book, ‘Round These Bones. She said it was disturbing.

There you go. I succeeded at my job. The story was intended to be disturbing and if I managed to make one person feel that way, then it was a job well done.

As writers, that’s what we want. We want to hear from people. We want to know that something we wrote did what it was supposed to do. We want to know that the readers enjoy the stories and we want to know when it made them cry or if it made them angry or sick to their stomach or even made them smile.

I’m happy with V’s feelings on the book. It did what it was meant to do.

If you would like to check out Along the Splintered Path, just go here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Pick it up. Leave a review. Writers really do want to hear from the readers. It helps us figure out what we are doing right and it helps us to know what needs to be fixed.

If you pick up the book, maybe you’ll look like this person (her name is Gina and yes, this was used with permission) while you’re reading it.

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I thank you, now, for reading, not only Along the Splintered Path, but also Type AJ Negative.

Read on and your thoughts are always welcome.

Until we meet again, my friends…