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A glimpse into Books I and II of THE COLD CURRANT CHRONICLES!


L.L. SOARES: Well, here we are, back with Stoker-nominated writer Peter N. Dudar, to promote his new book, and give readers a little more insight into what we’ve both been up to lately.

Peter, I’d like to talk to you specifically about your new novella, THE MISSISSIPPI GLORY HOLE MUTILATIONS, out now from Grinning Skull Press. First off, congrats on the new book!

PETER N. DUDAR: Thanks! It’s great to have a new book out, especially after the pandemic. 2020 was a total wash as far as my writing career. So 2021 felt like I was starting from scratch. Getting back into writing was difficult; when you’re not flexing those muscles on a regular basis, they tend to atrophy a bit. I started slow, working on short stories and revising some of my older work. But by autumn of last year, I was ready to jump back in and get working on something a bit longer.

LLS: I totally agree with you about the pandemic. For the first year or so, I lost all of my creativity. I didn’t read, I didn’t write, for about a year there. It was similar after 911. And It does feel like we’re starting from scratch again.

So, MISSISSIPPI GLORY HOLE is a sequel to BLOOD CULT OF THE BOOBY FARMERS. Can you tell us a little bit about that first book? And why did you want to do a sequel?

PND: BLOOD CULT was originally released in 2013, through Novello Publishers. I have to confess that stylistically, the story lands far outside my normal sensibilities, and my comfort zone. I tend to prefer well-crafted slow burn supernatural thrillers rather than the overtly gory and grotesque. BLOOD CULT allowed me the opportunity to craft a campy, over-the-top tribute to the old exploitation films of the 70s and 80s. My novella went out of print back in 2018 (I think), and I honestly was just going to let it rest in peace. The whole #MeToo movement happened the year after it was released, and the book’s subject matter was suddenly controversial in a very bad way. But when it went out of print from Novello, my publisher Michael Evans at Grinning Skull Press expressed interest in getting it back into circulation through GSP. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but there was always that hesitation because I didn’t want any backlash coming back to bite me on the ass. It wasn’t until I started writing THE MISSISSIPPI GLORY HOLE MUTILATIONS that I realized that a) I love the character of Betty-June Gray and wanted to find out whatever became of her, and b) her new book was going to be an empowered woman story, where she would flip the script on the society that made her a victim in the first book. Once I knew that, I reached out to Michael at GSP and we worked out publishing both books this year. 

LLS: While BOOBY FARMERS is in the spirit of 1970s exploitation movies, the new book is more of a satire, even venturing into political humor. What inspired you to take such a different approach with the material this time?

PND: Yes, it absolutely IS a political satire disguised as a horror story, and it came as a response to five loathsome years of Trumpism and my own desperate need for a satisfying catharsis. The antagonist of the story is a composite caricature of several prominent GOP figures, but the most significant of the lot has a name that rhymes with the book’s Senator Rich McDonnell. But that isn’t the ONLY storyline in the book, it’s only one facet to it. The novella really examines a lot of what I don’t care for right now in our society. There are several really rotten characters in the story, who behave badly, and how I’ve chosen to portray them and the fates they face before the book ends underscores the sense of ridicule I believe they deserve.

LLS: The titles of both books tend to capture readers’ imaginations. But instead of inspiring dread, there’s a sense of playfulness, where they feel like they’re in for something that’s going to be a lot of fun and isn’t concerned with being politically correct. Was that your intention, and were these books fun to write?

PND: Both these books were definitely fun to write. Again, with BLOOD CULT, I was going for a campy, titillating story title that was going to stop people in their tracks and immediately want to know if that book was for real. And it actually worked fairly well, because whenever I worked a sales table at writers conferences, people would always pick that book up first, flip through it, and then put it back down on the rack. They just weren’t buying it the way I’d hoped they would. The thing with BLOOD CULT is that it IS goofy and campy, but only at the beginning. There is a certain point in that story that, once you hit it, the atmosphere immediately shifts to a serious, high-tension nightmare and the campy elements practically evaporate. When GSP produced this new edition, they hired artist Jeffrey Kosh to rethink the cover, and he went with a style that looks EXACTLY like a movie poster from the 70s. It’s brilliant! He also did the cover for GLORY HOLE, and again, with the same intensity I’d hoped for.

LLS: You’re right, Jeffrey Kosh did some amazing covers for your books! I love his style. We’ve both been very lucky when it comes to cover artists – which I think is really important. The cover gives people their very first impression of a book, before they even get to the words.

PDN: When I came up with the story idea for THE MISSISSIPPI GLORY HOLE MUTILATIONS, I wanted to create a title as evocative and captivating as THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). I wanted it to sound like a macabre true-crime thriller that was also titillating in the same sense as BLOOD CULT is.

LLS: There’s also an obscure movie from 1972 called INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS that most people haven’t heard of. It’s a goofy movie made on a shoestring like MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966). If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check it out.

PND: And yeah, I really had a lot of fun writing these, because there’s the sense of freedom that introducing bizarro elements allows for. It lets me pull the rug out from under the reader, because they usually have read my other work prior to these books and never see it coming. 

LLS: Both novellas take place in the town of Cold Currant, Mississippi. Can you tell us more about the place, and what inspired you to create it? Do you have more stories you want to base there?

PND: Cold Currant is an entirely fictional town established along the banks of the Mississippi River. It’s an impoverished farming community in the deep south, which is about as polar opposite as you can get to my hometown here in Maine…but when I think about it, it’s really not all that different after all. Like I said before, I’ve always been in love with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and wanted to create some kind of similar southern gothic vibe when I started writing BLOOD CULT. It just feels like The South has this deeper sense of cultural depression to it, where there are pockets of citizens that cling desperately to 20th Century ideals and societal norms. I loved going back there with GLORY HOLE, because the book feels saturated with that hot, swampy atmosphere you find in southern gothic novels. And I definitely plan to go back there for one final Betty-June novella sometime early next year. The final book will be titled THE JAILHOUSE CRACK WHORE EXORCISM. And if I can convince Michael at Grinning Skull Press, I’d love to put out an omnibus edition with all three novellas, with maybe one final short story at the end to cap it all off. 

LLS: Have you read much fiction by Edward Lee? He’s one of these writers I find myself going back to from time to time, and he’s a master of the redneck horror story, with classics like HEADERS and THE BIG HEAD in his oeuvre. While I don’t think your stuff is anywhere as extreme as Lee’s, these books are pretty over-the top, and there is a kind of shared sense of atmosphere at times. Is this intentional?

PND: Like I said, extreme horror really isn’t my favorite style of genre fiction, but I really should rectify that at some point and read some of his books. If I was trying to emulate anyone with my style of writing in these books, I would have to say it would be Joe R. Lansdale. His work DEFINITELY has that bizarro sense of humor and some wonderfully brilliant over-the-top moments. Nacogdoches, Texas and Cold Currant, Mississippi are definitely on the same landscape, even if my town is only fictional. I think both of my books have that same vibe as BUBBA HO-TEP (2002). Or maybe even the Rodriguez/Tarantino film GRINDHOUSE.

LLS: I remember seeing GRINDHOUSE (2007)in a theater when it first came out, and it was a real event. After its theatrical run, the two movies that make it up were broken up and are shown separately now. But the entire GRINDHOUSE experience, with both movies and the trailers all together, was a real treat.

PND: Let’s just say I had to reach my late 40s to write fiction that would have satisfied the 13-year-old version of myself. It’s gratuitous and graphic and insane, but the books also address some pretty topical stuff in ways I don’t think people are expecting when they start reading. There are morals to these stories, and if I’ve done my job well, people will have walked away from these books feeling entertained and glad they read them.

LLS: I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to really talk about this, but what writers do you think are your biggest influences? And not just for this new book, but overall?

PND: Well, Lansdale, for sure. We got the chance to meet him this past summer at (a writer’s conference in New England) which was cool as hell, but it just seemed like he always had a crowd of people constantly surrounding him, so other than getting to act like a fan boy and having him sign some of my favorite books of his, I never really got to talk one-on-one with him. In terms of style, though, I have a pretty broad spectrum for influences. For tone and atmosphere, I love authors like Peter Straub, Douglas Clegg, Shirley Jackson, Rick Hautala, and Tom Piccirilli (his southern gothic novel A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN is just unbeatable).

LLS: I totally agree about Lansdale. And Piccirilli’s A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN is excellent! I fucking love that book, and I can’t praise it enough.

PND: For building tension, it’s Thomas Harris, Robert Bloch, Richard Laymon, and Richard Matheson. For just plain brilliance, it’s Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, and of course, Stephen King. It’s weird though, because every time I’m asked about my influences, I tend to panic and feel like I’ve left somebody out, especially with our contemporary authors who at the moment are creating some insanely brilliant stuff that deserves the spotlight. I feel truly jealous of the burgeoning new authors out there, still in their formative years, who are cutting their teeth on the authors in our own inner circles.

LLS: And keep in mind, over the course of our lives, we’re influenced by all kinds of media coming at us. The good and the bad. We mention the writers who had the most profound effect on us, but we’re just as affected by art and music and movies, and even the bad stuff – which helps us learn how to avoid it!

You mention contemporary authors. Do you have any that stand out to you? Who do you recommend reading right now?

PND: Oh, you for starters, brother! TEACH THEM HOW TO BLEED is hella-good. I just finished reading Steve Van Samson’s collection, BLACK HONEY And OTHER UNSAVORY THINGS, and absolutely loved it. Emma Gibbon’s DARK BLOOD COMES FROM THE FEET is as close to a contemporary version of Shirley Jackson as you’re going to find. Morgan Sylvia’s ABODE is a damn fine supernatural tale to read before Halloween. Kristen Dearborn’s new book, FAITH OF DAWN is coming out from Cemetery Dance in 2024. I got to read an advance copy and freaking loved it. Tom Deady’s novella, OF MONSTERS AND MEN is some of the best 80s coming-of-age nostalgia I’ve ever read. There’s just a ton of great writers delivering the goods right now; Tony Tremblay, Ed Kurtz, Doungjai Bepko, Bracken MacLeod, Errick Nunnally, Marianne Halbert, to name a few. Marianne’s collection, COLD COMFORTS, is terrific. Sorry if I’m rambling, but I’m always humbled and appreciative when friends of ours recommend our books. I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about just how many modern masters of horror I can call my dearest friends. I’m still writing and publishing as a hobby rather than a primary source of income, but I feel like I’m moving closer to the day where writing fulltime will become an actuality. At some point I hope to find an agent and move from the Indie Press scene to mainstream publishing. 

LLS: Yeah, we’re pretty much on the same path there. And yes, there’s a lot of talent currently in the horror field.

There’s a Mothman in your new one. Were you aware of the urban legend of the Mothman from the movie THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES (2002, starring Richard Gere and based on John A. Keel’s book of the same name)? Did you do any research on the mothman phenomenon, and were you trying to put a new spin on it?

PND: I saw THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES when it originally came out, but honestly remember very little about it. That whole storyline in my book was probably more influenced by modern cryptozoology stories and websites like Creepy Pasta. I’ve always been fascinated with what David Cronenberg did with his remake of THE FLY (1986), where he captured this downward spiral change in Jeff Goldblum’s character, and how monstrous and pathetic he became during his transformation. Making Betty-June have to watch her own child going through this transformation creates the conflict that drives her decision-making and her own character arc in GLORY HOLE. How far will a mother’s love drive her? What are her limitations? When I was writing it, I had a very distinct movie-version of how this was all supposed to play out, with the Pig-Whistle Truck Stop Diner being terrorized by a six-foot mothman lurking about outside on a sultry summer night. But I also wanted to make it so that readers were rooting for the mothman rather than some of the terrible people inside the diner. And I wanted for it to come across that this would look fucking spectacular on the big screen if it was ever adapted for film. The mothman felt like the perfect monster for a hot, moist night in Mississippi.

LLS: There were several scenes, usually involving Jesus Gray (Betty-June’s son) and his transformation, that are rather poetic and very visual. I really enjoyed the scenes that involved Betty-June and her son. They kind of transcend the more satirical elements, and reminded me of scenes in your first novel, A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES. I really like when you go in this direction.

PND: My friend Morgan Sylvia pointed out that very same notion, telling me that I’m very good at capturing a sense of Americana in my fiction. It’s a hard line to walk to create characters that are honest without being cliche, that evoke a sense of empathy for the reader without being condescending, and that feel natural even though their plot-points and conflicts make them who they are. Jesus Gray was born at the end of BLOOD CULT, and it was a miracle that he’d survived at all after everything Betty-June had endured on the Tucker Farm. That’s why she named him Jesus, because he was her miracle baby. In GLORY HOLE, we have an 8-year-old boy who is suffering toxic mutations from the local chemical plant and evolving into a freak. Yet she’s still tucking him into a bed at night that’s dressed with Marvel superheroes sheets and trying to convince him that he’s still a normal boy. It really is heartbreaking when you think about it, because our landscape is filled with mothers tucking their children into bed at night and trying to convince them that everything is fine, when their reality is cancer or financial distress or some other impending tragedy. Betty-June’s reality is a cluster of hard times, but the only thing that matters is trying to make life better for her son. 

LLS: We’ve known each other for more than twenty years, and our careers have involved a lot of parallels during the time. From the fact that our first novels both got nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for 2012, to that fact that we both have new books that just came out – which seem like rays of light, after the last two years of chaos involving the COVID pandemic. Have you been enjoying the ride so far?

PND: Well, it’s definitely boosted my confidence. I’m always reminded of Billy Joel’s song “The Entertainer”. He sings the line, “…and I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts!” And it’s the goddamn truth. Unless you’re constantly putting out new material and staying relevant, readers move on to the next author and the next novel. Even if it’s just a short story in the next anthology coming down the line, every sale counts. Every publication is a stepping stone, because if they like what they’ve just read, they’ll make the effort to look you up on social media and learn more about you. I’m certain that the pandemic was a career killer for a lot of people. Without the opportunity to perform reading events or attend book fairs, we lost a LOT of outlets that we took for granted in terms of promoting our work and meeting our readers face-to-face. For me, 2020 didn’t exist. I’m a postal worker, and learned that I’m an “essential employee” when stores closed and people quarantined and basically all commerce in America was done through the USPS. I spent ten straight months of working 60-70 hours per week. I didn’t write a single word in 2020. Didn’t read a single book after March of that year. It was a disaster, and I think at some level I went through a sort of PTSD or deep depression from it all. At this point, just getting the Cold Currant Chronicles published has been a lifesaver for myself and my writing career. The fact that people are really enjoying these books is icing on the cake. I sure don’t take things for granted anymore. I feel like the luckiest man alive at the moment. 

LLS: The pandemic had a big effect on our lives. Things finally seem to be getting back to normal now. So, what else have you been working on these days?

PND: I had started a new novel in November of 2019, as a NaNoWriMo project. The book is a supernatural thriller called THIS LITTLE PIGGY MISSES YOU. Once I had the final revisions completed on GLORY HOLE, I went back and reread what I’d already started, and found that it was actually better than I remembered. I’m now around 30,000 words into it and will be plugging away at that for the rest of 2022. Beyond that, I’ve signed contract with Trepidatio Publishing for a new short story collection, which will be published sometime in 2023. I also have a story titled, “Will’s Theory of Free-Floating Fat”, which will be published in the New England Horror Writers’ new anthology, WICKED SICK in April of next year. I may have one or two other surprises as well, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed as we wait and see. 

LLS: Thanks a lot, man. And best of luck with the new book!

An Interview with the Bram Stoker Award-Winning Author, L.L. Soares.


PETER N. DUDAR: I’m here today to talk with the Bram Stoker Award-winning novelist L.L. Soares about his latest release, TEACH THEM HOW TO BLEED, published by Bloodshot Books. L.L., it’s great to speak with you again, and a huge congratulations on your fifth full-length novel. For those readers who aren’t familiar with your body of work, how would you characterize your fiction, and without too many spoilers, what can they expect if they dive in with BLEED first?

L.L. SOARES: My stuff tends to pull things in from different genres. I guess, at the most basic level, I’m a horror writer, but it’s not unusual for me to add elements of crime fiction, or science fiction, or even fantasy. And in my books, there is a very big emphasis on characters. If someone picks up BLEED without having read other things I’ve written, I think they’ll get a good taste of my style.

PND: Stylistically, BLEED has the feel of a gritty, hard-boiled noir story, which takes the vampire trope in a whole different direction than the classical vampire tale. What led to this decision, and what were some of the vampire myths you were happy to dispose of?

LLS: I have to admit, growing up, vampires were probably my favorite archetypical monsters. Zombies, for example, can give us some raw scares, but vampires can interact with us on our level, even blend in with us, and yet they’re predators. Over the years, vampires have become a list of tropes where you check things off, and I didn’t want to do it that way. I wanted to get rid of some of the baggage, and sort of reinvent them. I’m definitely not the first person to think that. I didn’t want to deal with stuff like crosses and coffins and bats, and all that more traditional stuff. I like fangs – they can be very effective as a visual metaphor – but they weren’t essential, either.

Vampires have survived in literature because they are adaptive to change. Whether it’s Stoker’s DRACULA, or the vampires of Anne Rice, who have a much stronger emotional life, or even Stephanie Meyers’ sparkly TWILIGHT vampires. Even if there’s a take on the subject I’m not a big fan of, I can recognize that each generation is able to adapt vampires in a new way, and it’s this fluidity that keeps them relevant.

Two things inspired me to write my own take on vampires. The first, I remember seeing a lot of movies over the years where we see vampires covered in blood, mostly because they tend to be messy eaters – and that’s terrific for a movie screen; it’s very cinematic – but I got to thinking that real vampires would be like alcoholics. They wouldn’t want to waste a drop. And so I came up with the idea of vampires who are so dialed into the need for blood that they’d meticulously want to get every drop of blood they can out of a victim

The other thing was I felt vampires were getting a little tired, and I wanted to inject some new mythology into them. On one level, I really wanted to make them scary again, and one major way I do that is I changed how someone becomes a vampire – it’s a process that involves great violence.

PND:: At its heart, BLEED is a great example of the Revenge Story. My original assessment of the book was to refer to it as “an adult fairytale.” Is this accurate? 

LLS: I started the book with a desire to do a vampire version of stories like HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968), where something awful happens to a character and he goes about killing off the “bad guys” who did this to him. That’s how Eliveer’s story begins. But then I went in completely different directions.

I guess that there are aspects of the book that could be seen as an adult fairytale, especially the parts that involve the Bottle World. I don’t think the book as a whole is like a fairy tale. It’s just one of the ingredients.

PND: BLEED has an ensemble cast that feels very reminiscent of your earlier novel, HARD. That is, we’re given multiple storylines that may or may not intersect throughout the course of the book, and some of these characters form partnerships that reminded me of “the buddy pic” for lack of a better term, where their banter and their own selfish needs can build either a marvelous sense of conflict or bring out the best in themselves. My mind immediately jumps to characters of L.B. Jade and Slow Henry.

LLS: The ensemble cast goes back to my first novel, LIFE RAGE, where I looked in on several different characters, and then slowly drew them together. I like working with a big palette – a whole range of colors – and trying to flesh them all out. It’s a challenge and a joy. I notice a lot of my work tends to be either an ensemble kind of story, or sometimes I go the first-person narrator route, and there are benefits and disadvantages to both. I like the intimacy of the first-person story, and the way you can get inside someone’s head – but the narrator can’t be everywhere and know everything, so the ensemble story offers more ways to open up the narrative and see a full range of people, with different feelings and motivations. And yes, sometimes these characters have a kind of “buddy pic” feel to them.

As for Jade, she can change her gender at will. She quite literally is “gender fluid” in that whatever fits her best in a moment; she can change herself to reflect this. But this is not a new idea. There have been protagonists that can change their sex before – the most obvious examples being Virginia Woolf’s ORLANDO and the great science fiction character Jerry Cornelius, created by Michael Moorcock, starting with THE FINAL PROGRAMME, who could also change gender when he/she saw fit. By having this ability, Jade can seem more fleshed out, in that both the male and female aspects of her personality are on display.

But that’s just one aspect of Jade. I’d prefer if readers discovered Jade and Henry on their own.

PND: The novel also introduces us to Eliveer Davies, who seems to be the lead character at the beginning of the novel. I was wondering, how do you devise names for your characters? It seems like your fiction is full of characters with odd or extremely rare names, including Eliveer. 

LLS: I’m always looking for unusual names. Sometimes they just jump out at me. Eliveer is an unusual one. I remember being a teenager in a graveyard, and I saw the name Eliveer on a tombstone and it always stuck with me. I always knew I’d use it in a story sometime. Maybe it goes back to my own first name, Lauran, which is unusual (almost everyone I know spells it wrong, with an “en” at the end), which is kind of unique. The only other people who are named Lauran that I know of are my father and a western writer named Lauran Paine.

PND: Let’s talk about The Madonna of Skulls, the apparition on the cover of the book, with the sugar skull face and six arms. Who is the she, and how does she tie into the vampire cadre? 

LLS: I’m not sure I want to go into the Madonna’s origins too much. That may be fodder for another tale. The original idea I had, I think, while writing it was “What if Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie was evil?” Instead of granting wishes, she was more likely to kill someone you didn’t like. But then it evolved into a whole world inside her bottle, that she escapes from. The Bottle World is a homage to the kinds of “wonderlands” that have been in fiction for centuries. I’ve always been a fan of those kinds of stories, whether it be Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, L. Frank Baum’s Oz, or, to a lesser degree, C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or whatever. So when we begin to explore the Bottle World, the first creature we meet is a kind of Bizarro World version of the Cheshire Cat that is both kind of hideous and possibly sinister.

PND: There are still a lot more characters involved in the story, and you’ve really created this violent, blood-soaked tapestry with an impressive body count in your novel. Do you find this kind of thing missing in the books coming out nowadays, or are you merely writing to satisfy the reader in yourself? 

LLS:I started writing when I was about six or seven years old. I was really into monster movies as a kid, and my first stories were kind of like one-page sequels to movies I had seen on TV. I’m sure if I read one now, it would awful! But it was a start. A lot of people I know had no idea what they were going to be when they grew up, but I knew from very early on that I was going to be a writer, and that never altered. I started submitting stories to magazines (mostly science fiction) back when I was still in high school, so I had this dopey idea I was going to be published early on and have a long career as a writer. But it didn’t turn out that way. For almost two decades, all I ever got were rejections. So by the time I finally started to get published, it almost looked like I was a late bloomer, which was frustrating!

All that said, it has taken a long time for my style to evolve. And it’s still evolving. But I write a certain way, because that’s my voice as a storyteller. It’s not a conscious thought to write something that is lacking elsewhere, so much as it’s just how I tell a story.

One thing I’ve always held in high esteem is originality. I’ve always striven to write something new and original. But, in a genre like horror, sometimes readers also like things that are familiar to them. TEACH THEM HOW TO BLEED was the first time I thought I’d take something familiar, like vampires, and do my own unique take on them. In fact, I think I use the word “vampire” only once or twice in the whole book – most of the time I refer to them as “beasts.”

PND: I think the artist who provided the cover for the book did a marvelous job. I’ve commented privately that I thought the cover of BLEED reminded me a lot of the old BLACK SABBATH album covers. It’s immediately evocative, and really captures what your book accomplished inside my mind.

LLS: Yes, I want to give props to artist Carlos Villas for the cover. I think it looks terrific. I came up with the basic concept – even though the Madonna of Skulls is kind of a minor character in the book, I thought she was the most visually interesting, and I thought people would look at that cover and think, “What’s this about?” – but Carlos definitely made it his own.

PND: Again, we have all the elements of the noir story here, with gritty, flawed characters trapped in this world of hopelessness and literal darkness. It almost feels as if this particular novel was written with a big screen adaptation in mind. Yet you’ve managed to intersect this darkness with some moments of real beauty and humanity. Is this your way of maintaining a sense of balance in your writing? Do you need moments of light just to illustrate how dark the rest of the novel can get? 

LLS: That’s funny, because I think BLEED is one of the most upbeat things I’ve written, in a way.

But I’ve always been drawn to the darkness. I just always found the seedier aspects of life to be the most interesting. Whether we’re talking about sex workers, drug addicts, criminals, murderers, or yes even vampires. I never had the desire to suddenly write a romantic comedy or something. I just go where my strengths (and interests) lead me. And, if a story goes in a bleak direction, that’s never turned me off. I guess in the worlds I write about, bad things happen, and a lot of times there is nothing anyone can do to save you. God’s not going to save you, other people aren’t always going to be able to, and, no matter how tough you are, you can’t always save yourself. But that’s okay. I find that lack of a safety net to be fascinating.

But I also like the idea of using whatever tools you have to tell a story – so if there are noir elements, or fantasy, or whatever, it’s because I see all of these as different tools, and I like to use them all. There are also parts when I use humor to decompress things a little. Why have them if you’re not going to use them? It’s kind of like music – when I was a kid, everyone was like “It’s either rock or disco.” Later, when I was heavily into punk rock, it was a choice between “punk or metal.” Growing up, there were always radio stations that just played one kind of music. Rock, country, pop, alternative. But now, looking back, I want to draw from everything! I want to throw some jazz in there, a smidgen of blues, a classical aria, a big scoop of hip hop. I like it all, and I want to be able to use it all in the stories I tell. That’s what makes my stuff personal. The ability to draw from all my interests.

On my most basic level, I think horror is what is at the heart of most of what I write. Horror is part of my DNA – the first time I ever really felt “I fucking love this!” was when I was a kid and saw the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN for the first time. I didn’t know what I could do, but I wanted my life to somehow involve this genre or this sensibility and how I could use it to tell stories. My palette – to get back to the painting reference – is a lot bigger now. And I want to try everything. But horror will probably always be at the heart.

PND: Tell us what you’re working on now, and what your fans can expect in the immediate future.

LLS: I’m working on a few things. I don’t like to talk too much about works in progress – not because I am superstition or anything – but because I find, the more I talk about something to other people, the less interesting it is to me. I have no idea why – but I’ve had novels stall out on me, and I want to do whatever I can to keep the creative process spontaneous, to some degree. That’s why I don’t outline very much when I’m writing a book. I’ll outline maybe one or two chapters down the road, but never the entire thing at once. Because I know I’ll get an idea I never thought of at some point, and I want to be able to embrace whatever comes my way that appeals to me, without having to stick to a rigid plan.

I’m always working on something, and spontaneity is a big part of the creative process for me. That said, I am working on a crime fiction novel that is also a mash-up of horror and some science fiction. And I have ideas for sequels to TEACH THEM HOW TO BLEED, expanding on the world of these characters, and my last novel, BURIED IN BLUE CLAY. But which of these actually gets written is up in the air.

More immediately, I have a story in the upcoming New England Horror Writers anthology WICKED SICK, and a career-spanning short story collection coming in 2023 called SOMETHING BLUE And Other Colorful Deaths.

PND: So who are your influences. You said you’re into a lot of different genres.

LLS: When I was a kid, I remember reading a lot of horror early on – the classics – like Poe and Lovecraft. And lots of books about horror movies. In high school, I got more into science fiction, but the writers I was drawn to most were ones who either had a horror tinge to some of their stuff, or who experimented in different genres, especially those who were part of science fiction’s “new wave.” People like Fritz Leiber (who was a master of science fiction, horror, and fantasy), Theodore Sturgeon, Joanna Russ, Thomas Disch, Samuel R. Delany, and, of course, Harlan Ellison. In crime fiction, I’m a hardcore Jim Thompson fan, and also dig writers like Patricia Highsmith David Gaddis, and Charles Willeford. I also really like transgressive literature, for lack of a better word, like William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, and J.G. Ballard. Ballard is especially important to me. In more modern horror, I really love the darker writers, like Jack Ketchum, Clive Barker, Richard Laymon, Ray Garton, and Edward Lee. But also writers like Charles L. Grant, T.E.D. Klein, Dennis Etchison, Lucy Taylor, Michael McDowell, and the great Shirley Jackson. I enjoy extreme, subtle, and literary horror. All that matters it that it’s good! And then you have someone like Joe R. Lansdale, who can write anything, and kick ass doing it! And I almost forgot Flannery O’Connor, a wonderful writer who is pretty much a genre all her own.

I didn’t get into Stephen King until later on. I actually thought he’d be too mainstream for my tastes. I think the first time I read him, someone had given me a copy of GRAVEYARD SHIFT. Soon after I read CARRIE and THE STAND, and realized how great a writer he is. And his ON WRITING is one of the best books about the craft of writing that I’ve read.

PND: What about contemporary authors? Whose books are you seeking out at the horror conventions and on Amazon? Who would you like to recommend?

LLS: A lot of our contemporaries are putting out great work right now. I know I’ll miss people, but names that come to mind include Jeff VanderMeer, Adam Nevill, Paul Tremblay, J. Edwin Buja, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Michelle Renee Lane, Brian Keene, Ed Kurtz, Doungjai Bepko, Mary Sangiovani, Rena Mason, Tom Deady, Errick Nunnally, Tony Tremblay, Bracken MacLeod, Trisha Woolridge, and Matthew M. Bartlett. And that’s not even a complete list of the talented people we share a genre with. I also really enjoy whenever a new Peter Dudar book comes out. I know it’s going to be a fun ride!

PND: Again, congratulations on another remarkable entry in your oeuvre. I loved TEACH THEM HOW TO BLEED, and I know your fans are going to dig it as well. Any final thoughts you’d like to add about the book?

LLS: People who have read it so far seem to really enjoy it, especially the characters – which I’m obviously happy about. And I do notice, like I mentioned before, that my style, my voice continues to evolve. I hope I am getting better and better at it. You read someone like Chekhov and you realize how high the bar is, and that you’ll never reach that level, but you have to try. You have to reach for the stars. And maybe you’ll even grab a few every now and then.

PND:: Thank you for your time.

I’m writing this piece as an overdue apology to my friends and colleagues for lashing out in response to my viewing of the film MARTYRS. Even now, I’m choosing my words carefully, as I already know this will end with me owning up to my own hypocrisy, and if you know me, hypocrisy is the character flaw I detest the most. The film generated in me the perfect storm of revulsion, and I lashed out on Facebook in response. If I’ve offended you, I apologize. And I also want to explain myself, if you’ll allow me that measure of dignity.

Back in May, I posted a list of my favorite horror films of the 21st Century on Facebook. Lists are an easy way to be topical and stay relevant to those who follow you; click bait meant to draw attention and possibly start discussions. Most of my friends are either fellow authors or at least are fans of the genre, and posting lists of favorite horror films is a way to both celebrate our love for the  genre and to possibly give praise to those movies that may have slipped through the cracks and  deserve attention. Many friends replied to my post that I was remiss in not including the French “extreme horror” film MARTYRS. I was familiar with the movie by reputation only, and knowing that it had gained notoriety for its unapologetic violence and graphic content, I wasn’t all that keen on watching it. I feel it’s important for me to address this, because as I was growing up, the exploitation films of the 70s and the slasher pics of the 80s were always my favorite brand of movies. But the truth is that I’ve changed over the years. Our current political climate, particularly after the #MeToo movement, has forced me to examine how I understand and feel about the blatant misogyny in the movies and books I was once passionate about. More than that, becoming the father of two daughters has made me a bit hypersensitive to art in general. This is important, because it sets my drop in barometric pressure going into this movie.

In response to the flood of fellow film fans expressing their admiration for MARTYERS, I rented the American version of the film. At its core is a vigilante story of a young girl who escaped the captors who tortured her in her youth, only to return to the place she was held captive as a grownup, bringing a friend from the orphanage she was placed in. The two go on a murderous spree in the attempt to bring down the cabal of kidnappers who are torturing young girls in an underground bunker, as some kind of weird cult. The American version is very watered-down and a fair but not earth-shattering horror movie. I posted that I watched this version on Facebook, and friends replied that NO, I had NOT watched MARTYRS. The American version is shit. So I purchased the streaming version of the original, foreign version on Amazon Prime and watched it.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know I’m resolutely, unapologetically opposed to the Trump administration’s policy on immigration, particularly with the evil, Draconian tactic of taking children from  their families and locking them up in cages, in what should be openly labeled as “concentration camps” along the southern border of our country. Every day brings new horror stories of how these children are being abused and mistreated by the Department of Homeland Security, and the branch of Hitleresque boot-heels known as ICE that carry out these directives. It seems like there is no end in sight to this nightmare version of America. It nauseates me. I hate what America has become because of this climate of hate that Trump has opened. What I want you to understand is that MARTYERS was released in 2009, seven years before Trump was elected president, and eight years before Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security decided that, in order to fight the tide of refugees seeking asylum in the greatest country in the world, we needed act like a bunch of evil imbeciles and punish children in the most unethical way possible.

What you should also understand is that while watching the French version of MARTYRS, the lines blurred for me. A lot. As in, while watching this movie, I suddenly felt like a voyeur of something I knew and believed with all my heart to be wrong just to be entertained. But I was also made to feel as if life has imitated art; that somehow, humanity looked at what the authors and artists were creating, and took license in deciding that this was okay, that if people could watch movies like this and be okay with it, then maybe we’re just warped enough to accept that torturing and tormenting children is a permissible act. I sat there, watching this movie, feeling like a passive accomplice to a reality that I would never in a million years be okay with. And more than that, my friends were praising this film as being an important contribution to the genre, professing love and admiration for it.

And so I lashed out.

But I have to dig deeper still on this, if I’m to be honest.

Prior to Trump running for president and the backlash it has created, I began writing the rough draft of my last novel, THE GOAT PARADE. The book is about a Charles Manson-esque lunatic who communes with Satan, and hatches a plan that includes abducting children and using them in a sinister scheme to unleash 1000 years of darkness on earth. Much like MARTYRS (unbeknownst to me while writing), these kids end up in cages by the climax of the novel. When I was writing the work, it was entirely fictional in my mind. Who would abduct children, the most innocent of our species on earth, and torture them in real life? It sounded absurd to me when writing the book, and a part of me doubted anyone would be able to take the premise of my story seriously. But as I watched MARTYRS unfold, it put a face on my own fantasy, and the part of me that felt like a passive accomplice suddenly felt like a culpable player in what has led our society to punishing children who already live in terror and abuse. Even writing this now, I’m sickened for thinking I’ve somehow contributed to this juncture in our history.

I lashed out, and I pointed fingers at everyone but myself. I openly condemned the film and its makers. I dismissed the work as “torture porn”, which I know rankles a lot of genre writers and fans in making the unfair accusation that those who view it are voyeurs strictly fetishizing the inhumane abuse that films like this seem to glorify. I declared “disdain” toward those who recognize the film as cutting-edge horror, as I could not fathom anyone actually enjoying the movie. It was inexcusable behavior, and I apologize. But most of all, I’m mortified in my own failure to recognize that my own work can be equally rebuked for the same reasons I chose to rebuke MARTYRS. My hypocrisy is on full display in the realization that, in the effort to create that sense of horror and dread I’d want to instill in my own readers, I’ve resorted to the same levels of abomination that I’d accused others of when assaulting this movie. Life was never meant to imitate art. It’s supposed to be the other way around. Horror films, for me, have been a means of escapism. Popcorn horror, with jump-scares calculated to get your adrenaline pumping, and then leave you laughing at yourself for leaving yourself vulnerable to the darkened corners and the monster in the rubber suit with the zipper up the back. MARTYRS rose above the popcorn scare and I wasn’t prepared for it, nor was I prepared to feel guilty when it was over. And I can’t change it. I can only apologize. I should have been pointing the finger at myself.

Sing this to the tune of “Royals” by Lorde, and you’ll totally get what it’s like to be a writer.

I’ve never seen an author so depressed.

I cut my teeth on Stephen King books and movies.

And I worked so hard to find success,

Here on Amazon, Bestseller Envy!

But every story’s like Boring/Hackneyed/Dull and  Soporific,

Lacking Substance/Lame and So Pathetic

We don’t care…We’re winning Shirley Jacksons in our dreams.

But every page has got ink stains/typos/underlines and dog ears,

plot holes/adverbs/ lousy grammar/dried tears

We don’t care–we aren’t caught up in our own despair!

And we’ll  never be famous (famous)

It’s a bummer, I’ll admit/nobody really gives a shit/why the hell don’t we just quit?

If I could only write smoother (smoother), get myself some dignity,

Then baby, I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule…Let me live that fantasy.


My friends and I, we’ve cracked the code,

We trade our dollars and our books out of pity.

And everyone who knows us knows/we’re all decent guys…but our writing’s shitty!

But every story’s like Boring/Hackneyed/Dull and Soporific,

Lacking Substance/Lame and So Pathetic

We don’t care…We’re winning Shirley Jacksons in our dreams.

But every page has got ink stains/typos/underlines and dog ears,

plot holes/adverbs/ lousy grammar/dried tears

We don’t care–we aren’t caught up in our own despair!

And we’ll  never be famous (famous)

It’s a bummer, I’ll admit/nobody really gives a shit/why the hell don’t we just quit?

If I could only write smoother (smoother), get myself some dignity,

Then baby, I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule…Let me live that fantasy.


And we’re in love with indie press…the only ones who print our mess!


Alcohol is always there…we aren’t caught up in our own despair!

And we’ll  never be famous (famous)

It’s a bummer, I’ll admit/nobody really gives a shit/why the hell don’t we just quit?

If I could only write smoother (smoother), get myself some dignity,

Then baby, I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule/I’d rule…Let me live that fantasy.

We lost a friend and a champion with the passing of Donnie Parks.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I met him. Nor can I remember a version of Don without the mustache and the glasses. His looks really didn’t change that much over the years, and there’s some comfort to that regularity about him. He was one of those guys who was just always there, whether processing mail beside you on the workroom floor or doing official union business in the APWU office. Donnie was one of those guys I really came to trust when having to go about filing grievances or handling conflicts that I’ve had to endure over my years as a postal worker.  And I’m not the only one.

It’s not polite to bite the hand that feeds you, but we’ve all been force-fed shit sandwiches during our time in the USPS. In the world of business, there are days when the USPS feels like the McDonalds of crappy employers; Home of the McShit Sandwich. And if it wasn’t the headaches from the management side of the job, you also have a working environment that feels like a thirty-year jaunt in high school. It gets old fast. It can wear you down as the years creep by. But Don Parks was always there, and he was one of the good guys. Don would actually sit and listen to you, no matter how bad you were bent out of shape. He cared, and he could calm you down and help you make sense out of the worst drama. And he usually could at least make you chuckle about your situation before he was done. Don Parks was one of us. The guy knew how our postal contract works and how the system works, and he was damn good at his job.

Here’s the thing my mind keeps coming back to tonight; when you’ve worked a job for decades with the same people, you reach an understanding about them. Sometimes it’s not even noticeable, but then one day you look at somebody and notice the gray hair and the wrinkles and the crows’ feet around the eyes, and it just hits you that you’ve spent all those years watching your coworkers growing old right along with you. You pass certain milestones, and they’re there in the background either cheering you on or picking you up when you’ve fallen down. Right up until the end, Don was enquiring about my daughters or how my writing career was going. I’d tell him that my older daughter was in junior high and my younger was learning to read, and more often than not I’d tell him, “I don’t know where the time goes.” And that’s the truth. Because life goes by way too fast, sometimes.

We used to go out to breakfast over the years, after punching off the clock in the morning. We’d meet up at Ruskie’s or Sully’s or a bunch of other joints that were willing to open up at six a.m. and feed us and serve us beers. Don usually would show up late, but he’d find his way in and join us for a couple of drinks. We’d always swear there was to be “no shop talk” once the work day was over, but we all know we’re full of shit and just looking for an ear to bitch about some nonsense or other that we had to deal with. It’s human nature. But Donnie was there to listen and to tell us what was going on behind the scenes that we might not have been aware of. And he was funny. Goddamn it, Don Parks was funny as hell. It’s my understanding that Don really didn’t have a family, and it always felt as if he looked to us to fill that vacuum for him. WE were his family, and I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit that I loved the guy, and that I’m going to miss his smile. It’s going to take time to get used to the Portland Processing and Distribution Center without bumping into him, and shooting the shit with him about the job, or the Patriots, or what’s going on in my life, because he really did care. He cared about us and fought like hell for us over the years. Don valued fairness and justice because these things are worth valuing. He was honest and had no problem telling you if your complaint was petty, and that’s something that I always admired and respected in him.

It’s always difficult saying goodbye to one of our Postal Family. We always hope and pray that our brothers and sisters are able to retire—hopefully still young and in good health–and to live out that “Happily Ever After” we all ought to be entitled to after decades of working the job and eating the shit sandwiches that come with it. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Don deserved to live out his “Happily Ever After”, and part of me is filled with despair now that he never will. But his memory will live on with us. I won’t be able to pass by the smoking area or walk through the halls without seeing Don’s mustache and glasses, and that cocky smile on his face. Don Parks was our brother and our champion, and he will not be forgotten.

Thank you, Donnie. For everything.

DreadToday I will be talking with fellow Grinning Skull Press author Stuart R. West about his novel Dread and Breakfast. I recently finished reading the book and loved it. DAB is a first-rate mystery thriller (and not the book-of-the-month tea cozy kind, but the kind with high-octane tension and a nightmare ending that leaves your jaw hanging), set in the Dandy Drop Inn during the “storm of the century”. Welcome, Stuart, and congrats on what I consider a master-class exercise in pacing and tension building. Let’s take a trip together to Hilston, Missouri and uncover some horror.

SRW: Hey, thanks for the kind words and having me on your blog, Peter. I had a lotta fun writing Dread and Breakfast, even if it was a chore keeping track of my characters at any given moment.

PND: Let’s talk about characters. Because in order to sell this kind of violent, shocking thrill ride, you really have to establish realistic characters with honest motivations. Let’s begin with our protagonists, Rebecca Stanchfield and her daughter Kyra, who are running away from a toxic marriage to husband and father, Brad. What set off their unplanned exodus from their home in Kansas?

SRW: Rebecca’s in an abusive marriage. She’s put up with her husband’s physical and emotional abuse, pretty much overlooking it, trapped, justifying it as part of her wifely duties. Sadly, this is true for many abusive relationships. But when Brad hits their daughter, Kyra, Rebecca wakes up and flees.

PND: One of the things that I found remarkable about this book is that you were able to bring nine strangers together in this one place, with seven of them actually being antagonists with their own agendas. And based on those agendas, you built this nifty spider web of conflicts and plot points as the story unfolds and it’s damn near impossible to predict how things are going to turn out. How much of the story did you have to outline? Did you ever feel as if the story took a life of its own?

SRW: I’ve never been an outliner. Usually, once I have a good feel for the characters, they pretty much write themselves. I’m just moving them around in Dread and Breakfast’s cat-and-mouse chess game. As I noted above, though, it was real work, making sure I had the characters in the right place at the right time. Post-it notes were used! A first for me. Oddly enough, I drew inspiration for the book from French drawing room farces where characters bounce in and out of the plot (and rooms). Just very macabre.

PND: We know that Brad is a rage-a-holic police officer, but the depth of his delusional anger and jealousy are staggeringly frightening. It’s almost as if he’s devoid of any kind of emotion or sense of compassion. If there is a character arc for him, it only gets worse as the story goes on. I certainly don’t want to drop any spoilers, but it almost feels like you were doing this for the sake of misdirecting the reader’s attention off of the other antagonists. Because not everyone in this book is who they appear to be. Is that fair to say?

SRW: Extremely fair. So fair that I feel like a cheater. I’m playing head games with the reader in this book. Everyone’s wearing a mask (except for Kyra), which I kinda find fascinating. Misdirection is key and I hope that I’m successful in fooling the reader at least once.

PND: After Rebecca’s car loses control, she and Kyra are rescued by Deputy Randy Gurley. I kind of got the impression early on that Randy (and Hilston, itself) is caught up in a kind of 20th Century Americana; an archetypical cross between Norman Rockwell and Andy Griffith. It becomes even more evident later when Rebecca and Kyra meet Jim and Dolores Dandy. Were you going for that kind of isolated/insolated vibe when establishing setting and with the characters, themselves?

SRW: You nailed it, Peter. I live in Godforsaken Kansas and it’s where I set most of my books. Frankly, the Midwest is damn creepy, perfect fodder for horror. Like the characters in the book, the rural, homey setting is pleasantly Americana on the surface with rot and evil lurking beneath, ready to explode. After all, Kansas is where students are allowed to carry guns on college campuses, the Ku Klux Klan and the mafia are still active, devil worshipping is a hobby, meth is a way of life, and “kissing cousins” is taken to extremes. Yet, when the Midwest is represented in popular entertainment, it’s always the “aw, shucks” Mayberry family values picture. Making America great again! Ram tough! Yeah!

Sorry. Got carried away. Anyway, this is the Midwest as I see it. And, yes, there’s nothing more isolating than the rural areas, particularly during “snowmageddon.”

PND: I have to confess, Jim and Dolores reminded me a lot of Farmer Vincent and Ida from MOTEL HELL. They have that sugary, homespun vibe about them where good manners and generosity are the key to their exterior image. Their notion of “date night” (at least to me) really hinges on being darkly comedic. Were they fun characters for you to write? How much time did you spend in their heads as you were moving the story forward?

SRW: Well, yeah, I like MOTEL HELL, too. As a writer, dark humor’s my favorite thing to dabble in. Now, there’s a fine line when bringing humor to horror. Many readers (and a LOT of horror writers) are usually skeptical. When they see there’s humor in a horror book, their eyes glaze over and they immediately envision a stupid, silly Leslie Nielsen spoof. But I position horror first, always taking the plot and characters seriously, with real consequences at play. To me, horror skips hand-in-hand with dark humor. There’s not a huge difference. You mentioned MOTEL HELL, but most great horror films (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, etc.) have a dark stream of humor coursing through their unhealthy veins.

Regarding Jim and Dolores Dandy, it would’ve been very easy for them to lapse into caricature, and that was kinda the point. I wanted them to appear “down home” and “good folk.” But, as with everyone in the book, there’s more to them than their presentation. And, yep, they were a blast to write.

PND: They have a surrogate child in Christian, the Inn’s host. And with his introduction, I started paying attention to the names of your characters. Christian, obviously, means Christ-like, but he’s characterized as tall and lanky, and almost effeminate. One of the other characters, an extreme evangelical named Heather, calls him gay and very desperately wants to bring him to God. That conflict alone is intense. But we learn that Heather Goodenow (again with the attention to naming) and her newlywed husband Tommy are just as broken and irredeemable as Brad. Once the Goodenows check into the Inn, and we know Brad is on his way, we’re already facing a volatile cocktail to come. And you’re only getting started…

SRW: Christian was based on the host of a bed and breakfast my wife and I stayed at (and never will again! Talk about creepy…). He resembled Phillip Seymour Hoffman, very giggly, flamboyant and big. But I didn’t want to make Christian a stereotype, so I flipped him. Everyone thinks he’s gay, but he’s not. Again, the theme of people being different than their appearance. Same goes for the Goodenows. Definitely not what they appear to be. As you noted, there’s a lot going on at this particular bread and breakfast.

PND: You also have Harold Carsten, an accountant who just stole nearly a million dollars from mob boss Vincent Dominick. Harold, like Rebecca, is also on the run, but he walks the line of unreliable character. You don’t know which direction his character arc will lead, and if there’s any kind of escape or redemption waiting for him. Likewise, he’s pursued by Winston Ashford, a very hesitant assassin who was sent by Dominick to retrieve his money. Each of these characters builds some kind of personal relationship with Rebecca and Kyra. The author in me was fascinated by how you were pulling the strings with each of these characters. I almost felt sorry for Harold and wanted to see him find that redemption. Was that ever a possibility in your mind?

SRW: Yeah. Harold was my favorite character and I found myself rooting for him. It kinda surprised me as I thought Winston would be The Guy. I mean, Harold’s not very likable, but as the book progressed, I found myself emphasizing with him and understanding him. He became my underdog everyman. I love when that happens while writing. I did consider a different ending for Harold, but the dictates of horror chose otherwise. As for finding redemption? I don’t want to give anything away, but I think he does.

PND: The moment where the book really went into overdrive was when Kyra sneaks off through the house and finds an upstairs bedroom filled with creepy old dolls. That was the moment when my blood ran cold and I could tell you were foreshadowing toward something really dark and foreboding. It’s the moment when the Inn’s secret passages are exposed and that Jim and Dolores Dandy are hiding their own secret. I think the tone and atmosphere you created in this scene really set the stage for act 2.

SRW: Peter, there’s nothing creepier than dolls, I think. And a whole room of them? But, yeah, the scene foreshadows things to come. Dolls on a larger scale.

PND: The rest of the novel is what mystery writers refer to as “the game of cat and mouse”, only with so many antagonists moving against each other, it’s a grueling race to find out who will survive by the end of the story. Again, I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, but I’ll say that I was on the edge of my seat as I tore through the pages. The climax of the book was an unexpected nightmare that blindsided me. It harkened to an almost cosmic noir flip that greatly reminded me of an old 80s movie called AMERICAN GOTHIC. I’m wondering what books or films inspired you to move DAB in that direction?

SRW: I remember AMERICAN GOTHIC. Wasn’t that the one with creepy Michael J. Pollard as a dimwitted farmhand and a swing? (I’ve seen every horror film I can get my hands on from the ‘60’s to the ‘80’s, the golden age). Anyway, all of those Midwest, regional cheap horror films played an influence, from Texas Chainsaw to Motel Hell and even Psycho. But my night at a b&b probably played the biggest influence.

PND: I wanted to briefly mention the cover art by Jeffrey Kosh. It’s a classic Victorian manse in the middle of a blizzard, but the house is crowning this gorgeous skull so that it looks like a deformity as much as it does a shelter from the storm. It’s just beautiful. Do you remember the moment when you first saw it, and what was your reaction?

SRW: I was stunned. Truly. I’ve written 19 novels, and it’s by far my favorite cover. Jeffrey did a bang-up job and I asked him if those great TOR paperback covers from the ‘80’s inspired him. They did.

PND: What are you working on at the moment?

SRW: I’m polishing my first short story collection to be published by Grinning Skull Press. Again, there’s black humor and horror intermingling uncomfortably within the pages. The final novella is one of my favorite pieces, a nightmarish excursion into the deep, deep underground of Kansas City. Literally. I’m also tossing around the notion of a werewolf book.

PND: Are you following any contemporary authors at the moment?

SRW: Can’t say that I’m specifically following any single author at the moment. But I keep going back to Elmore Leonard. He was able to do so much with so little and made it appear easy. There’s a lot to be learned from his books. Oh, and I’m very much enjoying your book, The Goat Parade! It’s creepily sublime.

PND: Thank you for saying so! My final question: In terms of quality of the work being produced lately in the genre, it really feels like we’re entering a new Golden Age of Horror. To me, it feels like there’s a shift toward moving horror away from the pulp end of the spectrum and back to the respectable, literary side. What is your take on the genre and where do you hope to see it go in the future?

SRW: I agree with you. There’s still a lot of pulp work being churned out by small and large publishers, but what I’ve seen from Grinning Skull Press encourages me. I’m impressed by the quality and literary nature. It’d be great to bring respectability back to the horror table. Sure, blood and guts have their place, but I like the more interesting and different books.

PND: Thank you so much for joining me tonight. Congrats on a terrific book and best of luck with your career.

SRW: Thank you, Peter. Keep your chainsaws spinning (or something).

Last night, after L.L. Soares and I were interviewed for an upcoming episode of The Taco Society Presents, we joined hosts Tony Tremblay and Philip Perron for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant called Shorty’s.  The interviews continued when Philip pulled out a small recorder and captured a much more intimate discussion for his podcast Dark Discussions.  The feeling was laid back and we had a great time laughing and sharing tales of the author life, but there was one topic brought up when the mic was turned off that was of genuine importance and I feel needs to be shared.  So I’m bringing it up here, where I can expound on it in greater detail.

If you’re new to the publishing world, you’re going to want to pay attention.  If you’ve been around the block a few times, you already know.  Are you ready?


Didja catch that? I’ll repeat it.


Tony commented to me that he noticed I’ve been very low profile lately on Facebook, and that I really don’t do a lot to promote myself.  That’s because I’ve come to the realization that dropping Amazon links every other post does nothing to endear you to the folks on your friends list, and it sure as hell doesn’t convince anyone to stop what they’re doing, run to Amazon and buy your book.  It doesn’t work that way.  Right now, America is in a bit of a shit-show.  Most folks are going online to vent their frustration, find more reasons to get angry, or self-medicate on pictures of kittens and puppies.  I noticed long ago that my posts about my author life get a handful of likes (and not from the general populace, but from other authors trying to be supportive) whereas if I post funny anecdotes about my life or cute pictures of my daughters, I get scores of hearts and thumbs-ups.  So I’ve made a conscious effort to post less about politics and things that get my boxers twisted around the family jewels and more about things that will make people smile and feel like normal human beings again.  That’s where we are as a society.

But that’s only step one.  Step two is to share links about OTHER authors’ new books, or even better yet, publish reviews about them.  Because nobody wants to hear you toot your own horn, but they are generally interested in what you’re reading.  Cross-promotion works!  If I post a photograph of myself holding up the autographed copy of Ed Kurtz’s new short story collection (that just arrived in the mail) between the silly, embarrassing post about the conversation I just had with my pre-teen daughter and a pic of the awesome dinner I just cooked for the family, people don’t recognized the fact that I’ve just subconsciously spammed them.  I’m removing the “telemarketer” implication of forced advertisement and showing them a genuinely happy version of myself…and they’re recognizing my sense of happiness and responding to it.  It’s really that simple.

What I started doing was to share pictures of other authors’ cover artwork with the simple hashtag #myfriendswritebooks.  All people have to do is click on that hashtag and it takes them instantly to a treasure-trove of cover art, book reviews, and Amazon links.  Here’s the thing: I already know that I’m not going to buy a new author’s book just because (s)he posted a link to it.  I need to hear positive feedback from authors I know and respect, verifying that someone’s new book is worth checking out.  There’s just far too many new books to choose from and I don’t have the cash to buy them all, nor the time to sift through the crappy ones to find that hidden jewel in the dung heap.  It’s a sad reality that there are too many new writers who want instant success without the heartache of paying their dues.  The world of self-publishing has enabled a generation of not-yet-ready authors to flood the market without the benefit of rejection letters and the harsh critiques they really need to grow as writers.  I don’t say this to be mean-spirited or judgmental, but as my own personal admonishment that readers who take a chance on these new authors and are turned off by shoddy, substandard writing almost NEVER leave good reviews, nor do they take a second chance on these writers.  It really does pay in dividends to serve that apprenticeship the rest of us went through and submit your work to established publishing houses and use their feedback to perfect your craft.

Preventing ourselves from saturating Facebook with spam is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bend the rules every now and then.  It is YOUR Facebook page, after all, and it is healthy to want to share the good news of a story sale or give a first-look at your new cover artwork or announce an upcoming event you plan to attend.  It’s still a good thing to let the world know that you’re happy, and definitely that you’re thankful for the help and support others have given.  That recognition really does go a long way.  When you start doing this, you’ll begin to notice that other authors are tagging YOU in their posts.  When this happens, you become a part of something bigger, something exciting, and suddenly people are noticing you!  They’re seeing you without all that jelly-like shit they pack spam in to keep it fresh, and guess what?  YOU’RE FREAKIN’ BEAUTIFUL.

It’s daunting trying to be both a serious writer AND your own marketing strategist.  There will be days when it feels like you’re a lost soul, shouting from the rooftop that you’ve just published a new book and it is awesome and the whole world should read it.  The reality is there are also THOUSANDS of other writers doing that very same thing, and a whole world of readers down in the world below who just want silence so they can continue enjoying what they’re already reading.  Don’t let social networking be your rooftop.  Don’t shout on deaf ears.  And definitely don’t be known as that author who shares links in every other post.  Find better ways to build an audience.  Work smarter, not harder.  Cross-promotion really does work better for you, and it feels damn good to elevate your friends and see them find success.  What goes around comes around, and in time they will elevate you.



Interview by Peter N. Dudar

It is my privilege to welcome my friend and mentor, the Bram Stoker Award-winning author L.L. Soares. Tonight we’ll be discussing his newly released novel BURIED IN BLUE CLAY, produced by Post Mortem Press and available now at Amazon. Welcome, L.L., and congrats on your new book. I freakin’ loved it and can’t wait to talk about it.

L.L. Soares: Thanks, Pete.

Dudar: The novel is told from first-person POV, and the thing that pops out immediately is that the protagonist’s name is Redmond “Reddy” Soames. That’s only one letter off from Soares. Was this intentional and is the character in some way autobiographical?

Soares: Yeah, it was intentional. But I’m definitely not the first person to do that (having a literary alter ego). I’m carrying on a tradition by people like Charles Bukowski who had a character named Henry Chinaski (his first name was Henry and people called him Hank in real life) who narrated just about all of his stuff. William S. Burroughs had Bill Lee. I always liked the name Freddy, and Reddy was close. My father-in-law’s middle name is Redmond, so I took that. And Soames is close enough to Soares to make a reader scratch their heads. Reddy is not me, but there are aspects of him that are from my life. Like most writers and their characters. It also puts my voice right in the middle of the action.

Dudar: His “adventure” seems very Bukowski-esque. He has that “unreliable character” feel about him, and that sense of open frankness about the world around him. The novel begins with him returning to Blue Clay, Massachusetts for a writing assignment. Can you maybe set the stage for what he’s getting into?

Soares: Bukowski is definitely a favorite writer of mine. And the original concept of the book was to write a horror novel from the point of view of a character who was Bukowski-like, that kind of feel. But it turned out a lot different. Reddy really is not that much like Bukowski, except that, when the book begins, he’s a hard drinking guy who feels like his life has stalled.

Dudar: The image of a coastal city with a beach made of blue clay seems very stunning and evocative, at least in my own imagination. It made me think of something Lovecraft might have imagined. How did you come up with that idea?

Soares: The other big hook here is that I set it in Blue Clay, Massachusetts, a setting that has appeared in several of my short stories. The stories have given little bits and pieces, but the novel gives us a bigger canvas, to really explore this fictional city in Massachusetts. I grew up in a place called New Bedford, Mass.,(Michael Arruda grew up in the same city), and it’s roughly the same size, population-wise, and there are a lot of little details about Blue Clay that might ring a bell for people who grew up in or know New Bedford well. So in that way, it’s a little more autobiographical, or at least personal, than my other books.

The idea was to come up with a fictional Massachusetts city that I guess would be sort of an Arkham of my own. Except, writing the stories and now the novel, Lovecraft wasn’t really at the front of my brain. It’s not like I wrote it thinking it would be Lovecraftian, or a pastiche of Lovecraft. I really wrote this trying to forge my own thing—my own city, its own mythology and residents—that would be very different. The city’s name came first, before I wrote the first story, and the image of clay beach came to me. I toyed with Red Clay, a kind of bloody beach image, but that seemed a little bit cliché, so I went with Blue, which was more surreal. And once I had the name, Blue Clay, the rest fell into place from there.

I think the original idea was to write a bunch of stories set there, and maybe Mike Arruda would write some, too, since he also grew up in New Bedford, and it would grow from there. But I have to admit, as the city grew (and got more complicated), I decided to keep it all for myself.

Dudar: Part One of the book delves specifically with Reddy’s return home to Blue Clay to research a writing assignment concerning some strange phenomena that is going on there. When I first began reading, my response was that this was going to be a deep science fiction story, but it morphed very quickly into something darker. Is that fair to say?

Soares: Yeah, it starts out one way, and changes. Reddy does not end up in the same place—or even the same condition—as when it begins. I guess there are science fiction elements, but it’s certainly much more of a horror story.

Dudar: Or a monster story. And this book seems to have several. There are the “blue jellies”, the “manta ray”, the “centipedes”, and “the grub.” Each seems to have a different role in the story.

Soares: The jellies have appeared before in the short stories. I’m not sure if I named them at first. They just kind of appeared on the beach that gives Blue Clay its name. The rays are kind of a competing species that lives parallel to the jellies, but they’re not at war or anything. In fact, it’s doubtful they even interact. They just are, and just happen to coexist in the same area. The beach has a lot of power to it—you could call it a magical or sacred place I guess. The grubs and various bugs are like a third species that acts like protectors or bodyguards. The jellies and rays are kind of barely aware of us—don’t care about us—but the bugs are very aware, and very dangerous. I toyed with some of these things in the short stories, but they were always mysterious and vague. The stories were meant to have a surreal feel to them. The novel is more like cracking open the egg and seeing what’s inside.

Dudar: You definitely succeeded there. Not to give spoilers or jump ahead, but the “special trait” of the mantas seriously blew my mind and made me queasy at the same time. Do you enjoy having that kind of effect on your readers?

Soares: I love doing the unexpected, blowing people’s minds, stuff like that, sure. Ever since I was a kid, my intention has always been to be as original as possible, to do things my own way. To really try to take people places they’ve never been before. And if my writing can take on the feel of what it’s like to be on a hallucinogen, let’s say…I love that.

Dudar: Having said this, how much of the novel was mapped out before you started writing and how flexible is the story as you are working on it?

Soares: I have a basic map of the city in my head. As for the plot, where it was going, I guess I plan it out incrementally. As in, I don’t try to see the whole thing from the start. I just see so far—and I move in that direction—and then I see a little more. If I knew everything beforehand–saw the entire picture from the start—I think I’d lose interest. Even for the writer, there’s got to be a degree of mystery and spontaneity. I’m having a journey, too. It’s not as much fun to know all the answers beforehand.

Dudar: It seems in this book, your map of the city is just as invaluable as the characters, themselves. Even early on, Reddy meets with Frederick Bellows (a “blue jelly” enthusiast who has written his own books on the subject) and goes directly to the beach. But there’s also the Sidelong Glance Motel, the Walecock Manor, and The Fortress (which made me think immediately of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”). It seems like you had a lot of fun with it.

Soares: The Fortress was actually more influenced by the band Love than the Eagles. Love was this great 60s band that made a classic album called Forever Changes. And in real life, the lead singer, Arthur Lee, had a big old house he called The Castle, where all kinds of people would end up and stay there awhile. Love even has a song called “A House is Not A Motel” that refers to this. I was really into Love when I was writing this, listening to a lot of their music early on. I even mention them in passing in the book, but only a music nerd would get it. The Walecock thing is another long story entirely.

Dudar: Do you listen to music while you write?

Soares: Yeah, I listen to a lot of music as I write. All kinds of music. Jazz, rock, hardcore punk, death metal, all kinds of stuff, and it affects my mood, the feel of what I’m writing, I guess. And other times I just write in absolute silence, and I’m sure that creates its own mood or tone, too.

Dudar: There’s another musician later on in the book named Briana Blessed. Is she a loose caricature of someone?

Soares: Yeah, but I’m not sure if I want to give all the secrets away. But there’s a singer I saw once—it was such a spooky experience, it was a small audience and at one point she seemed to look right into my eyes, and it left a big impression on me that night. And it created the seed for the whole Briana storyline. Little touches like that—add to the personal feel of the book for me.

Dudar: I love that aspect of writing, that you have that luxury of secretly admitting things without any repercussions.

Soares: Yeah, and it’s mixed in with stuff that’s not real, and it’s all intertwined, and only you, or maybe a few people who are very close to you, get the references, and can separate the truth from the fiction. And that’s what storytelling is all about, right?

Dudar: Is it nerdy that I’m nodding emphatically right now?

Soares: Not at all. It means we’re on the same frequency, that’s all. I wish I had some MacAuley Bros. right about now.

Dudar: Now I’m grinning ear to ear. It was such a thrill to see you include that.

Soares: Yeah, for people who don’t know, you wrote this great novel called A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES, about two brothers who are trying to make their own bourbon, the MacAuley brothers. In your book, the bourbon doesn’t really happen, but in a couple of my books it’s very real. Our editor Bob Wilson put it in my book LIFE RAGE as kind of an in-joke (both books were published by Nightscape Press). We needed the name of a brand of bourbon that a character is drinking. And it pops up briefly in BURIED IN BLUE CLAY. I’m trying to keep the whole thing alive. Don’t be surprised if the brand pops up again sometime.

Dudar: Getting back to the book, you started out with a science fiction premise but the book diverges rapidly into a conspiracy-theory type mystery. As Reddy finds himself on the seedy side of the city, he begins noticing strange graffiti on billboards and brick walls. It seems as if he’s stumbling into a kind of a cult.

Soares: Yeah, the whole HEK thing.

Dudar: I found it interesting that you truncated Killian’s name like that.

Soares: Yeah, it was the whole JFK, LBJ thing. I always thought that was cool, people known by three letters, instead of their name. I can’t tell you why I liked it, but there’s a character who goes by his initials, HEK, in BURIED IN BLUE CLAY.

Dudar: Do cult figures fascinate you?

Soares: Yeah, sure. There’s definitely something of the cult leader in HEK. He’s definitely cut from that cloth. But unlike someone like Charles Manson, let’s say, who used his hold over people for evil, for killing, HEK is fairly benevolent in comparison. He’s a pretty benign cult leader.

Dudar: Yeah, I’d be hard pressed to consider HEK an antagonist.

Soares: And he’s Reddy’s guide into a part of the city few people have seen. HEK was kind of inspired by cult leaders, gurus, that type of stuff, and then there’s definitely some of (occult figure) Aleister Crowley in him, too. And at times you even wonder if he’s kind of a con-man. He definitely has access to real things that can blow your mind, but he’s also playing around with it, showing you just as much as he wants you to see.

Dudar: And THAT is what gives BURIED IN BLUE CLAY such a deliciously creepy feel to it. It seems like there are no real “safe” locations, and that there are risks and uncertainties abound. Early on, Reddy goes to visit an old childhood friend named Luke, and winds up staying a spell in that location. But you use that location to unmask some really dark shit…

Soares: Luke’s story is steeped in dark stuff. But you’re right–there’s no “safe place”–and that’s because Reddy gets exposed to this stuff he never knew about, and suddenly it’s not so clear what the rules are, why these things are happening, and he can never be sure who to trust.

Dudar: It sure kept me on my toes.

Soares: Early on, it’s the alcohol that keeps him confused and in a haze. He second-guesses himself, and isn’t always sure what’s real. Then he comes out of that and into a big outside world that is just as intoxicating.

Dudar: Plus he’s ducking and weaving the stream of phone calls from Zach, his editor, which is compounding his stress.

Soares: Reddy is a writer, but he’s never been a success at it. He wrote a few books years ago that went out of print right away, and he only gets the urban legend book gig because an old friend is throwing him a bone. And there’s always that question—will he even write the book? Will he ever finish it? The book answers that, but it’s a question mark for most of the book. And if he does write it, will anyone even read it?

Dudar: I love that that element is present, that as a writer I can fully appreciate that aspect of his character.

Soares: Yeah, in a lot of stories, if there’s a writer character, he’s usually like a bestselling writer or something. Reddy’s writing gig is only the way in—the reason to come back to Blue Clay—but it’s definitely not something he’s had any success at, or gotten any kind of respect for.

Dudar: Nor does he really seem to WANT to be there…

Soares: He definitely doesn’t. He got away a long time ago and only came back because he was desperate for the job. But he drinks way too much from the first day he gets there, to block it out. He does not want to be there at all. When HEK shows up, it piques his curiosity, and he sort of forgets how much being there makes him miserable. For a little while, anyway. But you notice, he keeps trying to leave, and things always pop up to get in his way.

Dudar: You really CAN’T go home again. But it’s a deeply disturbing notion that everything you thought you knew and understood about the world you grew up in had something deeply sinister below the surface.

Soares: Yeah, if you grow up somewhere you think you really know the place. To have that surety taken away from you, it puts you in a very interesting situation. You never really knew the place at all.

Dudar: Plus it makes you question yourself.

Soares: Exactly. But can we really know a place? Can we really know another person? Really know them? There’s always going to be some part of them you’ll never see.

Dudar: So, we’ve met HEK and Bellows, but for me the most sinister character in the book is an old lady named Edna Caldwell.

Soares: Little old Edna? What’s so sinister about her?

Dudar: Seriously? Part Four of this novel is excruciating because of her.

Soares: You thought so? I kind of felt sorry for her.

Dudar: Really? Why?

Soares: She’s trying to control the world around her, trying to complete something, and it’s so difficult.

Dudar: Yes, but where HEK seems to be the head of the hierarchy and Bellows is the begrudging servant, she seems the most steeped in dark magic.

Soares: Agreed. She is definitely as steeped in it as HEK is. There are times when you could wonder who’s really the boss.

Dudar: That was exactly my thought. Between these three in the hierarchy, they feed Reddy just enough information to keep him strung out, with no intention of letting him go.

Soares: Oh yeah, he never knows the full story–he’s only seeing part of it–what they want him to see.

Dudar: It feels like we’re still only scratching the surface of the twists and turns of this book, so I’ll maybe ask two more questions. First, almost ALL of your writing contains a fair amount of graphic violence and sexuality, and this one sure doesn’t disappoint. You’re very good at using it to move the story forward. Is that fair to say?

Soares: Yeah, it’s definitely part of what makes up my style—sex and violence are just part of day to day life in my stories, I guess. It’s like there’s nothing shocking about (these elements), something matter-of-fact. They’re just there.

Dudar: I’m inclined to disagree…I think a large portion of readers might be shocked. But I would say that’s a comment on our puritanical society. Do you feel like you’re writing the kind of stories you’d want to read or are you more conscious about the reader’s response to it?

Soares: Oh, I definitely feel like my writing is my voice, and I’m writing what I want to read. If it doesn’t please me, then how’s it going to please anyone else? I have to “feel” it. It has to feel genuine to me. And, to return to your previous question, I think the graphic sex and violence is not as shocking as it would be in the “real world,” for lack of a better word. It’s more taken for granted in what I write. It’s just part of who these characters are.

Dudar: It works because it feels realistic. And like I said, Part Four of the book left me reading with my jaw wide open.

Soares: I’m really glad to hear it. It’s always fulfilling when your writing elicits a strong response from someone. That’s what it’s all about. Affecting the reader in some way.

Dudar: Again, huge congratulations for BURIED IN BLUE CLAY. This really is my favorite book of yours, toppling HARD to the number 2 spot. It’s a great book.

Soares: Thanks a lot, Pete. I appreciate the kind words. And I’m really happy you liked the book.

Dudar: What do you have in the works now?

Soares: I’ve been working on a kind of vampire/voodoo book for the longest time. It’s the slowest thing I’ve ever written, just seeping out a tiny bit at a time, but it’s coming out well. Just very slow. And, of course, these “vampires” are nothing like the traditional kind. I always like to put my own personal spin on things.

Dudar: I can’t wait to read it. And I’ll be seeing you down in Providence later this summer for NecronomiCon. You’ll of course have copies of the book for sale there?

Soares: Yes, I will. Looking forward to it.

Dudar: Thanks again, my friend, and much success.

Soares: You, too.

© Interview copyright 2017 by Peter N. Dudar


Let’s talk about childhood terrors, shall we?

Let’s talk about deep-seated, scarring trauma in the form of bedtime stories. You know the ones that have been passed down from generation to generation, originally penned by people with frightening names like The Brothers Grimm or with pleasant, sanctified names like Hans Christian Anderson. They’re the bedtime stories with subversive messages about morality and judgment upon wicked children who didn’t listen to their mommies and daddies and do as they were told. It sure made an impression to hear the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the brother and sister whose daddy married an awful woman that convinced him to lead his children deep into the woods and leave them there when food became scarce. The siblings, of course, nearly met their fate at the hands of a witch who wanted to fatten them both up and eat them for dinner. Fortunately for the two, that tale managed to scrape up a happy ending, but Holy Moly, why would we tell that story to our sons and daughters?

Or the tale of Thumbelina, who was nearly forced to marry against her will? Or the Poor Little Match Girl, who froze to death after using up the matchsticks she was supposed to sell to keep warm? Or Little Snow White, whose stepmother wanted her murdered over vainglorious beauty? Or The Girl Without Hands? Or The Sandman?

The crucial element to nearly every one of these stories is that life’s dangers are very real and profoundly unjust in their severity. And in their own way, they are our introduction to mortality. After all, we’re not meant to live forever and perhaps the sooner we learn this valuable lesson, the more prepared we are for this callous, unforgiving world. Moreover, like I’ve suggested above, they are the hammer and chisel in our parental toolbox for shaping our children to be obedient and grateful. Our own mommies and daddies seem like saints compared to the often wicked matrons and feeble, spineless fathers in fairytales and nursery rhymes.

But hey, at least they’re honest. After all, a quick look through the local section of the newspaper is all the proof you need. Pinocchio rescuing Geppetto from the belly of the whale isn’t really that far off from a five-year-old dialing 911 when his mom accidentally overdoses on heroin. We see the archetype of parental redemption in all corners of literature, from The Odyssey to Star Wars. But when the archetype applies to life as we live it and understand it, it becomes abundantly clear which life lessons prepared us for what we’re dealing with.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole thing about “Happy Endings”. They do happen, from time to time, when the downtrodden damsel defies a wretched fate and marries the prince. Or when Pinocchio becomes a real little boy. Or when the peasant is rewarded for his kindness and falls into the realm of the “Happily-Ever-After”.

Enter H.P. Lovecraft.

Nearly two centuries after the passing of the Brothers Grimm, Howard Phillips Lovecraft made his own contribution to literature by creating a mythos of eldritch gods whose powers and sovereignty transcended the scope of time and space. Originally penned for early 20th century pulp magazines like Weird Tales, Lovecraft’s works sought to penetrate inexplicable horrors within the realm of the human psyche. Lovecraft’s world seems to also be defined by subversive moral lessons, pushing more towards obedience and reverence to science and rationalism rather than God and parents. In Lovecraft’s mythos, very rarely do we find happy endings. There are only unspeakable horrors that await us, and make us wish for death.

Which brings us here to the 21st Century.

Crystal Lake Publishing is about to release a new anthology in May of 2017 titled TWICE UPON AN APOCOLYPSE. The book is a collection of tales in a universe where bedtime story Fairytales are married with the Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. It seems like a very logical union, if one were to stop and ponder it…after all, the moral lessons have not changed over all the generations since mankind first started inventing fiction. There’s a painfully true proverb about mankind repeating history, and again, all the proof you need is right inside your newspaper. And as an author, it was a delight for me to dabble in a form of storytelling I’d never tried before. My tale for the book is titled “The Three Billy Goats Sotheth”, and it concerns an ancient troll who lives under a bridge in a world where horses and carts were replaced with cars and trucks; metal beasts that cared not if he tried to stop them from crossing. Of course, with the dawn of a Lovecraftian Armageddon sounding and the approach of the reawakened ancient ones, the troll seeks to reclaim his long-past sentry over humanity.

There are a lot of familiar fairytales in this collection. You’ll come across giants and beanstalks and mermaids and pipers and, most assuredly, Cthulhu,Yog, and all the other eldritch gods who’ve been slumbering since Lovecraft shook loose his mortal coil. You’ll also find very familiar writers within the horror genre: Armand Rosamilia, Bracken MacLeod, Don D’Ammassa, and Scott Goudsward, to name a few. These are today’s storytellers, who have not given in to genre-bending or “mash-up” hackwork but have used their craft to redefine the Fairytale in an homage to one of the founding fathers of horror fiction. It’s been an honor to be associated with this book, and even bigger honor to pass down a fairytale to my daughters. And perhaps one day they will pass it down to their children, so that I might embrace a moment of immortality in a “Happily-Ever-After” of my own.

I hope you will check out TWICE UPON AN APOCOLYPSE from Crystal Lake Publishing. I will post links as its release approaches.


Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

When I look back to the beginning of my writing career, it always felt like I was a fish out of water; that I was an isolated vessel on a sea of authors also trying to get published.  This business is everything you’ve heard it to be.  It’s turbulent.  It’s frustrating.  It’s at times excruciating.  It can wreak havoc on your self-esteem and leave you broken and humbled.  A lot of writers give up and move on, never to be heard from again.  Others keep going.  And eventually, success finds them.

It was the thrill of a lifetime the day my first acceptance letter arrived.  It arrived like a gift from the gods, and felt like vindication after the scores of rejection letters that had cluttered up the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet after so many years.  I remember reading the letter over and over again and feeling as if I’d finally gotten my foot in the door, and that my craft had finally reached a level where I would be taken seriously as a writer.  That first acceptance is a giant milestone in any writer’s career.  In spite of all the words you may have written and all the stories you’ve completed up to that point, it’s that first sale that marks the beginning of your publishing career.

And then you mature.  You make your next sale, and the one after that, and then the next, and suddenly you have a bibliography.  And suddenly you become aware of the caliber of writers that you are now appearing beside in the Table of Contents.  It feels like you’re living in a dream when your own work is sitting in an anthology along with some of your literary heroes.  I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming that I’ve appeared in books with authors like Rick Hautala and William F. Nolan and Tim Waggoner.  I find myself wondering how I got this far and whether or not I belong here.  There are a lot of A-list authors in the horror genre, and to read their work and see how much better it is than your own will either inspire you to work harder and do better or it will send you packing.  For me, the answer is to try harder and prove my worth.  Quitting is not an option.

But finally, you reach a point where you come full circle.  I’m at a place now where the names in the TOC aren’t as important to me as the quality of the stories being presented.  Stephen King once wrote, “It is the tale, not he who tells it”, and that line has become a credo for me.  Where I’m at now is a place where I take greater pleasure in seeing the names of my friends and colleagues in the genre appearing beside me in not just one but numerous anthologies.  We call ourselves “Antho-buddies”; an endearing term I picked up from my good friend Tony Tremblay.  It gives me so much satisfaction and pleasure not only to watch my own career grow, but to watch the trajectories of some of my closest friends as their careers grow.  The milestone isn’t that I was published in a book, but that we shared the experience together and got to revel together as each new review appears on Amazon.  That is an amazing feeling.

Where I am right now is on the proverbial eve of publication for NORTHERN FRIGHTS, An Anthology of the Horror Writers of Maine.  This book is a collection of very dark tales by authors from my home state.  It is me with members of my writers group The Tuesday Mayhem Society.  It is me with fellow authors who do group readings like the Midcoast Halloween Reading Series.  It is me with new friends from the HWOM and old alums from the New England Horror Writers.  It’s US.  And this is OUR beast.  For some, it will mark their first acceptance, and that is a really big deal.  I congratulate you sincerely and am happy to tell you that if your work was selected, it means your work is good and you belong.  It is my privilege to call you my Antho-buddy, and I hope that continues in the future.  Where I’m at right now is overflowing with pride.  I am blessed to work with some very talented people and NORTHERN FRIGHTS is a testament to that.

I have to pinch myself because where I’m at is pretty damn exciting.  And if I AM sleeping, please don’t wake me.

Wishing success to Duane Coffill and David Price of the Horror Writers of Maine for conceiving and making this book a reality, and to Michael Evans of Grinning Skull Press for taking a chance on us.  And to each and every author involved, my undying love and respect.  Congratulations one and all.