Follow Your Arrow–> Part One: The HWA and DIY

Follow Your Arrow-

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Part One: The HWA and DIY

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A few weeks ago, the Horror Writers Association passed a referendum to allow self-published authors that earn X amount of money from their works to ascend in their membership. I think when joining the HWA, you’re joining to become a member of the community, a member of the family. I joined in 2012, the year after I started writing. I was instantly and graciously welcomed. Eventually, I started to make some sales and was able to go from supportive member to affiliate member. That accomplishment felt nice. I made a new goal: to be an active member. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I will.
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So why do I want to go “Active”? Well, for one, it’s a goal and I like to attain the things I set out to accomplish. Two, I would love to have the privilege of being able to cast votes on future referendums and Stoker nominated works. And three, within the organization, it’s the one that says, “Hey, I’m a professional writer!” Not to say that anyone who hasn’t earned that status from the the HWA is not a pro, but it’s my little motivator. At least, that’s what it means to me. I’m sure the self-published authors in or considering joining the HWA, who make sales out there, would love to be allowed those same privileges and status (if they so wish to). The successful self-pubbers work their tails off to get those sales. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be afforded the same opportunities as the rest of us. That’s why the referendum passed. As it should.
Where am I going with this?

While self-publishing is not nearly as taboo as it once was, there is still a dwindling part of the writing community that can’t seem to get the shitty taste out of their mouths. To them I say, fuck off. Yep. I know. I usually preach about niceness, but you can’t be the good guy all the time.
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I come from the punk rock scene. The land of nihilism, anarchy, doing things your own way. For better or worse, I love to learn the hard way. You can tell me until your lips turn blue and your head explodes the way things should be done, but if I’m convinced there might be another way, you can be damn sure I’m gonna try it. I loathe the land of black and white. To me, there’s always shades of gray (maybe more than 50 even!). I have both self-published and ventured the highway of traditionalists. I won’t shit on either one (I reserve that smelly treat for the ones who bark at either or). I busted my butt on the self-pubbed work I had out there before I eventually took it down. It was full of errors, but they were my errors, and I learned from them. Would I self-publish again? Yeah, I think I would.
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If you are going to self-publish, try and do some research first. Grab Scott Nicholson’s The Indie Journey: Secrets to Writing Success. It’s fantastic and this guy tells you what works for him. Note: what works for him. He doesn’t preach and he doesn’t say this is the blueprint and it’s the only one that works. Nicholson is producing like a madman and earning his way through life on his words. That’s the fantasy, right? He does it his own way. He follows his own arrow. And so should you.

Self-publish, go the traditional route, do whatever works for you. Just be true to yourself, true to your story, and gracious enough to those who lend you a hand. You don’t have to join the Horror Writers Association, but if you choose to –traditionally published or otherwise–, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Summer in Montauk–Now with Death and Disease!: My review of Hunter Shea’s The Montauk Monster

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Hunter Shea’s The Montauk Monster is pretty freaking rad. The vacation hotspot, Montauk, New York, is invaded by a bunch of vicious dog-like creatures. Local animals and residents are attacked and mauled to death. Those that don’t die by the teeth suffer a far worse fate. These creatures carry a deadly contagion that burns its victims from the inside out. The local police force is sent from one call to another chasing these beasts and losing some of their own officers in the process.
The truth is revealed when one officer recognizes the beasts. She knows the answers to these things can be found on Plum Island, home to a special facility.

I absolutely LOVE the beginning of this story. I was caught up in the characters and the need to know what these things were so bad that I took my time, savoring each chapter. I wanted it to last the whole summer. But alas, I had promised my review by late July…so here it is.

There’s so much to love here. Hunter tells a story like a seasoned pro. The horror and suspense is top notch. The deaths are scary as hell, and the dialogue is terrific. You feel like you’re in one of those great TV series that have been rocking cable and network television over the last couple of years. The majority of Hunter’s characters drive this story as much as the need-to-know just what in the hell is happening in this beach town. To me, that’s just as vital in a great novel as anything else. If I don’t give a shit about the people in the book, what’s the point? Hunter nails it.

On the negative side, I felt like there were two sets of characters that didn’t need to be in here. Following their parts of the story seemed unnecessary to me and made the book longer than it needed to be (which is odd seeing’s how I just said I never wanted it to end!) The other part that bugged me was all of the action movie type stuff (reminded me of the Crazies re-make) in the final quarter of the book. I’m not a big blow ‘em up guy when it comes to novels. I don’t think it translates as well as it does on the big screen. That said, if this gets optioned for a movie….Hunter will be in for a huge payday!

All in all, it was a fun read and absolutely perfect for the summer.
Go Hunter!
Go Grab your copy here:
HUNTER SHEA- THE MONTAUK MONSTER

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When the Jungle went quiet, and the Four Horsemen lost their way.

Once in a while, when I’m listening to one of my favorite Guns N’ Roses tunes, or something off of Metallica’s earlier recordings, I go from really enjoying the music to irate. I can’t help it. I think about how few records we were given by the two acts and, as a fan, I get frustrated. Welcome to my madness…

Let’s start with Metallica.
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Okay, so from Kill ‘Em All in ’83 to The Black Album in ’91, Metallica was fucking incredible. They were badass motherfuckers who wrote the kind of music they wanted and didn’t give a shit about MTV (which was huge at the time). In ’88 they did release their first music video for One, but that was it until they finally caved for the Black Album. But being badass and doing things the Metallica way is what endeared these long-haired misfits to us, right? That and the fact that above mentioned records, plus Ride the Lightening, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice for All, kick total ass from start to finish!

Well, fast forward to Nirvana, the rise of grunge and nineties alt-rock, and the death of hair metal. Sure, bands like Poison and Warrant (who I love) and all of the clone glam metal bands were wiped out, but there was also a drastic change to the bands that initially looked like they survived the end of Headbanger’s Ball. I could go off right here on a bunch of bands, but I’ll stick with Metallica.

We didn’t get another record from the Lords of Thrash until ’94. Load, while it has a handful of decent hard rock songs, was the side effect of the death of hair metal. Metallica and their fancy new haircuts should have sued the salon–Sally Scissors also clipped off their balls! Reload, and years later St. Anger, proved that whatever magic these old-school metal heads once had was gone. People want to jump on GN’R because Axl took a billion years to put out Chinese Democracy…well Metallica pretty much did the same thing. From ‘91’s Black Album until Death Magnetic (2009), they hadn’t really put out anything of value either.

Now let’s look at Guns N’ Roses.
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From ’87-’91 they put out Appetite for Destruction, GNR Lies, and the Use Your Illusion records. Pretty amazing stuff to be found on each of those records. No one sang like Axl, no one played like Slash, no one sounded as good together as those two with Duff, Izzy, and Steven/Matt.

By the time they got off the road in 1993 from the Illusion tours, the new nineties music was gearing up to take over. Nirvana had replaced GN’R and Metallica as the top band in the US. Axl got it in his head that the band needed to have two lead guitar players and even invited Ozzy’s Zack Wilde to come jam with the band. Slash was caught off guard and upset, and after Axl passed on his latest batch of demos, he decided he’d had enough. Slash quit, and was eventually followed by Duff and Matt (Izzy left in late ’91). Mind you, Axl did not fire any of them from the band. So, as mad as people get about Axl running Guns with all new members…he was pretty much abandoned by the original band.

From 1991’s Illusion set (I’m not counting ‘93’s the Spaghetti Incident-even though I love it) until 2009’s Chinese Democracy, Axl and company pretty much only played out-of-country gigs and hid away from the world the rest of the time.

So let’s talk about that anger…

These two bands are in their fifties now. Yeah, they are old! Even if the original Guns got back together, they wouldn’t sound the same. Axl’s voice can’t hold up. And neither can James Hetfield’s for that matter. Basically, what pisses me off when I look back now is that these two great bands missed/wasted at least 12 great years of working at their peak potential. That could have been up to six amazing records from both of them! Can you imagine if they would have stayed the course, been undisturbed, untouched by the likes of Nirvana and Soundgarden (whom I also like), but just continued on doing what they did best? If Metallica would have stayed metal? If Axl would have apologized to Slash and together they moved on to make the next Guns record(s)? My God, man! Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love what these two bands gave us, but c’mon! How do you have that much talent and waste ALL of those good years? There’s no excuse! Even if you give Metallica those crappy records they barfed out, from ’96-’08 they only put out three records (not counting the covers and symphony records). What? Yep.

So, who do you think is worse here? Metallica or Guns N’Roses? Whose post-1991 output bugs you more? GN’R is my favorite band of all time, but Metallica is right there, too. I might be more frustrated with Metallica. They had the key members to deliver this whole time (although they never should have kicked Jason out of the band). Axl was abandoned , whether it was because he was a crazy asshole or just because he was way too ambitious in what he thought Guns should ascend to, the original Guns line-up quit.

Anyways, some nights, when I’m listening to one of those classic records, this whole rant replays in my head. I thought it might be cathartic for me to let it out. Thanks for listening.

Metallica- For Whom the Bell Tolls (live)

Guns N’ Roses-Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (live)

And for a taste and hint of what Axl may have released in the late-nineties…

Guns N’ Roses- Oh My God (from the End of Days Soundtrack)

Welcome to the Party, Pal.

“Welcome to the party, pal.”

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In a matter of weeks I’ll be holding my baby in my hands, The Haunted Halls. That’s the old adage, right? Your novels are like your babies? They take months (sometimes years) to incubate, cook, and fully develop. From the initial horribly lovable idea, to the day you hand in your pretty and polished manuscript, and of course, eventually, to the day your little monster is released upon the world for all to see (and let your co-workers in on the fact that you’re not normal).

Even their journey through our world is similar. Once they come out, they are their own unique creation. As their proud parents, we can help guide their path, but, ultimately, they will go their own way. Whether destined to fall by the wayside among the rest of those never read, never looked at, or fortunate enough and bright enough to stand out in a sea of words, we must let them go.

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Unlike babies, after these creations are unleashed, we often put the majority of our attention directly onto the next one. The next novel. Maybe the Duggers can relate here, but as writers, we catch and release. We grab hold of that magic, play with it until it’s this beautiful creature, and then we ship it out and never look at it again. Not because we don’t care about it, but because there’s more magic to be captured.

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So today, I let my baby go. The Haunted Halls, my precious tale of an evil spirit and the hotel it just can’t let go of, is available for the world in eBook. The trade paperback will be available in about a week and a half (or so). I’m proud of this story, and I hope you’ll be gentle with it, although I can’t promise that it will treat you the same (the Ice Queen and her minion are a pretty nasty bunch).
Stay tuned for more madness!
-GR

Order THE HAUNTED HALLS

Cover (and plot) Reveal! Welcome to EXORCIST ROAD…

Janz is at it again! Dude never sleeps. And by the sounds of it, after we read his next offering, neither will we.

Jonathan Janz

I’ve been doing mostly novels for the past couple of years, but I enjoy writing novellas too. I got an idea for one and decided to write it. Here’s the (unedited) description:

Chicago is gripped by terror. Someone is brutally murdering sixteen-year-old girls, and the authorities are baffled. Dubbed “The Sweet Sixteen Killer,” the depraved madman is about to strike again.

Jason Crowder, a young priest, is visited in the middle of the night by one of his parishioners, a policeman named Danny Hartman. Danny tells Jason a shocking story. Earlier that evening, Danny and his partner received a call from Danny’s brother, who is panic-stricken by the sudden violent behavior of his fourteen-year-old son. For no apparent reason, the boy attacked his family and had to be chained to his bed. After seeing his nephew, Danny is convinced the boy is possessed by a demon.

Danny’s partner is Jack…

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Killing Your Friends: Another Inside Peek at The Haunted Halls

Okay, so writers know that they have to build characters that you (constant reader) care about. Unfortunately, being in the horror business, some of these lovable folks have to die. We’ve read this article/this advice before. Now, how about this? How about we write our “real” friends into our horrible, macabre masterpieces, and then we murder them for you?

This is another true tale from the creation of my debut novel releasing later this month, The Haunted Halls.

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So if you read my previous post on the long journey this novel took to come to fruition, you know it started as a short story for the serial novel site, JukePop Serials. Well, once that first chapter (which turned into the prologue) went live on the website, I needed to write what happened next. I needed a story, and I needed characters–some cool characters to make you care about that story. Who could these people be? I honestly had no idea what I was doing when I started this book. I’d written one novel, one novelette, and a handful of short stories. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I had that idea. The old “haunted hotel” trope. How do I make it my own? The first thing that occurred to me was I’ll use my friends! Who do I know better? Who do I already care about? Without telling them, I went about creating these “characters”. And eventually, they had to start dying.

Of course.

Once I started putting the first few chapters together, and my real friends (including my wife) started taking on characteristics of their own, I felt compelled to share with these fine folks just what I was up to.  I PM’d them on Facebook. They were all stoked! And after posting about it, I had other friends raise their hands, “Kill me, kill, me, kill me next!”  Now, this happens quite a bit. I’ve seen writers big and small offer to add their friends into their stories. Some do it at a price, some run contests. I’m not being uber-original here, but I think my friends will see how true to them I tried to stay (before I had their eyes poked in, or their skin torn off).

Anyways, I had a lot of fun killing my friends. And I’m sure they felt the same about my literary treatment of them.  I hope if and when you decide to walk down my haunted halls with me, you get to meet and love these guys and gals, too. You can even root for them to make it through! Maybe your favorite will survive, maybe they’ll be the next spattering of brain matter and skull fragments on the in-room microwave. Whatever the case, and however it turns out, I hope you’ll join me  in my debut novel. Maybe I’ll kill you in the next one.

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For Kurt, Geoff, Rhiannon, Eric, Jimmy, Lee, Tina, and Meghan–Thank you for letting me fuck you up.

For my latest novel, Becoming, I decided to keep the trend going 😉  Check it out sometime. Michele would appreciate it!

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Get your copy here: BECOMING

Stay tuned for more madness!

 

 

The Haunted Halls is available here: THE HAUNTED HALLS 

 

Eric Gentry is the lead vocalist of the pop pink band, The Adorkables. He still dabbles in music and has mad love for Phantasm.

Kurt (Costello)  Baker is a well-respected rock ‘n’ roll machine. Check him out!

My Interview with Kevin Lucia: Teacher, Student, Devouer of All things Horror

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Today, I’m talking with author, Kevin Lucia.  This year, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering the talents of Mr. Lucia (as he’s known to his students–Kevin’s a high school English teacher). His collection, Things Slip Through, introduced us to the town bizarre town of Clifton Heights. Strange tales of the house on Bassler Road, people who seem to vanish out of thin air, and a doctor’s wicked promise fulfilled are weaved together to shed light on some this town’s  darker corners. Kevin brings us back to Clifton Heights (and it’s northern cousin) in his latest release, Devourer of Souls.

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Hi Kevin. Let’s talk about this teacher deal. You are a high school English teacher. First off, thank you for doing what I consider to be one of the most important jobs in America. How much of your dark side do you impart upon your students, and how much do they influence your work?

Well, there is the running joke that “Mr. Lucia only assigns us depressing books with death in them” but that’s a total fabrication, I promise. Only HALF the books I assign are depressing with death in them. The rest are just depressing.

They and their parents (albeit unknowingly) are big influences. As I’m sure you know, writers are watchers, observers, walking notebooks. We soak in everything from the world around us. I think I’ve learned more about how to write teens and their parents in the last twelve years as a teacher than I ever could’ve on my own: their mannerism, how they treat each other, and their cultural quirks.

Is there a piece of work one of your students has passed in that made you go, “whoa!”?

I had a Creative Writing student once hand in a piece about a girl being abused by her father, being told from her younger sister’s perspective. The “whoa!” part came from this student’s excellent instinct that she could simply stop the story with the door closing and leaving us with the squeak of the bedsprings as the father sits on the edge of the bed, passing up on the chance to shock us with explicit details. She must’ve been listening in class when I covered subtly, I guess.

 

Subtly seems to be undervalued sometimes in our field.

Let’s talk about the podcast you’ve been involved in, Tales to Terrify/ Horror 101. How did you get involved in the project, and is it still an ongoing thing for you?

About two years ago, Lawrence Santoro approached me about doing an analytical series on Tales to Terrify, because he’d liked some blogs I’d posted about post-modern horror and the history of the horror genre. I accepted, and really loved doing it. Right now it’s kinda on hiatus, and I’m not sure if/when I’ll pick it back up. This is a “good” kind of busy that happens to all writers eventually, I suppose…when things start picking up and you have more writing opportunities, you have less time for non-writing things. I finally “retired” from writing regular reviews a few years ago because of this, and it may be that Horror 101 will follow the same fate.

What’s one of your favorite parts of doing the Horror 101 podcast?

The reading, of course, but also the study of it. As an English teacher with an BA in English/Literature and an MA in English/Creative Writing, I love to gab about books and the evolution of writing in general, so it was fascinating to me on a personal level to delve into this stuff. I do truly hope to offer a few guest spots this summer, if time permits.

Great, man. That sounds like a lot of fun. Let’s move on to Lucia the writer!

Things Slip Through is an awesome collection of connected short stories. I now that you are a short novel fanatic. Talk about your love of short stories.  What is their appeal for you?

I love short stories for their impact. Novels are longer, they require time investment (which I’m more than happy to invest), and I’ll can be honest and admit: “I like BIG books and I cannot lie…” Last summer I read Grapes of Wrath and loved it, and currently I’m reading David Copperfield and also loving it.

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But short stories – the best ones – can leave you gasping for air. They’re like quick rabbit punches, or brief snapshots of something either wonderful or horrible. I’m terribly, terribly envious of folks who can crank out excellent short stories. I’m much more comfortable writing the novella/novel form.  I’m committed to attacking the short form, however, and this summer I have the crazy goal of writing one a week, if possible.

What are some of your favorites?

I’ve read so many short stories, I’m not sure I can pick just one. I love shorts by Ray Bradbury, Charles Grant and Stephen King, especially.

Is it a ritual/routine for you to read one or more daily?

I began following the “Bradbury Formula” several years ago. He recommends that in addition to reading novels, aspiring writers read a poem, a short story, and a nonfiction essay a day.  I’ve kinda not been able to make the nonfiction essay part work (though I’ve read several writers’ biographies in the last few year) but at least one short story a day has become the norm, yes. I definitely think it’s had an impact on the quality of my writing.

I want to talk about Clifton Heights. Where did this come from? 

That’s one of those things in which I thought I was being very, very clever about seven years ago, inventing this thing I thought was so “original.” I tried writing this gigantic IT/THE STAND hybrid about seven years ago. It completely feel apart, but in the ruins I realized I had about seven or eight serviceable character vignettes that could be turned into short stories. I thought: “This would be neat to write all these short stories about the town, before writing a novel about this town. How original! Nobody’s ever done that!”

Of course, in the interim, I discovered Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes and other “Greentown” storiesby Ray Bradbury, Stephen King’s Castle Rock stories, Charles Grants’ Oxrun Station stories and Gary Braunbeck’s Cedar Hill cycle. But, seeing as how I LOVE those kinds of stories, I plunged on into the creation of Clifton Heights. The challenge now, of course, is to make it mine, and not rehashing of other small town mythos stories.

Is there an end game developing for the town, or is it still wide open?

Still wide open.  I’m walking a fine line there, I know. Leave everything unresolved, folks might be upset. Over a pat solution, and folks might be upset. Knowing me, I’ll offer a solution that probably only open more questions…

The new novella, Devourer of Souls, offers us another slice of the Clifton Heights pie by way of the excellent story, Sophan. Is this an actual game? Or is it straight from your demented mind?

“Sophan” I made up, but the idea of the game I’ve seen in several other mediums – a short story I can’t remember the title of right now, and an X-Files episode had something similar.  The mythology came from research into Vietnamese mythology, which I of course adapted and twisted to my own ends.

The second story included here is, The Man in Yellow. My mind automatically goes to King’s short, “The Man in the Black Suit.”  I really related to the main character, Stuart Evan. I was a huge 80’s hard rock fan. I had really bad scoliosis going into jr. high, and within a year and a half, after wearing a awkward back brace, I had a metal rod put in my back. Therefore, I’m limited. I’m wondering how much of the young Kevin Lucia is in the young Stuart Evans.

Far as the physical limitations, I never suffered from something like that, but I had a close friend who did (and here comes the anxious part wherein I wonder if said friend is reading this, and hope he doesn’t mind me using him as inspiration), and I remember having a lot of those same discussions with him about his disability and how it affected him. The part about doubting faith: we’ve all been there, regardless of our backgrounds. Even as someone who has faith NOW, I’ve been there, and I’ve asked those same kinds of painful questions, despairing of ever finding an answer.

There’s also a lot of broken/single parent families in your stories. My parents split up when I was 14. Seeing this in your work, I looked at my own writing and said, “hey, this has totally slipped into my “families””.  Is this where you came from, too? Or is it that storyteller trying to reach out and bring in that large faction of readers who have been through these kind of challenges?

Definitely the storyteller, the person who looks at all aspects of life and tries to report back as faithfully as possible. I was very fortunate not to come from a broken home – though my relationship with my parents was certainly never perfect, often tumultuous (rest assured, plenty of stories to tell there), they were always there.

However, lots of my friends experienced divorce, and I see so many of students suffer through it. Plus, before teaching, I worked with “at risk” youth. As an adult, I’ve had friends go through divorce, so while I haven’t experienced it first hand, I’ve seen so much of it.

On the business end, how did Devourer of Souls and Ragnarok Publications find each other?

People had said good things about Ragnarok (and they were totally on the money) so I decided to test the waters and pitch them Sophan. Originally, they were going to release that as a standalone eBook only. However, a short story turned into a novella (which happens to me a LOT) and when I presented them with The Man in Yellow, they were delighted to publish it as a paperback, also.

Cool, man. What’s next? I know when you sent me Devourer of Souls I was initially disappointed to find out it was another Clifton Heights set, but as soon as I started Sophan, I was hooked back in. The disappointment is actually meant to be a compliment. Let me explain. Things Slip Through is so good, and I love short stories, but it made me want to see what Lucia delivers in a standalone novel, or novella.  When can we expect this?

Yeah, this is another tricky line to balance. Tying everything into a mythos is fun as a writer, and other mythos-freaks like myself will probably enjoy reading those kinds of stories…but when does it become old hat? Or needlessly indulgent? Also, I’m very much of a “go with the flow” kind of writer, and right now, the words are flowing in Clifton Heights.

I can tell you a standalone novella (in that, there’s no framing device) will be released some time in future from Ragnarok. It’s really a reprint of a serial novella I sold to Lamplight Magazine a few years ago, but I’m still not sure how many folks actually read it. Originally entitled And I Watered It In Tears, it will come out retitled simply as Drowning. It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever written, and though it takes place in Clifton Heights, it doesn’t have a framing device of any kind.

And of course, there’s my Weird Western series featuring Billy the Kid and flesh-eating monsters. That made it all the way to the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and while it did well in preliminary voting, it – ah – got kinda beat up in its Publisher’s Weekly review. Of course, a weird western in which Billy the Kid is gunning down monsters is probably not the type of novel that would receive a lot of critical praise. I’ve tossed the idea around with Ragnarok, because they seem open to weird westerns, and I’ve some leads elsewhere, but right now I’m going to let Billy rest for a bit.

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With Young Guns being one of favorite movies ever, I’d be interested to see that one.

I like to do rapid fire at the end here so here we go. Give me three of your favorite Hard rock albums from Stuart Evans era.

Metallica’s Metallica, Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, Guns’n Roses Use Your Illusion 1 &2

I love all of those! Th Illusion records are totally underrated. Best thing you learned at Writer’s Boot Camp ?

Proper use of POV. You have NO idea how much this changed and tightened my writing.

Your favorite non-horror movie?

Stand By Me

Absolutely one of my all-time favorites, as well. For me, an example of the perfect short story is McCammon’s Nightcrawlers. For other writers out there that need to know how a short story is done properly, can you give me two or three short stories that you consider to be perfect? The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; The Jar, by Ray Brabdury and Second Chance, by Jack Finney.

 

Kevin, Mr. Lucia, thank you so much for taking the time.

Thanks. And thanks for all of the support. It’s mucho appreciated.

No problem, it’s my pleasure.

 

 Find Kevin at KevinLucia.com

Discover Clifton Heights for yourself:

Devourer of Souls

Things Slip Through

 

Stay tuned for my late-July interview with Samhain’s Jonathan Janz!

Here’s to the madness.

Cheers