LAYMON KILLS

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Richard Laymon Kills. Yes, he does. One of the most popular horror writers of the late 90s and early 2000s thanks to Don D’Auria plucking up his works for Leisure Books horror line. Laymon had been huge in Australia and the UK, but when Leisure took him on, Laymon finally got the love he deserved from his home country.

That’s where I discovered him. I remember finding a copy of THE MIDNIGHT TOUR (#3 in the Beast House series) and falling completely in love with Laymon’s talent and style. After reading THE CELLAR (BEAST HOUSE #1) and BEAST HOUSE (BEAST HOUSE #2), THE MIDNIGHT TOUR is by far the best in the series.

I followed that experience up with FLESH and THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW (arguably his best book and winner of the 2000 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel).

I was enthralled by his fearlessness. This was a man you could tell was writing his ass off and having the time of his life. I was just a reader at the time and loving every demented, horrifying moment of the ride.

Sadly, Laymon had already passed by the time I discovered his work. Just 54, he went far too soon.

His legacy continued to grow thanks to guys like Don D’Auria at Leisure Books, and Richard Chizmar at Cemetery Dance Publications.

I continued my affair with Laymon with books like NO SANCTUARY, COME OUT TONIGHT, NIGHT IN THE ENDLESS OCTOBER, and THE WOODS ARE DARK.

I loved each and everyone of these books, especially the latter two.

NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER spoke to the early twenty-something me. I, like the main character, Ed Logan, had been brokenhearted and thought I was doomed to be lonely for the rest of my life. When Ed runs into a strange girl while he’s out wandering the sidewalks after Midnight,  everything was suddenly possible again. Yes,some really bizarre shit happens, but the heart of the story is  Ed and this strange new girl. It hit me hard as someone who’d been there.

THE WOODS ARE DARK, man, what a fucking ruthless tour de force! It’s short , vicious, and fucking awesome as fuck. Just the opening scene, where two women are driving down a back road and see a man crawl into the road and toss something at them (a HAND!-WHAT????), it just keeps going and going and getting more insane, no-holds-barred and terrifying.

Laymon has flashed his brilliance again and again.

BUT when you spit out like thirty books…well, they can’t all be Stoker winners. Ask King!

In the last few years, as I cranked up the number of newer writers in the genre, and tried to catch up on other big name titles I’d missed, I grabbed a few of the Laymon books from my shelf that I’d yet to read.

THE ISLAND.  Okay, not a very good one. Not for me, not by the standard his previous titles set. BEAST HOUSE…I’d enjoyed the CELLAR (though not as much as THE MIDNIGHT TOUR), but this one is the stinker in the series. Sorry, bad characters, dumb decisions… it just missed the mark for me. It was just okay.

BUT I recently read DARKNESS, TELL US and it was every bit as fun and wild as the Laymon I knew and loved!

So, why am I talking about Richard Laymon? Well, a few of my writer buds lit into him. I love both of these guys, but I have to respectfully disagree with their assessments on one of the best horror writers to grace the genre.

Is Laymon for everyone? HELL NO!  It’s sort of like what a punk band, THE EXPLOSION,  used to say, “If you don’t know, you weren’t meant to.”

No. Fuck no. Laymon isn’t for everyone, otherwise he would be Stephen King 2.  Laymon was far too Splatterpunk and at times, Bizarro to ever have a chance at reaching the top of the mountain, but that’s what made his work shine. When I think of Laymon, I think of early Jack Ketchum (OFF SEASON, OFFSPRING), I think of Brian Keen (THE RISING, URBAN GOTHIC), I think of Bentley Little (THE REVELATION, THE HOUSE), and even newer authors like Adam Cesare (VIDEO NIGHT), Edward Lorn (FAIRLY LIGHTS), and Matt Hayward (THE FAITHFUL).

Laymon’s influence upon my own work (THE HAUNTED HALLS, CHASING GHOSTS) is undeniable.  When writing each of those stories, I just said, fuck it! and went balls to the wall and turned the madness up to 11.

Laymon did not write books that were serious. BUT he did write books that were seriously awesome and fearless. Let the critics eat a bag of dicks! Hey, that sounds like a good idea for a scene! (Just kidding, sort of).

Things have certainly changed in the last decade or so since Leisure Books went under, but Laymon’s influence and importance to the new writers and writers of tomorrow cannot be dismissed.

I miss him. I wish we had more from him. I’m sorry for the folks that can’t see the fun and greatness in Laymon’s work.

A lot of us love him.

For the rest, if you don’t get it, you weren’t meant to.

Cheers!

Suggested (Laymon influenced) reading:

SAVAGE SPECIES by Jonathan Janz

BONE SAW by Patrick Lacey

BORDERTOWN by Robert Ford

THE SOUND OF BROKEN RIBS by Edward Lorn

A DARK AUTUMN by Kristopher Rufty

 

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Year TBR List…

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Currently reading PRACTITIONERS (Bloodshot Books) from Patrick Lacey and Matt Hayward. While I loved Lacey’s BONE SAW and really enjoyed Hayward’s THE FAITHFUL, this one maybe be the best book of the three.

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I’m going to try like hell to squeeze these last three 2018 releases into my reading schedule before making my end of the year Top 10  (or 15) list.

I’ve hear fantastic things about Sorensen’s THE NIGHTMARE ROOM and Starnd’s BRING HER BACK.  And Flower’s THE LAST HELLFIGHTER has one of the best covers (thanks to Michael Bray) of the year. And it’s only 99 cents! this very minute. Can’t pass on that.  Get a copy here: THE LAST HELLFIGHTER

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My two favorite reads of the year have definitely been RIO YOUERS- HALCYON and GWENDOLYN KISTE- THE RUST MAIDENS. It’s going to be hard for anyone to top either of those, but we’ll see.

 

Stay tuned!

Feel free to comment with what you have left to read for 2018.

 

 

My Experiences in Self-Publishing and the Indie Press Scene

I read a really cool article from Sci-Fi & Scary. It was about small presses and self-publishing here in our indie writing world.
Here’s the link if you missed it: Let’s Talk About It: Small Press Publishing
Having worked in both arenas, I just wanted to share some of my own experiences.
In 2013, I broke into the publishing world with a serial novel I, for lack of knowing any better, self-published in e-Book on Amazon. I did all the editing and formatting, and had a good friend doing the art. Launching off on my own, it could have been a complete disaster. It could have ruined my writing career before it even got started. Luckily, my stories and characters, combined with Jason Lynch’s fantastic cover art, garnered me enough positive attention to make a safe landing.

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One of the scariest things I did while creating this serial was reaching out to review sites and asking them to check out my work. Part of that fear was the everyday creatives insecurity. The other part was knowing that I needed an editor. I was lucky not to be slaughtered by sites like Matt Malgaard’s HORROR NOVEL REVIEWS, and to Joe Hempel’s TOP OF THE HEAP REVIEWS.
It was also in this initial toe-stepping into the self-publishing world/ review site reach-out that I met Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. OH, FOR THE HOOK OF A BOOK reviewed my serial and gave me one of my first interviews. Our shared love of Ronald Malfi really bolstered our instant friendship. Erin’s been editing or helping with book publicity ever since.
Having Matt (R.I.P.), Joe, and Erin in my corner early on was invaluable. This trio saw something in my work that gave me the confidence I needed to keep going and to work harder.
After my 2013 self-publishing experience, I learned that I needed to push harder to get published traditionally. I set my sights on cool indie publishers like Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Nightscape Press with an ultimate goal of landing a book with Don D’Auria and Samhain Publishing.

At the time, PMMP was doing these monthly novelette/Novella releases in a series called, One Night Stands. They were down to their last spot of the year, and I had just finished writing a ghost story/small town mystery novella called, ABRAM’S BRIDGE. I sent it to PMMP and got word it was strongly being considered along with seven other stories for the last spot in the One Night Stands series. It did not get the final spot, but I couldn’t have felt any better. Knowing that I had written something good. Really good. That it had made it past the slush pile and into the ring with the big boys, I was elated. I sent the editor a response to the rejection letter that probably surprised him as much as anything. It was 100% positive and probably the most enthusiastic thank you on a rejection they ever received.
Armed with a story I now had validation was good, I decided to take my chances sending it to Don D’Auria and Samhain Publishing.
That was in December of 2013. In April of 2014, Don sent me an email letting me know that he loved ABRAM’S BRIDGE and that he’d love to send me contract if I was interested.
I ended up signing three novellas and two novels with Don. I got to sit at the Samhain table at the Bram Stoker Awards with a bunch of real writers and got to sell books at the Samhain table at two Horrorhound conventions. By 2016, I had achieved all my writing goals.

In 2016, Samhain announced that they were going under. Samhain’s demise was followed by a number of other small presses closing shop, most notably, Dark Fuse.
I managed to land a fourth novella (CHASING GHOSTS) with Sinister Grin Press, but by mid-2016, I decided I was going to try my hand at self-publishing again.
In my experiences, I’ve learned a few things. If you are going to self-publish, you must have a good editor. One that will tell you if something doesn’t work, or that you can do better. You must have professional looking cover art. And you have to actively seek reviews and readers. You are in charge of getting your book out there. It is a ton of work. And it will try to break you. But in my experience, the rewards can be well worth it.
For example, the year I’ve made the most money from writing? Had to be with Samhain, right? No. It was actually this year. A year when I’ve almost exclusively self-published. To be fair, the success I’ve had this year would not have been possible were it not for the small platform I made as an author on the Samhain roster.
As Joe Mynhardt, head of Crystal Lake Publishing, suggests in the Sci-Fi & Scary article, it is wise for authors to dabble in both traditional indie publishing and self-publishing simultaneously. Plus, working with and having a book contracted by a respected editor or company like a Crystal Lake Publishing legitimizes you and gives you a little extra street cred in the self-pub world. It let’s readers and reviewers know that you’ve been vetted.
As a writer, it is way easier to have a publisher in charge of editing, cover design, and helping to put together a publicity tour. They’ll also submit your book to reviewers and the Bram Stoker Awards jury. That’s a load off a writer’s shoulders. As Joe said, the publisher needs to earn that royalty cut.
I have continued to work with indie’s like CROSSROAD PRESS (they have ABRAM’S BRIDGE and THINGS WE FEAR-which Joe Hempel did a fantastic job on the audio book performance) and SINISTER GRIN PRESS.

Personally, I enjoy the madness that comes with being in charge of all that goes into creating, releasing, and promoting a book. I have a great team to work with Erin and Jason being my top picks for editing and covers.
That said, I am looking forward to a break soon. As with all goals in life, once you’ve achieved all the ones on your list, you create a new list.
In 2019, while still releasing my own work, I will begin my pursuit of this new batch of goals.
I hope you guys enjoyed this unofficial companion piece, and hope you’ll consider checking out one of my works.
Cheers!

LAND OF BONES

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“A rising star in the genre!” – Ronald Malfi, author of BONE WHITE
“A vital part of this generation.” – Brian Keene, author THE RISING

Demon lights, granted wishes, strange things, and brutal love at the Lucky Lounge Motel. A haunted sister, desperate parents, a little human touch, and the end of the world…

These are the stories whispered among dead leaves, the script etched bare for all to see. When the chills sink deep and your heart begins to pound…are you alone?

Welcome to Glenn Rolfe’s LAND OF BONES
14 tales of the strange and macabre

 

THE WINDOW

What kind of demons await you tonight?

For Richie, life’s constant cheap shots are adding up. When he finds something is watching him, he never dreamed that it would show him everything he ever wanted.

When his son, James, comes to stay for the last month of summer, the changes in his father’s behavior come to the forefront. What is his father doing staring into the window in the middle of the night?
Was the fiery spark in the dark real? Or is Jame’s imagination getting the best of him?

Summer’s almost over.
And life is about to change.
Will James be able to save his father? Or is it already too late?

The Window holds the answers…and the key.

THE WINDOW World Tour 2018: Part One

My new novel, THE WINDOW, has been garnering my best reviews yet. I’m humbled by the love and enjoyment many are experiencing with my 4th book.

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“To put it simply; this is Mr. Rolfe’s IT. This is his Boy’s Life.”

“At times, The Window is brutally vicious.  It’s a story which pulls no punches and is right up there with my favorite reads of 2018!”

“Gory and perverse on the outside (don’t let the inconspicuous cover fool you!), but character-driven and emotional on the inside, this book really kept me awake reading, a feat not easily achieved these nights…”

“Never gonna look in a mirror or out a window again!”

“A flawlessly executed character driven modern day horror tale…”

I’ve captured the links to the sites that have covered THE WINDOW so far…

 

KENDALL REVIEWS   HORROR AFTER DARK  THE HAUNTED READING ROOM

FRANK MICHAEL ERRINGTON’S HORRIBLE BOOK REVIEWS

THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW

MISSPIDER REVIEWS

Here are some links to guest posts I’ve down for the tour so far.

MUSIC FROM THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE (EYES OF MADNESS)

AM I DEMON?  (GRIM READER REVIEWS)

COMING OF AGE HORROR (FRANK MICHAEL ERRINGTON’S HORRIBLE BOOK REVIEWS)

THE WINDOW is available in paperback, e-Book, or FREE with KINDLE UNLIMITED

Get yours here: THE WINDOW

See you guys on the 2nd leg of the tour!

Stay tuned!

The Alien Agenda Project

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2018 marked the expansion of my own publishing company, ALIEN AGENDA PUBLISHING.  I’ve used the name to self-publish pieces from time to time between traditionally published works, but this year I reached out to some fellow writers to see if they’d be interested in having some of their works under my umbrella.

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It is definitely a hard thing to do. Gathering covers, reviews, making sure the product looks good, and making sure everyone involved is happy. It’s time consuming,but it is a true labor of love.  I haven’t figured out how much I’ll have time for in 2019, but it looks good that we will get the sequel to THE BEAST OF BRENTON WOODS from Jackson R. Thomas  (RISE), plus my sequel to my own werewolf novel, BLOOD AND RAIN.

The biggest project will be SURVIVE WITH ME, our first official anthology. Aiming for July on that one. It should include a number of great stories from my old Samhain Publishing cohorts, with each tale built around the survival theme. This one will be for charity.  Stay tuned for much more in the months to come.

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Other than that, I have a couple projects that I’m looking at for possible release. I just want to make sure I can put the right amount of effort into each of them. Writing and promoting my own works certainly made things a little more difficult, but it was a learning experience and one I hope will lead to more success going forward.

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Thank you so very much to my team: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Jason Lynch, Michael Bray, and Lori Michelle for their contributions behind the scenes.

Also, thanks to David Bernstein, Mick Ridgewell, and Jackson R. Thomas for trusting me with their stories.

Extra special thanks to Michelle Garza, Melissa Lason, and Somer Canon for contributing to our freebie 2018 sampler (which you can get for free from Barnes and Noble  or Smashwords).

Check out all the releases from 2018 below.  Click on the covers to purchase.

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THE BEAST OF BRENTON WOODS by Jackson R. Thomas (June 2018) 37722398_10155587289225986_5092526805718401024_n

THE NIGHTCRAWLER by Mick Ridgewell (July 2018)

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SKINNER by David Bernstein (August 2018)

 

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LAND OF BONES by Glenn Rolfe  (February 2018)

THE WINDOW by Glenn Rolfe (September 2018)

(Review) THE RUST MAIDENS by Gwendolyn Kiste

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Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why–except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens–and her own unwitting role in the transformations–before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

 

MY REVIEW:

The Rust MaidensThe Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gwendolyn Kiste isn’t new to the horror scene, but she is new to me. I’d been hearing about this book that was coming out soon, about this writer and how this was her first novel. Kiste has collections and a novella out there (which I will be hunting down), but this –THE RUST MAIDENS-is her first full-length novel. I managed to get a hold of a pre-release copy, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

Kiste’s novel is not just a good story (It’s a great story), it’s a statement to the literary world: Kiste is here and now, one of the best young writers in the fiction world. I couldn’t understand for the life of me how THE RUST MAIDENS isn’t with one of the big publishers. This book is fantastic.

The story centers around a young woman named, Phoebe, and five of the girls from her graduating class. When the girls, including Phoebe’s cousin and best friend, Jacqueline, begin to change amidst the strike at the mill, and the mothers of the block’s disparate clutch on perceptions, the street, the town, and those families involved are turned upside down. What exactly is happening to these girls? Why would they do this now of all times? When will it all return to normal?

“The flame of the mill burned bright overhead, but its warmth might as well have been a thousand miles away.”
Phoebe finds herself in a battle against loneliness, and an uncertain future. She should be riding out of town with her best friend ,ready for college and a life outside of Cleveland, but instead, she winds up on a quest for answers she may never receive in a place that just wishes she would leave things be.
“I’m a woman with half a century of life experience, who still can’t do a convincing impression of a human being.”

It does feature Phoebe now, decades later returning to the town and problems she eventually runs away from. But most of the story is of that summer of 1980.

Kiste does a wonderful job ingraining us through Phoebe to this place in time, this dying city in 1980. You feel the desperation. The need to get out. To get out before the dead end town claims you next. You feel the squeeze of lean and mean times as her father’s job at the mill is in jeopardy. You feel the fear of being stuck in a place, doomed to give away the world you received in a never ending cycle, and how even though you know this, there’s still no way to change it. The same way Phoebe knows, the girls have a fate that she cannot stand in the way of no matter how hard she tries.
Still, she tries. She refuses to accept that all hope is gone. And Kiste transfers that hope to the reader.

I took my time reading this book because I wanted to stay there and hang with these characters, to take Phoebe’s hand and stand with her against her world. And that’s the best compliment I can offer to the author. I loved this book.

Another thing I loved was the soundtrack. Kiste’s use of a few select artists does wonders in pulling the reader deeper into the experience. You get Tom Petty’s jangly guitars lifting you up and giving you just enough hope that things will be all right. You get The Carpenter’s fraudulent, soothing lullabies that everything is normal, and then you get the all too real, working class it is what it is-our lot in life- of Bob Seger. On the east Coast, we tend to tune into Springsteen for this, but Kiste being from Ohio, uses the Mid-West equivalent and it fits perfectly. Confession time: I went to bed a number of nights after reading a few chapters listening to Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town record.

Not an outright horror novel, but THE RUST MAIDENS is a book I will not soon forget.

I give THE RUST MAIDENS 5 stars! Easily the best first novel I’ve read in a long time.

 

THE RUST MAIDENS will be released Friday November 16th. You should definitely grab a copy.

pre-order yours here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GVSDYDD/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

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Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction writer based in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Nightmare, Shimmer, Interzone, Daily Science Fiction, and LampLight among others. Her debut collection, AND HER SMILE WILL UNTETHER THE UNIVERSE, was released through JournalStone in April 2017. She currently resides on an abandoned horse farm with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts.

 

 

Check out Gwendolyn’s website: www.GwendolynKiste.com

And find her on Twitter: @GwendolynKiste

(Review) ELEVATION by Stephen King

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ElevationElevation by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.”

What a wonderful story. This is one of those special little breaths from Stephen King. A story where his non-horror shines, and maybe even outshines, his regular fear factory of words. I think of stories like Joyland and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, gems among his highway of crimson monstrosities he has entertained and frightened us with over the years.

I could not put this short book down. I had to find out what happened next.

This is a story of overcoming the things in life that hold us down. About letting go of things that we carry for reasons we may have forgotten. It truly is about elevating to a better you. And it’s not told in an in-your-face way, Elevation is just a book of pure wonder, an uplifting moment in the King canon that will find a way to make you smile at what could be…if we’d just let it.

“…the whole world had stood revealed in the usually hidden glory of ordinary things…”

This book will rest among my collection, nestled next to the horror, but holding it down for the good we should all pay forward.

I give ELEVATION 5 stars!

Reminder: Not a horror story, just a great slice of fiction .

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If you enjoy ELEVATION, I suggest you check out these two King beauties:

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(Review) THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY by John Everson

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John Everson strikes again!

Ever since the Leisure Books Horror Club sent me his novel, The 13th, I have been a huge fan of John Everson’s.  His style is no bull, straight at ya, good old fashion horror. There’s always blood, guts, sex, monsters, and usually, beer.

With his latest THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (Flame Tree Press), Everson continues his run of fun horror novels that will get under your skin and make it hard to sleep.

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is about a haunted house where witches had sacrificed and sliced and diced folks back in the day. Now, a new owner wants to turn this haunted shell into a full-on bloody house of horror attractions for Halloween.

The main character in the book, Mike, is a contractor brought on to repair the rotting floors and secure the place to make sure it’s safe for the thousands of expected attendees.

But is the house truly empty? Or is there something patiently waiting for all that is coming.

You’ll have to read it yourself to find out!

While I did prefer the fantastic first half of the book ( and the end of the first part really had me on the edge of my seat and needing to know what was going to happen), the second half, while bloody and full of nice death scenes, lost a little of the momentum for me.

All in all, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is another solid effort in the Everson canon.  There’s plenty of wicked fun for all you horror book lovers out there.

 

I give THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY 4 stars!

 

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John Everson is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th, Siren and The Pumpkin Man, all released by Dorchester/Leisure Books in paperback and by Delirium, Necro and Bad Moon Books in limited hardcover. His sixth novel, NightWhere, was a 2012 Bram Stoker Award Finalist. The Family TreeNightWhere and Violet Eyes, his “creepy spider novel” were released from Samhain Publishing. In January 2017, Redemption, the long-awaited sequel to his novels Covenant and Sacrifice was released. His 10th novel, The House By The Cemetery will be released in October 2018 from Flame Tree Press.

Grab your copy of THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY HERE

Find more on John and his books at his website JOHN EVERSON.COM