Interview With Tanya R. Taylor, Author of Infestation

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Tanya R. Taylor, author in mostly the paranormal/supernatural genre. Please enjoy her insightful interview.

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1. Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?

I would say make sure to study the craft before publishing because you want to ensure that what you produce for the public is as well written and professionally presented as possible. No book that I’ve ever seen, whether it was Indie published or traditionally published, is error-free, but at least we can strive for ‘near letter perfect’ as a seasoned agent once told me. So, once you’ve written the story you’d love to share and have covered these bases, you’re good to go.

You may find that some people you think would automatically support or encourage you with your creative endeavors actually don’t. They may feel that you’re just wasting your time, but if that happens, don’t be discouraged. Use it as fuel to move forward and accomplish your dream of becoming a published author.

2. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I am so grateful to all my readers — many of whom have also subscribed to my newsletters. Sometimes when I don’t quite feel like writing, I think of all the people who are looking forward to my next release and there’s no way I would let them down. The procrastination disappears and I immerse myself in the new world I have begun creating in my mind.

3. What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?

Some people believe that traditionally published authors just sit back and relax while their publishers handle all the marketing. Not true. It’s still that person’s book and although they’re under contract, the publisher expects them to be proactive right along with them when it comes to promoting their own title. Indie authors obviously must market as well in order to see a good number of sales. I know it’s not an easy task for writers who are not good at marketing and would rather just write, but in order for your hard work to pay off financially, you must view it not only as a hobby, but as a business. Every successful business regularly implements promotional strategies. Marketing helps visibility and visibility often leads to further sales.

Choosing not to promote can keep a good book “hidden” for years and even decades to come.

4. What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?

I write mainly paranormal/supernatural, although I write in other genres as well. I love getting into these types of stories and feeling what my characters feel. And I try to present a good theme regardless of how eerie, scary or troubling some events in the story may be. My favorite part is when something really touching comes up and my own emotions are stirred even though the story is purely fictional. There’s nothing about writing these types of books that I don’t like.

5. What are your current/next projects?

I’ve just released a drama titled ’10 Minutes before Sleeping’. There’s nothing paranormal about that, but it’s a powerful story nonetheless. Now, I am working on ‘The Haunting of Merci Hospital’ which will be released on April 30, 2017. Then onto the fourth book of the Cornelius Saga – ‘We See No Evil’. I’m also wrapping up a ghostwriting project and will have to get back to adding more books to the Real Illusions series since some readers have been asking me to not end the series with part 4 which was my intention. After receiving another request recently on my Facebook page to add more books to the series, I know I must include that project in my schedule for this year as well. I aim to please my readers.

6. How do you find time to write?

Sometimes it’s really tough to find time to write with so much going on from day to day. But I treat my writing as a priority by scheduling time into my day whether it be early in the morning, late at night or both, for working on my projects.

7. Did you always want to become an author?

Always. I was writing stories from very young.

8. Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

I take time to envision the plot, then I start an outline. I try to follow that outline as much as possible, but oftentimes, my stories take on a life of their own and I go with the flow. However, the main parts of the plot I always manage to include.

9. Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

I always write the beginning first.

10. While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?

Oh, yes. Some of my characters have some of the same characteristics as I do.

11. How did you come up with the title?

It usually just falls into my head. I don’t have to brainstorm.

12. What inspired you to write your latest book? What is the book about?

‘1o Minutes before Sleeping’ was on my mind for about two years. I had learned about a mother who was having a tough time and as I thought of her, I got ideas about a fictional story involving a young woman who’s been pretty much rejected and abandoned by those who should have loved and cared for her. As those ideas came, the entire plot unfolded in my mind.

The story takes the reader on a journey of a lady named Eva — from her infancy to adulthood — and the things she suffered along the way. There was a time when she found happiness for the first time in her life, then tragedy occurred. Eventually, it seems as if things are beginning to improve, then a series of events take place that culminate to something completely unexpected. It changes Eva’s life forever. This story is quite touching and wasn’t so easy to write due to some of the scenes.

13. Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

Thanks again, Tanya!

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Excerpt: Hell Hath No Fury by Tamela Miles

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Tamela Miles, author of the Hell On Heels series. Today, she’s sharing her excerpt from Hell Hath No Fury, book 3 of the series, and sharing her thoughts of how femme fatales make horror awesome. Please enjoy.

Horror and Femme Fatale

by Tamela Miles

What is a good horror story without a femme fatale? It makes for dry writing for me if I don’t have a murderous villain with evil in her heart, wearing a pair of 5 inch heels. Cascadia, one of my darker villains, is just a baddie to the core and I had a blast creating her scenes as she torments my beloved Elle, the good hearted but tough demon hunter from my Hell On Heels series. Anyone expecting Cascadia to change her wicked ways is in for major disappointment. She’s bad to the bone, as are classic femme fatales, and that’s what makes her so much fun. Enjoy the read!

Excerpt from “Hell Hath No Fury” (#3 in the Hell On Heels series) :

~Dusk had come to Los Angeles, and Cascadia groaned in agitation, her overwhelming need to feed keeping her from fully concentrating on anything else. She was holed up in one of Pyro’s larger homes, high
above Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood Hills. No one but he and the human evening nanny he had hired knew she was there, guarding the hunter’s child. She considered draining the nanny once she arrived and
leaving the body floating in the massive pool just outside the patio door to show Pyro that she had her limits.

She glanced dispassionately at the baby, sleeping in the carrier on the plush sofa next to her. She noted the child was still breathing before returning her attention to her cell phone. A dead baby would spoil Pyro’s plan, and she solely would be on the receiving end of his wrath. She tapped the screen, relieved that the call didn’t go to voicemail. He answered immediately. She put a touch of venom in her tone. “I’m hungry and tired of babysitting duty. It cried for an hour straight, and I was tempted to suck the life out of it. Where’s the night nanny?”

“That would be a costly mistake, my sweet. I need the child alive for my plan to fall into place. Once the nanny arrives, you’re free to satiate your hunger. Not a moment before.” He ended the call abruptly, and she
fought the raging urge to break of one his priceless art pieces. She would quietly bide her time in a subservient position, waiting for Pyro to make a mistake.~

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Buy Links:

Hell Hath No Fury (Hell on Heels Series)

Heart of a Hunter (Hell on Heels Series)

Dark Deliverance

Author Bio:

Tamela Miles is a California State University San Bernardino graduate student with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and a former flight attendant. She grew up in Altadena, California in that tumultuous time known as the 1980s. She now resides with her family in the Inland Empire, CA. She’s a horror/paranormal romance writer mainly because it feels so good having her characters do bad things and, later, pondering what makes them so bad and why they can never seem to change their wicked ways.

She enjoys emails from people who like her work. In fact, she loves emails. She can be contacted at tamelamiles@yahoo.com or her Facebook page, Tamela Miles Books. She also welcomes reader reviews and enjoys the feedback from people who love to read as much as she does.

 

The Lure by Amy Cross

Celebrating Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Amy Cross, author of Last Wrong Turn. That horror book was the first one I tried of her’s, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Having around 15 of Amy Cross’ s ebooks in my kindle, I’m pretty sure my TBR list will continue to grow, especially with her ghost stories. Please enjoy her 5,000 word horror short.

The Lure

By Amy Cross

Copyright 2017

“Don’t be a smart-ass,” I mutter, still holding the fishing lure up for Bobby to see. “It uses a combination of vibration, movement and color. That’s what attracts the fish, and then the hooks do the rest.”

“Seriously?” He wrinkles his nose, as if he disapproves. “Fish are that stupid?”

Figuring that I’ve tried my best to explain, and that he’s not going to take this seriously, I finish dressing the lure before turning and casting it over the side of the boat. I was going to explain the full history of lures, and the importance of the various elements, and then I was going to tell him all about how I make my own lures with my own little twist, but somehow I think he’s not too interested. We’ve been bobbing about out here on Lake Cookarummie for almost an hour now, and it’s taken this long for the actual fishing part to start. I swear, inviting Bobby was a mistake, but I guess Sheila’s glad to have him out of the house for a while. I owe it to her to make an effort. I have to try, and besides, it’s just one weekend.

“So now we wait,” I explain, leaning back and waiting for his inevitable sarcastic comment. For a moment I watch the glistening water, as mid-afternoon sunlight sparkles all around us, and then I turn to see that Bobby’s more interested in something deep in his satchel. “What’ve you got there?”

“Nothing,” he mutters.

I open my mouth to ask again, but I catch myself just in time. Bobby’s the kind of kid who doesn’t really respond to direct questions, and I certainly don’t fancy another round of his nonsense. Honestly, if he wasn’t my sister’s boy, I’d never even give him the time of day. Still, I can’t deny that a flicker of suspicion is rippling through my thoughts as he continues to root around in that satchel, but I guess I should be more trusting.

“So what’ve you been up to lately?” I ask, trying to sound casual, trying not to make it obvious that this is a kind of intervention. “Anything fun or -”

“Won’t you scare the fish away?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Talking all the time. Won’t your voice scare the fish away?”

I can’t help smiling. “The lure’ll take care of that. They won’t be able to resist.”

“Huh. Still, shouldn’t you be focusing on fishing?”

“Well, that’s the beauty of a day on the lake,” I explain. “There’s a lot of waiting around, and a lot of time for nattering. It’s a way for two men to get to know each other a little better.”

“Sounds boring. And gay.”

“You just have to learn to appreciate it. I guess it’s a change of pace for a guy like you, huh? You’re used to the fast lane of city life, huh? Let me guess, you’d rather be spending your weekend cruising from amusement arcade to amusement arcade, wouldn’t you? Maybe stopping off for a milkshake and chat with a few pretty girls? You might be surprised to learn that I was considered pretty cool when I was your age. I was known as Big Ben, on account of how I had big, broad shoulders.”

He chuckles, which I guess is a response of sorts. He still seems totally preoccupied by whatever’s at the bottom of that damn satchel, and after a moment I realize that he’s mumbling under his breath, as if he’s counting something.

I lean a little closer, but he suddenly turns to me, startled. At the same time, he closes the satchel tight.

“Just wondering,” I tell him, leaning back and taking a look at my rod. Frankly, I’d give my eyeteeth for a bite right about now, just so I could have something else to talk about. A catch always brings some excitement, and Bobby’d be sure to get the fishing bug. “I guess I just wanted to bring you out here and show you a little of what I do with my days now I’m retired.”

“Yay,” he deadpans.

“There might be a big old perch down there right now,” I continue, “swimming closer and closer to that lure, getting about ready to go too close. They get mesmerized when they see it in the water, you know. They can’t help themselves. And then it’ll be all over for the poor chap, and there’ll be nothing left for us to do except haul him up into the boat. You won’t think the lure’s so dumb then, will you?”

“I don’t really give a -”

He sighs.

“Sorry, Uncle Ben,” he continues, “but the whole thing just seems stupid to me. If fish are that brain-dead, I don’t know why you’d want to eat them anyway. How can there be any pride in catching something that’s so gullible?”

“The lure just appeals to their senses,” I point out. “It’s designed that way.”

“Yeah, but you’d think, like, nature or evolution or something would’ve made them smarter by now. If they’re so easy to catch, why haven’t they, like, died out already?” He looks back into his satchel for a moment, and then he glances out toward the lake. “Stupid fish,” he mutters finally. “The only fish you catch are the dumb ones, Uncle Ben. All the other fish are just watching them and thinking how stupid they are. Dumb fish.”

***

“So then you cut it like this,” I explain as I slice the knife through the fish’s gut, “and clean all this stuff out. You want to get it all, okay? If you don’t, there’ll be a real nasty taste when you finally cook the thing, and that’d be a total waste of a good perch. There’s even -”

Before I can finish, I see out the corner of my eye that Bobby has turned away. Glancing at him, I can’t help sighing as I find that he’s rooting around in his satchel, as if somehow the contents are far more important than any wilderness survival tips he might pick up from me. If I’d been that rude to anyone in my family when I was his age, I’d have received a swift clip around the ear. Then again, I guess kids these days aren’t used to proper discipline. He’d probably wail and whine that I’d assaulted him. Better to keep this verbal.

“Hey!” I call out. “Wanna pay attention? This stuff might save your life some day!”

He lets out an amused grunt.

“I mean it!” I continue. “How long do you think you’d last out here in the wild, miles from civilization, if trouble struck?”

“About as long as it took me to call for help on my cellphone.”

“And if you didn’t have access to a cellular telephone?”

“Then I’d deserve to die, for being an idiot.” He glances at me, and then at the fish. “I guess I’d be in good company, then.”

“And if you didn’t have cellular telephone service?”

He slips his telephone from his pocket and holds it up for me to see. It’s one of those fancy ones with a big screen and no buttons.

“I’ve got service,” he points out with a sanctimonious grin. “This is the twenty-first century, Uncle Ben. I checked online before you dragged me up here. My provider’s website specifically confirmed service out here. And that is called thinking ahead. You should try it next time you’re heading out into the wilderness. It might just save your life.”

“When you’re preparing a fish for roasting on the campfire,” I continue, looking back down at the perch, “there are really three things you’ve got to consider. Now, I’m going to go through each of those three things in turn and…”

Before I can finish, I realize I can hear a rustling sound nearby. Turning to Bobby again, I see that he’s once again rooting through his satchel. This time, I don’t think I can hold my tongue.

“Care to share what’s so fascinating in that thing?” I ask.

“Sure. Like you’d get it.”

“Come on, I’m not some old fart. What’ve you got there?”

He shakes his head, while grinning and muttering something under his breath.

“Maybe you’d better let me see,” I continue, stepping around the campfire and heading over to him. “Hand it over.”

“No way.”

“Bobby -”

“It’s my bag!”

“And your mother put me in charge of you for this little trip,” I point out, “so let me see what’s in the bag.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

I open my mouth to reply, but the words catch in my throat.

“You don’t, do you?” he continues. “You think I’m still into all that stuff that got me into trouble.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But I can see it in your eyes. You’re like Mom. You think I’m still taking drugs and getting high and all that stuff. You don’t believe that someone can change. You don’t believe that I can change. Thanks a lot, man.”

Sighing, I put my hands on my hips.

“People are just worried about you, Bobby,” I explain. “Your mother and I, neither of us have ever tried marijuana or cocaine or any of those other things. Meth. It’s just not something people do in our family. But we’ve read up about it, on account of the trouble you’ve been in. We know that it’s really, really hard to kick the habit.”

“So that’s why you brought me on this weekend camping trip? You thought a few lungfuls of fresh lake air would clear me out and set me back on the straight and narrow?”

“There’s no need to be defensive.”

“Fine, look in the stupid bag!” He tosses the satchel at me, and I feel it bump against my feet as it lands in the dirt. “If you really don’t trust me,” he continues, with anger in his eyes, “and if you really can’t see past your own prejudices, then look in the bag. Go on, show me that you don’t trust me. That’d feel really good, Uncle Ben. Mom goes through my stuff when I’m out. She thinks I don’t know, but I do. I’m eighteen years old, I’m not an idiot. But if you think I am an idiot, and if you think I’m still using, then go ahead and look in the goddamn bag.”

I stare at him, trying to figure out whether or not he’s bluffing, before finally reaching down and picking up the satchel. I dust some dirt from the front, which is really just a cover while I feel the weight of the damn thing. For a moment, I’m sorely tempted to open the top and take a look inside, but finally I realize that I need to get Bobby on my side. Even though I’m worried I might be making a mistake, I step over to him and set the satchel next to him feet. I need him to see that I’m his friend as well as his uncle.

“You’re not gonna look inside?” he asks, staring up at me as if he’s challenging me to change my mind.

“I’m not gonna look inside.”

“Because you trust me?”

“Because I think you’re a good kid,” I reply, before turning and heading back around the campfire, “and because I’ve got a fish to gut. Now, I’m not gonna force you, but I reckon you’d be mighty wise to come over here and learn how to do the gutting. You might surprise yourself and actually like getting your hands dirty, doing things the old-fashioned way. You wanna feel like a real man, don’t you?”

I look down at the fish and try to remember where I left off, and then I take the knife again.

“Okay,” I continue, “now a little -”

I pause. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that he’s going through his satchel again. I hope I didn’t make a mistake by not looking in there.

“Now a little trick my old man taught me,” I say finally, deciding that I just have to trust the boy, “and which I’m gonna pass on to you right now, Bobby, concerns the way you cut the head off. Okay, so I know there’s a lot of blood, but the head can actually be useful, provided you remove it in the right manner. Right, so here’s the tricky part. Pay attention now.”

***

“The key to a good fire,” I explain as I toss some more sticks onto the flames, “is kindling. You got that, Bobby? You need to start it up right, and then it’ll keep you warm all night. Just like a woman.”

I glance at him, expecting him to laugh.

He doesn’t.

Touch crowd.

“Another trick,” I continue, “and I don’t know if you noticed this earlier, is to dig a little hole under where you’re gonna set the first sticks. That way, you’ve got air coming from under, which helps the fire get going, especially you’re in sub-optimal conditions.”

I wait.

No reply.

“Bobby?”

Suddenly realizing that he hasn’t replied for a while, I wait again for him to at least acknowledge that I’m speaking. It’s almost midnight, and to be honest I’ve spent the past few hours more or less talking to myself. Bobby wolfed down his share of the fish, which was good to see, but since then he’s mostly been over in the shadows at the edge of the clearing, and it seems like he wants to nap. I guess the day might have tired him out, but I can’t help worrying that maybe he’s keeping something from me. Right now, he’s just silhouetted against the night sky.

I guess I’ve gotta trust him.

I wish that wasn’t so hard.

“You okay over there?” I call out, watching his silhouette. “Enjoying the forest air?”

I wait for a reply, but he just stays quiet.

“It’s good for the mind,” I continue. “Clears your thoughts. Have you noticed that? Sometimes it’s the simple things that do you the most good.”

Again I wait, and again he doesn’t respond.

Figuring that he might finally have started to appreciate the great outdoors, I grab the plate of marshmallows and carry them over. When I was Bobby’s age and my father used to take me camping, a plate of marshmallows was just about the most exciting thing in the whole world. I know kids these days are used to more technological treats, but I reckon deep down Bobby might just appreciate something to eat. At least he’s not playing on that goddamn cellphone, which I suppose is already a small victory.

“How about you try some of the best marshmallows the world has to offer?” I ask.

No response.

“Just having a contemplative moment, are you?” I continue, forcing a smile. “Okay, then I just -”

Suddenly I see that his satchel is on the ground, tipped partway over and with several small plastic pouches having slithered out. My heart sinks as soon as I see that each of the pouches contains some kind of white powder.

“Bobby?”

Crouching down, I set the plate aside and then I pick up one of the pouches. I don’t want to believe that he brought some kind of drug out here with him, but at the same time I’m no fool. Turning the pouch around, I can already see that the white powder has small crystals that are catching the light of the campfire. I’ve never seen illegal drugs up-close before, but I let out a long, slow sigh as I realize that my worst fears have been confirmed. I should never have trusted him.

“What is this?” I ask, struggling to contain my anger.

When he doesn’t reply, I reach over and nudge his shoulder.

Letting out a faint, mumbled groan, he turns and looks at me with a big grin and huge, dilated pupils.

“What have you taken?” I continue. “Bobby, I swear to God, you -”

“Chill out, man,” he replies, placing a hand on my arm. “You can take some too if you like, Uncle Ben. It’s really good stuff. It’s the best!”

“What is it?” I shout. “Is it cocaine? Is it heroin? Is it -”

Suddenly he starts laughing, and then he slithers closer to me and grabs my shoulders, as if he wants me to hold him up.

“You don’t have a clue, man,” he continues, and now I can feel his ice-cold breath on the side of my face. “Coke and heroin are so old school. I’m not into that stuff. I scored some of this new powder that everyone’s going crazy about. I mean, I didn’t exactly score it, it just turned up, but who cares about that? The effect’s like LSD but times a thousand.”

“Oh God,” I mutter, realizing that I need to get him to a hospital. “Bobby, how much of this did you -”

“Take some!” he hisses, grabbing a packet from the floor and holding it up for me. “You’ll never regret it!”

“I’m going to call an ambulance!”

“You’ve gotta try some first, Uncle Ben! It’ll open your mind!”

“You goddamn idiot!” I mutter, getting up to go and get my phone, only for Bobby to grab my arm and hold me down. “Bobby, this is serious!” I continue, turning back to him. “You were supposed to be getting clean!”

“But this is the good stuff! This is the stuff that lets you experience the world in a whole new way! Everything’s alive, Uncle Ben! There are cracks in everything and the light’s just streaming through! And that’s where the voice is coming from!”

Sighing, I slip free and head back to my seat, where I quickly pull my phone from my pocket. At least Bobby was right when he said that we had mobile telephone coverage out here, so it doesn’t take long for me to call 911 and tell them what’s wrong. Since we’re a little far off the beaten track, I have to describe exactly how the ambulance can find us, but eventually they tell me that one should be here within two hours, and they add that I should keep my phone on in case they need to call me back. They tell me a few more things I should do, in case Bobby’s reaction to the drug gets worse, and then they tell me to just hang tight. It’s probably not that bad, they add. It’s probably going to be fine.

And then the call ends.

I immediately bring up my sister’s number, figuring I should tell her what’s happening, but then I realize I might be worrying her unnecessarily. Besides, she’d probably scream at me for putting her boy in jeopardy, and I can’t say I’d blame her. Better to wait until we’re at the hospital, maybe, so that at least I can ease her concerns when I speak to her.

“I can relax, knowing he’s with you,” I remember her telling me when we set off early this morning. “You’re a safe pair of hands for the boy. You’re steady, Ben.”

Yeah, and look how that’s worked out.

“An ambulance is on its way,” I tell Bobby as I make my way back around the fire. “Might take ’em a while, but you’ve just gotta hold on, okay? Help’s coming.”

“I don’t need help,” he whispers, leaning against a tree now and staring straight ahead into the darkness.

“I think that’s a matter of opinion,” I mutter, kneeling next to him, “and in my opinion, and the opinion of a lot of people around you, you need a great deal of help. Clearly you haven’t kicked your problem at all.”

“This stuff’s different,” he replies, his voice fading slightly as if he’s on the verge of losing consciousness. “This isn’t like coke or anything else. This stuff takes you somewhere. I can see lights, Uncle Ben. I can feel the universe opening up, and getting ready to reveal its true nature to me. Before, I never took enough, so I could never really go there, but tonight I took three packets and I’m so close. I can hear his voice, he’s…”

His voice trails off for a moment.

“It’s me he wants,” he whispers.

“Hey, stay with me!” I say firmly, nudging his arm. “The lady on the phone said you’ve gotta stay awake!”

“He’s calling to me,” he continues. “I don’t know what he wants, but I have to open my mind and go to him. I can hear all the colors around us, Uncle Ben. Even the ones I can’t see. I can smell the sounds and I can see the light that’s breaking through. There’s something calling to me, something immense, something from the other side of existence. It’s so beautiful there, Uncle Ben. I’m seeing something we can’t see unless we get a little help. He’s calling me, calling me, calling over and over again, calling me. I have to go to him. He’s in the place where it’s so beautiful.”

“Oh, Jesus,” I mutter, taking off my cap and wiping my brow. “That ambulance had better get here soon.”

“I’m almost there,” he whispers, leaning his head back against the tree. “Such pretty colors. Some of them are completely new. I can feel myself getting closer, Uncle Ben.”

“Keep your eyes open!”

“There’s a man made of pure light and he’s telling me to keep going. I can’t stop, Uncle Ben! I have to see what he wants! I have to go to him! Attaroth, I’m almost there, I’m -”

Suddenly he lurches forward, and when I grab his arms I find that he’s trembling violently.

“Bobby, just calm down!” I say firmly. “Help’s coming, but you have to stay calm!”

“I’m going to him!” he gasps, as sweat runs down his face. “I can’t help myself! I couldn’t turn back, even if I wanted! I’m almost there! I’m going to become one with the light, and then I’ll know the answer to every question there’s ever been! I’m going to get everything I ever wanted! I’m going to be with him and…”

His voice trails off.

“He smells hungry,” he adds, with a hint of fear in his voice. “Uncle Ben, I think he’s angry about something. He’s not my -”

Suddenly he lets out a gasp, and a kind of white foam starts dribbling from his lips.

“Bobby!” I yell, lowering his shaking body down onto the ground, as more foam runs down his chin, mixed this time with a trail of blood. “Bobby, hold on!” I shout. “Bobby, help’s coming! Bobby, you just have to hold on!”

And then he screams so loud, I have to put my hands over my ears.

***

“Ben Truman?”

Suddenly hearing a voice saying my name, I look up and find that a man in a dark suit is standing right in front of me. I immediately glance along the hospital corridor, worried that something happened while I was lost in my thoughts.

“It’s okay,” the man continues, reaching out a hand for me to shake. “My name is Joseph Mayfield, I’m a researcher from a government agency that deals with new and emerging psycho-active substances. Drugs, in other words. Threats in general, really. National security, that sort of thing. I need to talk to you for a few minutes about your nephew Ben.”

“Is there any news?” I ask.

“I’m afraid not. He’s being monitored around the clock. His mother’s with him. Do you mind if I join you?”

I nod, and he takes a seat next to me.

“Ben took a substance that’s known on the street as Polly 66/99,” he explains. “We don’t know where it got that name. We also don’t know exactly where it first originated. Since it was first brought to our attention about three months ago, we’ve determined that it’s synthetic in nature. That means it was created in a lab somewhere. It’s an extremely powerful substance, it causes users to experience some very strong and powerful sensations.”

“Ben said he could see different colors,” I tell him.

“That’s something other victims of Polly 66/99 have said too.”

“How many others have there been?”

“Like Ben? A few. Nine so far, including him.”

“And they recover, right?” I continue. “Please, tell me I got him here in time!”

I wait for a reply, but I can already tell that he’s worried.

“I’ll never be able to forgive myself if he’s hurt,” I add. “I should’ve looked in that satchel. I should never have trusted him!”

“Mr. Truman, the other teenagers who’ve overdosed on Polly 66/99…”

His voice trails off for a moment.

“What’s wrong with them?” I ask. “What happens?”

“Physically, they’re fine,” he continues. “Even with deep scans of their brains, we’ve detected no damage whatsoever.”

“That’s good, right? That means they’ll recover!”

“It should,” he adds, “but in this case, they don’t wake up.”

I feel a shiver pass through my chest. “What exactly do you mean by that?”

“The mechanism is not understood at this point in time,” he continues, “but it’s almost as if… I know this is going to sound crazy, but it’s as if their minds are somehow lured out of their bodies. Just drawn out, and then they vanish, leaving just the bodies behind.”

“What do you mean, lured out?” I ask, trying not to panic. “You mean they’ve got that locked-in syndrome? They can’t communicate?”

“There’s no brain activity at all. Their minds are just… gone.”

“Gone where?”

“That’s something we haven’t been able to determine yet.”

“But it doesn’t make sense,” I continue. “A person’s mind can’t just float right outta their head!”

“No, it can’t,” he replies, “but like I said, we’re struggling to figure this one out at the moment. All we can say for certain is that batches of this Polly 66/99 substance seem to appear fairly randomly in cities across the world. So far it’s shown up in Seattle, and New York, and half a dozen other places in Europe and Asia. We don’t know who makes it or why, or how they get it out into the world. It’s almost as if it just drops down out of the sky and lands in front of people.” He pauses for a moment. “Obviously we’re working on it. We’ll figure this mess out eventually.”

“He can’t die,” I reply. “Please, you have to help Bobby. He can’t die, if he dies I’ll never be able to forgive myself.”

“We’ll do all we can,” he says, before getting to his feet. “I need to go and speak to some specialists over the phone. Whenever a new victim of Polly 66/99 shows up, we roll into action pretty fast.”

“You have to do something!” I reply. “For God’s sake, you can’t let people get sick like this!”

He nods, and then he pauses for a moment, as if there’s something he can’t quite bring himself to tell me.

“You have blood on your hands,” he says finally.

“Huh?”

Looking down at my hands, I realize that he’s right. I have some patches of dried blood struck to the sides of my fingers, and dried to my nails.

“Oh, that’s from the fish I caught earlier,” I explain. “I gutted it and cooked it.”

“You fish to eat? That’s admirable.”

“I throw ’em back if I don’t eat ’em,” I tell him. “I only go fishing for food. Not for sport. Anything I’m not gonna eat, I throw back. It’s not natural any other way.”

“I happen to agree very much with that sentiment,” he replies, before patting my shoulder. “Hold on and stay strong, Mr. Truman. We’re going to do everything we can to help your nephew. Some of the best minds in the country are working on figuring this drug out, and I’m confident we’ll have an answer eventually. It’ll just take time. So far, this thing seems unlike anything else we’ve ever encountered. It’s almost like it dropped down here from another world.”

“He mentioned a man made of light,” I tell him.

“He did?”

“He said he was going toward a man made of light.”

He pauses, before nodding.

“It doesn’t make sense, does it?” I point out.

“No, it doesn’t,” he replies. “But in all the other Polly 66/99 cases, the victims said the same thing. They said they were being drawn toward a man made of light, a man who’d give them everything they wanted. Most of them even mention a name.”

He hesitates, as if he dares not say that name out loud.

“Attaroth,” we both say finally, at the same time.

“What does it mean?” I continue. “It has to be nonsense, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Truman. But I’ll be sure to keep you posted if I find out. We have good people, brilliant minds, working on this. We’ll solve it eventually.”

“And they’ll all wake up, won’t they? The kids, I mean.”

“We certainly hope so, Mr. Truman. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Once he’s gone, I sit alone for a few minutes, thinking over all the things I could have done differently, all the ways I might have kept Bobby from taking that stupid drug. Finally I reach into my pocket to take out my phone, only to let out a gasp of pain as I feel something sharp pricking my finger. Carefully, I reach in again and pull out one of the lures from earlier, and I hold it up until it glints a little in the electric light.

“Pretty,” a smiling nurse says, glancing at the lure as she walks past.

I wait until she’s gone, and now my mind is racing and I can’t help thinking about the things Bobby said while he was high on that drug. Especially the things about the voice he could hear, and that name. Attaroth.

A man made of light.

“Let him go,” I whisper finally, with tears in my eyes. “Don’t keep him. Wherever his mind went, let it come back. Whoever you are, you don’t need him or want him. Just let him come back to us! Why do you want him, anyway? What possible reason could you have for taking him?”

And yet, even as I say those words, my gaze shifts from the lure to the blood that’s caked around the edges of my fingernails.

Like Father Like Son by Meka James

Celebrating Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Meka James, author of Fiendish. Fiendish is a dark, twisted spin of the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast. Lately, we’ve been bonding over writing. Maybe one day, I’ll have her join me on the dark side hee hee. Please enjoy her psychological suspense short story.

Like Father Like Son
By: Meka James
Copyright 2017

I sat outside the dilapidated old gate. Years of neglect covered the foreboding iron blockade. I was certain that without the weeds, the whole thing would have fallen apart.

My hands tightened on the steering wheel. Why was I here? Why had I been drawn to this place? For years I’d tried to ignore the curiosity I’d had about my biological father. Mother tried her best to avoid talking about him. Giving me only tidbits of information. Everyone around me was that way. He was some dark, dirty secret they didn’t want me to know about.

I was pacified for a while, but the older I got; the more I wanted to know. I needed to know. Who was he? My mother loved me. That was clear. My step-father loved me. That was clear. I wasn’t treated any differently, but it’s hard not to stand out when surrounded by your siblings. I didn’t match. I didn’t fit in. I had my mother’s light complexion and the bright blue eyes that only could have come from my father, along with my black hair. It was a stark contrast to my siblings more sun-tanned complexions, brown hair and light brown eyes. Even without the physical differences, I felt different.

My thoughts sometimes were what people might consider disturbing. The ways I’d imagine hurting my annoying classmates, or my Chemistry teacher when she’d failed me on my lab. Hydrochloric acid to her eyes then watching her stumble around like a buffoon was my favorite. Sewing the lips together of the bitchy cheerleader before slowly carving away at all those features she prided herself on; that thought got me through a lot of long days.They were the kind of thoughts that should have scared me, but they didn’t. Instead they really got my blood pumping, my adrenaline rushing. I never shared them with anyone. They wouldn’t understand.

Eventually I stopped asking my mother. The internet has a wealth of information. I never quite looked at my mother the same once I learned how my father really died. He was killed, by her hands. One would think I’d have been angered by that knowledge. I wasn’t. I was intrigued. I dare say I even held a new appreciation for my mother after that. She’d killed a man. My father. The article said it been in self-defense. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know it all. I needed to know why. I kept digging.

It’s how I ended up here. At his house. After his death, my mother got it all. Tax records showed she owned this place. Why? Why was she holding on to it? Why hadn’t she sold it? I stepped out of my car, approaching the gate. I pushed. It creaked. I pushed harder. It gave way just enough for me to squeeze through.

A long driveway stretched out before me, overgrown with weeds and tall grass. Standing in the distance, a large house in disrepair from the years of neglect. It was one of those houses you’d see in a horror movie, the one that would scream run the other way. It called to me. What was the significance of this house? Why was it left to rot?

I started walking toward it, answering the call. With each step I felt a connection. With each step I felt as though I’d found that missing piece. With each step I felt like I was home. This house belonged to my father. This house would hold the answers to the questions no one would answer.

I climbed the stone steps onto the front porch. My fingers traced along the elaborately carved designs on the door. My heart rate increased. On the other side could be the insight I’d been searching for about my father. I pushed. The large wooden door wouldn’t budge. I stepped back looking around. I could break a window. No that was a last resort. I didn’t want to damage his property if I didn’t have to. I walked around the back of the house. The tiny shed looked out of place. That door opened with ease. Nothing but a spiral staircase and a single bulb hanging from a line. I tested the stability of the stairs before making the descent.

My pulse quickened. At the bottom of the steps, a cell. It appeared to be a replica of Hannibal Lecter’s cell from Silence Of The Lamb. Stone walls. Plexi-glass front. Open toilet and shower along with a rusted twin bed with a stained mattress. Blood maybe? That thought excited me. This room alone was right. I felt the connection to a man I’d never met. A smile grew on my face as I looked around. This was what I needed. Something told me I was my father’s son. My thoughts. My desires to hurt people and watch them suffer, I could have learned from him, but at the same time experimenting on my own held an appeal. The musty, iron smell was strangely comforting I took a deep breath. I was home.

Middle-Grade Students Love Horror Too, Just Ask Neil Gaiman

To celebrate Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Laura Emmons, author of The Queen of the Night series. She’s recently written a horror story for middle-grade readers and is shopping it around to agents and contests. Good luck!

Writing Horror Stories for Middle-Grade Readers
by Laura Emmons

Neil Gaiman once said in an interview that, “Kids are so much braver than adults, sometimes, and so much less easily disturbed. Kids will make their nightmares up out of anything, and the important thing in fiction, if you’re giving them nightmares, is to demonstrate that nightmares are beatable.” Perhaps that is why the horror/ghost category is such a fast growing genre in middle-grade fiction.

The Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean is a perfect example. The story starts with a grisly murder, but morphs into a sweet story about a boy raised by ghosts, tutored by a werewolf and mentored by a vampire who decides he wants to experience life among the living. By combining the poignancy of a coming-of-age tale with the thrill of suspense, the novel delights readers of all ages. As a winner of the Newbery Medal and the Hugo Award, this is a perfect example of a middle-grade horror story.

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Gaiman’s Coraline is another successful novel in the genre. When Coraline and her family move into a new house, Coraline finds a portal to an alternate world behind a locked door. She returns to her reality to find that her parents are missing and she must rescue them by herself.

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Serafina and the Black Cloak written by Robert Beatty is a NY Times bestseller. It won the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize in 2016. Serafina lives with her father, a maintenance man, in the basement of the Biltmore estate. When children start disappearing, she and her new friend, Braedon Vanderbilt, must solve the mystery of the man in the black cloak and save the day.

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Important factors in these books are the tenacity and courage of the main character. Although these characters are tweenagers, they are all heroes.

Middle-Grade readers are defined as aged 8-12. Books in this category are generally 30,000 to 50,000 words in length, although fantasy novels may be longer. As a rule, no profanity, graphic violence, sex or drugs should be involved in stories written for this age group. The focus of the novel should be on friends, family and the character’s changing relationship to the world around him. Some key guidelines to writing a great middle-grade horror novel are

  1. Start with a great hook. Although this is true for all novels, it is especially true for the attention span of tweenagers.
  2.  Keep the pace fast. Building suspense throughout the story is critical to keeping the young reader’s interest.
  3. Use humor to offset scary scenes. Children respond better to humor and may be more tolerant of terrifying action if they can relieve the tension with jokes.
  4. Make the protagonist a strong character. This is more important among middle-grade fiction, where the reader identifies closely with the main character.
  5. Have a happy ending. Children like to be scared, as long as everything works out in the end.

Good luck and happy writing!

Interview With Amy Cross, Horror Author

For the 5th post celebrating Women’s Horror Month, please welcome my special guest Angel Gelique, author of Expulsion and the Hillary series. She’s interviewing a favorite author of mine–Amy Cross! If you read my book reviews on here or Goodreads, then you’ll see I’m also a huge fan of Angel Gelique’s dark writing style. Please enjoy 🙂

Celebrating Amy Cross, an Amazing Woman in Horror
by Angel Gelique

February.  What a great month!  The groundhog tells us whether we can expect more weeks of winter.  There’s the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.  Who can forget Valentine’s Day–time for love and romance?  But for me, February is the best because it’s Women in Horror month.

Recently, I had the good fortune to discover a brilliant horror author, Amy Cross.  If you haven’t heard of Amy Cross or haven’t yet read any of her stories, I strongly advise you to rectify that grievous oversight immediately!  Seriously, if you’re a fan a horror, you’ll thank me once you give her books a try.  Author of an impressive number of books (almost a hundred–WOW!), Ms. Cross has certainly left her mark on the world.

I’m honored that such an incredibly talented author has granted me permission to conduct an interview.  What a treat it’s been learning more about one of my favorite writers!

INTERVIEW WITH AMY CROSS

1. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer? What led you to that realization?

When I was very young, my mother used to write stories for me. Just short things, a few pages long, but I suppose that made me realize from an early age that stories weren’t just things that other people wrote in books for me to read. I realized I could try writing them too. It took me a while to really get started, though.

2. Are there any books from your childhood that were instrumental in luring you down the writer’s path?

I really loved the Narnia books when I was younger, and the way C.S. Lewis told entertaining stories while building up those whole incredible imagined worlds. Also, I think I must have read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster at least a hundred times by the time I was fifteen.

3. Which authors have most influenced your writing?

Emily Bronte, definitely. If you read Wuthering Heights, it has romance and adventure and melodrama, and it’s also very experimental. I always come back to Wuthering Heights as an example of a book that refuses to be just one thing or just one style.

4. If you could meet any author (living or dead), which one would you choose and why?

Either Emily Bronte, so I could learn more about the influences behind Wuthering Heights, or Carl Sagan so I could pepper him with questions until he told me to go away.

5. What do you find most challenging about writing horror books?

The hardest part, for me, is avoiding repetition. Sometimes I use certain words a little too often, so I have to banish them for a while, and the same is true of story elements and characters. Occasionally I have to write a list of things that absolutely cannot happen, or appear, in my books for a while. For example, at the moment, no-one is allowed to mutter or hiss, because I think I over-used those words. And houses can no longer have strange bumps in the night, because I had too many of those as well.

6. As a writer of horror, do you ever feel compelled to limit the amount of gore/violence present within your stories?

No. I think each story is different, and some need lots of violence while others benefit from having much less. Sometimes you need blood splattering against walls, and sometimes you need something more subtle. Emotional violence can be just as powerful as taking a hammer to the face.

7. If you were able to meet one of your characters, which one would you choose and why?

Patrick from the Dark Season books, mainly because I think I finished his story a little too soon and I’d like to spend more time with him.

8. Have you ever based a character upon someone you know?

Only Harry in The Dog.

9. Which one of your characters most closely possesses your personality traits and characteristics?

None of them. I don’t really write autobiographical elements in my books, so I can’t think of any characters who are anything like me. Which is a good thing, because I think I’d be a pretty boring character in a book!

10. What fuels that incredible imagination of yours?

I’m not sure it’s really very incredible, but I get most of my ideas while I’m taking the dog for a walk, or while I’m sitting on the train. Long train journeys and long dog walks, without anyone to talk to, can be pretty good for forcing your brain to come up with things, because then you have to kind of talk to your own thoughts and ideas. Reading that answer back, I hope it doesn’t make me sound crazy…

11. What has been your hardest topic/scene to write about?

There were times when I wanted Harry to have an easier time in The Dog, so parts of that book were very tough to write. There are also occasions when I want a character to have a happy ending, but the book demands something nastier, and I always have to go with what fits the book. So I’d have preferred The Printer From Hell, for example, to be less bleak at the end, but I couldn’t think of anything uplifting to put in there.

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12. Have you ever considered writing a screenplay and/or adapting any of your stories for the screen?

I have. I know nothing about screenwriting, so I should probably leave it to the professionals, but I’ve been thinking on and off about writing an adaptation of A House in London, mostly just for my own amusement. I just need to find the time.

13. How long, on average, does it take you to compete a short story? A novel?

I try to write 10,000 words each day, so a novel with 80,000 words would take eight days to get the first version done. Sometimes they’re pretty much finished at that point, but others need a lot more work. At the moment I have three sitting on my laptop in varying stages of completion, and the beginnings of several others. Short stories can be anything from a day to two or three.

14. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

At the moment, I spend most of my spare time walking the dog and trying to learn to cook. Apart from that, it’s good to meet friends from time to time, otherwise writing can tend to be a very quiet life.

15. What are your goals for the future?

In the immediate future, I need to get a few books knocked into shape so they can come out in February. One of them is a complete reboot of the Joanna Mason series I started a few years ago. In the first few books, she was a loudmouth US cop. Now she’s a much quieter, more introspective British private detective. I like the new version much more. Longer term, I don’t really have any plans. I’d like to see one of my books turned into a movie, but I don’t think I’d want to be heavily involved in that process.

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Nope, I’m not yet done praising Ms. Amy Cross….

For those of you who are considering giving this author a try, you’ll be delighted to know that she generously offers her stories for free.  On any given day, you find at least one of her books on Amazon, free of charge.  Of course, once you read them, you’ll be hooked and want to buy more!

😉  Check out her Amazon page to see what’s available today.

For more information on her books and latest releases, visit her website.

You may follow Amy Cross on Goodreads.

Many thanks to Amy Cross, not just for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my interview questions, but also for entertaining me with her awesome stories!

Now Available in E-Book: A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE

If you like stories that can make you laugh, and if dark elves interest you, please check out Barb Caffrey’s new release “A Little Elfy in Big Trouble.”

Barb Caffrey's Blog

Folks, I’m very happy to be able to finally report that my second novel — and the second novel in the Elfy duology — A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE has been released. It’s available right now at Amazon and OmniLit…the latter will be most useful if you need an e-pub version of the file.

Edited to add: Barnes and Noble link is now live as well. Now returning you to your regularly scheduled post…

ALittleElfyinBigTrouble_medIf you have never seen anything at all about the Elfyverse — or read book one in the Elfy duology, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE — this little blurb may help you what’s going on:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by a Dark Elf, and Sarah’s parents have decided to help the Elf rather…

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