Interview With Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, Authors of Slashvivor!

Please welcome my special guests Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, both talented horror authors. They co-wrote their new release Slashvivor!–serial killers meet the popular TV show “Survivor.” I hope you enjoy their insightful interview.

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

Stephen:  First, remember that success is what you make of it. (Success could just be holding a book in your hands or success could be selling a million copies and a book deal. It’ll probably be somewhere in between.)

Second, be kind. Be humble. Be helpful. Remember you’re joining a community of authors, not hiding in your hole like a hermit. And we can always sniff out the difference between those who want to be a part of the community and those who are just takers.

Third, make friends with people like Stevie Kopas. In fact, just make friends with her. Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, whatever. She’s the tops.

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Stevie:  I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with Stephen, be friends with me. Lol, but in all seriousness, remember to be humble, helpful, and most of all thankful. Unless they’ve got a million-dollar making hit on their hands, most authors have full time jobs or if they are full time writers they’ve got multiple projects at a time that they work on. So, when someone takes the time to help you out, give you guidance or advice, remember that they could have used that time in other ways, but they chose to help you out. Authors are great that way though, especially in the horror community. I’ve met a tone of wonderful people.

I’d also say to remember never to be discouraged. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and bring yourself down about something trivial, but remember, nothing great was ever easy, so just keep pushing yourself. It’s important to also have a fellow author or anybody in the business really, to talk to when things get tough. You don’t have to go it alone, so don’t. And if you ever find yourself being discouraged by others, remove them from the scenario, you want to surround yourself with people who are excited by, as well as supportive of, any success you encounter, be it great or small.

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

Stephen:  Thank you. You are my lifeblood. You are that thing that keeps me going when I’m ready to throw in the towel. There’s precious little that can make me smile the way hearing someone liked my book does.

Stevie:  Thank you to every single one of you. When I first started writing, I did it for myself, but now I have someone else to write for. No matter the size of that audience, you guys are what matter, so thank you for all your feedback, positive and negative. You keep me writing. Don’t ever forget to tell an author what you think of their work, because it really lets us know that we made an impact on a reader.

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

Stephen:  Well, it’s part of the deal now, not just for authors but increasingly for everyone. We’re all becoming little one-person operations, promoting essentially ourselves. Some people are nothing more than internet celebrities. They’re just interesting online. Others are trying to sell a product. That’s what authors are, really, is small business owners, and the product we’re selling is our art. So, like with any business, advertising and getting your product into people’s homes is key.

Stevie:  I would say it’s fair. In any business, you have employees where part of their job is community outreach and “going local” in order to grow the business. Whether it’s self-promotion for a new book or selling your pitch for a new MS, authors need to essentially get back to the basics of a small business model that can be applied to many aspects of a day job or sitting at your desk plugging your book. Hard work gets results! I’d say if you’re an author big or small, or any type of artist for that matter, and you don’t like working hard, then you don’t know what you’re in for.

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

Stephen:  I’m a proud horror author. I love the community. The people here really are amazing. As far as least favorite aspect, there’s more than a little drama I could do without. Neckbeards and windbags and trolls, oh my!

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Stevie:  I, too, am a proud horror author. My favorite aspect would definitely be that nobody judges anybody else’s ideas or projects. Horror is such a wonderful, expressive genre with a great community. As far as the least favorite aspect goes, you get some people from time to time who are “self-proclaimed experts” on what a woman should be writing and there are tons of trolls, just like Stephen said.

5. What are your current/next projects?

Stephen:  Right now I’m very…gradually…working on author edits for the sequel to my sophomore novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. As far as new manuscripts, I’m trying to put together a reverse haunted house story and a piece from the perspective of a secret policeman in a near future totalitarianish America.

Stevie:  I’ve got a re-release coming soon of my fourth book Never Say Die from Permuted Press. As far as works in progress, I’m working on a sequel of sorts to a story from Never Say Die tentatively titled Trevor: King of Zombies. There will also be a second book in that series as well. It’s been super fun to write and I’ve got a team of readers who are loving the early stages so far.

6. How do you find time to write?

Stephen:  Sigh…lately I haven’t been. The ideal situation though is to have an idea that you’re so passionate about that you want to work on it. Then you’ll find yourself sneaking away from the TV and Facebook to slip in some writing time.

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Stevie:  It’s like dealing with a child. I have to tell myself “you’ll get to do this fun thing if you write this many words” or something along those lines. I’m easily distracted and so I have to reason with myself on what I’m focusing on.

7. Did you always want to become an author?

Stephen:  This is going to sound coy, but I really always have been an author. I remember writing when I was very young, and when I wasn’t writing I was drawing concept art. There are novels I’m still working on that I started when I was twelve.

Stevie:  I think in a way, I can piggyback off what Stephen said here in that I’ve really always been writing. I would write plays when I was a kid, short stories, silly “novels.” I was always into writing lyrics and poetry and combining that with music to create beautiful expressions of myself. And it all led me here, so I’d say I always had it in me.

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

Stephen:  I always burn a small effigy of Stevie Kopas.

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Stevie:  I retreat to my yard at midnight and repel Stephen’s darkness with the blood of many chickens.

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

Stephen:  Out of order, definitely. My method is to write what are sometimes called “cookie scenes”–you know, the actual gunfight or showdown or whatever that you’re actually excited about–first, then build up whatever connecting tissue I need to. It works pretty well to keep me motivated and it has the added benefit that when I realize all the parts I need to have in play for a particular scene I can go back and layer them into the narrative. Need a hammer in the end? Maybe there was a trip to the hardware store in the beginning, then.

Stevie:  I don’t think I’ve ever written anything in the same order or fashion as a previous work. Sometimes I start at the beginning, other times at the end. I used to write out whole plotlines just so I could challenge myself and see how much I could stray from the original story I intended to write. Like I said earlier, I’m easily distracted, so even in my writing I’ll get an idea at random and then kind of run with it and then bam, I have a completely new plot to incorporate into the main story.

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

Stephen:  Actually (and I hope this isn’t a huge spoiler) when I was writing the flashback scene where Marisol Martinez–our main villain–meets her first serial killer, I was definitely living in her headspace. So much so that while we were usually able to pick up each other’s threads (even mid-scene) Stevie told me she wasn’t sure where I was going and let me do the whole flashback. What it says about me that I was so in tune with a megalomaniac is probably better left unexplored.

Stevie:  With all of the characters in Slashvivor!, even the good guys, being absolute homicidal maniacs, I don’t know that that’s such a good thing? But, hey, who’s judging? I’d say that Dawn’s resilience in the face of adversity is such a big part of who I am. I also think Dr. Feelbad’s odd way of caring about others or Raze’s playfulness are parts of myself as well. No spoilers, but the shotgun surgery is totally something I’d figure out a way to do in a situation like that to help someone out.

11. How did you come up with the title?

Stephen:  I just tried to come up with something cheesy like you would see on television that would sort of add a level of satire to the gore. I was stuck between two titles: SLASHERPALOOZA and SLASHVIVOR! I forget why I went with the latter, except I think maybe the “palooza” thing had been played out, or else that SLASHVIVOR! just immediately made it clear what the book was about, with “Survivor” being the first and most famous reality TV show.

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Stevie:  I always like to bounce my ideas off others to gauge their responses and see if the entertainment factor is there. I sent Stephen my plot summary and we realized that our ideas were so similar that surely he must have hacked my computer. But anyway, I think the idea had come to me after a combination of experiences. I was in like a three hour haunted house line where 80s music was blasting and the concept of the house was different countries pitting their most dangerous criminals against one another in this Mad Max type world. That was really interesting to me. Shortly after that, I was watching a clip of a foreign game show on YouTube that was just totally absurd and I started wondering if one day we’d ever get to a point as a society where killing people for entertainment would be a thing.

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

Kozeniewski photo

Stephen:  Amazon, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

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Stevie:  Facebook, Twitter, Website, Amazon

Thanks for being a guest. I hope you guys enjoyed the interview. Good luck with sales!

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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Tips On Writing Horror

So often when we write, we stick to our preferred and known genre, but I was challenged this week to write a spooky story for my writing group and I found it really enjoyable. It got me thinking about horror and other genres I don’t commonly write. So I thought we could explore tips for […]

via Tips for Writing Horror — hijinksblog

***I came across these awesome tips on writing horror from the hijinksblog and wanted to share. Enjoy***

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.

 

Six Plus One Completed During Women’s Horror Month

Celebrating Women’s Horror Month really motivated me to get my butt into gear with editing Six Plus One, not only edit the darn thing, but finish. Last month, I spent 7.5 hours editing my thriller horror novella. In February, I’ve spent 14.25 hours so far.

Tonight, I can say I’m finally finished! Now, it’s in the hands of my writing buddy Meka. She’s been awesome, already looking over my story once before. We’re both in the 365 Writing Club and keep each other accountable in reaching our writing goals. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. She had reached out to me when I was in a dark place. My health was plummeting. I was depressed. It seemed like no critique partner would stick around after they got feedback on their own work. I was lost, thinking I’d never be able to publish again. I’m one of those writers who value feedback from critique partners and beta-readers to help improve my WIPs before submitting to editors.

My novella is at 32,326 words right now. When an editor gets ahold of it, hopefully by their comments, my word count will increase. If not, that’s fine too.

When I published my debut novel, One By One, it was meant to be a standalone novel. That was back in 2013. Man, time flies! But, I felt like I wasn’t done with the concept of characters getting terrorized and killed in the woods, one by one. So my sequel idea was born. Alta and her friends are from Voy, the place Kenan and Rae had horrible memories of. First, psycho hillbillies murdered their parents in front of them 10 years ago in their vacation home. Then, their friends are tortured and killed years later.

Alta and her friends are well aware of Voy’s tragic past. What happened 4th of July weekend is mentioned quite often. I’m hoping people will have read One By One first before buying Six Plus One. Otherwise, spoiler alerts!

I’m proud of myself. I’ve been through a lot, taking everything in stride. With Meka’s help, I realized I didn’t need part of the story back in Voy. A decent ending was right after the massacre finding out who the killer(s) is. So, I deleted all of that extra section. It had a different tone than the rest of the story, more quiet, more depressing. I don’t want readers getting bored over mopey situations. I want them sitting on the edge of their seats ’til the very end.

Hopefully, the editor I want will be available when I need her, and hopefully my funds will be okay. Hospital bills are no joke! I’ll find a book cover soon, then it’ll be almost time to publish Six Plus One! I can’t wait. I see all these awesome authors releasing books back to back. I want to join them. 🙂

Soon, I’ll write another post giving more insight into Six Plus One‘s plot and characters. I may even share an excerpt. I’ll also mention how my DIY MFA helped me stay on track with editing my story at a later date. If I can keep up with this schedule, then I’ll be able to release more than one book a year.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Spotlight: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, I’d like to share my love of comics. If you follow my blog, then you know a couple years ago I took two free online comic courses, one through Kadenze and one through Coursera.

On my quest of making comics, I came across the talented Emily Carroll’s artwork. She was born in 1983 and graduated from Sheridan College’s Classical Animation program. I look up to her because she creates horror comics. She showed me that women can be accepted to create whatever they want instead of being forced to stick with quirky love story comics.

I own her book, Through the Woods, and let me tell ya, it’s a must read!

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‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’ Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

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Showing some vulnerability (totally blushing!), I’m sharing some of my 24 Hour Comics Challenge I created last year–October 1, 2016 to be exact. My horror comic was about me and a group of friends hanging out at a camp fire…until we weren’t. Emily’s journey as a horror comics creator had been my inspiration.

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Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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.

Horror Interview With Yawatta Hosby

Oh my goodness, I’m so excited! Tonight reached my blog getting over 200,000 views! I can’t even believe it.  2011 began my blogging hobby. 2013 began my publishing journey. 2017 still going strong. What if I had given up on my dream? I can’t even imagine…

In celebration of Women’s Horror Month, I thought it’d be fun to interview myself, to share with you guys some of my deepest fears. That takes a lot of me because I’m a very private person.

Okay, here goes:

1. What’s your favorite horror movie?

Scream, hands down. I loved the slasher and pyschological aspect. Syd didn’t ask to be stalked. Syd didn’t ask for everyone around her to die, one by one. Syd just wanted to be a normal teenager and get through high school. Too bad her boyfriend had other plans…It was the first time I experienced a human as the monster in a movie.

In 1996, I was in junior high, 9th grade to be exact. That’s when the movie came out in theaters. Let me tell ya, I was beyond spooked. The murder scenes were gruesome, and the situation was something that could happen in real life. Someone obsessive could be plotting my death. Someone close to me could betray me in the worst way. I already have trust issues and keep my wall up. You can bet your bottom dollar I didn’t date in high school (the movie Fear and my shyness contributed to that also haha).

2. What’s the first horror book/story you remember reading?

Oh my goodness, I still remember this day like yesterday. I read one of R.L. Stine’s books on the couch at grandma’s house. She was watching her soaps. School had been cancelled. I was in the 7th grade.

The story was of a kid who had a ghost as a babysitter. The older lady terrorized the kid when he figured out her secret. I was breathing rapidly, sweating profusely, and trembling with fear. Even though I was scared, I couldn’t look away from the page. The scariest scene–the little boy looked out the second floor window and saw the ghost’s head floating outside…without the body attached!

No lie–to this day I’m afraid to look out a window.

3. What scares you?

I’m a huge scaredy cat. Here’s my long list in no particular order: showing weakness, getting attacked from behind, tornadoes, storms, fear of heights, water (fear of drowning), being mauled by a dog, ghosts, frogs and toads, insects, crazy people, antique dolls, knifes, guns, the woods, bears, mountain lions, birds, being stalked, cancer, crossing bridges, haunted tours, under my bed and closet (places the boogeyman can hide), and getting behind a wheel of a vehicle (fear of driving).

Surprisingly,  I’m not scared of snakes or mice.

4. Do you have any fun Halloween experiences?

My brother and I always had a competition of scaring each other. He was in junior high. We’re 13 years apart, I’m the oldest. I went to The Devil’s Den in Winchester, VA for a haunted tour, leaving RJ at home. He said he was going to the Haunted Fairgrounds. And, since I wouldn’t let his friend stay over, he said he would be back in the morning.

When I got home, it was pitch dark and freezing cold. Oh no had a ghost followed me home! Calming down and thinking a burglar broke a window, I searched the house, grabbing a hammer. In the hallway, I noticed all the bedroom doors closed. I went down in the basement, then I crept upstairs to the second floor.  Now, RJ’s door was cracked open. Holding the hammer over my head, I was prepared to use it. No flight response. I was prepared to fight.

I was on the top step. I paused, then tip toed to his door. I braced myself, sweat dripping from my forehead, my heart racing. Either I’d hurt the burglar or the burglar would kill me. I pushed the door open. RJ yelled “BOO” from the bathroom.

Let’s just say, I begged him to call his friend so he could stay. The more, the merrier. Mom was spending the night with her boyfriend. She only came home on the weekends. Turns out, RJ never went to the Haunted Fairgrounds. He waited for me, turning off the heat. He knew me well. Coming back from the haunted tour, I would walk into a freezing house and freak out, thinking a ghost followed me home.

I respected him after that prank. What did we do after that? We all watched The Unborn. No wonder I have nightmares quite often.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby