From the Slushpile: The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen (Part 2)

Author’s Note: I will post all six parts before Halloween weekend. So stay tuned for one helluva horror story.

Part Two

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As it turned out, the Hell portrayed in Turtle’s dreams looked like the byproduct of a collegiate man-child steeped in pop culture, rock music, and a lot of hallucinogens. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blared from the speakers of an unseen jukebox as we strode through the grandiose double doors of the antebellum home turned satanic frat house. Thick tendrils of smoke or fog curled around our feet as we moved through the riotous throng packed into the entry hall.  Over the doors, a tooled wood sign read:  Abandon All Inhibitions Ye Who Enter Here.

Faces of friends and enemies mixed with those of fiends. Together they capered wildly, spastically to the power chords of rock ‘n roll’s finest. I felt overwhelmed, my senses assaulted by the cacophony.

I turned back toward the doors, but there was nowhere to go. No moon, no stars shined in the night sky. The mist covered the parking lot like a blanket. The strange orange hue of the street lights obscured all but the house and its adjacent grounds.

“What the hell, Turtle?” Klaus demanded, seizing our friend by the collar of his faded Wolverine tee and wresting my attention from the dreamscape outside the house.

“Exactly!” Turtle answered. “What version of hell is this? Mine? Or one of yours? Because I didn’t have this nightmare until after I’d met both of you. And each of you is in the dream. But whose hell is this? Because you’re both there every time it happens.”

“Every time what happens?” I inquired, my sense of dread growing.

“You’ll see.” Turtle’s mercurial smile made me want to smash his remaining teeth out of his skull. “There’s still time yet. Until then enjoy the party.”

The Turtle danced, if you could call it that, his way through the crowd of raucous revelers. Klaus and I stuck close to our friend unsure what would happen if we became separated in his deranged dreamscape. A thousand vices and temptations surrounded us at every turn. I saw the things we normally enjoyed, but also mirrors piled high with white powder, stripped and ready pain-sluts of the barely legal variety, and a hundred other deviances ranging from the laughable to the unforgiveable.

Either Turtle the Video Game Virgin knew how to party harder than anyone had suspected or he’d tapped into some primal part of our brains…but which one of us. Perhaps he’d perceived repressed kinks, vices, and other socially unacceptable behaviors present in one or even both of us.  That possibility disturbed me, but little of what I saw scared the hell out of me. I did have a slight problem with the horned thing corn-holing our school mascot over the side of a sofa. And the sight of a sadistic bastard licking blood from the blade he’d used to slice spirals into the tender flesh of a pretty co-ed sickened me to the core.

Surely, none of this could be real. Even if it was a collective dream, some twisted, hedonistic manifestation of the universal unconsciousness, it was still a dream. I comforted myself with that fiction, ignorant of how wrong I was about our situation.

Turtle glanced behind him to make sure we were close on his heels and then mounted the grand staircase that dominated the entrance hallway to the mansion. A throng of partiers clustered on the winding stairs enjoying a wide array of pleasures. As I passed a diminutive woman bent over the sturdy railing, one of the two men penetrating her stopped long enough to ask me to join their public perversion.

Blushing crimson, I declined and hurried after Klaus and Turtle. As a virginal teenager, I felt overwhelmed by the sensational sins being committed all around me. My brain ached inside my skull, and my manhood throbbed in the confines of my jeans. I retreated inside myself as I tried to deal with all of the conflicting emotions in between.

Was this place hell? Or was it Turtle’s version of a wet dream? Or worse yet, one of mine or Klaus’s somnolent fantasies?

Although everything I’d seen at the party appeared deviant when compared to conventional social mores of the day, little of it seemed dangerous. Unless our creator considered anything visceral and enjoyable to be a sin. And I didn’t subscribe to that narrow-minded, puritanical view then…or now for that matter. I’d yet to see anything nefarious, much less hellish…unless one counted the pounding, repetitive electronica that had replaced legends of hard rock and heavy metal to become our new soundtrack.

The festivities on the second floor felt more like a rave than the festivities enjoyed by the Goth/Metal crowd on the ground level of the unnamed fraternity house. So in my mind, the party became annoying instead of more infernal, despite the horned humanoids twirling glow-sticks about their scaly bodies. If you’ve seen one dancing Sleestak with a glow-stick, you’ve seen them all. And raving demons were not my idea of hell; they were my idea of a bad pun.

“This has to be the lamest layer of all the hells in the multiverse,” I commented.

“Agreed,” Klaus seconded. “Hard drugs, kinky sex, and canned music doesn’t make it hell. It makes it a college party. The textbook definition of one as a matter of fact. I’ve seen scarier stuff at a Senate hearing on CSPAN.”

Klaus and I chuckled, but Turtle didn’t appear amused. Instead he looked at us as if we were stupid. But we weren’t; we were ignorant, cocky know-it-alls, like so many narcissistic nineteen-year-old nerds. In fact, without our narcissistic, nerdy traits, Klaus and I would have become enemies long before the events to come made it so.

Concern coloring his chiseled face, Turtle told us, “Dreams, like anything, exist according to certain rules. And one of those is the interconnectedness of all things, all places, all times. Dreams are the nexuses, the cruxes upon which the entire fabric of creation is built.

“After all, what are we but a collective realization of a universal dream. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, everything around us was dreamed into being by someone or something. As surely as we see this dream now, our creator pictured the dream that became our waking universe in its mind’s eye.

“And if dreams can show us a version of heaven that a sleeper can craft into reality upon awakening, a nightmare can become a living hell. That’s what I’m about to show you, the difference between dreams and nightmares, between heaven and hell.”

We turned down another corridor, and the scene around us shifted for the third time. As we entered this wing of the house, the furniture and the décor took on a style incongruent with the rest of the interior. I turned to pass my observation on to Klaus, but he’d fallen behind. In fact, he stood transfixed, his hollow eyes riveted on the lone door at the end of the long hallway.

“Are you okay?” I asked, knowing the answer already. My friend had grown as pale as a Hollywood vampire. Tears touched the corners of his eyes, a sight none of us had seen before…or since.

“But it can’t be,” Klaus muttered.

“What can’t it be?” Turtle inquired, joining us in the middle of the empty hall.

“I’ve seen this before,” Klaus replied. “All of it. I didn’t remember until I saw that door. That damn door and the horror that lurks beyond it have haunted me for years. But it can’t be. It’s just a dream.”

“Yes,” Turtle said, tapping Klaus in the center of his forehead. “It’s all here. Or we’re all there rather. Thanks to a little family tradition passed down through my mom’s side of the family. My gypsy blood produces a fair number of psychics, mediums, touch telepaths, and empaths.”

“And here I thought gypsies were alcoholics and kleptomaniacs,” Klaus joked.

“You forgot con artists,” I added, knowing in my heart what Turtle said to be true. But I wasn’t ready to accept it then. It took the unnatural shocks that came after for me to accept the paranormal as my new norm.

“I never thought I’d live long enough to admit it,” Klaus said, wiping his eyes, “but Turtle might be right. I’ve seen this house before; I’ve opened that door before. Countless times. And it never ends well.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t end well?” I asked, dreading the response.

Locking eyes with me, Klaus pleaded, “I wanna go home now. I don’t wanna live through this nightmare again. This might not be your idea of hell, but there’s a devil behind that door. A devil and a dead girl.”

“A dead girl?” I asked, bewildered by Klaus’s revelation. Glancing at my other friend, I saw that Turtle appeared calm, cool, and collected, the exact opposite of his waking demeanor.

“Well, she’s not dead yet…” Turtle said, “…not this go round anyway.”

A shrill squeal pierced the door, echoing down the hall. The cry of a damsel in distress, even a dream one, called out to my primal, protective nature. I charged the door while Klaus beat feet toward the stairs. Turtle lingered in between, unsure who to follow.

The locked door didn’t stop me long. Throwing my considerable girth against it, I overpowered the frame itself. As it separated from the wall with a sickening CRACK, I backed away and kicked outward. My big boot finished the work my sore shoulder started. The defeated door hung ajar from its ruined frame, orange light spilling into the hall from around its seams.

Shadows flitted in and out of the light in the room beyond the door. Throwing caution to an ill wind, I rushed through the doorway and into a blood-splattered bedroom. The room’s white interior had turned to crimson thanks to its two maddening occupants.

A shadowy figure perched on the center of a brass canopy bed; in its sizeable paws, the beast held the still beating heart of its victim, the nearly dead girl. The angel in alabaster lay sprawled on the mattress, wearing the remnants of a lacy summer dress. In the wan light cast by the street lights, her auburn curls took on the same shade as the gory fluids oozing from her savaged bosom. Only one perfect pale breast remained intact; its twin destroyed when the devil had ripped out her heart. The dying girl whimpered as yet unaware of her own demise. When her emerald eyes locked on her stolen heart, she wept a final tear.

*** Part 3 Coming Soon ***

This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works. 

Any resemblance to persons living or dead, events real or imagined, etc. is entirely intentional. This is a work of fiction but draws on real events and references the real world at times. Any reference, product placement, or pop culture quote is not intended to impinge on any trademark, patent, and/or copyright; rather it is flavor text for the dialogue of characters raised within the context of our pop culture.

 If you don’t like these terms of agreement, go check yourself. You’re complaining about a #FREE story.

Also, if I’ve let you read this story in the past, please do not post spoilers in the comments here or on any of my social media. Thanks!

From the Slushpile: The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen (Part I)

Let’s start October off on the right foot with a new blog feature, “From the Slushpile.” I’ve decided on this title as many of the stories that I will share in serial form here were either too extreme for the publishers (as in the case of our first story), did not work for the publishers/editors, or simply did not find a home in print for one reason or another.

I’ve held onto these for some time, even though they continue to get good reviews from select people who have read them. And I cannot afford to pay a cover artist for each story so I can place them on Kindle. As a result of being a broke guy with dark, eclectic, and often whimsical tastes in fiction, you will have the opportunity to read these on my blog in serialized form. All for free. Well, mostly free. I will ask for a small sacrifice of your time, attention, and if you’re being constructive or complementary, input while these tales reel out for your perusal. But be forewarned, not all of these stories made it to final formatting. There may be a few errors hiding in the text.

This story was written for Seventh Star Press’s Southern Haunts 2, although it was deemed too extreme for their PG-13 rating. I was asked to cut my drug references, sexual situations, adult language, and graphic violence. I doubt there would have been much of a story left at that point, so I pulled the submission. The submission guidelines called for a story about demons, based on a real life event in a real place. So I chose to fictionalize a story about an occurrence in Jacksonville, Alabama that I cannot fully explain to this day. Without further adieu, I bring you the beginning of “The Devil & Klaus Kristiansen.”

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The college party at the Wind Song Apartments, located in a real Hellmouth, a rather picturesque college town called Jacksonville, Alabama, stretched into the early hours of the morning. Until the flabby arm of Johnny Law saw fit to end it. As with so many events in my life, it started with revelry and ended in tragedy.

A few others and I sought the nearby refuge of our friend Klaus Kristiansen.  We clustered into his cluttered, cramped apartment to smoke the kindest of the kind and drink the stoutest of the stout. But most of all we talked.

As we became comfortably numb, time like topic became relative. Quite relative indeed. Our numbers dwindled as the sun crept toward the horizon outside of Klaus’s smoky den until only he and I remained. As we sat on the edge of consciousness, the conversation turned to the ephemeral, the heady stuff of dreams. We each shared our disparate visions for the future of humanity before discussing our own personal versions.

We saw ourselves as crafting our reality based on something we’d seen with our sleeping minds’ eyes. As a result of his dreams, King Klaus Kristiansen sought a path of conquest, using his inborn abilities to create a modern version of a medieval fiefdom that would allow him to reign supreme over lesser men. As an extropian and staunch believer in the power of the human spirit, I sought to help my fellow humans cast off the shackles of pyramidal control structures and evolve past the limited thinking produced by a society based on the specter of scarcity. He called me a fool. And I called him a fascist.

One might ask why I was friends with such a person, someone I knew to be diametrically opposed to most everything I believed. I’d listened to my medicine father’s songs and stories as he taught me the indigenous ways of my people, the ways of the pipe. Though I heard his cautionary tales of all the mysteries of creation, both great and small, I didn’t believe them at the time. It took confronting the forces of darkness and losing the battle for someone’s soul to make me a believer.

I’d met Klaus Kristiansen when he’d come to attend school in my hometown, a sleepy but sinful town nestled among the foothills of the Appalachians. The self-described Rock ‘n Roll Satanist claimed to be the grandson of an SS Colonel who helped Hitler develop the world’s first flying saucers. In short, Klaus was larger than life, an id, an ego, and superego wedged into leather pants two sizes too small. A man most would call crazy, or comical, if it wasn’t for the .40 caliber Glock stuck into his waistband.

As a keen observer of human behavior, Klaus fascinated and infuriated me, in the fashion of a noisome bee, unsure if it’s simply annoying or actually dangerous. He could be elegant, chivalrous, and noble one moment and selfish, sadistic, and cruel the very next. He vexed most people. But I took his offer of friendship as a challenge.

We had reached a philosophical impasse, as we often did in our debates. The conversation hit a lull. Blue smoke swirled in the stale air between us. And then a knock at the door cut the tension with the ease of a razor’s edge. Paranoia replaced my concern for my troubled friend’s post-apocalyptic vision for humanity’s future. Who could be knocking this time of the morning? Was it the police again? If so, we were going to jail.

Klaus shifted his black eyes from me to the door. As one hand slid his tray under the lip of the sofa, the other edged the semiautomatic pistol from its holster. Before he could draw the pistol, the Turtle entered in spectacular fashion. His Krameresque entry startled us more than his sudden rapping on the apartment door.

The Turtle–nicknamed for his smooth head and hunched back–made wild claims to various abilities, including but not limited to psychical and martial prowess. To us, he was simply a talkative, imaginative friend who happened to resemble a pink-skinned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And this morning he provided the catalyst to jumpstart our flagging conversation. But Turtle became a catalyst of a different sort, for he too had been led by his dreams…to us.

“Guys, you won’t believe what happened to me last night,” he blustered, plopping down onto the sofa. Slender, almost waifish Klaus toppled over onto his side as the weight of Turtle’s bulky frame jarred the couch’s sensitive springs.

“You got laid,” I guessed, taking the sheen of sweat on his bald head as evidence of an evening of pleasant exertion. And as a virginal male, sex was always on my mind.

Recovering, Klaus quipped, “Only in his dreams.”

I laughed madly, and he joined me. The tension between Klaus and I evaporated as we shared a joke at Turtle’s expense.

“How’d you know it had to do with a dream?” Turtle shook his head in disbelief, his eyes bulging as he stared at us. “Creepy.”

“You’re creepy,” Klaus jibed.

“What had to do with a dream?” I inquired, too tired and too stoned to follow a madman’s riddles.

“What I came to tell you guys about. Though showing you might be easier.”

“Show us? What the hell are you talking about?” Klaus demanded.

“Exactly.” Turtle replied.

“Exactly?” I asked, flummoxed. Putting on my best British accent, I said, “That’s a bollocks answer, old chap. Spit it out before the Zulu overrun the bloody perimeter.”

“Hell!” Turtle exclaimed, almost shouting. “Well, a dream about hell anyway. And you guys were there. We were all there.”

“Thanks, man.” I retorted, sounding annoyed. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m going to hell but didn’t expect it from the acid-dipped spawn of Flower Children.”

Turtle’s gypsy parents had travelled the length and breadth of the country during the Counterculture Movement.  His aunt and maternal grandmother had joined them, touring the nation from shore to shore on a tie-dyed school bus converted into a camper. The Turtle’s clan finally settled in the piney hills of Alabama before giving birth to our fantastic, if fanciful friend.

“And I’ve seen the Wizard of Oz, so suck it, Turtle,” Klaus added.

“You don’t believe in Hell?” Turtle asked. “But you’re a Satanist.”

“I believe in Hell as a metaphorical construct not a geophysical reality.”

“Yeah, what he said,” I seconded. “It’s a philosophy that involves not creating your own hell on earth. And the idea that you can only believe in yourself and your own power. It’s really an extreme form of humanism, a selfish, self-aggrandized one at that.”

“Damn right,” Klaus said. “It’s all about me. I create my own heaven or hell wherever I go, with whatever I do.”

“Something like that,” I said, “only you could be using that energy for the good of all mankind, instead of wasting it on pursuits that benefit no one but yourself.”

“Hippie.” Klaus hissed.

“Devil worshipper,” I quipped.

“Guys! Do you want to see what I was talking about? I can show you.”

Sighing, Klaus said with disgust, “Fine. Show me your version of hell, Turtle.”

And then he did.

*** TO BE CONTINUED ***

This story was written by Jeremy Hicks. It is his original content and cannot be used anywhere else without his expressed written consent. However, this blog may be shared, reblogged, etc. on social media for the purposes of promoting the author, his blog, and his other creative works. 

Any resemblance to persons living or dead, events real or imagined, etc. is entirely intentional. This is a work of fiction but draws on real events and references the real world at times. Any reference, product placement, or pop culture quote is not intended to impinge on any trademark, patent, and/or copyright; rather it is flavor text for the dialogue of characters raised within the context of our pop culture.

 If you don’t like these terms of agreement, go check yourself. You’re complaining about a #FREE story.

Sands of Sorrow Book Launch Giveaway

Does the subject line say #Giveway? Technically, excluding the bothersome but necessary hashtag, you’re correct!

Enter HERE for a chance to win a #FREE paperback copy of the Cycle of Ages Saga: Sands of Sorrow, the sequel to Finders Keepers, through #Amazon Giveaways.

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If you don’t win, you can still purchase Sands of Sorrow HERE.

If you haven’t read the first installment in the Cycle of Ages Saga, you can purchase Finders Keepers, HERE.

Please remember to share this with your friends and fellow readers. Thanks for participating!

May the Fates of Faltyr be kind to you, dear reader.

Author Interview: The Badass Bella Roccaforte

As most people’s thoughts turn to warm weather, bright flowers, and outdoor vacations, there are those of us who enjoy the Addams Family or Munsters-kind of life regardless of the season. I am one of those Autumn People, always with one foot on either side of the Veil. Paranormal writer Bella Roccaforte is part of our worldwide creative carnival as well. This legitimate badass is literary and quite lively, unlike some of her creepy crawlers and haunting hunks. I have the privilege of sitting down with her to find out what steered her toward the world of spooky fiction.

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J:  Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been writing? And what led you to “go pro”?

B:  In a former life, I was a professional musician and used to write poetry for as long as I can remember. But as far as writing stories, I started in December of 2012. My husband had been talking about writing a novel for as long as I’ve known him. So I challenged him to write for an hour and I would do the same. 

At the end of a week of doing that he asked how many words I had. I didn’t know, because I wasn’t paying attention to that. Turns out I had 30k words. When I asked him how many he had, he just told me that wasn’t important right now. He asked to read what I had written and after he did, he told me it was good and I should publish it. So I finished and here I am now eight novels later.

 J:  Whoa! That’s an impressive start. If you can type 30k words in a week, I should hire you to write my novels, if I could afford you. Broke Guys Productions is no euphemism. Hehehe!

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J:  What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Do you prefer to read those genres too?

B:  I prefer to write in paranormal. I’m having a blast with my latest series which is a paranormal romance. I’m not typically big on romance, but this story was scratching to get out.

I also love to read paranormal, pnr is okay, but I don’t need a lot of sexy to enjoy a story.

J: Personally, I’m fine with scary, sexy, or both, as long as it’s well-written and edited.

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J: Speaking of your reading habits, what are your five favorite novels?

B: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

The Beautiful Demons series by Sarra Cannon

Elfhunter series by C.S. Marks.

The Celestra Series by Addison Moore

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

J: Both 1 and 5 are great choices. I’ll have to check out the rest. You’re not the first person to recommend Elfhunter.

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J: What writers have influenced you the most over the course of your life?

B: Addison Moore and Sarra Cannon. I would not be a published author without both of them!

J: I feel similarly about those who helped me along the way, writers, editors, publishers, and artists. Part of why I started this series of interviews was to showcase them as well as others.

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J: Let’s turn back to your writing process. When you set out to create a new story, do you jump right in to the tale (pantster) or plan it out for ages beforehand (plotter)?

B: Gosh, this is a tough one because I usually have the basics down for the story in my head before I jump in. But as the words flow, they create their own little ripples in the story line. I have been known to come out of my office with wide eyes and say “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!”

But I don’t create an outline, or write down the plot. My latest series actually grew from a series of paintings I had done. Originally, there were three paintings, now there are nine. But the original three served as beginning middle and end. The story has grown beyond that at this point.

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J: Are there common themes, topics, or tropes that you use or explore in your works of fiction?

B: Oh yes, I have all kinds of little Easter eggs or private jokes all throughout my work.

In the INK series, there are a ton of The Walking Dead Easter eggs. I have a character named Carl who’s always getting lost. Things like that.

In Paranormal Transmissions, many of the towns/cities they go to are named after the actors from The Walking Dead (I’m a huge fan if you can’t tell.)

In Moon Crossed (The Crescent Hunter Series), my “hero” is named Cole Jackson. Jackson is the name of the hero in Sarra Cannon’s Beautiful Demons series and last night I needed a list of casualties. Characters we’ve never really met that died in battle. At first, I was thinking I could name them Kenny (South Park), Rory (Doctor Who), Red (Red shirts from Star Trek), you know characters that always die. But I couldn’t come up with enough names, so I decided to go with a list of all my exes.

J: It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer here who has killed an ex or two in fiction. Or loves #TWD!

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J: Judging by our previous conversations, it sounds like you have had a rough life, one that has helped build you into the badass you’ve become. What real life events have most shaped your writing?

B: Whoa, so yeah. If we were sitting face to face, I’d be making that face that Peta Mellark made when asked on stage if there was anyone special at home (Hunger Games). 

Okay, so yes, probably the one thing in my life that has shaped and driven my writing in one specific way is heartbreak. In the INK: Series, the two heroes are based on exes. They are both aware and think it’s pretty cool. I did have one of them apologize to me for being such an ass hat. 

Moon Crossed is the product of a difficult time when life had just fallen to pieces for me. I’m a people hoarder, and for whatever psychological issues, I have one of the coping mechanisms is to create an extremely tight knit circle of friends that I would kill or die for. The circle broke, we all fell away, and I felt like my heart had been dug out of my chest with a rusty spoon. Thus, the painting outlet, and subsequently telling a part of that story. I, of course, had to spice it up and throw in some romance. But all of the characters with the exception of the love interest/hero are based on my boys from The House of Brotus (our little cult). 

It has been therapeutic, but still on a level while going back and doing revisions and re-feeling some of those emotions, it’s so raw. Most of us have all reformed the circle, it would seem there was only one permanent casualty of the fallout.

J: Pardon to tough question, but I find that many writers tend to be survivors and fiction makes wonderful therapy for us. But it also showcases our pain as well as our hope for a better tomorrow. That can make it daunting to delve into such personal stories on occasion. Glad you’re working through it all and finding catharsis bit by bit with each tale.

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J: Do you find that your real life struggles make it easier or more difficult to put your characters through a fictional baptism by fire?

B: Depends on the character and the mood that I’m in. Sometimes it’s so nice to just rip someone’s intestines out and eat them while they watch. Other times I’ll be like, “I’m so sorry, but we really had to do that. It hurt me more than it hurt you.”

 In general, the heroine always gets the shitty end of the stick. I love to torture her to see how amazing she’ll be when she rises from the ashes.

J: What’s the common quote about fiction? Put your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them. Writing 101. I think some of us enjoy the experience entirely too much though. Yes, I’m talking to you, G.R.R. Martin.

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J: What writing project are you working on at the moment?

B: I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the first book in the Crescent Hunter Series, Moon Crossed. I’m releasing it in serial format and three episodes are already available on Amazon. I’ll continue to release them weekly until April 15th.

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J: What upcoming releases do you have slated for 2015? When and where can we find them?

B: Moon Crossed #1 (Crescent Hunter Series) April 15 – Amazon and my website (BellaWrites.com for the paper back)

INK: Bold Strokes (Book 5) – Final book in this series. All digital retailers by the end of summer.

Three more installments of Paranormal Transmissions – supernatural/paranormal serial. All digital outlets and I’ll be releasing them over the course of the next year.

And who knows what else might come from my crazy brain. If you had told me three months ago that I was going to write a shifter romance, I would have said, “Shut up, I’m not.”

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Thanks for the lively, intriguing answers, Bella. I’ve come to expect no less from you. Good luck on your future endeavors and upcoming releases. Stay weird. Stay fun. And most important of all, keep writing!

Author Interview: Traumatizing Minds with Alexander S. Brown

When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.

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When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?

My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.

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Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?

My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.

If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?

I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.

Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.

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How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?

A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.

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What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?

I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.

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You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?

To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.

The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).

In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.

I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.

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Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?

Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.

In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.

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Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?

I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.

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From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series

I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.

I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.

Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.

I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.

Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.

Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.

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From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press

“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.

“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.

Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.

“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.

“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.

“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”

“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.

“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”

“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.

Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.

“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”

“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.

“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.

“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.

Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”

Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”

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Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.

Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?

Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.

I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.

For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.

To follow his blog, click HERE.