In Michael Freeman’s Head

A couple of weeks ago I got to sit down in my little world and have a chat with author, filmmaker, artist and all around do everything guy, Michael Freeman. With two books being released at the same time, I thought I would share our conversation. Sit back and relax and enjoy the ride.

AJ: Michael Freeman, tell me a little about yourself.

MF: I am a 44-year-old indie filmmaker/director/writer with eight kids.

AJ: Eight kids?

MF: Yep…and it is enough.

AJ: Man, you’ve been busy.

strigoiMF: Nah, most are gone from home now. I only have three left at home Few more years and I can run around the house in my underwear again

AJ: Before we get into talking about writing and film making, what’s it like to be a dad to that many kids? I mean, one more and you could have had a baseball team.

MF: Feels like a referee at times. But I love my little monsters, and we have a lot of fun when I am not so busy. Heck, I don’t have to pay staff for our haunted house attraction, they all work for candy.

AJ: Hahahahaha—and I bet they do a good job.

MF: My two youngest daughters are terrifying.

AJ: And how old are they?

MF: Six and Seven.

AJ: Ooooh yeah, that age where they realize they can drive their parents crazy.

MF: Yep. Or sneak in your room in the middle of the night and stand next to your bed so when you open your eyes, you fly across the room.

AJ: Hahahaha! The Boy does that. It is creepy as crap.

MF: Mine do it all the time. It scares the hell out of me every time

AJ: Yeah, me too. So, tell me about writing. What do you write and why?

MF: Most of what I write is horror or sci-fi. I write it because of the haunted attraction industry. I worked for a Jaycees Haunt back in Jr High and loved that I could make someone into a creature that scared people. Off seasons I would write stories.

I have been doing this since before 1982 and it never gets old for me. And most guys out there think it is a way to get rich or make a ton of money, but I write, film, draw for fans. Money is great but I got that covered enough to take care of mine, so this is what I do because I enjoy it.

AJ: So working at a haunted attraction got you into writing and film making and drawing? Did you actually do the make up for those people at that attraction?

MF: I did. I started in special make-up effects and have worked in some of the largest in the country.

AJ: So then you have a LOT of experience with this. That is awesome.

MF: I got to be on the Pumpkin Head set when I was 18 and learn some new things. I have learned a ton from Dick Smith, Tom Savini, Allen Hopps.

AJ: I bet you have had a lot of fun doing that, too.

MF: It’s been good. I just got an invite a few months ago from the Krampus effects guys to come visit a set in August for a new film they are doing.

AJ: Are you going to do it?

MF: I don’t know yet. With how things are going right now, I may be filming the Virus K series in August.

AJ: Tell me about Virus K.

MF: I can’t tell you too much about it. What I can say is the Lolipop Guild meets The Walking Dead but not zombies

AJ: Ha. Top Secret.

MF: Yes. We keep that one guarded closely until the treatment book is released.

AJ: What is a treatment book?

MF: It is a book that goes out to test the market for the story. If the book catches on and does well then the series moves forward. They are usually around 70-100 pages, like a pilot episode. Lisa has read it since she is publishing it. Well episode one anyway.

AJ: Very cool. You said Lisa, do you mean Lisa Vasquez of Stitched Smile Publications?

MF: Yes. She has the pilot book. The way we are thinking about the release is episode one/book one package deal.

AJ: When you say episode one/book one, do you mean like a movie/book deal?

MF: Yes

AJ: That would be cool. You can read the book then watch the film right after.

MF: It is a DVD set with up to 16 episodes per season and 4 seasons written so far. Casting has been a nightmare since there is over 200 extras that are kids

AJ: 200 kids? That has to be like herding cats.

MF: It would be if I could ever get them cast, and then we have to get them in make-up chairs for prosthetics.

AJ: Are you the creator of the series?

MF: Yes. I created it

AJ: What inspired you to create it?

MF: It was a dream I had a couple of years ago while I was Dying from Xanax withdrawal. Doctor over prescribed then took me off too fast when he realized his mistake. Damn near killed me.

AJ: Oh wow. That is crazy.

MF: Had some pretty good dreams, though.

AJ: How long did it take you to recover?

MF: Four months and eighteen trips to the ER.

AJ: Eighteen trips to the ER? Holy cow.

MF: Yeah My brain does not create serotonin, and they had me on those to try to balance it out. When they took it away after 6 years of overdosing me, my body went into shock.

AJ: So, what are you doing for the serotonin now?

MF: I take a substitute. I am waaaaaayyyy medicated. But not non-functioning medicated. That is what I would be without medication

AJ: That’s crazy. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think or say this, but I am really glad you are doing okay right now.

MF: Thanks. Me too

AJ: So, what do you enjoy most about being a writer, a film maker and an overall artist?

MF: Fan reactions.

AJ: Man, I know exactly what you mean.

MF: That has always been the payoff, good or bad. If it is a good reaction then I am great. If it is bad, then I have learned to do something different next time

AJ: I think you said something very important that all artist (no matter what the venue) can take away from this: if you get a negative thought from a fan, then you can take that and learn from it. That is how you get better as an artist.

MF: Always. Too many people that write or whatever path they follow take criticism the wrong way. They get all bent out of shape instead of listening to those people that follow them and their work and make the adjustments to not only make their experience better, but improve on a lifelong craft centuries old.

AJ: It is said to do any sort of art, you have to have thick skin, but I would also add that you need to take things in stride as well. I try not to get too up or too down–those emotions can ruin you.

MF: For sure.

AJ: You are also a partner with SSP, right?

MF: I merged two of my companies with SSP a few months ago and if Lisa needs something I find a way to get it done.

AJ: How has that partnership been so far?

MF: I think it is going fantastic. We bounce ideas off of each other, and it seems to be a perfect fit. SSP compliments my businesses, and I would hope mine compliment SSP.

AJ: Good to hear.

So, tell me what else can we expect from you in the near future?

MF: This crazy ass film challenge, four graphic novels, a kids series, and if all goes well season one of Virus K, plus what Lisa throws at me.

AJ: Film challenge? Tell me about that.

MF: I have been offered a really unique challenge from the My Rode Reel 2016. They would like me to submit ten short films on or before May 1st. I took 8th place in this festival with one film last year and now they want ten. So now people know why I have been all over the place like a mad man.

AJ: Ten films? How many have you finished so far?

MF: Two done. Six written ideas and on the final two.

AJ: And you have less than two months to finish it all.

MF: Yep. I am filming Whispers tomorrow, editing Sunday then shooting down the list in two-day intervals.

AJ: How confident are you that you will meet the deadline?

MF: Oh I got this if I have to do it all. I work good under pressure or pissed. I think with this one I may be a little of both.

AJ: Is there anywhere that we can get updates on this as you continue forward.

MF: Rode Reels

As the films become available to vote on I will post links there, do thunderclaps, pretty much drive social media crazy every day until June 1st when voting closes.

AJ: Okay Michael, is there anything else you want us to know before we close this down tonight?

MF: I think you know it all now. LOL. If not people can feel free to send me a message or email and I will get back to them as soon as I can. I usually check those things twice a day.

AJ: And where can people contact you?

MF: @ne_films on Twitter. I have other accounts that I can’t think of off the top of my head, but those are what I check the most.

AJ: Okay, Michael. I appreciate your time. I know you are a very busy guy.

MF: And don’t forget Strigoi and Strychnine.

AJ: Oh yes, tell us about those if you don’t mind.

MF: Strigoi is five years of study I did on the Vampire religion for the first book that leads to the vampire war. And Strychnine was originally a rock opera with the main band being a pack of werewolves as a metal band with a new mission to save the earth.

That was pretty brief

AJ: It was. You have a co-author for one of those, right?

MF: Donelle Whiting started as my editor on both, but her additions to the stories were so good that I wanted her to leave them in and co-author on both so she had the credits for her hard work.

AJ: That is totally cool, as a writer, to do that. Most other writers would not do something like that.

MF: She basically made both of those books shine. I have gotten into writing screenplay format, and she just fleshed them out and made them better. She did the work; she gets the credit.

AJ: I agree with you there.

MF: And one other thing to be watching out for is I will be uploading two classes on screenwriting and one on Graphic Novel writing for authors that are interested.

AJ: You are diverse, aren’t you?

MF: Gotta be today.

AJ: Yeah, man, truth. Michael, again, thank you for your time. I appreciate you sitting down with me with your packed schedule.

MF: Not a problem. I needed the break from edits and cuts.

AJ: Have a good night and I’m going to let you go, buddy.

MF: Sounds good. Take it easy and have a good night. I am going back to editing footage. LOL.

You can find Strychnine here.

You can find Strigoi here.







Release Party For Talented Author Isabel Castruita


Happy Easter to everyone.  I hope you all had a great holiday this past weekend.   I know I did.However, let me share about an another amazing event I had the pleasure of attending this past Wednesday, March 23, 2016.   It was for Amazing and Talent Author for Stitched SmilePublications, “Hells Guardian Release Party,” It was for the release of her two books, CrimsonSavior (Hell’s Guardian Book 1 and Hell’s Guardian Chronicles: Force Vengeance book 2.

It was an online Facebook party, and it began from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m. central time.   As a new intern editor for Stitched Smile, I loved attending and being a part of it.  I loved that the event which also included other talented authors like Jennifer Raygoza, Kenneth Chin, Veronica Smith and also Donelle Pardee Whiting and Michael Freeman, which are a part of Stiched Smile.   ThenLastly Author Mike Evans and the night ending just like it began with our very own Isabel Castruita.     It was an amazing night of fun games and giveaways which only added more to the event.  However, none of this would have been possible without the amazing Staff at Stitched Publications, which includes our fabulous boss Lisa Vasquez and our amazing Marketing Officer Jackie Chin.


Just in case, you missed it, I wanted to share the summary and links to these two books, and I recommend you check them out.


I have also shared the links to both of them and also a Brief Author bio of Isabel Castruita.   I already grab both of these books.   If you have not gotten your copy get it today and also be sure to congratulate Author Isabel and all the authors that attended this event not to mention the readers and all those on Stitched Smile Publications that put this amazing event together.  Here is a big shout out to all o f them as well.   Again Way to go Isabel!



Book 1:


Zyra Falls had been in Witness Protection her whole life until the Red System attacked. Struggling to survive, she has to learn to become a Hunter and control her latent powers. But will Queen Velika take her revenge out on Zyra and the innocent Lugat? Or will Zyra do what she must do to save them from her wrath?




Book 2:


There’s more on the line for Zyra Falls-DeRaps than ever. To prevent the Varacolaci from going to war with the Stregoni Benifici and innocent Lugat, Zyra must become a Varacolaci—and Queen Velika isn’t making it a choice, especially after learning of Zyra’s child. Will Zyra accept the queen’s order, or can she lead the Hunters to war against her as Hell’s Guardian?



Isabel Castruita is the author of YA urban fantasy novels. Born and raised in Colorado, she works on her two series full-time. A Gemini, who became inspired to become a writer after reading novels like Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, the Resident Evil series by S.D. Perry, and the Vampire Academy and Bloodline series by Richelle Mead. A lifelong reader, Isabel has always had a fascination with the supernatural and the paranormal as well as folklore. She enjoys watching creepy ghost shows and is obsessed with anime. Isabel recently signed with: Stitched Smile Publications and her books are being re-released in March 2016!




Be  Sure to grab a copy today!

The Architects of Fear (with apologies to Meyer Dolinsky)

Matthew wanders through an occupied San Francisco, watching impassively as dozens of oblivious happy children are being ushered into a cinema. He’s wandering towards City Hall when Nancy spots him, barely able to conceal her relief. As she wanders towards him, desperate for an ally in these familiar yet alien surroundings, Matthew opens his mouth and points at her, emitting an inhuman cry.  Nancy, the only human, left in the city, helplessly screams…

The last meal before hyper-sleep with their seemingly healthy and recovered Executive Officer takes a horrific turn when he develops a sudden coughing fit and the crew suddenly discover – in the bloodiest way imaginable – that there’s a Banquo at their banquet…

As Mark Petrie stares at the gathering night-time outside his bedroom window, a white-eyed and fang-toothed Danny Glick suddenly drifts into view, tapping on the pane and urging his friend to let him in.  Mark starts to slowly step towards the closed window and his deceased friend…

Vera Webster tries to escape the control room, but a blue glowing tractor beam from the Ultimate Computer pulls her into its electronic mass. As she screams and struggles to escape, wires and cables bind her into place as metal plates and circuitry are welded onto her face and arms.  Her eyes open, metallic and blank, the transformation complete…

Not all of my childhood (and teen) memories are related to being afraid (I can still remember being six years old watching breathlessly and wide-eyed as Luke Skywalker – his colleagues lost – counted down the distance between him and the Death Star exhaust port), but they’re some of the strongest memories I’ve carried through life with me.  There are other ones, of course – having been prescribed glasses for the first time, first, kiss, that gravity-defying moment when the stabilizers were taken off my first bicycle… but that might have been some other kid.  It was a long time ago…

Is this why I write horror?  Because of the visceral strength of these memories?

I fell into writing by accident. From being introduced to roleplaying games back in the early eighties (Dungeons & Dragons and Traveler), I always enjoyed the role of referee, the Games-master, the Storyteller.  Creating worlds and settings for adventurers to play in, be they Knights and Wizards, Street Judges from Mega City One, or Vampires, werewolves and ghosts.

I’d end up writing journals for the characters or stories about those characters – never intended for the rest of the world, just for the players or, in certain cases, just me.  Writing for writings sake.  Later on, without role-playing as an outlet (friends move on, and jobs and kids put paid to any attempt at regular gaming – damn you to hell, real world!) the frustrated writer in me then got into blogging.

I tried my hand at a few short stories, and people – being the incredibly unpredictable lot they are – only went and bloody liked them. I tried to be as eclectic as possible – a bit of satire or social commentary, a bit of science fiction, a bit of horror…

From falling into writing by accident, falling into horror writing followed suit.  It wasn’t that the horror tales got a better reaction from readers, it was just that I found myself preferring to write stuff for that genre.  It was easier and, most importantly, more fun.  Horror elements started to appear in the science fiction and the satire.

Is this why I write horror, then? Because it’s easier?

I write horror because I like to be scared, and it’s a great thing as a writer to see that feedback from others. The wince, the gasp, the look of disbelief… Horror is like pornography in that they both provoke a definitive physical reaction.

(“Why not write porn, then?”, you might ask. I’d have at least hoped you’d bought me a drink before launching into such a question, though.  I’ll readily admit that there’s a fair amount of crossover – both genres relish the concept of things thrusting into other moist things, for example –  but I’m quite simply not of the right mind-set.  I’d struggle to think of enough metaphors for an erection, for one. Oh, and I find the word ‘ejaculate’ too amusing to take seriously. I’m giggling just typing it. Honestly.)

Primarily I’ve found myself writing about the things that scare me. I haven’t worked out yet whether this is to exorcise or exaggerate my existing fears…

Despite being a regular church-goer as a child, adulthood saw the scientific part of my brain rationalize the non-existence of God. As an atheist, I envy those with faith because they have the comforting knowledge that there, after death, there’s something waiting there for them. I sometimes lie awake at night terrified by the prospect of nothingness.  I’m really rather fond of being me, and I’d like that to go on indefinitely.  An equal (but infinitely more unrealistic) and slightly related terror is that of being trapped somewhere for eternity.  (One of my very few poems – “The Lantern” is a piss-take of that very fear – I’ll let you see it if you ask me nicely).

A health scare nearly a decade ago caused me to develop an unhealthy level of anxiety and hypochondria that remains to this day – one that’s given me a much deeper understanding of the body horror of Cronenberg and Barker. A recurring motif in my stories is that of cancer and disease.

I’m aware that the previous two paragraphs make me sound like some kind of terrified neurotic, but that couldn’t be further from the case. I’m a functioning terrified neurotic, at the very least. I think we all are, in some way. It’s what defines us a species.

We all have fears – it’s just that as horror writers we’re given the rare opportunity to channel something out of them, and we’re sometimes lucky in that we encounter others who find the same things scary.

I’m glad to be a part of Stitched Smile, and I relish the opportunity of scaring you somewhere along the way.

(And the no-prize quiz for the names of the films that made such an impact on my impressionable young mind?  The remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, Salem’s Lot and – not even a horror film – Superman III)

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Here we are, you and I, on this page, me writing, you reading. It’s a good combination if you ask me. We both get what we want, right? I get to write something cool. You get to read something cool. Does that sound good to you? I hope so because it sure does to me.

Let me make a confession: I didn’t start out enjoying writing fiction. As a matter of fact, I hated it. In school, I wrote the bare minimum to get a passing grade. I did enjoy writing songs and jokes and things like that, but fiction…meh.

Let me be even more honest with you. When I began enjoying the act of writing fiction, I did it solely for me. I wasn’t any good at it though I thought I was. The key word here is thought. I believed, like so many other writers, that I could be the next Stephen King. And why not? He was (and still is) my favorite author, and up to that point I had read everything he had written, and it didn’t seem that difficult, so why couldn’t I be as good, if not better, than he is?

Ummm…because I sucked. That’s why. And, worse than that, I wasn’t really trying to get better. I was just putting words in front of words. Do you want proof of how bad I wrote when I first started? I apologize now for what you are about to read.

[[“How are you doing, other than being pissed at Bryan?” Chris asked.

“I’m okay, I guess . . .“ she started to say.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Bryan questioned as he came around the corner.

“Go screw yourself!” Lindsey exclaimed.

“I’d rather screw you.”

“Enough, Bryan!” Chris intervened.

“Yeah, go ahead and take up for your piece of meat . . .“

“Bryan, I said that’s enough,” Chris said without raising his voice.

“What’s wrong, Chris? Don’t like the way I act toward your whore?” Bryan yelled.

Stepping toward Bryan, Chris grabbed his shirt and put a finger in his face. He got close enough to kiss Bryan if that was what he wanted to do.  Fortunately, that was not his intentions.]]

This was written way back when I first started, nearly 20 years ago. It is amateurish, at best, second-grade level, at worst. Or maybe it’s the other way around. It’s from a piece titled, Mirror Mirror and it really, really sucked. But at the time, I wasn’t trying to get published. I was just writing and enjoying it and not getting any better.

Then I was asked, ‘why don’t you try to get published?’

I said, ‘why not? I’m pretty good.’

Delusional. That’s what I was.

Still, I managed to get something published. It took exactly one hundred rejections, but it finally happened. I will tell you this: getting published is like a drug. Once it happens, you want it to happen again and again and again. And it did happen again and again and again, and I really thought I would be rolling in the dough once people knew who I was.

I am the next Stephen King, baby. That was my mindset.

Then reality happened. I subbed a story to a publisher, and he responded with a curt letter that said, and I’m paraphrasing here because the sting from it was bad: you should never write another story again.

I was brought down by one rejection letter. Forget all the other ones. They didn’t matter. They were mostly form rejections that didn’t really mean anything to me. However, that one was personal. It was an insult to my abilities. I stewed for quite a while on that one, even ranting and raving to my wife about it.

Do you want some more honesty? I got mad. I still didn’t write for the readers. I wrote to prove that editor wrong. For the next several years I wrote angrily, but I still didn’t get any better. That only happened much later when I joined an online writing group. I met some great folks who taught me quite a bit about writing and about patience. I learned.

Though I became a better writer, I still wasn’t all that great. I was lazy. I didn’t want to work to make myself better. I was in a hurry to write crappy story after crappy story. Here is where rubber meets the road: I had a lot of people telling me I was good, and a lot of people publishing my work, so I thought I was good. But I wasn’t. If I was, then those people would have paid me for the work, and I would have had the courage to submit more to paying markets. As it stood, I was comfortable in those non-paying markets. They stroked my weak ego. And I wrote, not because I enjoyed it or because of the art of it or even because I wanted to entertain the readers. Nope. I wrote because I wanted my ego stroked. I wanted to feel like I was good at something I truly wasn’t. Believe me, I felt good about it for a while.

Then Reality Check #2 happened. Remember, I thought I was good. I thought I was great. I still thought I was the next Stephen King. I just hadn’t been discovered yet. What an idiot. I thought wrong.

I began inquiring about putting out a short story collection. I had a bunch of publications under my belt, and I was good. No. I was great. Everyone wanted my work. Are you ready for the sting? I submitted my query to a publishing company I respected. They put out good books, and the owner was fairly well known. I enquired about doing a collection with them. The following is the exchange in e-mails that took place after my enquiry:

Are you the A.J. Brown who has stories published in this anthology and that anthology and this anthology? (names of publications withheld on purpose)

My instant thought was, he has heard of me. So I responded. Yes, I am.

I waited.

And waited.

And never heard back from him.

You may say, that’s rude. You may say, maybe his e-mail response got lost in the ether. You may say, maybe he never received your reply to his question. That is well and good, but I am almost certain none of that occurred. What I believe happened is this: he knew who I was, but not for anything good, so when I responded with a proud, yes, I am, he already knew he wasn’t going to work with me. There’s no need for him to respond, after all, I’d get the message after a while, right?

Well, yeah, actually, I did. Though he never responded, I heard him loud and clear. After allowing myself a bit of a pity party, I stopped and looked at everything I had ever done up to that point. Most of it was just okay. Some of it was bad. There were a handful of pieces that were actually good.

That was in 2010.

It was then that I decided to take a hard look at my writing style and voice. Everything I had written up to that point was void of emotion, void of any real character development, void of good dialogue, void of good writing. A lot of what I wrote was the same regurgitated crap that everyone else was putting out. It was then that I made the conscious effort to become a better writer. It was then that I decided I was not going to do what everyone else was doing. It was then that I decided to be my own writer.

It was then that I began to get better. I developed the style and voice I use now. I stopped believing in plot and formulaic writing and said, ‘Hey, I’m just going to write and not worry about everyone else.’ I’m going to tell stories I want to hear.

Are you okay for one more truth? I hope so because this is somewhat of a confession that I think most writers will not make though I believe it to be true for the majority of us.

I do not write for you, the readers.

If you did not click the little X in the upper right corner, then that means you want to hear the rest of this. For that, I am thankful. If you have just a couple more minutes, let me explain my statement, which comes after having thought a ton on the subject.

I do not write for you, the readers. I write for me, the reader. I write what I want to read. I write the things that I enjoy reading. I don’t write like everyone else on purpose. And here is the truth within the truth: if I do not like what I write, then how can I expect you, the readers, to like what I write? That’s the bottom line.

Do I want to entertain the readers? Sure. Do I want them to like my stories? Absolutely. Do I write for them? No. I don’t. I’m sorry. I’m just telling you truth. It sounds nice to say ‘I write for the reader.’ It sounds noble. It is endearing to hear. It’s just not true.

Don’t miss this, though. As I said a couple of paragraphs up, I write for myself, I write what I like. Don’t miss this: if I don’t enjoy the story I write, how can I expect you to enjoy it? If we are honest with ourselves and you, then we will all admit that we write for ourselves, for our enjoyment, because we know if we believe it is good and if we truly enjoy it, then you will, as well. I repeat, don’t miss this, don’t miss how important it is for us, the writers, to write what we like and enjoy. By doing it that way the end product is so much better for you, the readers. If we do it the other way; if we write for anyone but ourselves to start with, then you get the same crap I put out for the first 10 or so years of me pursuing publishing.

Bottom line? I write for myself, so you don’t crap in the end.

As always, until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.

The End – It’s not really though . . .

I’m reaching the end of my book (finally) and I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know very shortly I’ll be typing those two little words that all authors love to see.  But it’s not really the end.  I have to go back and do all my timeline checks and geographical setups.  I have to make sure that someone that died early on in the book isn’t still hanging out halfway through. (I’ve done that once already and it sucks; very time consuming to go back and replace all those names and adjust the scenes.) Then after all, that I still have to go over the entire book again for editing; maybe two more times.  And I just know I’ll change or add stuff; probably add. I’ve never edited any of my stories and ended up with fewer words than started with. But the feeling of relief when you type The End that first time is memorable.  Since this will be my first full-length novel (I’ve written a lot of short stories and a novella) for me it’s not really the end but a beginning as well.

Knob’s Hole By Mark E. Deloy

Mark Blog post

“I’m tellin’ ya, there ain’t no bottom to it,” Henry Knob said, peering down the hole into the darkness.

“That’s impossible,” Dave said.

“I’ve dropped rocks, a busted computer monitor, even that old refrigerator down there. Ain’t none of them ever hit bottom, at least not that I heard.”

Dave leaned over the opening which was about the size of a small car itself.  Grass grew high along the edges and dirt spilled into the blackness making him wonder if they were in any danger, standing so close to the edge.  If this was a sinkhole, they could be swallowed up at any moment.

“How did you find it?” Dave asked.

“I was driving my tractor out to the other side of my property and my back wheel got stuck.  I gunned the engine, and it was a good thing I did because the ground had opened up.  Far as I can tell, it ain’t got no bigger since then though.”

“That’s good.  Hey, we can get some rope and lower a bucket down into it.  Maybe it’s an old well and the reason you didn’t hear anything is because there’s water way down in there.”

“I already thought of that,” Knobs said.  “I went through about a mile of rope and shit-load of kite string until I gave up.  The bucket didn’t even come back wet.  I just don’t get it.”

Dave just shook his head.  He’d lived next door to Henry for ten years and he’d never known the old man to lie or even stretch the truth, but this was too bizarre to believe.

“I’ve got an idea,” Dave said.  “Actually two ideas.  I’ve got a million candlepower spotlight.  If there’s something to see down there, we’ll see it.  I’ve also got one of those luggage alarms.  We can drop it down there and listen to it fall.”

“Sounds like a solid plan.  I’ll go get us a couple beers and meet you back here.”

Dave limped across the rocky field between their two houses.  His leg was bothering him again.  The doc had told him it would hurt in the wintertime and when it stormed, but right now it was sweltering and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  This summer had been hellishly hot and the weatherman didn’t offer any relief for the near future.

The big flashlight was in the kitchen on the top of the refrigerator and the luggage alarm was in the junk drawer.  Caroline had hated that drawer, hated clutter in general.  It was little things like opening a drawer in a dimly lit kitchen that reminded Dave of his wife.  She was always on his mind, but sometimes he would be watching television and would see a commercial she liked or a show she’d hated, and before he knew it he was sobbing like a little girl.  Cancer took her six months after he’d retired as a local police officer.  He remembered how excited she was that he was going to be home with her.  Most wives would’ve seen it as an inconvenience, but not Caroline, she’d planned trips for them to take and projects around the house for them to do together.  Now those trips would never be taken and the projects would never be completed.  He was alone and there was nothing to do but watch DVDs, cut his grass once a week and drink himself into forgetfulness.  But now there was this hole.

He carried the items back across the field and found Henry waiting for him with four sweating Bud Lights.  It was early, but what the fuck, Dave thought.  They were both retired and besides, it was close to a hundred degrees outside.

“Which one should we try first?” Henry Knob asked.

“Thought maybe the flashlight,” Dave said, switching on the strong light and pointing it down into the darkness.  They both got on their bellies and looked into the pit.  Pieces of dirt and a few small rocks fell in.

The beam shined down and reflected off rocky sides.  Dave pointed the flashlight straight down, but saw nothing, so he angled it back towards the walls and followed them down, but eventually, the light just filtered out into the infinite blackness.

“Weird,” Dave said.  “That’s just damned weird.”

“I told you, there’s no bottom to it.”

“Let’s try the alarm.”

Dave pulled the pin on the smooth black box which was about the size of a cell phone.  Instantly it started shrieking out a falsetto howl.

“Drop the thing already!” Knob yelled, covering his big ears with his liver-spotted hands.

Dave switched the light back on, and then dropped the alarm.  They watched it fall out of sight.  It’s high pitched whine echoed back to them like a woman’s movie scream.  The sound faded, growing softer and softer until the darkness turned it to silence.

“Oh shit,” Knob said.


“What should we do now?”

“The only thing I can suggest is to call the geological department at Vol State and see if they have any ideas.”

“Don’t really want nobody poking around on my land,” Knob said.

“I can understand that, but if you’re going to leave it be, I’d suggest covering it up.  The last thing you need is for some kid to cut across your field and end up falling in.”

“Good point.  I’ve got some plywood and a few cinder blocks.  Give me a hand later?”

“Sure, no problem.  Gonna be hot this afternoon.  You sure you wanna wait?”

“I’ve got to run to town and get a few things at Wal-Mart.  You wanna ride along?”




They got back to the house around noon and finished boarding up the hole.  The sun was high in the blue sky and the temperature hovered right around a hundred and five.  Cicadas buzzed from nearby trees and grasshoppers flitted through the high grass.  Both men were covered in sweat and they’d gone through a twelve pack of Bud Light between them.  Knob had brought out a cooler but it hadn’t taken long for the ice to melt.  Empty bottles now floated in the water.

They had placed four pieces of plywood over the pit and then stacked twenty cinderblocks on top of the boards.

“There,” Knob said.  “If anyone falls in there now, it’ll be their own fault.  You want lunch.  I’ve got some leftover Hamburger Helper in the fridge.  I love that stuff, but it makes a shitload of grub.  I can never eat it all myself.”

“Naw.  Thanks though.  I’ve got my own leftovers to get rid of.  I need a shower anyway.”



When Dave got back to his house, the air conditioner hadn’t kicked on.

“Shit,” he said to the empty, humid farmhouse.

He called the heating and air conditioning place in town and of course they told him it would be the day after next until they could get out there.

“It’s our busiest time of year,” the man said.  “Everyone waits until their units go out before they call instead of getting them checked once a year.”

“I did get a checkup, two months ago,” Dave said, beginning to get pissed.

“I know, Mr. Avery.” the man said, I was talking about everyone else.  “Your service is covered.  We won’t charge you, but it’ll still be Wednesday before we can get out there.  I just don’t have anyone available.  My techs are working twelve hour days as it is.  I’m really sorry.”

Dave hung up the phone and sat down in the kitchen chair.  At least his water still worked and he had some fans up in the attic.  He’d just have to deal with the heat for a couple days.

After opening all the windows and positioning his two box fans on either end of the house, Dave stripped down and jumped in the shower.  He didn’t even bother to turn on the hot water.  The cold stream soaked his hot skin cooling it back down to a comfortable temperature.

He felt a little better when he got out and decided to sit out on the porch and read the new Joe Lansdale book he’d picked up from the library the day before.  It was cooler outside under the shade of the porch than it was inside.  The old wooden farmhouse had trapped the day’s heat and it probably wouldn’t cool off until well after sunset.

The porch swing creaked under his weight as he swung back and forth and read about Hap and Leonard’s adventures in East Texas.

Something caught Dave’s attention out of the corner of his eye.  Someone was walking up on the top of the gently sloping hill to the west of Dave’s property.  He couldn’t tell who it was, but he knew it wasn’t Henry.  The gait was all wrong.   Henry walked slightly slumped over.  The man on the hill with the sun behind him, stood up straight like a young man and something was familiar about his stance, but Dave couldn’t put his finger on it.  He watched as the figure disappeared over the crest of the hill.  Despite the heat, Dave’s arms broke out in gooseflesh.



The phone rang as Dave was frying two hamburger patties for his supper.  He wanted fries, but there was no way he was going to use the oven. The house was still as humid as a sweatbox and the sun had been below the horizon for an hour.

“Hello,” Dave said, and at first all he could hear was breathing.

“Hello?” he said again.

“Dave,” Henry’s voice said out of the receiver, but it didn’t sound like Henry.  Look out your kitchen window, the one that faces my place, and tell me what you see.”

Dave suddenly realized why his friend didn’t sound like himself, fear had crept into Henry’s voice making it high pitched and jittery.

The window was open and a cool breeze that felt to Dave like heaven blew in.  He pressed his nose against the screen and glared out into the dusk colored evening.

There was movement in the field between Dave’s farm and Henry’s, a figure walking through the high grass.  At first, Dave thought it was the man who he had seen earlier but this person was much smaller and dressed in what looked like a white dress.  It was a little girl, probably about ten by the looks.

“Yeah, I see her,” Dave said.  Who is she and what’s she doing on yo—?“

“You see it too, don’t’cha?” Henry said.  “By God, you’re seeing what I saw.”

“Yes I see her.  But…Oh my God.  Oh my God!”

Dave nearly dropped the receiver but knew if he did, if he severed the tie to the real world, he’d surely pass out.

The girl had just emerged from the high grass and Dave had seen what had prompted Henry to call in the first place.  She floated across Dave’s back yard, missing her legs from her knees down. The gown she wore ended where her shins should’ve been, but there was nothing below the hem, nothing at all.  She glided across the lawn and reached the rotted red barn near the corner of the property.  Then, just when she should’ve collided with the structure, she faded right through it, disappearing.

“Holy shit!” Dave said.  “Did I just see what I think I saw?”

“Either that or we’re both crazy because I saw it too.”

Dave’s gooseflesh was back.

“Can you come over?” he said.

“Be right there,” Knobs said.  “Got anything stronger than beer?”

“Fraid not,”

“Well, that’ll have to do.  Hey, watch out your window while I’m walking over, okay?”

“Sure,” Dave said.



Thirty seconds later, Henry was sitting in Dave’s kitchen drinking a Bud Light and shaking like a man with palsy.

“Was that really a ghost, Henry?  Was it really?”

“Yeah, it was.  Had to be.”

“Maybe the light was just funny, maybe—“

“I knew her”

“What!  Knew her from where?”

“I’ve never told you this story I don’t think.  I don’t talk about it much.  My wife and I had a daughter just after we were married.  Her name was Sylvia, beautiful child.  This was back in 56 when we lived on the other side of town near the old rail yard.  Sylvia would wander off sometimes, mostly just over to the neighbor’s house or down to the corner store to get an ice cream.  Back then you never had to worry about it much.  Then one day suppertime came and Sylvia was nowhere to be found.  My wife and I went looking for her.

“I found her on the tracks,” Henry said, his chest hitching.  “Her legs had been cut off.  She’d bled to death.  I don’t kn…know why she was down there, but when I think about her lying there, dying, all alone, probably crying out for her daddy and her momma, I..I just…”

Henry was now sobbing, hunched over covering his face and rubbing his red swollen eyes like a child.  Dave put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Henry”

“A man forgets.  If you want to get on with your life you have to.  You put it out of your head and convince yourself that things like that happen sometimes and…I really did forget.  I mean yeah I think of her from time to time, but I never thought I’d see her again.  It was her Dave.  It was her, and I’ll never forget again.”

Dave handed Henry another beer and sat down beside him.  “Could it be that hole?  Could that be how she came back?”

Henry looked up, his eyes, still rimmed with tears.  “You mean to say she was in hell?”

“No, no, nothing like that.  I just mean, maybe that hole is some kind of vortex.  Like a portal between this world and the next.”

“You believe in that kind of thing?”

“No, not usually, but after what we saw, maybe.  I mean, how could that be a coincidence?  You found that hole this morning and tonight we start seeing ghosts?”

“What do you mean ghosts, plural?”

“I may have seen someone earlier.  Didn’t get a good look, but…It’s not important.  I think we should go and have a look, make sure those boards are still in place.  Not that a ghost would necessarily have to move them to get out.  You saw how your dau…the ghost went right through the side of my barn.”

“I’m not sure I can go up there right now.  Not in the dark,” Henry said.  His hands were still shaking.

“We’ll wait ‘til morning.  You wanna sleep on my couch?”

“Naw, but just watch me walk back to my place, okay?”

“You want one for the road?”

“I better not.  Hey, why is it so hot in here?”  Henry asked, just now noticing the sweat which had stuck his t-shirt to his chest.

“Air conditioner’s broke.  I’ve got fans though.”

“They ain’t helpin’.  Why don’t you walk over with me and sleep on my couch?”

“I’ll be alright.  It’s started to cool off.  I might take you up on that come tomorrow night.  It’s supposed to get up to a hundred and seven tomorrow.”

Henry just shook his head, drained the last few drops of his beer and walked out into the sweltering night.




It took a long time for sleep to come.  Dave had stripped the bed down to the sheet and had moved both fans into the bedroom, but it was still hellishly hot.  The day’s events tap-danced through his brain, pushing any hope of sleep even further away.

Why would a hole in the ground call up spirits?  It just didn’t make sense, he thought.

He thought about tossing that luggage alarm down into the darkness and wondered if they hadn’t woken something up.   Or a couple somethings.

The hum of the box fans eventually lulled him into a fitful sleep.  He woke just one hour later covered in sweat.  Something had woken him, a sound either in this world or the fading dreamland he had just left.  He sat up in bed and listened hard but it was impossible to hear anything over the drone of the fans.

Then he did hear something, just a whisper of a voice, but it was there.  Someone was speaking his name over and over again.

“Davedavedavedavedavedavedave,” sounding like a mantra in the sweltering darkness.

“Who’s there?” He called out with a voice that sounded weak to his ears.

Dave wished for his gun, but it was in the safe downstairs.  He started to get out of bed but then froze as the dark form appeared in the doorway.  Instantly the temperature dropped and Dave could see his own breath.

The man was dressed in the same dirty overalls he had died in.  His face was pinched with rage, eyes too close together, his mouth set into a snarl.  It was Mick Tamblin, the man Dave had shot and killed on a dusty roadside nearly five years ago.

Mick was Macon County, Tennessee’s only murderer in fifty years.  The drug dealer had been a thug his whole life and had been arrested several times.  When two out of town kids tried to rob him of some money and his drugs during a deal, Mick had wrapped the teenagers in barbed wire and buried them alive under the floor of an old barn.

Dave had been the arresting officer.  He’d shot and killed Mick when he pulled his own gun, but Dave took a bullet in his own leg, shattering the bone.

As he watched the dead man approach, Dave’s mouth went dry, and his bad leg began to throb with a pain he hadn’t known since the first few days after the shooting.

Tamblin crouched down like a small but dangerous animal.  He raised his fists and Dave noticed the man’s hands were wrapped in barbed wire.  As he clenched his fists tighter, drops of shadow dripped onto the hardwood floor at his feet.

The shadow-blood slithered like two dark snakes across the splintery floor.  Dave backed up to the headboard, vaguely feeling his bladder let go and warm wetness spread beneath him.

“What do you want?” Dave asked, finally finding his voice.

Tamblin didn’t speak.  He just kept glaring at Dave a look of pure hate on his face.

The snakelike shadows flowed up onto the bed and wrapped themselves around Dave’s legs.  He watched, breathless, as they wrapped themselves tight.  When they reached his chest he tried to brush them away, but his hands passed right through the serpentine shapes.

He could think of only one thing to do and he prayed that it worked.  He extended his arm over to his end table and pulled the chain on his bedside lamp.  When he blinked against the light, the snakes were gone, but Tamblin remained

He walked slowly across the hardwood, his eyes were locked on Dave’s and he waved his razor wire hands in the air as if trying to slice the air.

“Them boys had it coming.  They cried like little girls when I piled that dirt on em.  They cried for there mommas.  Now I’m comin’ back for you.  I’m gonna wrap you in my wire and throw you down the bottom of that hole.”  Tamblin said.

Time suddenly sped up and Tamblin was inches from the bed.  Dave could smell his sickly sweet aftershave and cherry tobacco snuff.  “Are ye ready?”

“Your dead,” was all Dave could say.

“So. You won’t be far behind.  Everyone goes to the same place anyway.”

Dave blinked once and Tamblin was gone.  The temperature returned to a humid ninety degrees and Dave’s heart felt as if it was keeping time to a marching band.

“Son of a bitch!”  Dave exhaled loudly and he took several deep breaths, trying to slow his pulse back down before he had a heart attack.

The alarm clock read 3:15 A.M. It was still dark outside, but there was no way Dave was going to be able to go back to sleep. He got out of bed, stripped off his piss soaked boxers and turned on the shower.  He was in and out in a flash, worried that Tamblin would come back while he was naked.  The boys were naked when they were found, naked and wrapped in razor-wire, their lugs filled with barn dirt.

As Dave headed downstairs to make coffee, he turned on every light in the house.  He kept expecting to see Tamblin around every corner, sitting on the stairs perhaps or standing in the living room staring out the window. Perhaps he would be sitting in Dave’s kitchen sharing leftovers out of the fridge with his shadow-snakes.  Dave kept turning on lights.

It had to be that fucking hole.  They had to find some way to cover that damned thing back up; apparently the plywood and cinderblock method didn’t work for keeping the ghosts where they belonged.

The phone suddenly rang, splitting the silence and making Dave jump.  He knew who it was before he even picked it up.  Henry had seen all the lights on and was checking to see if he was alright.

“Hello,” Dave said, surprised at the shrillness of his own voice.

“She said it was all my fault,” Henry whined, his voice weak and sad.

“Henry?  Are you okay?”

“She said I left her there.  Said she called for me and I didn’t come.  She needed me Dave.  She needed me and I wasn’t there.”

“Henry, listen to me,” Dave said.  “Everything is gonna be alright.  Turn on your lights and she’ll go away.”

“She’s already gone.  She whispered in my ear all night, but she’s gone now.  She said I needed to find her mother.  She said she couldn’t find her in all that darkness and I had to do it.”

Then he was gone.  Dave went to the window and looked out toward Henry’s place.  All the lights were off and the dark shape of the house stood like a hulking beast against the lightening sky.  Henry’s front screen door creaked and then slammed and Dave saw the old man walk across the yard.  He thought Henry might be coming over, but he was headed in the wrong direction.  He was headed toward the—

“Henry!  Henry, no!”  Dave ran out his front door, cursing his bad leg, limping while trying to intercept his friend.  “Henry!”

Dave raced through the field but knew he would be too late.  Henry wasn’t responding to Dave’s shouts, wouldn’t even turn and look at him.  The old man walked like a zombie across the high field toward the bottomless pit.

Henry had just reached the edge of the hole.  The boards and cinder blocks had already been moved aside, perhaps by Tamblin or Henry’s daughter.

Henry gave Dave one last pitiful look, then without hesitating at all, he stepped into oblivion.  Dave heard one of the old man’s bones crack as he hit the rocky side on the way down but Henry never even cried out.

Dave dove, reaching for his friend, but Henry was already out of sight.

“Henry!” Dave’s voice trailed after him into the suffocating darkness.

No answer came from the pit. After several minutes Dave finally lifted his head.  The sun had begun to rise in the western sky, painting the world red.  Silhouetted against the dawn were several shadowy forms.  They wandered the hillside several yards away.  Dave couldn’t make out any of their faces, but none of them appeared to be Tamblin.  There was no sign of Henry’s legless daughter either.

Heavy sighs and deep breathing came from the hole behind him as if the black pit had suddenly come alive.  Dave turned and saw several dark shadows slither out of the ground.  When they reached the edge of the hole, they took on human form, each one different; men, women, and children.  They settled on the grass and began to walk, heads rotating, as if they were looking for something or someone.

Dave recognized one of the men; it was Jason Simms, a police officer who had died of a heart attack while chasing a perp last year.  Jason walked away from the hole as if he were in a daze. He was still dressed in his uniform, sweat stains stood out around his armpits, darker than the rest of the material.  Thick veins bulged from his neck and his eyes looked too big for their sockets.

“Jason!” Dave called out not expecting his old friend to hear him let alone respond, but Jason did turn.

“Dave?  Dave Cooper?  Is that you?” the spirit asked, a confused look on his red face.

“Yeah, Jason.  It’s me.”

“Why am I here?  Where is here?  Is this heaven?  It was so dark.  So dark and so cold.  We saw a light so we swam for it, swam through the darkness.  I didn’t know what else to do.  There was nothing else to do.  I know I’m dead.  I’ve got to find Ruth.  She’ll know what to do.”

Dave let his old friend walk away.  He knew Ruth was the man’s wife and perhaps it was best to just let him go.

More spirits flooded out of the hole and then walked away toward town.  There were dozens, perhaps hundreds all of them, all with glazed over eyes and slack mouths.  Some had tears streaming down their cheeks, and others had looks of rage or pain etched upon their milky faces.

Dave walked back to his house, brushing past or rather through several of the beings, it was impossible not to.  They were everywhere. Their skin felt like icy pockets of chilled air against him, and he was shivering violently by the time he reached the front steps.  He was so tired.  Each step was a monumental struggle and he barely made it into the kitchen.  His body felt as if it were filled with liquid lead. He finally managed to sit down on the creaking rattan chair and lay his head on the table.

Dave stared, bleary eyed, out the window against the glare of the rising sun.  He knew she was coming, knew it was only a matter of time until the temperature in the house dropped despite the broken air conditioner and he smelled her perfume. His wife would return to him and he would ask her to take him back with her down into the bottomless inky depths of Knob’s Hole.

My vampires are NOT Twilight vampires!

So my Hell’s Guardian Chronicles books 1-2 re-released yesterday and I am excited! First, I want to say that even though I write YA Urban Fantasy novels my work is unique and, unlike any other YA vampire author. I am NOT a fan of Twilight. Those books I just couldn’t get into. Richelle Mead is the author who inspired my Series because she simply is amazing at what she does! I put a twist on my Vampire Series making the female heroine and her friends Super Heroine Vampires! It’s unique because the concept hasn’t been done before. I know some of you are probably thinking “Super Heroine Vampires? That’s just stupid!” Wrong! Strong young women are what make young girls believe in themselves, and that’s what I wanted to do. Thank God they don’t sparkle! I asked myself… what kind of book would I want to read that is unique and kick-ass? Hell’s Guardian Chronicles of course! Vampires are meant to kill and be vicious which is what I bring in this Series. So if you are into or know of any vampire fans, this Series is the one for you!

Crimson Savior

Force of Vengeance


Right time, right place

I suppose I should introduce myself. I don’t necessarily mean my name, family status, hobbies, etc. That may come up here later. Or, possibly in a future post. Or maybe not. I’m winging it here, which is not always a good thing – like when writing an official bio, which this is not.  But then again, it can sometimes work out for the best. Similar to when one of my new author friends realized one of his characters had a mind of his own and became more than an ancillary player in the story. Or when one of my editing clients discovered his character wanted to go in a different direction within the story. It’s an author thing. Characters tend to have a mind of their own. They speak to their creators. I was about to type characters speak to them, but I remembered I have become one of them.

Let me go back. Not a lot, just a little bit. I’ll try not to be boring, and I will try not to go on a tangent as my husband says I am so fond of doing. No promises, only that I’ll try. I hope you will stick around to the end.

I have always wanted to be a writer. But, at times, I thought maybe that wasn’t meant for me. I have to remember to update my Twitter on a regular basis. And, I have a blog, but I never did a software update until recently, so now I am starting from scratch. I even have a hard time keeping a journal. There are always so many thoughts fighting from attention and inspiration always happens at the most awkward time. Then when I am able to give the idea my full attention, it’s gone. Poof. I finally figured out the problem. I hate sounding stupid. That’s the simplest explanation. I could go on about anxiety issues and self-esteem, but that’s for another day., iIf I can remember.

Then came something Stephen King was quoted as saying. He said, and I paraphrase, writers write. And when they are not writing, they read just about anything and everything. I personally draw the line at romance novels, (yes, I read a few in my younger days). You know the ones, the formulaic Harlequin Romances (and others of its kind). I am not bored with my marriage or my life, so don’t need to fantasize about being swept off my feet. My husband does that for me. But I digress.

At one time I wrote a bit of what I guess is now called fan fiction. I was a kid, and it didn’t last long. It was a phase. But, it did strengthen my love of the written word. It was during my junior year of high school many years ago where I discovered an option, an outlet. Journalism. Long story short, I had my foray into journalism, and, for a time, it served me well. It is where I found my voice, what created a spark. I also discovered a love and a skill for editing.

So, back to Stephen King saying (at least, I am pretty sure he is the one who said it) writers write, and read. Well, I read. A lot. Sometimes the characters visit me in my dreams as if they want me to tell their story in a different way or continue past where the author left off. My husband teased me one time, after one such occurrence, I read too much. I can thank my mom for encouraging my love of books, which I have since passed to my son and hopefully he to my grandchildren. However, for me, this turns out to be a double pointed quill.

Most people, when they read, glance over errors in the writing. Their brains automatically correct the mistake for them without them even realizing it does. Fascinating thing, the brain. Unfortunately for me, for the most part, I don’t autocorrect. At least, not all the time. While it truly is not always unfortunate, it can be when all I want to do is read how someone turned some old flower pots and some wood furniture into really cute backyard decorations, as an example, and I see a mistake. I am not talking about a misplaced comma. I am talking about something the author should not have let go through. It’s worse when I am reading a newspaper, or what is supposed to be an edited and proofread book, and there are mistakes. And, not simply one dropped comma or something equally minor. It makes my fingers ache for a pen.

Here’s where it becomes a bonus. After years of … searching for what I am supposed “to be when I grow up” it landed in my lap. I literally did not look for this opportunity. It started with my friend, author Sylvia Shults. After writing a few short fiction books, she embarked on writing about true ghost stories. She wrote Ghosts of the Illinois River and Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital. I read both. Did I forget to mention I love spooky, creepy stories? Anyway, when she began working on her third non-fiction book, Hunting Demons: A True Story of the Dark Side of the Supernatural, I offered to edit it for her as a favor. Not really sure what possessed me to speak up, but I did. The timing was right, and it paid off. Skipping forward, enter author David Younguist.

Last year, David called me out of the blue. I vaguely remember meeting him briefly one time through Sylvia. He was looking for a freelance editor. She gave him my name and number. After I had talked to him on the phone for a bit, I decided to “give a go.” We worked well together, and he was happy with my work. Enough so, he started passing my name on to other indie authors. Pardee Time Editing was born.

Enter Jackie Chin, host of Zombiepalooza Radio and marketing guru for Stitched Smile Publications. Author and artist Lisa Vasquez, CEO of SSP, was looking for editors for her new independent publishing house. David put me in touch with Jackie, who put me in touch with Lisa. I signed on as an editor. I began working with Michael Freeman right out of the gate, who during the process decided to make me his co-author for Strychnine, a werewolf story, and Strigoi: The First Family, a new take on the Dracul mythos – which I am grateful for the chance. See what I mean when I said this all just fell into my lap as if this is my time? This is what I have been working toward. I didn’t know until know this was it; I only had to get out of my own way and let it happen.

I am still wrapping my head around becoming an author, more so because of the unexpected way it happened. There are some negative Nellies out there who will argue I didn’t really make it because SSP is not a fancy big name publishing house. To that I say pfffftttt. Stitched Smile Publications is where I want to be, where I feel I am supposed to be at this point in my life. The people who are a part of this company care about each other. We are a family who wants everyone to succeed, to feel appreciated, and to feel valued. And for that, I am grateful.

So, if you made it to the end, I say to you, stay tuned and enjoy the ride. And, hey; thanks for reading. See you on the next page.

Donelle Pardee Whiting

Why I Write, or Obligatory Author’s Post No. 1

 So, there it was.  I said it.  I laid out the foundation of every insecurity I have about myself, and now a room full of people sit, silently rolling it around in their heads.

Just another monthly meeting of the local writing group.

Of course, they weren’t actually thinking about my flaws.  Maybe a couple who are closer to me than most saw my personal investment, but for most it was an analytical exercise.  They were evaluating a character I created for an upcoming series. That’s what we do as writers. “Write what you know!” is a mantra oft repeated.

As a writer, you accept your pain, put it on a character, and send it out into the world for passers-by to gawk at.  They poke it and prod it, roll it around in the dirt a bit, then, if you are lucky they review it. They grade your pain. 5/5 would anguish with again. That is writing.

Now for the question every writer has to answer at some point, if only for themselves. Why do you do it?  Why write?


When a certain wizard insisted on using the name of he-who-must-not-be-named, that was a statement.  When you refuse to confront something, it feeds on that fear.  It gains power over you.  So, to take back your power, you name it.  You face those feelings.  You say what you need to say.

You tell your dad you miss him.

You mourn the child that didn’t make it.

You find a way to do the things you wish you weren’t so afraid to do.

You tell her you love her, even though you can’t be together.

Writing gives you a space to work through all the baggage you carry around day in and day out.  That makes sense.  In fact, many hobbyists write for that very reason.  It is a safe little environment you create… until you send it into the world. Then it feels very not safe. Why share such personal baggage, then?

Because you are not alone.  Someone out there feels the same, but can’t get the words out.  More likely, a great many feel exactly that way.  As they read your story, they say “Goodbye.”, “I miss you.”, and “I love you.” You do it because you know what it is like to feel alone, and you want to let them know they’re not.

What’s the character’s motivation?  Why does he feel this way?  I talk about his fears.  His loss and hunger. Then, I see one person’s eyes unfocused, far away in thought. They get it.  They’ve been there.  For one moment, both of us are a little less alone.

That is why I write. If I can exorcise my demons while helping someone else get free of theirs for a bit, then throwing my anxieties, aches, and pains out there is worth it. Maybe it’s maudlin, but one personal connection can make all the difference.  I know.  I’ve been there. – R.



So You Have Been Stitched Now What?

Have you ensured your Amazon book page has a great book description, amazing cover and your book is competitively priced and has plenty of reviews?

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Have you looked up similar books to yours on Amazon and noted their Amazon categories and possible keywords? If yes, please input categories & keywords.

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Have you placed a back page in all book versions with a request for reviews and a link to the book on Amazon and a mention of other books you have available and a link?

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Have you identified prizes to offer readers who sign up for your email list?

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Have you imagined a series of blog posts you could write related to the book and started writing them? If yes, please write the subjects you will be covering.

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Have you identified people who can share or post your blog posts and asked them will they do so?

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Have you identified book advertising sites such as  & to advertise your book?

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Have you identified controversial, emotional or helpful themes from your book for use in posts, graphics or Tweets

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Have you created animated GIFs for Twitter  and a book trailer (Michael Freeman and Lisa Vasquez can also be a huge help in this department.

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Have you sent out review copies far and wide?

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Have you reviewed a book at the Stitched Smile Publications Facebook Review group and submitted your book for reviewing?

See: (Work In Progress)

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Have you checked your website and blog and Facebook page and Twitter profile and any other sites you are on to ensure they are up to date?

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Have you added any new social site you might need?

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Have you created a list building page with an incentive to build your email list?

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Have you created a Nouncy or Thunderclap campaign to get group promotions and have you promoted it?

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Have you sought endorsements from anyone prominent?

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Have you prepared a press release and sent it out to media contacts and newswire services?

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Have you had a live book party and enjoyed your moment?

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Have you put the first few pages of your book on your site and created a Soundcloud audio recording?

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Have you created #tags and used them?

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Have you a SmartUrl for tracking hits to your Amazon book page?

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Have you posted about your book to Goodreads  & LinkedIn or Pinterest or Instagram , as appropriate?

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Have you written anything provocative about your book?

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Have you set up Google Alerts  about your book’s themes and are you adding comments to posts about them?

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Have you personally thanked ALL your supporters?