Developing your Image

jackie stitched

As an author, your online presence brings your readers into your world. The images and verbiage you choose will either create a deeper interest or a divide that will be difficult to mend. This article is for those who have had some works printed and have already started to bring a voice to social media outlets. It will help you to focus on ways to create a stronger bond with your audience.

Great you have created a few books and some online interest in what it is your producing, but what do you do in the meantime to keep them glued into your creative life?  You make sure that they feel like they matter to you. How do you do that? By giving them clues into your author lifestyle.

How do you create? Where do you create? Why do you create? Why should they care?

You’re a writer do what writers do best WRITE! Create a blog about writing… not necessarily. There are many blogs on how to write content, or how to create a full manuscript, and honestly, we don’t really need another one.  What I mean by write is to invite the curious into your life.  Write about what you like, what you feel compelled to care about, what your motivations are, how you like to relax, who you are interested in, & even daily little life events. How can you decide what to write about and when?

Many times writers are persuaded by their passions. They feel strongly about a particular method, a genre, ideology, strength, weakness, a dream, a deep desire to write that will not quit till they complete the task. These are the things you write about on your blog. Things that matter to you. They don’t always have to be about the genre you write, but they do have to have substance to keep your audience engaged.

What is it that you want your audience to know about you? How can you bring your life into your writing career without compromising your personal life?  Once you start building your blog around the suggested ideas, your audience will begin to interact with you, and they will lead you towards what they would like to know about you. You simply need to open the dialogue get people talking about you. It is though important to keep your private life private. Create a blog that is author content only. This way you can still maintain contact with your family and or close friends with whom you have a more intimate relationship with.  Do NOT cross the two ever. Once you start to mix the two groups, you will loose your private identity.

Now here is substance for you:

How often do you come into the mind-space of your audience and/or potential reader?

When you have captured their view what feelings do you invoke in them?

Does that feeling make them want to know more?

The above questions surround one main idea, and that is RELATIONSHIP.

How relatable are you? Do you evoke someone who wants to include others? Or do you push them to the side as you create? If you want them to be 100% invested in you and buy what you create then you need to be invested in them too.

Some of the potential readers you will come across are writers too. You will have a light bond to them already simply because you are both creatives. They will relate to you through writing style, through genre choice, through common postings, through groups, and sometimes simply because of gender.

Does it matter initially how the common bonding happens? No, but will it keep them interested solely on this first reasoning? Probably not. Think about this new found person as you would a potential friend.  Communicate with them ask them what brought them to your page. Recognize them for the fact that they decided to engage in your content.

You will want to write on a regular basis perhaps in the beginning devote 10-15 mins a day with something new. If you find that you have walked into an idea that is just something that fascinates you, then write longer, but make sure that you write with the idea of engaging your potential reader.

Did you recently finish a book written by a favorite author? Hear something on radio that struck a cord? Hear a conversation at the coffee house that made you do a double-take? See something on the drive into work, or on an errand? Had something locally happen in your neighboorhood that you think would make a good story line?  If the idea is touching or poignant in any manner, then write. These are all ideas to help you create your online presence and engage your potential readers.

Also, there are not really simply ways of posting videos online just short few mins to talk about something you find interesting, or just to simply say hello. As you get comfortable with creating the videos, you will also start to find your niche and find lots of ways to engage your audience.  For example, Facebook has Facebook live I will post a link for you to learn now to use this very simple Facebook live  f0rmat.


You want your username to be your name for your author works. If you want something more cutesy or daring you can make another account for that. Remember you are representing YOU. Make sure you keep it that way when your talking about your writer works.  Make sure also for all your author related venues you keep things with your name. (i.e. @DonStover,,, etc.) If your exact name is not available, try something like @DonStoverauth.

Your profile picture is a huge big deal make sure it is YOU. Not something sorta like you, not a filtered funny photo, but YOU. If you do not take yourself serious as a professional author then why should anyone else? This photo should be used across the board so that people who see you in one venue will start to recognize you in others. Make sure this photo also reflects who you are as a creative. It does not have to be a professional picture, but it does have to have a quality look to it. It may not be a selfie. Get someone I don’t care if it is a total stranger to take your photo as long as it conveys a great image on film.

Tell me what you Think, Feel, and Hear! Entertain Me.

~Jackie Chin














5 steps for writing preparation Mark Deloy #2 Perseverance

Welcome to the second installment of 5 steps for writing preparation.  Step one was desire, where I laid out my thoughts on having the desire to write, write often, and hopefully, write well.  The second part in our journey has to do with sticking to it: perseverance. 

Let’s face facts.  If you are anything like me, it takes a fair amount of self-discipline to sit down and start a project, especially if it’s a large project like a novella or a novel.  It’s even harder to keep writing, to keep that momentum, because momentum is key.  You’ll start seeing that word count go up, and you’ll start thinking, I really can do this.

Novels can be especially difficult because not only do you have to remember what you wrote way back in chapter one, but you have to remember how each character acted, their traits, their dialect, events that happened to them and stops they made along the way in your story.  That gets even more difficult if you don’t edit as you go, as I do.  Short stories pose their own problems.  Most of us don’t hammer out a short story, even a three thousand word one, in one sitting.  Shorts are a bit different for me, in that when I sit back down, I need to re-read what I’ve already written.  There’s something special about short stories and their flow that needs to stay perfectly consistent throughout the tale.  You may not write the short story in one sitting, but most readers will read in one.  In a novel, you can correct style variations when you go to edit it.  You may have been having a dark day and wrote in a slightly different ominous style, or you might be listening to an especially good audio book and inadvertently take on the narrators tone.  I know when I was listening to Lisey’s Story by Stephen King, read by the amazingly talented Mare Winningham, I wanted all my villains to sound just like Scott’s, sometimes insane, father.  Be careful, this is easier than it sounds.  I had to give my villains their own voice.  One I created.

The second part of sticking with a project, and the most difficult for most writers, is the edit.  By the time I’m finished with the editing process, I honestly never want to read that novel again.  I’m a bit more forgiving with short stories, but novels, nope, the reader can have it.  I’m sure editing is different for everyone.  Here is the way I do it.  I print everything out, find a comfortable place, and a red pen, and start marking.  As I finish a page, I flip it over, so I have two stacks.  Edited, unedited.  I edit until I get tired of editing for that day.  Then the next day I repeat until I get through the novel or short story.  Then I take everything back to the laptop and start making the changes.  Sometimes it’s just an added punctuation mark, sometimes it’s an added or deleted scene.  I also recommend reading the story out loud when you edit, at least the first two times through.  At least the first two times through?  You mean I have to do this again?  Yes, when I finish making the initial changes, I print off the story a second time, go back to my quiet place with my trusty red pen, and go through it again.  Hopefully, this time, there will be less red ink.  Then repeat one more time, just to make sure you have everything as perfect as you can get it.

At this point in the project, I’m ready for someone else to read it.  I usually give it to five people I trust with my life.  Not only my life but my work.  People who will tell you something doesn’t sound right, people who will be honest, and hopefully kind, and who will take their time and do it right.  Let them mark up those copies and get them back to you.  Some of the suggestions you’ll agree with, some you won’t, but the great part is you’ve just shared your work with your first readers.  Get their thoughts on the story, the characters.  As much as it’ll hurt, tell them, to be honest.  You know you’re good at this.  It’s time for other people to hopefully tell you you’re good.  Now this last step, some writers swear by and some skip.  If you want to pay a professional editor, it’s time to send them your manuscript.  When you’ve made any changes based off their input, you should be ready to start sending queries to agents or publishers.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, writing requires quite a lot of perseverance.  The most important thing you’ll get out of that perseverance is a finished product you can be proud of.

Next up – Mindset


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?

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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?

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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.

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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.

Your answer:

Have you sent out review copies far and wide?

Your answer:

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

See: (Work In Progress)

Your answer:

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?

Your answer

Have you added any new social site you might need?

Your answer

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

Your answer

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

Your answer:

Have you sought endorsements from anyone prominent?

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

Have you created #tags and used them?

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

Have you written anything provocative about your book?

Your answer:

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

Your answer:

Have you personally thanked ALL your supporters?

How to Build an Email List for Authors

What is list building?

You offer something of value for free in exchange for an email address. You can set up auto-responders which are automatic emails that go out directing the person to more useful information.

This is permission marketing. You have given something to the person and in exchange asked permission to send them more useful information.

List building is NOT list-buying. It’s the growth of your own list over time in exchange for something of value.

What is the point of having a list?

If you have people’s email addresses, and you are a trusted provider of useful information,  people will open and read your emails. This means you can use the email list to market your books (if the list has been set up for that purpose).

Imagine how powerful it is to have a list of 10,000 people and to send an email saying “My book is available now. Click here to buy”. This is the basis of all the Amazon bestseller campaigns which generally use other people’s lists. If you build one yourself, you have a much more targeted list, and you are a trusted provider to those people. Remember, if people know, like, and trust you,  they are more likely to buy your book.

How do you build a quality list? 

You need to have something to give away for free that is:

  • Valuable and useful to people
  • Related to your product/book

Once you have that, you set up an email signup box like the one designed by Mail Chimp People enter their email and then get the free product.

It is very important to use a reputable service that:

  • manages this all for you automatically and is scalable (yes, you could have 50,000+ subscribers within a few years!)
  • lets people to unsubscribe easily (mandated by anti-spam laws)
  • enables you to send out broadcasts when you like as well as setting up auto-responders
  • enables you to manage and download your list
  • allows you to set up multiple lists from one account

What free giveaway can you do?

As authors, we are uniquely placed to offer some great free giveaways as we produce quality information relatively easily. It is also very important that you giveaway something that is related to what you are selling. There’s no point in giving away an e-book on finance if you want to sell romantic fiction on your blog.

Here are some ideas for your free giveaway:

  • First 3 chapters of your book, or a short story, or the first novella in a series of 3
  • Top 10 tips for <insert your niche here> e.g. Top 10 tips for creating authentic characters / Top 10 tips for writing horror
  • Audio of you reading your work or talking about the subject you are writing about

The most important thing to remember:

You want to be a valuable resource to people, either for information or entertainment. You do not want to be seen as a spammer. So give away great information, offer quality on a regular basis for free, and people will be happy to buy from you when you have something they are interested in. Don’t send unrelated offers. Don’t abuse the list or they will unsubscribe. It’s all about respect.

If you are interested in housing your creative horror works with a publishing house that puts the author first contact us TODAY! Stitched Smile Publications


Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents: Bram Stoker Nominees 2015

Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents: A Night with a few of the 2015 Bram Stoker Award Nominees
2-26-16 Starting at 8 pm EST
Your not gonna want to miss this set your clocks, and mark your calender’s
1. 8:-9 pm EST
JG Faherty for “The Cure” (Samhain Publishing)
IN: Superior Achievement in a Novel
2.9-10 pm EST
Patrick Freivald for “Black Tide” (JournalStone Publishing)
IN: Superior Achievement in a Novel
3.10-11 pm EST
Mercedes Murdock Yardley for “Little Dead Red ” (Grimm Mistresses) (Ragnarok Publications)
IN: Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
4. 11-12 pm EST
Nicole Cushing for “Mr. Suicide” (Word Horde)
IN: Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Nicole Cushing for “The Mirrors” (Cycatrix Press)
IN: Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
5. 12-1 am EST
John M. Mcllveen for “Hannahwhere” (Crossroad Press)
IN: Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Listen Live on YOUTUBE:
Live on Google+:
To be continued…
Type a message…

Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents Authors On FIRE

Some great press for Stitched Smile Publications and its Founder/CEO Lisa Vasquez

Zombiepalooza Radio Live Presents 2-12-16
The Business Of Being An Author

8:00-9:00 pm EST Author Ed Cardillo

9:00-10 pm EST Author & CEO Lisa Vasquez
CEO Page:

10:00-11 pm EST Author Nick Cole

11:00-12 am EST Author Deno Sandz

12-1 am EST Author Forbes West

Zombiepalooza Radio LIVE

The Roaming Darkness – Part 1 – A Serial by Mark E. Deloy

The Roaming Darkness

Part 1

Mark E. Deloy



Little Donnie awoke to the sound of flesh and bone striking porcelain.  He blinked sleep out of his eyes and scrambled out of bed.  The hallway was lit with early morning light.  He scuffed his feet along the green threadbare carpet, reached the bathroom and opened the door.  Laying half in and half out of the clawfoot tub was his mother’s naked body.

She must’ve fallen as she was getting out of the shower, and cracked her head on the sink.  Her wet body was sprawled out, a glistening pool of blood surrounding her dented head.  She stared up at the ceiling with glazed, red-rimmed eyes.

Donnie started to cry and ran to get his older brother.  Frankie would know what to do; Frankie always knew what to do.  He was older, almost seven, and Momma always said he was smart as a whip.   Their mother had told Donnie to mind his brother if she wasn’t around, so Donnie did as he was told and listened intently as Frankie explained his plan.





Ruth  Harnett managed to keep the old farmhouse after her husband died.  She did this with some help from her parents, who never wanted her to marry Joe Harnett in the first place.  They grew corn, twenty acres of it directly in front of the house, blocking the slanting structure from the seldom-traveled dirt road.  But it hadn’t rained in over a month and the stalks were now coated with dust and hadn’t grown any taller since the first week of June.  The soil was sandy and every time the wind blew, great dirty clouds billowed over the house and coated everything like a thin blanket.  Crows sat on the barn roof, waiting for either the corn to finally grow or the body inside the house to be brought out.  Flesh or fruit, either one was fine with them.

Ruth had been plagued with insomnia for three weeks prior to her accident.  She wandered the house like a wraith, night after night while the boys slept in their humid, cramped rooms.  Donnie awoke one night to see his mother looking in at him, swaying back and forth like a drunkard, her haunted eyes staring at him from the dark doorway.  When he whispered a nearly silent greeting, she moved from the doorway and continued her nightly wanderings.

During the day, she’d been like a zombie, barely awake but never completely asleep.  She would sit at the breakfast table, her head on her hand, and watch the boys get ready for school.  Sometimes, she would tell them about the creature she saw when the rest of the world was asleep.  She said it roamed the tangled woods behind the house and she called it The Roaming Darkness.

That was where Frankie got the idea that their mother wasn’t really dead.  He told Donnie she wasn’t gone, but just in some unconscious limbo while she waited for the dark creature to come and claim her.  Frankie believed their mother had seen her death coming, the way the Farmer’s Almanac predicts there’ll be a good crop or whether it’ll be a bad winter.  She tried to tell the boys about the huge, dark shape that roamed their property to prepare them for her passing.

Frankie said they would have to guard against the lumbering beast if they ever wanted their mother to come back to them.  Donnie loved his mother and his brother so he did what he was told.





The boards on the barn were sun-faded to a dull pink.  A wilding star was cut into its face, sending a sharp beam of light onto the back wall.  Donnie stared at the star, praying on it as if it were God himself.  It was a habit he had gotten into after Daddy died.  He didn’t know why he did it, just that it made sense to him.  He prayed their plan would work, and if it didn’t that when the great beast came for Momma, it would take him as well.

“We’ll have to set traps,” Frankie said, gathering the coil of rope from a rusty nail on the barn’s wall.  “We’ll trap it and then we’ll kill it.”

Donnie sat on a hay bale and watched his older brother gather the conglomeration of items they would need.  Frankie always seemed to know what he was doing.  He never appeared afraid or confused.  He was the voice of hope.

“Will we have to go out at night?” Donnie asked.

Frankie looked at him, and then shook his head slowly.  “No,” he said.  “The night is its hunting time.  We’ll wait until daybreak.  Then we’ll go back out and stab it with the pitchforks.”

“What is it, do you think?”

“It’s death.  If we kill it—“

“Then Momma will come back,” Donnie said, finishing his brother’s sentence.

“Yup, she’ll come back, good as new.”

Donnie wanted to believe his brother, he wanted to think their mother would pull herself out of the fly infested puddle of stinking muck where she rested, take a quick shower and be just as she was.  They had shut the bathroom door and shoved towels under it, but her stink still permeated the entire house.

If anyone was to come to the door…  Donnie thought, No, he didn’t even want to think about that because it wasn’t going to happen.  No one except the mailman and the school bus driver ever came out this way.  The mailbox was at the end of the road and the school bus wouldn’t return until September.  Their nearest neighbor was three miles away and Momma didn’t have many friends or family in the area that might come calling.

Donnie helped his brother gather up the supplies and they trudged through the sun-scorched alfalfa.  Daddy had grown, and then sold the crop, but Momma said she didn’t have the time to tend the rock infested patch of ground which she had nicknamed “the quarry.”  Donnie believed she just didn’t want to get that close to the forest.  Donnie couldn’t blame her. The trees hulked at the edge of the field like a border between two worlds.

One night when Momma’s insomnia had first started, Donnie had come down stairs and found his mother kneeling on the sofa, looking out the back window.  She had Daddy’s old field glasses pressed to her eyes.  Her bare legs were curled beneath her on the faded, threadbare cushion.  Donnie touched her arm and she jumped, covering her heart with her hand.  Her face was different somehow, harder.  To Donnie she didn’t look like Momma at all, but like some dangerous, caged animal ready to attack.

“Jesus, Donnie,” she said.  “You nearly scared me to death.”

“Sorry, Momma.  Whatcha lookin’ at?”

“It’s on the move,” she said.  “Slidin’ between the trees like a big, black snake.  One day it’ll come for me.  Right now, it’s just bidin’ its time, but one day it’ll get the guts to slide out from those trees and come find your old Momma.  It hunts at night, you know.  That’s why I can’t sleep no more.”  Then her face relaxed and she smiled and she was Momma again.  “But you can.  Now off to bed with you.  You’ve got school in the morning.”

Donnie did as his mother told him, but he couldn’t sleep that night, not a wink.  He looked out his bedroom window, and couldn’t see anything in the tree infested blackness beyond their back yard.  But he didn’t have Daddy’s field glasses either.


Part 2 – Coming soon


Putting Your Best Face Forward

12669191_10208529163207659_937273983_oWhy is it important to put your best face forward as an author?

The image you choose will follow you for a long while. Making sure it is done properly to signify you as an author/genre specific will help you relate to your potential audience.

Things to be aware of that distract from a great author shot:

  • Desks cluttered with knick-knacks, stacks of paper, file folders
  • Busy, boldly-patterned clothing
  • Wrinkled sheets hung up as a backdrop
  • Bad lighting, harsh flash
  • Standing head-on, shoulders back, against a plain white wall, unless you’re going for a mug shot look
  • Improper background settings.

What should you do to prepare for a great quality author shoot?

Wear something you love. This is really important for anyone having a portrait done. You may think it is less-so for authors, as generally, pictures of authors in books tend to be headshots, and so who cares what you wear, right? Wrong. Having your photo taken is a somewhat unnatural and potentially daunting situation, often involving posing. Most people (including me!) don’t like getting it done. Anything you can do to make yourself feel more relaxed and at home (especially if you’re out on location with others around) is great. If you feel relaxed and good in what you’re wearing, it will show on your face. I also always recommend people bring a couple of clothing options, so we can have a play and see what works best – and if you’re working with me, stay away from busy patterns in clothing, they just distract from your face.

  1. Take multiple outfits with you so you have options.
  2. Plan for multiple locations, or backgrounds.
  3. Pay for the session rather than per photograph. It’s more up front, but better in the long term.
  4. Make sure that you negotiate the right to reproduce the photos so you don’t need to keep coming back to get permission every time you have a new book. Studios that cater to actors are used to this.
  5. Wear make-up. Yes, you too, gentlemen. It doesn’t have to be visible makeup, but it will help your features pop. In person, the animation of your face is enough, but a photograph is a static image.

Work somewhere with the photographer that has some special significance for what you like to write about – for example, if your books feature famous landmarks, discuss incorporating recognizable features into the background of your headshot. You do not want an overly busy background, but it is still nice to get a suggestion of place in any shot – it makes it instantly more interesting. In addition to the interest in your shot, it will get you in the mood for being photographed as an author, and remind you of why you are doing the shoot! I suggest chatting with the photographer about possible locations, and seeing what suggestions they have in response to information you give them about your work.

Once you have the photos

  1. Narrow it down to no more than a dozen that you like.
  2. Get second opinions before you make your choice.
  3. Ask your editor, agent, and the marketing department at your publisher for their opinion. This is a selling tool, remember.
  4.  Look at your photos and ask yourself, “Would I want to read a book written by this person?”

So you see there are multiple steps when working to place your best face forward in the author world.  The staff at Stitched Smile Publications will not only create the best looking book for you, but will also walk you through what it takes to put your best face forward.





The Art of the Pull (Client Building)

The Art of the Pull

Social media, when it first came to be, was the place to push a creatives work. Get it to the masses quickly, and efficiently. However, as with all things, the approach to new clients changes with the times. Sites like Facebook are taking the ability to get information regarding our works away to the point where they are forcing creatives to pay in order to get their message out. If you have tried this technique you know it is a waste of time and money.

So what is a creative to do?

It’s all in the approach.  From the very first minute you or your works are seen by a potential fan or buyer there must be an air of approach-ability.

Does your cover art have curb appeal?

Do you have an inviting creative photo of yourself?

Do you conduct interviews or are you being interviewed?

Do you have experience being on a panel of experts in your creative field?

Are you engaging your fan on social media/website within your creative field?

Are you in multiple venues to get the best coverage and reach for your creative work?

When you are engaging with your social media base its important to not just say, “Buy my book!”  One of the quickest ways to be ignored and/or deleted is to sound desperate.  One of the ways you can become more engaged in your potential base is to find sites that are interesting to you, move the work around that you have just created, and allow for conversations.

Yes, that very thing that many have forgotten how to do. Some things to think on:

Is your work thematic?

Does it have a strong genre base, and sites where potential buyers are already engaging?

Talk about things that are important to you as the creative.

Have you found something that makes creating easier for you?

Are there techniques which you have come across? Did you find it to be useful to others?

Being supportive of others creative works also shows that you are confident in your own work.

Do you know people who have their own radio show, blog site, book club, coffee house or business that may be Indie friendly?

Do you have business cards, or a virtual card where those with smart phones can simply click on it and find your internet presence?

When you are out and about do you seek out opportunities to chat with those who show an interest in things you like, too?

All of the above are potential openings to talk about what you love to do without sounding pushy. When you start to build a comfortable presence either on-line or in public settings you then open more doors to show them how you create. This is the Art of the Pull instead of the push.

You’re an entrepreneur. You have a brand to build, and works to sell.  No matter if you go at it alone in the publishing industry, or if you choose a publishing house, you still need to make sure you have the very best online presence. This is your chance to share how much you love to create and why you believe what you have produced is worth attention.

Stitched Smile Publications knows its difficult to get the message out, alone.  We are part of a new movement to aid each one of our authors to become the very best creative possible.  We will assess where you are currently, provide a great media plan, and amp up your accessibility to potential fans and buyers.





Heartland – Flash Fiction – Mark E. Deloy

The boy trudged across the blood-splattered, waist high wheat field, moving toward the decrepit farmhouse in the east corner of the property. He wore grungy overalls with no shirt underneath. His boots had bone chips embedded in the soles. The wind blew his maple colored hair across his delicate face. He had been lovely once, fragile and androgynous in his adolescence. Now he felt old beyond his years, spoiled by things that he had seen, things that he had done.

The night was descending on this lost plot of Kansas land like a blanket of velvety darkness. The boy knew how dangerous it was to be out after dark, especially so close to this house, but he had already seen lovely fear today, faced her, and then killed her. He had once called her little Sissy. He used to let her hold his hand when they crossed the street. Now she was a pile of bloody ruined skin, her heart punctured like a ripe tomato, her head torn off and buried in the churchyard to save her fragile soul. They had sent her, the ones who slept by day and hunted at night. They had stolen her, fed on her and then turned her into a demon, like them.

Bats circled the house’s apex, looking for a way in, bouncing off sun bleached shingles and chimney bricks.. Termite eaten wooden siding, once white but now the color of dust, covered the structure like rotten armor, shielding the slumbering undead within from the sun.

There was a graveyard in the back yard. It had no stones, no crosses, just mounds of worm-ridden soil in which the unnamed dead bathed. All who were buried there were victims, played with, tortured then discarded, covered with earth and rock to filter their stink and hide their rot from anyone who came around looking for them.

A shortwave radio antenna had been lashed to the porch with barbed wire. It was rumored that the vampires talked with their brothers in Hungary, Russia and Italy. Late at night, lonely truckers driving past this stretch of hellish heartland would sometimes hear boisterous tales of slaughter and bloodletting, stories of hunger and need.

A warm, foul smelling breeze flowed past the boy as he emerged from the fields and stepped into the dusty dooryard. A dead dog, still chained to the porch was being picked clean by two blood matted vultures.

As the boy put his foot on the first splintery porch step, he knew this was his last chance to turn back. Instead, he gripped the rough wooden stake even tighter in his small smooth hands, took the last two steps in one stride, and pushed open the rusty screen door, letting in a puff of warm Kansas air. To the boy, it smelled like vengeance.