Wednesday, March 16, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: David Bernstein


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, David!  Welcome to The Gal.  You're one of the authors I "know" that I've always wanted to have on, so I'm glad to finally have you here.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

David Bernstein:
I like routine.  I don't get bored eating the same thing over and over.  I could eat pizza every day.  I like watching movies and television shows, everything from dramas (Breaking Bad), to horror (SupernaturalMasters of Horror), to cop shows and comedies.  Hell, I watched Gossip Girl!  But I also loved DexterBlue Bloods and The Shield.  Younger is a fun show.  Yeah, I said it.  I watch everything.  I used to study martial arts: Karate, Aikido, Kung Fu - White Crane, Choy Le Fut, Hung Gar, Wing Chung - and Tai Chi, the combat kind.  I love to draw, go camping and just sit around and be lazy on Sundays.  Road trips are great.  I  hate going to snooty parties and weddings, that shit isn't my cup of tea.  Give me a bar with a pool table.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

David Bernstein:
Off the top of my head:
  1. I studied martial arts for a good part of my life (though I mentioned it above).
  2. I can't read for long periods of time without getting headaches.  It's SO frustrating.  (Yes, my vision and head were both checked.)
  3. I love Pomeranians.
  4. I hate public speaking/readings.
  5. I do not use beta-readers.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

David Bernstein:
Little Pear.  I read books before that one, but I remember Little Pear because for weeks my dad and I would read it together.  It's a wonderful tale.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

David Bernstein:
The Black Goat Motorcycle Club by Jason Murphy.  I love books, TV shows, movies and documentaries about motorcycle gangs.  This is one of those books with the added element of supernatural creatures.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

David Bernstein:
I think writing has always been in me.  When I was in elementary school, I wrote my first short story. It was about a haunted house.  Some of the letters were backwards, that's how young I had been.  I still have it today.  I might've occasionally written something here or there, but I didn't truly get into writing until 2009.  I started writing short stories and subbing them.  From there I wrote a short story called Amongst the Dead about a father who dies and leaves his 13 year old daughter alone in the woods.  I wanted to know what happened to her so I wrote more.  Then more.  And before I knew it, I had a novel.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

David Bernstein:
I prefer writing while I'm on my couch, but I spend most of my time writing while I'm at work.  I have a lot of free time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

David Bernstein:
Not really.  I write long-hand.  In today's world, that might be considered a quirk!  I'm not a very organized writer.  I do not have tons of outlines, notes or Post-Its all over my desk.  I just write when I sit and only keep notes on a page or two.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

David Bernstein:
Writing when you don't want to is difficult, but also necessary if you want to succeed.  Sometimes I feel like I've spent a writing session producing utter crap, but I realize at least I progressed in the project.  I can always fix it up later.  And then there's writing the back cover copy or a brief synopsis. Those things are so annoying, but the more I do them, the easier they seem.  I mean, getting your entire book into a few sentences is really tough.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

David Bernstein:
Stephen King's It.  I  hated reading until a friend of mine handed me a copy of it.  I couldn't put it down and, when I finished it, I went out and bought more King books.  I was hooked from that point on.  I read tons of Leisure horror titles, too.  I'd say those books were the most influential, but I think "horror" itself is the most influential thing of all.  I've always loved horror everything: movies, books and Halloween.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

David Bernstein:
All the stuff a character has to endure.  I don't care so much about how they appear.  So many people do, it seems.  I love twists and turns too, when you think you know what's going on and then the story takes a sharp turn.  Being shocked, whether by unexpected events or actions.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

David Bernstein:
How they react to obstacles.  Seeing what a character does in daily life as well as when the s hit hits the fan shows me a lot.  With my own writing, I work and rely on the story first.  The characters reveal themselves along the way regardless of how they look or what they do for a living.  I let the story define them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

David Bernstein:
Riley from Amongst the Dead because she never quits and is a tough cookie.  She goes through so much turmoil and - well, I don't want to give anything away.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

David Bernstein:
Bad covers are a turnoff.  A cover is an advertisement to read your book, so it should look as magnificent as possible.  However, that won't necessarily stop me from reading a book IF it's an author I like or the book sounds awesome and was recommended to me.  But let's be honest, the first thing we see is the cover and that can influence a few seconds decision on whether to investigate the book further.
            To some degree, I've been involved with most of the book covers, but I like leaving it up to the publisher as to the final product.  I'm usually asked what I'd like to appear on the cover, what direction, stuff like that.  I always give my input, but I never throw a tantrum if it comes out differently than I imagined.  All in all, I consider myself lucky when it comes to covers.  I've been pretty happy with most of them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

David Bernstein:
I came into writing horror knowing NOTHING and NO ONE in the business.  I wrote short stories and submitted them, learning along the way.  I knew how to write and the rules of grammar and whatnot, but nothing of the industry.  I've learned so much I couldn't possibly write it all here.  But to name a few things:
  1. Patience is a must when it comes to writing, submitting, editing and promoting.
  2. Humility.  Learn that you won't please everyone and that that is okay.  You just want to please more than you don't.
  3. Be courteous to editors and let your work speak for itself.  Don't tell them how great your story is - that's just a NO NO.
  4. Try to publish in multiple places so if one goes under you aren't left with a mess, and you have houses to publish your manuscripts with.
  5. GO to conventions.  It's very important to get out there, meet others and network.  I'm not comfortable in crowds or with new people, but I did it and did it knowing no one in the business.  I went to StokerCon alone and met people, pitching my novel and was signed.
  6. Never give up!  Do you know how many times my stories or first novel was rejected?  A LOT.
  7. Learn to take criticism from editors and beta readers or other authors.  Ask questions.  Most authors are friendly and want to help.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

David Bernstein:
Scenes involving rape.  I hate reading scenes involving it, too.  But it's something that happens in real life. When I wrote The Unhinged, I wanted the book to pull no punches.  I let the pen and my mind go and the result was an extreme piece of horror fiction.  I love writing gore-filled scenes, but I don't like having rape scenes in my stories.  I could leave them out, but I feel like I'd be "fixing" the tale.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

David Bernstein:
A couple of things.  I don't like a lot of filler.  I like to get to the point.  I also enjoy writing a variety of horror, form action-horror to sci-fi horror to gory horror to calm horror.  You might read one of my books and pick up another and the experience will be quite different.  The Tree Man is a tale that involves little fore, but supplies scares and a twist that, as far as I've heard, no one saw coming.  Then there's Goblins, a creature tale filled with loads of carnage.  Surrogate is a sci-fi/LifetimeDrama/action-packed/horror novella.  Then there's The Unhinged, an extreme, totally bat-shit crazy novel that has no supernatural elements.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

David Bernstein:
After the cover, book title is the most important.  I like simple titles more, like Bentley Little's books. Amongst the Dead was easy because it was about a girl in a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic world.  Damaged Souls, well, it has to be read to understand the title without giving it away, but it's a dark, gruesome tale.  Witch Island is one of my favorites.  Simple and paints a picture.  It's a supernatural slasher book involving a witch's spirit and teens camping out.  B-movie fun!  How about Fecal Terror?  What a title!  The Suitcase was the original title for Relic of Death, but the latter sounded more appealing to the publisher and I completely understood.  Unless you're a "named/popular" author, a title may make the difference.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

David Bernstein:
A novel.  Writing a novel takes more time (usually) and it gives me more satisfaction because it's more than just a snippet of a character or an event.  You also know (hope) more people will read it because it's a novel.  You've spent so much time on it and when it's done, you feel so accomplished.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

David Bernstein:
I would like my work to appeal to a wide "dark fiction" audience.  I want people to come away after reading my work feeling satisfied.  I want my work to entertain and take people away from the rigors of their everyday lives.  I think, above all else, books should entertain.  Lastly, I've ben writing more violent stories with gore.  Witch IslandSkinner, and the upcoming The Sludge are B-movie type horror with monsters, teens and cook kill scenes.  Relic of Death is a non-gory tale, and is sort of a horror, Twilight Zone crime novella where the main protagonist is a briefcase as it goes from one person to the next.  Apartment 7C is a dark, gruesome thriller about an old lady who has to deal with her past and a neighbor who is abusing his wife.  Damaged Souls is about a demon who comes to earth and wants to open the gates of Hell by completing a painting, and a man sent back from purgatory must stop him - filled with scares and gore.  Fecal Terror, well, is one about a boy who wants to summon a demon.  He wrongly performs the ritual, drinks the sacrificial goblet of blood, and the demon forms in his bowels - hence Fecal Terror is born!  Goblins is a very gory tale about the lost Roanoke colony.  Really it is.  The Unhinged is about a recent parolee who is blackmailed by a maniac cop and things get crazy.  Machines of the Dead is a zombie trilogy about nanobots that animate the undead.  Tears of No Return is a mix of urban fantasy, horror, action and sci-fi - aliens and supernatural creatures.  Toxic Behemoth is really different as it's an action-packed Kaiju (giant sea monster) crime, horror, military adventure.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

David Bernstein:
I don't have too many.  Most of the stuff isn't edited out of my books.  I don't put in a lot of filler, but there is one huge one.  Originally, Surrogate had another character and story line.  There was a young man named Jeremy.  He was a truly sick and twisted serial killer.  The book was novel-length and I had to cut it down so that it could fit into Darkfuse's novella line.  I also felt it was too extreme for Darkfuse.  I might use that character in another book, but as of now, I have no plans.  There was also a gory sex scene that was taken out because the editor didn't think it fit.  And  then there is Fecal Terror.  That novella was never meant to be published.  I had written it during a time I wasn't getting published.  I was angry and decided to write something outrageous.  Some time later, the at-the-time owner of Bizarro Pulp Press (now owned by Journalstone) contacted me asking if I had anything bizarre-like or weird.  I told him about Fecal Terror and he wanted it.  And, to be honest, it's more grindhouse than bizarre.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

David Bernstein:
I just finished my part of Jackpot 2 - co-authored with Shane McKenzieAdam Cesare, and Kristopher Rufty.  I have a novel called Episodes of Violence coming from Sinister Grin Press, a novella called The Sludge from Great Old Ones Publishing, and a bizarre book entitled Retch from Bizarro Pulp Press.  I am planning sequels to The UnhingedWitch Island and Tears of No Return, just not sure when those will be finished.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

David Bernstein:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

David Bernstein:
I'd like to thank you for this interview and my readers for their constant support.  And whether someone has liked or disliked any of my books, any and all reviews are VERY MUCH appreciated.  They are author gold.  It's the best way you can support an author... after purchasing their books, of course!


About the author:
David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills.  He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh.  He's grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there.  He is the author of Amongst the Dead, Damaged Souls, The Tree Man, Witch Island, Relic of Death, Apartment 7C, and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.  He loves hearing from his readers.

REVIEW: Things We Fear


Things We Fear
By: Glenn Rolfe

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 3.8.2016
Pages: 98

Recommended by: Hook of a Book, Read 2 Review
Date read: 3.14.2016


This story revolves around three characters, all teachers, and the events that happen in the few days after summer break begins.  Lesson learned: There are monsters in this world.  And you never know when one of those monsters is someone you work with every day.

Glenn had me hooked from the very first page of the book.  Not only with his writing and characters, but the fact that he didn't wait to get things started, showing us from the very beginning the truth about the characters he was including in the story.  The great thing is that knowing actually added to the scare factor, added to the anticipation.

I really enjoyed getting to know Aaron Jackson and Emily Young.  They were very down-to-earth people and, as they got closer together, and we learned more about them, the character development really showed through.  Aaron's backstory was well-written and made him even more lovable.  The character Matt Holmes was well thought out and the fact that he was so real, like someone you could meet any day of the week, made him even scarier.  The older couple that rented Aaron the little house were, by far, my favorites.  They remind me of two people I've met recently, and I just wanted to hug them for being so awesome.  

As the story concluded, everything coming together, it was just one shock after another.  And it was perfect.  It's been awhile since such a short story really captured me like this one did.  


About the book:
Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.
            School's out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer.  Emily Young can't deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she's afraid of being hurt again.  Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine's best beach town.
            But they're about to learn real fear.  Fairing ton is home to a monster.  Pays Ed teaches Matt Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile.  He's a killer and he's got his sights set on Emily.
            Who at Fairington will conquer their fears?  And who will fall to a psychopath's hellbent rage?

Monsters can hide anywhere.  Under a bridge, below the earth... or behind a smile.

Abram's Bridge
When Lil Ron realizes the beautiful girl he met under Abram's Bridge is a ghost, he sets out to make things right for Sweet Kate. His quest leads him into a tangle of small-town secrets as he uncovers a story of heartbreak, violence... and fear.

Boom Town
Thirty years after a notorious UFO encounter, the town of Eckert, Wisconsin, is besieged by mysterious rumbles from deep in the earth.  As the earthly tremors grow stronger, two pre-teens discover a dislodged pipe spewing a strange, bubbling ooze.  Their curiosity unleashes an afternoon of unbridled terror for the entire town.

Things We Fear
Emily Young can't deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her Fairington Elementary classroom, but fears she'll be hurt again.  Aaron is determined to overcome his drowning phobia and enjoy the sun and the sand of Maine's best beach town.
            But real fear lurks closer than they think.  Fairington harbors a psychopath setting with hell-bent rage - and he's got his sights set on Emily.

About the author:
Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England.  He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.
            He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl.  He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
            He is the author of the novellas Abram's BridgeBoom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear, the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood & Rain.  His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, was released this month.  His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming in 2017.
            He is hard at work on many more.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

REVIEW: A Mixed Bag of Blood


A Mixed Bag of Blood
David Bernstein

Genre: Horror, Short Stories
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication date: 3.1.2016
Pages: 86

Recommended by: Hook of a Book, Read 2 Review
Date read: 3.8.2016


I love when an author does an anthology of their short stories.  It's a great way to get to know an author you've never read before, and a lot of fun to see what authors you already know put together.

This one was really quite good.  The stories in it are very creative, and you never know, when the story begins, just how it's going to end.  In fact, several of them end abruptly, allowing my brain to continue wandering about how the story could go on.

The Trojan Plushy: Revenge is a wonderful thing, and what a way to get it!  This definitely had some ups and downs, some twists and turns, and the end was not what I expected.  A great beginning to this collection.

The Booglin: You ever have one of those boogers that you just can't get out of your nose, no matter what you do, one that leaves it stopped up and hard to breathe?  That's what Carl is going through.  But, as you might expect, that ends up being the beginning of his problems.  And, as with the last story, the rollercoaster of events left me completely shocked at the end... and wanting so much more.

Eaten Un-Alive: This one is one of my favorites in the book, and because of this one, I kept reading the rest of the book, trying to see if the other stories compared.  Vampires and Zombies?  That's what this story has.  When vampires need blood, but so many around have turned into zombies, finding "something to eat" isn't as easy as one would think.  In fact, it's downright hard, no matter what lie you tell to gain entrance.

It's Nice Not to Have to Share: This one is my other favorite story, even though they were all enjoyable.  This one gives you a hint of what is going on, but you don't find out until the end what exactly happened.  I am not usually a fan of stories written in first person, but this one was done well and really puts you in the mind of the character.

Invasion: This story, at least in part, reminds me of a story that I tell quite often at the bakery.  When I was younger, my older cousin loved raisins, and he never wanted me to eat his.  To stop me, he told me that they were little roaches, but because I thought he was "so cool," I ate the mess out of those.  The end of the story always goes, "Now that I'm older and I know the truth, they just aren't as good."  Well, after reading this story, I am SO glad that they weren't really roaches.  You never know WHAT could happen from eating those damn things.

Samurai Zombie Killer: This one had a bit of action, and definitely some drama.  There's a samurai, his now-evil brother, and their beloved teacher.  Lesson learned: Never doubt the honorability of a samurai, even when it comes to their own lives.

Small Town, Big Trouble: Could you kill a stranger if it meant saving your town?  What about one a month for many many years?  And what happens when you finally say enough is enough?  I'll give you a hint - things don't end well.  Did you expect any less from a horror novelist?

Bad Cutlery: I often joke that my kitchen knife speaks to me, telling me what to cook and when to cook it.  I've called it my best friend, and envisioned it as part of my soul doing it's work helping me to come up with some really great dishes.  After this story, though, I'm starting to rethink that relationship.

Potty Mouth: I was trying to describe this story to a friend of mine after I finished it.  The only word I could come up with was "Yuck."  Every parent has a different way of disciplining their children.  Sometimes, though, the child just does not care, and continues on with the bad behavior, no matter what the parent says or does.  In this story, eighteen year old Peter should have listened to his mother when he had the chance, because she doesn't punish like normal mothers.  And when he doesn't learn his lesson, the punishment gets even worse.  Definitely a must read.

STD: As you would expect from the name of the story, this one would make a GREAT commercial for condoms.  Brian meets flight attendant Jackie in a bar one night, and the next morning awakens in her apartment with an unexpected growth on the end of his... well... you get where this is going.  But, in all actuality, you have NO IDEA.  I sat there for a few minutes after the end of this one, mouth wide open, just staring at my Kindle.  Just... wow.

All-in-all, a damn good set of stories.  I can't wait to see what David has to offer us next.


About the book:
From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person's nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing and the consequences of one man's night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

About the author:
David Bernstein is originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Salisbury Mills.  He now resides in NYC and misses being surrounded by chainsaw-wielding maniacs and wild backwoods people that like to eat raw human flesh.  He's grown used to the city, though hiding bodies is much harder there.  He is the author of Amongst the DeadDamaged SoulsThe Tree ManWitch IslandRelic of DeathApartment 7C, and the forthcoming Episodes of Violence.  David writes all kinds of horror, from hair-raising ghost stories to gore-filled slashers and apocalyptic tales of terror.  He loves hearing from his readers.  You can find him on FacebookHis Website, via Email, and on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: John McNee


Since beginning The Gal, I have been HONORED to interview quite a few awesome authors, and today I get to name one of my favorites: THE Mr. John McNee.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, John.  Welcome to The Gal.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

John McNee:
I'm a Scottish writer of horror stories, most of them short, most of them bloody, published in a number of anthologies.  I'm also creator of the bio-mechanical sludge-city of Grudgehaven and the author of Grudge Punk, a collection of short stories detailing the lives and deaths of its gruesome inhabitants.  Prince of Nightmares, about a hotel which guarantees bad dreams, is my first horror novel, published this past January.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

John McNee:
  1. I play piano.
  2. I won't eat mayonnaise.
  3. It took seven attempts before I passed my driving test.
  4. I look pretty good in a bowler hat and would wear one too if it was socially acceptable.
  5. Moths really freak me out (especially the Australian Privet Hawk moth).
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
I had to go look that up and find out what it was.  For those of y'all as curious as me:



Okay, moving on... What is the first book you remember reading?

John McNee:
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr.  I remember it being a great book, but I haven't read it in a while.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

John McNee:
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

John McNee:
I don't know if it was ever a conscious choice.  I started writing when I was four years old and I've never really stopped.  I don't remember making the decision.  I think I've always had stories in my head that I wanted to tell.  And if I don't write them down, I don't forget them.  They just rattle around in my head, taking up space, keeping me awake at night.  It could be that putting them down on paper's the only way to stay sane (relatively).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

John McNee:
I wish I did.  I write sitting in a broken desk chair at a broken computer desk in the corner of my bedroom.  I'd like to say I had a mahogany desk in a study lined with bookcases, but... maybe one day.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

John McNee:
I like lots of tea and music.  I get most of my writing done late at night.  My most productive time is between midnight and 6am.  I guess that's a quirk.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

John McNee:
Everything.  But especially getting started.  Turning off the TV, walking away from the piano, closing down the web browser, and actually putting some words on the page.  I find that tough.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

John McNee:
I'd mark out The October Country by Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker's Books of Blood as my two biggest inspirations.  And Skin by Kathe Koja was the first novel I read as an adult that showed me just how different a genre novel could be.  Bradbury, Barker, and Koja all inform my more poetic moments, but for the main part, my writing style is fairly economical and owes more to crime writers like Raymond Chandler and David Goodis.  Especially Goodis.  I think.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

John McNee:
A good ending.  A snappy beginning, good characters, and an engaging plot all help, but for a story to linger in the memory, it needs to stick the landing.  I believe that's especially important in horror and all too often ignored.  I don't start writing a story unless I know how it ends.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

John McNee:
For me to love a character, they have to have a clear voice.  I need to buy that they have a distinct personality.  It may sound like a cheap trick, but one way I've tried to ensure this in my writing is by giving my characters accents.  In a story set in a hotel that's quite easy to do.  Victor Teversham, in my original draft, was an Englishman, but he felt very thinly drawn.  It was only when I made him Australian that I began to hear him speak with his own voice and all his sadness, anger and regret started to make its way onto the page.  In future, I know I'll have to find more nuanced ways of achieving the same result, but in any case, I like a diverse cast - a good mix of the sexes, different ages, different ethnicities.  It helps keep the characters defined in my head, stops their voices overlapping.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

John McNee:
It may sound odd, but I don't really identify personally with any of my characters.  Maybe that's just wishful thinking.  I'm sure they're all a bit like me on some level.  In the case of Prince of Nightmares, I'd probably have to go with Heinrich, the professional sadist.  He's a bit of an odd duck, but he's a genial sort and doesn't really wish anyone any non-consensual harm.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

John McNee:
I don't understand how any author or publisher could expect anyone to be interested in reading their book if it has a lousy cover.  One of the best things about small presses is that, for the most part, they really do give covers the care and attention they require.  In the cases of both Grudge Punk and Prince of Nightmares, the publishers asked me for ideas and passed these on on to the artists who produced absolutely stunning work.  For me, that process is one of the very best parts of getting a book published.  And, for Prince of Nightmares, I actually suggested artist Olga Noes, who I first met in a bar in Tennessee, for the gig.  And she just knocked it out of the park.  It really harkens back to the bold imagery of the classic horror covers of old and I love it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

John McNee:
The English language doesn't have anywhere near enough words for "blood."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

John McNee:
In Prince of Nightmares, probably the first time Victor's left alone in his hotel room.  I think dramatic, emotional, or action-packed scenes are much easier to write than the quiet moments in between.  You need moments like that for the story to work, but you risk losing the reader if they're just boring.  The hard part is making those parts of the story work as quiet moments while also being engaging.  It's a real struggle.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

John McNee:
I've yet to write a story about a zombie, a werewolf, a vampire, or any of the Old Ones.  Nothing against any of them, but I prefer my monsters to be my own.  And I work hard at making them original.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

John McNee:
Again, the title is something I usually have in place before I even begin writing the story.  And I'll check to make sure nobody else has published anything under it.  In the case of Prince of Nightmares, the title occurred to me first, then I was just left with the task of coming up with a story to fit it (which took some considerable time).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

John McNee:
It depends on the story.  Obviously, on a base level, it's a lot more satisfying to check your word count and see you've written 50,000 rather than 5,000.  But writing 5,000 words can be just as exhausting depending on the story you're trying to tell.  Fulfillment comes from knowing you've got the story on the page as close to the vision in your head as it's ever going to get.  Whether it's a novel or a short story doesn't really matter.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

John McNee:
I like to tell stories about horrifying things happening to strange characters in unusual places.  My target audience are people who are looking for good, bloody horror fiction that takes itself seriously, and who genuinely appreciate a little nightmare fuel.  Hopefully there are a few twisted images in my work that'll linger in the mind.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

John McNee:
There were two chapters at the start of Prince of Nightmares that were meant to serve as introductions to Gia and Heinrich, the other important guests in the hotel, prior to their arrival.  Gia's focused on the last night of her performance in a ballet, simulating the skin being flayed from her body.  Heinrich's found him at home with a client, a woman he wrapped in barbed wire and then ordered to walk from one corner of the room to another.  They were fun little scenes and I liked them, but ultimately they slowed down the plot and took the focus off Victor, so they had to go.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

John McNee:
Well, for the last few months I'd actually been preparing an extreme horror novel that was going to be about a massacre at a heavy metal show.  That's no joke.  I was really exited about it and was working on the first chapter when the attack in Paris happened.  After that, the project was a little soured in my mind, so I've put it away for now.  I may come back to it in time.  I still think it has potential, but... not right now.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

John McNee:
I can confirm that a full-blown sequel to Grudge Punk is on its way.  I've completed the second draft and I'm just waiting on news from the publishers.  And I'd like to get a few more short stories out in the world before moving on to my next horror novel, so that's what I'm working on right now.

The Gal in the Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

John McNee:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

John McNee:
Thanks to you for having me.  The most important thing for me is that my work reaches and is read by the people who really connect with it.  And the best thing those readers can do for me is to let other people know this stuff is out there.  However people want to do that, whether it's with reviews, tweets or by accosting random strangers at bus stops, it all helps.  And, if any other bloggers out there fancy having me round for a virtual tea and interview/guest post, etc, please feel free to get in touch.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by!!  It's been an absolute pleasure.  
            By the way... I do that - accost random strangers at bus stops.  There's four that have Prince of Nightmares bookmarks. :)  Make sure you let me know more about this Grudge Punk 2.  This is definitely something I need in my life.


About the author:
John McNee is a writer of strange and disturbing horror stories, published in a variety of strange and disturbing anthologies.  He is also the author of Grudge Punk, probably the only dieselpunk-bizarro-horror-noir anthology around.  His first novel, Prince of Nightmares, was published in January of this year by Blood Bound Books.  He lives on the west coast of Scotland, where he works "in magazines."

About the books:
Grudgehaven: "A city lost to the darkness, where acid rain drums on a hundred thousand corrugated iron rooftops and cold, mechanized eyeballs squint out of every filth-smeared window."
            From the twisted mind of author John McNee come nine tales of brutality and betrayal from a city like no other.
            A granite detective has a date with destiny at a motel made of flesh.  A severed hand is on a desperate mission to ruin somebody's evening.  While a mob war reaches its bloody climax, the Mayor is up to his neck in dead prostitutes.  And Clockwork Joe?  He just wants to be a real boy.
            Bizarro Press proudly presents the latest in dieselpunk-bizarro-horror-noir.  This... is GrudgePunk.

Welcome to the Ballador Country House Hotel.  Nestled in the highlands of Scotland, it is unlike any other lodging.  Guests can expect wonderful scenery, gourmet food, and horrifying nightmares - guaranteed.  Daring travelers pay thousands to stay within the Ballador's infamous rooms because of the vivid and frightening dreams the accommodations inspire.
            Before Josephine Teversham committed suicide, she made a reservation at the hotel for her husband, Australian magnate Victor Teversham.  Once he arrived at the hotel, Victor finds himself the target of terrifying forces, revealing the nightmares and their purpose to be more strange, personal, and deadly than anyone could have guessed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

AMONG THE STACKS: Wendy Terrien


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Wendy.  Welcome to The Gal.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Wendy Terrien:
I grew up in Salt Lake City, but now I lived in Colorado with my husband, Kevin, and our three rescue dogs, Maggie, Shea, and Boon.  I've lived in Colorado longer than I lived in Utah, and I have family roots in Boulder, so Colorado truly feels like home to me.
            And our dogs are not just dogs - they are our family.  I mentioned they're rescues - that's really important to me.  There are so many great animals in shelters and with rescue groups.  I hope people will consider finding their next pet from a shelter or rescue.  We've had six rescue dogs over the years, and every one has been wonderful, and unique, and special.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Wendy Terrien:
Ooh, let me see if I can come up with five...
  1. As part of a long-time-ago-job, I trained and certified bus drivers to get their commercial drives license.
  2. I'm a bit of a geek - I love technology, and superhero movies, and gadgets.
  3. I have a used car sales license (or at least I used to; maybe it's expired now?  I have no idea).
  4. I sold used cars for only one day.
  5. I have no problem singing, and even dancing, while I'm in my car running errands.  and the music is loud.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Wendy Terrien:
The cover was red, and tattered because it had belonged to one of my parents before it ever got to me.  I spent a lot of time with it, but wow, I cannot remember the title.  I think it may have been a collection of fairy tales.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Wendy Terrien:
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I'm really enjoying it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Wendy Terrien:
For whatever reason, I wrote a lot of stories when I was young, and I did it just because I enjoyed it.  I still have some of those stories tucked in a file.  I let go of the writing thing for a long time - at least the actual, physical writing aspect of it - until a few years ago when a career coach eked the idea out of the deep recesses of my brain, and I started writing again.  I love it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Wendy Terrien:
I love my office.  I have a sit/stand desk that keeps me from being too sedentary, plus the dogs are here and readily available for a snuggle, or to go outside and spend a few minutes in the sunshine.  And of course the kitchen is not too far away.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Wendy Terrien:
No real quirks or processes.  Sometimes it's hard for me to get focused and immerse myself in my writing, and I haven't figured out any secret formula the makes me do that more easily.  But once I get going, it's hard to stop me.  Then I'm thankful that the dogs need to be fed because I come up for air.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Wendy Terrien:
I'd have to go back to that point I made in the last question about getting started.  Sometimes it is HARD to get myself focused and on point.  I don't know why that is, because I love the writing once I get going, but, wow, I can procrastinate on a gold-medal-winning level (if there was such a thing).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Wendy Terrien:
I can tell you some of the books I've loved, which probably means they've inspired my wiring and my writing style in some way.  But I don't see a direct correlation from them to me.  In fact, if any readers out there notice similarities between me and any particular writers, I'd love to hear about it!

But here are some of the books I've loved:
All of Agatha Christie's books
All of the Harry Potter books
Oh, and I've always loved the stories of Greek mythology

There are tons more that I could list, but that's probably enough, lest I bore your readers.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Wendy Terrien:
So many things!  Relatable characters with depth and flaws, a plot with surprising twists and turns, a story that brings a fresh take on storytelling, and lots, lots, lots of editing.  And then more editing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Wendy Terrien:
Characters have to feel real, like someone I might actually meet in the real world.  They can't be perfect - no such person exists.  They need to have flaws, and challenges they're confronting, and authentic emotional reactions.  And when it comes to the protagonist (and even to a degree, the antagonist), they need to have elements of kindness and compassion.  I want to care about them, and like them.  I spend a lot of time thinking about that for my characters to ensure those kinds of qualities are there.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Wendy Terrien:
There's no one character in my writing world that is most like me.  Each of them have elements of things I've experienced, or things I do (like Sadie having a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do), but most are minimal bits or qualities.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Wendy Terrien:
I am turned off by a bad cover, but I also know that covers, like stories, are subjective.  I was very involved in the design of the cover for The Rampart Guards, and I'm happy to say that most of the feedback I've received on it has been positive.  But there are some who have said it's terrible, so go figure.
            I did make an effort to stay away from some of the design choices that can be seen on a lot of YA covers, but again that was my personal choice.  It wasn't because those choices don't make for a great cover.  They just don't appeal to me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Wendy Terrien:
I learned that I wasn't as good of a writer as I thought I was when I started.  I learned that critique groups and editors - and listening to them - are key components to producing a great story.  And I learned that this whole process is a lot more work than I'd ever imagined.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Wendy Terrien:
The opening scene!  I rewrote my original opening scene about 15 times, and then ended up not using it.  I started with a new scene, a new first chapter, and then rewrote that one at least 25 times.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Wendy Terrien:
I love that the book, while fantasy, has unique roots in reality because you can Google all of the creatures mentioned in the book and find information on the internet about them.  So they don't just exist in my head, and they may actually exist in the real world... ;)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Wendy Terrien:
This is a tough question, because I don't have a very good answer.  I tend to believe the title isn't too important, as long as it's not completely misleading, because few people make a decision about a book based on the title alone.  But who knows?  I'd love to hear what your readers think about this question.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Wendy Terrien:
A novel!  I recently wrote a short story for an anthology called Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time, and I found it really challenging.  I wanted to take the characters and the story into deeper and wider directions, but I couldn't.  Keeping things within the parameters of the short story, while still delivering an interesting and compelling story was tough.  And honestly, I was left less satisfied because I had to keep so much of it on the side.  I may have to go back to that story sometime and expand it into a novel, or write the "what happened next" novel that follows the short story.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Wendy Terrien:
The stories I've written so far, and that I have envisioned writing, are all in the fantasy genre.  And they technically fall into the category of YA, but I hope they are stories that everyone enjoys.  Ultimately that's what I'm trying to do - write a story that is entertaining and fun for anyone who chooses to read it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Wendy Terrien:
I mentioned that my original chapter one is no longer in the book, but I haven't deleted it.  It sits in a file on my computer in case I ever find a place to use it.  It is, in my humble position, a fun scene with Jason (my protagonist in The Rampart Guards) trying to pull something over on Sadie (his best friend) and Sadie seeing right through it.  It may work somewhere in the future.
            There are also scenes that I imagined I'd be writing, but the book and the characters went a different direction as I wrote, so those scenes never came to be.  I'm amazed at that and love how stories take on a life of their own.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Wendy Terrien:
I mentioned the anthology I'm part of, Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time.  My short story included there is The Fate Stone.  And I'm already working on the next two books in the Jason Lex series.  I expect them to be released, concurrently, in the summer of 2017.  One book will follow Jason, and the other one Sadie, along the same timeline.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Wendy Terrien:
You can find me on my website, my TwitterFacebookInstagram, and I have author pages on Goodreads and Amazon.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Wendy Terrien:
I'll just say thanks so much for the time - I'm delighted to have been invited to spend time on your blog!


About the author:
Wendy Terrien has been writing stories since she was in grade school.  Her debut novel, The Rampart Guards (February 26, 2016), is the first in her intriguing urban fantasy series.
            Inspired by an episode of Bones that suspected a killer to be a fabled chupacabra, Wendy was fascinated and dove into research about cryptozoology - the study of animals that may or may not exist, or cryptids.  Pouring over stories, videos and photographs of creatures others had seen all over the world, Wendy developed her own story to share with middle grade, young adult and grown-up readers.
            Raised in Salt Lake City, Wendy graduated from the University of Utah and soon transplanted to Colorado where she completed her MBA at the University of Denver.  Having applied her marketing expertise to the financial and network security industries, it wasn't until a career coach stepped in that she fully immersed herself in her passion for writing.  Wendy began attending writers' conferences, workshops and retreats.
            She regularly participates in two critique groups and is the Secretary of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and a member of Pikes Peak Writers and the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators.  In 2014, she was a finalist in the San Francisco Writer's Contest and, in March, will release a novella in the anthology Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time.
            Wendy lives in Colorado with her husband, Kevin, and their three dogs: Maggie, Shea and Boon.  All three of her dogs are rescues and Wendy is passionate about promoting shelter adoptions.  If you're ever in Colorado, you may even be able to spot her by her "Adopt a Shelter Pet" license plate.

About the books:
After his mom disappears, Jason Lex and his family move to a small town where he has no friends, no fun, no life.  Things get worse when he's chased by weird flying creatures that only he can see - Jason thinks he's losing it.
            But when Jason discovers new information about his family, he's stunned to learn that creatures like Skyfish, Kappa, and the Mongolian Death Worm aren't just stories on the internet - they're real and they live unseen alongside the human race.  May of these creatures naturally emit energy capable of incinerating humans.  An invisible shield keeps these creatures hidden and protects the human race from their threatening force, but someone, or some thing, is trying to destroy it.
            Unsure who he can trust, Jason is drawn into the light to save the people closest to him, and he finds help in surprising places.  Confronted with loss, uncertainty, and a devastating betrayal, Jason must make a gut-wrenching decision:
            Who lives, and who dies.

Praise for The Rampart Guards:
"A delightful novel that delivers a tightly plotted, character driven story.  This paranormal fantasy is not only wildly entertaining, but also undeniably unique.  The cast of authentic and endearing characters is one of the novel's many strengths, along with the brisk pacing, action packed narrative and creation of the novel's fascinating creatures.  Both adult and YA audiences should find this book appealing." ~Starred Review from Kirkus Reviews

"Terrien has created an intriguing world that seamlessly integrates the fantastic with the realistic and is supported by a relatable cast of characters.  This appealing over is sure to find an appreciative audience."  A Five Star Review from Foreword Clarion Reviews

"An intriguing introduction to what promises to be an expansive series.  The Rampart Guards introduces engaging characters, a unique concept and the potential for developing both more fully in future novels." ~Blue Ink Review

Seven Fantasy and Science Fiction authors have twisted time into tales of adventure, mystery, horror, and romance.

A serial killer returns years later
to finish what was started.

A coffee shop offers a respite
for the cursed.

A hangover masks the horrors
of the previous night.

A princess's wedding gift comes
with a price.

A locked apartment door hides a
chilling secret.

A girl wakes up in an asylum and
must survive, and escape.

A young woman must protect the past
to thwart a thief from the future.

All it takes is a second... a minute... an hour... for everything to change.