FBI Special Agent Elliott Cooper investigates five unexplained child disappearances from a small town. He uncovers something beyond the FBI’s jurisdiction, something that literally changes him. Although this novel has a few inconsistencies, such as things working when the story requires them to work, it’s a fun tale of evils beyond the hand of man, the importance of loyalty, and astonishing graphically detailed descriptions of physical transformations and emotional turmoil. I recommend it for anyone who likes the stuff of nightmares born from the mind of a horror writer like Straub or Koontz. I was fortunate to receive a review copy from the publisher Moonlight through NetGalley.
Micah Castle is a weird fiction and horror writer whose work has appeared in various anthologies, magazines, and websites, and currently has three collections available. When away from the keyboard, he enjoys spending his time with his wife, his animals, and his books. With any other free time he may have, he loves aimlessly wandering in the woods.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.
My daily schedule is I wake up at 6:30AM, spend about an hour letting the two dogs out, making (decaf, unfortunately) coffee, eating breakfast, checking social media—essentially getting everything out of the way and out of my system before 7:30AM when I begin writing. From then until 9:00AM, I write or revise whatever I’m working on that day: a story, a writing prompt, a novella, etc. After 9:00AM, there’s no more writing until the following morning. Though I may get an inkling of a potential story throughout the day, which I jot down in the Google Keep app, but I won’t flesh it out until my current work is finished.
Most of my work is heavily inspired by nature: forests, flowers, mountains, stones, etc. Nature is extremely important to me, and I love my time in it and being outside. Unfortunately, I don’t get enough of it, so if possible, I typically will place a story within nature or it’ll incorporate nature in some way.
Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.
For a short story, I will revise it about three times before I’ll consider it “finished” (though, no story ever is, is it?). The first revision will be about a week after the first draft, the second about two weeks after that, and the third about a month from the second revision. I’ve found distancing myself from my work helps me see it with fresh eyes each time.
For a collection or novel, I’ll revise it also three times, but it’ll go through alpha and/or beta readers, then I’ll revise it about three more times after that, a few weeks to months apart. I’ve been working on a novel for about two years now and I’m finally on the last revision (for now), if that gives you an idea.
I believe the best marketing is word of mouth. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with that. I’ve done Facebook and Amazon ads and those are just beasts that take time and money to tame and master. Facebook, for me, seems to do well if I only want to build my Facebook page audience, instead of directing people to other websites. Amazon ads have done well in the past, but it’s a money sink if you don’t know which keywords are the ones that’ll lead to readers and sales, and the amount you ought to bid for each keyword.
Besides those, I seldomly promote on Twitter and Reddit.
Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
That would be my wife, Nicole. Although she’s not a fan of weird fiction or horror, she has supported me since I started writing, and has no issue with telling anyone who’ll listen that I have stories published or that I write.
How does life influence your writing and vice versa?
Life influences my work sporadically. Obviously spending time in the woods influences my work, but even little things do in ways you wouldn’t think. An argument, grocery shopping, a song lyric—anything at any time can trigger a story idea that may or may not come to fruition.
What do you love most about your creativity?
That I’ve always found it easy to think of story ideas, but that could also be the thing I hate the most of my creativity, because creating a plot for that idea sometimes feels impossible.
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From a dystopian Earth of radical climate unlivable for humans, to a ghost exacting payment in the form of a child, these stories will plunge you deep and whip you back up into the air. Carr writes about the human condition while delving into fantasy, science fiction, and psychological horror, bringing readers to the edge and nearly dropping them. Neighbor fears neighbor in a world gone nuclear, an old man brings life back to the soil through magical wind chimes, and a neglected wife flies away on a hummingbird. Carr’s style is intense, lingering with readers. I highly recommend all of his books.
The stories get better as you go deeper into this collection. The graphic depictions of sex and violence are just enough to give Dear Readers with active imaginations speculative ammo for tremors and terrors. Run, don’t walk, through these stories. Something always goes awry in the everyday worlds of Jack Rollins. A woman seeking sexual release exacts supernatural revenge on the shady service professional she hired for this purpose. An elderly couple become fungi. The ghost ship’s captain shows a very human sense of integrity. A young man cheating on his boyfriend discovers that not all legendary villains are fiction. A family man finds what appears to be evidence of a serial killer in the garage of their newly acquired home. Oh, and the lost god Mammon trips lightly through many of these tales—don’t turn around; keep running. Jack’s work is unique and his style feels personal, almost as though the characters are sharing too much, which works into a creepy crawly feeling under your skin. The only thing that popped me out of his stories is the common description of any man as tall, strong, and muscular. There are no wimps in Jack’s worlds. Despite that niggle, his work is solid and entertaining. I highly recommend this collection; really, anything by him. He’s so open and frank that his introductions to each story are nearly stories themselves; I thought the first one was the story!
Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of rural Northumberland, England in 1980. He is the author of the horror novel The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, the novella The Séance and a range of short , dark fiction tales. Jack lives in Newcastle, England.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magick spells, etc.
I have no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. I’m not one of those 1,000 words a day writers. I wish I was, but life gets in the way. I have bills to pay and my writing won’t yet cover them, and I have children, who wait for nobody and nothing. I think, in fact, hearing some writers talk about their daily word counts actually puts me off writing in some ways—as though I needed to wait until I was in a position to hit that target before I could consider myself a ‘proper writer.’ The truth is, that perfect set of circumstances may never land for me.
So I write whenever and wherever I can. Lately I have been feeling really inspired and energized, and working in my shop enables me plenty of time between customers, to plan, plot, prepare, and ultimately piece together my current work-in-progress. And yes, it can be annoying if I get on a roll and have to stop because a delivery of new stock has to be checked and merchandised, but I have to get on with it and come back to the story because by the time my working day has finished, you can guarantee I’ll be sprawled across my couch, not in any fit state to write another word.
Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing strategies.
I have a few trusted individuals, who are writers, to whom I send my work. One of these writers has known me almost twenty years as I sit here. He knows my style, knows how I say what I want to say, and he especially can help me get to the core of what I’m looking to bring out for the reader.
Once it looks as though we can’t thrash anything more out of the book, then it’s time to put it together. In the case of physical copies of the book, I have learned a great deal over the years about typesetting and formatting a novel properly to ensure a quality product—well laid out and comfortable on the eyes—is produced. The story could be the best thing ever written, but if the typesetting is awful, then who will take the time to read it?
In terms of marketing, I’ve enjoyed some online book launch parties. I found them effective ways of engaging with some readers, but right now, my aim is to be more prolific. I need more stories out there now. I need to reward the loyalty of the readers who have stayed with me, and if I’m able to do that, then hopefully, new readers will join the fold.
I’m not foolish enough to believe it’s some Field of Dreams’ “Write it and they will come” situation. But right now at this stage of my career, with the lengthy break I’ve had between finished projects, I feel the important thing is to look after the readers I’ve already gained. They are, after all, looking out for me.
Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?
In real life, I know I have the support of my brothers and parents. They like to know that I’m being creative even if what I write doesn’t always appeal to them.
And I need to be honest here, Lael. I haven’t needed a lot of support with the creativity because up until recently, I’ve been fighting battles that completely took me away from my writing. So when I decided enough was enough, and I needed to get back to my old self now that life is settling down again, the first thing I did was write a blog post, almost a letter of apology to the readers who had enjoyed what I’d written previously. And the response I got from that post, in terms of comments, Facebook messages, text messages and all the rest of it, was really uplifting in one sense, and a kick in the balls in another. Uplifting because it was great to know that people are out there rooting for me, and will still get excited when I produce the next piece of work. A kick in the balls because I knew I had to live up to them. That, as a writer, if I do nothing to entertain these loyal readers, then I don’t deserve to have them in my corner. All of that reinforced the positive changes I had made in my life, and I resolved to make creativity a major part of my life once more. Those readers, some of them are individuals I’ve met, or exchanged messages and emails with over time, and that means something to me. My creative output is what connects me to them and because I want to keep that connection to these people who are important to me, I’d better create something to refresh and strengthen our bond.
Beyond that, there is one particular writer in the horror field, and I don’t know if I should name him here. He’s carved out a reputation and persona as one who just doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about anything, a bit of a Monster, a bit of a Sick Bastard. But what I came to know about him is, he really is a very caring person, he just doesn’t make a big show of doing it publicly. In my darkest times, periodically I’d get a message from him like, “You said this on Facebook, but I can tell something’s not right.” And I didn’t know how the hell he could read the situation, given I had only met him twice at that time he first called it. But he got it and it turns out he can spot your dark thoughts from 500 miles away, because he’s had them all. All of them and more. And deeper, and for longer. And so every now and then we drop each other a message or a quick call, and I just hope some of those times I give him even one percent of the courage and support he gives me.
What brought you to horror, and how does life influence your writing and vice versa?
As a teenager, when I discovered that I wanted to write fiction, it wasn’t necessarily horror that I wanted to write. I knocked out childish Tarantino-influenced gangster stories and a couple of futuristic tales that did really have their roots in horror. There were just stories and characters swimming around in my head; one of those stories is in fact being reconstructed in my current work-in -progress, and it wasn’t until I read some James Herbert novels that I realized what I was writing would sit in the horror section at W. H. Smith’s. Now I suppose we would think of that particular story more as urban fantasy, but it opened my mind to the fact that the horror genre was vast and has many alleys and corners with a million different types of story scattered throughout.
The horror that I try to capture for my readers is a deep feeling of unease. I remember my ex-partner’s mother reading Doctor Blessing’s Curse (the first part of The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing) and she said she had to put it down. There was nothing gory in there to offend her—not really, anyway. But what she described to me as being her issue was something else entirely. Doctor Blessing’s reaction to the creature he discovers, his almost paternal protection of it, made the most profound impression on her and left her really quite unnerved. Job done then. That’s a real reaction, triggered by something completely fictional and weird. So I think to take those fantastical elements, and handle them with real emotion, can elicit the best response from a reader. I’m not so much frightened by things in life, but I can find myself with a deep sense of unease about this situation, that person, this area, that mindset, or whatever. And we’re all built with very similar instincts hardwired into our bodies, aren’t we? The old fight-or-flight survival instinct. So if I can pluck the strings that set my nerves off just right, there’s a fair to good chance it could get a reaction from you.
Then on the other hand, there is one fun way that my fiction has influenced my life. I opened a business with one of my brothers a few years ago, selling geek merch and comics and all that. We called the business Carsun’s Bazaar, which is the name of the main character’s geek merch and headshop in my current work-in-progress. Carsun’s Bazaar in real life is almost entirely gone now, but I can see a way to bring some part of it back, yet that’s something for the future.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I have a vivid and active imagination, and that creative nature comes in handy, especially as I have two young sons. When we break out the action figures and play together, we get to play out these blockbuster plots that would put those DC movies to shame. If we’re drawing or painting, I can help set a little idea off that the boys can run away with and make their own. And then, for myself, creativity is I suppose an emotional outlet. Right now, the outlet feels great; I’m processing the vast changes I’ve undergone in my life over the past year or so, and now I get to hopefully take all the emotional experience and redirect it into something satisfying that will hopefully entertain others. Problem is, the pendulum swings both ways and the creative, productive heights never last as long as I would love for them to… and then comes the sickening feeling as I hit the apex and feel all that potential energy shift right before I swing in the opposite direction…
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John beckoned me over to look at mom’s birthday gift, a photo of all of us kids. She’d hung it on her dining room wall above her grandma’s buffet. I looked in the bottom right corner where he pointed.
“Is that a cat?”
“No way. I don’t own a cat. I’m allergic.”
“It looks like a black cat.”
“If it were, I would be dead. You know my allergy.”
“I do. That’s why it seems so weird.”
I looked closer. It must be a shadow, but it sure did look like a black cat. His eyes were glowing green from the flash.
Shelley took a selfie of us, with her hand held in front to show off the engagement ring, for her parents, who lived across the country. After texting it to them, her dad called, concerned.
“Daddy! Isn’t it exciting? Wait. What? There’s no cat. No, no, Tim’s allergic. What? Of course, I’m sure.” She hung up and went to her text. There was indeed a black cat on her lap, her arm just above its head, engagement ring accentuating her smile. What the hell?
Now I lie in bed, the creature sitting on my chest. It’s weight feels so real, yet my allergies are not activated by its presence. I cannot go to sleep. I cannot move. My phone is in the living room.
Toby disappears in front of his father’s eyes as they explore the overgrown path to the pond near their new home in the country. With parents fighting to salvage their marriage, Toby struggles to rescue himself from another boy whose soul resided in that pond. His mother inexplicably attributes frightful incidents to the other woman…until she sees the other boy in her son’s face. Through dubious grammar and awkward phrasing, the story holds its own as a classic horror tale of possession based on location and opportunity, with unwitting recipients focused elsewhere. Fans of scary stories with creepy kids, wild English countryside, and ghostly bodysnatchers will appreciate this book. I was fortunate to win it in a contest from the publisher Dark Chapter Press.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Arizona, and Maryland, Brian Barr resides in South Carolina and is the author of the Carolina Daemonic series, the 3 H’s Trilogy, the Nihon Cyberpunk collection (read my reviews of #2, #3, and #4), and the Brutal Bazaar collection. His stories meld fantasy, horror, and science fiction, with themes that range from the occult to the exploration of the human condition, art, music, societal issues and political concerns. As a small press and independent author, he is heavily influenced by DIY and punk culture when it comes to formatting and releasing his work. Brian has written novels, short stories, and comics. He co-created and co-writes the comic book Empress with Chuck Amadori, which features art by Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, colored by Geraldo Filho. Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa have also collaborated with Brian to provide many of the art for his covers.
Follow Brian on his Amazon Author Page and purchase his works…
Carolina Daemonic: Confederate Shadows: The first novel of Brian Barr’s Carolina Daemonic series released in 2015, Confederate Shadows is an occult urban horror fantasy with steampunk elements set in an alternative dystopian world where the Confederacy rules America. Uncompromising and raw, Confederate Shadows takes us into a world of grotesque monsters, dark magic, and chaos.
Carolina Daemonomaniac I: The First Carolina Daemonic Short Stories Collection: This is the first collection of Carolina Daemonic short stories. Along with the steampunk war comic The Tamed Tiger, Carolina Daemonomaniac includes various tales of Voodoo/Vudon spirituality, necromancy, weird science and the undead.
The 3 H’s Trilogy: A mix of comedic bizzaro romance horror, cosmic horror, and occult dark fantasy, The 3 H’s Trilogy begins when a gardener discovers a disembodied head in her mother’s garden. What starts as an absurd love story turns into a gruesome inter-dimensional nightmare. Consists of The Head, The House, and The Hell.
Brutal Bazaar: A horror collection of short stories, Brutal Bazaar includes The 3 H’s Trilogy, The Bloody Writer’s Trilogy, Badlam Betty, and various other bloodcurdling tales penned by Brian Barr. From slashers to occult horror, these tales include gruesome scenes mixed with dark humor and existential dread.
Nihon Cyberpunk: Nihon Cyberpunk is a collection of science fiction stories set in Japan. Inspired by Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone,Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and various other sources, Nihon Cyberpunk explores the human condition and probes philosophical questions in a dark and dystopian Japan ruled by technology. Includes The Kage Majitsu Trilogy and An American Otaku in Neo-Nihon’s Underbelly as bonus stories.
Empress: Co-created and co-written by Chuck Amadori and Brian Barr, Empress is a comic book series that centers around Zia, a famous Hollywood actress who goes missing in the early 20th century. She returns to America as the embodiment of the chthonic goddess Hekate and ushers in a new age for the same world that oppressed her spirit and legacy.
Life hasn’t gone as planned for Kim and Matthew—Matty—Savage, and their marriage comes to a screeching halt in their cabin in the woods, a world away from Kim’s vamp movie career and Matty’s screenwriting failures in LA. Matty shoving Kim into a glass cabinet with their daughter Rebecca—Bex—a witness demarcates the before and after. A decade later, Kim calls her ex-husband and estranged daughter to the cabin, where they are attacked by supernatural creatures they must fight metaphysically to survive.
The story opens with a sad, but realistic, portrayal of an unhealthy family dynamic. After the divorce, the couple and their daughter are ensconced in their own ugly realities. Enter speculative elements attacking dad and daughter at the family cabin, scary fairies from a book mom gave daughter, who relegated the horrifying Hungarian tome to the annual vacation cabin. All the characters are forced into their worst memories, opening up old wounds and creating opportunities to reconnect. This novel, despite its horror genre, is really about how family goes awry on a foundation of secrets and miscommunications. It turned out to be more substantial than expected, and the writing flows well.
I was fortunate to receive a copy of this delightful story through a Goodreads giveaway.
I met David through Storyteller Magazine, for which he was Editor and I was a mere peon volunteer curator, both of us contributors of short stories. David’s tales live in the darkness—we won’t ask where David lives (his website says Cincinnati; seems dubious)…..
but his writing snatches you and drags you, wide-eyed and speechless, into the stories.
He, however, is a super friendly guy, so I wasn’t nervous about asking him for an interview. Links to connect with David come after the interview; check out his uber-user-friendly, gorgeous website, where anthology after anthology showcase David’s talent. The first book of his YA series “Mad Maggie Dupree” comes out June 26!
Tell me about your writing process, including schedule, environment, and inspirations. I love your blog post about the muse being a romantic notion. If you would, explain as well how you transitioned from this magical mythology to your prosaic philosophy of writing.
Well, as with most writers, my process has evolved over time. I used to like plotting and outlining everything before I even began writing my first word. When I’d get stuck plotting or writing, I’d blame my muse, the fickle little minx that she was. I honestly just thought that’s the way the writing process went. I’d have to wait for this mystical thing to whisper the next line or the key point I’d missed in my work.
That all changed a few years ago. I read about “pantsers” or those writers who didn’t plan anything and just wrote from the hip, so to speak. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous. How could anyone write without planning, without plotting, without doing the leg work first?
Curious, I decided to give it a try and haven’t looked back. My output increased ten-fold and I enjoyed being surprised by the twists and turns the characters gave me. It’s made the process much more fulfilling.
Thought it may sound daunting to writers who are plotters and planners, I fully understand it. The thing is, now that I’m a “pantser” I don’t need a muse. I write. Period. I don’t have to wait for her to whisper to me. I trust myself as a storyteller and know I will come up with what needs to happen next as I’m writing the story. I no longer have writer’s block, because I merely write myself out of it. It helps me average over 2,000 words a day. Last year alone, I had my biggest output as a writer, finishing with 690,000 thousand words. That equated to eight novels and a dozen short stories.
Writers have to find what works for them, but they also need to be willing to try new things. Whether it’s a new spot in the house, writing at a coffee shop, or changing from pen and paper to a laptop or vice versa. Sometimes just making a small change can spark the most wonderful things.
Remember, writing is a superpower. Take a chance. Write some words. Make some magic.
My husband theorizes that people who suffered challenging childhoods prefer reading / writing horror. It happens to be true in my case. Although writing my debut novel was highly cathartic in healing some of that damage, I still love horror, so perhaps his theory is debatable. What draws you to the darkness?
I’m honestly not sure what’s drawn me to it. I’ve written in many different styles and different genres, but there’s always a touch of creepiness to everything I write.
While growing up, I enjoyed reading everything and anything I could my hands on. When we went to the library, in school, I always checked out books on UFO’s, Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Area 51, vampires, and werewolves. But when I read The Shining in middle school it was over. Horror hooked me.
Talk up your support system, from beta readers to reviewers, anyone and everyone who is your cheerleader, online and IRL.
My family and friends have been incredibly supportive of my writing. But I have to say one of the most rewarding parts of being a writer and an editor is the community of friends and colleagues I’ve met along the way. I talk daily with my writing group, made up of fellow writers from the ashes of Storyteller Magazine. I also talk with quite a few writers on Twitter as well. It’s always great to share experiences with other writers and editors.
Describe your publishing process from final draft to final product, from perspectives of self-publishing, and all that entails, and traditional publishing, including your publishing team.
I’ve enjoyed both self-publishing and traditional publishing. They have both been fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Both require a lot of work, but in the end the onus is definitely on the author to make them both as successful as possible.
I’ve found a wonderful home with Clean Reads Publishing, formerly Astraea Publishing. The owner, Stephanie Griffith, has been great. She has an impressive group of editors she works with who are thoughtful and thorough working through both Mad Maggie Dupree manuscripts they’ve accepted. This is my first foray into the middle grade arena and it’s been an awesome experience so far. They have their own art department which has done outstanding work bringing Mad Maggie Dupree to life.
What do you love most about your creativity?
That I can use it to escape at moment’s notice. No matter how good or how bad the day, writing is the gravy that makes it all worthwhile.
Author Extra: Write a flash fiction piece right now! 50 words, mister!
He heard the sound again, sharp and flinty, a bone poking his heart. He stared into the darkness, waiting for the knobby knuckled hand to clutch at his clothes, the chill bone deep. Then grandma appeared, withered and stooped, giving him a goodnight kiss, hands icy, breath from a crypt.
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