The Pinch: Chantal Noordeloos

You guys and gals are in for a treat. Today I want to draw a little blood from a very talented young lady. If you’ve never read anything by her, then you are missing out. She writes in a smooth, easy way that even some of the more brutal scenes can make you squirm without you realizing you are doing so. Today I would like to invite Chantal Noordeloos to the Donor Center for a little Pinch. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much.

Draw blood? *blinks* They didn’t tell you how squeamish I am? Be warned, I might faint. I know, I know… I write really gruesome things. But that works for me… see, I know I’m onto something when I feel like I may lose consciousness at any time.

Chantal, before we get to your new book, let’s talk about Coyote. Tell me about her and the series she is in.

I love talking about Coyote! *suppresses a little squee* She’s one of my own favourite characters. Well, she shares first place with my version of Lucifer (Even Hell Has Standards and Celestials) and Soulman (Deeply Twisted), but she’s definitely up there.

So, what would you like me to tell you about Coyote? That her partner and best friend, Caesar, is a former slave, who knows a little magic? Or that she’s a bounty hunter who has a special kind of target? She hunts creatures that are called Outlanders. They’re not exactly aliens, but they are definitely not from this world. Outlanders travel through the rips of reality, from one world to the next, often by accident. The worlds can be completely different realities, but sometimes they are just an alternate dimension from the earth.

It’s up to the hunters to track the wandering Outlanders down. Not all Outlanders are dangerous monsters, so Coyote and Caesar have to find out which of their bounties need to be killed, and which need to be protected.

The series is made out of separate stories that make up one whole main tale.

I use a little bit of everything in there, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird West, which gives me a lot of freedom to play around with the setting. I use a few historical facts, and even characters, but I play around with them too. Bending them to my will, if you like. *insert devious laughter here*

Unlike my horror work, I’ve kept Coyote accessible for different ages, though I wouldn’t say it’s Young Adult. The characters are too old for that, for one, but I like to think a younger audience will appreciate the novels as well.

The Coyote series definitely expresses my more ‘fun side’.

Are there more books to come in the Coyote series?

*hooks thumbs in the belt loops of her jeans, and balances on the heels of her feet* Yup, there sure are. *drops the cowboy act, because she’s just not very good at it*.

There are two books out so far. Coyote: The Outlander is the first novel, and it is the introduction to the setting and the characters. Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly is actually the first book that digs deeper into the main story line. It brings out some of the bigger antagonists, and I get to play around with a mysterious circus, what’s not fun about that? The next book in the series will be Coyote: The Rip Walker.

I have at least five books planned in this series to finish the story line that I started. It really depends on how well the series is received if there are going to be more than five.

Now, let’s talk Angel Manor. Tell the readers a little about this novel, if you don’t mind.

I guess I can’t just get away with posting the blurb, can I? *cheeky grin*. Ehm, okay, a little bit about Angel Manor… Well, for one, it’s the name of the house Freya inherits from her batty old aunt. The mansion gets its name from the stone angels that are placed in front of it. They are the only remains from the old cloister that once stood in its place, which burned down in the 19th century, killing all but two people.

Sounds like a pretty stereotypical set up for a haunted house novel, right? I can tell you, it’s not. I may have put a few extra layers in there.

Angel Manor should come with a warning label, there are some very graphic and explicit descriptions in the pages. I like to think it’s not a full on ‘Splatterpunk’ novel, though. I did put a lot more emphasis on the story than I did on the gore, but it’s definitely bloody.

Where did the idea for Angel Manor come from?

Well, this nun came to my house and… no, just kidding. I’m trying to remember if I ever actually met a real nun…

But, I digress. Ehm… where did I get my idea from?

It started that I really wanted to write a haunted house story. They’re one of my favorite tropes within the horror genre, and I just had to write my own. Personally I love using tropes, and I always hope that I am able to do something a little surprising with them.

The idea behind it actually came from another series I’m working on, called Celestials. I’ve written the first book already several times, but I’m still not satisfied with it, so this year I’m rewriting it again (for the last time I hope).

There are elements in that series that I could use for something else too, and I thought it would be perfect for Angel Manor.

Initially I was going to do more with the dead children in the book, that was my first concept. The idea of Angel Manor having been an orphanage really creeped me out, but as I was writing it, the nuns took over for me. They were stronger characters than the children were, and most of the scenes I wrote with the kids were cut out.

The nuns were a conscious choice, they were a perfect fit with the back story, be a good choice to run a 19th century orphanage, and be scary on top of that too. *throws confetti* I call that a win.

As for the stone angels. I knew I wanted to throw in a hint of a Celestial presence, and I was totally inspired by Dr. Who’s weeping Angels. Though, these angels are very different, the visual image of them still plays a part.

Angel Manor is book one of a series? How do you envision this series going forward?

Without giving away too many spoilers, there will be two more books. All of them center around the house, however, the next two books will also have parts set in different locations. There will be more focus on the secret that lies beneath the manor.

As I mentioned before, there are ties with the Celestials series. Both will be set in the same time period, and their stories are interlinked. That doesn’t mean you have to read both series to understand the stories. They are two separate entities, but I think it will be fun for the reader to see familiar things when they read them. I might cross over certain characters, and I shall definitely be using similar events.

Horrific Tales Publishing put out Angel Manor. How was your experience with them?

Publishing is always a bit of a roller coaster ride. It’s nice when a book is well received and the sales are good. Horrific Tales does a lot to promote its books.

One last question: Do you think you’d make a good nun?

I don’t know if the other nuns would appreciate my lack of faith. *grins*. I am not a good follower, so, no, I don’t think I would make a good nun. And the thought of living with nothing but women for the rest of my life terrifies me. When I was a teenager I lived in a boarding school for a year, where the housing situation was ‘all girls’. (We went to school with boys too, but we weren’t allowed in each other’s houses, not even the common rooms). That was all the ‘all girl’ experience I’m willing to have in one lifetime.

Okay, see painless, right?

I had a cat put her claws in my leg as I was answering these questions, does that count? *cheeky wink*

***

Excerpt from Coyote: The Clockwork Dragonfly

“You won’t be the first bounty hunter I’ve killed, little girl.” The Outlander guffawed, spittle flying from his lips. “And you won’t be the last.” He puffed up his impressive chest, and Coyote could not hide her smile. She liked to see overconfidence in an opponent.

“Are you sure about that, fat man?” She ran the palm of her hand across the butt of her gun, the way an owner would stroke a cat. There is something alluring and powerful about having a shooting iron on my hip. “Because you won’t be the first Outlander I kill.”

“You need to be a good shot to kill me with that.” The Outlander’s froggy eyes gleamed with pleasure, and his large lips rubbed against each other. With two hands, he lifted his stomach a few inches and let it drop again. “And trust me, no matter how good you are, you won’t be good enough. I never stay down long.” The creature leered at her as if he had a secret, and Coyote nodded—her smile never faded.

“They told me that about you.” She pulled her derby away from her eyes. “That’s a neat trick, being able to come back from the dead. Oh, I’m aware of that particular talent of yours.”

The Outlander blinked at her, his face betraying his surprise.

“I can see how you killed a lot of bounty hunters with that particular skill. They probably never saw it coming.” She winked at him. “It’s a little inconvenient, to say the least, to shoot an Outlander and have him get back up.” Coyote squinted her eyes and then shrugged. “It’s nothing I can’t work around.”

The Outlander let out a boisterous laugh—more spittle flew from his liver lips—and he revealed a set of grey broken teeth.

“You can work around my immortality?” He laughed again, and his whole body shook.

“You’re not immortal, fat man,” Coyote retorted with a warm smile. “People who can’t die are immortal. You can die; you’re just hard to kill.”

The Outlander slapped the thick flesh of his belly and rubbed it slowly, the smile still prominent on his pudgy face. “You think you can shoot me with that pea shooter of yours?” His voice took on a metallic quality, like nails dragged across iron.

“I know I can shoot you with my pea shooter. I am one heck of a shot.”

“And you think you can kill me with your iron bullets?”

“Iron bullets alone won’t do the trick, but I hear that Huzela juice in your blood will help those bullets kill you just fine.”

The rubbing motion stopped and the Outlander gawked at Coyote.

“Caesar?” Coyote’s tone was soft and smug, and the Outlander jumped a little when Caesar touched him. The big creature turned just in time to see the little man with coal black skin run from harm’s way. Caesar held a large, intricate copper syringe with a curved needle in his hand, and Coyote chuckled at the sight. The fat creature roared in outrage.

“What have you done to me, you bitch?” He charged toward Coyote, and she could see the color in his eyes turn from yellow to red.

Excerpt from Angel Manor

The bodies of fallen children lay scattered around the room, their blood coagulating in a pool covering over half the chapel floor. The whimpers coming from the survivors were little more than a pitiful hum.

Agatha had thought her mission noble when she’d first joined the order, but this suffering overwhelmed her with nausea and regret. There was a better way than this needless waste of young life, Agatha was sure of it.

“We could save thousands of lives by sacrificing but a few. Sister Anne and I have studied the texts, and we’re pretty confident we can do it… tonight even. We made all the preparations, just in case you changed your mind. The sacrifice required is relatively small compared…”

The Reverend Mother’s hand lashed out, connecting with Agatha’s cheek with a loud crack. Pain spread out in tiny pinpricks across her face. Shocked, she clutched her face and looked at the Mother Superior.

“Enough of this!” Spittle flew from the Reverend Mother’s lips. “Your rituals are pagan, we serve our Lord here as we were instructed. You had best mind what blasphemous words you utter here, Sister Agatha. The Lord does not look kindly upon heathens.” The older woman’s face relaxed slightly, and her expression turned from angry to stern. “We will never speak of this again. Now go and make the sacrifices required of us.” The old woman shoved her forward with a force that belied her frail appearance. Agatha slipped on a puddle of blood, her legs sprawling under her like an awkward doe’s. She fell to the ground, her wrists and elbow hitting the floor hard. Pain shot up through her arms, her naked body shivering on the cold stones. She looked up to see the Mother Superior walk away, leaving bloody footsteps in her wake. Agatha’s eyes followed her until she passed the body of little Margaret. The young girl lay with her neck twisted at an impossible angle, eyes staring lifelessly at the horror within the chapel.

I must find Anne. Sister Agatha scrambled to her feet, her hands and legs stained with cold sticky blood. She glanced at the carnage around her and then she ran, the soles of her feet slapping against stone, the impact rattling her teeth.

She ran from the chapel, through the narrow passages, and across the great cloister. The Sister felt the cold eyes of the twelve stone angels lining the walls of the large open area look down on her. Slowing her pace, she glanced up at the imposing statues. Even knowing stone couldn’t judge her, she found it difficult not to imagine God peering down through those blank eyes. A shudder ran through her spine, and she picked up her pace, not stopping until she reached the library.

“Anne…” Her voice reverberated off the high walls, echoing parts of her words back at her. “Sister Anne?”

A voice came from behind her. “Sister Agatha…”

***

Whew. Smooth, energetic writing. If you haven’t read Chantal, you need to. I hope you enjoyed the interview. I know I did and I look forward to more from Chantal.

You can find Chantal at any of the following places:

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/pon4e66

Blog: http://chantalnoordeloos.blogspot.nl/

Website: http://www.chantalnoordeloos.info

Twitter: C_Noordeloos

Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/puy2t87

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/kb3oswg

 

 

 

The Pinch: Kevin Wallis

I’ve mentioned before about the nurses and how some of them are slightly sadistic. Well, today we get to meet an old friend of mine who just happens to work in the medical field and he likes to kill people, but not in real life. You know, because that would be bad and well, it is what it is. Sadistic, maybe? Yes, I do think so. Coming to the Donor Center today is Kevin Wallis, a master of the pinch.

Let’s talk Soulmates, why don’t we? Tell us about your novel, Mr. Wallis.

Soulmates developed from an idea I had for a story about 15 years ago. I was shooting pool with a buddy when the song Eulogy by Tool came on the jukebox. In the song is the line “Not all martyrs see divinity,” and over the next couple of hours I was more interested in the story idea that had popped into my head than in the game. I’m sure I won, but still.

Over the years I had filled countless notebooks with, well, notes on the story, but of course the final version turned out nothing like what I originally had planned. Basically it’s the story of a man who discovers through an act of violence that he cannot die, and how he reconciles this with his desire to one day see his deceased wife in the afterlife. There are others with this ability, and I tried to explore the vastly different ways people would handle having such a gift, and whether they would use their immortality to help or hurt.

I have had some people respond to this idea with, “Oh, it’s Highlander,” but let me just clear the record and say I HAVE NEVER SEEN THE DAMN MOVIE!

Soulmates is your first novel. Before releasing it you wrote mainly short stories. Why did you decide on a novel?

When I first came up with the Soulmates idea, I had not started writing seriously yet. I had dabbled in fiction since I was a kid, but this idea was so intriguing I decided to give it a try. So I wrote the prologue to the novel. Basically 35,000 words of crap. That’s right, 35,000 words on a PROLOGUE. (For you non-writer types, this comes out to about 125 pages. Of prologue.) I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. It took many more years of writing short stories, gathering hundreds of rejections, finally gaining enough experience to land a few professional sales, and eventually publishing an anthology of my stuff before I had the guts to try a novel. I still have the occasional short story idea pop into my head, still often inspired by a song I might hear (Chevelle’s Hunter Eats Hunter gave me a wicked idea a few days ago), but I want to focus mainly on novels now. Hopefully people will want to read them.

Julie Ann Dawson owns and runs Bards and Sages, the press that published Soulmates. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple stories published by Bards and Sages Quarterly, but I would think working with someone on a novel would be different than working with them on a short story. What was it like working with Julie and her staff?

Julie Dawson and Bards & Sages have been nothing but supportive and professional in publishing both Soulmates and my previous collection in 2010, Beneath the Surface of Things. When I originally contacted Julie, it was with more than a little trepidation because B&S had already rejected several of my short story submissions. But I figured this meant they had high standards and only published what they saw as exceptional works, and this is what I wanted. I had a bad experience with another publisher at another small press company before, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth concerning the entire process, but Julie has since eliminated any lingering doubts I had on the professionalism of some small presses. Plus, she decided to turn my work into audio books, as well, so this makes me do cartwheels of glee. Which is the title of my next book.

Any chance we get another novel from Mr. Wallis?

Definitely. Just not sure when. I have the first few chapters of a new one written but it’s been slow going. The next one isn’t so much a horror novel, but more of a suspense story. Knowing me, though, it’ll wind up being my sickest one yet. They always do.

One last thing: Do you enjoy giving people shots?

Only if the needles are dull and rusty.

Folks, Kevin Wallis is a cool dude with a love of needles and horror fiction. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and alongside Kevin on various projects over the years. His short story collection, Beneath the Surface of Things is exactly as it sounds. He tried to get beneath the surface of the human persona and peel back the layers until exposing the true person inside.

Soulmates is a good, easy, fast-paced read that any fan of horror will enjoy. Check him out on Amazon and Bards and Sages Publishing at the following links:

Soulmates

Beneath the Surface of Things

Bards and Sages Publishing

The Pinch: Greg Ferrell

Zombies. They’re the in crowd, the monsters everyone is talking about right now. They kill indiscriminately. One bite, even just a pinch of the teeth, and you’re as good as dead, well undead. With that in mind, let’s bring in Greg Ferrel, the author of the Humanity’s Hope series.

Let me get straight to the point: Why zombies?

Zombies rock. They are the epitome of an unstoppable enemy that wants nothing more than to kill you. Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers they don’t scare me as much. They are one being, a serious threat, yes, but still just one being. They always seem to have a weakness you can exploit to survive. Zombies have one, too, but they are legion. Shoot one in the head four more come running, shambling, crawling or whatever and they wont stop until you run out of gas and become dinner. They have always been my favorite of the movie monsters, and as far back as I can remember I had a plan for the coming apocalypse more thought out then I had my plan if it didn’t happen.

Tell us about Humanity’s Hope, the series.

Humanity’s Hope came from my belief that it would be possible with the right people and the right mindset that you could survive the apocalypse and have hope again.

It starts out as a group of close friends who have built a safe haven in a neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, that one of them lived in when the outbreak happened fifteen months earlier. They have a wall built protecting them inside from the slabs, which is their name for the zombies, or even other humans who would want to take from them. They have weapons scavenged from overun military convoys and many other places. They have limited electricity from solar panels on one of the houses and ample food supplies. Life is looking good for them and they are survivng well.

All hell breaks loose on them though shortly afterwards. They face two impending threats from the north and the south and the camp comes under attack.

As the smoke clears there is loss and confusion as the survivors deal with the aftermath. A revelation from one of the residents reveals a much more sinister world that threatens their survival. But there is also hope as one of them goes through a change after being bitten.

While the people in Tallahassee are trying to survive another group of people scattered all around the world are attempting to reconnect with each other. These people have lived a very secretive yet powerful life and want nothing more than to regain their lofty position controlling the events of the world. Is there more to them then just their lofty position and what is their ultimate goal?

Hutch is a man on two missions. The first is to kill slabs and he is good at it. One at a time is too slow and he is not a patient man. With a twenty year carer as a Navy SEAL recently behind him he has the know how to cause massive damage to the slab population. His second mission is his secret. Follow him as he travels across the country doing what only he can do the way he does it.

The stories of these groups will become intertwined and a much more secret history of the world will be revealed as the series moves on. History is written by the survivors not the dead, what we know may not be the truth.

If you had to convince someone to pick up the Humanity’s Hope series instead of another book (or series), what would you say?

Humanity’s Hope is not just another zombie survival book. It is an adventure as you follow not just one group of people but at times up to four differnet groups of people in various locations of the world. The story will span 3000 years as the origin of the zombie plague goes back farther than we could ever imagine. Before it is over you will find out that the zombies aren’t the only monster the survivors will have to deal with but they might end up with a few on their side too.

It is also a more positive look at the apocalypse and I prove that you don’t have to go over the top with the language or violence to get your point across about what is going on. Even though there is some language in it I have had a few parents feel very comfortable letting their teenagers read it saying it’s nothing worse than they hear on network television.

It is a page turning, fast paced ride that many readers have written to me complaining that the book ruined any chance of getting a good nights sleep. They couldn’t put it down until long after they had planned on reading for the night.

Greg, what do you believe is the most important part of telling a story?

Make the reader want to turn the page. Keep it interesting and keep it moving. Some readers might want you to spend two pages describing the mole on the side of someones face, but I think most of them want to get a good story full of fun interesting characters. I love a good story where the action keeps coming at you to the point where you find yourself breathing faster and faster not even realizing you are doing it. But not at the expense of quality action. I feel it needs to have a reason for happening though, a gunfight or fistfight that has no impact on the outcome of the story is stupid it needs to carry through either changing the character or the outcome of the story.

Including Humanity’s Hope, what stories does Greg Ferrel have for us in the future?

I have just released my first non monster book on January 5th called Nothing Ever Happens Here. It is a coming of age story of two boys having the night of their lives, good and bad, as they try to get to a party to meet up with some girls they like. They face off against nudists, bullies, cops, witches, shotguns and so much more. The great part is that all the events are based on real life experiences I had growing up. It is something very different than my first two books and is being received very well by reviewers.

I plan on wrapping up the last three books as well as two or three short story books in the Humanity’s Hope series in 2015. As soon as I wrap those up I will be jumping right into my next series which will be a fantasy series I am keeping under wraps until I can get to work on it.

I have to ask this question because I think you and I are of the same mindset. You have a saying: “I’m not an author, I’m a storyteller.” I say the exact same thing. In your mind, what is the difference between an author and a storyteller?

I view the difference of the two are similar to the way you classify baseball players. You can play for years in the minors but wont be taken seriously about your skill until you make it to the big leagues. Then you are a professional ball player, a Major Leaguer. For me I feel like I am just a storyteller until I am taken seriously by my peers up top in the publishing world in New York. I do feel like I will one day accept that title of author even though at heart I will always be a storyteller.

Here is a brief excerpt from Humanity’s Hope : Camp H:

It has been three days since Hutch had arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and he has been on a recon watch since arriving. Not because of slabs, though. This time it is because of a human, he thinks. He came here to see the famed PGA golf course Harbor Bay, and he has arrived. But instead of finding a grossly-overgrown golf course; he, instead, finds that it is in incredible shape almost pristine. That doesn’t make sense, and he is on watch waiting to see who is taking care of it.

He had a hellacious time getting here as almost every bridge to the area was either destroyed or impassable. The only bridge to Harbor Bay was completely destroyed and under water from end to end. So he had to abandon his vehicle on the other side of the river and swim across, bringing as much weaponry as he could with him, which wasn’t much. Since arriving, he has not seen a single slab in the area or any human for that matter; but he has found several dead corpses lying around that indicates someone cleaned house here. And then he found the golf course and has been waiting for any sign of its keeper.

Out of the corner of his eye, Hutch catches the first sign of movement since he arrived; and it catches him a little off guard. In a small golf cart, with a set of golf clubs on the back, sits one lone old man.   He is dressed as you would expect someone heading out to play golf for the day to be dressed. He wears long black-and-white plaid pants with a bright yellow polo shirt and a straw hat keeping the sun out of his eyes. He watches as the lone man cuts his cart across the backyard of one of the houses bordering the fairway of the first hole and parks at the tee box and then approaches it with a club and ball in hand.

Hutch continues watching all this from his hiding spot on the third floor of another house bordering the golf course. He thinks at first that maybe he is imagining this scene before his eyes. And then thinks it again as he watches the little old man, who can’t be more than five feet tall and weigh about a hundred and ten pounds, hit his first drive and watches it go about 325 yards straight down the fairway. Hutch, with his physical shape, would love to one day be able to hit a drive that far, and he is impressed. However, none of this thinking is helping his confusion on what is going on around here.

Hutch watches the little old man scoot from hole to hole; and by the time he rounds out of sight heading to the fifth hole, Hutch has his score at two under par already. With him out of sight and no other human spotted, he thinks maybe it is time to approach the old man and see if he can get some answers. So he grabs one lone rifle and heads downstairs and out the back door to find him.

As Hutch opens the back door, he is startled by the sight of the golf cart he was just watching sitting on the back patio of the house. He turns to see where its occupant is and finds himself staring straight down the barrel of a .357 magnum with the old man looking down its barrel back at him.

“Can I help you, sonny?” The old man asks.

Okay, zombie lovers, let’s show Mr. Greg Ferrell some love. Feel free to leave comments at the end of this post.  Thank you, Greg, for coming in and spending a little time with us, here at Type AJ Negative.

You can find out about all of his books at www.humanityshope.com

You can also follow him at humanityshope series on Facebook.

 

The Pinch: Kindra Sowder

Today, I get to pinch a fellow South Carolinian. With a new small press and a book coming out in January, I’d like you all to welcome Kindra Sowder to the Doner Center.

Kindra, your debut novel, Follow the Ashes, is coming out soon. Tell us about it.

Follow the Ashes is the first installment of a trilogy I began writing when I was fifteen, and there are possibly many more to come. I haven’t decided. It will be released January 11, 2015. The trilogy is about a woman named Robin (whose name was inspired by my beautiful mother) and she is the Executioner, a slayer of the evil and undead. Below is a brief description from the Burning Willow Press website.

What does it mean to be the Executioner? Is it the struggle between good and evil, and the fulfillment of a Gypsy legend?

For Robin, it’s simply another day in the park in downtown LA. It’s killing the undead as she attempts to juggle life and love the same as any other ordinary woman would. That is until she meets Gordon, a crazed demon with a conscience. Now she must battle an ancient evil far more powerful than she’s ever faced before, or risk losing the world to Lilith, the mother of all vampires.

Will she save mankind? Or will we all follow the ashes of destruction as we burn in Hell?

It will be followed by two sequels, Follow the Screams and Follow the Bloodshed.

Where will we, the readers, be able to find Follow the Ashes?

Follow the Ashes will be available in a number of places and formats. It will be available on Amazon as well as through e-book on Amazon and in print in stores and on shelves! Be on the lookout for it or you can request it if your local bookstore isn’t carrying it at the time. I’m really hoping I can get them on the shelves in Barnes & Noble to be honest as well as a lot of indie bookstores.

I see you are one busy lady right now. You have recently started a small press called Burning Willow Press. What made you decide to start your own small press?

Well, I decided to do this after the debacle with Permuted Press. When they changed their business model I was one of the many authors affected and I chose to dissolve my contract with them in search for something better. After that experience I wanted to be different so, while making the decision to self-publish my work, I made one very big leap. I decided to start my own small press, vowing to be an advocate for authors and their work instead of taking advantage of them like others do. Along with good friend and fellow author R.M. Willis and my husband Edd Sowder, we joined together to form Burning Willow Press to achieve that goal as well as to put out high quality work and to make an author’s vision for their work come to fruition.

For the writers out there, what types of work are you seeking?

At Burning Willow Press we are seeking science fiction, fantasy and horror. All submissions will go straight to our submissions and acquisitions team: Sheron Parris (fantasy submissions), Greg Crum (sci-fi submissions), and Steven Winfrey (horror submissions) to be brought to me by VP and acquisitions manager, R. M. Willis. We are very open to submissions that are a blend of these genres as well and we love unique work. One we just accepted is from former Permuted Press author, Michael Gardner. It is a pirate fantasy called The Blood of an Immortal. ARGGGHHH!

One last question, and I think I know the answer, but: Vampires or zombies and why?

Well, Jeff, while I do love zombies and am even a loyal Walking Dead fan, vampires have always been my favorite of the undead. They have been since I was a child and was captivated by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and even more as I continued to delve into the folklore. Then my favorite show, Supernatural, brought them out into the light, and well, who doesn’t love Buffy? If anyone wants to hook me, give me a really good and unique vampire story and you have my interest.

The following is an excerpt from Follow the Ashes:

My whole body burned. Every muscle fiber, every bone, every vessel. My chest felt broken but yet tightly held together like a huge hand was holding me. I couldn’t get a breath in, but could easily get a breath out. Lying there on my side I continued to try to choke in gasps, each one harder and more excruciating than the last. Blood was still seeping from the two puncture wounds on my neck. Some of that blood had even made its way into my hair and down my shirt. Great.

I could hear her footsteps coming closer to me. Or was that the heavy thud of my heart beating in my ears? With every step she took I knew I had to fight back. I could either fight for my life, or lose it by being a coward and giving into the pain. I was choosing life and I was going to fight for it with all the strength I had left. That’s if it was enough to even stand. If it wasn’t, fighting could be a different story altogether.

I rose to my knees and my body protested with nearly agonizing pain. I let the fire build up inside of me and it began to take me over like a tidal wave. This fire would save my life.

The woman’s steps stopped and I looked up at her, vowing vengeance and justice without even speaking a word. I didn’t see a flicker of fear in her eyes as she looked at me. I saw a gleam in her eyes that said she saw me as waste. Filth beneath her feet she could just walk all over and not even bat an eye. I was something not worth her time and something to be swiftly snuffed out. She had a plan, and she only needed to get rid of me to be able to fulfill it. I was going to be an easy kill to her, but I hadn’t yet revealed the rest of what I had in my arsenal. This fire inside of me wasn’t all I had. I had a will that no one could rival. Not even her.

My hand seemed to rise of its own volition, and the scream came out on instinct. The scream contained that familiar demonic edge that had distorted my voice the first time I let it overtake me. Fire blazed out of my hand and enveloped her in licking light and heat that was unforgiving. Her screams echoed through the night, and I let it pour out of me until every ounce of power had drained from my body, and I was nothing but a frail and hollow person. My vision began to fade, but I knew with everything I had that the demon was down on the ground. She was almost burnt to the point of being a charcoal briquette, but by some means still alive. I could still feel that strong buzz of her power throughout my entire body. No matter how much I wanted to extinguish that blaze inside of her, I determined I wouldn’t have the strength to do so.

I felt myself collapse and as my body made contact with the unforgiving ground every part of me cried with pain. I heard that same whimper come from between my parted lips. My vision was slowly fading, and as it faded completely to blackness I caught a glimpse of the man with an angel’s face coming to my rescue. I knew with certainty this would be when he would save me. Then everything went dark.

As I regained a moment’s consciousness I could feel myself being carried, and heard two distinct and panicked voices. I knew that I was definitely being carried by the man that I saw hovering over me as I blacked out. Thank you, powers of deduction. I could hear him right next to my head. Then I heard a door being opened with a squeak and somehow I knew it was the door to mine and Beth’s home. The familiar smell of the herbs she used in her spells hung in the air so I knew it was definitely our house. It was mostly the scent of burned sage that we used to banish the evil spirits of anything we had killed since we met. They had a tendency to stick around. Another clue was the slight creek in the maple floor board right in front of the door that had always been there.

The other voice was certainly Beth’s and I knew she was terrified for me, but she was scared by the man she had never met barging into our home. I could tell only that much. Every smell, sound, and sensation was muffled to the point I almost couldn’t tell if I was really sensing any of it at all. I even tried to open my eyes, but couldn’t. My eyelids felt like they had been sewn shut, and held down by heavy weight. It was like someone wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be opening them ever again. I wanted to be able to tear them open, and that same panic I heard in Beth’s voice started to rise in me as well. I was stuck in a darkness I couldn’t pull myself out of. As it overwhelmed me my body began to quiver and shake.

Then a new panic set in as another thought crossed my mind. How did this man know where I lived? What were his motives? But I realized I couldn’t worry about that at that moment. I had more important things to worry about. Like becoming completely conscious again and being able to communicate with Beth. I had to tell her about this mysterious creature that I had come across.

“I’m not sure what she was, but this woman has knocked her out cold. I’m not even sure how long she’ll be out for,” was all I could make out from the man carrying me into my home. I felt hair being moved away from the bite on my neck. It stuck sickly to my skin. “This will need to be purified. Now!” I could feel every ounce of pain in my body that I had felt before I drifted into darkness, and it was excruciating. I could feel the familiar buzz of terror from this man as he seemed to realize I could possibly die from this encounter. Wouldn’t that be a relief from what I was feeling at this moment, but no. I could possibly turn tonight. That woman wasn’t just anything, she was a vampire. A very old one at that.

I was swiftly taken through our home and my eyes were able to drift open long enough for me to see our kitchen doorway as I was laid on the kitchen island. I felt very large, warm hands on me that rolled me onto my side. One hand moved to my shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze as I heard rummaging through a cabinet. I knew what was coming. A holy water shower, followed by a silver nitrate shot. This was going to hurt.

I heard glass moving around and knew Beth had found the bottles of holy water. I was already shaking because I knew what was coming. I had experienced this pain before. We both had, but she wasn’t the one who had almost burned the house down because of it.

Fear gripped me and my eyes shot open and met his. Beth laid a glass syringe and an amber glass bottle on the corner of the island next to the three bottles of holy water it would take for the process. She glanced at me when her eyes met mine I saw pity and concern. She knew exactly what I was about to endure, and she felt sorry for me. I half expected her not to be able to do it herself, but as she picked up one bottle of holy water she removed the lid and gave me a reassuring look. I turned onto my stomach and gripped both side of the island, and braced myself for what was going to happen next.

Beth held the bottle over the wounds and hesitated. I could see her arm shaking as well. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to. If she didn’t, I was going to turn and they would be my first victims. I’d kill myself before I let that happen. I would not be one of the monsters.

I looked her directly in the eyes and nodded, giving her the okay. It had to be done. I gripped the counter even harder and squeezed my eyes shut, holding my breath. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and she hadn’t even poured anything yet. Then I felt the first sting as a few drops landed on my skin, and I gripped the edges of the counter even harder. Those few drops weren’t as bad as the barrage of acid that was about to be poured onto me.

A river of holy water touched my skin and sizzled. I felt like acid was being poured onto me and I was able to stifle a few screams. The river stopped, and then another started. I couldn’t stop it this time. Screams of agony ripped through the air and filled every corner of the house. There was no way to fight it. It stopped again. I opened my eyes and Beth was standing there, holding the bottle but not daring to pour anymore. I gave her another nod and closed my eyes. She then poured the whole bottle and then moved onto bottle number two, then three. I was sweating and soaking wet and could barely breathe by the time that was done. Now came the worst part. The syringe full of silver nitrate.

I slowly sat up, wincing, and put my arm out, rolling up my sleeve so she could get to the veins at the bend of my elbow. She touched the very tip of the glass syringe to my skin, looked me in the eyes, and pushed it into the vein right at the surface. I cringed, but held still. I knew once she pushed the plunger down I wouldn’t be as restrained. The man grabbed my shoulders from behind.

She pushed the plunger all the way down and at first everything was okay, then I felt a sensation was starting to build. My veins were on fire and as the burning grew, a glow began in the center of my chest and began to spread through those veins. The pain grew with it. I couldn’t hold it back. My head rolled back and I shrieked, a demonic scream being released with it.

The pain was unbearable and my body felt as if it were on fire and I went limp. My vision went black, but I was still aware of what was happening. The man picked me up and I could hear Beth directing him on where to go. As he laid me on what I could only assume was a bed I felt the coolness of the sheets, which was more than welcome as far as I was concerned. I wandered off into unconsciousness again, and everything was gone.

Thank you for joining us for this edition of The Pinch, and please check Kindra Sowder out at the following links:

Kindra Sowder on Facebook

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Website coming soon!

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The Pinch: Michelle Garren Flye

It will only hurt a little, just a pinch. That’s what the nurse says.

Remember that as we welcome a favorite of mine, Michelle Garren Flye. Michelle and I go back to the old +Horror Library+ days of the Zoetrope website. I’ve been fortunate enough to become a friend over the years, and worked with her on a couple of projects. I’ve been even more fortunate to have had the joy of reading her work when she wrote ~GASP~ horror.

It is an honor to welcome Michelle back to the Donor Center for The Pinch.

10 books. That is a lot of books to have written and released. Tell me, Michelle, is this what you imagined or is it better (or maybe even a little worse)?

Thank you for having me here, A.J. Let me answer your question with a little story. Once there was a little girl about seven years old who wrote cute little stories. Her mother said the little girl had a good imagination and could be an author one day. Of course, the little seven-year-old girl barely even knew what an author was, but that word—author—stuck in her head and germinated over the years until she was certain she wanted nothing more than to write and write and write her way into the stars.

Of course, real life intervened over the years and the girl grew into a young woman who let her dreams be mashed up into a way to make a living and became a journalist. When the young woman became a wife, she wanted better hours so she could spend more time with her husband, so she went to school and became a librarian. And then she started having children and took some time off work and started writing again, all the while dreaming of one day being able to call herself an author.

Well, with ten books out there being read by other people (even if it is just a few dozen), I know I can now call myself an author. But I also know I haven’t reached the limits of my dream. I still want my books to be read by a LOT of people. So I guess the answer is, the seed is still germinating and growing and becoming a vine that someday I hope will bear fruit.

Tell us about Island Magic—the tenth book.

Island Magic is the third in my Sleight of Hand series, a romance series featuring magicians as either the hero or heroine. In this case, the hero is Logan, a retired magician whose guilt over his wife’s death several years before has kept him from returning to the life of magic. When his wife’s best friend Rachel shows up at his Caribbean resort determined to party her way through her alimony, Logan wants to help her. In the process, he pulls off a pretty cool magic trick, falls in love with Rachel and finds out the secret of why she’s on such a self-destructive path. I like Island Magic because I feel like it has a lot more depth than the first two books in the series—although I’ll always love Andre, the magician hero of Close Up Magic.

I have to do this: You used to write horror, and you were magnificent at it. Why did you choose to go in the almost completely opposite direction with your writing in doing romance novels?

You are very kind to say I was magnificent at writing horror. I never deluded myself that far. I wrote some kind of neat ghost stories, but I was nowhere near as good as most of my contemporaries (including you). However, I’d probably still be writing those ghost stories if it weren’t for the fact that one day when my younger son was still a baby, I looked at his face and realized I wanted everything in the world to be beautiful for him. Love is the most beautiful thing in the world—the one power that can light up the darkest moment in our lives—so I decided I’d rather write about it. And that’s what got me started.

What are the differences between writing horror and writing romance?

Well, obviously, you’re aiming for a different demographic with romance. Romance readers are almost entirely women. But other than that… This is actually a very difficult question to answer. Every time I start to write something down about romance, I realize the same could be said for horror.

How are they the same?

Strangely enough, this is a much easier question to answer. Because yes. They are. Good horror is realistic. So is good romance. Good horror comes from the depth of your soul, and so does good romance. In both genres, you want to shock your audience (at least a little), keep them wondering, build suspense and finally come to an inevitable conclusion. Of course, horror never requires a happily ever after and romance does. 6. Is there a chance you may go back to horror one day? You know, for old time’s sake?

Always. I still get ideas for horror and I’ve never given up my fascination with a good ghost story. Whenever I travel, I find a bookstore and go straight to the local interest section to find the local histories and legends. And living on the coast of North Carolina, I’m determined I will one day write a book about a ghost pirate. Maybe it’ll even be a romance. Who knows?

The following is an excerpt from Island Magic, Michelle’s newest releas. Enjoy:

“Rachel!” The voice yanked her into semi-consciousness, or maybe it was the hands gripping her shoulders. God, had she fallen asleep in the waiting room? And why was everything so bright, and why did it all hurt so much? She wanted to tell him to leave her alone, let her rest for a few more minutes, but the anxiety in his voice when he called her name again made her push past the inertia.

“Jesus. What? Did I fall asleep?”

Logan stared at her for a second, then enfolded her in his arms. “Thank God. For a second I thought…” He stopped, pushing her away from him and she noticed for the first time the black marks on his face.

“God, what happened to you? Were you working on the plane or something?” She pulled away, brushing something gritty from her shoulders, feeling more in her hair. Why was she sandy? She looked around, taking in her surroundings with astonishment. “What?” She returned her gaze to him. “What am I doing on the beach?”

He frowned. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“The waiting room at the airport. What happened? I hurt all over.” She struggled to stand, but he stopped her.

“Wait. Take it easy. You don’t remember getting on the plane? Maybe you hit your head harder than I thought.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “You’re not bleeding.” His frown deepened. “How do you feel?”

“What do you mean, how do I feel? I feel like a truck ran over me. I told you, I hurt all over.” Her voice came out sounding petulant and whiny and she stopped, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I just don’t understand. What happened?”

He hesitated, glanced around and finally said, “Let’s get out of the sun. It’s the middle of the afternoon and you don’t have any sunblock on.”

She let him help her to her feet, leaning on him as she turned toward the shadier area just off the beach. She stopped, first because she didn’t recognize the beach and second because of the smoking, blackened hulk a few hundred feet away. She gasped, her knees buckling beneath her. “Oh my God! Were we on…that?”

Before you click off the page, please check out Michelle’s links. Here’s the thing: she’s not just a great writer, but Michelle is a great person, who puts her heart and soul into her work. If you like romance, then you will love Michelle’s books> Check her out at the following links:

Michelle Garren Flye’s Website

Michelle Garren Flye on Twitter

Michelle Garren Flye on Facebook

Sleight of Hand Facebook Page

As always, thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…

The Pinch: Claire C. Riley

Welcome to The Pinch. What’s The Pinch? Oh, it’s simple. You know when you go to the doctor and end up getting a shot? You know how that nurse (who just loves her job so much she could be a serial killer in any psychotic movie) who smiles at you and says, ‘We’re going to give you a little shot. It won’t hurt much…’ I always wonder who the ‘we’ is here?

The nurse then goes on to say, ‘It’ll only be a little pinch.’

First off, she’s lying. Don’t believe her. I’ve never been given a shot that felt like any pinch I’ve ever had. Second off, she’s enjoying herself. While you’re sucking in all the oxygen in the room, she’s smiling away. Little evil serial killer wanna-be.

Okay, I’ve gotten a little sidetracked. The Pinch is an interview series. They are four or five short, quick questions (though the interviewee doesn’t have to give short answers), just enough to tease you folks out in Reader Land. It’s also my way of introducing you to writers you (may or) may not know.

Our first Pinch is a young lady by the name of Claire C. Riley. I just recently found out about her through a Facebook group (yes, a trusty Facebook group—isn’t that how everyone meets these days?). Without going into further unpleasantries, why don’t we just get started?

Limerence, The Obsession Series, is along the lines of a romantic horror involving vampires. This is something we’ve seen before in another series that shall go unnamed within these dark halls. For those readers who have been ruined on vampires because of that other series, how does Limerence differ from it?

Limerence was my debut novel and the second in the series came out in October, with the third and final installment set for release in 2015. How does it vary from the film that shall not be named? Pretty much everything about it is different, haha. I tried to take vampires back to the more old school route of Bram Stoker where vampires were dark and dangerous. I also tried to turn things on their head. In most books and film adaptations the woman wants to be a vampire, however in Limerence it’s the very opposite. So, there’s blood, and lust and danger and crazy-assed vampires!

You write about zombies as well. Why?

– I love reading about apocalyptic worlds, and some twisted part of me actually believes that zombies could possibly come about one day. Or something similar anyway. Plus for that reason, zombies are a big fear of mine, and I think it’s good to write about things that scare you. Facing your fears head on so to speak.

Tell us a little about Odium The Dead Saga.

Odium is set several years after the outbreak, and our main protagonist, Nina, lives in a walled city protected from the Deaders out in the world. However, the city has become less than a happy place and people are forced to either starve or sell themselves to survive. Nina has had enough, and when a young girl is being kicked out of the city for stealing, she decides to go with her.

Nina, however, is not a fighter. She can’t use a gun or a sword; she has no survival skills whatsoever. She’s just an everyday woman determined to survive in a world overrun by the dead.

She’s feisty and snarky, she’s inappropriate and says what she thinks. Some say bitch, but I say that it’s just her defense mechanism. It’s better to have no friends so she can’t lose any one. Along their road for survival, they meet other survivors that are surviving the best way they can.

I also have out – Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella part One and Two. These are accompaniments to the Odium novels and tell the back-story on some of the more important characters from each book. I LOVE writing these books and letting the readers know the TRUE story behind each character. And let me tell you, they are not what you expect them to be.

I love this line from your website: She writes characters that are realistic and kills them without mercy. Do you sometimes have a hard time killing off a character you love or do you really kill them without mercy?

– I genuinely kill them without mercy! Haha, I’m cruel like that. However, do I regret killing some of them off afterwards? Yes, a lot of the time. In fact, some of them still haunt me

Another blurb from your website that I like is the description of your writing: Claire C Riley’s work is best described as the modernization of classic, old-school horror. Is there an old-school classic that you haven’t tackled that you would like to?

– There’s a lot that I want to tackle in the future to be honest, it’s finding the time that I have the problem with. My fans are greedy voracious, and I love them for it, but it’s hard to keep them fed all the time with new tales! I have quite a few anthology contributions under my belt namely, Let’s Scare Cancer to Death (a charity anthology) State of Horror: Illinois and Fading Hope: Humanity Unbound.

I love them all, but the Fading Hope anthology is one of my very favourites because it talks about a subject that I haven’t covered before – monsters! Like, real old school monsters. And in this anthology there is no hope whatsoever. It was a great collaboration of authors such as Jack Wallen, Rebecca Besser, Eli Constant, and several more, and each of us wrote completely unique and hopeless stories. It’s brilliant and really goes out of everyone’s comfort zones.

Thank you, Claire, for your time and answers. Keep the band-aid on for at least 24 hours to prevent any bacteria and infection. Or risk getting infected and becoming a zombie.

The following are excerpts from two of Claire’s books. Enjoy:

From Limerence II

The dining room is quiet at this time of the day. It is neither lunch nor teatime; however, I know that there will be food prepared. There is always food prepared. I take my glass from the stand and move along the counter until I reach Mad Donny, the chef here. He smiles warmly at me, as he always smiles.

“Mia, how are you today?”

“I’m good.” I mirror his smile as I look at the selection. “Hungry.”

“Of course—aren’t you always? What would you like? Something sweet? Something spicy, perhaps?” He licks his lips greedily and rubs his hands together. Donny is always hungry, though he should have learnt to control his thirst by now. He is far older than Evan, and me, and even older than most of the other vampires around here. His eyes gleam at me with an insanity that he does not try to control; it’s what makes Donny Donny. I don’t know how he does this every day; the smell alone would send me over the edge, but he seems to relish in it. Perhaps his pleasure from it is because of his constant overindulgence.

“Sweet, please, Donny,” I say and hand him my glass. Sweet is always my preference, especially after an unfortunate April Fool’s Donny played on everyone, which involved hot chillies and blood. The poor human never tasted the same afterwards.

He turns to the selection of humans behind him and, reaching for a youngish man, he pulls the seal from his wrist and holds it over my glass. The man’s eyes are glassy and hollow as he stares ahead of him at nothing. His lips are bluish and dry, and his skin pasty.

My stomach grumbles as the glass begins to fill, and I urge him to hurry, my fangs unsheathing in expectancy.

Down, boys. Not this time.

Donny reseals the wound and turns back to me with my now full glass of sweet B negative.

“Thanks.” I smile wider this time and hurry to a table by the window. I want to sit and enjoy the sun on my face whilst I drink. It’s cold out, but the sun still rises each day in retaliation of the coming winter.

The first sip is always the best. That first millisecond when the blood touches your taste buds is as if every one of my senses are being caressed by the hand of God. Every stroke, every touch awakens my very soul, devouring my body from the inside out—though without doubt, not by any God I know of.

© Copyright Claire C. Riley

From Odium The Dead Saga

“Let’s go.” JD moves off round the corner, and we follow him as one and without argument.

There are stains smeared along the walls, handprints and the words help us written in dried blood. I shudder and look at Duncan. He lowers his gaze away from me and away from the words, knowing only too well that he caused this. He could have saved some of these people if he wouldn’t have been such a coward. Instead he locked them all inside and sentenced them to death.

There are the remains of a body or two on the floor, but not enough of either of them remain to be reanimated, and so JD kicks the bloody bones to the side and out of our way. We can hear more growling coming from behind a closed door; we seemed to have riled them all up, by the sounds of it.

“That’s the medic’s room,” Duncan whispers.

I want to shout out no shit, Sherlock! since there’s a big red cross on the door, but JD turns the handle before I can get my words out. I swallow them down and ready myself as the door opens inwards and reveals to us the five zombies within.

They head straight for us with long, hungry growls, as if mamma didn’t give them their last meal before bedtime. Sludge hangs from their jaws and a cold blankness fills their eyes. Their lips peel back to reveal blackened and broken teeth and they push and shove to get past each other and to their meal. Us. I shiver and swallow down the stomach acid that has worked its way up my esophagus and into my mouth.

“I got this.” Crunch steps forward, and with her two knives, she decapitates the first two zombies with relative ease (if there can be such a thing when killing the living dead). JD follows her in, and when a zombie lunges for him, he deals with it with a quick swoop of his scythe down its middle. From skull to stomach it splits, and everything left inside tumbles into a pile on the floor along with its body.

Crunch laughs as she circles another, kicking it away with her foot until it falls on its back. She stands above it, placing a foot on its chest, and drives her blade through its face slowly and with a maniacal glee that sends shivers down my spine. There is something like contentment in her expression as she pulls the blade back out, gunk spewing out of the hole left by her knife.

The last deader has reached the doorway, and Duncan takes aim with his gun.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers as he pulls the trigger and the zombie hits the floor.

©Copyright Claire C. Riley

Intrigued? Good. You can follow the links below to her website, Facebook, twitter, Google+ and Amazon author pages. Check her out, and thanks for stopping by.

Claire C. Riley’s Website

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Claire C. Riley Amazon Author Page

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