Today on the blog, horror author Richard Schiver is guest posting. His latest release, All Roads Lead to Terror, tells a story where the horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present.
Four boys taking their first hesitant steps into adulthood, will be tested at every step as they travel through a blasted land where the only hope is for a swift death followed by an endless sleep. Survival lay in the firepower they carried, coupled with their willingness to use it, and their ability to trust each other with their own lives.
Creating the Cover by Richard Schiver
As an independent author with limited resources, what I’m able to save to put into my writing is used to have my work edited before it is released. As such I’m unable to afford the covers I would like to see on my work so for the past couple of years I’ve been designing my own, while teaching myself how to use Photoshop to create covers.
I’m pretty damned proud of what I came up with for All Roads Lead to Terror. I wanted to touch the potential reader on an emotional level while at the same time showing that the story within the covers was about leaving your childhood behind as one stepped into adulthood. Of course what better way of showing innocence lost than with an abandoned teddy bear. I tried several different routes, all with little success, until I staged the photo myself.
I picked up the stuffed bear from Goodwill for a couple of bucks. When I carried him out of the store he was in pretty good shape. Once I got him home it got a little interesting, even though I look like a grumpy old man, I can be rather emotional at times. I believe a writer has to be very much in touch with their emotions in order to properly convey the feelings of their characters on the page. It was this familiarity with my own emotions that stopped me at first from doing what I knew I had to do. It’s just a stuffed bear, I kept telling myself. That might have been but before he went to live at the Goodwill it was obvious a child had taken good care of him.
In the end I quickly removed his left leg and ear. A bit of black paint and some hard rubbing gave me the look I wanted for with his fur, a matted, unwashed appearance. Adding the sling was a final touch to show that though he had been abandoned at one time he’d been cherished by a child that shared its sorrow for a world turned upside down.
He has no name, yet. But his sacrifice has earned him a place of honor in my office, he sits on the top shelf of my bookcase, watching over my shoulder as I work, occasionally he will sit in my lap as I write, to help me connect with the emotions that I strive to bring to the page. He will also appear on every subsequent cover in the series.
He serves as a constant reminder of what I hope to achieve with The Dreadland Chronicles that will focus not on the brutality of the world in which they live, but the undying hope of the young as they struggle to rebuild a shattered world that has been left to them, and make a better place for those who will follow.
Richard was born in Frostburg, Maryland, in the winter of ’58’ and currently lives eight miles away. A five-year stint with the military allowed him to see what he wanted of the world. Married with four grown children and eight grandchildren, he and his wife provide a home to four pets that are spoiled beyond rotten.
In addition to writing daily he works a full time job in retail, and piddles around in his wood-shop making one mess after another when time permits. Richard can be found online at:
He can also be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and would be delighted to hear from you. Sign up to be notified of publishing updates and new releases as they become available. He promises to never share your contact info, nor will he swamp your inbox with unnecessary crap. He’ll also toss in a free copy of White Walker when you sign up.
I love a female villain. I don’t read about a lot of them, however. Maybe it’s the books I’m choosing but I don’t see it often enough in my opinion. And black female villains? So rare. During an online Twitter party a week ago, I read about how many readers would love to see a black female villain.
Enter The New Mrs. Collins by Quanie Miller. It’s listed as paranormal on Amazon, but I’d venture to say this book steps its toes into the waters of horror. Just a bit. Enough to cause a few ripples.
Deservedly so. The New Mrs. Collins is an unsettling book with a female villain whose origins are initially obscured. Adira doesn’t know what she is (and neither does the protagonist or the reader until much later.). I enjoy when an author is able to make a “What type of monster is this?” background work for a character. I also love to draw my own conclusions in a book, so I like that not everything about the villain is spelled out.
Adira has a great deal of self-hatred, perhaps understandably, but it didn’t make me sympathetic toward her. I did, however, sympathize with our heroine. Leena is jilted on her wedding day and finds out her husband-to-be had taken up with the mysteriously beautiful, poised, and successful Adira. Adira breezes in, making demands that Leena “give in” to what’s happened and try to move on with finding her own happiness.
But she can’t. There’s something wrong with Mrs. Collins and few people can see it. Those who do are quickly dealt with in ways made even more chilling because of the distant, almost carefree manner Adira uses.
Miller’s writing style is strong and self-assured. I found the setting of small town Louisiana realistic and refreshing in a story that isn’t steeped in voodoo. She doesn’t hesitate to include colloquialisms, and glimpses into the African-American lifestyle in the South in her work without explanations for those unfamiliar. Since I am familiar, I enjoyed those gems: quips and witticisms of town matriarchs, creative expletives, the whole town’s involvement in preparations for the wedding, and the town ladies’ open criticism of the other woman.
In addition, I felt the fact Leena had a child, was not something covered in a lot of paranormal stories today. It made a connection to the former fiancé that was unbreakable, also making Leena’s son a pawn in Adira’s game. Miller is also not shy about putting her characters in desperate situations. After the jilting Leena gives the store clerk her engagement ring to pay for her “My world is crumbling right now” snacks.
One of the best things about the book was that these female characters were fighting for something other than a man. Yes, the struggle began because if his abandoning Leena at the altar, and you would think the entire plot struggle would make him crucial in its resolution, but it happily didn’t. (Honestly, I’m struggling to recall his name.) But the story is about the mystery of Adira that Leena can’t leave alone and her determination to uncover her secrets. She knows there’s something wrong with her… something off and she has to solve it.
Even after being warned off, Leena has to get to the bottom of Adira’s origins. Her obsession causes people who were on her side to turn their backs on her. (Another reason I want to call this a horror novel. Leena experiences so much isolation. Most from her legitimate attempts to help other people whom Adira has tried to destroy.)
Finally, Leena discovers Adira’s mother and we find out a little more about the woman’s motivations through a glimpse at her childhood. Again, it didn’t make me necessarily sympathetic toward her, because kids can be creepy. But I did see the genesis of evil, helped along by a heavy dose of parental fear.
I won’t give you anything on what Adira is capable of, that’s part of the fun of this book. But I will say that I would recommend it as a great summer chiller.
Get The New Mrs. Collins on Amazon or find out more about the author on her website.
I am pleased to have urban fantasy and horror author Amy Braun as a guest poster on the blog today. Amy was kind enough to share what she’s learned as a new author this year. Read on for some great info, even if you’ve been in the writing game for a while.
The Things a Writer Can Learn in Six Months
by Amy Braun
When 2015 started, I decided to take the leap: I would publish a full length novel by myself. I was proud of my standalone novella, Needfire, which served as a way for me to test the waters of the independent world. But of course, the next step was harder.
I didn’t go to school for writing. I don’t have any mind of independent business. Marketing and press boggle my mind. I thought I was going to gain readers and a following by continuing my method of trying my hand at short story submissions. I’ve had some great successes that way– my stories being favored by readers and even winning an Editors award for my macabre short story “Dark Intentions And Blood” in the AMOK! Anthology– but it wasn’t enough. My muse got a little greedy, and I wanted more.
Path of the Horseman became more than a standalone novel to me when I wrote it in 2014’s NaNoWriMo. I knew the moment I finished it that I wanted to share it with as many readers as I could. I took a risk with an emerging cover artist, worked with an editor I trusted, and chose to release it with a major distribution/publishing company that has helped thousands of independent authors get their work out to the world.
Needless, to say, when the release date came, I was both excited and nervous as Hell. I was given a guide about how to go about promoting my book. I learned that nothing was free, patience is an agonizing virtue, and you still have to hunt for acknowledgement.
Despite all that, I gained more positive feedback than I could have imagined, and not just from my family. People I’ll probably never meet praised my book and left reviews that humbled and honored me. I know that you can’t please everyone, and sooner or later I’ll get a negative review that will leave me doubting, but to know the risk would be rewarded brought me a joy that’s hard to describe.
So I took another risk, and released a novel that’s beyond precious to me. Demon’s Daughter, the first in my Cursed series, has been with me for years. Like Path of the Horseman, I know I’ve done something special with it and have received great feedback on it. But this series is my proverbial baby. I’m watching two of my most beloved characters– Constance and Dro– take their first steps into the literary world. I don’t know how they’ll do, and it’s a little worrying to hear what readers will think about a story I’ve poured my soul into.
That being said, I wanted to give Demon’s Daughter the release it deserved. That meant paying extra to work with a fabulous cover design company and go through the trials of printing and proofing physical copies, and learning the joys of proper book formatting. Oh, did I say joys? I meant agonies. I’m not kidding when I say the hardest part of printing paper books for me was getting the damn formatting to line up. I ordered at least two copies of each book, none of which were free. And don’t even get me started on headers and footers. So I learned the hard way to look at each book with excruciating detail before approving said proof. And if you’re going to print with Createspace, have a CMYK version of your cover available so your book cover isn’t filled with sharp, angry colors fighting to share space on the paper.
Most recently, I learned the value of media kits and submitting queries for reviews. I’m still waiting on some of them, but looking back I should have sent out requests for reviews before I started publishing. That being said, I have a couple reviewers lined up who are generally excited about reading my work and have a significant following that will hopefully trickle over to me. I didn’t choose this career for the money, but it’s not easy working for free.
These are lessons I wish I had known earlier, but I’m new to the writing world. I’m learning from my mistakes, and I know I will be better for it when my next release– the sequel to Demon’s Daughter– comes out in December. Like I said, I don’t do this for the money. While my dream is to walk into my favorite bookstore and see my book on the shelves (or even better, see someone reading that book and surprising the hell out of them by explaining that I wrote it), I would be perfectly happy writing independently for the rest of my life.
The year is barely half over, and I know more lessons, good and bad, are on the way. But the most important thing I’ve learned so far is to keep going. I’ve had days where I’ve been frustrated, days where I’ve been lazy, and days where I couldn’t find motivation to write at all (AKA the worst days ever). But when I have those days, I look up at my desk and see the two printed books resting against the wall. I think about the entire process it took to create them, and how endlessly satisfying it is to see them there, knowing I can do it again. Writing a book is a long, sometimes torturous process. But the end result, no matter how you look at it?
Amy Braun is the author of the urban fantasy novels, Path of the Horseman and Demon’s Daughter. She’s been published in anthologies by publishers such as April Moon Books, Ragnarok Publishing, Mocha Memoirs Press, and Breaking Fate Publishing. To find out more about Amy, go to her blog literarybraun. Or you can find her elsewhere online at: