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Southern Haunts 3: An interview with Alexander S. Brown

Published May 8, 2016 by admin

SouthernHaunts3TourBadge

It’s blog tour time! Today I have an interview with not only a fantastic editor and author, but one of my favorite people and podcasting co-host. But first, ze book.

SouthernHaunts3Cover_1200X800

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Genres/Subgenres: Horror, Short Story, Paranormal, Occult, Folklore/Southern Regional

Deep within the South, read about the magickal folk who haunt the woods, the cemeteries, and the cities. Within this grim anthology, eighteen authors will spellbind you with tales of hoodoo, voodoo, and witchcraft.

From this cauldron mix, readers will explore the many dangers lurking upon the Natchez Trace and in the Mississippi Delta. They will encounter a bewitched doll named Robert from the Florida Keys, and a cursed trunk that is better left closed. In the backstreets of New Orleans, they will become acquainted with scorned persons who will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

These hair raising tales and more await you in Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight. Read if you dare.

Authors:

Alexander S. Brown

Angela Lucius

  1. H. David Blalock

C G Bush

Della West

Diane Ward

Elizabeth Allen

Greg McWhorter

John Hesselberg

Jonnie Sorrow

Kalila Smith

Linda DeLeon

Louise Myers

Melissa Robinson

Melodie Romeo

J L Mulvihill

Robert McGough

Tom Lucas

***

SJ: Tell us about SH3.  What makes it unique compared to 1&2?

ASB: Actually, each vol. of Southern Haunts is unique, as the subjects vary with each book.  Vol 1. Spirits that Walk Among Us, focused on ghosts.  Vol 2. Devils in the Darkness, featured on demonic entities.  Vol 3. Magick Beneath the Moonlight, regards witchcraft and cursed objects.

SJ: Why witches?  What attracts you to the theme?

ASB: I have always been attracted to the occult.  I find the whole subject fascinating and since Spirits that Walk Among Us was published, it was only a matter of time before we released an anthology about magickal persons.  But for this to happen, I had to wait.

For vol. 3 to be about witches, there is a great significance to the vol. number and the subject matter.  In the occult, there is the belief that what one puts out into the world comes back to them in triple abundance.  Also, in paganism, the maiden, the mother and the crone are recognized and honored as a trinity. These reasons are specifically why this vol. could be none other than occult related.

SJ: What makes for a good southern horror story?

ASB: Multiple elements can make a good southern horror story, such as elaborating about the habitat, cultural development, history, verbiage, and so forth.  But personally for me, what makes a southern horror story great, is the way that it is told.

Many times during childhood, I had found myself at family gatherings and I would overhear elderly relatives speak of infamous legends from the region.  The richness of their slang and phrases, made their ghost stories all the more horrifying, because it seemed more personal.  It seemed like the story tellers weren’t utilizing proper words and phrases to identify something infamous, they were using an age old southern dialect that seemed even more tangible.

SJ: Why do you think readers gravitate to themed horror like this, especially in short form?

ASB: I think the majority of readers are under attack from having a short attention span.  Because of life being so hectic, short stories can allow readers to enjoy complete stories in minimal time.  With the subjects being themed, it lets the reader know immediately what they are in store for.  This can result in a quicker purchase.  For example: Southern Haunts 3 is about witches, the title and cover image are self-explanatory.  If the reader loves witches, they are more likely to purchase.  If that reader is not a fan of magickal themed stories, then perhaps Southern Haunts vol. 1 or 2 is more their preference.

SJ: What are the benefits of anthologies?  Any downside?

The biggest benefit for an anthology is that it presents readers with a diversity of authors who they may not have read before.  This works well for the author because it can help them gain new fans.

The downside to anthologies is that no one really makes money, as book royalties are normally split between 15 to 20 creators.

SJ: Was it different wearing the editor hat compared to being an author?

ASB: It was quite different.  After finishing Southern Haunts vol. 1, I had a new respect for editors.  To me, writing is simple and relaxing, editing is time consuming and feels like work.  Although I prefer writing more than editing, editing the Southern Haunts series has improved my writing skills.

SJ:What is the best thing about putting a book like this together?  The most difficult?

ASB: The best thing about constructing an anthology is seeing likeminded authors come together and submit their creativity.  It is a good feeling to know that other names in the profession want to work with you and contribute stories that might have been stuck in their head for quite some time.

The downside is when I have to reject stories.  I can understand how an author might think that it’s so easy for an editor to dismiss a story, and this isn’t the case.  For me, sending a rejection email, hurts me just as much as it does the author.

SJ: Any advice to authors who are interested in submitting to anthologies?

ASB: First, research the publisher before you submit.

SJ: Second, follow the guidelines.  Sometimes guidelines are overly specific with their requirements, even down to spacing, font, and letter size.  Obey all of these rules.  A lot of times, editors will use these demands as ways to see if the author payed attention, or cares about their work.

SJ: What’s next for Southern Haunts? For you as an author?

ASB: For Southern Haunts vol. 4, we are anticipating creature stories.  We haven’t decided on a title yet, but it will follow the theme of its predecessors, but with monsters.

I have a few books that are in the works.  One of which is in the final edit stage, and is being published by Pro Se Press, this will be a collection of Halloween stories called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out.  I have one story left to write before Traumatized pt 2 is complete, and The Looking Glass Creatures is currently undergoing a massive edit.

AlexanderSBrown

Alexander S. Brown is a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with his first book Traumatized. Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it has been released as a special edition by Pro Se Press. Brown is currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the Southern Haunts Anthologies published by Seventh Star Press. His horror novel Syrenthia Falls is represented by Dark Oak Press.

He is also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the Dreams of Steam Anthologies, Capes and Clockwork Anthologies, and the anthology Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. His more extreme works can be found in the anthologies Luna’s Children published by Dark Oak Press and State of Horror: Louisiana Vol 1 published by Charon Coin Press.

Visit Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com to download his monthly short stories known as Single Shots. These are represented by Pro Se Press and they are known as stories that will be featured in the upcoming book The Night the Jack O’Lantern Went Out.

 

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Juniper Grove presents Maia and the Secrets of Zagran

Published January 5, 2015 by admin

Happy New Year, everyone! I have a lot of thoughts and news on the matter, but today I want to lend some blogspace to a title that really has piqued my interest.

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  Maia and the Secrets of Zagran

The Lightbound Saga #2

S. G. Basu

 YA Sci-Fi Fantasy

Maia-Secrets-of-Zagran

Thirteen year old Maia thinks she has seen it all.

She has survived an assassination attempt, she has been threatened by a chancellor, and she has faced off with saboteurs trying to bring down a nation. She lets nothing get to her anymore-not the ominous nightmares she has been having lately, not the fear of being targeted for another soul extraction, not even the memories of her dead mother’s terrifying communique.

More than ever, Maia wants the Initiative to resume. She longs to visit Zagran-the undersea capital of the Jjord. She wants to ride the underwater transport lines, learn about the Jjordic energy farms and most of all-she wants to goof off with her friends. But, around the charming city of Zagran, evil is gathering. Maia and her friends do not know it yet, this is just the beginning of a terrifying end.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads

 

SG-Basu

G. Basu is a telecommunications engineer by profession, but she likes to call herself a dreamer. Imagination, fueled by a voracious appetite for books, has been her steady friend since childhood. She discovered her passion for writing quite by chance and there has been no stopping her since then.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Blog

There’s also a tour wide giveaway going on! Prizes include the following:

One signed copy of  Maia and the Secrets of Zagran

 Giveaway is open to the US, UK, and Canada.

 You can enter using the Rafflecopter Widget Link

 

JGBS Host

Excerpt: Holly and Ivy (a holiday faerie story)

Published December 23, 2014 by admin

I thought I’d include another little bit of Holly and Ivy…this bit is closer to Christmas, and shows how Holly’s luck begins to turn around (as she forgets the other part of the bargain and the price that might be paid).

***

Whether it was because of Ivy’s gift or the upturn in my mood, things
happened quickly after that. I found a pleasant job at a florist shop and rented a small
house closer to town so I could cut down on the commute and be less of a strain on the
folks. I visited and came to the pine trees as often as I could, but was careful to never
explain to Ivy about the new job. I was close to nature, but not in a way she would
have understood or liked.

As the weeks passed I found more excuses to stay away. My anal-retentive
capabilities were needed to revamp the inventory at work, I was trying to get moved
in and truly settled, and I was actually making an effort to get out and enjoy my life.
The running around with Ivy and the summer work on the farm had begun to slim
and streamline my body. I was still getting used to the looks my curves would get
every once in a while. That slow infusion of confidence convinced me to take a little
more pride in the rest of my appearance, which only served to make things just a little
easier. My coworkers were not taking no for an answer, so I found myself hanging out
in the evenings with people my own age instead of stopping by my folks’ place after
work. Instead of dreading those social interactions, I began to look forward to
conversation with friends who were going through the same frustrations and
heartaches I was. It was almost like we were all starting to come out on the other side.
Ivy was lovely, but the more I was subjected to adult conversation the more I realized
how much I’d missed it.
Leaves turned and the time for pumpkins came and passed into chillier
temperatures, turkey decorations on store windows, and holiday specials on
television. I was so busy with extended hours at work and trying to keep up with all
the extra chores that came with Christmas, that my parents had insisted I not even
think about trying to help them out with their own holiday ventures. As sad as I was
to not jump back into the post-Thanksgiving traditions during my first winter back
home, I was exhausted and grateful for the out.
Despite the full schedule, life was good. I knew very well who I owed that to,
but I was still uncomfortable admitting that all my good fortune was because of a
trinket and not my own efforts. I kept telling myself I had to go down to the farm and
make sure Ivy was safe for the winter, but it kept getting shoved to the bottom of my
to-do list. Besides, we’d made sure her new tree was at the very back of the lot. She
was sure to be okay if I put it off for a few days. Everything was falling into place so
easily: the house, the job, and when I literally bumped into my future husband while
rushing to my car after work one night…well, it’s easy to forget promises when your
life is full.
As much as I’d refused to believe in love at first sight, there’s no way to deny
the instant jolt I felt when I looked up into his green eyes, and I’m fairly sure that
wasn’t just because I’d plowed into him while trying to get out the door before the
next wave of orders came in. Tall and muscular, he brought to mind the old-school
romantic images of court knights, if a knight had to go questing for a Christmas
wreath in a parka and blue jeans. Vixen that I was, I reverted to my standard flirting
technique for attractive men I came across in daily life: I mumbled an apology and ran
away. For once, though, someone called my bluff.
“C’mon! The coat’s not that ugly!” His deep voice was full of humor and a hint
of self-deprecation.
I turned and glanced from him to my waiting clunker. As much as I wanted to
reply with something coy and witty, the cold air had frozen my tongue to the roof of
my mouth. “I…”
“You work here, right? I’ve seen you around before.” His friendly attempt at
conversation did nothing to stop my heart from trying to slam itself out of my chest.
I’d expected the same old reaction: for him to shrug and go on about his business. For
a minute it seemed that was exactly his plan of action, and then he turned back to call
after me as I shuffled down the snow-crusted sidewalk to my car. “I bet I know what
happened. Either you’re tongue’s frozen or you bit your tongue when I accidentally
body-checked you. How ’bout I get you a cup of coffee to make up for it?” His pine
green eyes sparkled hopefully under the ragtag fringe of auburn hair that jutted out
from under his beanie.

Despite my sudden shyness, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Don’t you need to get

something?” I asked and nodded toward the door I’d just exited.

The lumpy shoulders of his black coat moved up and down in a shrug.

“They’re extending their hours and you’re leaving for the day, right?” I nodded.

“Then the choice is obvious. Maybe later you can help me pick out a wreath that’ll
work for my shop’s door,” he added and pointed to the candy store across the street.
Cute, funny, and worked with chocolate…I was definitely a goner right from our first
impromptu date.

David was stable and motivated, while remaining small-town. He got the world
I came from and what I’d been through. He weathered my mood swings like a trooper
and always seemed to know when I needed him there with me. As cautious as I was
when we first started to see each other, I soon fell for his gentle nature and firm,
capable way of handling things. There were times he seemed to know exactly what I
needed from him. Maybe I just wanted to be with someone, but David felt right in a
way that Rob hadn’t. It was like he was an exact match for me, like he was heaven-sent
or delivered by a wishing star. He wasn’t put off by my situation or by the fact that I
was from a farming family. An avid hiker, he liked the fact that I’d grown up on the
land and appreciated nature.

My parents and friends were pleased, and if I’d had time to go talk to Ivy she
would have been ecstatic, I’m sure. It was proof that her magic talisman worked just
as well in human hands as it did for the Fair Folk. I didn’t know about that, but I also
didn’t take it out of the fireproof lock-box I’d hidden it in.

HollyAndIvy72dpi (1)

Amazon     Barnes and Noble   Mocha Memoirs Press Store

 holiday/fantasy

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

Holly and Ivy

Published December 6, 2014 by admin

So I do enjoy holiday fiction. I love reading it and I might, just MIGHT have a soft spot for Christmas chick lit and romances (Shut up. It’s December stress). I also love writing holiday fiction. Now, some of this can get…fascinating, especially the pieces that are in Lost in the Shadows. Candles is a story about a makeshift family surviving the zombie apocalypse and trying to stay sane while keeping Christmas Eve traditions alive. There’s also a story about reincarnation and astral travel that may involve the little drummer boy.

Compared to those, Holly and Ivy is pretty tame and normal. I actually got the idea from a writing prompt exercise in like August, though it’s also based on one of my favorite holiday songs and probably owes a little to Hans Christian Andersen in a really backwards way. The story took hold and wouldn’t let me go, though, and soon I had something unique (for me) and special. Not only does it incorporate the holiday feel I love to read about, but it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes unfortunate things happen during the holiday season. Some people are cynical or burnt out or whatever. Sometimes you need a little kick in the pants, a little magic to help you out.

Sometimes you need a friend who’s a dryad.

When Holly’s life falls apart, she moves back with her parents and has to fight through fear and lack of motivation. When she takes a walk out to the Christmas tree farm her family owns, she’s suddenly shoved face to face with the imaginary friend that isn’t so imaginary – the dryad Ivy. While Holly’s grown up and been burned by life, Ivy remains innocent and eager to cast humans in the role of ignorant murderers. Even she is concerned about her human friend, though, and offers Holly a trinket that could change everything for the thirty-something…but it will change the dryad’s own future, as well.

***

“What do I do with it?” I asked. I told myself I was just playing along, suspending reality to make Ivy feel better. Although if that was the case then perhaps I should have really examined the fact that Ivy was real and not me suspending reality to make myself feel better.

“You hold it now until it gets to know you. You keep it safe in your possession and it shall bring you ease and grace,” the tree sprite giggled.

“And that really works?” No matter how I tried I couldn’t hide my skepticism.

She turned up her pointed nose. “How else would I have survived so well with murderers on the loose? It’s worked for a good long while.” I raised an eyebrow as a sly grin spread just a little too far across her face to make the smile look human. “Do you remember when I snuck to school with that sapling you took for show and tell?”

The next smile didn’t hurt quite as much as I traced the delicate edge of the tiny plant with the pad of a finger. The petaled head shivered and softly brushed against my calluses.  “I thought everyone was going to have a heart attack when you burst out of the thing and started singing to everyone! Mrs. Robinson finally played it off as the whole class playing a trick on her. We had to go without milk time for a week.” I’d gotten in so much trouble with my parents for lying in school and saying that I had a magic plant. Given that I was adamant that I’d been telling the truth, it was a hell of an ordeal for a six-year-old.

“’Twas so much fun!” Ivy paused mid-pirouette. It was downright disgusting that she could hold the arabesque for so long and not even wobble or suffer a leg cramp. “Though I would not want to live in such cold halls all the time.” She paused and took a long breath, much longer than I or any other human could possibly inhale. Before my eyes her skin became greener, infused by the crisp clean air. “You need to be in the trees, Holly. Mortals refuse to understand that they must live where things grow. Now that you’re home, let’s play!” She leapt over my head and landed effortlessly beside her home tree, staring at me expectantly.

Maybe it was being back home or maybe it was just being back in the good fresh air, but her suggestion made me giddy. It suddenly sounded like the exact prescription I needed, the one thing I’d been missing through all those frustrating years. My fragile mind and heart demanded an escape. They couldn’t take any more disappointment, any more expectations or responsibility, and they especially couldn’t take any more reality. I nodded and tucked the strange clover deep in my pocket. The breeze had dried my tears and the heavenly scent of grass and pine put the sudden urge to run in my feet. Suddenly the heavy air and the blazing sun didn’t matter so much and my anxieties were willing to take a momentary backseat to the chance to goof off for an afternoon.  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I hesitated, hand still at my pocket.

Ivy flashed a bold grin and stretched up on her toes; her fingers wiggled over her head, making her resemble an odd, scrawny plant. “With you here? Of course! Just remember to come look after my tree when the murderers come around the winter harvest time. You can even help me choose which tree will be my final home so you’ll know where I’ll be.” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when she tore off, dodging branches and bark as quick and swift as a deer. I groaned as I pulled myself to my feet and tumbled after her, muscles screaming at the sudden exercise. Still, I found myself laughing the entire time

HollyAndIvy72dpi (1)

Amazon     Barnes and Noble   Mocha Memoirs Press Store

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?

 

Prose: On Fire

Published November 20, 2014 by admin

To keep on going with the ideas can come from anywhere theme, I thought I’d put up a short today and touch on a little bit of back story. I go through stages where I outline or craft definite genre pieces, but at times I slide back into things that aren’t quite one thing or the other. They may be essays, they may be thoughts on an emotion or a painting or photograph. They could start out as nonfiction and slide into fictional or vice versa. Sometimes a phrase will jump start a vignette – “lime vanilla ice” from Dandelion Wine is a big one for me. I have journals filled with these odd ramblings spawned from lectures, daily thoughts, frustrations, conversations, movies, and music. I sometimes wonder if I make it a life habit to interpret songs differently than most of the human population, but that’s part of the beauty of art – the same piece can take your mind so many different places.

This started out as a ramble and ended up as something a little bit more structured, though I like that it’s fairly noncomformist if you compare it to something more genre-specific. This piece started in a journal, ended up as a free read for a while, and migrated into Lost in the Shadows, a collection which features a lot of other genre nonspecific pieces, in the hope that those stories will make you think and feel and let your mind wander off the beaten path. Seriously, I don’t know how many times I have to say this – it’s okay to have your own interpretation of art. Go for it. Let yourself wonder what this dude is actually going through and what really happens to him. I have my version, but see where your ideas take you.

Originally, this idea came about when I was spending a lot of days alone in a room sewing on different projects some ten years ago maybe, and it sat in a notebook for the longest time (one of those paper things that we used to use in the Bronze Age and some of us still carry them everywhere). You can only focus on your hands for so long before the mind wanders a little bit, and admittedly I have a thing about listening to music and letting it kick my brain into some new head space. Believe me, you probably don’t even want to know the places certain songs send me, or at the very least it would probably give a few surprises (and mild heart attacks). That specific time period featured a lot of my Bowie collection.

I want to say Reality had just come out, or maybe I had gone back to listening to it. Whichever, I’ve also always loved the Berlin trilogy, and I feel like it’s a shame that Lodger gets a little forgotten when compared to Low and ‘Heroes’ – or maybe it just brings back memories of actually buying the album when I was in Berlin in college one summer, wide-eyed in the hostel soaking up every note at night after living requiems and folk songs and street music during the day. Whether it was luck or chance, my brain linked together the songs DJ and Bring Me the Disco King, shoved them into a weird alternate universe, and this character was born. For whatever reason the latter seemed like a natural progression of the former, and I wanted to write a place where that made sense, if only for a few heartbeats. I wanted to tap into the necessity that music is in my life, but also go to a place that was slightly unfamiliar, slightly alien to me and see if I could make it work.

***

On Fire

The good times were gone. He’d laughed it off when he first suspected that he’d lost his gift. He’d always kept his performance face on, even while asleep. He’d grinned before snarling when his girl went to dance at other clubs, when all his fans had shadows of indifference cast upon their faces instead of hypnotic neon glow. He could only laugh so long. Soon, the only thing left for him to do was to sit at home and spin until that one, horrible night when even he noticed that he wasn’t as fast as he used to be.  From the very start he’d been hot, hotter than hot. Somehow, he’d lost his edge. The fire and heat that had been his signature style had disappeared, fading with wisps of smoke and break down.

The morning he woke crumpled in the bathroom, huddled among week-old discarded towels, piles of shattered mirror, and vinyl, was the hour his sinking suspicions finally bottomed out. He was crawling into the sun for the first time in years to see what he really was. His crown was gone, his clothes worthless conglomerations of thread that hung limp on his skeletal frame. The smooth lines and come-hither expression on his face had manipulated themselves until his reflection was reduced to a manic, starved predator that lusted after one last handful of glory.

His overall apathy was strange and unsettling. Probably just the blood loss, he thought and took a deep breath. There was no gut reaction. Even when he wandered back to the destruction that were his tables, he couldn’t dredge up the least little bit of emotion. He didn’t care that all his equipment was trashed or that his entire life was rendered into piles of wire and smoking dreams.

Skin that had been nursed to a facsimile of a healthy glow by the club lights was slashed and torn, the jagged cuts sawed from all the old classics he had once been able to play at a mere thought. He was as good as the geniuses that had composed those tunes; everyone knew it, everyone said so.  On his best nights he was better.  A D.J.’s gift was to exert control over the artist and to transform a static track into anything he wanted. He vaguely remembered cutting himself with the LPs to try to seep his veins with the magic of the greats. In the comeuppance of the daytime he didn’t feel empowered, only broken and anemic.

“Well, what now?” he croaked, and jumped at the grit in his voice, his real voice. He hadn’t heard it in so long, not since he’d had his tongue seeped with smooth lines and pretty words that helped him seduce people to the music. The ragged drawl he didn’t particularly like had a point. What now after the fits, the jokes, and the epiphany?

If someone had mentioned it years ago when he’d owned the world on puppet strings, he would have passed it off with a casual wave and a drink. It had always been with him though, always worried him during inconvenient moments. That paranoia filled in the split second between dozing and deep sleep with warped visions that weren’t quite dreams. All the ‘what if’s’ had terrified him in the brief downtime between switching records to the point of nearly locking his hands every night. What if he fumbled or was too slow? What if the needle broke? What if the crowd didn’t like his next choice or liked it so much they ignored him completely? Ironically, he hadn’t been worried at all the night he’d finally lost the magic touch.

He ignored the shattered miniature reflections as he dressed in the skin of the man who was no one. He had been cooped up for days, driven into seclusion when no one recognized him at his usual haunts or on the street. Now, though, it was time.

The part of him that knew when to switch songs and when to hold back, the part that lived by the downbeat and the catchy hooks knew without a doubt that there was someplace he had to be. He exited his apartment, braced himself at the entrance to his building, and squinted into the oncoming night. His feet began to walk and he felt every step, every moment of contact against the crumbling street. Once he had danced on angels and demon wannabes before bedding them, but now he trudged down the road with his long coat flapping to the crooning melody of a melancholy piano.

Everyone around him faced forward. No one cared that he was there among them, in touching distance. There were no impulse kisses and no clinging arms. His chest vibrated in a soft, keening saxophone wail that tore from his throat. Those on the street spared him a brief, quizzical glance as the vibrato shook his frame and he swooned among the eighth notes.

“Wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he muttered, hands jammed deep into his pockets as he stumbled on. The soft slap of drums caught his ear. He knew that music, that dirge. It had been playing in his skull the night he was sacked, the night tastes and music had suddenly changed.

“You lied.” His growl was in perfect syncopation with the barely-there percussion. He wasn’t sure who he was talking to, yet he was certain he’d get an answer.

 You lied to yourself, the sad rhythm whispered back, truthful and unforgiving. I told you it was time. You didn’t want to know.

“It doesn’t have to end!” he protested, eyes shut and feet still walking on discarded images that had faded through the years. The sides of buildings and the billboard advertisements loomed in, all waiting to see him off. All the little people he was now equal with walked on, unaware, pushing, shoving, and collectively holding their breath for no apparent reason.

 All things end or change. I gave you everything I had, soothed the keyboard intro, tugging him down the avenue. The notes gave way to the chorus and he turned down one more dirty boulevard, caught in the backlash of memories. The adoration, the power, the benefits, the poisons, the company…it had all come and gone so easily. Had he truly taken the time to appreciate it?  It had been all he’d wanted when he’d discovered he had the gift. It was all he would never have again. In order to keep it he would have to change, and he couldn’t.  He was bound to the music and would be put away in discount bins and tucked under beds along with disco when its final notes faded out.

It was true that he could suck in a breath here and there from those that remembered and saw him as a guilty pleasure, but who wanted that? Such a partial existence was nothing compared to the kingdom he’d once known. Would he get another chance, a second coming somewhere down the road or was it finally time to pay the royalty fees? Was all he had left just one dark street after another? In silent answer, the street lamps projected his shadow to remind him that he was something close to alive?

There was a slight pause, an inhalation before the lips of fate blew into the sax again. It was one second to reflect on all that had come and gone before moving on. His cheeks were damp and the world blurred.  At the corner there was a club that was small by his standards, yet it had the redeeming quality of not having a queue. No one sat outside the decrepit front or guarded the door, but the music in his head pulsed from its inner depths. It was a little livelier than what was in his mind, but the notes were sweet and familiar. He didn’t need the gentle shove of the downbeat to enter the main hall with his oozing lacerations, dead face, and his quiet submission.

There was no one spinning and for a moment he thought maybe he could…but it was unnecessary. The whole place gave off the tunes. There was no need for him. The space wasn’t packed, but those who danced were in rapture with faces turned up and eyes dilated. They rocked and swayed because they had to. They were like him; they had nothing left but the song. There were memories trapped in the fluttering lights, though no future. The coat slid from his arms to puddle on the sticky floor. Immediately, it became fodder for the trampling feet that moved and strutted in a last desperate bid for breath. A pretty young thing latched onto him and he found his rhythm in her eyes and in the heartbeat inside her dancing legs.

Their bodies melded into each other’s heat as they swayed and shimmied. As they gyrated across the floor, the music grew so loud that its pounding rhythm turned his organs to pulp. Sweat slicked into all his cuts and the sting was so much better than all the needles he’d known. The lights grew hot and blinding as the music he knew reached one final crescendo.

The woman’s swollen lips pealed back to show hungry teeth in a funky, bliss-filled scream. Her enormous eyes watched the lights that shot their twisting colors out with reverent devotion. She trembled in his large hands and he held on even as the smoke whispered from her skin and her clothes melted away. She did not erupt, but crackled to the music. The flames turned into neon hues to match the lights as they licked her naked flesh into oblivion to the beat. When it became impossible to hold the burning pyre, he let her drop and moved on to someone else that was still approachable. It would work until his hands were charred away.

Flames of all shades and tints soared to the ceiling, but their hiss couldn’t outdo the sweetly chaotic, if predictable, music. He turned, twirled, and rocked in place when it began to hurt too much to do more. He would go out a king, not a cast out and disappointed peasant.  He was a phoenix without rebirth. His wings spread only once before he would fly into the back of the world’s collective mind forever. The remnants of his suit grew brighter until they gleamed in the fire and erupting lights as he tilted back his head and laughed. It hurt like hell; he could feel blood in his throat as all the pent-up music he’d once played came rushing over his tongue. It forced its way between his teeth and trickled under the dancing shoes and wasted bodies on the floor. The sax screamed from under his skin amid the funky mix. A needle rose from the almighty turntable arm and jabbed into his back, pinning him against the dance floor, dooming him and playing him at its will. He shuddered and let the tempo run roughshod over him in one last, chaotic dance before he ignited.

Every part of him was consumed. All his vanity, his lust, his disappointment, even the parts of the man he had been before he was D.J. ruptured and played in the ultimate end to his career. There was no one left to watch, no one left to hear. He gasped as he hit the floor. One final, fading note escaped his decimated larynx. A tear rolled from a glazed eye as the flames died and the lights faded into whatever came next. All around him the dancers became dust. His only option was to take his rest and join them.

Static. The music faded out and turned off, the entire building grew still and began to rot. In the dark, it was hard to tell if anything had ensued or if there had been any real essence there in the first place.

The door shut. The club closed. Outside, new sounds began to captivate new ears as easily distracted minds began to forget.

TCM Presents: Haunting Blue by RJ Sullivan

Published July 17, 2014 by admin

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Woo, blog tour time! Let’s hear it this week for Mr. RJ Sullivan and his book Haunting Blue!

 

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Kindle     Print

Punk, blue-haired “Blue” Shaefer, is at odds with her workaholic single mother. Raised as a city girl in a suburb of Indianapolis, Blue must abandon the life she knows when her unfeeling mother moves them to a dreadful small town. Blue befriends the only student willing to talk to her: computer nerd “Chip” Farren.

Chip knows the connection between the rickety pirate boat ride at the local amusement park and the missing money from an infamous bank heist the townspeople still talk about. When Blue helps him recover the treasure, they awaken a vengeful ghost who’ll stop at nothing–not even murder–to prevent them from exposing the truth behind his evil deeds.

Haunting Blue is Book One of the Adventures of Blue Shaefer

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And now, a post by RJ that I may have had a facetious hand in <g> Although I admit to nothing that I am implicated in in regards to convention discussions or behavior, heh……

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Just Don’t Bore Me

 

So Selah and I are friends, storytellers, and writer peers. We’re occasionally found at conventions together cackling over a nerdy joke or dirty joke–usually a dirty nerdy joke. Monday evening she private-message-ed me and asked if she had assigned me a topic. She had not. She replied, in part, “Just don’t bore me.”

Which got me thinking about how those words are the mantra of every audience, and the challenge of every storyteller, since before the invention of the printing press. The only thing that’s changed is how the storyteller meets that challenge.

Boredom is the death of any storyteller. A writer can be provocative, edgy, safe for all ages, retro, whimsical, dark, funny, depressing, ironic, and even get away with being ignorant, offensive, sexist, crude, and politically incorrect (we’ve all read those blogs…yes, you have, too), but the one thing they cannot EVER be is boring.

I have a theory. I doubt it’s just mine, but since I don’t know exactly where I first heard it, I’ll throw it out there without attribution. There’s a simple reason classic literature so often fails to hold a modern reader spellbound, even books that were hugely popular when they came out.

Personally, it took me about eight false starts and most of my life to finally read Bram Stoker’s Dracula from beginning to end. And I consider myself a pretty rabid Dracula guy. I’ve seen all the significant the films (even that painful new TV show already slain with a stake in its heart, and good riddance), know the plays, and own most of the movies. But the original novel was…a chore.

A little research reveals that Dracula, when it was first published in 1897, was thought of as a naughty little book–a phenomenal bestseller whose public reception in modern times would compare more accurately to 50 Shades of Gray rather than a more respectable bestseller such as The Fault in Our Stars.

Many modern readers feel–with some justification–that the material fails to engage them, and they put the book down , frustrated and bored, many unwilling to give the novel a second chance.  By today’s standards, it’s slow, clunky, with lots of historical minutiae, descriptions of mansions, gardens, walls, beaches, and the British seaside, and spends a lot of time with two ditzy women who babble on about their fiancés and knitting and tea and things.

So what happened?

Dracula was first released in England. The 1890s were, to put it frankly, a time when ladylike outward appearances and social ediquette were the law of the land, and Britain was the place that invented those laws and enforced them most strictly in all occasions. It was also the time of the industrial revolution, and new thinking and mores were starting to clash with traditions.

Dracula told the tale of a group of modern people, those who were achieving modern economic prosperity through modern careers, options achievable to many readers and romanticized about. Consider references to Van Helsing and his Victrolla, the earliest form of voice recording device, modern cars are used to chase horses and carriages, ancient magic and sorcery does battle with an early form of psychology.

Dracula included scenes of a vampire lord and his three vampire brides, women who he commanded, who then in turn, seek out a male victim. In a striking scene in which a skeptical reader suspects the man doeth protest too much, the three brides drop to their knees and “penetrate” him with their fangs. Premarital kinky oral with four participants. There’s not much to figure out here. In the meantime, the vampire lord is busy every few chapters arriving uninvited through various women’s bedrooms, where those victims submit to the same “unnatural” attacks, sometimes with only the most surface protest.

To a modern reader and vampire fan who has seen and read every media re-enactment of the vampire orgy in all its graphic glory, these quaint little moments are mostly read over, unnoticed. But in its day, Dracula was the book that “no one was reading” to the tune of millions of copies sold, and “no one” most likely read the novel by candlelight after everyone else in the house had gone to sleep.

Which brings us to today, where the modern reader peruses the latest releases by today’s authors, readers who have seen and read it all. Readers who utter the same mantra as all readers throughout the ages: “Just don’t bore me.”

The next time you’re reading a truly engaging novel, remember to leave a review or an email of thanks to that author. Tell your friends about that author. Tell them you found a storyteller who answered the challenge and answered it well.

Whether it’s Bram Stoker or Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Allan Poe or (if I may make a few recommendations) Selah Janel or even little ole’ me, R.J. Sullivan, storytellers have been answering the same call for as long as an audience has longed to hear a story. How they go about it may have changed, but the challenge remains the same. “Just don’t bore me.”

 ***

 I wholeheartedly approve of this post, and I really like what he brings up about Dracula. Thanks, RJ!

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Punk, blue-haired “Blue” Shaefer, is at odds with her workaholic single mother. Raised as a city girl in a suburb of Indianapolis, Blue must abandon the life she knows when her unfeeling mother moves them to a dreadful small town. Blue befriends the only student willing to talk to her: computer nerd “Chip” Farren.

Chip knows the connection between the rickety pirate boat ride at the local amusement park and the missing money from an infamous bank heist the townspeople still talk about. When Blue helps him recover the treasure, they awaken a vengeful ghost who’ll stop at nothing–not even murder–to prevent them from exposing the truth behind his evil deeds.

Haunting Blue is Book One of the Adventures of Blue Shaefer

 

Author Links:

Website: http://rjsullivanfiction.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/R.J.SullivanAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5199299.R_J_Sullivan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rjsullivanauthr

 

 

It’s the MMP Anniversary Sale!

Published July 13, 2014 by admin

Looking for some e-books to fill your Kindle or Nook? Want to stock up on romance and select horror and holiday titles? Want to be considered for some great giveaways? Then look no further! Mocha Memoirs Press has got you covered!

For information on the giveaway (which includes select horror and romance titles, as well as swag), and select sales on parts of the catalog, be sure to check out this mmp blog link!

 

For information on the sale on speculative titles, check out this link!

 

Now  Mooner and The Other Man are MMP titles, but my story, Holly and Ivy, is on sale for $0.99 as part of the Christmas in July sale! Check it out now to beat the heat, or save it for December!

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Amazon     Barnes and Noble   Mocha Memoirs Press Store

After losing her job and her boyfriend, Holly returns to her parents’ farm. Embarrassed and hopeless, she doesn’t expect to bump into a forgotten childhood friend that wasn’t supposed to exist. Ivy is not only a dryad, but she lives in the pine trees Holly’s family grows to sell at Christmas. As the old friends reconnect, Ivy not only shares her strong oninions, but gives Holly a charm that will change both their lives. As days melt into weeks and the seasons change, Holly’s life magically turns around. Christmas not only brings surprises, but a choice for the human woman. What’s more important: stability, success, and love, or keepinga promise to an old friend?