Thursday, December 1, 2016

Free books on Amazon Kindle: 'Lilith' and 'The Maze'

FREE on Amazon Kindle: December 2nd through December 5th

Amazon book description:

With Lilith, the search for love can be deadly.

Someone is murdering Ohio men who use dating websites. The men are found in their homes, killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Such is the work of the serial killer codenamed 'Lilith'. But who is Lilith? Is Lilith a 'she'? A 'he'? Or more than one person? 

These are the questions that Alan Grooms must answer. Grooms is a detective in the Ohio Department of Criminal Investigation (ODCI).

Together with his partners, Dave Hennessy and Maribel Flynn, Grooms will enter the anonymous world of Internet dating to set a trap of his own. 

This will eventually pit him against a homicidal young couple who kill men for profit, a couple who will kill anyone who stands in their way.

FREE on Amazon Kindle: December 2nd through December 6th book description:


Amanda Kearns is a hard-driving executive with a broken heart. Her male subordinates think she is a “machine”; they have no idea of the real, hidden Amanda.

Hugh Jackson is a software salesman with a defective heart—a condition that will kill him in a matter of months or years. 

Evan Daley is a young college graduate adrift in a career for which he is ill-suited; he struggles with the scars of a barren, loveless childhood.  

Amanda, Hugh, and Evan were expecting another routine day on the job at the Lakeview Towers office complex just outside Columbus, Ohio. But this massive structure hides a secret—a hidden passageway that plunges the unwary into a labyrinthine network of endless, twisting hallways: the Maze. 

Trapped inside the Maze, Amanda, Hugh, and Evan must battle their way through perilous corridors filled with half-man, half-wolf beasts called “manwolves”, killer robots, and demonic wraiths known as “watchers”.

But they face their greatest challenge in the snowy, earth-like wilderness on the other side of the Maze. Here a group of ragtag rebels and settlers struggle against a tyrannical demigod known as the Director. The Director is determined to enslave or annihilate everyone within his reach, using a combination of worldly and unworldly weapons.

Amanda, Hugh, and Evan each find love and momentary comfort on the other side of the Maze. But they cannot escape the ultimate battle with the Director. The three Ohioans find themselves forced to choose—between the draw of love and loyalty, and the instinct for self-preservation.

A riveting emotional tale wrapped within a fantasy adventure, THE MAZE is sure to appeal to adult readers who fondly recall childhood “parallel universe” stories like “Through the Looking Glass” and “The Chronicles of Narnia".

Killer robots, and day jobs of days gone by

Very few fiction writers achieve financial success overnight. This means that most of us have extensive experience with the dreaded "day job". 

Traditionally, the day job of choice for aspiring writers has been something in teaching--usually teaching English. 

A day job in teaching has many advantages for the would-be novelist: Educators have flexible work schedules. When you have the entire summer off, that gives you a big chunk of dedicated, pre-scheduled writing time. 

And if you teach English, your job involves books and literature. So even when you're "at work", you're spending time with something that you love.

Speaking of the "job" aspect:  While the educator certainly has a job to perform, the work environment in education is typically less stressful than average. (This is especially true for college professors.) Educational environments encourage contemplation, which is a big part of the writing process.

I should have gone into teaching. Masochist that I was, however, I majored in Economics and then went into the corporate world. I had to be different. 

I should have known better. Corporate environments are notoriously unfriendly to writer types: the stress, the conformity, the constant business travel. It is no accident that Fortune 500 corporations hire a lot more accounting majors than English literature majors. 

There is also the fact that most writers (myself included) don't like to take orders from other people. We aren't good "team players".

It wasn't all bad. I met some interesting people during my years in the corporate world, and had some valuable experiences. I also learned to apply business principles to my own life, which is a valuable skill for anyone to have. 

For the most part, though, I was the proverbial square peg in the round hole. My chances of rising to the level of senior management were roughly equivalent to my odds of winning the lottery.

However, my long slog through the world of cubicles, boardrooms, and factories (I spent most of my corporate days in the automotive industry) provided some unexpected returns. 

Many of my stories, like "The Vampires of Wallachia", have corporate themes and settings that appeal to non-literary types. I may not have been destined for the corner office, but I did learn about the corporate world from every conceivable angle. (I took business courses at the graduate level, too.) 

I believe that my unique background (as novelists go) shows up in my stories in the form of enhanced realism. I have insights that I simply couldn't have gained if I'd spent my pre-novelist career in the ivory tower of academia, teaching courses on Shakespeare and Modern American Literature. 

For example, my novel Termination Man is set in the automotive industry. While the companies and specific situations are fictional, the book draws extensively from my own experiences. I worked for a large automotive manufacture for 13 years. I spent additional years working for automotive components suppliers. Termination Man is fiction, but it reflects the reality of the automotive industry in many ways. 

Then there is my story "The Robots of Jericho". (Both stories are included in the collection, Hay Moon and Other Stories: Sixteen Modern Tales of Horror and Suspense.) 

"The Robots of Jericho" is a long short story about industrial robots that come to life and go on a homicidal rampage inside a factory. While the premise of the story is fantastic, the setting of the tale is wholly realistic. A lot of mundane details about factories are embedded in this story. I believe that this element of "real life" facilitates the suspension of disbelief that is required for the reader to accept the story's supernatural elements.

The idea for "The Robots of Jericho" occurred to me about five years ago, when I was touring an automotive battery plant in northern Ohio. I was watching the robots move behind the safety cages, and they suddenly reminded me of the raptors in the Jurassic Park films. 
The rest of the story--including its more mundane human conflict--fell into place within a few weeks.  

Hopefully this post will encourage aspiring writers to see the "day job" from a new perspective. The day job is more than just a way to pay your bills until you succeed as a writer. The day job is also a source of story ideas.

Eleven Miles of Night: an Ohio horror novel


Jason Kelley is a young, struggling filmmaker looking for his first big break. When the semi-famous cable television ghost hunter Simon Rose approaches him about a freelance project, Jason is understandably thrilled.

He isn’t fazed by the fact that his assignment is a walk down the Shaman’s Highway, an eleven-mile stretch of rural Ohio roadway that is reputed to be haunted by malevolent spirits, hellhounds, and demonic forces. Jason is an agnostic in regard to the supernatural.

He isn’t prepared for the reality that awaits him on his walk through eleven miles of night—nor the more human violence and heartbreak that he will face along the way.

Watch the Eleven Miles of Night trailer:

Spooky inspiration near Cincinnati

Much of my horror fiction is set in the Cincinnati area, where I live and write. 

For inspiration, I often investigate local urban legends. (I always modify the urban legend somewhat when I write fiction, though, as was the case for my recent horror novel, Eleven Miles of Night--which is also set near Cincinnati.) 

Blogs like this one always get my idea factory churning:

Creepy Cincinnati

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fitness and creative types

If you want to maintain your creative output, one of the first things you should do is purchase a gym membership. Or—failing that—perhaps an exercise bike. 

Am I still being too elitist? Well, how about a pair of walking shoes? 

Charles Dickens is one of history’s most prolific authors. He was also a compulsive, habitual walker. Dickens reportedly walked as many as twenty miles each day. (I can’t imagine walking that far in the footwear of the Victorian Era.) It was during these long peregrinations that Dickens brainstormed, and dealt with writer’s block—to the extent that Dickens ever suffered from that malady.

Around the time that Jimmy Carter was president, I read the following advice in a copy of Reader’s Digest. (My grandmother was a subscriber.) “If you’re looking for inspiration, go for a walk. Angels whisper to a man when he’s walking.”  

Yes, I realize that statement is both gender-discriminatory and indicative of Judeo-Christian bias. But you get the idea: Exercise is a great way to enhance one’s thought processes. 

It’s been long established that exercise oxygenates the brain; and this spurs creativity. I get some of my best ideas—about all sorts of things—when I’m running, walking, or riding a stationary bike.

And let’s not forget the endorphin rush that exercise provides—otherwise known as “runner’s high”.

Too many writers and creative types have driven themselves to early graves with drink or drugs over the years: Fitzgerald, Poe, Kerouac—the list goes on and on. I can’t help but wonder: How many of them might have been saved—and been more productive artists—if they’d become addicted to exercise instead?

Just a reminder about my YouTube channel

I regular read from my fiction at my YouTube channelAs of this writing, I've done complete readings for all of Eleven Miles of Night. At the present time I'm reading from 12 Hours of Halloween.

My YouTube readings are chopped up into easily digestible chunks of three to eight minutes, and organized into sequential playlists. 

This may or may not be the best and most convenient way to consume a novel-length work of fiction. I'm realistic about this endeavor: Relatively few readers will want to sit before a computer and listen to an entire novel. But my YouTube readings should, at the very least, provide an ample opportunity for you to sample my books and to determine whether or not a particular piece is what you're looking for.

My philosophy is that fiction writers, like rock bands, should market their material by providing potential readers with lots of free samples. That's what I try to do online, rather than tweeting endlessly about cats and politics, as I noted a few weeks ago.