Halloween Extravaganza: Mark Sheldon: A Brief History of My Creative Mash-Up Halloween Costumes

Halloween has always been my favorite of all holidays. The earliest Halloween I remember, I was about four or five years old – mostly I remember it, because my dad had a fairly extensive video made of the party with his now-antique VHS recorder. My mom went as a witch, dad was Count Dracula, and I was a lion (though I didn’t wear the head piece very much because it was too hot!) We had this big walk-in pantry that we’d turned into a haunted maze, we had a bucket for bobbing for apples on the porch, dad had carved two pumpkins into Bert and Ernie heads, and there were skeletons and ghosts hanging everywhere.

Dressing up in costumes, though, I think was always my favorite part. My favorite costume of all time was one I made first back when I was going to college in Boston. I bought a UFO alien mask and gloves, stitched a pair of Groucho Marx onto the mask, and pulled on a hoodie sweatshirt over the whole thing so that I was an alien trying to pose as a human. A few years later, I added on a Rastafari dreadlocks wig to the ensemble. No particular reason, really.

Another year I went as Sherlock The Ripper – I had a long black coat and top hat, fake handlebar mustache, a bloody knife, and a Sherlock Holmes pipe and magnifying glass. At night he put on a fake mustache and went around London dissecting Protestants. By day, he removed the mustache and pretended to attempt to solve the crimes he had committed, so as to alleviate suspicion. That year, my wife Betsy went as Afronighty, the Roman Goddess of Dusk. Our theme was that we were bad high school essays.

Most recently, I punned out my job as a hotel night auditor and went as Sir Abacus, a Knight Auditor of the Rounded-Up Table. I had the full knight’s armor complete with an old-school accountant’s visor and a spool of calculator tape attached to my belt. The hotel’s general manager loved it so much she insisted I wear it on my shift, despite the official dress code policy.

Mark Sheldon is the author of The Noricin Chronicles and the Sarah Killian series. He has also published a collection of short stories titled Mores From the Maelstrom. He lives in Southern California with his wife Betsy.

Sarah Killian 1: Serial Killer (for Hire!)

Meet Sarah Killian, a professional serial killer (for hire!) with a twisted sense of humor.

Sarah Killian is not your average thirty year-old single woman. Foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, and a text-book-case loner. Also, she is a Professional Serial Killer. 

In this Crime Fiction / Thriller novel with a twisted sense of humor, Sarah works for T.H.E.M. (Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers), a secret organization of murderers for hire headed up by the mysterious Zeke. You’ll be surprised to learn who their biggest clients are. Conspiracy theories, anyone? 

But a wrench is thrown into the clockwork of Sarah’s comfortable lifestyle when, on her latest assignment, she is forced to take on an apprentice, Bethany—a bubbly, perky, blonde with a severe case of verbal-vomit. In short, Bethany is everything Sarah is not. 

Will Sarah be able to adjust and work with her new apprentice, or will she break her contract with T.H.E.M. and murder the buxom bimbo?

So if you’re looking for a strong female lead that doesn’t care what you think, in a book similar to the best of Dean Koontz and J.A. Konrath, then look no further than Sarah Killian – Serial Killer (For Hire). 

Just don’t call her an ‘assassin.’ You might not live long enough to regret it.

Sarah Killian 2: The Mullet of Madness

Have you ever woken one morning with a burning, insatiable desire to go out and kill someone?

Sarah Killian, a notoriously foul-mouthed and mean-spirited serial killer for hire, along with her cohort assassin Mary Sue Keller, are back on assignment for the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.).

After receiving an ominous warning from a mark-gone-wrong, it becomes clear that Nick Jin—Sarah’s former nemesis—is still at large and singling her out.

Sarah and Mary Sue are dispatched to Tennessee to discreetly kill off an accused family of KKK organizers, but their true mission is to lure Nick Jin into a trap. But will Nick—always several steps ahead of T.H.E.M.—see their bait for what it is? One thing is guaranteed: blood will be shed.

In the spirit of Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, and Joss Whedon,The Mullets of Madness is a truly unique blend of horror, suspense and espionage.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Mark Sheldon

Meghan: Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books, Mark. It’s a pleasure to have you here today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Mark Sheldon: I’m thirty-seven and I live in Southern California with my wife of ten years, Betsy. We don’t have any children, but several nephews and a niece that keep us plenty occupied.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Mark Sheldon:

  • I was born in Hawaii.
  • I traveled up the Yangtze River a few years before the Three Gorges Dam was built.
  • I lived in Germany for three months when I was in third grade. The only German I really remember is the phrase “Ich bin ein kleines gewerbegebiet,” which translates roughly into “I am a little business district.” I was an odd child.
  • I also write music.
  • My spirit animal is a penguin.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Mark Sheldon: First one I read by myself was definitely Green Eggs and Ham.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Mark Sheldon: Stephen King’s The Green Mile. It’s been on my bucket list to read that one for decades, and finally gotten around to it.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Mark Sheldon: Ooh, that’s a hard one, because I really wear my heart on my sleeve as far as the kind of books I read. Closest answer I can give is that I didn’t hate The Cursed Child nearly as much as the majority of the Harry Potter fandom did.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Mark Sheldon: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – and I’m pretty sure that before that I was telling stories. Earliest story I remember writing was in Kindergarten, and was about a mystical crystal from outer space which created the dinosaurs, and when it’s power died out so did they, and that was why they went extinct. Had pictures and everything.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Mark Sheldon: Someday, when Betsy and I get our dream home, I’ll have a writing nook and all that jazz, but at this point in my life I pretty much squeeze in my writing where and when I can.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Mark Sheldon: Normally I’m a very thorough plotter. I had sketched out the detailed plots of all twelve books of The Noricin Chronicles before I even wrote the first book. With the Sarah Killian books, I’ve gone for a more free-form approach, where I’m basically just writing as I go along. I have the overall story arc in my mind, but I haven’t done any sketching or pre-plotting on paper before I set down to write each book. It’s proven both liberating and challenging, but I think the freeform technique lends itself well to Sarah’s frenetic personality.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Mark Sheldon: The “afterwork” – promoting, etc. I love writing, I love the editing process, and everything leading up to publication, but I’m a fairly humble person by nature, so “selling myself” isn’t something that comes naturally to me.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Mark Sheldon: I’ve very fond of my short story, The Life of Death, which was included in Crystal Lake’s anthology Fear the Reaper. As suggested by the title, it’s the story of Death’s life and the events that pushed her to don the cloak and scythe.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Mark Sheldon: Too many to list for sure, but top of the list would be everything by Douglas Adams. I loved the books of Dean Koontz when I was a teenager, but have kind of grown out of him now that I’m older. J.K. Rowling has had a huge impact on me as a reader and writer – not just Harry Potter, but I am extremely fond of her Robert Galbraith books as well (Casual Vacancy was well-written, but not really my personal cup of tea). Dan Brown is sort of my guilty pleasure author.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Mark Sheldon: If only it were that easy, heh! I think the characters are the most important part of any story. You could have an amazing plot, but who cares if there isn’t anyone you care about inside of that plot? That said, I have always been a sucker for a good surprise ending.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Mark Sheldon: I love any character with snark. I am something of a smart-ass myself, so I love characters that can hold their own in a verbal joust. I think that should be fairly evident to anyone who has read the first chapter of Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Mark Sheldon: The trio of Mike, Dan, and Shelley from The Noricin Chronicles are probably the closest representation of the different aspects of my personality. Mike being the socially awkward nerd, Dan being the idealist who believes in standing up for what is right, and Shelley the smart-ass.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Mark Sheldon: I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m turned off by a bad cover, though an intriguing one certainly will catch my eye more. For The Noricin Chronicles, since I was self-publishing and had a budget of $0.00, I designed all the covers myself, except for the first one. For the Sarah Killian books, both covers were designed by Ben Baldwin, an artist with Crystal Lake, so I wasn’t quite as involved with those designs obviously, but I gave Ben some basic ideas about the books’ themes, events, and Sarah’s character, and he went from there.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Mark Sheldon: I think most people imagine authors as sort of fantastical gods, creating their worlds and characters, divining the events and trials that their subjective characters will have to face. The truth is, at least as I and several other writers I know have found, we don’t have nearly as much control over what we write once the pen starts moving. Amy Reyshell in The Noricin Chronicles was particularly stubborn about doing what she wanted, regardless of what I had sketched out for the plot ahead of time.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Mark Sheldon: I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the end of The Relics of Time (Book 5 of The Noricin Chronicles), was definitely the hardest scene I’ve written so far. I had to do things in that book that made Betsy stop talking to me for a few hours. That said, the first scene of Sarah Killian three is going to be extremely difficult for me to write when I get to it – I can’t really get into why without spoiling the end of Book 2 – and will almost certainly surpass The Relics of Time in becoming the hardest scene I may ever write.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Mark Sheldon: For the Sarah Killian books that’s easy, because I’m not aware of any other horror-espionage books out there. Not saying they don’t exist, but they haven’t come across my radar yet if they do. The Noricin Chronicles was written to be more of a mainstream work, however it’s still relatively unique, I think, in the way that I blended history and literature into my original story. Other writers have certainly tackled blending history with an original story or pre-existing literature with a new story, but there aren’t many books out there that did both to the extent that I did in The Noricin Chronicles.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Mark Sheldon: I’d say the title is even more important than the cover – especially in the current age of digital books, there are instances where the title is the first and maybe only impression a reader will get before reading the summary and deciding if they want to buy. For Sarah Killian: Serial Killer for Hire, the title was really what came first, so that was easy and the rest of the story just evolved out of me figuring out exactly how a serial killer who worked for hire would function. The title for the second book – Sarah Killian: The Mullets of Madness – came to my mind as I was writing the first book, when early on Sarah mentioned that there were few things in the world she could stand less than a man with a mullet. As soon as she had said that, the title Mullets of Madness struck me as a good name, and I knew that I would be using it for her at some point in the series.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Mark Sheldon: There is certainly more of a buildup for the completion of writing a novel. Months or even years of writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, so of course the satisfaction of finally having come to completion on that is really incomparable. However, there’s also something very satisfying about being able to tell a complete story in such a succinct format as the short story form. So I’d say both are very fulfilling, just in very different ways.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Mark Sheldon: Like I mentioned earlier, Sarah Killian is a very unique blend of horror-espionage. Sarah works for a secret organization known as T.H.E.M. – the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers. T.H.E.M. contracts out various types of killers – such as your standard assassins – but Sarah’s branch of Professional Serial Killers is a somewhat more specialized breed of killer for hire. When put on assignment, Sarah will blend herself into a community for months – maybe even years – at a time, creating two separate personalities within that community: the “dupe,” who is the everyday person that Sarah pretends to be while on assignment, and the profile of the killer who will be taking out the group of people that she has been contracted to exterminate. She uses various tools out of the James Bond and Mission: Impossible playbooks to help her create these personas and blend into the community without raising suspicion.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Mark Sheldon: There really isn’t too much from Sarah Killian that ended up on the cutting room floor. My editors at Crystal Lake have been very generous with the editing process and been more interested in technical details than re-working my vision, so I’m very grateful for that. I mentioned earlier that the character of Amy Reyshell in The Noricin Chronicles gave me some difficulty – as I’d originally drafted it, she and Dan weren’t supposed to start dating until around the fifth book, however about hallway through book four I think it was (it’s been almost ten years since I’ve published them, and I’m not one to re-read my own books after they’ve been finished), she said to me, “To hell with that shit, I’m not waiting any longer” and made out with Dan in front of the whole school.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Mark Sheldon: Not sure if this entirely qualifies, but I have a book I wrote called The Motif which I finished a few years ago and is waiting for the right home to publish it. It’s a suspense novella about a song that drives people to murder-suicide when they hear it. Sort of like The Ring, but with an MP3 file instead of a video tape.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Mark Sheldon: Sarah Killian 3 is the next project I’m going to start working on. Sarah’s primary story arc will be completed with that book – not saying that this will be the end of her books, I will always be open to continuing on with her story if the inspiration strikes, but for now I will be wrapping up her current storyline with the third book. After that, I have a sci-fi horror book that’s been plugging around in the back of my brain for a while that I would like to actualize. And from there on – who knows?

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Mark Sheldon:

Facebook: Author Mark Sheldon, Mullets of Madness, Noricin Chronicles

Twitter: I sadly had to retire my Twitter account, due to being hacked, and
have not had the time or energy to start a new one from scratch.

Website ** Email

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Mark Sheldon: Just thank you for this opportunity, and I always love hearing from people who have enjoyed my writing!

Mark Sheldon is the author of The Noricin Chronicles and the Sarah Killian series. He has also published a collection of short stories titled Mores From the Maelstrom. He lives in Southern California with his wife Betsy.

Sarah Killian 1: Serial Killer (for Hire!)

Meet Sarah Killian, a professional serial killer (for hire!) with a twisted sense of humor.

Sarah Killian is not your average thirty year-old single woman. Foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, and a text-book-case loner. Also, she is a Professional Serial Killer. 

In this Crime Fiction / Thriller novel with a twisted sense of humor, Sarah works for T.H.E.M. (Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers), a secret organization of murderers for hire headed up by the mysterious Zeke. You’ll be surprised to learn who their biggest clients are. Conspiracy theories, anyone? 

But a wrench is thrown into the clockwork of Sarah’s comfortable lifestyle when, on her latest assignment, she is forced to take on an apprentice, Bethany—a bubbly, perky, blonde with a severe case of verbal-vomit. In short, Bethany is everything Sarah is not. 

Will Sarah be able to adjust and work with her new apprentice, or will she break her contract with T.H.E.M. and murder the buxom bimbo?

So if you’re looking for a strong female lead that doesn’t care what you think, in a book similar to the best of Dean Koontz and J.A. Konrath, then look no further than Sarah Killian – Serial Killer (For Hire). 

Just don’t call her an ‘assassin.’ You might not live long enough to regret it.

Sarah Killian 2: The Mullet of Madness

Have you ever woken one morning with a burning, insatiable desire to go out and kill someone?

Sarah Killian, a notoriously foul-mouthed and mean-spirited serial killer for hire, along with her cohort assassin Mary Sue Keller, are back on assignment for the Trusted Hierarchy of Everyday Murderers (T.H.E.M.).

After receiving an ominous warning from a mark-gone-wrong, it becomes clear that Nick Jin—Sarah’s former nemesis—is still at large and singling her out.

Sarah and Mary Sue are dispatched to Tennessee to discreetly kill off an accused family of KKK organizers, but their true mission is to lure Nick Jin into a trap. But will Nick—always several steps ahead of T.H.E.M.—see their bait for what it is? One thing is guaranteed: blood will be shed.

In the spirit of Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, and Joss Whedon,The Mullets of Madness is a truly unique blend of horror, suspense and espionage.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Kenzie Jennings

Meghan: Hello, Kenzie. Welcome to the new Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kenzie Jennings: I’m an English professor living in the humid tourist-hub of central Florida, and I keep wondering why I’m still here because I hate hot weather. It may have to do with having a job with benefits and time off to write, all of that sort of thing, but I’m not sure. I may need to get out more.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Kenzie Jennings:

  • I’ve never had a single best friends. I’m a military brat (and was a military spouse), which might be the reason I’ve never had one.
  • I hate vegetables. All of them. I eat them only because I have to… because ADULTING, that’s why.
  • I was once a portrait photographer for a company that shall not be named due to its suckiness.
  • At one time, I lived not far from a sumo training facility and dorm – known as a “stable” or “beya” (I was living in Tokyo, and many people I know know this about me, but not about the sumo thing). The first hint for us (my ex and me) were the huge towers of empty pizza boxes we kept seeing that had been left outside the building for the garbage-men. No one else in Tokyo would’ve had an appetite quite like that.
  • My mom once hired a medium to communicate to the ghosts in our house, and my parents had bought a house with, obviously, a lot of history to it. My little sister had kept seeing an old woman in her bedroom, just watching her there, and years later, when another family was living there, the little boy who had that room said the same thing. So, naturally, the most logical thing to do would be to hire someone to have a nice chat and a cuppa with the resident “nanny” there.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Kenzie Jennings: L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (the creepiest children’s series ever, IMHO).

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Kenzie Jennings: Student essays

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Kenzie Jennings: Around the World With Auntie Mame. I love the sour wit of the narrator and all the oddball characters… oh, and I loved the Rosalind Russell movie, too, by the way, so reading the novels was just… fitting for me.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Kenzie Jennings: I began writing when I was 9 or 10 when I was at my loneliest, if anything, to open new doors and make up imaginary friends to love and villains to fight.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Kenzie Jennings: I often wind up writing on my sofa in the living room, which is so comfy but, later, so bad for my back. It forces me to get up to go for a walk in order to stretch out the kinks.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Kenzie Jennings: I have a really mad collection of virtual Stickies all over my desktop screen, some for characters, some for plot turns, but most of them for continuity so that I don’t forget who did what, who has what, what happened at one point to whom, etc. Continuity is my weak point. I can’t remember anything.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Kenzie Jennings: Besides continuity, I find plot development especially difficult. I can come up with a great concept, but I can never seem to figure out what comes next. It takes me awhile— sometimes weeks, even months, to figure out where things are going.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Kenzie Jennings: Jayne, Juxtaposed was the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. It’s a (and forgive the awful genre term) “chick lit” superhero novel. It took me 5 years to complete, and I wrote it during the worst possible time in my life thus far.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Kenzie Jennings: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Jeff Strand’s Pressure, Bentley Little’s The Ignored & The Store, Natsuo Kirino’s Out, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, Jenn Ashworth’s A Kind of Intimacy, Jack Ketchum’s Off Season & Old Flames… (among many more)… have all inspired me. I don’t know if they’ve inspired my writing style, but they have certainly presented the kind of character development and storytelling I enjoy.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Kenzie Jennings: Interesting protagonists that change, strong dramatic tension (heavy climaxes help, too, and that just sounded really dirty of me), a good sense of description, believable dialogue, and a satisfying ending make for a good story to me.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Kenzie Jennings: I don’t have to love any character to make me interested in her or him. Some of the most fascinating characters to me are the most awful “people” with complex motivations. I’ve more respect for authors who can make us root for the unpleasant ones as well as the usual suspects, those shiny, idealized heroines and heroes. One of the most common critical notes from male readers who’ve read my stuff is that I don’t craft “nice” or “(more) likeable” female protagonists, but it isn’t always necessary to do so. Female protagonists can be unlikable. I mean, authors like Ruth Rendell and Gillian Flynn created a whole collection of them, for shit’s sake, and I really believe that’s why we’re hooked by their work. Not only that, my characters must be—above all—complicated. They can be darkly funny, awkward, prissy, anxious, lost, silly, and so on, sure, but if they’re not complex, and sometimes even quite difficult, they’re not authentic to me.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Kenzie Jennings: None of my characters are really like me, but they may have certain qualities, idiosyncrasies, or situations that mirror (or have mirrored) my own. For example, in Reception, the protagonist, Ansley Boone, suffers from benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, something I’d been afflicted with for years having been overprescribed and then (horribly) weaned off lorazepam. I’ve used both my research and my own experiences with it to, more or less, craft what she’s going through. That said, she’s more impulsive than I could ever be, and she makes some truly horrible decisions along the way.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Kenzie Jennings: I am utterly turned off by a bad cover. Who isn’t, really? Bad font style, outdated stock photos, busy-background-dark-font, all of it… Just no. I was incredibly fortunate to be invited to offer input for Reception’s cover. Not only that, Jarod and Patrick from Death’s Head Press hired a friend of mine, the immensely talented Lynne Hansen, to do the cover, and she definitely made it sing. It’s a glorious, gorgeous cover that grabs one’s attention. It’s also darkly funny too, and I love that sort of thing. (It’s purposefully made to look like a wedding magazine cover)

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Kenzie Jennings: It’s okay to gamble some when writing. There are readers for everything. Not everyone is going to dig Reception because it’s gory and shocking in places, but I kept on telling myself it was okay for me to write what I actually wanted to write.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Kenzie Jennings: The last scene/ending of Reception. I completely rewrote that ending three times. The one I settled on will be the most polarizing for readers, but I don’t care. It’s how it HAS to end.

Meghan: What makes your book different from others out there in this genre?

Kenzie Jennings: The narrators’ voice(s). I’d like to say something more sophisticated than that, but that’s it really. Although, I’ve never read a cannibals-at-a-wedding novel.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Kenzie Jennings: Titles are as important as the cover. I am not all that clever at coming up with titles. An ex-boyfriend (also a writer) came up with Jayne, Juxtaposed, which was brilliant and simple, but now if I continue it on as a series, each title will have to be like it, and now that the ex is not around anymore, I’m kind of unsure where to go with it. Reception was easy because… well, it’s about a wedding… and things go bonkers at the reception.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Kenzie Jennings: Writing a novel makes me feel more fulfilled. I am awful at short stories. I didn’t used to be. Nowadays, I’m so into long form that I’ve forgotten how to keep things to a minimum. It’s not that I ramble. I don’t think I do. But I like crafting connected scenes and developing characters that change slowly (and meaningfully) rather than rapidly.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Kenzie Jennings: Since I’m fairly new to this novel-writing thing, I’ll simply mention Reception. Its tag line is “A wedding already burdened with family drama goes batshit when, during the reception, the groom’s family reveals themselves to be cannibals.” I think readers who like their stories with some contemporary family drama and gore will love it. I don’t know what sort of target audience that is though. It’s for horror readers, for sure. As for readers taking away something from it, how about something like… I hope they simply enjoy the ride, and we’ll see how we do with that?

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Kenzie Jennings: I made some cuts to some of the more frivolous set up scenes, like the one in the salon, which was a lot longer than I’d intended. Some of the more humorous bits were removed because they were silly and made no sense in the long run.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Kenzie Jennings: I have way too much in my “trunk,” some of it probably junk. Most are short stories I don’t know how to finish. One day though.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Kenzie Jennings: I’m working on a psychosexual horror thriller titled Nice Girl about a woman who, to put it mildly, doesn’t care much for being rejected. I was inspired in part by an opinion piece I’d read in Medium about the Incel subculture that spawned the likes of Elliott Rodger and Alek Minassian. The general thesis of the piece was that women could never be Incels (even though the term was created and self-appointed by a woman) because we’re taught to blame ourselves when we’re rejected rather than blame the men who rejected us. I thought… well, I guess it’s time to develop a story about a female Incel.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kenzie Jennings: Website ** Amazon ** Twitter ** Facebook

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Kenzie Jennings: To get in a celebratory wedding mood, have a glass of bubbly while reading Reception… and don’t eat anything too heavy. You’ll need to run at some point.

Kenzie Jennings is an English professor currently residing and sweltering in the humid tourist hub of central Florida. She has written pieces for a handful of news and entertainment publications and literary magazines throughout the years. Back when she was young and impetuous, she had two screenplays optioned by a couple of production companies, but her screenwriting career ended there, and she hasn’t looked back since. Reception is her debut novel.

Reception

While her rehab counselor’s advice replays in her mind, Ansley Boone takes on the role of dutiful bridesmaid in her little sister’s wedding at an isolated resort in the middle of hill country, a place where cell reception is virtually nonexistent and everyone else there seems a stranger primed to spring. Tensions are already high between the Boones and their withdrawal suffering eldest, who has since become the family embarrassment, but when the wedding reception takes a vicious turn, Ansley and her sister must work together to fight for survival and escape the resort before the groom’s cannibalistic family adds them to the post wedding menu.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Jack Rollins

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Jack Rollins: I live in Newcastle in the North-East of England. I have three children: a daughter and two sons. I’ve been writing for about twenty years, in which time I have worked in government jobs, the financial sector, adult education, and social care, as well as started and sunk a couple of businesses. No matter how many times I’ve reinvented myself, writing has always remained a part of me.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Jack Rollins: This is difficult, because I’m known to share quite a lot with my readers across my social media.

  • I run a head shop/new age gift shop.
  • I was divorced by the time I turned 23.
  • I love to sing.
  • My favorite fictional character is Sydney Carton, from A Tale of Two Cities.
  • I love a good board game.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Jack Rollins: I remember a little Ladybird Books, skinny hardback of The Golden Goose. I loved that story, the artwork in the book was amazing. I read it again and again. I could only have been a boy of about four or five at the time. The first novel I can remember reading was Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which I was very happy to read again last year, to my sons, across several bedtimes.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Jack Rollins: On my Kindle app, I’m reading The Hidden, by Fiona Dodwell. I love this story as it’s set in Japan, and I’m a sucker for Japanese culture. I loved the J-horror movies of the 90s and early 00s, so this story takes me back to that time, you know, seeing The Ring and Audition for the first time.

In paperback, I’m reading Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I love the movie, but I never did get around to reading the book. So I’m correcting that now, and I’m pleased to say, my familiarity with the movie has not diminished my enjoyment of the book at all.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Jack Rollins: I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. To this day it remains one of my favorite books. The movie adaptation was a travesty. They butchered that book. Someone should’ve been tried for murder when they produced that thing.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Jack Rollins: At school, I always used to mutate creative writing assignments to whatever I wanted to write. Often the teachers would give feedback like: “Entertaining, but has little connection to the brief. Excellent effort.” I took that as a win. If out of all thirty stories they read when they marked their work, they were still entertained by mine, I didn’t give a shit about the brief. That was a win as far as I was concerned. I got more serious about it in my twenties, but didn’t consider myself a writer as such until my early thirties, when I wrote The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Jack Rollins: When the shop is quiet, I get a chance to write. I’m trying to forge out a bit of a routine now, so I can really rack up the word count on some long-languishing projects. But anywhere I can write with minimal distraction becomes, by default, a special place to me.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Jack Rollins: No, I just battle my lazy brain, or anxious, depressed brain, whatever it is my head tries to throw at me, and then I settle down and hammer the keyboard. I’m trying to ensure I don’t need any little rituals, because not having those down perfectly can become a reason not to write. We have so many distractions these days, don’t we? So it could be easy for me to go down a Twitter rabbit-hole and get lost for 2 hours and realize I now don’t have time to write, because I have to go shopping, or pick my kids up. I need to just be disciplined and write without any bullshit excuses.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Jack Rollins: Remaining free of distraction, and being in the moment enough to find the flow. Some scenes I write can be a bit bumpy to get started, I’m not into it. Then I get going and the characters sort of take over and direct me.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Jack Rollins: I’m satisfied just to get anything finished. It’s been a hard slog this last few years, I don’t mind admitting. A story like Tread Gently Amidst The Barrows was satisfying because I’d never even considered writing about trolls. I enjoyed learning about the mythology of those creatures and thinking of ways to make it mine. You know, how can I take this idea and make it feel like a Jack Rollins story?

It was the same with Anti-Terror, trying to feel my way around a briefing which was as simple and as complex as: write a story for an Extreme Horror collection. So I had to decided, what is extreme? What’s extreme for me? What are the things that I normally flinch away from in my writing, and how do I get it across in a way that still feels like my story?

In my current work in progress, Carsun, I created a new villain to help me get past the block that prevented previous incarnations of this story from being released. I wrote a scene in which this evil presence is revealed to one of the good guys, and when I finished writing that part, I sat back, very happy with myself and very satisfied that this new addition was the piece that will bring this story right out of development hell. That one scene, when I hit the end, was one of the most satisfying things I have written and when Carsun is released in early 2020, I feel really positive that horror readers will get right into it.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Jack Rollins: I try not to be over-influenced, really. I remember noticing that when I was starting out, when I was reading David Copperfield, the character descriptions in my writing at the time, became overly-long and out of step with what a modern audience would expect. I try to read for pleasure as opposed to inspiration.

The exception would be Adam Nevill. He inspires me to dig deeper, work harder and really get to the core of the words that will send a shiver up a reader’s spine. Every (fiction) book that I’ve read with his name on the cover has at least once, caused me to feel fear. That’s how into his stories I get. No other writer has every caused that kind of reaction in me. I often wonder if he and I share some common fears. So I think he’s a good role model for me to have as a writer.

In terms of work ethic, I have a lot of respect for Matt Shaw. His extreme style has a huge following and, while it isn’t my favorite subgenre of horror, it’s Matt himself who I find inspirational. His work rate is incredible, banging out novels, novellas and stories while developing movies and all sorts in the background. I’m proud to call him a friend and I look at him to remind myself what’s possible if you just get sat at that keyboard and get to work, and keep working, and keep working.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Jack Rollins: Probably the same things as anyone else. Good plot. Engaging characters. Natural reactions to unnatural events.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Jack Rollins: I try not to get too precious about my characters. I found that if I became too attached to them, I pulled punches in my stories – like not wanting to hurt a person that I’m fond of. Instead, I try to remain dispassionate, a casual observer, and cover my eyes and ears when the blood starts flying and the screaming begins. And if I’ve done my job correctly, then the reader will hopefully have developed the attachment to the characters, and they’ll want to look away… but they won’t be able to.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Jack Rollins: I’m not going to say. But he sometimes pops up in my stories, and I tend to make him my worst side. If the character is presented with a choice and I could turn left or right: left is get what you want, but to hell with anyone else; right is try to get what you want, but do your best to inflict no harm. I would like to think that in real life, I’ll go right. He will always go left. He takes the options that occur to me, but which I would never really want to choose. In that way, he’s not like me, he’s just a more expedient version of me. He’s the devil version of me on my shoulder saying, “Take a short-cut this time. Fuck everyone else.”

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Jack Rollins: I almost always judge a book by its cover, because once I’ve read what’s inside, it becomes a spine or a piece of art staring out at me from my shelf, so I like books that have had some thought in their design.

I had the most input with The Séance because the image was designed by one of my brothers, and the demonic face you see on there is a distorted version of him. So I got to make some suggestions. Generally, though, I’ve worked with cover artists who I can make a suggestion to, show them some cover art styles on other books that I like, and then leave it to them. They’re the experts after all. I have to be comfortable with the product of course, but I respect that they do what I can’t.

I’m having a bit of an artistic binge at the moment, trying painting and sketching. In the long-run I’d like to be able to produce one or two of my own covers with more complexity than say, what I produced for Hard Man.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Jack Rollins: I’ve learned a lot about Victorian medicine, farming and the age of credulity. From the business side of things, I’ve learned a lot of practical skills about websites, marketing and the creation of the files required for e-books and paperbacks. One of the most important skills I picked up when I ran my ill-fated small press Dark Chapter Press, was typesetting – ensuring the best possible reading experience for the customers at the end. I spent hours tweaking the gaps between words and individual letters to make sure I eliminated ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’ (for those who don’t know, this is when you have lines or whole pages with one or two words on them, the skill is pinching back tiny increments of space throughout the chapter, to draw those words back into a more eye-friendly alignment).

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Jack Rollins: They’re all hard to write, for different reasons. I was working on a sequel to Dead Shore, and I had tears in my eyes after writing one particular sequence. It struck a nerve with me about when my youngest son was only three weeks old and we nearly lost him to a nasty case of bronchiolitis. I didn’t finish the story in the end. Not because of the upset, just because it’s hard not to turn a story like that into another shitty episode of The Walking Dead.

Some scenes are hard to write because you’re trying to find the flow, like I mentioned earlier. It’s not emotionally hard, it’s just the mental act of putting thoughts in order, trying to get the hook, and then physically getting words on the page.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Jack Rollins: My stories tend to be full of characters you can relate to, or at least feel like you know someone similar to them. I want to sell you the people first, and their activity. So a mother walking her toddler along the beach, and him saying things and playing exactly like a toddler of that age does, and the mum thinking the things the mum of a toddler thinks, is going to feel real to you. Then when the weird stuff starts to happen, you’re already locked in. You already care.

I work hard to find emotional hooks in the characters I present you with, so you can go along for the ride without it being spoiled by jarring, uncharacteristic behavior that skips an ocean of character development. The hero isn’t a hero until they’re pushed to become one. And even then, it won’t come easy. And even then, as in Doctor Blessing, they are still going to do things that push them lower in your estimations of them.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Jack Rollins: The title is of vital importance, for building mystery but not giving the game away. I have no formula. The titles just spring from the story. Sometimes it’s right at the beginning, sometimes the title doesn’t reveal itself until the book is finished.

Over the years of working on the various books that have resulted in Carsun, there were titles such as Matt Carsun: Saturnine, Matt Carsun: Man, Matt Carsun: Zero. When the time came to dust him off again and produce the definitive version of the story, the one that I would unleash on the public properly, I dropped most of the elements of the titles from earlier incarnations. Carsun. It’s about him. It’s about his dad, his brother. It’s about what it takes to be him and to remain him by the end of the book. Like the pace of the story, the title suggests urgency, like we’re shouting for him. But are we angry at him? Or do we need him?

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Jack Rollins: I enjoy writing novels and novellas more than short stories. I always consider myself to be trying to write. If I sold a million books, I’s still be trying to write, to refine my work, to tell better stories that leave a mark on readers. The day you stop trying to write, is the day you’re sitting back on your arse, smugly knocking out the same old tat, knowing that your readers will buy it because your name is on the cover.

I find the storytelling in longer reads easier. I have more time to develop the characters, and to pack more into the plot. I’ve found myself struggling with short stories sometimes, because I naturally stray into Hollywood blockbuster plots, layering up the peril. You just can’t do that in a short. It has to punch hard and snap back quickly, and then it’s gone.

Sometimes, a story like Spores or Once Tolled The Lutine Bell will spring to mind, and it just has this great pace and flow and the story is just the right scale for the number of words required. But it’s rare I can write a short story to order just like that. There’s usually a bit of butchering to be done to get the story down to size, then rewrites to make sure the trim-down didn’t cut the heart out of the piece.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Jack Rollins: My books often have some interconnectivity, little Easter eggs that suggest these characters are walking within the same world at different times. Look out for the names of shipping companies and tea brands, demons whose names recur, just little things like that.

Stylistically, Doctor Blessing has to be very different to Carsun, but ultimately both have my signature all over them. I like to see good characters possessed of a power or evil that could swing them either way. Can evil deeds have good consequences? Do the good guys always have to win? The world doesn’t work like that, so why should books?

And while I rail against hope in real life, I think it’s nice to have escapism, and feel hopeful for a desired outcome in the stories. Though, over time, after reading enough of my work, you’ll never know until the last pages if you’re going to get the outcome you think the characters deserve, or do I still have a twist up my sleeve?

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Jack Rollins: The best example I can give is in Carsun. The old versions of the story featured fictionalized impressions of old school friends. Over time, I’ve shifted the focus away from Carsun’s school days and put a few years on him. I realized a few months ago, one of the biggest problems I had was that I hadn’t considered these characters growing up. I had too much of an attachment between those character names and these real guys I don’t see anymore and haven’t heard from in years. I had to cut the ties, strip them out, and replace them with new creations.

When Carsun is released, just know that there are a lot of bodies on the editing room floor, bleeding thick, black ink from their mortal injuries.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”? (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn’t necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a ‘rainy day’ or for when they have extra time.)

Jack Rollins: I mentioned that I’ve started painting. Painting, more than sketching has become my go-to activity. Even though it means cleaning brushes and palettes afterwards, I am more inclined to jump in and start a painting even in the late evening, than I am to draw. I’m very much a beginner, but I’m pleased that I’ve given painting a try and enjoy it immensely – and if anyone reading this lives with anxiety or depression, take my advice: grab some cheap canvases, brushes and oils or acrylics, stick some Bob Ross on YouTube or Netflix and disappear into your creativity for a while. I swear, you will thank me later.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Jack Rollins: More. More novels, more novellas and short stories. Carsun should be with us in early 2020. I have at least one story I’m gearing up set within that world. I have plans for a story set in Newcastle. I might have something up my sleeve for fans of Doctor Blessing, too… but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, shall we?

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Jack Rollins: I’m all over the usual suspects of social media, where I have a lovely, supportive community of creatives and readers all interacting and having fun. We chat about anything, and you never know… I might even release a book or two!

Website (where you can get 3 of my stories FREE, so put me to the test)
Facebook ** Instagram ** Twitter ** Minds ** Pinterest

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Jack Rollins: I’d like to take the chance to say thanks to the readers who have been with me over the years. I appreciate you and your patience over the times where circumstances have required me to step back from writing for a while. I hope the new stories will be worth the wait. And for anyone new to my work, I hope you’ll give me a little of your time and try three of my stories risk-free, by visiting my website and joining my VIP Readers Group (you can leave at any time, even after you’ve downloaded the third book, if you like!), and I hope those stories will mark the start of an exciting relationship between us. I have lots of stories in the pipeline, so now is a really great time to get on board!

Jack Rollins was born and raised among the twisting cobbled streets and lanes, ruined forts and rolling moors of rural Northumberland, England in 1980. He is the author of the horror novel The Cabinet of Doctor Blessing, the novella The Seance, and a range of short, dark fiction tales.

Jack lives in Newcastle, England.

The Cabinet of Dr. Blessing (The Dr. Blessings Collection, Parts 1-3)

A chilling tale of gothic horror, told in three parts, collected in one volume. Dr George Blessing operates in his Victorian London hospital. Sympathetic to the poor, Blessing is summoned to a traumatic childbirth. There he discovers a creature of nightmarish power and malevolent intent, whose unearthly abilities he wants to harness for the good of mankind. When he reveals the secret to a friend after a dinner party, Dr Blessing’s obsession triggers events threatening to destroy his reputation, his family and the entire city. As the creature grows ever more powerful and suspicious investigators close in, the doctor is one step from death at every turn. Told in the tradition of a penny-dreadful, each part intricately spins a gripping web of secrets, lies and death, blending “Hammer House of Horror” style scares with fast paced action.

The Seance: A Gothic Tale of Horror & Misfortune (free on his website)

Albert Kench is summoned back to London from his travels in Australia, and is shocked to find that his sister has suffered horrific mental and physical damage. A man of science and progress, when Albert is told that Sally attended a seance prior to her collapse and has been touched by otherworldly forces, he believes there must be another, more rational explanation. Albert learns of a man who claims mastery of the dark arts, who may hold the key to Sally’s salvation. Albert sets off in search of answers, but can he emerge victorious without faith, or will he be forced to accept the existence of a realm beyond the world around him?

Hard Man

Ruling the dark underworld of Tilwick is no easy feat, but Eddie Garfield does so with brutal efficiency.

For sixty years, he has abided by two simple rules, rules that have painted the cobbles with splattered blood and broken teeth, and forged an impressive legacy. But sixty years is a long time… people are becoming restless; the criminal young bloods are ambitious and hungry to take their slice of the pie, and they’ll do anything to obtain it. Even if it means taking down one of their own… Hard Man takes place in the mysterious town of Tilwick, where the demon Mammon is worshipped as a god. The town featured in Rollins’ story ‘Home, Sweet Home’ (Kill For A Copy, Dark Chapter Press), and will soon provide the chilling backdrop for his long-awaited novel, Carsun.

Dead Shore: A Zombie Outbreak Story (free on his website)

When a group of teenagers mess around with the washed-up body of a dolphin, Karen and toddler Charlie find themselves caught in a wave of chaos and violence as one by one the residents of Ashmouth fall prey to a deadly virus, transforming them into relentlessly violent zombies. Allying herself with Dean, one of the teenage boys, Karen must stay strong and alert as the world she knows crumbles around her and there appears to be no way out. Is the village doomed, and will this zombie outbreak remain contained?

Tread Gently Amidst the Barrows (free on his website)

Tread Gently Amidst the Barrows sees Jack Rollins return to the Victorian era for a chilling, thrilling tale as the progress of mankind and technology trespass into the world of the mythical in Sweden. A series of night-time disappearances among the workforce of railway engineer Oliver Stroud threaten to bring the construction of a new railway bridge to a standstill as local superstitions give rise to unrest and desertion. Stroud is left with no choice but to investigate an ancient burial site to bring closure to the matter once and for all but there is no peace to be found among the barrows of Old Uppsala, for neither the dead, nor the creatures of myth who live among them.

Halloween Extravaganza: Brian Hodge: My Review of The Spirit of Things

Having the amazing Brian Hodge on the blog for the first time is definitely an honor. Having him write a review of his favorite Halloween story, which is also one of mine… it’s like we’ve known each other forever.


It is inevitable that institutions get watered down by time. Meanings dilute; the reactions they evoke diminish. Solemn rites become superficial pageantry, ever more hollow the further they drift from their original contexts. Given enough familiarity, even villains and monsters evolve into unlikely antiheroes. By now, the only people rooting for the Halloween movies’ Michael Myers to be stopped are those who are bored sick of him.

According to splatterpunk O.G. John Skipp and his early short story “The Spirit of Things,” the problem with Halloween goes back a lot farther in time than its four-decade film franchise, and runs a lot deeper.

To the ancient Celts, the seasonal turning of summer to winter, of old year to new, was a transitional phase that brought a thinning of the veil between our world and everything else on the other side. Spirits, demons, the dead… they could all cross the ephemeral threshold. This is the history that “The Spirit of Things” remembers. This is the reality that, after millennia of eradication and mockery, is reasserting itself with extreme prejudice.

Since it was first published in the mid-1980s, “The Spirit of Things” has remained my favorite Halloween story of all time. Until a couple of moves disappeared my old hardcopies into a boxed storage purgatory from which they’ve yet to be excavated, I read the piece each year like holy canon: first in the December 1986 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine, then in Deadlines, the 1988 novel by Skipp and his then-collaborator Craig Spector. A strange narrative beast, is Dead Lines, at the time described by its authors as a story collection wrapped in a novel about a guy who kills himself because he can’t sell his story collection.

Barely cracking 2300 words, “The Spirit of Things” has the straightforward simplicity of a timeless fable: a single character, a single setting, a single sequence of events that, in real time, would span fifteen minutes, tops. On the scariest night of the year, an armed and desperate blue-collar worker barricades himself in his apartment, listening to the grisly fate of his neighbors and waiting to see what his own will be.

Yet, with this deceptively limited handful of elements, Skipp paints a portrait in miniature of an entire world undergoing breakdown toward a horrifying new normal. To read it is to reposition yourself at the heart of it. It’s not only balding, paunchy Jake Wertzel under siege in his home; it’s you in yours. It’s not just Wertzel finding out how far he’s willing to go when offering sacrifices to petition for his survival; you can’t read this without wondering about your own limits.

The story’s greatest power is in how actively it engages the imagination. Reader participation is mandatory, because while little is actually seen, much is implied and a whole crazy freakin’ lot is heard. As Wertzel’s surroundings periodically erupt with the kinetic mayhem of an Evil Dead film, it’s the chaos of what he can only hear going on all around him — just outside the windows, on the other side of ceilings and walls — that truly brings the terror, forcing you to conjure in your own head what horrors could possibly be making those ghastly sounds… as well as the carnage they’re leaving in their wake. You want to see, but to see will be the end of you.

Because it’s been around more than thirty years, “The Spirit of Things” may require a bit of a hunt to get your hands on one of its various reprintings. But the effort will be of long-term reward: a holiday classic you can revisit on an annual basis, and wonder, “What if, this year…?”

Called “a writer of spectacularly unflinching gifts” by no less than Peter Straub, Brian Hodge is one of those people who always has to be making something. So far, he’s made thirteen novels, over 130 shorter works, five full-length collections, and one soundtrack album.

His most recent works include the novel The Immaculate Void and the collection Skidding Into Oblivion, companion volumes of cosmic horror. His Lovecraftian novella The Same Deep Waters As You is in the early stages of development as a TV series by a London-based production company. More of everything is in the works.

He lives in Colorado, where he also endeavors to sweat every day like he’s being chased by the police. Connect through his website, or Facebook.

The Immaculate Void

“You wouldn’t think events happening years apart, at points in the solar system hundreds of millions of miles distant, would have anything to do with each other.”

When she was six, Daphne was taken into a neighbor’s toolshed, and came within seconds of never coming out alive. Most of the scars healed. Except for the one that went all the way through.

“You wouldn’t think that the serial murders of children, and the one who got away, would have any connection with the strange fate of one of Jupiter’s moons.”

Two decades later, when Daphne goes missing again, it’s nothing new. As her exes might agree, running is what she does best … so her brother Tanner sets out one more time to find her. Whether in the mountains, or in his own family, search—and—rescue is what he does best.

“But it does. It’s all connected. Everything’s connected.”

Down two different paths, along two different timelines, Daphne and Tanner both find themselves trapped in a savage hunt for the rarest people on earth, by those who would slaughter them on behalf of ravenous entities that lurk outside of time.

“So when things start to unravel, it all starts to unravel.”

But in ominous signs that have traveled light—years to be seen by human eyes, and that plummet from the sky, the ultimate truth is revealed:

There are some things in the cosmos that terrify even the gods.

Skidding Into Oblivion

We each inhabit many worlds, often at the same time. From worlds on the inside, to the world on a cosmic scale. Worlds imposed on us, and worlds of our own making.

In time, though, all worlds will end. Bear witness:

After the death of their grandmother, two cousins return to their family’s rural homestead to find a community rotting from the soul outward, and a secret nobody dreamed their matriarch had been keeping.

The survivors of the 1929 raid on H.P. Lovecraft’s town of Innsmouth hold the key to an anomalous new event in the ocean, if only someone could communicate with them.

The ultimate snow day turns into the ultimate nightmare when it just doesn’t stop.

An extreme metal musician compels his harshest critic to live up to the hyperbole of his trolling.

With the last of a generation of grotesquely selfish city fathers on his deathbed, the residents of the town they doomed exercise their right to self-determination one last time.

As history repeats itself and the world shivers through a volcanic winter, a group gathers around the shore of a mountain lake to once again invoke the magic that created the world’s most famous monster.

With Skidding Into Oblivion, his fifth collection, award-winning author Brian Hodge brings together his most concentrated assortment yet of year’s best picks and awards finalists, with one thing in common:

It’s the end of the world as we know it… and we don’t feel fine at all.