Christmas Takeover 17: Thomas R Clark: All I Want for Christmas, the first three chapters

For Christmas Takeover, Thomas R. Clark has given us the first three chapters of his story, All I Want for Christmas: A Tale of Holiday Horror, which can be found on Amazon.

And don’t forget that his book, Good Boy, is available for order today.

A mysterious, foul-mouthed Santa offers Christmas wishes, but at what price?

All I Want for Christmas on AMAZON


All I Want for Christmas

A Story by Thomas R Clark
3,038 words

1

“Nick? You’re playing some fucking joke, right? I mean what are the odds of this happening?” Bob Clark, manager of the Great Ontario Mall said to the elderly man in a Santa Claus outfit sitting before him. This guy was on point with the familiar red suit, complete with white and black trimmings. Oh, and the classic Santa hat. He even went as far as to wear the round-lensed spectacles. He was good. “Let me guess, you changed your name to Nick when you grew that beard out and started playing Santa?” He watched the old man shake his head.

“Nope,” the applicant said. “It’s always been my name. Nick Samuel. You do know Nick is a common fucking name, right? It shouldn’t surprise the shit out of you or anyone else.”

“It’s ironic, that’s all I’m saying.” Bob opted for damage control, so they could get on with the process. He wasn’t sure if he trusted this creepy old dude. “So I assume you’re interested in becoming our Holiday-”

“Yes,” Nick interjected, “I fucking accept. I’d like to be your holiday Santa.”

“Hold on a minute, Nick. I didn’t say you had the job.” The old man released a jolly chuckle of ho’s in response. Bob cut back in, “What’s so funny.”

“What? The ho-ho-hoing? I’m Santa, it’s what I fucking do. And, we saw you were looking for Santa’s Helpers, too.”

“We?” Bob raised an eyebrow.

“I have my own assistants. We’re the remedy to your situation.” The old man made a fist with each of his black-gloved hands and pointed his thumbs behind him. A pair of sultry women stepped out from behind Nick. Bob wondered where they came from. The last he checked, only Nick here in his Santa suit entered his office. These women manifested from out of nowhere. The pair stood at Mr. Samuel’s left and right. “These are my elves, Lily and Aggie!” The women curtsied on cue and handed Bob their resumes. He reached across his desk and took them, nodding as he did.

Bob was forced to admit, this was convenient. It would save him time and headaches. His former Santa, Kenny Saint-Claire, used his daughters as his helpers for years. But they grew up and moved out of town and Ken got caught groping one of the replacement Elves last year. It was quite the scandal for a small city like Fenton. Now Ken was fired and Bob needed a new Santa.

“Well, Bob? What do you say? Is it a deal?” the old man’s tone startled Bob. It was almost rehearsed, wooden, as if Nick were playing a role, not that of Santa, but of Nick Samuel. Bob fumbled with the resumes in his hand.

“Yes, that’s nice. Do you have references?” Bob forced out to regain control of the interview.

“We’re not from around here, as you probably guessed. We only come through this way every so many years. Last year I was in Auburn at another dying mall. They had the busiest season since their catalog anchors left. But, of course, I have references! Elves, do we have references?”

“Yes we do, Santa,” the women replied in unison.

“But Bob here, he doesn’t need to check them, does he.” He wasn’t asking them a question.

“That’s right, Santa, Bob doesn’t need to check our references. We’re all set.”

“I don’t need to check your references. You’re all set,” Bob said. He felt a warmth in his groin and was surprised to find his dick was getting hard looking at Santa’s helpers. This was an odd one. Bob was gay, and for the first time in his life since coming out, he questioned his sexuality, “You start next week, on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.”

“Excellent, Mr. Clark. It’s a pleasure doing business with you. Now, one thing, for insurance purposes, all the parents must sign a waiver in order for their children to sit on my lap. It protects me, protects them. You know how it is.” This was something Bob hadn’t considered. Nick was right.

“Damn, I don’t have one. I can draw a form up-”

“No, no need to do that. I have forms they can sign. It comes with being a freelance Santa.”

“Oh, okay, Mr. Samuel.”

“Call me Nick. Old Nick is what my friends call me.”

“Old Nick it is,” Bob corrected himself.

“So what would you want for Christmas, Bob?

“I wish for this Mall to have a successful, record-breaking shopping season.”

“Amen to that, Bob. Amen to that,” Old Nick said, before breaking back into a low series of ho-ho belly rolls

2

Mike Lombardo stood in the reception line at Steve’s funeral, trying to think about everything but his brother dying. It was difficult to do, to keep his mind blank, with the constant stream of mourners shaking hands, hugging or just nodding. Mike and his wife stood with his sister-in-law and mother. The line of people coming to pay their respects was a nonstop train all day. It was finally beginning to abate some, much to Mike’s relief.

Mike hated funerals, but he hated cancer more. The shit ran in the Lombardo family, rotting the men from the inside. First their father, John, and now Steve. Mike didn’t know what killed Grampa Lombardo over in Italy, but he was confident ass cancer ate him, too. Mike’s older brother came clean about how sick he was just after New Year’s, and he didn’t make it to fucking Thanksgiving. Mike didn’t feel sick. His brother hadn’t, either. But fear of a positive diagnosis prevented him from going to a doctor.

A man Mike didn’t know was approaching the line. He looked familiar, but Mike wasn’t sure. Elderly with a white beard, and accompanied by a pair of lovely, albeit much younger women- one blonde, one red-headed. Both were painted into skin-tight black mini-dresses. And as cute as those women were, this was his cue to leave.

He felt the urge to pee come on. Mike knew his bladder and feared pissing his suit pants. He excused himself and made haste to the restroom, avoiding making eye contact with anyone who might wish to stop him and make conversation. Lombardo nodded to them, mouthed the words ‘Thank you’ in a nearly inaudible whisper, and ran off.

Mike made it to the urinal in record time, dripping while in the act of unbuttoning his pants. His dick was hard, for some reason. It was odd. He wondered why he would be sporting a woody at his brother’s funeral. It made pissing and directing the stream all the more difficult. The relief of finally breaking the seal was euphoric. Much like the last ten months of Steve Lombardo’s life.

The brothers shared a bucket list year. From concerts, finally seeing KISS, their favorite band, together. A trip to the State Fair, camping at the State Park. A trip to Atlantic City where they lost more than they won. They scoured garage sales, buying toys they owned as boys growing up. Their best picks?

The Shogun Warriors they got for Christmas when Steve was five, and Mike was four. This Christmas in particular stuck with Mike. Though he was young, he remembered it clearly to this day, playing with his brother with those giant robots, nearly as tall as they were. So when Steve insisted on being buried with the Shogun, Mike didn’t find it to be odd.

“They say you can’t take it with you. Well, I say fuck them, whoever the fuck they may be! If it’s what damned me, then it’s coming with me. Fuck ‘em!” Steve told him at Halloween. His wife balked at the notion. Earlier today, Mike handed the mortician a hundred dollar bill, and he slid the Shogun Warrior into the bottom of Steve’s casket. It was there now, resting next to his legs.

Mike left the lavatory and found his way back to the reception line. It was empty, for the first time today. He saw his son, five-year-old, Brian, standing by the photo board. It was covered in pictures of Steve, from his time in diapers up to the concert back in August. Brian was focused on a single picture, looking at it with curious nods of his head. Mike went to his son’s side.

The Polaroid printed picture was from the Great Ontario Mall about forty years ago. Mike and Steve were sitting on Santa’s lap. The eyes of all captured in the picture glowed a demonic red from the reflection of the cheap camera used. Christmas 1978. The year they got the Shogun Warriors. Mike remembered this picture and the day it was taken as if it were yesterday.

“Hey, son. That was your uncle Steve and me when we were your age.”

“Why is one blurry?” Brian asked, pointing to Steve, sitting on Santa’s knee. His image was a blur. His face, his hands, all clouded up. You could tell someone was in the picture, but who they were, you couldn’t tell. Mike only knew it was Steve because he knew the picture. He pulled the picture off the poster board and put it in his pocket.

“Come on, let’s go stand over here with Mommy and Gramma and say hello to people coming to say goodbye to Uncle Steve.”

“Okay, Daddy.” The little boy took his father’s hand, and the duo joined their family in the reception line…

3

Snow assaulted Fenton, New York on Black Friday. A freak lake effect storm with a below-freezing wind chill struck from the north of Canada. The snow was dropping an inch an hour on the Ontario shoreline city. Visibility was next to nothing. But that didn’t stop the regional shoppers from filling the parking lot of the Great Ontario Mall with their cars, trucks, and vans. If this were an indication of the shopping season to come, the mall was in store for a record year.

Retailers within the complex’s walls were holding incredible sales, drawing out the local residents. The mall was alive with activity, including the seasonal debut of Santa Claus and his helpers, taking Christmas wishes from the young brave enough to sit on Santa’s lap and have their picture taken.

Lines of traffic, headlights burning white circles into the falling snow, circled the building. Stuck in this jam, trapped in their Chevy Cruze, Mike and Lexie Lombardo waited patiently. Their son was sound asleep in his car seat. They were doing this for him, taking him to see Santa on the day he appeared at the mall.

For weeks little Brian had looked forward to this event. The little boy nagged his mother until she made a treat to bring Santa. Sugar cookies covered in green sprinkles. And yes, they brought enough to share with Santa’s helpers. After all, the elves were important, too! They made the toys.

The only positive thing? There were so many cars in line, the snow wasn’t covering the road. It was covering the cars, instead. The wipers of the Cruze pushed piling snow off the windshield. It was falling fast enough to cover the hood, the hot engine melting patterns in the accumulations. The farting sound of rubber squee-geeing across glass filled the car.

“Can you turn the wipers off? That sound is driving me up a wall.” Lexie asked her husband.

“I wish. The snow is falling too fast. I can’t believe this weather, Lexie.”

“Remind me again why we came out in it.” She said, rubbing her hands together.

“For Brian. To see Santa and give the jolly old elf some cookies and a Christmas wish-list.”

An hour and another inch of snow later, they found parking. Once inside the mall, the congestion wasn’t any better. Sure, there was no snow, but the heat of the mall combined with the heat of the bodies in the mall made for tropical conditions. Mike was sweating his balls off, beads of it poured down his forehead and neck. Lexie was flushed, her ponytail dripping in her own perspiration. But little Brian was a smiling bundle of joy.

The boy was here to see Santa and tell the legend what he wanted for Christmas. He was a good boy all year, so no coal in his stocking. He gave zero fucks about the temperature. He cared even less about the line to see Santa, which curled through the mall and moved at a snail’s pace.

He stood there, holding a bag of snacks for Santa in one hand, and his mother’s hand in the other, being

Good.

With all the stress of the moment and location, Mike and Lexie had to admit their son was not a contribution to the trouble. The little things in life were working in their favor here. All of this made enduring the experience tolerable. As did Santa’s helpers.

Mike noticed the scantily clad beauties as soon as they rounded the bend. Santa was smack dab in the middle of a fake Christmas Village, but these ladies were shifting duties. And they looked familiar, as did the Santa. One blonde and one redhead. The sight of them made him forget about how uncomfortable he was standing in this line. Now the only thing uncomfortable was the unexplained boner Mike was popping in his jeans.

He put his arm around his wife. She reciprocated, dropped her hand and squeezed his ass. He never expected this from her in the mall, the sign she was horny. Maybe being drenched in sweat after being stuck in traffic during a whiteout of snow was a turn on. If it paid off, they’d have to do it again.

Another hour passed before they got near enough to the front of the line to fill out the paperwork for the pictures. They wouldn’t want anything more than the one complimentary shot, but there were still release forms and whatnot requiring signatures. It seemed like too much of a big to-do over something as simple as pictures with Santa.

“What’s up with all of this paperwork?” Mike asked the redheaded elf. Her name badge said ‘Aggie’.

“Legal mumbo jumbo. It’s the Twenty-First Century. Santa can’t afford any legal trouble, handsome.” She wiggled her eyebrows and shook her tits. Jingle bells hung off her tight sweater. They jingled and jangled as a result.

“Jesus, it’s like I’m taking a test. I’ve filled out auto loans and mortgages with less paperwork.”

“You can just flip through and sign at the ‘X’ on the bottom of each page if that will make it easier for you,” she suggested. He hesitated.

“But, what if we’re giving you permission to sell our child into slavery?” Aggie laughed out loud.

“With some parents, you’d think they wished for that. But no. It’s worse. You’re signing his soul away.” Mike shot Aggie an inquisitive eye. “Isn’t that what remote tribes of people think when you take their photograph, that you’re stealing their soul?”

“I forgot about- ” Mike started.

“Just do it, honey,” Lexie interjected. And Mike did, signing his name at the ‘X’ on a dozen more pages.

Fifteen minutes later Lexie handed little Brian off to Lily the Elf. A shit-eating grin covering the boy’s face with his eyes as wide open as they could go. A half dozen steps later, he found himself sitting on Santa’s lap.

“Hello Brian,” Santa said, following the boy’s name with a jolly roll of ho’s. “That’s a keen name!”

“This is for you and your helpers!” Brian handed Santa the bag of cookies.

“Oh isn’t this nice! Thank you very much, Brian. Lilly, could you take these and put them with our snacks for tonight?” The blonde Elf shimmied over to Santa and took the bag of goodies.

“I hope you like them!”

“What is your Christmas wish, young man?”

“My Christmas wish is for a puppy! I want a puppy for Christmas, Santa. I’ve been a good boy! My Christmas wish is a puppy! That’s it, nothing more!” Mike and Lexie heard their son. They looked at each other, sadness in their eyes.

“Well, that’s an easy one, Brian. It’s something Santa can handle. You keep being good until Christmas Eve.”

“I will, Santa. You know I will!”

“Okay, Brian. Look at the camera and say ‘Amen’ with Santa on three!” Lily the Elf said. “One… two… three… Amen!” Brian laughed as he repeated the words with Santa. Lilly snapped the photo and the flash lit up the Holiday set. The digital print captured the moment. Aggie handed it to Lexie. Brian took his father’s hand.

“I asked Santa for a puppy. Not a toy puppy but a real dog. Do you think he can swing it? He said he would! He said all Christmas wishes come true for good little boys, amen.” Brian eagerly spewed words out to his mother and father. They looked at Santa.

“I don’t know about that one, sport. We’ll see,” Mike replied.

“But Santa said my wish would come true if I was a good boy! And I’ve been a good boy, I’ve been the best boy, ever!” The tone of voice was downtrodden and dejected.

“Is there a problem with the boy getting a pet?” Santa asked.

Mike looked at Lexie.

“We live in a rental. The landlord has a strict rule. No pets,” Lexie told Santa. She held Santa’s gloved hand. He was strict about it. Not even a hamster in a ball or a goldfish in a bowl, ”I wish I could do something to change it for him.”

“Stranger things have happened. Amen.” Santa said, grasping Lexie’s hand with both of his.

“Yeah, whatever. Amen and all of that stuff. Merry Christmas, Santa.”

“Merry Christmas to all of you in the Lombardo family.”

Mike shook his head in denial. He hated disappointing Brian. Lexie hugged her husband and hung her head so Brian couldn’t see her face. Mike held her tight for another moment. Then, the three of them walked away from Santa and his helpers at the Great Ontario Mall.

Thomas R Clark is a musician, writer and podcast producer & engineer. His podcasts, including the popular Necrocasticon, can be heard on the Project Entertainment Network. He is the author of the novellas Bella’s Boys and Good Boy, published through Stitched Smile Publications. You can find Tom’s short story collection, A Book of Light & Shadow, on Amazon through his personal imprint, Nightswan Press. Tom lives in Central New York with his wife and a trio of Jack Russell terrier companions.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Thomas R Clark

Meghan: Hi, Tommy. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thomas R Clark: My writing name, Thomas R Clark, is an homage to both Robert E. Howard and Cormac McCarthy, who doesn’t like using punctuation.

I’m a journalist, podcast engineer & producer, musician, and author. I’ve written entertainment journalism for This Is Infamous & Rue Morgue to name a few.

I love animals, dogs in particular. A trio of Jack Russell Terrorists, er I mean Terriers, cohabitate with my wife and me.

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

Thomas R Clark: Since we’re all friends here

  • I like Lima Beans. I don’t care if they’re in butter and bacon.
  • My favorite lunch as a boy was potted meat sammiches with yellow mustard, spaghetti oh’s, and strawberry quick milk.
  • My nickname as a boy was ‘Toot.’ If you have to ask, then you’re daft…
  • I like cottage cheese, too. No. You can’t have any. It’s mine.
  • I stopped watching baseball for 10 years after Thurman Munson died.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Thomas R Clark: Back to the Stone Age by Edgar Rice Burroughs when I was in second grade.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Thomas R Clark: I’m revisiting Glen Cook’s The Black Company.

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

Thomas R Clark: Watership Down

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

Thomas R Clark: I read an anthology called More Science Fiction Tales when I was in third grade. It led to me writing my own stories down. The first story I remember writing was about alien crab creatures attacking an underwater city.

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

Thomas R Clark: Yes. My office nook in my bedroom. The dogs can sit on my bed and watch me.

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

Thomas R Clark: I make soundtracks and fake covers for every piece I write.

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

Thomas R Clark: I have ADHD, so sitting in one space and focusing on the work at hand is difficult.

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

Thomas R Clark: Bella’s Boys, my cosmic horror novella. It was fun to write.

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

Thomas R Clark: This is fairly direct, and each line answers both:

Sunglasses After DarkNancy A. Collins
The LotteryShirley Jackson
More Science Fiction TalesTom Monteleone (under various pen names)
Red NailsRobert E. Howard
The Dreaming CityMichael Moorcock
The ScreamJohn Skipp & Craig Spector
I Am LegendRichard Matheson
The StandStephen King
Watership DownRichard Adams
The RoadCormac McCarthy

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Thomas R Clark: Memorable characters.

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

Thomas R Clark: I have to be able to bond with them in some manner. In my own characters, I try to place common traits that might be shared by a large demographic.

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

Thomas R Clark: None of them are… yet.

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

Thomas R Clark: Yes. I hate bad book covers. Thus far in my career, I’ve had complete creative control over my cover art.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Thomas R Clark: This is too broad. I am under mentoring and in workshops constantly. So I’m always learning. So… what I can say is this: I learn every day. And this is the advice I give to my peers. We can always learn more.

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

Thomas R Clark: A reimagining of when I was nearly abducted by a bad person.

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

Thomas R Clark: I think outside of the boxes we have pigeonholed cliche tropes into. I blend genres, which makes me difficult to pin down and typecast. With the exception of Good Boy, most of my fiction is related in some manner, yet the subject matter of each is vastly different. Bella’s Boys is a cosmic horror story. Its follow up, Epic Fail is a slasher killer piece. Whirlwind, my current WIP, is a monsters on a rampage eating people book…

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)?

Thomas R Clark: Book titles grab a person’s attention as much as the cover art. I take a cue from King and look for simplicity. Good Boy is pretty forthwith. Bella’s Boys uses alliteration. Epic Fail is a vernacular of the modern era. All are memorable, each tells you something about the story.

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

Thomas R Clark: Although I love writing short stories, I’m finding the more I write longer pieces, the more comfortable I am becoming with them. So, I’ll go with novel/novella for my answer here.

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

Thomas R Clark: I’ve already answered a bit of this, regarding my books. My target audience is horror and dark fantasy fans. And I’d like my readers to learn a moral lesson or two in my narratives.

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

Thomas R Clark: Much of my “deleted scenes” go into a file for me to pilfer from when needed. I believe in recycling.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Thomas R Clark: My trunk is overflowing with bits and pieces of fiction from over 30 years of writing. Actually, the piece I’m working on now is a trunk piece I keep shelving. And I kept doing it because the book was getting too long and I was losing track of where I was and what to do. The last year I’ve learned a few new tricks to help me get over this hump, regarding note-taking on index cards and in a handwritten notebook.

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

Thomas R Clark: After Good Boy and Bella’s Boys, I have Epic Fail and Imaginos: The Eternal Light Anthology, a collection of short stories based on the music of Blue Oyster Cult, coming in 2020. It features some pretty big names in horror and the music industry. I’m also finishing a novel, Whirlwind, and two other novellas: a dark fantasy period piece called The Witch of November, and Falls Brook, a 70s grindhouse homage.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Thomas R Clark: On Twitter and Facebook. You can also listen to my weekly podcast dedicated to horror and heavy metal, The Necrocasticon, at Project Entertainment Network.

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?

Thomas R Clark: Nope. Read my stuff.

Thomas R Clark is a musician, writer and podcast producer & engineer. His podcasts, including the popular Necrocasticon, can be heard on the Project Entertainment Network. He is the author of the novellas Bella’s Boys and Good Boy, published through Stitched Smile Publications. You can find Tom’s short story collection, A Book of Light & Shadow, on Amazon through his personal imprint, Nightswan Press. Tom lives in Central New York with his wife and a trio of Jack Russell terrier companions.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Armand Rosamilia & Chuck Buda

Meghan: Armand, you’ve been interviewed by me a couple of times now and Chuck has not, so I’d like to spend the first few questions focused on him, if you don’t mind.

Chuck, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chuck Buda: I’m a boy trapped in a man’s body. I love pizza and Black Metal. And when I’m not writing, I can be found watching The Big Bang Theory, Ancient Aliens, Ghost Adventures, or NASCAR races. Secretly, I’m in love with Armand Rosamilia.

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

Chuck Buda: Wow! A tough one right off the bat. I have to dig deep for what most people don’t know about me. Let’s see, I’m an Eagle Scout. I cried like a baby when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. I’m a momma’s boy. I’m a sucker for beautiful eyes. And I can hold my breath under water for ninety seconds.

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

Chuck Buda: I like to write different types of stories. My work ranges from psychological thrillers to splatterpunk, depending on the story. To date, I have written four series of books: The Debt Collector Trilogy (psychological thriller), the Gushers Trilogy (occult/splatterpunk), the Zombie Lockup series, and the Son of Earp series (supernatural western horror). I think my target audience is someone like me, a person who enjoys their horror in all kinds of flavors, shapes and sizes. The overarching theme in most of my work deals with the fact that humans are the most frightening monsters.

Meghan: Now, for questions that both of y’all can answer:

Are y’all reading anything good lately?

Armand Rosamilia: I’m always reading. Mostly nonfiction, but I’ve recently read a couple of really good horror books: The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz and Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk. Wait… was I supposed to mention a couple of Chuck’s books instead?

Chuck Buda: I’m currently reading a few great books. Bleed Away the Sky by Brian Fatah Steele and Bigfoot in Pennsylvania by Timothy Renner. I recently finished Dirty Deeds 2 by Armand Rosamilia which was a lot of fun.

Meghan: I am obsessed with offices lately. What makes yours “you”?

Armand Rosamilia: My office has to feel like chaos, with papers and Post-It notes all over my desk. But I know where everything is and what everything is. When we have company over my wife yells at me to at least straighten it all up, but then it takes me a few days to get it back to stuff on the floor and on my bookshelves so I can work.

Chuck Buda: I work from the dining room table. It’s the only place in the house where I have enough room to spread out all my work materials. Someday, when my kids graduate from college, I will convert a bedroom into a soundproof studio so I can have a legit office space and a place to sing out loud without harming anyone. I’ve collected lots of cool art over the years, too, which I would love to hang on my office walls.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Armand Rosamilia: For me it starts with the characters. You can have a great plot but with so-so characters it falls apart, while a so-so plot can really be dragged along with great characters and is entertaining. Now, have great characters and a great plot and I’ll keep reading.

Chuck Buda: I think compelling characters with a plot that leaves the reader wanting more, each scene and chapter, is the best kind of story. Too much description loses me, pulling me out of the story. I like to feel as if I am sitting around a campfire listening to an entrancing storyteller.

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

Armand Rosamilia: Easily James Gaffney from my Dirty Deeds crime thriller series. He has the same quirks and sense of humor I have. He’s a bit overweight and not your typical hero-type and knows he has his limitations but makes the best of it. He might not be as sexy as me but he’s fiction.

Chuck Buda: It’s a tie between Michael Wright from my Debt Collector series and James Johnson from my Son of Earp series. Michael Wright is a semi-autobiographical character in a semi-autobiographical story. James Johnson is a younger version of me, when I was naïve and rebellious and full of adventure.

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

Armand Rosamilia: Finishing a story. It doesn’t matter the length to me. I get that sense of accomplishment whether it’s a flash fiction piece or a full-length novel. When I first started in this business thirty years ago, I wrote so many opening scenes or chapters and never finished any of them. You hear about and talk to so many fellow writers who never complete projects. Sometimes they never complete a single work. Getting a story started is the easy part. Getting to the end and knowing you’ve finished something you’re proud of is always my goal.

Chuck Buda: I feel more fulfilled writing novels but I am more satisfied completing short stories. Oddly, I find short stories much more difficult because you must convey the same amount of tale in an economy of words. It is really challenging for me and I struggle each time I work in the shorter medium.

Meghan: What is your writing kryptonite?

Armand Rosamilia: Depression. I know that’s kinda heavy and gloomy, but it’s the truth. Usually I am very good and getting my ass in the chair and writing something most days. But sometimes I get inside my head and it’s either because something in my life has derailed me or I get imposter syndrome and feel like a hack writer who will never sell another damn book. I mentor a few new authors and they always ask me when imposter syndrome finally goes away. I tell them when it happens for me I’ll let them know.

Chuck Buda: Hands down, self-doubt. As writers, we live inside our heads far too much. And our minds are always fighting imposter syndrome, second-guessing our abilities and questioning our self-worth. Many peaks and valleys in the writing life but we must keep doing it. To stop writing is to stop breathing.

Meghan: And now some “group” questions:

Y’all podcast together and do some writing together. Tell us about that.

Chuck Buda: I just do what Armand tells me to. He is my mentor and close friend. Everything I’ve learned and achieved in this craft is a direct result of his guidance. Every day we work together is a dream come true for me. I got to sleep with him once. Not like that. Or maybe it is like that…

Armand Rosamilia: She said Y’all. I love living in Florida, too. Chuck and I are like the same entity right now except one of us is slightly older and one of us is sexier. I’ll let the audience decide.

Meghan: What is it like working together?

Chuck Buda: When Armand and I are together, it’s like two best friends or brothers. We laugh, we tease each other, we fight (I always lose) and we share so many common interests. The Mando Method Podcast is really a chance for us to goof off each week. We talk for an hour before and after the show. During the show… it is all business… like our mullets in the 80’s.

Armand Rosamilia: Truthfully, Chuck and I clicked as soon as we met. It was a bromance and I knew he was someone who wanted to succeed in writing, took his work seriously and had a ton of ideas. He’s a dreamer like I am.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about the latest release.

Chuck Buda: We published Keyport Cthulhu 2 earlier this year which was a wild ride. H.P. Lovecraft weirdness set in New Jersey! The book has so many Cthulhu tropes, yet it feels fresh and tossed gently in a New Jersey dressing. I really like the vibe and I believe we both did an excellent job of staying true to the first book.

Armand Rosamilia: Chuck just told you about Keyport Cthulhu 2, so all I’ll say is it was a pleasure writing this story with him and I think he treated the source material from Lovecraft as well as playing in my version of that world with respect as well as upping my game with some key scenes in the book.

Meghan: Why should we read it?

Chuck Buda: Cosmic horror is different than most of the monster and ghost tales one finds on the market these days. The setting and the mood are more like active characters. Readers will get a chance to peak into the Lovecraftian universe without having to sift through the original artist’s writing style, which I find interesting, but for some, it is an acquired taste. Our book is more relatable and digestible for the modern horror fan.

Armand Rosamilia: I really don’t remember giving you a damn choice. I mean…

Meghan: For anyone who hasn’t read book one, how would you get them to buy a copy?

Chuck Buda: I recommend buying the first paperback because the artwork is excellent and we’ve included collectible seaweed from the Jersey Shore between chapters. But the eBook will play nicely too!

Armand Rosamilia: You should really read the first book before the second, which is why I number the books. So it’s hopefully not confusing. But if you were just starting the series or thinking about it? I’d do it. This stuff is life-changing. Probably the best book you’ll ever read in your entire life, and I’m not biased at all.

Meghan: Can we expect another Rosamilia-Buda collaboration in the future?

Chuck Buda: I would love to collaborate with Armand in the future. We’ve been tossing around some ideas about a Viking/Black Metal series but Jay Wilburn is vying for dibs. I could see Armand and I working on a same-sex Romance novel based on a true story… Oh, and many more Keyport Cthulhu sequels!

Armand Rosamilia: I really hope so. The obvious goal is for Keyport Cthulhu 2 to do so well we write a third book in the series or at least in this world for next year.

Meghan: And now down to the nitty gritty (haha):

I follow Armand on Instagram just so I can see all the different foods that him and his amazing wife eat, so there has to be a food question in this interview – What’s your favorite sandwich?

Armand Rosamilia: Pork roll egg and cheese at a New Jersey diner at midnight.

Chuck Buda: Ditto. The only difference is I would be really drunk while eating it.

Meghan: Which one of you is the smart one and which one of you is the cute one?

Armand Rosamilia: I hate to say it (because I’m so humble) but I got the brains and looks in this relationship. Now, by any other standard, Chuck would be a smart good-looking man… but when you’re comparing him to me it’s no contest. Again… I am humble enough to tell you the truth.

Chuck Buda: Armand IS the total package. I’m fine with that. But what I lack in looks and brains, I make up for in extra effort (wink, wink).

Meghan: Who would push who down first so they could escape a hoard of zombies?

Armand Rosamilia: I would beg Chuck to knock me down and survive. The world deserves to have a living Chuck Buda and not a zombie Chuck Buda. I’d sacrifice myself for a true friend. Plus, who wants to live in a world without easy access to M&M’s?

Chuck Buda: I just have to outrun Armand, so I wouldn’t need to push him down. I would miss him after the zombies got him. But probably not for too long as I would get eaten, too. I’m like a Thanksgiving feast for the undead.

Meghan: How many third graders would it take to overwhelm the two of you in hand to hand combat?

Armand Rosamilia: Seven. Trust me, I already know this. It wasn’t pleasant, either. Those little monsters swarm like ants on a fallen praying mantis. In this scenario I was the fallen praying mantis.

Chuck Buda: I’m a Hungarian and we are known for being mad. I’d give the third graders the first shot and then I would obliterate them with my old-country rage and fists of fury. Then I would buy them ice cream cones and teach them my moves.

Meghan: I need some stalker links – where do you want people to find you?

Armand Rosamilia: You can find me on most social media, especially on Twitter, with @ArmandAuthor. I am also here and Project Entertainment Network carries The Mando Method Podcast, which we co-host.

Chuck Buda: I spend most of my time on Twitter. My new secure website is here. And like Armand said, come check us out on The Mando Method Podcast.

Armand Rosamilia is a New Jersey boy currently living in sunny Florida, where he writes when he’s not sleeping. He’s happily married to a woman who helps his career and is supportive, which is all he ever wanted in life…

He’s written over 150 stories that are currently available, including horror, zombies, contemporary fiction, thrillers and more. His goal is to write a good story and not worry about genre labels.

He not only runs two successful podcasts…

Arm Cast: Dead Sexy Horror Podcast – interviewing fellow authors as well as filmmakers, musicians, etc.

The Mando Method Podcast with co-host Chuck Buda – talking about writing and publishing

But he owns the network they’re on, too! Project Entertainment Network

Chuck Buda explores the darkest aspects of the human condition. Then he captures its essence for fictional use. He writes during the day and wanders aimlessly all night… alone.

Chuck Buda co-hosts The Mando Method Podcast on Project Entertainment Network with author, Armand Rosamilia. They talk about all aspects of writing. Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

You can find The Mando Method Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and most other places where podcasts are available. You can click on the link below and listen directly from the Project Entertainment Network website.

Keyport Cthulhu

“The painting forced him to move back with such suddenness, he nearly fell over the side of the old wooden railing. It depicted a grisly scene, as if your worst nightmare had been splattered on canvas. Despite his mind screaming to look away, he could not avert his eyes” – Ancient

Set in the New Jersey fishing village of Keyport, where the Esoteric Order of Dagon has been planning for the awakening of the Deep One all these years… 

Who can survive when Cthulhu rises?

Keyport Cthulhu 2

Welcome back to Keyport, where something is still in the water…

For the survivors of the horrific night when The Esoteric Order of Dagon attempted to unleash their dark god from the bay, the nightmare seems to be only beginning.

What new cosmic horror does Keyport have for those who look too closely under the veil of this small fishing village, seeing what cannot be unseen? 

Another journey into madness awaits readers in this thrilling sequel!