Genre: Supernatural Horror
Number of pages: 386
Word Count: 91,000
Cover Artist: Brianna Strawn
Sometimes, only bad guys can beat the Devil…
The plan is simple: get the money and deliver the car. What could possibly go wrong?
Things start to go south when Sam Drake realizes that his brother Johnny is hiding something, a secret about Sam’s troubled childhood that goes beyond his most feverish nightmares…
Then Johnny’s girlfriend, Ash, starts sending Sam the kind of mixed signals that can only lead to big trouble…
As the trio of small time crooks falls deeper into an abyss of betrayal and violence, they will discover that the greatest danger they face is not of this world.
With everything he believes about himself and the world around him shattered, Sam will become the unlikely champion in a battle with true evil, a fight to save a soul that has already been forfeited to darkness.
Available at Amazon
The silver barrel of the Colt .45 glimmered in Johnny’s hand. The obese clerk behind the counter held his arms up, eyes darting to each of our faces. His brown-stained, white t-shirt clung to his sweaty man tits. Moisture dripped off his scraggly goatee onto his protruding gut. The ceiling fan above him worked hard, trying to cool down the un-air-conditioned, Arizona shit-hole that smelled like armpits and rotting cheese. A large bullet hole from Johnny’s warning shot sat two feet from the clerk’s head, along with the standard wall of cigarettes and liquor bottles acting as a reminder of the poor bastard’s purpose in life.
Johnny’s smirking mouth twitched with excitement. He had a scary look in his eyes—a man possessed with rage.
Ash clung to him, her blond hair draped over his shoulder. Her hand gently palmed his shaved head as she leaned toward the side of his face.
She whispered something in his ear.
Butterflies sliced the inside of my stomach with razor wings. This wasn’t the way we did things. We were escalating. Normally, I kept everyone cool, levelheaded. All control had gone out the window.
Simple Bob behind the counter sobbed, looking terrified. Part of me felt pity for the guy, but it was too late to turn back. “I don’t wanna be a part of no trouble, now,” he said. “Why don’t y’all take what ya need and go? Please, I got a family.” He glared at Ash. Four kids.”
Johnny cackled. “Family? You hear this guy, Sammy? He’s got a fuckin’ family.” Johnny gestured toward me. “That’s my family over there. My little brother. I practically raised the pecker. Parents were killed… come to think of it—by a fat, drunk piece of shit like you. So don’t talk to me about family.”
I glanced at the clock above the entrance—eight minutes had passed. “Johnny, come on man.”
Ash sneered at me. “Not now. This is grown up time. Go grab us some food or something.” Her dismissive tone dug into my nerves.
“Go fuck yourself!” I spat. The last thing I needed was that crazy bitch feeding Johnny’s frenzy.
“Quit it, bro. I got this,” Johnny said.
As usual he sided with the short jean shorts and tight, red tank top—a little cleavage and ass were all it took for him to forget about his own brother. “Get the cash and let’s go,” I said. “Stop messing around.”
Johnny glanced at me. “You think you could do better?”
I froze, unable to come up with a response, probably because I knew I couldn’t. Johnny took care of the hold-up. I collected the goods and kept us on point. That was our system, and it worked. Ash, on the other hand, was new to the mix. All she managed to do was waste time and get Johnny more amped than a rabid pit bull on cocaine. How he decided that was helpful, I have no idea. Things ran smooth before she stuck her pretty ass in the mix. Now instead of in-and-out with hands full of cash, we were wasting time scaring some poor, fat slob half to death. And for what, I wondered, shits and giggles?
I glanced back at the clock. Ten minutes in, and we were still dicking around. I started to tell Johnny our time was running out. From the corner of my eye, the clerk reached beneath the counter.
“Hey!” Ash shouted before I could react.
Johnny swung his arm, smacking the butt of the gun across the fat bastard’s face. “What did I tell you? Huh!”
The clerk stumbled back. The weight of his body slammed into the wall of cigarettes and cigars. He slid to the floor as dozens of boxes rained down around him.
My heart pounded. I took several deep breaths. We’d never had a close call like that before.
Ash pulled out her butterfly knife and flipped it open. “We need to deal with him.”
Johnny clenched his jaw as he leaned over the counter, pointing the gun. “Get up! Now!”
The blubbering man slowly rose up, his hands in the air, snot dripping from the pubes on his chin.
“What’s your name, buddy?” Johnny asked, switching to a calmer tone.
With a big smile on his face, Johnny slammed his fist on the counter. “Tony! That’s a strong name. Like Tony fucking Soprano.”
Tony jumped and backed into the wall behind him again. His flabby arm knocked down a couple liquor bottles. He flinched as the glass shattered on the tile floor. I reminded myself to at least swipe some good booze when we were done.
Johnny grabbed the knife from Ash’s hand and gave her the gun. “Hold this for me, baby.”
I glanced at the clock—twelve minutes. “Bro, we’re coming up on fifteen. Forget him. You don’t have to do this.”
“We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re fine! And for the record,” he twirled the blade in his hand, “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want!”
I’d had it with Johnny’s unchecked arrogance. He always screwed with people, but he didn’t hurt anyone unless he had to. Tony may have been a liability, but if we’d stuck to the plan it wouldn’t have come to this.
Ash put her arm around Johnny, resting the gun on his shoulder, conveniently pointing it at my face.
I took a step toward the counter, out of the line of fire. No way I trusted that bitch with a gun in her hand.
She flashed a smile in my direction.
“Put your hand out on the table.” Johnny said.
Tony extended his shaking arm. Johnny grabbed his wrist, pulled him forward, and slammed his hand onto the counter.
Tony yelped. “Please.”
My heart raced as my brother hovered the knife over Tony’s hand. “Come on bro…”
Johnny’s finger shot up, motioning me to be quiet. “Tony. I’m going to teach you a little lesson in trust.”
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
For most of my life, I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to be. What I can say is that as a child I was always drawn to creating stories. When I was a kid I used to play with action figures that I would develop complex storylines for, so detailed that it would often carry over for several weeks and reach a climactic end. We’re talking killing characters off, relationships, backstabbing amongst friends… that stuff got twisted.
When I hit college, I took a creative writing class and it was one of the few classes I actually had perfect attendance in. I considered majoring in English and pursuing a writing career but it didn’t seem like a pragmatic choice. Writing remained on my mind as a dream I’d like to accomplish “someday,” but it was my wife who pushed me to actually back up my words and write something, instead of talking about how much I’d like to be a writer.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I have trouble with this one. My family, friends, and supporters will often correct me when I say, “I’m trying to become a writer.” They tell me I already AM a writer. But I guess I don’t want to give myself that title until I put something out there that enough people actually read (whether they love it or hate it). I’m not entirely sure what defines “enough people” for me, but I suppose I’ll know it when it happens.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I took the self-publishing route; I didn’t even try to send it to publishers. After a lot of research this felt like the best option for me. I may explore the more traditional route in the future, but I want to see how this self-publishing thing works out first. It did take me 4 years to write and complete the edits on the book, but that’s mostly because I was growing as a writer during that time and had to do many, many, many re-writes and modifications.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
Yes. I have a fairly stable and successful career in the mental health field. Up until October 2014 I was the head administrator of an inpatient psychiatric facility. Now I’m working for the same company, taking the lead on the opening and implementation of 5 similar facilities nationwide.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Victim Souls. It’s a relentless, fast-paced, action-horror novel that has the reader rooting for the bad guys.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Well, this is my first whole novel. Given that it took me 4 years, I’m hoping that’s not the answer. I’m working on another novel now and I plan to get it out in 1 year. I did a lot of growing and learning while writing Victim Souls and this next one shouldn’t take me nearly as long. **I choose to amend this statement in two years when I’m halfway through my next book**
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Expect more from the same genre. I pretty much only write horror. I’m toying with this science fiction thriller/horror concept I have, but we’ll see if that plays out. I have a lot of half-baked ideas that get me really excited because I think they’re brilliant then a few hours pass and I move on to something that actually works. Low self-esteem has saved me a lot of wasted time.
What genre would you place your books into?
Definitely horror. I tend to slant toward the supernatural because that’s what I personally find the scariest. However, I’ve written several short stories that don’t have any supernatural elements. As a true student of the genre, my writing doesn’t pull any punches. Don’t expect PG-13 material. I commit.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
There would’ve been no other choice. I am a horror fanatic. The majority of the media I consume is within the horror genre. I do like to throw in a bit of comedy from time to time, but I don’t have the chops to put a whole novel together. I’m from the George Costanza school of comedy: throw in a funny one-liner here and there, get a laugh and walk out on top. People will think I’m funny, even though I’m actually a comedic moron.
I suppose I could write drama, but I think it would feel like homework. My favorite part about writing horror is when I can freak myself out.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
From Victim Souls, it’s definitely the character Riley. When I created him he was originally going to have a small role in a chapter or two but I fell in love with the character. It was this character that made me go back to the beginning and do some major re-writes to make him an integral part of the plot. People that have read it are all in agreement with me; he’s most people’s favorite. He does fun things like giving an inspirational speech centered on a glory hole analogy. When I do write the sequel, readers can expect a lot more of Riley. He’s just so damn fun to write for.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing since 2008. As I stated above, my wife pretty much pushed me over the edge and got me to start. Once I did, I fell in love with the process and haven’t looked back.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Not overly specific. I can’t really listen to music when I write because I get caught up listening to the song lyrics and get distracted. Typically, I need a quiet place (usually somewhere in my house) and I tend to get caught up in it for several hours. I will say that the best work I did on Victim Souls was when I rented a hotel room by myself and holed up for four days with writing as my only task.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I don’t have many reviews at this point, but I’ve read those that are there and the ones from my short stories. I have thick skin and I lack the self-esteem for delusions of grandeur. Some people will like the book, some may love it, and there will be plenty of hate. It’s the nature of creating something.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I usually start with a working title before I even type a word. Sometimes that title sticks, other times I find inspiration in the writing process and change it.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Place names are often arbitrary or convenient. I do like to use real city names or names of stores that I feel best fit the tone but I don’t really have a consistent methodology.
I like to use names of people I know or have encountered in my life when I write ancillary characters. The main characters’ names often come extemporaneously because I can’t really decide on a good name and I want to get the story ideas on the page. Then, the name often ends up sticking. Sam, the main character and narrator in Victim Souls, is a perfect example of this. I just chose that name randomly with every intention of thinking of something better but I never did.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
I almost always create the character and/or place before the name. The name doesn’t really matter that much in my opinion. I can call my main character Captain Asshole—as long as I make him interesting as hell, I believe I can get the reader to buy in.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I always have a solid personality map in my mind for every character I create. The vast majority of my writing is dependent on my characters. I feel like the current marketplace is saturated with content, so investing too much time in an “original” plot is often a fruitless effort. I choose to invest in vivid, interesting characters that the reader will enjoy, regardless of the plot.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Nothing intentional. I’m sure that I infused some of my personal beliefs and values in my characters, but I tried to stay away from the allegorical stuff. If anything readers may pick up on some of my personal challenges with faith, religion and being agnostic. I toyed with the idea of incorporating concepts from Dante’s Inferno, but decided not to. I still may revisit that idea someday in another novel.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
I like eBooks a lot, but I don’t have any strong preferences.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
The Lost by Jack Ketchum. Ketchum is my favorite author. He’s brilliant at writing horror stories that are rooted in reality. I actually prefer supernatural horror, which is why I love his writing so much. His style is so effective at building tension and fear. He can do it through describing mundane life experiences or delving into the darkest parts of humanity. Either way, I’ve never read an author as effective at writing this type of horror and The Lost is the best example of this.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
Not at all. However, I think with the new style of television shows like Dexter and Game of Thrones we’re seeing a much better translation of the written work onto the screen. But movies are too short and limited to do a novel justice. Even when they make multiple films, it always seems to get a little bit of Hollywood sprinkled into it, and even a little bit is way too much. See the Hobbit Trilogy.
Worst: Horns a novel by Joe Hill, recently made into a VOD film starring Harry Potter. I loved this book, but the movie was just terrible. It was a perfect example of what happens when you have to cram a 400+ page novel into under 2 hours. You just lose too much of what makes it great.
Best: The Exorcist by William Peter Bladdy. Can’t argue with how prolific the film is. But even as the best film rendition, it does the book an injustice by being the primary medium for the source material—many more people have seen the movie than read the book. Yet, the book is astoundingly better, and that’s saying a lot for what is widely accepted as on of the best horror films ever made. If you’re reading this and you liked The Exorcist film, go read the book. Trust me on this one.
Your favorite food is?
Bacon. Everything tastes better with bacon.
Your favorite singer/group is?
My absolute favorite is Kevin Devine. But it’s a close finish between a triad of interconnected musical groups:
Kevin Devine (and the Goddamn Band)
I’ve seen two of the three play together multiple times, and it’s literally a dream of mine to someday see all three in one show. It will happen.
Your favorite color is?
I’d say black, but that’s technically every color all in one, so I’m going to go with Red. Yeah I know: A horror writer who loves Red and Black. I’m all about the clichés.
Your favorite Author is?
Jack Ketchum, but I’m all in on Joe Hill. He’s riding a close second and about one more awesome book from taking the crown. I’m sure he’ll be excited to hear that when he reads this. Sorry Jack.
Andrew’s a horror fiction writer who is also a massive fan of the genre. He’s been writing short stories and working on his novel for over 5 years. He has several short stories published, as well as some editing credits. He moderates a writing workshop in Phoenix, AZ where he’s been exposed to many different forms of fiction, which have broadened his influences. He aims to write stories that creep out his readers, while offering well-developed, rich characters they can sink their teeth into. He’s also a fan of experimenting with form and structure to create something uniquely my own.
Andrew grew up on Long Island in New York, and has lived in Arizona for the past 7 years. His professional background is in psychology where he’s carved out a nice career for himself. However, writing has always been his passion.
Currently, he’s hard at work, developing additional content to publish. He hopes to find an audience that loves the genre, and is up for a good scare.