The Ten Commandments of Writing #9: Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid to Pimp

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Writers are, by nature, solitary creatures. We are not comfortable in crowds. So it’s sadly ironic than nowadays we are expected more and more to get involved in marketing our books. To be expected to do readings and interviews. Most writers tremble in fear at the thought of facing a crowd of people.

The days of the writer holing themselves up in their garrett writing, never seen by the public, while the publisher’s minions run around selling books for them, are, by and large, over. Unless you land a deal with one of the major commercial publishers who have a publicity department – and even then you’ll have to turn up to signings and promotional events they arrange – you will be expected to play a proactive role in marketing. So, set aside your fear of being the centre of attention and get used to pimping yourself.

Every writer should have, at the very least, a blog, a web page and a Twitter account. Many people assume there’s no point in setting up social media accounts until they’ve got a publisher, but there is an argument for getting yourself out there and setting up accounts before you’re published, and at least by the time you’ve got something to sell you’ve built up a following of people who may be willing to go out and buy your book.

None of these things have to cost any money. You can set up a blog on Blogger or WordPress in a matter of minutes, just by choosing a template. There are several free templates available for websites too, that don’t require any programming skills (the one I use is Weebly). Set up a Twitter account and start Tweeting about things that interest you, using hashtags to connect with people who have similar interests. Never underestimate what aspects of your life that you take for granted someone else will find interesting. I take the train into London every day and shuffle around the capital with thousands of fellow commuters, and I’m half asleep when I do it. But occasionally I am reminded that to people that don’t live in London, this is an endlessly fascinating city.

As a writer you obviously want to talk about your writing, but don’t be that person that only ever Tweets ‘buy my book’ because that turns people off really fast.

My most important piece of advice for when you are published? Get yourself some business cards, with your name, your website, an email address and if possible, an image of your book cover. Take them with you everywhere you go, because you never know who you will meet. I have handed business cards out to people on mountains in Peru, and in deserts in Arizona. Every time I get chatting to strangers when I’m on holiday, if I have cause to mention I’m a writer, and the person replies, sounding interested, “oh, what do you write?” I will hand them a business card.

And I learned this lesson the hard way. In 2010, just after the first book came out, I went to the Horror Con in Brighton. I’d packed postcards, and business cards, but we headed down on the train after work, and when we reached the hotel we discovered there was a party in a bar on the pier, which had already started, so we dumped our luggage in the room and headed straight there. Then we discovered it was a free bar, so of course that’s where everybody was. And I had so many occasions to hand out my cards and tell people all about my new book, but they were all back in the hotel room. I’ve never made that mistake since.

Once you’ve got that book deal, there are other things you can do to promote yourself. Host guest posts on your blog site featuring other writers, and get them to host you on their site. It’s mutually beneficial to both host and guest, and it doesn’t cost anything to do it. Go to conventions – as many as you can afford – to meet up with other writers, readers and publishers in your genre. When the call for panels goes out, volunteer for one. Most calls for panel volunteers also ask you to list what sort of panels you want to see, so think realistically about what you could feasibly talk about. Short fiction? Cross-genre fiction? Independent publishing? The road to publication (no matter how far along it you are)? Throw out any ideas you can – you never know what might inspire the panel organisers.

You should also try contacting your local paper and your local book shops to see if they are interested in promoting you, but this is very hit and miss. I had some success with the former, but if you’re with a Print On Demand (POD) publisher, getting your book into book shops entirely depends on the shop’s buying policy. I have found that in the UK, a lot of book shops aren’t interested in taking anything they can’t buy on a Sale or Return basis, and that’s generally not possible with POD. But still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You might discover that the manager of your local bookshop is an advocate for small presses and is agreeable to organising a signing with you.

In short, do what you can to pimp yourself, when you can. And there will be times when it all seems like a great deal of effort, and when the royalty statement comes in and you haven’t sold much, you will wonder why you bother. But marketing is all part of the process of being a writer, and it’s something that we all have to participate in to a certain degree, no matter how disagreeable it might be.

My Life in Music: 1969

I’m introducing a new feature to the blog, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Music has been important to human culture since the dawn of time. In all the travelling we’ve done across the world, I am always struck by how there is always music. No matter where you are in the world, when a crowd gathers, instruments will be played, there will be singing, and there will be dancing.

In addition to that I think music has a powerful influence on our senses. I can hear a song and be transported back in time to whatever I was doing, and whatever I was feeling, when that song first came into my life. No other medium has that impact.

So with that in mind I am presenting a new feature on this blog – My Life in Music. Each post will feature a year of my life and a song from that year that had a particular impact, and why. At least, that’s the idea. And since there are 47 years to account for (and counting), this one could keep me going for a while.

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Baby Sara heading home from the hospital, in those heady days before health & safety…

Anyway, I thought the best place to start is the beginning. I was born in the North of England in 1969 (in the middle of a thunderstorm, apparently). Of course, this is a bit of a cheat because I don’t remember the music of 1969. For most of it, I was a foetus. The world was a very different place. I am including here the first picture of me that was ever taken. The little bundle in the nurse’s arms is me, being handed to my mother in the car for the journey home. In the front seat. Never mind there was no car seat, seat belts were optional in those days as well. How times have changed.

And embarrassingly, this song was number 1 in the UK pop charts the week I was born. It’s something of a novelty song – performed by a group of fictional teenagers in the cartoon TV series The Archie Show. The song was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, and recorded by a group of session musicians. And apparently it became a runaway hit. It was number 1 in the UK for eight weeks, and the most popular song in the world I was born into.

And so here it is. May I present the song for 1969, “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. Let’s hope the music gets better from here on in…

High School Reunion

I spent eight years of my life living in Canada. I moved out there with my mother, stepfather and sister in 1980. I was ten years old at the time. I resented having to move countries. I moved back in 1988, at eighteen years old, after finishing high school.

The high school I attended was Grand River Collegiate, in Kitchener, Ontario. I spent five years there because in those days Ontario had a grade 13 – now long gone, I understand. The school opened in 1966. Last year, 2016, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it decided to have a ‘reunion weekend’ to celebrate fifty years of ‘Renegades’.

I have a lot of bittersweet memories of my teenage years. Does anyone ever have a good time during puberty? But in high school, at least, there were some good experiences, and it was a big improvement on junior high. It was in high school I began to have confidence in my writing – that this was, at least, something that I was good at, and I had some very encouraging English teachers. I made some good friends in high school, friends I am still in contact with. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. And I was finally able to drop that most hated of classes, Physical Education. The Canadian education system – at least when I went through it – did not seem to comprehend that some people will never, ever, be any good at sports, no matter how hard you push them. But that is a post for another time.

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Me (L) and my sister, haunting the old school corridors 30 years on

Ultimately the most important lessons you learn are those you discover after school. I was bullied in school. I suppose most people are. Perhaps we had it easier, in the days before social media and the internet when your bullies had to come face to face with you instead of hiding behind Twitter accounts. Bullying is always tough. But you grow up, you learn to love yourself and you learn to put the hurtful things the bullies said behind you.

Anyway, the school opened its doors for an open house weekend as part of its reunion celebrations, and I decided to go. My sister, who still lives in Canada, came along. We were both, briefly, at the same high school. But she was three grades below me and at the time she found me terminally embarrassing, so we were rarely in the same place at the same time.

It was a strange experience, going back into my old high school after nearly thirty years. I think back to those times and sometimes it feels like it wasn’t me – like it all happened to someone else. And the school has changed quite a lot since I attended. There’s a proper drama room with a stage now. We just had a room with a carpet and no desks – we had to sit on the floor. There’s a really high-tech music room, with soundproof practise booths. But as I walked around, every so often a memory would hit me. We went up the stairs to explore the upper floor and I suddenly remembered clattering up and down those stairs every day, between classes. I went into the girls’ toilets and remembered that these were the ones I used every day, at school, because they were conveniently placed between corridors. I’m pretty sure the decor, or the facilities, hadn’t changed in 30 years either.

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Exhibit A: Evidence of Sara’s terrible dress sense during adolescence?

In the corridor that used to be where all the French and business studies (ie: typing) were, ‘decade rooms’ had been set up. So of course I headed straight for the 1980s room. Photographs of the time were hung up every where, and who should I see in that room but my old typing teacher. While I was talking to her telling her how in all honesty her typing class was the single most useful class I ever took in my life, my sister was prowling the room looking at the photographs. I was in quite a lot of them. I threw myself enthusiastically into high school and joined all the clubs. I was trying to get people to notice me. My sister was making a point of trying not to be noticed. She kept bringing me pictures I featured in. Most of them I remembered – I bought all the yearbooks, and most of the pictures were there somewhere. But then she brought me one I hadn’t seen before. “How you can tell that’s me?” I said. “The face is turned away.”

She gave me a look and pointed at the picture. “Look at that outfit! Of course it’s you. And socks with sandals? Who else would wear that?”

Perhaps she had a point. I am attaching the picture as Exhibit A. I am the person with long brown hair in the foreground, lookng away from the camera. You can judge for yourself whether or not my dress sense was as terrible as my sister perceived it to be.

On the whole it was fun, revisiting my high school for a day, and it brought back some good memories that I had forgotten all about. But I think the most important thing about reminiscing on high school days is to remind yourself how far you’ve come since then.

Monday’s Friend: Mark Simmons

Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow KGHH author Mark Simmons as my guest on the blog.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

MS: I don’t think there was ever a moment where I knew writing was my destiny. But I have been jotting down my thoughts and ideas since I was a boy. There are pages and pages of notes tucked away that every now and then I delve into.

SJT: You say you’ve been a horror fan since an early age. Can you remember the first horror novel you read, and if so what was it, and what was the impact it had on you?

MS: My first dip into the waters of horror was Pet Sematary by Stephen King. The scene when a road accident happens outside the Creed household was an inspiration for me. As the protagonist gets closer to the accident the moment plays out in slow motion, prolonging the horror of the scene.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

MS: My latest release Purged In Flame is the second book in a series that follows Whitfield Creed (another Pet Sematary homage) as he tries to come to terms with his Immortality, and the creatures he shares his eternity with.

SJT: Are you a plotter, or a ‘seat of the pants’ sort of writer?

MS: I always try to have a beginning, a middle, and an end in mind when I start a new project. But there is often a certain amount of freewheeling that contributes to the plot.

SJT: Have you every put anyone you know in any of your stories?

MS: I have always added certain traits and mannerisms from people I have known, into my work, but I have never out right created a character from one of those people. Invariably it is a single trait, or a few, that will define someone.

SJT: What, for you, is the appeal of horror?

MS: There are a few aspects of the world of horror that I think are important, and they are what draws me to the genre. Fear of the unknown is such a driving force in the some of the best horror. What you don’t see, or what you are unaware of, will always bring fear to the surface. And also the atrocities that humans are capable of doing to one another. You need only look into the history of our species to find a plethora of stories that are worthy of any horrific tale.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MS: A bit of gardening has become a recent distraction. But a favourite past time has been sharing a drink with my significant other, the Doctor.

SJT: Come the Zombie Apocalypse, what’s your weapon of choice?

MS: Gotta go with a sword and some kind of plate armour. Being an inhabitant of the British Isles I’m sure I would be able to get a hold of that kind of hardware.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

MS: I am currently working on the third book in the story of Whitfield and his journey through eternal life. The first draft is done and I am in the process of bulking out the plot.

Blurb for PURGED IN FLAME

Whitfield Creed had never been one to believe in such things as luck. Yet when he wakes to find he’s hung from a meat hook, in the back corner of some warehouse, he can’t help but feel his luck may have run out.

A chance meeting with the wrong people immerses Whitfield in an underworld that he had presumed to be no more than folklore. Yet these creatures exist and with eternal life have manipulated mankind from the shadows through the millennia’s.

Trying to come to terms with the way these creatures occupy their eternity Whitfield most live amongst their ranks. With the elders of this ancient society bickering with one another and the constant threat of execution hanging over his head he must try to survive. Whilst also accepting his own immortality.

Buy PURGED IN FLAME now from Amazon (UK or US)

Author Bio

Mark Simmons has been writing horror recreationally since a young age, finding inspiration from a cavernous backroom full of horror at his local video shop. Renting all manner of features well before his age legally allowed him to.

Born and raised on the coastline of Suffolk, England by North Eastern parents. He also found his creativity stimulated by the rolling countryside and coastal emptiness of East Anglia. He currently lives on the River Stour with his Epidemiologist wife, The Doctor.

When Mark is not bringing his monsters and demons to the page in his spare time he has worked for the last ten years in various areas of the Television Broadcasting industry. He has helped to provide the world with the top quality viewing that it deserves.

Mark enjoys watching all manner of Movies but has an affinity to horror flicks. He has a passion for classic and modern literature mainly in the horror and sci-fi fantasy genres. He enjoys gaming of the RPG world immersive vein. And has an acute ear for music, particularly the Metal persuasion. Football plays a small part in his life, playing a bit of 5-A-Side in his spare time and supporting a North Eastern team of the Black and White striped variety.

He has published two novels, Of The Night and Purged In Flame, which are available from Kensington Gore Publishing.

Friday Fears: Two-sentence horror #11

I’ve had a submission for my Friday Fears feature so it’s time for another post!

Today’s featured two-sentence horror story comes from Claire Fitzpatrick.

Anna dug her nails into the soft citrus-scented skin, peeling it back to reveal the spongy pink flesh.

“I told you to wait for me,” Tom said, hastily sawing off his little sister’s remaining arm.

And here’s one from me:

I was so tired of seeing my boss’s face every morning. So I took his head out of the fridge, cooked it, and ate it.

Happy Friday, and don’t have nightmares!

 

 

Monday’s Friend: Pete Sutton

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow KGHH author Pete Sutton to the blog. I’ve known Pete since my live action role playing days, some years ago now, and it’s good to have him here to chat about writing.

SJT: When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

PS: Not sure I’ve ever felt ‘destined’ to be a writer to be honest. I had a vague – “I’d like to write one day” feeling although my storytelling urge was being satisfied by writing for a roleplaying game. I volunteered at Bristol Festival of Literature in 2012 and met a whole bunch of writers and sat in on many writing workshops and thought – “I can do that”. I didn’t do anything about it though until the roleplaying company and I parted ways. I went to a book launch of “Writing without a parachute” by Barbara Turner-Vesselago. Chatting to her at the launch I said something along the lines of “I’d like to write someday,” and she asked, “why don’t you then?” I realised that there was no good reason not to. I sold my first story a couple of months later.

SJT: Who would you cite as your influences?

PS: Everything I read, every TV program and film I watch influences me in small ways. I’d say that writer-wise my biggest influences are Jeff & Ann VanderMeer. Not on the writing itself, although Jeff’s Wonderbook is a great how to write manual, but more by what writing they have brought to my attention in their amazing anthologies and via Jeff’s blog.

Writing wise I’ve been compared to Gaiman and Carver which is very flattering as well as Chesterton  (who is in turn a big influence on Gaiman). I’d also say that John Fowles has influenced some of my short stories.

SJT: What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

PS: You don’t need permission to write. Anyone can do it.

SJT: Tell us about your latest release.

PS: The last book I had out was Sick City Syndrome which I call an architectural fantasy. The book opens with Susan, our protagonist, about to talk to her dead fiancé via a medium assigned as a grief counsellor. She discovers that all is not as it seems with his death and resolves to investigate why he died, That’s been available since September last year.

I’ve just handed in the developmental edit on my next novel SEVEN DEADLY SWORDS, which is a historical fantasy. I’ve also got a few short stories coming out – latest is Ash and Darkness in Between the Tracks which is full on horror.

SJT: Have you ever been inspired to put people you know in real life in your books?

PS: I don’t think any character is truly entirely created by imagination only. All characters are amalgams of real people.

SJT: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

PS: I read. A lot (80 odd books read so far this year). I’m also kept busy organising Bristol Festival of Literature, Bristol HorrorCon, BristolCon and my writing group.

SJT: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

PS: I’m currently working on another novel for KGHH provisionally titled “The Certainty of Dust” the protagonist of which is a guitarist/singer in a band and again, like in Sick City Syndrome, the world is like ours but different.

AUTHOR BIO:

Pete Sutton is the author of two books: A Tiding of Magpies –  a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales’  – and Sick City Syndrome –  an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives.  He is currently working on a second novel, a historical fantasy set during the crusades,  which will be released by Grimbold books.

You can find him all over social media or worrying about events he’s organised at the Bristol Festival of Literature, Bristol HorrorCon and BtristolCon.

On Twitter he’s @suttope and his website is http://petewsutton.com/ .

 

Doing It For Fun?

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

It’s sometimes hard to explain, to a non-writer, why I write. The confusion generally comes when the non-writer discovers I am not a full-time writer. “So it’s a hobby,” they say. “You do it for fun.”

I can’t explain that it’s not a hobby – more a need. And most of the time, it’s not fun. It’s not fun to experience the crushing self-doubt that arrives on a regular basis and convinces me that every word I’ve ever written is complete rubbish. Or that feeling of rejection that comes with every email beginning, “thank you for sending us your manuscript. We regret to inform you that it will not fit our list at this time.” Or, for me, getting up at 5:20am to write before work when really I’d much rather have an extra hour in bed.

Generally when such conversations come up I have to start by explaining that much as I would love to write full time, it’s not economically feasible. It doesn’t help that these conversations are generally with people who are not only non-writers but pretty much non-readers. They might have read Harry Potter, or Fifty Shades of Grey. So they think ‘writer’ and JK Rowlings and EL James spring to mind. And they’re rolling in it, so all writers must be loaded, right?

My last royalty statement was for all of £5, and that represented a year’s worth of sales. I am so far away from being able to make money from the writing that it seems an unobtainable goal. Giving up the day job is simply not an option because I have no other form of income.

At times I get completely overwhelmed. I leave the house at 6:20am so I can write before work. I generally don’t get home before 7pm. I have French lessons and bass guitar lessons and admin stuff to deal with like emails and blog posts. And this is before we get to household stuff – laundry and remembering to pay the credit card bill and so on. Sometimes I get to a point when I feel I just can’t cope with it all any more.

Logically, the thing to give up is the writing, because I kill myself trying to do it for no apparent reason. But even the mere thought of doing so makes me die inside.

And that’s really why I write. Because I need to do it to keep on living. Not writing is as unthinkable to me as not breathing.

It may be I never manage to make enough money from the writing to give up the day job. But I will, somehow find a way to fit it into my life because there’s just no other option.

Monthly Round-up: April 2017

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

Time, as they say, waits for no one. A third of the year has already gone. However, the best thing about this time of year is that I actually see my house in daylight during the week. Technically, it’s spring. But I think someone forgot to tell the weather that, as the temperature in the UK has been more winter-like the past few days. Some places even have snow. Anyway, enough about the weather. On with the news.

OUT NOW/COMING SOON

Seven years ago this month, my first novel was published – SUFFER THE CHILDREN was released in e-book format by Lyrical Press. It marked a major turning point in my life, fulfilling a dream that I had chased for thirty years. And now the book is available again, from a different publisher. If you haven’t yet read the book that started it all for me, you can buy it here from MuseItUp Publishing.

Coming up to the present day, I have been in touch with my editor and the edits for SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the new Shara Summers novel, will be underway shortly. I’m still optimistic for a 2017 release.

PUBLICITY

I’ve been a bit quiet on the publicity front of late. It’s now been nearly a year since anything new came out, and I always feel it’s difficult to plug a new book when it’s not really new at all.

I did run another Goodreads giveaway for THE WHISPERING DEATH, however, that finished on 15 April. The winners were: Rachel Sanders in Sutherland, and Adam Bradbury in Surrey. Their prizes were posted last week, and indeed should be in their hands by now. The plan is to run some more Goodreads giveaways between now and October, so if you’re still interested in winning a copy of this book, keep an eye on the Goodreads page.

I’m a bit light on the convention side of things this year as well. However, that’s largely because I’m going to Bouchercon in Toronto in October, and not only is that a con that requires an international trip, it also clashes with most of the other cons I generally go to (FantasyCon and Bristol Horror Con, to name two). But I’ve been wanting to do Bouchercon for years, and with it being in Toronto it gives me a good reason to go visit family and friends in Canada at the same time.

WORK IN PROGRESS

The new horror novel, OUTPOST H311, is going well. I’ve agreed a deadline with my publisher at KGHH on this one, and it’s full steam ahead.

That’s it for now. I’ve got to get on with the writing!

Monday’s Friend: Stan Hampton

Today I am pleased to have as my guest once more Stan Hampton, Sr. Welcome back, Stan!

SJT: You’ve visited my blog many times, and each time you do, you’ve got a new adventure in your life to tell us about. The most recent one has you gadding about France. What’s that all about?

SH: Well, I need a foreign language for my Bachelors (double major of Art with Sculpture Emphasis and English with Creative Writing Emphasis). The last time I took a foreign language, French, some 16 years ago, it was not pretty. Perfect time for “ugly crying.” This time, courtesy of International Programs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the Universities Study Abroad Consortium, University of Nevada-Reno, I figured I’d study French in France. Immersion, so to speak. Aaand, yeah, the exams were on 7 April, I don’t know the results yet, but it’s probably time for some “ugly crying.”

After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

SJT: What have been the highlights of your trip?

SH: Fulfilling nearly life-long dreams. Visiting the French Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne; visiting the Roman aqueduct Pont-du-Gard, and touching the very stones that real people handled some 2,000 years ago; visiting the Camargue, which is a setting I’ve planned on using in one of my novels; staying in wonderful bed and breakfasts in the old cities of Arles and Carcassone, as well as one in the village of Vers-Pont-du-Gard; seeing the Mediterranean Sea, and visiting the tragic ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane.

SJT: You’ve led a very eventful life. What would you say your life philosophy is?

SH: I’ve always believed in “Live and let live,” sort of, but I was also very judgmental. During a bitter divorce I learned what it was like to be judged, and it’s not a good feeling. In recent years, especially this past spring, there’s also a guiding sense of gratitude. If I remember correctly, in the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “There are far more sunrises behind me than ahead of me.” I served with Soldiers who were killed in the Iraq War and others have died after we returned home, including suicide. I learned very recently of a fellow art student, a young woman, who passed away. How much time do we really have in this world? It has been on my mind since I arrived in France, how many people my age are full time university students studying in a foreign country? I’d guess not many. So, every day I feel gratitude for an opportunity like this, and for meeting the Americans and French that I have met here.

SJT: Your fiction is as varied as your life, and you are not constrained by genre. I understand the new novel is described as horror-SF. Can you tell us about it?

SH: Wellll, it takes place in the future. Imagine escaping from a world being destroyed by a global pandemic, only to discover that your escape is more akin to the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

SJT: When will it be available?

SH: MONOLOGUE will be available on 25 April 2017 from Melange Books LLC.

SJT: Where did the idea for this story come from?

SH: To tell the truth, I don’t remember. But in a sense, my guiding light when writing something like this has always been Rod Sirling and The Twilight Zone. I was hooked on that show the first time I saw it, and I still watch it, especially during the New Year’s Eve marathons.

SJT: Your busy life doesn’t get in the way of your writing, and you seem to be quite prolific. What are you working on now, writing-wise?

SH: Well, I’m editing/revising an erotic romance story, Three Little Words. Beyond that, I’m not sure. There are other stories I need to take another look at and probably doing a little rewriting, such as another erotic romance, horror, and science fiction. I might even have another go at Native American steampunk.

Blurb from MONOLOGUE

You can run, but what if you find yourself aboard a space faring Flying Dutchman?

Luther Raynor is a son of one of the world’s wealthiest and politically influential families. When the Etava Virus appeared and spread across the world, mankind’s very survival was in question. Luther used his family’s wealth to construct a sleeper spacecraft to take the family into space, to orbit in safety around Jupiter for a thousand years while in suspended animation. At the last minute he changes the plan after calculating that upon awakening, survival supplies for one would last far longer than for two dozen or more people. He flees into space alone except for the Mobile Artificial Intelligence Image—May, responsible for operation of the spacecraft. But, Luther had no idea of what awaited him out there.

AUTHOR BIO:

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a published author, photographer and photojournalist. He retired in 2013 from the Nevada Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, and the Army Individual Ready Reserve (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War). He enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom, with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. He recently returned from spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.

After 16 years of desert in the American Southwest, and Southwest Asia, he still misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

Hampton can be found at:

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sharing-rachel-ss-hampton-sr/1120349766?ean=2940046334791

Dark Opus Press: https://www.createspace.com/3685965

Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing: http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/dansemacabre/dansemacabre.html

Melange Books: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/sshampton/index.html

MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/better-than-a-rabbit-s-foot-detail

Amazon.com Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

Amazon.co.UK Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SS-Hampton-Sr/e/B00BJ9EVKQ

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6888342.S_S_Hampton_Sr_

Monday’s Friend: Christopher Long

Today’s guest on the blog is fellow KGHH author Christopher Long. Welcome, Chris!

But Once a Year
By Christopher Long

We spend a lot of time talking about time. It’s a very human thing to do. For a start, we’ve made up a lot of sayings about it and we’ve set them down in stone. We’ve decided it waits for no man. It flies whilst we’re having fun. A wise man even once said it flies like an arrow, while fruit flies like a banana. For me, recently, time hasn’t tormented me by refusing to wait, flying or comparing itself to the aerodynamic properties of fruit. Instead, it has become a backseat driver. It’s been leaning over the driver’s seat and whispering in my ear. It keeps mentioning something about the date.

You see, we’re only a few days away from my birthday and, up until now, I’ve always liked my birthday. There are presents, cake, some attention. What’s not to like there? Only, this year, I turn 37. Which has led to me realising that 37 is pretty damn close to 40.

Not that 40 matters, right? Age ain’t nothing but a number. Except, of course, the numbers do run out. For us, anyway. There is a high score I’m playing towards and I’m not allowed to know what the final tally will be. No one ever tells you which particular level or boss will use up the last of my credits. Which is probably for the best. I dread to think what it would be like to live with me if I knew the exact date when I reached my own, personal GAME OVER.

I know, I know. It’s shocking, isn’t it? The guy who writes ghost stories has an issue when it comes to death. Well, clichés become what they are for a reason. I’ve been morbid since I was small. Although, don’t get me wrong; I didn’t turn 7 and start worrying about The Big 1 0. I’ve just always had a moderately unhealthy awareness of my own impending death. I can handle it most days by, spiritually speaking, sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting very loudly. It works to a certain extent.

The impending threat of 40 is more to do with the stories locked in my head. When I started writing, I was driven by a dream of being really successful by 18. That slipped to 20 and 25 quite easily, as I began to understand the work that’s really involved in most people’s formative writing years. Then, the target went to 30 and I was fine with at as well. 35 raised an eyebrow, but 40…oh man, 40.

I’m starting to look around at the older members of my family and do the maths. It’s not fun maths either. 40 means I might be approaching a halfway point. If I’m lucky. The point of positively no return and I’ve got so many stories left to tell. I’ve got some stories in my head that I’ve not even got around to tackling yet. Big stories that I’ve been gestating for decades. Stories that feel like they require my full attention and possibly a paid advance so I can really settle down and put them on paper. Stories that have grown with me, become important little parts of myself that I want to share with the world one day, when I’m ready.

Please don’t think this means I’ve got problems with the stories I’ve had published. I love the stories I’ve had published. I really do.  They’ve made people laugh or feel worried about what might be just outside their window. That’s brilliant. That’s what they’re for. It’s just that they’ve not been evolving in my head for 30 odd years.

There’s that whispering from the back seat again.

So, where do I go from here? Well, I keep writing for start. I blow out as many candles as I can out of the ones that get put in front of me. Also, I guess never stop dreaming. As tacky as it sounds, it’s the key here. As much as we talk about time, we pray for our hopes. Writing is just like any another creative or artistic endeavour. You hope for success, for notice. You want people to see it. You want people to enjoy it. Ideally, you want to become known for it. Sure, that is a sentiment dripping with ego, but it’s also true. That hope of success is ours to keep safe. It’s the one candle we never want to blow out. We never want to let anyone else blow it out either. We light it ourselves at some important moment in our life and then we watch it. We tend to it. It might flicker or dwindle, if we take our eye off it. It might occasionally look a little low, but it’s our light. Our flame. Our hope. We hold it close and safe.

Some of us lit that candle back when we were kids. Some only realised we had it waiting in us later on. Some people didn’t find it until they passed 40 and moved further on around the board. Which really makes me sound like I’m a whinging idiot.

All of which really says one thing. I’m having a little panic. Nothing more. We all have them. This is just my first birthday related one, that’s all. I’ll get past it. The presents will be unwrapped, enjoyed and put up on a shelf. The months will move on and I’ll keep writing.

Here’s one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do. A little present to myself. At some point, after the party and the presents, I’m going to cut myself a slice of cake and slip away. I’ll find a quiet corner somewhere, get a blank sheet and paper and start to write one of those stories I’ve never dared try yet. I probably won’t write it all. I’ll get just a few pages down and then I’ll keep them safe. At least then I’ll know I’ve started something, ready for the future.

AUTHOR BIO

Christopher Long is somewhere in his mid-thirties and he’s not coming out of them until he’s good and ready. He has been writing stories ever since he found out such practices weren’t frowned on in polite society. He has tried his hand at children’s stories, science fiction, fantasy and occasional poetry. Most recently, Chris has been writing ghost stories. Originally, he self-published them onto the Kindle; until he was signed by Kensington Gore Publishing. With them, he has released six novellas, three collections and one novel. He has also had stories featured on the “Shadows at the Door” website and in their first anthology.

Chris currently lives in Rugby with his wife, Sam. They are very happy together, although Sam has warned him about setting any more of his horrific and terrifying tales close to or in any part of their home. As of yet, she hasn’t noticed one of them is set primarily in their back garden.

Learn more about Chris and his writing from his website.

His latest novel SOMETHING NEEDS BLEEDING is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb for SOMETHING NEEDS BLEEDING

Thomas Singer wrote many horror stories in his time. Not all of them were popular, but some of them made waves. Some of them gained notoriety where it counted. Some of them terrified just enough people to gain Singer a cult status.

For his many prolific years of work and his near ceaseless devotion to storytelling, there have always been rumours about stories he was holding back from his devoted followers. Stories he didn’t want unleashing into the world until he, himself, had left it far behind. Stories too strange or twisted for general consumption. Stories that may well hold a secret or two in their crooked grasp.

Now, after Thomas Singer’s rather unusual and untimely death, Kensington Gore Publishing is proud to release his final five stories. Compiled and edited by Christopher Long, who briefly knew the author, these final stories of Thomas Singer each come with introduction and also an afterword from Singer himself.

Are you ready to see just what Thomas Singer wanted you to read only after he was dead and buried?