A View from the Lake – Greg F. Gifune



Katherine and James purchased lake property in rural western Massachusetts when they were in their mid-twenties. They rented out the various cottages while James worked on his poetry. It was an idyllic setting and life. That is, until James discovered the body of a boy floating by one of the cottage docks. The accident sent devastated James and he slowly sank into madness and depression from a broken mind. Katherine watched as James became more and more recluse and angry until one day he disappeared without a trace. Trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered life, Katherine makes the decision to sell the property in the spring and to try and start a new life. All she has to do is get through the winter. Not an easy task now that she’s hearing strange thing that sound like James. Is this all in her mind or is he out there somewhere?

I’ve read a handful of Gifune’s work and most of them are noted for the story being enveloped in shadows and fog, to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s going on, what’s real and what’s not. A View from the Lake is no different. But where it is different than my other experiences with Gifune’s stories is that there is no pay off. The last 1/3 doesn’t ratchet up and have this wonderful revelation that ties everything together. In fact, the ending came out of the blue and left you with more questions than answers. The characters weren’t all that interesting and I didn’t feel for Katherine or James. I know this is one of Gifune’s earlier works and I think it shows. When you read his later works, you’ll see that he commands things so much better.


2 Confusing Hallucinations out of 5


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Dead of Winter – Brian Moreland



In a remote fur-trapping outpost in Quebec, someone…or something is killing the inhabitants of Fort Pendleton and eating their bodies. Tom Hatcher has seen this before. The inspector from Montreal has recently captured the Cannery Cannibal after his gruesome murder spree of 12 prostitutes. Father Xavier has seen these dark forces at work, as well. He has spent his life exercising demons from poor, helpless souls. Anika Moonblood is also privy to the dark spirits that haunt these woods. Her tribe have been dealing with the evil manitous for generations. With the help of Father Xavier and Anika, can Tom Hatcher get to the bottom of these ghastly deaths in time to save people of Fort Pendleton or will evil prevail?

Dead of Winter is one action-packed thrill ride from cover to cover. It is also Moreland’s debut, which thoroughly amazes me. It is so well written and thought out. You can really tell that Moreland has done his research. Native American folklore is marriaged beautifully with Catholic exorcisms and set in the unique backdrop of the frigid and desolate backdrop of the remote Canadian wilderness of the late 1800s. I thought the characters were great and Brian packs a ton of twists and turns into 300 pages to keep you flying through it. If I were to look hard and try to come up with a complaint, I can only think of one minor one. His protagonists seem to be way too progressive in their thinking in abuse towards woman in the late 1800s. Although, it would be very normal to be appalled at certain things today, I have my doubts that many people would’ve put up a fuss in the northern frontier in 1878. But again, it’s a minor complaint. The rest of it is superb and it kicked off my 2017 with a bang.

5 Gnawed Severed Arms out of 5
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The Jack in the Green – Frazer Lee



Mild-mannered Tom McRae keeps having the same night terrors over and over. He keeps reliving that horrific morning when he was six and his parents were brutally murdered. His wife isn’t able to provide any relief. She’s trying to recover from her own nightmare of having a miscarriage and is in a semi-catatonic state from all of the meds she’s on. Tom’s boss sends him to Scotland to secure a large tract of land to be used in extracting biofuels. The small village of Douglass isn’t too keen on the idea of someone coming in and hacking down all of their trees. They still cling to pagan rituals and celebrate their holidays, such as Samhain. On top of that, a group of hippy protestors also have a beef with the whole thing. Last, but certainly not least, Tom is stuck with his overbearing and obnoxious co-worker, Dieter along for the ride. Tom’s nightmares begin to spill over into his time in Douglass when he’s not sleeping and he begins to question his sanity. Is Douglass more than it appears or is Tom losing his mind?

Frazer Lee slowly unravels this tale with a sophisticated voice and a nice vocabulary. Tom seems like a sad sack that you can’t quite put your finger on whats going on. This was turning out to be a solid 4-star read before it ground to a halt towards the end and then the “tie-it-all-together” ending felt too rushed to me. Almost as if the story ran out and there wasn’t a better way to explain things, so lets just throw all our cards down and show you our hand. Or, I wonder if this story suffered from the dreaded editors knife in an attempt to keep it under so many words for the publisher. This dropped it down to a 3 1/2 stars for me. Other than that, Lee can write his ass off. I have no doubt I’ll be reading much more from the Brit. Theres a reason he was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In The Jack in the Green, you can see why.

3 1/2 Jack and Jills out of 5
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Interview with Brian Moreland

Lets get the vitals out of the way –

Name: Brian Moreland
DOB: November 28, 1968
Birthplace: Portsmouth, VA
City of Residence: Dallas, TX
Marital Status: Divorced
Children: None
Pets: None

Into The Macabre: When did you first start writing?

Brian Moreland: In college, when I was 19, I decided to write a novel for the fun of it. I discovered that making up stories came easy to me and I could sit at a computer and write for 8-10 hours. In fact, I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to stop writing. I skipped a lot of classes that Spring semester of my freshman year. I wrote a very early version of what eventually became my novel The Devil’s Woods. I changed majors that year from Business Finance to Radio/TV/Film and Creative Writing. I took classes that taught me how to write short stories, and I took two screenwriting classes. I wrote a short script for Tales from the Crypt that eventually became my WWII novel Shadows in the Mist. By the time I had graduated college, I had written three novels and several short stories. It took me over a decade later to finally publish my first story.

ITM: What drew you to horror? What/Who were your inspirations?

BM: I’d say my Mom drew me to horror, because when I was a kid, she and I used to watch classic monster movies every Saturday when they had double creature features on TV. I’ve loved monsters and spooky stories for as long as I can remember. I used to draw monsters with crayons and I collected monster figures. I’m not really sure why I was drawn to horror. To me, watching a scary movie, reading a book that gets your adrenaline going is a rush. In high school, I read Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, Graveyard Shift, It, and Salem’s Lot. I devoured all of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. The first one I read was The Midnight Meat Train. King and Barker catapulted my innocent mind into dark worlds that rocked my core. They taught me that the experience of reading horror fiction can be more satisfying and have longer lasting effects than watching a movie. In college, I discovered Dean Koontz and Robert McCammon. Their stories were more action-packed, and showed me that horror could also be a wild ride. I modeled my style after Koontz and McCammon in my early writings. In the past few years I’ve studied Richard Laymon, H.P. Lovecraft, and especially Clive Barker. Ever since I started writing in college, I wanted to be successful like all these authors. I had aspirations to write several of my own horror novels and one day become a published author.

ITM: Your first novel, Shadows in the Mist, you self published. Describe the process that led you to go down this avenue.

BM: After college, I spent the next 15 years writing novels and attempting to get them published with a big publisher. It was a frustrating time because I couldn’t get a literary agent to represent me. In the ‘90s and early 2000’s self-publishing wasn’t an option (or at least not one respected by the industry). You had to get an agent to get a publisher to read your book, otherwise your manuscript ended up in a giant slush pile and had about 1% chance of ever getting read. I submitted an early version of my first novel, The Devil’s Woods (originally titled Skinners) to a dozen agents and got rejected over and over. I almost gave up on a career as an author, but my friends and family encouraged me to put my first novel aside and write a new one. I had this cool WWII horror story that I wrote as a short screenplay in college. I liked it so much that I rewrote it as a short story called “The Refuge.” One of my friends read it and told me I could easily expand this short into a novel. So I spent four and half years researching and writing my WWII thriller and renamed it Shadows in the Mist.

Once I finished, putting all those long hours, blood, sweat, tears, and a few pints of blood into my new novel, I thought the publishing world would welcome me with wide-open arms. I discovered the same reality as before: a big traditional publisher won’t even look at your book or query letter without an agent giving it to them. Again I went through the merry-go-round of querying agents and receiving rejection letters. At least, these were more encouraging. I did get one agent to read the entire manuscript (a feat in itself). She enjoyed Shadows in the Mist and said it was publishable, but she had recently published a horror novel set in WWII, and she didn’t feel she could rep two authors in the same genre. Go figure. So I was back to square one. I started Shadows in the Mist in 2000. It was now 2005. It was a turning point for the publishing industry, as self-publishing was beginning to become an alternative.

I found myself at a crossroads. I wanted a traditional book deal, but I had already spent fifteen years attempting to get an agent read my first two manuscripts. I was burnt out on that process and I wasn’t getting in any younger. I had started this dream at age 19, and here I was at age 36 still trying to make it happen. By 2005, self-publishing was becoming more and more the norm, thanks to the invention of print-on-demand printing. Ingram’s Lightning Source made it possible for authors to have a printer and distributor to Amazon (who was also quickly changing the industry). Also, there were a couple break-out, bestselling novels at the time that had started out as self-published. This showed me what was possible. I began to wonder: what if I self-publish my first novel just to get it going? I felt if I could just jump-start my career and get one book out there, I’d not only convince myself that I’m a published author, I’d convince others.

Now, I’m an entrepreneur by heart. I was already in business for myself through my other career, editing film and video, and very successful at it. If I can figure out a way to do something, I’ll just do it myself. I met some authors who self-published, and I learned the process: form your own publishing company (I created a DBA called Blue Morpho Publishing), hire an editor to edit your manuscript, a cover designer, and someone to lay out the book for print. (eBooks didn’t exist yet, so I only focused on a trade paperback version). I knew the cover had to be great, so I also hired a famous horror artist, Les Edwards, to paint the cover.

Original self-published cover

Long story short: I first released Shadows in the Mist in September 2006. It climbed up the Amazon charts quickly. It won a gold medal (IPPY) in the Independent Publisher Awards. Within that first year, that novel landed me the literary agent that I still have today and got me a traditional deal with Penguin in 2007. The mass market paperback version came out in September 2008.

Penguin version

From there, I sold my next novel, Dead of Winter, to Samhain Publishing and never looked back. They eventually republished Shadows in the Mist and The Devil’s Woods, as well.

ITM: If you could turn back the hands of time and go back, what about the publishing process would you do differently?

BM: First, I would have written more novels. After writing my first novel in college, I spent the next decade tinkering with it, trying to make it perfect. I wrote so many drafts and changed the storyline so many times that I could have just started a new story instead and I would have had a number of manuscripts ready to sell when my big break finally came.

As for self-publishing, there’s not much I would have changed. I might have saved some money because I’ve learned how to do it less expensively now. One thing I would do differently. I spent $1,000 on a bestseller program from a marketing company that claimed on their site they could teach me how to promote my book to bestseller status. It turned out to be a 1-hour phone conversation of some general advice. I later discovered no one can really predict how to make an unknown author of an unknown book become a bestseller. So I had buyer’s remorse. Other than those things, I pretty much self-published the best way that was available in 2005.

ITM: Would you recommend self-publishing now for new authors trying to get a book published in 2016?

BM: That depends on your goal and what type of book you’re writing. If you’re a professional speaker who’s written a non-fiction book and you have a platform for reaching a wide audience, then you could succeed well self-publishing the book. If you’re a non-famous person writing a memoir for friends and family, then self-publishing is your best bet. If you’re a novelist, then I recommend writing the best book you can, getting someone to edit it, and then explore getting a literary agent first. You’re book will stand a better chance if a medium to large publisher publishes than if you attempt to self-publish. There’s a vast sea of self-published books on the market and most of them are poorly written and poorly edited. Publishing with a traditional publisher will ensure that the product a writer puts out on the market is well-edited and hopefully well-written if an agent and publisher deems it to be. I’ve sold more books through a publisher than on my own and those publishers paid for the costs of editing, cover design, and distribution.

ITM: What would you say are the biggest changes in the industry and horror fiction now from when you released Shadows in the Mist?

BM: Well, eBooks would be the first big change. Now, instead of just selling a print book, you also have a digital copy to earn extra revenue. I think eBooks made it easier and cheaper for readers to take a chance on unknown authors. Also, a decade ago the big traditional publishers ran the show, and if you couldn’t get in with them it was like getting locked out of the party. Since then mid-size horror publishers like Samhain, DarkFuse, and Sinister Grin have made it possible for first-time authors to find a home and build a line of books. I had only one book published before signing on with Samhain back in 2011. Because I had a great editor, Don D’Auria, and a feeling of a home and family with Samhain’s staff and the other Samhain authors, I was inspired to write and publish more books. At the current moment, I have 7 books published through Samhain. This could change tomorrow, since Samhain has told its authors it might be shutting its doors this year. I may be looking for a new home soon. One thing I’ve learned, the industry is constantly changing. If you can, publish with more than one publisher. So if one shuts its doors and ties up your books for awhile, you still have other books on the market.

ITM: I’ve been seeing more and more of that with the authors that I follow. That’s really too bad about Samhain. I thought they had a nice stable of talented writers. Do you think that some publishers simply don’t know what to do with their horror line or is it mismanagement?

BM: Yes, it’s a shame that such a great stable of authors will now be scattered to the wind. Those authors had become like family to me, and I enjoyed signing books with them yearly at the Samhain booths. The horror market appears to be a tough market to sell high volume of books. Seems like only the major bestsellers like Stephen King break into the main stream market. I know Samhain tried various ways to market our books. Our covers were on the backs of horror magazines, on banners of horror websites, and they hosted horror conventions, like HorrorHound, where they splashed giant images of our covers on vinyl banners. I even saw a copy of my novel Dead of Winter on a digital screen at Times Square. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. They were open to suggestions from the authors and even implemented a few of them recently, but it was too late. Honestly, I’m not sure what it takes to keep a horror publisher afloat or have it achieve continual success with book sales. I think it might have something to do with good timing and luck, having quality books ready to sell when the horror market is booming. I know for a fact that Samhain has a goldmine of talented and really excellent horror books, most of which never attracted the audience they deserve.

ITM: What would you say are the biggest challenges you face today as a writer?

BM: Outdoing my previous books. I’m always pushing myself to write stories that are better than the previous ones. Also, coming up with fresh ideas that horror readers haven’t already seen before. That’s a huge challenge today, because there are a lot more horror authors today than when Stephen King was writing in the 1970s. And movies theaters and Netflix are constantly churning out derivative horror. The tropes, like zombies and vampires, are so overdone that it’s gotten more and more difficult to surprise readers with something new. Often times, I’ll start writing a story, and then a straight-to-Netflix movie pops up and steals my thunder with a badly written b-movie. That’s why I typically write unusual monsters and storylines. I challenge myself to break out of the norm.

ITM: You’re right. It does feel like most of the fiction out there is very derivative and unoriginal. Even many of King’s works over the last decade seems to have homogenized ideas, but he can get away with it because he’s such a great storyteller.

BM: Yes, and King has got a great writing voice, too, that readers can connect with. I think writing many books over the course of decades, it’s easy for a few of them to feel similar or repeat themes or characters the author’s covered before. Dean Koontz comes to mind. Many of his books have the same types of leading characters with a lovable golden retriever as their pet. Even with a few homogenized ideas here and there, both King and Koontz can still frequently knock one out of the ballpark.

ITM: What role has social media played in your successes?

BM: It’s connected me directly with readers, which I love. Through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, I’m constantly getting tweets and messages from readers telling me how one of my books impacted them. That’s very rewarding. It’s also a great outlet to announce to your friends, family, and followers that you’ve released a new book. Sometimes they even help promote it to their friends and followers.

ITM: Do you find it tiring trying to keep up with all of the social avenues of self-promotion?

BM: Yes, actually. I’m not a big fan of self-promotion. Unless you’re an established bestselling author, most publishers will spend very little marketing dollars on getting the word out about your book’s release. I believe they are counting on their authors to self-promote and that includes social media. As of now, posting announcements on social media is one of the most in expensive ways to let your friends and followers know that your book is out.

ITM: Many readers are introduced to new authors through sites such as Goodreads. Have you explored Goodreads and what would you say is your level of interaction on there?

BM: I have a profile on Goodreads, but I don’t interact there. When I first discovered Goodreads, I tried treating it like Facebook and Twitter. I once reached out and thanked a reader for writing a nice review of my book. I got a nasty email from her in response. A couple other messages responded with crickets. Now, those were just a few people, but I realized maybe Goodreads followers don’t want the author contacting them, as if it breaks some kind of bubble. Maybe it’s better if they just connect with my stories, and I keep out of the way. Facebook and Twitter has been a much more welcoming place to interact with fans.

ITM: I’ve noticed that the authors that have the most success on Goodreads are the ones that get involved with the discussions, group reads, etc, of books besides their own. It’s as if they have to see you as a fan of horror and not simply trying to promote. Jonathan Janz comes to mind. If you didn’t know that he was an author, you’d never guess it by the way he interacts.

BM: Yes, I’ve heard that. If an author has time to get involved in discussions on Goodreads, it’s a nice, non-self-promotional way of connecting with horror fans and getting discovered.

ITM: Your latest offering, Blood Sacrifices, is a gathering of three novellas and a short story you previously released. How did Blood Sacrifices come together?

BM: The four horror stories in Blood Sacrifices were originally published as separate eBooks. The stories include The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, Darkness Rising, and The Vagrants. I’m a big fan of reading paperbacks and I know several people who still prefer reading paperbacks over e-Readers. Since these stories weren’t available in print, I brainstormed with my editor and we came up with the idea to republish all my shorter books into a collection that could be available in paperback. We gave it the name Blood Sacrifices: Four Tales of Terror, designed a cool cover, and this collection was born.

ITM: Who designed the cover?

BM: I came up with the concept for the cover based on a scene in The Witching House and Angela Waters, a very talented cover designer, did a beautiful job creating the art work and fonts.

ITM: The short story, The Girl From The Blood Coven preludes into the novella, The Witching House. How did these stories originate?

BM: I wrote The Witching House first. Before I had any characters or story idea, I dreamed up the abandoned house in the woods that had been boarded up for 40 years. Then I came up with Otis Blevins, the mentally disturbed caretaker of the Old Blevins House. Next I chose my characters (Sarah, Dean, Meg, and Casey) and came up with their reason for wanting to explore the house that was rumored to be haunted. Once I had all my characters in place, I wrote The Witching House in one frenzied month of writing in October. I wrote the book while staying at an isolated cabin in the woods of East Texas. That gave me the idea to set the story there. I also grew up in Texas and always wanted to set a story in my home state.

When I finished The Witching House, I still had a lot of desire to explore the backstory of the witches who had been slaughtered in the Blevins House back in 1972. I dreamed up writing a short story about Abigail Blackwood, one of the survivors of the massacre at her hippy commune and wrote it from the perspective of Texas Sheriff Travis Keagan. He just wants to have a beer at the local roadhouse bar and watch a baseball game on TV, when in walks a girl covered in blood…

Pretty much the day I wrote “The End” on The Witching House, I was so inspired, I started writing “The Girl from the Blood Coven,” and two days later I had a prequel short story that could stand on its own and give readers a taste of the mystery of the Blevins House.

ITM: It has a nice, original take on mixing witchcraft and a haunted house tale with a plausible and believable premise that you can get behind.

BM: Thanks. I love a good haunted house story, and witches have always been scary to me. It was fun to blend these two horror elements together in one story.

ITM: What about Darkness Rising?

BM: Darkness Rising has an interesting evolution. Right after I got out of college, I did a lot of experimental writing. I wrote several short stories and lots of poetry, both love poems and really dark, twisted poems. I was just playing around with words. I wrote a speculative fiction short story called “The Night Shadow Collection” about a poet with a dark side who seeks revenge against those who hurt him. The story was told mostly through poems with a few scenes written with prose. I had forgotten about it for 20 years, and then in 2014, I was going through some of my old writings and came upon this collection of poems and the main character who wrote them. I decided to flesh out that character, and he became Marty Weaver. Once I began to explore his dark side and the motives behind his thirst for revenge, the rest of the story fell into place. All the villains in Darkness Rising I came up with while expanding the short story into a novella. I debated whether or not to put the poems in the story. I asked myself, do horror readers care about reading poetry? I decided that the poems were necessary to show the depth of feelings Marty has for Jennifer, the girl he loves. The poems also reflect his inner darkness, which later in the story become the driving force behind his quest for revenge.

ITM: This one was very interesting for me due to poetry being such a main character in the story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done before. It also doesn’t hurt when you mix in a Lovecraftian monster to the story!

BM: I hadn’t seen a story that mixed fictional prose and poetry either. It was fun to experiment with the two styles of writing. I love a good Lovecraftian monster. I found that all the other worldly creatures that Lovecraft created were scary because they gave me the sense that there might be other dimensions beyond this one, and any place–a house, the mountains, a body of water–can be portal to old gods and unspeakable nightmares.

ITM: And The Vagrants?

BM: The Vagrants started out as a short story I wrote many years ago when I was writing a lot of short fiction. The story was originally set in Chicago about some mobsters having to get rid of some vagrants that were squatting in their building. Last year, I re-read the story and liked the dark mystery. I moved the story to Boston, because I wanted the horror element to come from an abandoned underground subway and the Boston’s T has plenty of creepy tunnels that have been closed off for decades. I created a new main character, Daniel Finley, and made him a reporter who was doing an undercover story and witnessed something he shouldn’t have. The new, revised version was supposed to be just a short story, but the more I kept writing, the more I saw a bigger story and expanded it into a novella.

I wrote Daniel Finley to be a sympathetic character as he starts out attempting to do something good for humanity. Also, I’ve had my own experiences with homeless people. There used to be a shanty town beneath a bridge here in Dallas. I don’t know what happened to the shanty town or the people who lived under the bridge, but it looks like the city made them move on and then cleaned up that area.

Another time I was helping out a homeless married couple. I offered to just give them some money so they could get back on their feet, but they were very proud. The husband was an ex-soldier and a very good handyman. He had hit hard times and couldn’t find a job. His wife was a housewife and mother of two kids. The husband insisted that he and his wife work for the money, so for a couple months I gave them odd jobs at my house. In the mornings, I’d pick them up at this slum motel they were staying at.

One morning, while I parked outside waiting for them, I saw this tall homeless man emerge from beneath a nearby bridge. He crossed through a weed-ridden field toward the motel. At first, I just casually watched the man hiking through the weeds and then turned my attention back on the upstairs apartment door. The married couple was taking longer than usual to get ready. When I turned back to the field, I was shocked to see the homeless man approaching my vehicle, reaching for the passenger door. Before I could hit the locks, the passenger door opened and the homeless man climbed inside and sat right beside me and closed the door. He was bigger than me, sweaty and filthy. He just looked right at me with this crazy grin and said, “Hey.” My fear of being attacked at close range skyrocketed. I panicked and yelled, “What the bleep are you doing in my car? Get the bleep out!” I think I scared him as much as he scared me, because he opened the car door and was out of the vehicle in half a second. I believe in treating homeless people with respect and helping them out when I can, but when they climb into a car with you that crosses a line. A few minutes later the married couple came down to my car and told me that guy was crazy and I did the right thing. Those up-close experiences with homeless people influenced the writing of Daniel Finley’s story.

ITM: This one had the best visuals for me. Throughout the whole story, I felt like I was with Daniel under the bridge, in the abandoned tunnel, etc.

BM: Thanks. My aim was to put the reader in Daniel’s body and experience what he’s seeing, hearing, and feeling. I’m very visual, so I tend to describe a lot of vivid details to build a three-dimensional world in the reader’s mind. Glad that you felt like you were there with him.

ITM: The settings for Darkness Rising and The Vagrants are so vividly described that it feels like you are there. How does a Texas guy get the details down so well for a small college town in Oregon and the seedy sides of the streets of Boston?

BM: Funny you should say that. I’ve actually never been to a small town in Oregon, and I’ve only been to Boston once for a day. As much as I wanted to travel to both places while writing my novellas, circumstances prevented me from being able to do so. So I relied on Internet research, movies, reading books about those places, YouTube videos, and drawing from my own experiences with small towns, college campuses, lakes, subway tunnels, and seedy sides of cities. How I pulled off it feeling real for the reader to be there, I’m not quite sure. My goal is to write as viscerally as possible. I attempt to build the three-dimensional world around the reader using all five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. I’m big on details and nuances, so if I read something interesting about a place, like Boston’s T having abandoned tunnels, I’ll add those details. Then for the horror elements I’ll add in a pinch of ominous atmosphere and a few dashes of dread.

ITM: Not to sound like a kiss-ass here, but I think that’s why your stories stand out so much. It’s because you can tell that you’ve done your research to tighten everything up and make it as realistic as possible. The suspension of disbelief in these stories is incredible.

BM: It makes me smile to hear that. To me horror works best when the author suspends the reader’s belief enough that what happens in the story feels like it could happen in real life. If I’m reading a great story and not questioning the validity of what’s going on, then I’m right there experiencing it. I love it when a story shares an ancient legend or some scientific fact that makes something fictional seem possible. For me, research is key to adding those interesting touches that will make the story feel more plausible.

ITM: I’ve found that many writers have a routine that they like to follow when writing. Give me a breakdown of your day and how you create the next Brian Moreland masterpiece.

BM: I’d love to have a routine–I’d get a lot more books written–but I’ve never been a routine guy. I write in sprints. As a freelancer, I have demanding client projects, so some weeks I don’t write at all. When I do get a week or two between projects, I’ll take a writing sabbatical and leave town for a week. I often go to a friend’s cabin in the woods of East Texas (right down the road from where I imagined the Old Blevins House from The Witching House). I write to for 10-12 hours a day. That’s how I get the bulk of my stories written. I can knock out 20k-30k words in a week of pure focus. I literally live the story during my writing sabbaticals. I completely unplug from my everyday world. I stay away from the Internet, watch very little TV, and call one or two loved ones every couple days to check in. This isolation allows me to focus on the story and it’s how I can get into the skin of my characters and their fictional world becomes an three-dimensional world around me. It’s like I’ve transported myself to their world. I write this way, so the readers will experience as if they have been transported to another dimension where everything in the story is actually happening.

I discovered I’m most creative if in the mornings, when I just wake up and half-asleep. I’ll get up at 5:00 a.m. and write till about noon, then go take a walk. If I’m stuck on a plot problem, I’ll wake up at 4:00 a.m. and start writing. This is the magic hour for me. Some of my wildest ideas have come from writing at 4:00 a.m. after just waking up. My brain is still in a dreamlike state and very creative.

My writing sabbaticals are my ideal way of writing. I probably do four or five of those a year. I also write at my home office, a little here and a little there each week. My client workload determines how much time I have for writing (it’s still not a full-time job yet, although it will soon). Sometimes I write in the morning, sometimes at night. Often, I have a day or two off between projects and devote those days to writing fiction. One thing that has helped me to stay on track. I’m part of a writers group that meets every two weeks. We each read a chapter or two aloud. So, even when I go through a period of working more on client work than my book, I’ll write a couple chapters to read to the group. Over the course of a few months, I’ll gain momentum and next thing I know I’ve drafted another manuscript. Then I spend months editing and revising that manuscript, doing research where needed. It takes me about three to four months to write a novella and a year to a year and a half to write a novel.

ITM: Stephen King has the spooky house in Bangor surrounded by the wrought iron fence with gargoyles on it. Do you have anything crazy at your house that makes your neighbors clutch their children when they see you coming?

BM: I live in a top-floor apartment, so fortunately my neighbors can’t see into my home. About the craziest thing in my home is a book shelf full of horror novels with an abominable snowman character, a sculpture of a Nazi creature from Shadows in the Mist that a friend of mine made, and a Dexter bobble-head wielding a bloody knife. I guess if my neighbors saw this, they might clutch their children.

ITM: What are you reading these days?

BM: I’m currently in the middle of two books. One is Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. This is actually my first time to read any of his work. When I was talking to my agent about writing more psychological horror, she recommended Ghost Story. Because I had seen the movie years ago and thought the movie was okay, not scary, I didn’t feel the need to read the book. Over the years, I’ve noticed this book keeps popping up on top scariest books lists. I took my agent’s advice, and I’m glad I did. I found an old hardback copy that was published in the Seventies. The story is gripping. While so far it doesn’t have a lot of action, like a Dean Koontz or Robert McCammon book, Ghost Story does a fantastic job building suspense with dread. Straub’s prose gets under my skin. Since I modeled my story-telling style after Koontz, McCammon, and even some of the splatter punk authors of the ‘8- and ‘90s, like Skipp and Spector, my brand of horror has been more like grab a reader, put them on a funhouse ride, and scare them with lots of horror. Because I’m always striving to improve my craft, I’m studying Ghost Story and other, more subtle horror authors, to learn more about writing psychological horror.

I’m also reading High Road to China by Jon Cleary. I saw the movie with Tom Selleck and Bess Armstrong back in the ‘80s. My reason for reading this is for the past year I’ve been writing a period piece novel called Tomb of Gods set in 1937, with back story set in the 1920s. I’m also writing a mostly British cast. In my new book, there’s a romance between and English woman and an American reporter.

Reading High Road to China, which is an excellent adventure book and love story between a British pilot and an American heiress, is helping me get the sense of what life was like back in the 1920s. When I write historical novels, and Tomb of Gods will be my third, reading books of that time period is one of the ways I do my research. There’s another benefit to reading outside your genre: it helps you become a more well-rounded writer.

ITM: Your Top 5 horror movies?

The Thing
The Shining
Evil Dead
Prophecy (1980 version with the killer bear)

ITM: I see that you’ve done a few horror conventions? What’s your thoughts on those?

BM: I love them. They’re a fun gathering with horror fans and fellow authors. I love the atmosphere, the costumes, the horror movie celebrities, the booths with all the horror collectibles. Conventions are also great places to sell books and talk to readers who love to read horror. In the evenings, I’ll hang out with some of my fellow authors, many of whom have become friends, and share a beer with them or go out to dinner. We’ll talk about writing, the publishing business, or just hang out as friends. Horror authors are a really fun and diverse crowd. Some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And horror fans are very passionate about loving horror. I find the energy at horror conventions is very positive.

Sharing a booth with Hunter Shea and David Bernstein
at Horrorfind in Gettysburg

Meeting horror fans

Signing books alongside Kristopher Rufty
at HorrorHound Indianapolis
Hanging out with Jonathan Janz and Jon Everson
at HorrorHound Indianapolis

ITM: What can us fans expect coming down the pike in 2016 and beyond?

BM: I already mentioned that I’ve been working on my historical novel, Tomb of Gods. It’s set in Egypt in the 1930s. On the one hand, it’s a James Rollins style adventure story with some archeologists who have discovered a mysterious tomb that seems to have no end to it. On the other hand, it’s a journey into terror inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. That’s all I’m saying. I hope to finish the novel this summer and get it into a publisher’s hands quickly. I know I’m itching to move on to the next story.

I’m also putting together a short story collection that includes old ones that I wrote over a decade ago and new ones. A couple stories that are in it that I’m eager to share with readers are revised versions of “The Dealer of Needs” and “Chasing the Dragon.” I’m currently revisiting the original short story that inspired The Vagrants novellas. The short story is set in Chicago. The anthology has been a work in progress for over a year now, so I’ll see how that comes along. My goal is to self-pub it later this winter or early next year.

I have some audio books published and soon-to-be-published through Audio Realms. Right now, The Devil’s Woods, The Witching House, and The Vagrants are available as audio books. My WWII horror novel Shadows in the Mist has wrapped up production and should be released in the next month or so. I’ve also been told that Darkness Rising, my revenge novella that’s in Blood Sacrifices, is being matched with a narrator and slated to go into audio production soon.

I really appreciate you letting me grill you for my blog and look forward to chatting with you in the future. Take care, my friend,


Thanks Ken, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. I look forward to coming back.



The Monster Underneath – Matthew Franks


The Monster Underneath is the maiden voyage for Matthew Franks and I have to say that I am really impressed. He has a masters degree in counseling and he uses that knowledge as the foundation of The Monster Underneath.

Max Crawford is an unusual psychologist for the Texas prison system. He has a special psychic ability where he can enter inmate’s dreams and relive their crimes with them to get them to feel remorse for what they have done. The FBI approach Max to use his special abilities on suspected killer, William Knox. Knox is being held on flimsy charges and is being accused of killing three young women. Without enough evidence to hold Knox and no chance of securing a confession, they turn to Crawford to enter into Knox’s dreams while they still have him in prison to try and find enough evidence to force a confession.

Franks characters are the strength of his storytelling. Crawford and Knox are fully fleshed out and wonderfully three-dimensional. I enjoyed being a part of Crawford crawling inside Knox’s head and he had me rooting for him to bust the bastard. Up to the 85% mark in this story, I was completely invested in it. Then the ending took an odd U-turn and simply felt like it was a weak attempt to leave it open-ended for the possibility of a sequel. That was disappointing. Outside of that, The Monster Underneath is an extremely solid entry by Franks and his storytelling will have you hooked. I’m looking forward to seeing where his career takes him.

4 1/2 Serial Killers out of 5
This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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I Kill In Peace – Hunter Shea


Peter gets a strange message at work warning him that he is going to be fired at the end of the day. The message is from someone labeled as AO. He doesn’t know anyone by AO and writes it off as a prank and at the end of the day, guess what happens? That’s right. His self-righteous prick of a boss calls him into his office and gives him the axe. Who is this AO and how did they know about it? Later on that day, AO sends him another message telling him to get ready to kill his ex-boss and that he’ll send a red Mustang for him to use. Peter has no desire to follow through with AO’s demand and refuses. As a result, he is greeted with the most excruciating, debilitating pain in his head. Seeing the Mustang pull in at the rendezvous point, Peter stumbles over to it to kick whoever this AO is ass. Whipping the door to the running muscle car open, he finds that there is no one inside and as soon as he sits in the car, the headache is instantly gone. Is Peter going crazy? How is this AO able to communicate with him and provide the means to kill his boss? Will Peter really go through with what AO demands?

I Kill in Peace is a fast paced tale from Hunter Shea that keeps you turning the pages so fast that they almost become a blur as you try to discover what is really happening to Peter. It is a tight story that you should let yourself have fun with. You’ll be glad you did.

4 Holy Marys out of 5
** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Vicki Beautiful – Somer Canon


Brynn and Sasha, along with their spouses, head to Vicki’s beautiful home to celebrate, with her and her husband, Vicki’s 40th birthday and that she’s cancer free. The house is immaculate, the table is set flawlessly, the food is done to perfection. All of this is to be expected. Vicki is known for her never ending quest for all thing in her life to be beautiful. What is it expected is her announcement that her cancer is back and that she doesn’t have very long to live. Even worse is what she asking her friends to do for her after she is gone.

Vicki Beautiful is the debut novel from Somer Canon and she shows promise in what could be a very nice writing career for her. With Vicki Beautiful, she seems to have carved out a story that could very well described as Glamour magazine meets American Psycho. I literally was gagging as Brynn and Sasha were struggling to honor their friend’s last wishes. My advice is to give the story a try and stick with it. The journey ends up being the shining star of the story and not necessarily the destination.

3 1/2 Leg of Vicki out of 5
** This ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review
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