Russell James

To Don D’Auria, my editor

Don D'Auria, myself, and a really patchy beard, at BEA 2015 last spring in NYC

Don D’Auria, myself, and a really patchy beard, at BEA 2015 last spring in NYC

Tonight I drink to Don D’Auria.

I rarely drink. I originally planned on having a beer tonight to celebrate the release of my newest supernatural thriller, Sentinels, from Samhain Publishing, where Don was my editor. I say “was” because Don informed his stable of writers he’s leaving the company this Friday. Why and how this came about, I can’t say. Samhain turns 10 years old this month, and for a majority of that time has published romance, lots of it, and has even seen a few of its titles make The New York Times bestsellers list. Don was hired in 2011 to start a horror line, and he’s done so quite ably. Three of his edited works have been nominated for the coveted Bram Stoker award presented by the Horror Writers Association. He discovered a bunch of eventual Bram Stoker-winners during his days with Dorchester Publishing, where my history with him began.

Don plucked me out of Dorchester Publishing’s creaking slush pile in 2010. I’d written a straight crime thriller and Don offered me a small advance to make the book part of Dorchester’s Leisure line. I agreed, and then promptly saw the deal collapse—and Don laid off—a few months later because Dorchester went bankrupt. I stayed in touch with Don and heard he’d landed with Samhain. I couldn’t follow him there because my book wasn’t horror, but I kept him in the back of my mind, and when I got the idea for my Krampus novel, The Dark Servant, in 2012, he was the first guy I emailed—Don’s primary method of communication. He expressed a few concerns, nothing major, and was enthusiastic to see what I could do. He encouraged me to write, making no promises, and to send him some sample chapters. A line from his email, which I saved: “I have no doubt the book will be well written, unless you’ve had some serious head injury you haven’t mentioned.”

Don believed in me, and that was important. And what I’d hoped to have happen in February 2011 (a book with Dorchester) happened a few years later in December 2014 (a different book with Samhain). And I’m eternally grateful to have earned Don’s trust. He’s easy to work with, states up front his concerns about a character or a plot point. And he’s an exceedingly nice man. I was fortunate enough to attend BEA 2015 in New York just this past spring, and Don was there. We caught up, discussed horror, the publishing industry in general, and it was simply nice to finally see, after five years, the first editor to appreciate my work and offer to pay me for it.

So what now? Here’s my message to the Big 5 publishers: Hire this man. He knows what he’s doing and will bring talented authors with him. I’m not the only author who’s reeling upon learning about his unexpected departure. But I’m also not the only author who believes that Don will land somewhere else and succeed. I have a feeling I’m going to work with him again.

My beer is Michelob Ultra. Don’s apparently a martini fellow. (Sorry, I can’t do that.) But I will be drinking my beer tonight and celebrating two published novels, and an upcoming Krampus novella, Twelfth Krampus Night, which drops in December. I’m proud to say Don D’Auria helped make them happen.

I have a bookshelf of Samhain Horror works by Jonathan Janz, John Everson, Tamara Jones, Brian Moreland, Hunter Shea, and Glenn Rolfe, and I’ll be adding more in the months ahead. (Russell James, Ron Malfi, you’re on notice.) And tonight I’ll drink to all of them and to the man who edited them—Don D’Auria, who gave me my start. Cheers.

IMG_4762

Advertisements

HorrorHound has something demented for everyone!

HorrorHound Weekend has just concluded in Cincinnati, and if you’re like me, you were supremely grossed out upon seeing this:

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I'm certain some of you do) visit www.scarebears1.com.

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I’m certain some of you do) visit http://www.scarebears1.com.

Those were selling like bloody, disemboweled hotcakes at the popular horror convention that features movie and television stars, authors, artists (tattoo and otherwise), and vendors galore. All of them in some way affiliated with the horror genre.

This was my first go-around as a Samhain Horror author. My Cincy-based publisher helps to sponsor the convention, and provides plenty of books for its

authors to sell to fans. And that’s exactly what my fellow authors and I did over the last three days, and it was fantastic fun getting to interact with new and prospective readers.

Yes, I'm experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

Yes, I’m experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

HorrorHound is probably one of the best conventions for authors to reach readers, and our booth was busy (and that’s good, given the state of the publishing world). Now, when you consider the hotel bill ($130), gas (at least $100), entirely too much fast food ($20) and souvenirs (I’m not saying how much because my wife might read this), you’re not going to break even by selling 25 books priced at $8 each. But making money at this point in my career isn’t paramount. Sure, I’d like it to happen, but to me this convention was all about getting my name out there, meeting the people who actually work for my publisher (they’re based in Cincinnati), and meeting my fellow authors, most of whom I’ve corresponded with on Facebook and Twitter, but never met in person.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell Kames, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell James, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

The other fun part of HorrorHound is slipping away from the table to see which stars of the stage and screen are milling about, and to digest some of the perverse memorabilia up for sale. Case in point, this:

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Also fun, seeing movie stars who are 30 years past their prime. Let’s play a game: Name this actor:CT

Sorry it’s grainy. Celebrities now charge you money to take photographs of them, so you have to kind of do it on the sly. So I’ll give you three hints: E.T., Red Dawn (Wolverines!), and a somewhat recent episode of Criminal Minds. OK, one more: The Hitcher. That’s right, it’s C. Thomas Howell! (And it looks like he’s seen better days, and he has—back in the 1980s.)

Here’s another one, and if you can’t guess this, then you weren’t an avid moviegoer in 1984:zg

Yup, it’s Zack Galligan from Gremlins, Gremlins 2, and Not Much Else. I don’t fault these guys (and gals) one bit for hitting the convention circuit. It’s how they make their livings (and they make a lot more than you and me combined by doing it). And if they can help people relive some of their favorite TV and movie memories, then I’m all for it.

Now, as you might imagine, this was the line of people waiting to meet me:IMG_3630

Ha! Of course they weren’t queuing for me! This was for Norman Reedus, of Walking Dead fame. Daryl-Dixon-daryl-dixon-32601352-500-385

I did not see Norman. Although he must’ve been in the building because, and I am not kidding, thousands of people came to see him. That crowd picture doesn’t come close to portraying how many Norman Reedus fans swarmed that convention hall. I think some of them are still there. By the way, one Norman Reedus autograph: $80. You do the math.

Another fun part of HorrorHound: checking out all the creepy costumes people donned.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

Everypne kept saying "It's Nosferatu!" Nope, any discerning Stephen King fans knows it's Barlow from the late 1970s Salems Lot TV miniseries.

Everyone kept saying “It’s Nosferatu!” Nope, any discerning Stephen King fan knows it’s Barlow from the late 1970s Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

There's nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn't help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

There’s nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn’t help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

Here are some things that were for sale at HorrorHound that I did not buy:

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep for that same amount on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

And here’s a cool skeletal carnivorous plant that costs almost as much as our monthly mortgage payment:plant

I did not purchase anything nearly as expensive as that. Just a Majestic Demon bust cast in resin. 

It was my one splurge to mark my first horror convention and first time ever stepping foot into Ohio (those billboards advertising “GUNS! This Exit!” is a clear reminder you’re not in New Jersey). Oh, check out http://www.alter-ego-dezines if you want your own demon.

It takes roughly 9 hours to drive from North Jersey to Cincinnati. That was the only downside to the weekend, but not bad enough to keep me from wanting to attend next year’s convention. I cannot wait.    

 

5 Questions for Horror Writer Russell James

Dreamwalker300 (1)

Author Russell James is making the rounds for his new Samhain Horror novel, Dreamwalker. And I’m more than happy to have him by to pick his brain about his book, his writing habits and the future. Here’s my first question to him: Russell, why on earth did Pete Carroll call a pass play instead of giving the godd*mn football to Marshawn Lynch to run into the end zone? My wife, who admittedly doesn’t know anything about football, knew that throwing the ball in that situation was terrible play calling. I’m sorry. That’s the question I’d like to ask Pete Carroll while I’m watching those cheating New England Patriots celebrate winning the Super Bowl. But whatever. This blog post is all about Russell. He’s a cool guy and I can’t wait to meet him in person at a horror convention down the road. So let’s get down to business!

writer's stop1

1. Here’s a question you’re probably never seen before: What on earth inspired you to write Dreamwalker?

I have dreams with recurring storylines. I’ll be in some fictional place, and remember dreams where I’d been in that fictional place before. I wondered what it would be like if one of those places was real, another parallel reality to the one I was awake in. Dreamwalker came from that idea.

2. I understand there’s voodoo involved in Dreamwalker. Did you go about researching voodoo, and what it is and isn’t? And did anything surprise you about voodoo?

The voodoo research was interesting. I really didn’t know much about voodoo except for the casual and usually incorrect portrayals in movies. I hit the library and checked out two voodoo books. That got a pretty strange look from my wife when she saw those on the living room coffee table. “It’s research for a novel” is the world’s lamest excuse when you haven’t published a novel yet.

All the beliefs about the good loa and the evil petra loa really fired up my imagination and gave me the antagonist, Cauquemere, a real voodoo petra loa. All the voodoo in the book is as close to actual as I wanted to make it without printing a how-to guide, because I wouldn’t want that responsibility. The thing that surprised me about voodoo is how ingrained it is in Haitian customs and beliefs. Enough people believe it dangerous that in was made illegal in Haiti in 1952. After reading some pretty hair-raising firsthand accounts, I was creeped out enough that I don’t want to get anyone messing with it.

3. I always ask authors about their writing habits, so: where do you write (home office, on the couch)? Do you have a specific word count you try to hit, or a number of hours you try to work?

I like to write in the dining room, which has all day southern exposure and excellent sunlight. Four or five hours a day is my maximum. At the point where everything I put down sounds perfect, I know it’s time to quit for the day.

4. Forget about all time: What’s the most influential work of horror you’ve read in the last five years, and why do you consider it as such?

I had an idea for novel about a plague that turns Long Island into a quarantine zone, and a mother has to escape with her son, who maybe has the answer for a cure. I did some work on it and thought I could never pull it off. Then I read Joe McKinney’s Quarantine, about San Antonio being sealed off after an outbreak. It was so damn excellent, and it showed me that kind of world building was possible. I’m no Joe McKinney, but I thought my novel deserved a second look, and that became Q Island.

5. Can you tell us about any of your future projects? (I know authors like to keep mum until contracts are signed.)

This is a busy year. The above mentioned Q Island is due this summer. I also just had a historical novel of the life of John the Baptist published under R.R. James.

My writing group puts out science fiction anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders. We’ve published Out of Time, Still Out of Time and Centauri Station. All of them regularly rank in the anthology Top 50 on Amazon and we have sent thousands of dollars to Doctors Without Borders. A second space-themed collection is due in June.

I’ve got an almost finished horror novel about Satan trying to open the gate to Hell. Disney wants it as a movie, but I’m thinking of offering it to Samhain Horror first.

Dreamwalker tour logo