Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In The Digital Age - Write What You Please

I teach a novel writing course through our local continuing education department, and one of the first things I try and get across to students is to write what you love. Or better, write the type of book you want to read. Without embarrassment or shame. Love horror or sci-fi? Crazy over paranormal romance? You should write it and not be embarrassed about your chosen topics.

The indie revolution and the rise of Amazon has allowed authors to pretty much write what they want. No longer are we bound by traditional publishing contracts that ask for more of the same type of book. You can write a paranormal romance and switch gears on the next book. Maybe make it flesh-eating zombies. Or pirates in outer space. Whatever you choose to write, put it out there. Be bold. Here's what I told my students:

1.  Don't pay attention to people who belittle or laugh at what you write. You might get some snide remarks. I know I have. They don't like horror, or sci-fi (or your chosen genre)? Hell with them. Keep writing. Be a writing tank, rolling over objectives and crushing word counts.

2. You do your best writing - I think - when you're passionate about the subject. Lively, juiced-up prose and stories are born when the writer loves their genre.

3. Write to entertain yourself. Think about your favorite novels or movies. Pick them apart. What about them - structure and storytelling wise - kept you hooked? Shoot for those types of things in your stories. Write those big scenes, those killer one-liners. Create that character that you and the reader will fall in love with. There's nothing wrong with writing to entertain. Go big.

4. Pay attention to the market, but don't write specifically for it. There's no bestselling formula, or any guarantee that if you write in a popular genre, you'll have success.

Has anyone experienced naysayers, those people who look down on your chosen genre? How did you deal with it? Does it slow you down, or do you keep on rolling?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Central Casting - Where Do Characters Come From?

Recently one of my writing students asked me if I ever use real people in my books. The answer is yes. And no.

The bad guys in my most recent novel, THE HOLLOW, are ruthless. Soulless killing machines that look only to up the body count. Two of them are entirely fictional. The third, Andrew Cort, was partially inspired by an inmate I saw on MSNBC's Lockup.  The inmate that inspired Cort was similar in physical appearance to my character: huge, heavily muscled, tattooed.  What made the guy so damned scary was his eyes. Pale blue and cold, I don't imagine anyone could look him in the eye and not flinch.

On the show, when it came time for him to leave the cell, the inmate refused. It took around six guards and a blast of pepper spray to subdue the man. I give anyone who works in corrections all the respect in the world. Don't know how they do it.

I visualized Cort looking much like the inmate and gave him a backstory. Along with a nasty disposition and a penchant for cutting people up.

I'd recommend Lockup for anyone writing thrillers and crime novels. It offers a fascinating look into the minds and actions of inmates.

For additional research and inspiration, I'd also try Tru TV's Crime Library. 

What provides the inspiration for your fictional characters?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Cover Art - Paperbacks

Both the Hollow and No Escape will be out in paperback format within the next two weeks. I'm waiting for proofs and after I approve them, they can be purchased at They're both currently available for Kindle. I changed the covers for both books, and I'm happy with the way they came out. I used Microsoft Publisher for both.  Here's a look at the new covers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Are The Brand

You’re an author. Therefore you need a brand. Something that lets the world know what you and your book are all about.  But what is it? There’s a ton of articles on the internet about how to build a brand, many of them written by social media and marketing gurus.

I’m no guru, but I’ll tell you what I think platform and brand boils down to: being yourself.

If I were trying to build a platform/brand, I would start by asking myself what writers I enjoy following, whether it be on their blog or a social media site. What drew me to them? What made me buy their books? Usually it’s because I like what they have to say. Or because I have similar interests.

Building a brand – to me -  is as simple as making a list of your interests and what your books are about.

For me, it would be something like:

Writing horror/thrillers
Writing advice/tips
Fantasy/horror art
Playing guitar
Metal/classic rock/blues music
Horror movies

Tweet/post about your interests. If you’re on Twitter, you’ll attract those with similar interests. Throw in some promotional tweets here and there, but don’t go crazy. Right now I’m trying to mix in 2-3 promotional tweets per week. Some authors do a lot more, but that’s what I’m comfortable with.

For examples of authors who do this well, I’d recommend checking out Bryan Smith, Amanda Hocking, and Lynn Viehl.  They are all active on line without bashing people over the head with “Buy my book.” All three of these authors share their interests and hobbies through blogs/and or social media.

The other part of building a brand/platform is showing up on a regular basis. Be present on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Interact with others.

Building a brand doesn’t have to be complicated. Be honest. Put it out there. You are the brand. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Random Tattoo Art

A piece of tattoo art I recently finished. I just submitted some of my designs to a tattoo website. Also toying with the idea of opening an Etsy store and making some art available for sale online.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Birth of Jack Vincent

Horror has always been my first love, followed by crime novels. I'm a big fan of Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen. Duane Swierczynski has become a recent favorite, as well. I wanted to start penning some crime novels but release them under a different name, as to differentiate them from my horror novels.

So I chose the name Jack Vincent. Jack because it's a solid name. Sturdy. I've always liked it. Vincent was my dad's middle name.  My first release under the Jack Vincent name is UNDERWORLD.  It's a short story featuring ex-cop Cody Garrett. Garrett was created for THE HOLLOW, and I liked him so much I wanted to possibly do a series of books with Garrett as the main character. He fixes things for people who can't go to the cops. And he's not afraid to get his hands a little bloody. Or a lot bloody.

Here's the cover for UNDERWORLD. It's 99 cents and you can find it here:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why You Should Never Totally Scrap a Novel

A few years ago, I tried my hand at writing a crime/mystery novel. I was trying - then - to break out of horror. I had sold three novels to Kensington and was hoping for something bigger. I sent the novel - called Taken - to my agent.  He hated it, but he made suggestions. I rewrote it and sent it to him again. He still didn't feel it would sell. I had my wife read it. I knew she would give me an honest opinion.

The verdict? She didn't care for it, either. The parts that appealed to her were the horrific sections. The cop stuff I wrote about just wasn't me.  The gruesome parts kept her interest.  "You're a horror writer, honey," she'd said. That I am.  After I sulked for a little bit, I wrote the next book, which turned out to be No Escape. But I wanted the follow-up to No Escape to be both horrific and appeal to thriller fans.

Thus, The Hollow was born. I took a few characters from the now-abandoned Taken. Also grabbed some of the more horrific scenes that had captivated my wife's attention.  The rest I threw in the dumpster.  As a result, The Hollow turned out to be something completely new.

If you have an old manuscript or stack of short stories lying around, hang on to them. They might have a second life.

As far as The Hollow, I'm making a last pass on edits. It's formatted and the cover is ready. Look for it soon on Amazon Kindle. Here's the description of  The Hollow:

Twenty years ago a pair of killers went on a brutal crime spree.

Their final target was The Hollow Campgrounds. An entire family was slaughtered. Dragged from their cabins in the middle of the night. Then the killers vanished for twenty years. 

Now they're back.

Liz Mallory and her teenage daughter are taking a weekend camping trip to The Hollow with Liz's old college friends.

They're being watched. And the killers have come home.

The weekend plans are about to take a turn for the worse. 

The Hollow. How long could you survive?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Name My Publishing Company

I'm looking to attach a new name to my publishing company, and I need your help. It's currently called Steel City Press, but I'm not in love with that name.

Therefore, a contest is in order. The winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and an acknowledgement in my next book, The Hollow. Please send entries to my e-mail at:

authorizzo at gmail dot com

I'll choose the winner based on the most creative and fitting entry.  Entries can be horror-related. Or not. Whatever blows your skirt up. I'm open to anything.

The deadline for entries is midnight, September 13.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happenings this Summer

First off, I have a few projects in the works that I hope to have available for sale before year's end.

The Hollow  - novel (for e-readers)

No Escape - print version (through Createspace)

An unnamed short story I'm working on.  Will probably offer it for free.

A crime novella that I'm doing under a pen name.

Plus I have ideas cooking for two more novels. Both are thrillers. One is more horror-oriented. The other will be a crime novel with a recurring central character.

It's been a busy summer. Here's a recap of some of the best parts:

Taste of Buffalo - One big old food festival on Delaware Avenue. Highlights were the spinach pocket from Bylbos and Nick Charlap's Ice Cream. Eighty-five degree weather and amazing food. Can't go wrong. If you're in Buffalo in early July, that's the place to be.

My lovely wife and I renewed our wedding vows in June. She's the best thing that ever happened to me. We got each other new wedding rings inscribed in Gaelic. There were those that said we shouldn't get married. Guess what? We're still going strong. The best part of my summer.

Seeing Flogging Molly live at Buffalo Rocks the Harbor. This is a great venue. Large enough so you can walk around, take in the waterfront, and enjoy kick-ass music. Plus there's beer. Best quote from the evening: "You're wearing sunglasses after dark. You know who does that? Blind people and assholes." - Flogging Molly's singer, Dave King, to a concert-goer.

Hitting America's Fair, the Buffalo Naval Park, and going on picnics with the wife and kids. My three favorite people in the world.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How to Create Memorable Villains

About fifteen years ago, my wife and I rented an apartment in South Buffalo. It's a blue collar neighborhood with a strong Irish heritage. Our apartment was across the street from an American Legion. There was a group home for developmentally disabled adults on the corner. It was generally a quiet neighborhood, and we enjoyed living there.

Until George moved in downstairs. The first day I met our new neighbor, he filled me with a sense of unease.  Not long after moving in, he stole some items off of our storage shelf in the hallway. He also told me he was arrested for waving a gun at a former neighbor, but not to worry because it was only a BB gun. That didn't really ease my mind.  George started getting creepier. He often spent the night in his car, which was parked in the back yard of the house. One night he managed to start the car on fire. Not long after that, he began watching my wife as she came home from work. Then we found out he was walking around naked and leering at the next-door neighbor's daughters through the window. I thought about buying a gun, just in case.  We wound up telling our landlords that they needed to evict him. And they did.

George would've made a good fictional villain. Unfortunately, he was real. He made me uneasy. How does this apply to fiction? To me, the best villains make the reader nervous. They are unpredictable. In one scene they might do horrible things to a victim. In the next, they might let a victim narrowly escape.

What can you do to create a great villain?

  • Make them violent, explosive. Like a bomb waiting to go off.  Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds is charming and suave. But this facade disappears in an instant when he brutally chokes a suspected spy to death.
  • Give them perversions. Make them deviant.  Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs is making a dress from his victim's skin. Hannibal Lector enjoys snacking on people's livers. 
  • Great villains are intelligent, cunning. They must be a worthy opponent for your hero. They shouldn't be easily defeated. 
  • Give them a physical deformity or make them ugly, unattractive. Or make them attractive and charming. That can be just as frightening.
  • Create a villain that is physically imposing, or has skill with weapons. Make them someone you wouldn't want to mess with.
  • Mix in some qualities that elicit sympathy. Dean Koontz, in Watchers, does this with the murderous creature known as the Outsider. The Outsider is a genetically-engineered killing machine, but Koontz creates sympathy by showing us its den, where it keeps a Mickey Mouse doll. 
  • Have them be unpredictable. Anton Chigurh, in No Country for Old Men, is a remorseless killer. But in one scene, he allows a storekeeper to live based on a coin toss. This creates suspense. Will he let the next person he comes across live?
In my work-in-progress, The Hollow, I've tried to incorporate these qualities into my villains. They are cold-blooded killers that prey on the innocent. No one who gets in their way is safe, and my goal is to make the reader uneasy every time they appear on the page.

Keep these tips in mind and you'll create a character that is not only a worthy adversary, but will give your readers the creeps. And as a writer of horror or thrillers, that's worth going for every time. 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Road Up The Mountain

"The road to truth is long and lined the entire way with annoying bastards."  - Alexander Jablokov, novelist

If you're an indie author, you no doubt strive to have sales numbers like Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking. What we all must realize is that this whole indie book publishing thing is a marathon, not a sprint.  A long road, for sure.  The annoying bastard part? Rejection, poor sales, bad reviews.

We all want instant success, but building a fanbase and getting your name out there takes time. My father-in-law worked a number of jobs over a period of 30 years. Sometimes two or three at once just to pay the bills. He was in his mid-fifties by the time he left his job delivering linens.  After that job, he started working as an estimator for a commercial bathtub installer. And he absolutely loves it.  Says it's not even like working. And he does well at it. What's the point? At fiftysomething, he found the ideal job.   It's never too late for success, and if you have the talent and don't give up, I think success will come in some form.

So what are us indie authors to do?

1.  Write. Write. And oh yeah, write. Marketing and social media are important, but if you want sales to grow, you must have product. If a publisher only had one or two books to offer for sale, do you think they would make much money?  A thousand words per day (which should take about an hour or so) equals an average-sized novel in three months.

2.  Stop comparing yourself to other writers. Instead of constantly reading blogs or killing time on Facebook, work on your own stuff.  Quit worrying about who has more sales or who's a better writer. Improve your stories. Write more.

3. Give and take. Don't incessantly promote. Offer blog posts that have value. Give advice. Re-tweet other writers' good news. Pay it forward.

As Bon Scott said, "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock n'roll."  Success as an author is no different. Try and enjoy the journey.  What are some ways you're trying to improve as a writer?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vampires As They Ought to Be

Stephenie Meyer has taken a drubbing from the horror community for her portrayal of sparkling, angst-ridden vampires. I've seen a few of the Twilight movies and can't say I care much for their portrayal of vampires.  Likewise for Anne Rice's less-than-frightening vamps. That being said, if you're looking for good, old-fashioned bloodsuckers, here are some books that won't steer you wrong.

1. Salem's Lot, Stephen King.  I tried reading King's vampire opus when I was eleven-years-old, and it frightened me so badly I had to put it down. I eventually read it years later and it's one of his best.

2. They Thirst, Robert McCammon.  Vampires run amok in Los Angeles, and mayhem ensues. They Thirst, along with Swan Song, are two of McCammon's finest horror novels.

3. Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons. Simmons' creations are mind-vampires, but that doesn't make them any less creepy. An epic, sprawling book that you can get happily lost in.

4. The Keep, F. Paul Wilson.  Nazis, a creepy old castle, and an shadowy, murderous force that lurks within the walls. What else could you ask for?

Also worth checking out is William Meikle's Watchers: The Coming of the King.  Meikle blends 18th Century England with wicked vamps. Highly entertaining. I'm reading this one now and can't wait to get into more of Meikle's works.

Friday, April 01, 2011

One of the All Time Greats

My grandmother was old school. If you got smart with her, you had two choices of punishment: the wooden spoon, or the yardstick. And don't think you could outrun her. I have vivid memories of being chased down with the yardstick, as if Gram were some type of Samurai warrior out to avenge a fallen comrade.  Believe me, I probably had it coming.

Gram also baked amazing pies - apple and lemon meringue were her specialties - and made a kick ass pot of chili. Her Chex Mix was legendary. I don't know what she did to it, but I've never tasted it quite like Gram made it. She would also play 500 Rummy with me for hours.  Gram was great.

She also pulled one of the best April Fools' pranks I have ever seen.

My grandmother - in her seventies at the time - showed up at our house. She carried a cardboard jewelry box with a lid in her handkerchief-wrapped hand. When she came in we asked her what was up. She proceeded to lift the lid off the box, showing her fingertip surrounded by "bloody" cotton.  She told my father, feigning panic, that she needed to go to the hospital right away. Seems she had gotten careless with a steak knife and severed her fingertip.  She thought they might be able to re-attach it at the hospital.

Dear God, we thought, Gram had cut off her fingertip. It was code red in our house. Get Gram to the hospital, stat.

After my father went scrambling for his coat and car keys, she cheerfully called out, "April Fool!" She then took her finger out of the box and waved it around, to show us it was still in tact.

Gram is twelve years gone, but I've never forgotten that prank.  Truly one of the all time greats.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Work In Progress (Excerpt)

Thought I'd post an excerpt from my current novel, currently titled The Hollow. It's my first non-supernatural horror novel, and I would consider it a thriller/horror hybrid. The Hollow came to be when my wife read a thriller/mystery I had written. Her opinion was that I did the horror parts of it very well. Not so much the mystery part. So, I took very few parts of that novel, tossed it in the literary blender, and it was reborn as The Hollow. I changed pretty much everything from the aborted mystery novel except a few characters.

My goal is to have this available for Kindle, Nook, etc. by May.  Please note, this is uncorrected copy. Please do not redistribute.  Copyright 2011 Anthony Izzo.

The Hollow

by Anthony Izzo


They were coming home.
The men stood on the bluff, careful to stay out of sight. They watched the three SUVs pass down the winding road going to The Hollow.
There was prey in those cars, fresh meat. It had been twenty years, but now the men were home. The biggest of the three, who weighed two hundred eight pounds, motioned for the other two to follow him. He opened the rear of the rusted panel truck and showed them the tools he had bought and stolen. There were drills, saws, icepicks, blowtorches. Also weapons. Knives, hatches, machetes.
The other two men smiled at this, satisfied that the big man had gotten the tools they needed.
It was early in the day, around eleven a.m. The beginning of November, and a chill had filled the stark woods.
The campers – if the were headed to the Hollow – had no idea what was in store for them. The men had stayed in the Hollow's cabins for the past few weeks, using them for shelter. The youngest of their, group, no more than a boy, really, liked to butcher small animals. He usually started with cutting off the limbs.
The young man told the two others he wanted to try his skills on bigger things.
They would give him the chance. Soon.

Chapter 1
Liz Mallory couldn't help the prickly feeling that danced on the back of her neck. She didn't like the woods, and attributed the strange feeling to her dislike of their location, but she couldn't shake it. Like they were being watched.
Liz was driving the second vehicle in the three car caravan, a blue Ford Excursion. Jamie, her seventeen-year-old daughter, sat in the passenger seat. They were off for a weekend camping trip with some of Liz's old college friends, who were in the vehicles in front and behind.
“You're quiet, mom,” Jamie said.
“Woods. Don't like them.”
“Afraid of a bear?”
“Rabid squirrels. They terrify me.”
“Your sense of humor terrifies me sometimes,” Jamie said.
Liz cracked a smile.
“We'll be fine. We're staying in cabins. I wonder if they'll have a fireplace?” Jamie said.
“Said online they did. They just reopened this place.”
Jamie said, “Oh yeah?”
Liz nodded, but didn't tell her daughter why the cabins had been closed for the past nineteen years. “Doing renovations.”
She was being jittery, which wasn't like her. The trip would be good for them. The divorce from Ken had been painful. She'd spent the better part of last year fighting with him and his lawyers, with Jamie caught in the middle. Her daughter had the strength of a grizzly, and had held up well through the ordeal. Even when Ken had called Liz a filthy whore in Jamie's presence. Liz had though Jamie was going to go for her father's throat when he'd said that. Maybe now they could start putting thing behind them, unwind. There was a twelve pack of Sam Adams in her cooler to help with that.
“Look's like Uncle Matt's stopping,” Jamie said.
“There's the cabins, that's why.”
They came around a bend and saw three cabins perched up on a hill. They had new vinyl windows, and each had a porch out front made from knotted logs. They looked cozy to Liz, and she envisioned herself in front of a fireplace, feet up, beer in hand. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.
Her friend Hannah, and Hannah's husband, Matt, were in the lead SUV. Liz had known Hannah since college. Liz's other best friend from her days at the University of Buffalo was Sonya, who was in the rear vehicle with her fiancee Kevin.
They'd planned this trip for a month, hoping to make it an annual thing.
Liz pulled to the side of the road, parked, and got out. Jamie stayed in the Expedition.
“We're here,” Hannah said. Hannah was blond and slim, and today she wore too-tight jeans and a pink sweater that looked like it'd been painted on. But it worked for her, evidenced by the number of looks Hannah got from guys whenever her and Liz went out.
“Thank you, queen obvious,” Liz said.
“I was just telling you,” Hannah said.
Matt was already striding up the hill that led to the cabins. Liz buttoned her wool coat as the wind nipped at her.
Sonya came up beside her. Sonya, petite and dark skinned, had bundled herself in a puffy blue coat, hat and scarf. Kevin joined them. He was a big guy with a face that always reminded Liz of Droopy the Dog. Sweet guy, though.
“What's our fearless leader up to?” Sonya said.
“Probably building us a shelter and starting a fire,” Liz said.
Hannah said, “Quit mocking my man. He's a take charge guy.”
Matt appeared at the top of the hill. “C'mon up.”
The rest of the group walked up to the cabins, which were arranged around a small clearing with a fire pit in the middle. They found Matt reading a piece of paper, a quizzical look on his face.
Hannah said, “Something wrong, hon?”
“I don't think these are our cabins,” Matt said.
“Uh oh Matt, you're slipping,” Sonya said.
Matt frowned. Liz knew he wouldn't like potentially looking like he was wrong.
“Well it's this goddamned printout. This says Cabin Area C, but the cabins are marked D-1 through D-3. I think we're in the wrong area. But the campground map says this should be it.”
“I'll call the manager,” Liz said, and took a printout from her pocket that had the campground info on it.
“Now just wait,” Matt said.
“You wait. I'm freezing,” Liz said, and taking out her cell, dialed the manager's office. A gruff voice answered and said he'd be right down to help them.

Fifteen minutes later, a Ram pickup truck with the words The Hollow Campgrounds on the door pulled up. A stick-thin man of about sixty got out of the truck. He wore a flannel jacket and khakis and moved with the stiffness Liz associated with an arthritic.
He came over and said, “Who called?”
“I did,” Liz said.
“We need our cabins,” Matt said.
“Name's Lee Cordo,” the man said, and offered his hand to Liz.
She shook it. “Liz. Seems we're confused about our cabins.”
“Lemme see your printout,” Lee said, holding his hand out.
“Hope this gets straightened out,” Matt said.
Liz handed the printout to Lee, who looked it over.
“They did it again, damned website. We use a third party website for our reservations. These are the D cabins, but they used to be C. You want to be in the new C area. I'll take you down there,” he said, and handed the printout back to Liz.
“Easy enough fix,” Sonya said.
Matt said, “Okay, let's go then,” and hurried towards his SUV.
“What's the matter,” Lee said, “he have a hot date.”
Hannah said, “My husband likes being in charge. We're doctors. Kind of used to it.”
“All right then. Follow me.”

Liz got back in the Expedition to find Jamie with earbuds plugged in her ears. Liz didn't know what kind of music she was listening to, but it was loud enough to be heard through the earbuds. She let it go. Liz had listened to Def Leppard full blast in her room and remembered how annoyed she would get when her mom would tell her to turn it down.
They pulled out, Lee's truck in the lead.
He led them down the road a few miles and turned right down a road that sloped into the woods. Darkness seemed to close in around the Expedition, and the little bit of sun they had was blocked by clouds.
The road continued downward for several miles into an area containing three more cabins arranged around a clearing, much like the C area cabins
They pulled into the driveway that looped through the cabin area, and Liz saw the stark difference in the cabins. These cabins were built of dark wood and seemed to blend with the woods. The paint on the windows was peeling, and moss grew on the roofs. The cabins up top had seemed cozy and cheery, where these seemed forgotten.
“This is dreary,” Jamie said.
“Maybe it won't be so bad.”
They parked the vehicles, got out, and gathered around Lee near the fire pit.
“These are older, but they're serviceable. All have fireplaces and running water.”
Kevin, who had been silent until now said, “This is kind of a downgrade from the other cabins.”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “These look pretty rough.”
“You're camping,” Lee said. “You were expecting the Hyatt Regency?”
Kevin looked to Matt, whose forehead had knitted into a frown. “We want a discount. This isn't what we paid for.”
“No discounts,” Lee said.
Liz said, “Matt, these will be fine.”
Hannah was rubbing Matt's arm, telling him to let it go.
“Hell of a way to run a railroad, right Kevin?” Mat asked.
“Maybe these won't be so bad,” Kevin said. “It's just for the weekend.”
“Look,” Lee said. “I can offer you a refund if you really don't want them.”
“Nah,” Kevin said. “We drove two hours to get here and there's nowhere around to stay.”
Matt went to the nearest cabin and started looking it over, as if performing a home inspection.
Liz looked at Sonya, who rolled her eyes. “We'll take them,” Liz said.
“Good,” Lee said. “Liz, right? I talk to you for a second?”
He motioned for her to follow him, and she did, ending up at his truck. Lee leaned against the door and crossed his arms. “You know what happened here?”
“I do.”
“We don't get much call for these cabins. My maintenance people don't even like coming down here. If you want a refund, take it now. I won't offer again.”
“I said we'll take them,” Liz said.
“Just making sure. Some people are funny about stuff like that,”
“I'm not superstitious. It was twenty years ago.”
“Okay then.” He gave a brief nod and got in his truck.

Chapter 2
The interior of the cabin wasn't much of an improvement. Upon entering, Liz smelled must combined with the smell of old campfires. The floorboards creaked, and when Liz flipped the light switch, some dim yellow bulbs came on.
Liz and Jamie brought in their bags and the coolers. The cabin had a kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms.
“Any preference on the bedroom?” Liz asked.
Jamie lugged her bag into to one of the bedrooms and Liz heard hear shriek and ran into the bedroom. “What's the matter?”
“On the floor,” Jamie said, pointing in the corner.
Liz saw what had disturbed Jamie: an animal, or what was left of one. Its red muscle was exposed, and its eyeballs bulged, as if they'd been squeezed. It's head hung at an odd angle, indicating to Liz its neck had been broken.
“It's been skinned,” Liz said.
“Gross,” Jamie said.
Liz wondered if the poor thing had been alive when someone skinned it. Why would someone do this?
Liz noticed the creature – it was hard to tell exactly what it had been – left a trail of intestines behind it. Liz told Jamie to wait in the kitchen and went to the Expedition, where she kept a small snow shovel for emergencies. After grabbing the shovel, she went in the bedroom, scooped up the remains, and carried it outside. She went into the woods and tossed it, glad to be rid of the stinking carcass.
Hell of a way to start a camping trip, she thought.
Back in the cabin, she found Jamie seated at the table. Liz went over, put a hand on her shoulder. The girl was trembling. “You okay?”
“That was freaky,” Jamie said.
“Probably some kids,” Liz said, realizing that sounded lame.
“Sick kids.”
“Some kids are. Let's try and forget about it, start unpacking. Okay? I'll take that bedroom,” Liz said.
“It'll get smoother from here on in,” Liz said.

Hannah watched Matt unpack, taking sleeping bags, pans, pots, and assorted camping gear. He did this in silence, operating with precision, as he did when he replaced knees or repaired slipped discs. She admired his surgical skills, but could never be a surgeon. Her practice as a pediatrician allowed her to talk to people up close, be personal. Surgeons were the auto mechanics of the medical world. Fix it, bring in the next one, fix it again.
Her stripped bare ovaries also had something to do with it. She loved the kids that came into the office, even the ones that puked on her.
As she entered the bedroom, something crunched under her feet. Hannah looked down and saw chicken bones. There was still meat and gristle on them, and they had a greasy shine to them. That told her they'd been consumed recently.
“What's up,” Matt said from behind her.
“Chicken bones. Looks like someone ate them recently.”
“Probably a raccoon,” Matt said.
“Why would it come in the cabin? They usually live underneath places like this.”
“Whatever. Want me to clean them up?”
“No,” Hannah said. “ I got it.”
Using a plastic bag to cover her hand, she picked up the bones, wrapped the bag around them, and tossed them in one of the Hefty bags they'd brought.
Half-an-hour later, they were unpacked, and Matt was sitting at the kitchen table reading a New England Journal of Medicine. Hannah grabbed herself a bottled iced tea from their cooler.
“Those bones still bother me,” Hannah said. “Like someone was here..”
“Animals, babe. Trust me.”
“Even if they were here, it was before we came.”
“Even if who was here?” Matt asked.
“The chicken bone eaters.”
“You mean the raccoons?” Matt said, still reading his magazine.
There would be no changing Matt's mind about it. “I'm going to text Sonya, see if she wants to take a hike.”
“Sounds good. I'll hang back. Me and Kevin can get wood together for a fire.”
“You're not coming?”
“These trails aren't much of a challenge,” Matt said. “But if you want to try them out, go ahead.”
“Suit yourself.”
Thinking it foolish to text her friend, Hannah walked over to Sonya's cabin and knocked on the door. Kevin answered, a smile on his bulldog-like face.
“Help you ma'am.”
“You going to invite me in?”
“I suppose,” he said, and stepped aside.
Sonya was standing in the kitchen, pulling a second sweater over her first.
“Chilly?” Hannah asked.
“Freezing. That back window was left open. A penguin walked by,” Sonya said.
“Last campers must've left if open.”
Sonya said, “You'd think the staff would've noticed an open window. They usually do an inspection before you check out, make sure there's no damage in the cabin.”
She didn't share her uneasiness about the chicken bones with Sonya. “I'm sure it's fine. Probably an oversight.”
“Want to take a hike while our men get the fire going? I'm thinking hot dogs over the fire for dinner.”
“Sure. Let's grab Liz, too.”

After grabbing Liz, the three women hiked up a trail that ascended behind the cabins and wound through the dense woods. Sonya had been chilled in the cabin, and even with two sweaters, gloves, and a furry hat, she still shivered. Kevin would keep her warm tonight, placing a big, hairy arm around her while they were sleeping. She'd hoped to surprise him by coming to bed with a pair of see-through bra and panties, but thought she might shiver too hard.
The three of them reached the crest of a hill and went down the other side before stopping.
“I found something weird in our cabin,” Liz said.
Sonya said, “Our window was open.”
“Dead animal,” Liz said. “Skinned.”
“Ugh,” Hannah said. “I found chicken bones that'd been eaten. They were fresh.”
“Maybe we had some squatters. Hikers or kid screwing around,” Sonya said.
Liz wandered away from the group, said, “Look here.”
Sonya and Hannah joined her. Sonya saw burnt logs and stones arranged around them. Her nose wrinkled in disgust as she saw something next to the campfire. A cat, its head severed from the body, its eyes removed.
Liz hunkered down and took a closer look. “These have been burned recently.”
Sonya was beginning to wonder if they shouldn't have canceled the reservations and gone elsewhere. Like the Hilton, where they had heat. And no mutilated animals.
Hannah said, “Let's call the owner.”
“Cops might be better,” Sonya said. “Maybe we should go home, eat the money on the cabins.”
“Matt won't go. Too stubborn.”
Sonya said, “Kevin will do what Matt does.”
Liz said, “Well, we could always leave them here. They could keep each other warm at night.”
“Thanks for putting that image in my head,” Sonya said.

Chapter 3
Lee Corvo locked up the manager's office at The Hollow and climbed into his pickup truck. His wife, Maggie, was making beef stew for dinner, which was one of his favorites. And apple pie. She would never tell him she made one, but if there was beef stew for dinner, the pie always followed.
He pulled away from the office and down the road leading out of The Hollow. Switching on the radio station, he found a sports station, the host discussing the NFL's latest rule change on blows to the head.
He drove ahead, almost to Route 16, which would take him home. There was a truck pulled to the side of the road, its hazard lights flashing.
A man the size of a small truck stood near the van. He waved his arms frantically, wanting Lee to stop. Looked like a workman's truck, maybe a plumber or carpenter. Lee'd been helped by passing motorists, one time running out of gas on Interstate 90 and having someone pull over and drive him to a gas station. Why not?
He pulled the truck over and got out. “Need a hand?”
The man motioned him closer but said nothing. Lee approached, the guy standing still, arms hanging at his sides.
“What's the trouble?”
The man stood silent. Lee got the feeling like he might be walking into something bad. A raw jolt of adrenaline pumped through his system, and he stopped. The large man still hadn't said a word, and this worried Lee more than he could have articulated. The man hadn't threatened him in any way, but this was somehow more terrifying to Lee.
Lee backed up toward the truck. The man stood still, and Lee bumped against the grill of the truck.
Something bit into his arm, a hot pain, and he turned to see another guy, this one with a face like carved granite, holding a machete. He was aware of blood leaking from his arm and drenching his shirt.
The man swung the machete again but Lee managed to get his arm up and block the blow. From there, he ran, off the road and into the woods, not knowing where he was headed. He hadn't looked at the wound, just knew it was bleeding heavily.
He heard the man grunting behind him, as if he were an animal tracking prey.
Lee stumbled through the woods, branches scratching his face. The cold air burned his lungs. He thought about not getting his beef stew and pie.
His legs began to cramp and he slowed down. Turn and fight, he thought.
Leaning on a tree for support, he turned around to see the man closing with the machete.
Before he could get his arms up to defend himself, the man swung the machete low and chopped into his leg. The pain was enormous, and he collapsed to the ground.
He looked up to see the man staring at him with eyes that were nothing more than hard slashes in his face. The man wasn't even out of breath.
Lee heard another voice in the distance say, “Keep him alive.”
Lee raised his hand, as if to ward the man off. The man swung the machete and clipped off three off Lee's fingers. Lee stared at the stumps, now jetting blood. His head swimming, darkness began creep into view, shrinking his peripheral vision. Lee knew he didn't have long to live.

The man with the machete called for the fat man. The old man's body was near a tree, and he'd bled to death within a few minutes.
The fat man said, “You shouldn't have chopped off his fingers. We could've kept him alive.”
“He's just a warm-up,” The man with the machete said. “Help me drag him.”
The killers dragged the old guy's body through the woods. The machete man went to the step truck, cleaned the machete with a rag, and grabbed a few shovels. While he was getting the shovels, the fat man pulled the old man's pickup truck off the road and left it. They dragged the old guy into the woods and buried him. The man with the machete was barely winded, but sweat poured off the fat man and soon he began to stink.
“I was hoping to catch a woman on the road,” the Fat Man said.
“Well we didn't,” the man with the machete said.
“Get in the truck. We should get off the road.”
They covered the fresh grave with leaves and walked back to the truck.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Deck For This Year

Thought I'd post an update in regards to my current project, as well as what I'd like to write for the rest of the year.

Currently, my horror/suspense novel, The Hollow, sits at around 45,000 words. I'm shooting to make it around 70-80K and hope to have a draft completed in about two months.

After that, I have a crime novella I've been sitting on. I may leave it at novella length, or see if I can expand it to a full length novel.

Beyond the novella, I have a few other ideas banked for an additional horror novel, possibly involving ghosts and a missing girl.

That's the beauty of Kindle and other e-book platforms. The writer no longer has to wait. Once the work is completed, I've done a few passes, and my business manager (who also happens to be my lovely wife of 16 years) formats it, the work is ready to go.

Look for some sample chapters from the current work in the coming weeks. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March Happenings

This month my books and artwork will be featured in the display case at the East Aurora Public Library.  I have several drawings along with my print books to go in the case. 

Also, I'll have a new short story collection entitled NO MAN's LAND available at for all e-reader formats.  Had a paragraph get cut off from the last story, and as soon as it's fixed, I will put up a link for the book on Twitter, etc.

Finally, I'm pricing NO ESCAPE at $.99 for at least the remainder of the month. Depending on how sales go, I may leave it at this price.

NO ESCAPE available at Amazon:   99 cents for a limited time.

Also at Smashwords: 

At Smashwords, enter coupon code XV62L to get the discounted price of 99 cents. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dark Lord

I am admittedly several years behind the curve when it comes to movies and television. My wife and I just now started watching the first season of The Office on Hulu. Likewise for the Harry Potter movies. My kids have seen a few of them, but I watched the first one a few weeks ago, and saw The Half Blood Prince this evening.  Watching the movies inspired me to draw Voldemort. The evil, scary characters always make great subjects for art.

I'll be displaying this pencil sketch, along with my books and other artwork, at the East Aurora Public Library. The display will be up for the month of March. If you're a local, come check it out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Author Scott Nicholson

Just wanted to take a moment to announce a new release by thriller author Scott Nicholson.  Scott's a good guy and a terrific writer.  His latest is CRIME BEAT.   Here's a description:

Product Description

Crime doesn't pay...but neither does journalism. DRM-free and 99 cents for a limited time.

A novella by Scott Nicholson

When John Moretz takes a job as a reporter in the Appalachian town of Sycamore Shade, a crime wave erupts that boosts circulation and leaves people uneasy. Then a murder victim is discovered, and Moretz is first on the scene.

As more bodies are discovered, Moretz comes under police suspicion, but the newspaper's sales are booming due to his coverage of sensational crime. His editor is torn between calling off his newshound and cashing in on the attention, plus the editor is romancing the big-city reporter assigned to cover the suspected serial killer.

And Moretz seems to be one step ahead of the other reporters, the police, and even the killer himself.

CRIME BEAT is a 21,000-word novella, the equivalent of about 80 book pages. Also contains the bonus story "Do You Know Me Yet?" from HEAD CASES.
By Scott Nicholson, #1 Kindle bestselling author in Mystery & Suspense. Nicholson is author of Disintegration, The Skull Ring, The Red Church, and other crime, mystery, suspense, and paranormal thrillers. His mystery collections include Curtains and Head Cases, and with bestselling Kindle author J.R. Rain, he's published the urban fantasy Cursed!

You can buy it here:

Check out Scott on the web at

Scott's website is loaded with articles and tons of information for writers. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Might Be a Writer.

People often wonder if they have what it takes to be a writer. I've posted some helpful guidelines to determine your aptitude for writing fiction. Signs you might be a writer...

You obsess over office supplies. The prospect of purchasing a new notebook makes you a little too excited. You purchase a pack of your favorite pens even though you have two packages of said pens at home in your drawer. Because you like the way they flow on the page.

You are willing to defend to the death the placement of a comma.

Much to your friends' dismay, you point out what will happen next in a movie.  Or you say things like, "That would never happen. Let me explain."  At this point it is perfectly acceptable for your friends to pelt you with popcorn and/or Raisinettes.

Potential story ideas are everywhere. While standing at the deli counter you wonder aloud, "What if a shadowy government agency secretly controlled the nation's supply of olive loaf?" You immediately write this idea down for fear it you will forget it.

You have three to five novels laying around at any given time because you never know when they'll be a reading emergency and you may need to grab one. The prospect of getting rid of favorite books makes you want to weep uncontrollably.

You were the kid who daydreamed during history/math/science class. While the other kids were learning about algebra, in your mind, you were defending the school from a Russian invasion (a la Red Dawn). Or you just knew a masked maniac was waiting beneath your basement stairs, and if you didn't climb them fast enough, he would surely grab your ankle and drag you into the shadows.

You start writing a piece, decide it's total crap, and vow never to write again. Ever. You promptly return to writing the next day and discover you cannot quit.

Take heed. Once the writing bug sets in, there is no known cure. May God help us all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Surviving Disaster

I stumbled across Surviving Disaster, which I guess is no longer on Spike. In the show,  former Navy SEAL Cade Courtley gives tips on how to survive worst case scenarios.  Not only did I find the show entertaining and informative, but I thought the episodes could teach basic novel plotting.

The episode where Cade shows the viewer how to survive a terror attack at a mall is quite good.
How does it relate to plotting a novel?

There's an inciting incident (the attack).
The status quo has changed for the mallgoers (nothing will be the same after this)
The mall patrons try several routes of escape (which are blocked).  They are pursuing goals and repeatedly denied.
They must come up with plans while being hunted. They must take out the terrorists at certain points.
Things go wrong (someone is wounded, they are blocked by a sniper) until they pull things together at the end.

It's worth watching not only for the survival tips, but for the mini story arcs that occur throughout the show. No matter what type of fiction you write, plotting is about throwing roadblocks in front of your characters and forcing them to deal with it. 

No Escape/Smashwords

Thanks to the efforts of my wife, NO ESCAPE is now available at

Hope you'll check it out.

Saw A Quiet Place II This Weekend

Jenn and I went for lunch yesterday, then saw A Quiet Place II at the Aurora Theater. The Aurora is a great little theater. One screen, and...