The Grave of the Female Stranger…

by Frank E. Bittinger

October, and thus Halloween, are upon us, and since the anthology in which I have a tale—Echoes & Bones—has also been released I thought sharing the tale of something I have found intriguing and creepy for many years would be appropriate.

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Like Nadine Earles and Rosalia Lombardo, I wrote about the story of the female stranger in my third novel Angels of the Mourning Light. Having spent time in Leesburg, VA, not far from Alexandria, of course I’d heard of the story and wanted to investigate further. It intrigued me even more when I found out the small amount of details known.

The grave in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery has become more than merely a local landmark; it has become a tourist attraction visited by those who want to see if for themselves and by those seeking the identity of the grave’s occupant.

The tale has been in the telling for nearly two centuries, and that only adds to the romanticism of the story.

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In the autumn of 1816, I’ve also heard the end of July, a ship from the West Indies docked at Alexandria and a handsome English gentleman and his beautiful wife, who was very sick with typhoid fever, got off. They rented the best room above The Bunch of Grapes Tavern, which was actually Gadsby’s Tavern, and the husband assisted his wife upstairs and then sent for the doctor, allegedly Samuel Richards.

Descriptions of the lady vary, from blonde to brunette, and she was said to have a pale, perfect complexion. Although I find any descriptions of her suspect when most of the stories I’ve come say she wore a veil. Even when the husband hired two woman, possible nurses, to assist with her care, she remained veiled.

Over the weeks, I’ve seen ten weeks reported, which would make some sense if the arrived at the very end of July, the lady did not recover; in fact, she got progressively worse until she passes away. Sometimes it’s reported the husband claimed she passed away in his embrace; other times I’ve read she passed away in the middle of a kiss.

Either way, the husband came downstairs on 14 October 1816 to report she had indeed passed away, and he set about making funeral arrangements, allegedly borrowing money from several businessmen to pay for the services. Still fearing someone might lay eyes on his beloved, he prepared the body himself, going so far as to seal the body in the coffin himself. And she was buried.

What appears to be a stone, sex-legged table marks her grave. It was originally surrounded by an iron railing, but that is gone, having been scavenged during the first World War.

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After the funeral, the husband exited town, leaving nothing behind.

He allegedly returned one year later on 4 October to visit the grave, staying only long enough to place flowers on the grave. Some versions tell of him returning each year close to the date of her death for twelve years to check on the grave and place flowers for her. After his visits stopped, for whatever reason. no one came to visit. Then some years later, an older man and woman, sometimes it’s said two men and a woman, distinguished, seemingly of British upper-class visited the grave, claimed to be relatives and ordered a more costly headstone–the top of the table–bearing the same inscription with the addition of another verse. Some stories state they claimed they would return with papers proving her identity and standing, but there were no other reports of them visiting again.

Other versions of the tale says the husband returned at some point, whether it was the year after or a few years after, with seamen from the ship to exhume her body and take it with him. There is a bit of a dip in the ground where it is suspected the coffin collapsed in on itself, but no other evidence to support the claim the husband ever returned to exhume the remains of his wife.

The grave marker is a stone table with six legs. On top the table is the inscription:

To the memory of a
FEMALE STRANGER
whose mortal sufferings terminated on
the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months
This stone was place here by her disconsolate
husband in whose arms she sighed out
her latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death

And allegedly the last verse, from Acts in the Bible, was added by that mysterious older couple who came to visit years later. Without evidence, the entire inscription could have been done at the behest of the husband. One a side note, could this older couple visiting years later have been the husband with another wife or companion?

Visitors will look up at the window of room 8 of Gadsby’s Tavern to see if they can catch a glimpse of her, for she has been known to look out the window while holding a candle. She has also been seen standing by her grave.

Who was the Female Stranger? Although there have been many guesses, the identity of the female stranger remains unknown to this day.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our new anthology, ECHOES & BONES, which is dark, like Halloween, and sometime funny. You can also enter to win a copy on Amazon. ‘Muricans only, because them’s the rules. Folks from other countries can go to our Facebook page for chances to win book goodies.

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Book News!

by Renee Miller

Hello, Dolls! Halloween is approaching and we’ve been busy. Get ready for Deviant Dolls Publications’ first-ever anthology, ECHOES AND BONES, which will be available as e-book and paperback on Wednesday, October 11th. But you can pre-order your copy now!

echoes and bones final kindle

The Florida Keys, a psychic, and a chipped teacup; not very interesting on their own, but together, they weave dark, sometimes twisted tales of secrets, death, mystery and fantastic discovery. Join us as we listen to the echoes and wade through the bones, to unearth the treasures hidden in our deviant minds.

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL – Michael Keyton
Cheating a houngan is bad news. A classroom won’t save you.

THE LAST READING OF MADAME SHAHRAZAD – Steve Wetherell
Stacey James makes a comfortable living pretending to talk to the dead, but a dangerous stranger is about to put her talents to the ultimate test.

THE PAST ENTOMBED – C.M. Saunders
Amanda has a tragic past. She also has a gift. Or maybe it’s a curse. Psychometry. The art of ‘reading’ inanimate objects. It’s something she has struggled with her entire life, but learned to accept. Until one morning, when she stumbles across an object at a market which brings the past and the future crashing together. There will be consequences.

WASHER WOMAN SHOALS – Liam McNalley
Between her part time job mixing drinks at her landlord’s bar and deceiving tourists as Madame Ezora, Belle earns enough money to allow for a simple new life in Key West. A strange object found on the beach, though, turns her world upside down. Now, the only way to avoid certain death is for Belle to actually contact a spirit from the other side.

MISBEGOTTEN – Frank E. Bittinger
Haunted by a memory or haunted by an actual spirit, that is the question. Even in paradise, it seems you cannot outrun the past. Will turning to one who communicates with those who have passed beyond the Veil provide answers or will it only lead to a dead end?

THIS ONE IS MINE – Katrina Monroe
Patty will look into a stranger’s past for a small fee. Now, it’s time to confront her own.

KEEPER – Renee Miller
Ford’s dusty pawn shop in the Florida Keys is full of both trash and treasure. The items he hides in the room behind the store, though, are his most prized possessions, and definitely not for sale. Rare beauty, exquisite gifts; each worth a price only Ford comprehends.

The anthology also includes bonus content like book excerpts and original short fiction by the Dolls.

To celebrate this and the many new things the Dolls have coming this month, we’re writing a series of Halloween/Horror themed blog posts, and we’re going to give away two paperback copies of the anthology, as well as two e-books, as well as other goodies.

To be entered to win, just go to the book’s Amazon page on or after the 11th of October and look for the “enter the giveaway” option. (Sorry, U.S. residents only, because Amazon’s not big on international giveaways, apparently, but there will be more chances for non-U.S. readers to win here and on our personal blogs). Stay tuned to the blog and our Facebook page for more Halloween posts and chances to win cool bookish things.

Writer’s Toolbox: The Notebook

by Renee Miller

We decided to challenge ourselves to step outside our usual writing aids, methods, tools, etc., and try something that’s either new, or that’s an often-recommended thing we usually don’t use. We’re going to try said aid/method/tool for 7 days and let you know how it works for us. Does that even make sense? Not really. Let’s move on.

I chose the notebook. Back in the day, like about ten years ago, I used a notebook all the time. I had several, actually, and wrote all of In the Bones, The Legend of Jackson Murphy, Bayou Baby, and my first ever novel that shall not be named here, in a notebook. By hand. Every single one of the 80,000+ words for each was scribbled onto paper before I typed it into our ancient, temperamental desktop computer. That’s about 400,000 words handwritten. Yikes.

And then I got a laptop and I said, screw this notebook shit. Never used one again aside from when I have ideas and I’m not at home (although, I often use my phone instead of pen and paper) or when I’m editing or outlining. However, I know a lot of writers who swear by using pen and paper in early stages, so I decided to give it another go.

Supplies: Notebook (I went with the one below, because they were 47 cents at Walmart), brand new pen

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It says “Mom’s Writing Shit” so that the hooligans don’t use it for their own writing.

Day 1:

This thing is so new and white. Just smell those crisp, clean pages. I LOVE that. Ugh. I don’t want to write in it. I must, though. Got this new pen and everything. Here goes.

First entry: Ideas I’ll never use.

Filled three pages.

Day 2:

Wrote a bit of a story in my nifty notebook. Four pages, front and back. It’s kind of okay. My hand hurts and I’m hungry. Because I don’t want to take up story pages, I made a few notes in the back of the notebook. I think this is going to get confusing.

Also, watched a documentary about haunted places. Mentioned the Cecil Hotel. So, this happened…

Day 3:

Lost the notebook. Edited a finished project instead. Stop judging.

Day 4:

New notebook. Tried to rewrite the shit I wrote in the first notebook, but I know I forgot shit. Spent two hours writing beginnings and endings. Forgot how fun that was. My hand hurts again and there’s a new season of Bones on Netflix. What? I have to let these new prompts marinate.

Day 5:

Lost my new pen. Why does writing in pencil bother me so much? Can’t find a pen in this house. Kids must eat them or something. The pencil is REALLY messing with my head. It’s just not right. Wrote a couple of chapters anyway, but I don’t like any of it. Might be the pencil, though, so I’ll sit on it.

Day 5, part two: Found a pen. Wrote over the pencil stuff. Is that OCD? I don’t know. I feel better about what I wrote now. It’s a comedic horror thing, with witchcraft, creatures, sex (of course) and lots of killing. I think it has potential. I need to research and do some outlining, but I like it.

Day 6:

Found the first notebook. I must’ve put it away, because I found it in the junk cupboard. No way anyone else in this house put it there, because they don’t put anything away. And I clearly used it at some point to make note of vet appointments for the cats…

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Anyway, I did forget a lot of stuff. Day 5’s idea about the witch comedy thing is in it, sort of. I just wrote “witches, comedy, horror.” Also, a grocery list.

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Hmm. Anyway, wrote some more in the second notebook, and I’m itching to get on the laptop and “properly” start this thing. Did some research instead. Time travel is cool. I should add that to the story. I made a note.

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Day 7:

Finally, one more day of writing with my poor, cramped hands and then I can get cracking on the keyboard. I made a feeble attempt at it today. Didn’t get very far. I did list all the names I’ve ever used in my stories/books. I’ve used a lot. Going to have to get creative soon, eh? Yeah. Sigh. Of course, minor character names are recyclable, so it’s not so dire. Right? Right?!

New list: Names I haven’t used.

Conclusion:

The notebook is handy, for ideas. It’s not so handy for someone who writes bits and pieces of story impulsively and rapidly, and it’s not at all organized. I lose things constantly, as we’ve seen. If I were to use a notebook regularly, I’d need several. One for ideas, one for general bullshit like character names, and one for each story I’m working on. I’d probably lose track of one or two, so I’d end up with at least a hundred notebooks lying around. That’s too much paper for this girl.

However, it really does get the creative juices flowing, so I think I’ll save it for those times when I feel like I’ve run out of shit to write.

Any unusual writing tools/aids/tricks you’ve heard of, but haven’t tried? Which ones have you tried and would recommend?

The Great NYT Bestseller List Rip-Off

by C.M. Saunders

It is the dream of many would-be authors to get on the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s the kind of thing that can make or break entire careers. Keep that in mind when you consider the recent furor surrounding a little-known author called Lani Sarem, who allegedly bulk-bought her YA fantasy novel, “Handbook for Mortals” to the top of the famed New York Times bestseller list.

It shouldn’t happen, but it did, and the NYT were justifiably embarrassed about it. So much so, that they pulled the book from the list. Whether as a direct result of all this bad publicity, or just because it sucks, the book itself has been absolutely blasted by critics and reviewers. I thought the first order of business would be to find out more about the mysterious Lani Sarem who is either an exciting new name on the literary scene or a massive fraud.

In amongst all the name-dropping, on her social networks the self-styled rock n’ roll gypsy describes herself as a ‘writer and actress.’ She is indeed on IMBD, but the pinnacle of her acting achievements to date seems to be an uncredited role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Over on Twitter, where she has less than 1600 followers, her bio describes her as a ‘festival expert.’ Checking out the book on Amazon (where it has attained a 2-star rating) the first thing you see is a forward written by one ‘Skye Turner’ praising Sarem and her considerable talents. The suggestion is that Sarem wrote this about herself. There is an active writer using the name Skye Turner who churns out low-brow erotica, but that’s obviously a pseudonym and the only other Skye Turner my search turned up was an Australian heroin addict who died back in June. Stranger and stranger. Finally, $9.96 for the Kindle edition? Really? Maybe I’m wrong, but all this smells a bit fishy to me.

Anyway, enough of the supposition. Let’s move on to some facts. For the record, writers bulk-buying copies of their own book under the pretence of selling them at events and signings is nothing new. It’s common practice for most indie authors, and has the dual-purpose of propelling their book a few places up the Amazon charts. I’m not defending Sarem, but that’s the reality of the situation.

Something that bothered me much more than her being accused of buying bulk copies was learning that the NYT Bestseller lists are, ‘Based on sales figures and editorial judgement. It is thought the team compiles a list of books they believe to be top sellers and asks a confidential group of several thousand retailers to provide sales data on those titles with the option to write in other titles that are selling well.’ (Source: The Times)

Wut?

Wait a minute, so… Some folk who work for the New York Times GUESS which books they think are selling well, then use ‘judgement’ to add extra credit where due? That’s bullshit. Obviously, this ‘judgement’ will encourage them to lean toward their favourite writers, or books put out by more the prestigious publishing houses, or even the ones backed by the most generous PR departments who take influential journalists and critics to the nicest restaurants. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that is what’s happening.

Why not base the list on sales alone?

At the very least, the system they currently have in place where so much credence is given to subjective ‘judgement’ gives a biased representation of which books indeed head the charts, and makes it doubly hard for new writers (or old writers with smaller publishers) to penetrate the bubble. Imagine if the Premier League table was decided in the same way as the NYT Bestseller list. You would have a group of journalists, all with their own biases, arguing that the club they support (undoubtedly one of the big guns) is the best in the country. Less fashionable clubs like West Brom, Stoke City and Burnley wouldn’t stand a chance.

Regardless of what Laini Sarem did in order to achieve it, the fact remains that during a specific time period, her book sold more copies than any other. In fact, she sold over 18,000 that week, while the average figure for most books hitting the top spot is more like 5,000. But she has been vilified just because some stuffy industry bigwigs didn’t like the way she sold them.

Reading Habits

by C.M. Saunders

 

Like a good little writer, I read a lot. You might say obsessively. All things considered, I guess I read between 2-4 hours a day. I read widely, across a lot of platforms and topics, but mostly in the sport, lifestyle, travel and paranormal areas. These are the areas I usually work in, so being knowledgeable helps me follow trends and keep my finger on the pulse.

Newspapers

Yeah, I know they are going out of style, but I’m keeping the dream alive. For me, The Times is the best newspaper out there. I don’t agree with all their politics. In fact, I usually skip those sections. But they have excellent writers and the articles are usually not only newsworthy but informative and often a bit quirky. There’s something quintessentially British about The Times, and I love how it treads the line between broadsheet and tabloid. My ‘happy place’ is a quiet pub on a rainy afternoon, with a pint of craft ale and a copy of The Times.

If I can’t get a copy of The Times, the Guardian will do, or the Observer on a Sunday. I never get The Sunday times because it’s like a metre-squared fucking Argos catalogue. My tabloid of choice is The Sun. It gets a lot of bad press (ho ho!) but it serves a purpose and the sports pages are outstanding. Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail are my regional newspapers when I’m in Wales but I rarely buy them these days. The quality of local journalism has nosedived. It’s largely due to less people reading newspapers and consequently their resources taking a hit, but you could argue that one reason less people are reading newspapers is because the quality of the product isn’t what it used to be. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. My most hated newspapers would be the Metro, because it reads like it was written by a bunch of 6-year old’s, and the Daily Mail, because that’s why.

Magazines

Ten years ago, there were eight or more different magazines I bought religiously every week or month, depending on their frequency. Sadly, most of them are gone now. Of the few that remain, the only one I subscribe to (and I have done for twenty years or so) is Fortean Times. I like the crazy. I also buy Classic Rock almost every month, and either GQ or Esquire. Both are slightly pretentious, but they are the closest thing remaining to FHM and Loaded, and they make decent toilet reading. I also like going to large newsagents and impulse buying whatever catches my eye. I grab Kerrang! Empire, Fighters Only and Mojo semi-regularly, along with the occasional travel title or hobbyist writing magazine. One day I woke up hungover, fully-clothed in my bed, covered in about £35 worth of mags. What a glorious day that was. When in London, I make sure I pick up whichever free mag is being distributed that day, Sport and Shortlist being pick of the bunch, with Escapism and Red Bulletin third and fourth.

Websites

I spend a lot of time surfing the net, but there aren’t many websites I use on a regular basis apart from Facebook and WordPress. Does Wiki count? How about Bet 365? Otherwise, MMA Fighting, Louder Than War a and BBC News are probably my most visited. I habitually used Wales Online a lot until recently. But this outlet is suffering in much the same way as the print products Media Wales oversees is. In an effort to maximise profits, the quality of reporting has declined to laughable levels and the site is literally clogged up with advertising. It often takes several minutes to load, and when it finally does you are inundated with pop-ups. Sometimes you have to participate in a survey before you can even read the article you clicked on. I understand they have to (try and) make a profit, but that’s just intrusive. Life’s too short.

Books

I try to read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. I love sports autobiographies, travelogues, and rock memoirs, along with a healthy dose of true crime and the occasional tale of survival-against-the-odds.

The fiction I read is almost exclusively in the horror genre (as broad as that is). If there are no ghosts or zombies, or at least a demented serial killer on the rampage, I get real bored real fast. I’ve never been the kind of person to read one book at a time, but only when I wrote this post did I realize how bad things have got. I really should show some more composure, but there are just so many books and so little time. At the moment, I have no less than seven on the go. For the interested, these are:

Physical copies:

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, Neil Strauss

PDF’s on the PC:

DOA 3, various authors

Wild Talents, Charles Fort

And on the Kindle:

Sinister Scribblings, Matt Hickman

Unit 731, Craig Saunders

Battlefield, Amy Cross

 

 

 

 

13 of My Favorite Horror Films Based on Novels

by Frank E. Bittinger

 

There is nothing I enjoy more than reading a good book, unless it’s watching a good movie, and the best movies sometimes are adaptations of good books. So I decided I would compile a list of exactly that:

13 of My Favorite Horror Films Based on Novels

 

1) 81aLjz1NVULRosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)  (film)
Both the book and film are hauntingly stylish on a subdued grand scale. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. It’s fun to root for the bad guys when they are this fantastic. Beethoven’s Für Elise being played on the piano in the background, coming from another apartment somewhere in the Bram, only ups the creep factor. The phrase “Rosemary’s baby” has become part of the lexicon to describe a certain type of child.
 

 

 

 

 

2) 612btb6d1kylPsycho by Robert Bloch (1959)

Psycho (1960)

If you don’t know the name Norman Bates then you must have never had access to books, television, or films. This film can scare the hell out of you, even if you go into it telling yourself it’s a black comedy. Hitchcock reportedly bought the film rights for $10,000 because Bloch had no idea to whom he was selling them, and Hitch tried his best to keep the plot of the film a secret for as long as possible, including buying up copies of the book so people couldn’t read it and see the ending.
 

 

 

 

 

71tup2wmlzl3) The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957)

Village of the Damned (1960) (Film)

Village of the Damned (1995) (Film)

Knowing Cuckoo birds are notorious for destroying the eggs of other birds and replacing them with their own for the other birds to hatch and raise is a stunning parallel for the children in both the book and movies. The unknown origin of the children is one of the things that makes the storyline so successful.
 

 

 

 

 

51y2b2birj5cl4) Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta (1975)

Audrey Rose (1977) (Film)

It’s a haunting story that sheds light on the possibility of previous existences. It also shows how far a parent will go in the name of love for a child.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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5) Haunted by James Herbert (1988)

Haunted (1995) (film)

Possibly my favorite haunted house book because it includes all the creepy ambiance you could ask for. The film version is a good adaptation—as a standalone film it would be very good—but it would have been much better had it not altered some extremely significant plot points from the novel. I won’t give spoilers, but they should have kept these plot points the same.

 

 

 

 

61fro6wv-al6) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (1971)

The Exorcist (1973) (Film)

Deeply disturbing and engrossing storyline. This, like Psycho had done, terrorized the audience in a whole new way. I still say Linda Blair was robbed of her Academy Award.
 

 

 

And

 

 

412brq7buo0lLegion by William Peter Blatty (1983)

The Exorcist III (1990)

This book and film are vastly underrated; both are well-done and stylishly dark, and the film contains a scene that makes me jump every time I watch it even though I know it’s coming. It’s creepy in a spectacular way.

 

 

 

 

 

 
41uv2kh62sl7) The Bad Seed by William March (1954)

The Bad Seed (1956) (Film)

Children can be damned creepy in horror films–Gage Creed in Pet Sematary is arguably the finest example of this—and the young actress who plays Rhoda does a bang-up job in this film. And, :Ike Rosemary’s Baby, the phrase Bad Seed has become a description for a certain type of child.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51kjorxwool8) The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (1986)

Hellraiser (1987) (Film)

Utterly original, grossly terrifying, and you cannot tear your eyes from the page or the screen. This is the origin of the iconic horror figure the Cenobite Pinhead. Clive Barker has a way of uncovering nightmares and bringing them to life.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51qbcihh4xl9) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

The Woman in Black (1989 British television film)

The Woman in Black (2012) (Film)
A dark, Gothic ghost story that captures your attention. The story unfolds in such a way you are on the edge of your seat, and the woman in black elicits both your sympathy and your terror as her secrets are revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31vdyeyuqxl10) Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)

Ghost Story (1981) (Film)

It is just what it promises: a ghost story. And, man, is it well-done. The book is well-written, the film is well-acted, and it’s an experience to enjoy on a winter’s night. It just goes to show you the past can come back to haunt you because it doesn’t have an expiration date…and sometimes revenge is better than Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 
356450811) Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardie (1941)

The Uninvited (1944)  (Film)

Not a horrific ghost story, not an especially scary one, but significantly creepy and sometimes that’s all you need to have to enjoy an evening. Settle in and allow the creepiness to unfold.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41xgd7qx6pl12) Thor by Wayne Smith (1992)

Bad Moon (1996) (Film)

The book is different from the film in that it tells the story from the German Shepherds point of view, a unique way to tell a story. The movie version met with unfavorable reviews, but I liked it and I’m not a werewolf type of guy.
 

 

 

 

 

 

61rf6gkjt-l-_sx319_bo1204203200_13) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

Disturbing. That’s the best way I can describe this story. Delightfully disturbing and this film version is the one I enjoy watching the most out of all the versions I’ve seen.

 

 

 

And maybe some time in the near future there will be a film version of my own Into the Mirror Black or Rhayven House!

Writer’s Block

by C.M. Saunders

For better or for worse (usually worse), I’m involved in a lot of groups on Facebook, Linked In and the like, where writers of varying descriptions flock together to discuss various aspects of ‘the craft.’ The one topic that crops up more than any other in these groups is writer’s block.

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            The thing is, and feel free to fight me on this if you want, but I don’t think writer’s block exists. It’s a myth perpetuated by hobbyists with delusions of grandeur. The kind of people who sit in the corners of cafes and coffee shops with expensive tablets and a skinny latte because ‘that’s where they do their best work.’

            You’ll find these pretenders haunting most establishments. The trendier the better. They’ll sit quietly, smoothing their beards thoughtfully, adjusting their beanies, and making a single hot beverage last three-and-a-half hours. A smug half-smirk will be tugging at the corners of their mouths, and if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear their inner thought process.

            I am a gifted individual. People envy me. I write, therefore I am. My words will change the world. But wait, no I don’t want to write any more. Right now I’d rather be checking the Ted Baker website to see if the new knitwear collection is available for pre-order yet. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Must be writer’s block. I’m a tortured artist! The angst! Oh, dear creative God’s, deliver me from this hell!

            I recently remarked to one of the many ‘WRITER’S BLOCK. AAARGH!” comments that clog up my newsfeed most days that, in my opinion, writer’s block is something that separates the pros from the pretenders. It didn’t go down very well with the supposed victim. I wasn’t being pretentious. The point I was trying to make is when faced with adversity, pros will find a way over, around, or through the obstacle preventing them achieving their goals. Whereas hobbyists, who would just as happily be doing something else anyway, will just give up.

            But here’s the rub. They don’t want to admit giving up so easily. That would show weakness, and a lack of integrity. So they pin the blame on something other than themselves instead. Something intangible and unquantifiable, some mysterious ailment that only the supremely gifted can suffer from.

            Writer’s block is a luxury professionals can’t afford. If they don’t write, they don’t eat and they get evicted. Simple. Have you ever heard of plumber’s block? Dentist’s block? Estate agent’s block? No? That’s because there’s no such thing. Sure, sometimes they have days where they don’t feel like going to work. Just like there are times when you don’t feel like doing the washing up, or changing the bed. That’s when you put your head down, grit your teeth, rise above it and get the job done.

            Just to be clear, I have no problem with people writing as a hobby. Quite the opposite, in fact. Generally speaking, I think the human race in general could benefit from reading and writing more. Then maybe a higher percentage of people would be able to spell and punctuate properly and we wouldn’t be such a nation of fucktards.

            One acquaintance of mine who complained of suffering from writer’s block said the only thing that alleviates the condition is playing video games, so he did that for three months. Three fucking months. Wait a minute, are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer playing video games? Because it sure seems that way. Incidentally, this writer was unpublished, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not knocking his ability. Who am I to judge? The guy might be a very good writer. Hell, he might even be the best writer who ever lived. The thing is we’ll probably never know, because when the chips are down, he boots up Halo. How many dentists out there do you think take three-month sabbaticals where they don’t work, they just play video games?

            I understand that maintaining writer’s block doesn’t exist might be a controversial view.  Message boards and chat forums, even the odd serious article or academic paper, argue otherwise. But what’s really happening here is people misdiagnosing the condition. Writer’s block is an excuse to give up when things get tough. Or, in most cases, an excuse to not do something you don’t even have to do in the first place. Some writers like to blame their inadequacies on things that are beyond their control. It makes them feel better about being fucking lazy.

            I want to leave you with this thought. Real writers write. They don’t sit around pissing and moaning about how hard it is. Those that do it on a regular basis know it’s hard. It’s not the exciting, romantic existence some people seem to think it is. If you’re not enjoying it, or you’re struggling with your latest case of writer’s block, the one that stops you from ever actually writing anything, go find something else to do. Don’t take to social media to bare your soul every ten minutes. It’s boring.

            If you want to be a professional, or at least acknowledged as such, act like one. Grow a backbone. Learn about sacrifice, resilience and endeavour. I’m sure Stephen King, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum would love to kick back and spend three months at a time playing computer games, or watching Friends, or whatever the hell else floats their respective boats. But they don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have written all those books.

            You see? Pros and pretenders.

Privately Publishing and Promoting Your Novel

By Frank E. Bittinger

            After you have written your manuscript and polished it to the best of your abilities, your attention turns to putting your novel out there for the public to read. Deciding to privately publish your written work, instead of or after you have submitted your manuscript to mainstream publishers, is arguably the second most important decision you will have to make in your professional writing career—the first being your decision to begin a writing career.

 Speaking as an author who has chosen this route, I know the effort that goes into researching private publishers, for there are literally dozens and perhaps hundreds out there from which to choose.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to select a publisher who can make your book available to Ingram Book Group, the largest wholesale distributor of books in the world, because most book stores order product from Ingram instead of from individual authors or publishers. If one of your goals is to make your book available to chain stores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, it is imperative for your chosen publisher to have the capability to make your work available to Ingram. This also gets your foot in the door when approaching book stores about scheduling signings for your novel, but we will talk more about that later. Amazon also offers a nice publishing set up and your work will be available on their sites worldwide.

My second piece of advice is to select a publisher who can offer you the total package. Watch out for those who will offer you a list of services—such as cover design, ISBN assignment, etc—priced individually as extras even if they claim the basic publishing is free. Request publishing guides so you can gain a better understanding about what the publishers have to offer you. And look for deals. Many times publishers will have incentives for submitting your work by a certain date. For instance, if you submit your manuscript by such and such date, providing it is ready to be submitted, you may get a bigger discount on copies or a certain number of copies free. And do not be afraid to ask the hard questions such as “If I am paying to have my cover art designed, do I retain the copyright or will I have to pay a royalty to the artist if I choose to use the artwork on publicity posters or postcards printed in order to promote my book?” (A hint about cover art or editing: Local colleges and universities are full of students looking for projects as part of their class work or work experience; seek them out!)

Take your time and do the research, get the most for your time and effort. It will be worth it.

If you find one or more publishers who look good to you, remember you have the ability to go to the bookstore or library to check out books they have published, to see firsthand the quality of the merchandise. Look at the binding, the quality of print and the paper on which it is printed, the dust jacket, and any and all artwork on or in the book. You want your published work to be something of which you are proud, as well as a book that will hold up to more than one reading.

Once you have made your decision and your book is in the process of being published, the next step is planning your battle strategy for promoting your novel. It’s never too early to begin promoting, unless you have not yet written the book.

Local newspapers and magazines are a terrific way to get exposure. They are usually interested in artists living in the community and may be able to offer you an interview or an article. Radio stations are also a viable option. Remember, you can offer one or two autographed copies of your novel as “give-aways” to the above-mentioned to sweeten the deal.

Bookstores are always on the lookout to host author signing events. This is why it is imperative to have your book available to Ingram Book Group. Don’t be afraid to go to bookstores and introduce yourself. Tell the manager or assistant manager you are an author, take a copy of your book with you, and you are interested in scheduling local book signings. Ask if your book is available for the store to order. Persevere, for every no you get, you will get a yes.

Libraries are also places which host author signings and offer a great opportunity for promotion. In most communities, when an author donates a copy of his or her book to the library, the local paper or magazine will print an article and perhaps a photograph.

Find out if there are any book clubs in your area. A good source for this information is the library and the newspaper. You will often see blurbs in the paper or flyers in the library for these events. Make your offer attractive to the book club, tell them you are available to come to the club meeting to discuss your novel and to answer any questions. Trust me, readers discuss the books they read with family, friends, and other people they know. My experiences with book clubs have proven to be enriching and worthwhile.

Offer to give readings: this is where an author will read excerpts from his or her work at events. This is an excellent way to intrigue people who may be walking by or merely browsing. Select what you believe are some of the best scenes from your book, ones which will capture the attention or imagination of your audience.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer about promotion and publicity is to network, get out there and get to know people. Hand out bookmarks and flyers, mail postcards, and, yes, even give away a few copies of your novel. Word of mouth has proven to be the most effective method of advertising and it’s free in most cases. The more people you have talking about your book, the more publicity you will have.

You can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. Be active.

Get your book out there—get the buzz going.

Would the ‘Real’ Stephen King Please Stand Up?

 

By C.M. Saunders

 

 

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed (okay, people with actual social lives probably haven’t) but there’s been a storm brewing over on Amazon for some time now. It concerns the prolific writer Stephen King, who has sold somewhere in the region of 350 million books since his first novel Carrie came out way back in 1973, and another writer, also called Stephen King, who hasn’t sold quite that many.

The thing is, he’s sold a few. Probably a few thousand. Mainly to people who think they are buying books written by the other Stephen King. The famous one. Or, as they like to call him, the ‘real’ one. People are upset. Some call bullshit, others throw words like ‘fraud,’ ‘charlatan’ and ‘fake’ around. Some have even alluded to some kind of Amazon conspiracy geared to selling more books. As if the ‘real’ Stephen King didn’t sell enough for them as it is. The vast majority of these readers feel they have been duped and leave scathing reviews mostly centred around the fact that they didn’t receive what they thought they would be receiving, i.e. a book by the right Stephen King. Some sample review headlines include: Buyer Beware! NOT the real Stephen King! Beware of Imitation! Why Try and Fool the public?! Fake! Outright Lie! And my own personal favourite… Muck from a Loser!

I think it’s fair to say this guy is really suffering at the hands of the buying public. There have been masses of complaints, a lot of discussion, and it’s a hot topic on various forums and message boards. Even one on the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, which was forced to issue a response. 

It’s also a common topic on fan sites, and personal blogs, where people, quite simply, be losing their shit…

Even other well-known writers are having their say. 

It probably doesn’t help that when you search Amazon for Stephen King books you get a selection from both blokes, and a lot of the ill-feeling seems to stem from the fact that Amazon ‘recommend’ books by both blokes to readers, based on their buying and search history. This begs the question, would you buy a Morris Minor just because it had a Rolls Royce badge on it? Of course you wouldn’t. Unless you either wanted a Morris Minor with a Rolls Royce badge on it, or are just dumb as fuck. Amazon as an organization are very strict when it comes to fraud and other such matters, and rightly so. You can bet after they received the first batch of angry complaints they investigated the issue thoroughly.

Now, here’s what I think happened…

Amazon approached the ‘fake’ Stephen King and demanded he prove his identity. And you know what? He did. Because his name really is Stephen King. It’s quite a common name, believe it or not.

I might be in the minority here, but I can’t help feeling a bit of sympathy for the guy. Imagine his delight when his book suddenly started selling by the proverbial truckload, then his dismay when he realised most, if not all, those people who bought his book did so accidentally. And then blamed him for their mistake. It’s hardly his fault he was given the same name as one of the greatest writers on the modern age. It might not even be his intention to try to ride the ‘real’ Stephen King’s coattails. We don’t know, because he hasn’t broken his silence yet. He’s probably in hiding because of all the people who want to string him up by his balls.

Of course, he might just be trying to make a fast buck. Maybe he doesn’t even like writing. Judging by most of the reviews, he isn’t very good at it. In which case he deserves everything he gets, but let’s err on the side of caution and go with ‘innocent until proven guilty.’

I can’t help thinking most of the fault lies with the people who allowed themselves to be ‘duped’ then kicked up a storm over it, probably because they are angry with themselves. I mean, any release by the ‘real’ Stephen King is big news. You hear about it all over the mainstream press. His books don’t just slip into the Kindle Store unannounced. And if people had enough common sense to do the most basic research before hitting the ‘click to buy’ button, none of this would have happened. How about checking the ‘real’ Stephen King’s website, or doing a quick Google search to see if there are any new releases?

The more savvy might note that the ‘fake’ Stephen King’s books aren’t put out by Simon & Schuster, the ‘real’ Stephen King’s publisher. Or, indeed, any publisher. On top of all that, the covers are amateurish. At least, they aren’t what you’d expect from a major publishing house. And any self-respecting ‘real’ Stephen King fan should be able to smell a rat just from reading the book description. To make it REALLY easy for the dullard consumer, Amazon even post a disclaimer next to fake’ Stephen King’s books.

Please Note: If you are looking for books by Stephen King, bestselling author of Doctor Sleep and The Shining, please visit his author page.

Yet, ‘fake’ Stephen King still has three books in the Amazon #10 at the time of writing. That’s more than the ‘real’ one.

Isn’t it ironic?

 

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Do you love a party?

 

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Happy Friday, Dolls! Here at Deviant Dolls we have two priorities: writing and readers. Keeping that in mind, we try to make sure we thank you, readers, for your support. For example, every Monday on our Facebook page, we give away freebies to a lucky reader. Of course, you have to like the page to be eligible for said freebies, but that’s easily done, right? Right.

And we’ve committed ourselves to connecting with you in whatever ways we can manage. This includes hosting regular virtual “release” parties. That sounds kind of kinky, eh? It’s not that kind of release. Some of us publish new books on a somewhat frequent basis, and others are simply too shy to make a lot of fuss when new titles are available. We also know you guys are too busy to get excited about every new release we offer.

So, we’re going to celebrate both our new books and you, lovely reader, every few months by drowning you in shits, giggles, and goodies. Sounds exciting, yes?

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Over the next few months (and during the past few months) your Deviant Dolls have been working hard to give you something new and exciting. For example, this summer, Christian Saunders released No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches, while Renee Miller released Mind Fuck, Steve Wetherell released the audio version of Shoot the Dead, and Katrina Monroe popped her self-publishing cherry with A Tale du Mort. In September, we look forward to the third installment of Renee’s Fangs and Fur Series, titled Dragons, Dicks, Sins and Scribes (she’s nuts), and Katrina will be releasing All Darling Children with Red Adept Publishing. And we’ve got more to come.

For now, look at this delicious cover…

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Keep an eye on the Deviant Blog, because we’ll also be doing a Christmas Blog Hop and virtual party to celebrate new fall/winter releases by dolls such as Tony Bertauski, and yeah, probably Renee too.

The first of these parties will be September 18th. You can get all the details on our event page on the Facebook. Goodies will include Deviant Doll titles, as well as a few new books from our Deviant friends. We’ll also be showering you with cool “fan” stuff from our store. You can check out some of that right here.

Can’t make it to the party? Don’t worry. We’ll still be giving away cool stuff every Monday, and we’ll offer a few goodies in the weeks leading up to The Big Day. Stay tuned.