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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The Dollhouse of Nadine Earles

by Frank E. Bittinger

I remember being entranced many years ago by an article I was reading about a dollhouse built by a loving father for his little girl. In fact, the article had such a profound effect on me I cut it out and kept it pressed between the pages of a big, thick book for safe-keeping, taking it out to reread every so often. The article remained pressed between the pages of that book for nigh unto twenty years.

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Image of Nadine Dollhouse grave, Lanett, Alabama via Flikr

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After I’d bought my home in my late twenties, I eventually got around to doing what I’d always wanted to do–frame the article to hang in my office/library in my house. The picture hung on the wall from then up until 28 May 2008 when an arson fire destroyed my home along with my possessions.

Miraculously, after all the debris had been cleared away and contractors had worked on the house enough for me to move back home, I started finding some things around the house I knew had been destroyed in fire, finding them in places such as in the new upper cabinets in the kitchen, under the cushions on the new sofa, in the new bathroom medicine cabinet. I still to this day believe the ghosts tried to save things they knew held great sentimental value to me and brought them back to me, but that’s a whole different story for another day.

One of the items that made its way back to me was the framed article about little Nadine Earles and her dollhouse that had hung on the wall of a room that had been completely gutted by fire. The frame and glass were somehow intact. The article itself had a few water stains on it and it’s yellowed, but other than that it was in perfect condition. This is the framed article. It is doubly valuable to me because it is something from my childhood and because it somehow managed to find its way back to me after the fire.

Like Rosalia Lombardo, I also wrote a little bit about Nadine Earles in my book Angels of the Mourning Light.

The place is Lanett, Alabama. The year is 1933. Four year-old Nadine Earles has been hinting she wants a dollhouse for Christmas. In November, she was diagnosed with diphtheria. Her parents, Julian Comer Earles and Alma Earles, hoping to make her feel better, gave her early Christmas gifts of a doll and a tea set. But what Nadine really wanted was her dollhouse, which, unbeknownst to her, her father had already begun to build on the property.

Her father told her she would have to wait until Christmas, to which Nadine replied, in the true fashion of an expectant child, “Me want it now.”

Unfortunately, little Nadine would never get to play in her dollhouse. Weakened from the respiratory tract infection, she contracted pneumonia and died the week before Christmas, on 18 December.

Nadine Earles was laid to rest on Christmas Eve 1933.

Her favorite wanted to fulfill his promise to his little girl. He had the partially-built dollhouse moved to the cemetery. By the Spring of 1934 little Nadine finally had her dollhouse. Nadine’s dollhouse was built over her grave so she would always have it. And each year on birthdays and holidays her parents would place gifts they’d bought for their daughter inside the dollhouse. They even held Nadine’s fifth birthday there, celebrating with cake and ice cream.
Inscribed on the headstone inside:
“Our Darling Little Girl, Sweetest In The World
April 3rd, 1929 – December 18th, 1933
Little Nadine Earles
In Heaven We Hope To Meet”

Along with Nadine’s demand:

“Me want it now”

Visitors can still visit the cemetery and see it for themselves. Over the years different people and organizations have taken it upon themselves to see to the upkeep on Nadine’s dollhouse, cleaning, painting, fixing, and even decorating for holidays and occasions. Visitors come by, some stop to talk to Nadine, others leave notes and cards in the dollhouse’s mailbox.

Her mother and father are now buried in the little yard that surrounds the dollhouse, not far at all from their beloved little girl. Instead of a macabre tale, it’s a demonstration of the profound love a parent possesses for their child.

I have always wanted to visit Rosalia Lombardo in Palermo, Sicily, and Nadine Earles in Lanett, Alabama. Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to do just that.

 

Is There An Alien Buried In Aurora, Texas?

by Frank E. Bittinger

 

Do you believe? (Cue The X-Files whistling theme music now.) Do you want to believe?

In what? you might ask.

In life on other planets, of course. With scientists estimating 8.8 billion (that’s billion with a B) Earth-like habitable planets in our galaxy the Milky Way alone, Vegas would give you great odds on there being life on at least one of those planets. That’s just possible habitable planets; there are many billions more not estimated to be habitable–by our standards, at least. Who’s to say our standards for habitation are the only possible standards anyway?

Now just attempt to imagine, if there are an estimated 8.8 billion habitable planets in our galaxy alone, how many there could possibly be in the entire never ending universe. (I don’t think I can say entire in the same description as never ending.) Try this one for size: scientists can only seem to agree on an acceptable range of estimation and it is at least 100 billion to 200 billion or more galaxies in the observable universe.

That is awesome in the true definition of the word.

And why am I bringing this up?

The answer is simple: I believe there is intelligent life out there somewhere in the universe and I would like to share an incident with you that happened over a century ago in a small town, well before the infamous Roswell, NM, incident. What surprised me is it doesn’t seem as though a whole lot of people seem to know about it.

17 April 1897. Aurora, Texas. What is known as the Aurora Airship.

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This picture is of the original newspaper article that appeared following the incident in the Dallas Morning News.

As with the Kecksburg, PA, incident, there were a multitude of witnesses to what they referred to as an “airship” as it streaked across the sky early that morning. The opening of the article seems to reference the fact that this airship wasn’t a whole big surprise, stating “the airship which has been sailing across the country.”

This statement leads me to believe there had been sightings of it before the date of the crash on Judge Proctor’s farm, where the airship struck the tower of the windmill and exploded. Indeed, the author of the article, Mr. Haydon, writes of the airship’s flight trajectory and states it sailed directly over the town’s public square, basically in full view of the people, as it flew over Aurora. And not at a high altitude, either. The airship is described as flying low.

Why would this sight of an airship in the sky in 1897 startle and astound people?

This incident occurred easily over six years before the Wright brothers took their historic first controlled, sustained flight on 17 December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, so there could not have been any flying vessels cruising through the skies in 1897 because we hadn’t invented them yet. Or should I say there couldn’t have been any Earthly flying vessels cruising over Aurora, Texas, early that April morning?

Several documentaries have been made about the Aurora, Texas, airship as well as a 1986 television movie called The Aurora Encounter. The film has only the most tenuous connection with the facts as we know them concerning this incident.

There are those who claim it was debunked as a hoax, that the article was written as a joke, but the proof of that is as scarce as the evidence of a real spaceman crashing in Aurora. Mr. Haydon is long dead so we can’t ask him about his motives. And permission to excavate the grave site has been repeatedly denied. One potential explanation I’ve come across concerns an epidemic of cholera during the time period causing deaths and since these victims are buried in the cemetery, the town is loathe to stir up the soil. From my research, it seems the outbreak was spotted fever, a tick-borne infection with Rocky Mountain spotted fever being the most lethal, and not cholera. I don’t know which spotted fever caused the outbreak, but I can understand the desire to not stir up the burial ground after the outbreak victims were buried, even if it is over a century later.

So who is to say who is buried beneath the bent limb of that old tree in the Aurora Cemetery? I’d still like to visit, just because I want to do so.

After the crash of the airship, in the twisted wreckage, the townspeople claim to have discovered the diminutive body of the lone passenger, presumably the pilot. He, assuming it was a he, did not survive the crash.

The townspeople, in a display of Christian kindness, took it upon themselves to hold a funeral service for the pilot and bury him in the Aurora Cemetery, as is noted on the picture of the official plaque to the right.

Once upon a time, the child-size grave under the tree was allegedly marked by a small headstone. When people began to show too much attention or come to visit, it was apparently removed so the grave site remained unknown to outsiders. Another version says the small grave marker was stolen in the mid-1970s.

While watching several documentaries, I find it striking how the few people who remember where the headstone was located can lead researchers to the spot and GPR (Ground-Penetrating Radar) shows what appears to be a small grave in that precise location.

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Now, I’m not trying to change your beliefs. Either you believe life exists elsewhere in the universe or you don’t, and nothing I can present to you will sway you one way or the other. I simply want to make you think, and if you’re going to think it might as well be about something as interesting as this.

 

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!

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.

Check Out Our New Member

by Renee Miller

 

How’s your Sunday going? Lazy, I hope. Before I can get on with the lazy, there are updates to be posted. So, what’s up with the dolls? Well, we’re being disgustingly neglectful of this blog, but with good reason. We’re busy little bees. Also, everyone but me is kind of a jerk. (I’M JOKING FORBES. PUT THE MATCHES AWAY.)

First, say hello to the newest Deviant Doll, Frank E. Bittinger. Frank writes horror mostly, and he’s a tad eccentric. That’s how we like our dolls, right? Of course it is. Make sure to check out Frank’s book and stalk him a little. He likes that. He likes a lot of strange things, apparently.

What else? Well, Katrina Monroe (also known as Katrina Saete, because she got – ugh – married) FINALLY released her haunting Neverland re-telling, ALL DARLING CHILDREN in October via Red Adept Publishing. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. Get your ass and gear and do it.

Speaking of must-reads, Tony Bertauski has added another science fiction adventure to his list of only the best books ever. Humbug (the Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge) will be released on November 15th, BUT if you pre-0rder it, you’ll get it at the low price of just 99 cents. So what are you waiting for?

And Forbes West has also been doing things. Writerly things.  Like re-releasing his weird, but wonderful tale NIGHTHAWKS AT THE MISSION, via Auspicious Apparatus Press. Not only is his original story reworked, but there is bonus material you don’t want to miss. If you don’t buy it, he’s going to bitch and moan. We’ll have to tell him pretty things and hold him for a bit. Please, help us.

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Hanna Elizabeth has been quiet the past few months, but while being so, she’s released a haunting tale originally published in the FLYING TOASTERS anthology, titled THE MAN UPSTAIRS. A haunting little ghost story that’s perfect for a cold, dark night, as most are this time of year.

What’s what? Oh, that. It’s just Steve sobbing. He does that sometimes.

Speaking of Steve, I see you over there eagerly awaiting news about him, you frigging weirdo. If you haven’t already yet, check out his  Authors & Dragon’s podcast. HIL-ARIOUS. Steve is also working on new bookish things, but he hasn’t told us much about them yet. Stay tuned. Don’t worry, he’s only crying because he’s happy. Promise.

*Katrina, do something about him.*

The other funny-talking Doll, Christian Saunders, has a few short stories coming soon. Keep your eye on DeadMan’s Tome, because they’ll be publishing Christian’s SOMETHING BAD in mid-November. He tells us there is significant emphasis on black goo, so that’s intriguing.

And finally, there’s me. Well, I have a few novels “in progress,” such as a follow-up to Mind Fuck, called “Small’s Soldiers.” I know you’re all used to me publishing those rather quickly, but I’ve slowed down the past few months. Not because I’ve stopped writing. I’m just taking it easy and shit. By shit I mean I’m working on short fiction as well. Look for my latest, THE FRIDAY SPECIAL, on November 11th over at DarkFuse Magazine. It’s delicious, I promise.

I guess that’s all for now. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page for news, events and the occasional free goodies. We’re also planning a Christmas thing. It’ll involve festive days filled with little contests, freebies, new books, and possibly a virtual party. We know how you enjoy those. Stay tuned.