Dark and Twisted: Another Visit with Hunter Shea

I got the chance to catch up with the annoyingly talently Hunter Shea at HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnatti last month. I thought I was working hard until I talked with him.

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RRJ: It looks like you have three works in line for publication this year. In this instance, busy hands have been the devil’s workshop. When do your latest horrific tales debut?

HS: The last couple of years have been very busy, gearing up for a big 2014. My latest ghost novella, The Waiting, just came out as an ebook on April 1st (and that’s no joke!). My first thriller, The Montauk Monster, will be out in paperback the first week of June, quickly followed by Hell Hole in July. All work and no play…

 

RRJ: That’s a killer cover on your new novella. Tell me about The Waiting.The Waiting cover

HS: This is my first tale based on a true haunting that continues to this day. It centers around a newlywed couple whose bright future is turned upside down when the bride collapses on her wedding day. She survives a near death illness and is brought home on life support for her husband to care for her. Once in the house, her husband begins to hear and see strange things, the most terrifying of all being the full-bodied apparition of a young boy. The boy is fixated on his ailing wife as she fades in and out of consciousness, unable to speak. Who is the boy, and what does he want? Is he a protector of life, or a harbinger of death? To know that these people actually experienced this, and still do, is both terrifying and intriguing. I say intriguing because of the way it shows us that there is life after death.

 

RRJ: I always got creepy vibe wait out on Long Island’s East End. Tell me about Montauk Monster.

HS: This was a fun one to write. It’s based on actual strange cryptid creatures that have been washing up on the shores of Long Island for years. It’s set in Montauk, a popular tourist destination at the tip of the island. A series of brutal murders have cast a shroud of fear over the town. The police think it may be the work of wild animals, or a savage human serial killer. Oh, but it’s much more than that. Those strange creatures are real, and making their way to Montauk – alive! With government conspiracies, Plum Island secrets let loose and wall-to-wall terror, The Montauk Monster will make the perfect summer read – especially if you’re on a beach on Long Island.

 

RRJ: I got to pre-read Hell Hole and it’s horror at its best. The touch and feel of the Old West is perfect.

HS: My very western, Hell Hole takes place in an actual abandoned mining town in Wyoming in 1905. Nat Blackburn is a former cowboy, Apache tracker, Rough Rider and New York cop, sent to Hecla by President Roosevelt to find out of tales of gold are true. The only problem is that anyone who has ever gone there to search for it disappears off the face of the earth. With his companion Teta Delacruz, a Dominican gun for hire, Nat rides into the withered town. There is something in the mines, but it isn’t gold. He and Teta will come across ghosts, black eyed children, wild men and demons straight from hell. Some places are better left abandoned. I can guarantee riders a hell of a wild ride.

RRJ: Your home turf of Long Island and New York City show up in a lot of your work. Is there something that inspires horror in these locations for you?

HS: Long Island is home to a host of real horrors. From the mystery of Plum Island to widespread cancer cells, Joey Buttafuoco and serial killer Joel Rifkin, there’s inspiration everywhere. It’s so close to New York City but when you drive the length of the island, it feels so remote and removed from big city life. There’s an edge to Long Islanders, a subdued toughness that makes for great characters.

 

RRJ: What kind of research did you have to do setting Hell Hole in a different part of the world and in a different time?

HS: Watch a ton of westerns. Well, I’ve done that all my life. I did a lot of reading on the Rough Riders and cattle trails. I was looking for a locale for the story and Googled ‘abandoned mining towns’. I made a list of five and found Hecla, Wyoming to be the most fascinating. Then I was off to the library to get everything I could get about Wyoming, from travel guides to history books. Knowing my characters were going to have to take the train from NY to WY, I even did a lot of research on the Union Pacific line and how towns grew up and faltered along the line. There’s a danger of getting lost in research and information overload. It was hard to pull myself away and get to writing.

 

RRJ: I really enjoyed your self-published short story collection, Asylum Scrawls. What made you write short fiction for a change?

HS: I started writing short stories 18 years ago. A very big agent told me at a writers’ conference that it was the best way to hone my craft. So, I settled my butt in my chair and cranked out as many horror shorts as I could. Most of them will never see the light of day, but they were all a necessary part of the process. I wanted to publish something in time for Halloween, and the name Asylum Scrawls just popped into my head. It’s chock full of old and new stories, along with one by my friend, Norm Hendricks. I plan to do another edition in October this year as well, with a few more up and coming authors spreading the terror. I’d like to use Asylum Scrawls as a vehicle to highlight new talent every Halloween season.

RRJ: Covers, unfortunately, can make a book.  For the benefit of other aspiring self-published authors, tell me about the process of getting your excellent cover art for Asylum Scrawls.71FCsNA5KfL__SL1000_

HS: I’m very fortunate in that my best friend (Mike Chella) is an artist who has been studying computer animation. He’s helped me in the past coming up with graphics for other stories and books. Mike jumped at the chance to do the cover. Man, did he regret it. Apparently, no one had ever tried to render a straight jacket in CGI before, so it took way longer than he or I ever thought it would. For that, I apologize. But he has perfected something that no one else has done. And he came up with a kick ass cover. I promised him the next one would be much easier.

 

RRJ: Forest of Shadows and Sinister Entity follow the story of the same character, though both works completely stand alone. Tell me about her and why she’s driven you to write about her twice.

HS: You know, I never wrote Forest of Shadows with the intention of there being a sequel. But there was something about the way it ended, with Jessica going to the site of her father’s death when she was years away from his death that got me thinking. What would become of a girl who had witnessed what she had? Would she run from or to the paranormal? How would her experience inform her personality and life decisions? I just had to explore that, and voila, Sinister Entity was born. I’ve enjoyed writing about Jessica so much, I just finished a third book in the series titled Island of the Forbidden. It will be out in January, 2015. Jessica is one tough chick. Don’t tell her I called her a chick. She’ll kick my ass.

 

RRJ: I can only read the work of most authors, but I can also watch you. Tell me about your Monster Men podcast and where you see that venture heading?

HS: My buddy Jack and I are of a like mind, especially when it comes to all things horror. We started the podcast as a way to promote Forest of Shadows, and just have some fun, letting people in on our beer infused conversations. Honestly, I thought we’d go it a year and it would fizzle out. We’re now about to enter year three and it continues to grow. We’re branching out this year into interviews with authors, directors and paranormal enthusiasts. We have some huge surprises in store, so stay tuned. Aaarrrrggghhhh!

RRJ: Do you wife and daughters treat you any differently now that you are summoning tales of demons and skunk apes on a regular basis?

HS: They still look at me as a madman that’s escaped an institution. They’ve been so supportive every step of the way, giving me space and quiet time to work and encouragement when I’m feeling low. Now that my girls are teens, they’re helping get the word out and coming to signings and appearances. I love my family, and it’s important to have them by my side. I’m told every day how proud they are of me, and that’s better than any royalty check.

Get more Hunter at www.www.huntershea.com.

Enter a giveaway for Hunter’s book here.

 

A Great Time at HorrorHound Weekend

When you are finally comfortable surrounded by zombies and killer clowns, you know your life has changed.

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HorrorHound Weekend 2014 in Cincinnati was my fourth horror con peddling my occasionally grisly paranormal thrillers. Before being published, I’d never even attended one. With four under my belt now, I’m no longer overwhelmed by the army of terrifyingly realistic costumes or the acres of top-notch horror memorabilia for sale.

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Samhain Horror had all four of my novels available for sale and signature. I felt like a knight as I looked over that battlement of books at the surging crowd. But the wall came down quickly. A day and a half into the con, they were all gone.

I’ve only been published a few years, and am completely aware of my lowly place on the author pecking order. I’m sure that Stephen King sells more books in an hour than I sell all year. So, a few fun firsts happened at HorrorHound.

A man approached me to sign a book of mine he’d already purchased elsewhere. That was good for two shocks: first, I sold a book somewhere, and second, that they guy would take the effort to drag it here to be signed.

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I recognized readers from other cons, who had returned to buy something else I’d written. That was a huge treat. I’ll regret enjoying it after my first stalker appears.

Which isn’t likely out of this crowd, hard as that may be to believe for those who haven’t been to a horror con. The book buyers are surprisingly normal, and very discriminating shoppers of the written word.

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This con also had what I’d guess was the largest collection of Samhain Horror authors in one place ever. Quinn Langston, Hunter Shea, Jonathan Janz, Tim Waggoner, Mick Ridgewell, David Searles, Kristopher Rufty. I’ve read these authors’ works, they are all top flight. It was great to talk shop with them.

I met a ton of people, picked up some new Facebook friends, and added some Twitter followers. Not bad work if you can get it. Next stop, World Horror Con 2014, then HorrorHound Indianapolis in September. See you there. I’ll bring the books.

A Few Notes on that Final Step

This week I reviewed the copy edits from my upcoming Samhain Horror novella, Blood Red Roses. Finishing the process, there are two insights I want to share with other authors, especially indies.

1.      You need a copy editor.

You don’t think you do. Hell, I don’t think I do. But every manuscript I get back from my publisher proves me wrong. And I don’t mean you need one for minor typos, though you do. The copy editor is the master of mechanics, the one who, day after day, works with the grammatical nuances of our mother tongue. We butcher these details in our everyday speech, and as a result, like a toxic spill, those shortcuts leech in and contaminate the wellspring of our writing. With each line edit, I curse myself for mishandling the language, for forgetting one of English’s equivalents to baseball’s infield fly rule. Then I vow to never repeat that Freshman Comp mistake again. But I do.

 

2.      The copy edit phase is cool.

You say you hate it. The fun, broad strokes of creativity you loved to wield in your first draft are already painted. This is just scut work. More than likely, by now you’ve shepherded the story through three drafts plus, and you are much more excited about whatever new project simmers on the front burner.

But this is the chance for detail. The editing process also raises questions of continuity, of clarity. Did you really mean this? Didn’t your character previously say that? With a bit of your earlier unbridled enthusiasm banked, you can take a final, detailed look at those passages in question, and go break out the dusty thesaurus for the perfect word. Look at this as one last polish, the brush of the dust speck off the hood before you roll a classic car before the judges. Here you have final say on the finished product, something many movie directors and rock stars don’t have. Enjoy it! 

That’s all. Back to that new story that has captured my imagination.

Can’t wait to see the copy edits.

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Deeper Into Darkness Debuts

Thirteen new tales from beyond are now available in DEEPER INTO DARKNESS, my latest collection. Paranormal powers, ghosts, supernatural revenge. These stories are set around the world and across time. If you enjoyed TALES FROM BEYOND, you’ll love these as well.

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Availalble in paperback and Kindle versions at Amazon.com.

 

A Venture into Fairy Tales

I have several short stories in the new fairy tale-inspired benefit collection IN A LAND FAR AWAY… The same authors from the hot-selling OUT OF TIME anthology join me again for a great collection. Some are new fairy tales, some are new twists on old ones, some are just funny send ups of classics. It is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle versions, with a special deal if you buy both. All royalties go to Doctors Without Borders.

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Closing a Circle

The most amazing parts of the writing experience continue to arrive unexpected. 

In 1987, I was flying Blackhawk helicopters for a living with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. My unit was deployed to the California desert, in training for the future wars that started a year after I outprocessed. We spent about forty five days living in the sand. Peacetime army stuff, no comparison to what more recent veterans have accomplished. 

About midway through this deployment, I was informed that a chaplain had come by and dropped off a box of brand new paperbacks. I didn’t know where they came from, or how he decided we’d get them. I gave everyone in the company a shot at the treasure trove. The books disappeared until only two books were left. 

One of them was Gods of Riverworld by Phillip Jose Farmer, the fifth and final book of his Riverworld series. They are a great set of sci-fi books about a world where everyone ever born is resurrected. I’m pretty sure that there are no other books where Mark Twain and a repentant Hermann Goering share the stage. I’d finished the fourth book of the series a few months ago and could not believe my good luck. 

So for days, I spent my free hours in the blazing desert reading about people in a riverboat on an alien planet. Dozens of other soldiers were transported to other places at the same time. Good books unleash that amazing power of the human imagination in a way that movies and video games just can’t. I’d always appreciated the effort someone took to provide an escape for soldiers serving their country, but I didn’t know who to thank.

This week, the amazing author Joe Kinney clued me in that he had a route for shipping books to soldiers in Afghanistan. Coincidentally, those soldiers serve in an aviation brigade, just like I had, out of Fort Drum, NY, where I’d done plenty of winter training. So I packed up copies of my novels and sent them off. 

So while I could never thank anyone for sending me to Riverworld one last time, I was able to do the next best thing, and complete the circle I’d entered over twenty years ago. Maybe there will be a guy on a cot reading my Black Magic next week who will one day send his novels to a new generation of warriors. Stranger things have happened. 

Authors who want to send copies of their works overseas can send them to: 

SGT Baugh, Mark

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An Encounter at HorrorHound Indy

“Aren’t you tired?”

His voice kind of snapped me out of the thousand-yard stare and hundred-mile-away mindset I’d acquired. I’d been sitting, staring at the horror convention crowd pass by my signing table for over an hour without anyone even glancing one of my book covers, all intent on meeting the movie stars nearby.

I took stock of the guy who sat beside me, halfway between my publisher’s table and one for a group of costumed performers called the Ghouligans. He was in his early thirties, overweight, about a week into growing a full beard across his broad cheeks. His eyes were close-set, his short brown hair a bit messy. A snowfall of dandruff flecked the shoulders of his new, black, horror-themed T shirt.

I guessed that I must have yawned to illicit his question. “I’m a bit tired.”

“The heat takes it out of you,” he said.

Indeed, while the convention center room had been cool when I arrived to set up, the mass of moving humanity had driven the temperature and humidity into the greenhouse range by now.

“Do you know what you should write?” he added.

Even being an author, this is rarely a lead question in a conversation with a stranger.

“No, tell me.”

“You need to write a story where the hero has Asperger’s. Do you know what that is?” His trace of a lisp made him seem much younger.

“Yes, my wife’s school has several children with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

His face lit up. He leaned closer to me, though he looked just past me. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. “Really?”

“As a matter of fact,” I said, “in a story I’m writing now, a boy has Asperger’s.  It makes him the only one immune to the disease that affects everyone else.”

“That’s great! I have Asperger’s.”

I had to bite back a sarcastic “You don’t say!” Even with my limited understanding of the symptoms, which I’d acquired by osmosis from my wife, he screamed of the disability.

“I don’t interact with people well,” he said. “I want to be by myself. They make me anxious. I avoid eye contact.” He overshared, rapid fire, as if he’d memorized his symptoms and now recited them as a test answer.

“That must be a very tough load to carry,” I said.

He reached for a camera on the corner of the Ghouligan’s table.  It was a little silver digital model, several years out of date, but a step above a cheap pocket unit.

“I have this,” he said.  “It helps me. I take pictures.”

Now I recognized him from the day before. He’d been taking pictures of the Ghouligans. I’d assumed he was working with them when he’d asked to sit in one of their temporarily empty seats behind the table. I now realized he was just a convention attendee, and how inappropriate, how Asperger’s, his request had been, and how he’s just assumed the seat again today for a quick break.

“When I take pictures,” he continued, “it makes me interact with people.  It makes me get out there, out of my space. I can talk with people now. I can make eye contact.”

He made the last statement staring at my shoulder. The Ghouligan’s rep looked relieved for his reprieve. The Asperger’s man gave the camera a caress.

“It really helps me,” he repeated.

“That’s hard to do,” I said, “to force yourself out with people.”

A particularly well-costumed pumpkin-headed killer walked by. The Asperger’s man jumped up and waded into the crowd to take his picture.

I just marveled at this guy.  He was fully aware of his disability, understood it completely, and took the difficult steps necessary to better fit into the society that swirled around him. These agonizing actions ran counter to every impulse his brain sent him.  He had to ignore the programmed warnings that he’d no doubt obeyed for decades.

But worse for him, while he knew the “how” of assimilating, he probably did not understand the “why” of it all. He knew that he had to act a certain way, to push himself into uncomfortable human contact, but with the point of view of a rat traipsing through a maze. He knew the cheese was there, but the maze had to still seem pointless.

I couldn’t write irony like this. A sea of costumed people flowed through the convention looking for attention, passing in front of tables of the mega-famous signing pictures for fans, two tiers of society working hard to stand out above the crowd. The Asperger’s man was trying twice as hard work his way up to anonymous.

He came back to my table.

“When you finish that story,” he said, “with the Asperger’s boy? I’d like to read it.  When will it be out?”

I gritted my teeth. The lengthy, uncertain path to publication, so frustrating for authors, would be more so to him.

“Probably years,” I said.

His face sagged.  I handed him my card.

“Watch my website,” I said. “I’ll announce it there.”

He nodded as he looked at the floor. He took my card. Then he moved off to snap a quick photo of a vampire.

For most of us, a camera captures a moment of life.  For the Asperger’s man, it functioned as a doorway to life. I wondered if he ever even downloaded the pictures.

ISLAND GIRL is here

My paranormal romance short story, ISLAND GIRL from Gypsy Shadow Publishing is out. Available at Amazon and everywhere ebooks are sold.

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In 1851, Harrison Bartlett boards the brigantine Enchantress, running to the East Indies to escape the painful memories of his late wife. His ship sinks in a Pacific storm and he is the sole survivor. He washes ashore on a deserted volcanic island. Struggling to survive, he meets a fellow castaway, a native island girl named Anapele. She teaches him local ways and they begin to thrive. Just as they consummate the growing bond between them, events conspire to force them to decide how, or even if, they can stay together forever.