Copy Edits With Old Friends

Here’s how writing a novel works, at least for me. I spend about a year creating it. A first draft, a second draft, then a third draft after another round of revisions from Beta readers. Then it goes off to my publisher. With luck my editor buys it for publication sometime in the next year.

So a few months before it gets published, I get the copy edit version back. This has notes and correction from my editor, the amazing Don D’Auria, and a copy editor. If I did well with the first three drafts, these are usually minor continuity errors, typos, and a few review lessons on embarrassing grammar points I’d forgotten. This my last chance to get the whole thing right. Whatever goes back to Samhain from here gets sent out to the rest of the world.


This week I got back Q Island which releases in June. In the story, Long Island, NY becomes a quarantine zone as a plague breaks out. The victims become ultra-strong psychopaths, bent on murder. The island goes to hell. One woman, Melanie, finds out her son is immune, and this is the story of her escape attempt.

I could just check and approve changes and corrections, but instead I decided to re-read the whole thing. What am I finding?

First, the copy editor is apparently a much bigger fan if commas than I am. I swear the whole thing is two pages longer now.

Second, I really like these characters. The heroes, the villains, the ones in between. Honestly, after beating the thing to death for twelve months, I never wanted to see the book again. But it feels good to visit with Melanie once more, feel the strange combination of love and frustration she experiences with her autistic son. I missed old Samuel, the GP doctor who ends up treating Patient Zero+One, and watch the spread of the epidemic through his eyes. But the bad guy, Jimmy Wade, now he’s a trip. A nickel-and-dime crook and perennial loser, he gets infected and instead of going psychotic, he goes telepathic, though a little psychosis still develops. What fun watching him grow into his role as Long Island’s new crime lord.

In a few months, Q Island will hit the stores, and the rest of you will get to meet these friends pulled from my subconscious. I think you’ll like them, or hate them as need be. I’m sure that you’ll enjoy Melanie’s desperate attempt to get herself and her son off Long Island before Jimmy Wade and his thugs or the growing army of the infected can get to them. I mean, I’m enjoying reading it. And I know how it ends.

Update #2 The Impact of Kindle Lending

I did an earlier post on the impact of Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited option on book sales for MLG Publishing’s benefit anthology OUT OF TIME. My theory, based on limited data, was that Kindle Unlimited would add new lenders without impacting sales much. The process was only a few weeks old, and I promised an update after a few more months. Here’s the update:

To review, Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), from the author’s point of view, both do the same thing. They make the book available for Kindle users to borrow. Amazon pays the author for each borrow instead of paying a royalty for each paid download. The amount paid, unfortunately, is up to Amazon’s discretion. They set aside a pile of money and then divide it equally, one share for every borrow. A 99 cent short story earns the same as a thousand-page $14.99 piece of high fantasy. People’s concern was that the overall impact on sales, and more importantly, income, would be negative.

OUT OF TIME went on sale in 2013 as a 99 cent benefit anthology for Doctors Without Borders. It sold hot straight out of the gate and we’ve sent thousands of dollars to this worthy cause. The initial spike in sales calmed down after a few months and settled into a steady weekly volume. All the graphs you will see below start at the point the volume appeared to be steady. All volume numbers are just relative references. Let’s look at sales first:

oot chart sales KOLL was always active, but KU kicks in week 17 on this chart. Sales volume through week 21 is pretty uniform, then there is a drop through week 30, and a bottoming out at a new level from week 31 to 44. Volume spikes back up in weeks 45 through 47, but I attribute that to the release of a second time travel anthology by the same authors, STILL OUT OF TIME, which I think spurred a new set of sales.

Now let’s look at lending:

oot chart lend

Week 17, KU kicks in and from then on lending rises through about week 30, then pretty much stabilizes when you average the high and low weeks that are coincidentally next to each other most of the time.

So sales are down, lends are up. The sum is shown below:

oot chart total

The overall trend holds with the sales trend. Starting at week 31, total units moved goes to a “new normal”, roughly 45% less than before KU went active. Sales of any item drop over time, so it may be presumptuous to think that OUT OF TIME would sell at the weeks 1-20 level forever, but it does look like KU is a pretty good suspect for the sudden drop, even though the book is popular through KU itself.

An economist might say that demand, with some product being available free, could be measured not in dollars, but in readers’ time available to read. This fixed demand is now spread across a larger supply, because free books extend the reach of the reader, despite limited disposable income. This relationship (more supply, fixed demand) will depress most individual sales, though the sum total over all books will most likely rise until readers’ available time to read is filled.

Read that a few times so it sinks in. End result, the reader wins. Amazon goal #1 met.

Does the self-published author win? Hmm. First let’s see what the self-pub guy gets per sale. These are the dollars earned per unit of OUT OF TIME over the last few months:

oot chart ku cash
June is the last month with KOLL only. KOLL had a much richer payout, by design, than KU does. Amazon won’t be going back to any $2.24 payouts any time soon. But let’s say they stabilize at $1.42.

Using this data, for every 100 books you sold pre-KU, you would sell 45 less. At the minimum royalty of $0.33, you would lose $14.85 in royalties. But you would gain 15 lent units at $1.42 and earn  $21.30. You move fewer books, and make more money.

Unless your royalty rate is higher. Then you lose. The break even point is only $0.47, or having your book at a price point of $1.42 on Kindle. Anything above that and this “new normal” is a financial disaster. Amazon spends less to deliver content. Amazon goal #2 met.

So do you pull out of KU? Maybe if you are a big name who people must buy as soon as your book leaves a press. But not if you are a small fry. If the theoretical economist a few paragraphs up is correct, overall demand per seller is down. Drop KU, and you may lose the lends, and gain no sales in return, as individuals continue to get a percent of their content free, just from someone else. Authors making more money doesn’t appear to be on Amazon’s list of goals.

Of course, all of this is based on a data set of one, which is just a step away from “My cousin Leroy told me this story about a guy…” So pop over the my Facebook link for this post and link me to anyone else’s story abut the impact of KU, stories that contain actual numbers, please. Love to see what other authors have experienced.

And if you want to read a copy of OUT OF TIME, it won’t hurt my feelings, and 33 cents goes to Doctors Without Borders, $1.42 if you just borrow it.


-Russell James




Interview With Kristopher Rufty

I’ve met Kristopher Rufty at several horror cons and he’s a great guy as well as a prolific, horrific author. I pulled him out of his creative juggenaut for a few minutes to share some thoughts on his latest work and the writing process.



  1. Your new release from Samhain is The Lurking Season. When did you decide to write a sequel to The Lurkers?

I guess the idea was there even when I’d just finished writing The Lurkers. I was very happy and satisfied with how I left it. I pictured the ending like a movie, when the audience thinks somebody is about to get away, there’s happiness, smiles, and then BAM! It turns out they don’t make it and the credits roll. I giggled as I wrote that final page. But some readers didn’t like that, while others got it and were happy.

But that wasn’t what made me decide to write a sequel. Like I said earlier, I think I knew I’d be returning to Doverton sooner or later. A year ago, the story’s formula popped into my head as I was drifting off to sleep one night. I wanted to explore Doverton a bit more, get in touch with some of the locals. It’s a few years after the events of The Lurkers and nobody has forgotten what’s happened. The neighboring town lives in fear of suffering the same fate as those in Doverton. Just so much campfire story material I could play around with. I sat down the next morning and started on my notes, piecing together the idea and adding to it. When I finished my notes, I started on the novel right away.

I was a bit surprised how easily it was to go back to Haunchyville. Man, things had changed while I was away, but Doverton, and the little vicious minions hiding in the shadows seemed eager to have me back.

  1. You’ve written movie scripts and written novels. How is the approach to each one different?

I’m almost ashamed to admit this—but I haven’t written a script in two years. I’ve sat down and typed up a few treatments, but haven’t gotten to them yet. I hope to finally write them this year between novels.

I’m not sure if my approach is terribly different, if at all. I prepare the same way for scripts as I do novels, novellas, and short stories. I start with my notes. I sit down and either type my ideas or write them out longhand. It’s a way I can spend time alone with the idea, a conversation with myself without sounding psychotic (though I bet if somebody were to read my early notes, they’d argue that). I’ve prepared that way since I first started writing stories back when I was an eleven-year-old kid, pecking away at a typewriter that was big enough to live in. I also think I’ve carried a lot of my fiction traditions into the script procedure and vice versa. In fiction, I tend to use a lot of dialogue to carry the scenes forward, just as I would have to do in a script. But in scripts, I tend to be very descriptive with the action, hitting the points with a lot of details. Actors seem to love that aspect of it, but not every director likes how much emphasis I put on characterization in the script form.

  1. How old are your kids and how much do they know about the bizarre stuff Daddy writes?

Our son will be twelve soon, and our daughter is ten. We just found out (this weekend, actually) that we have a third child on the way. They know very little about what happens in my books. They ask a lot of questions, though, and I’ll tell them a little bit, usually editing out the juicy stuff. They know I’m censoring it, and pester me to tell them more, claiming they can handle it.  Sometimes my kids play games, where they’re fighting monsters and have now added the Haunchies to their enemy list. It does tickle me to hear them fighting imaginary Haunchies in the backyard. Whenever we find the trash can has been knocked over and rummaged through, I like to tell them Haunchies are to blame. Or on certain spooky nights, we pretend Haunchies are outside scratching at the windows. It’s all fun and games, but I actually kind of dread the day they read one of my books. I hope whatever they decide to read is enjoyable to them.

But they’re my biggest supporters. They got me a gig at their school last year on career day. Days before I was to show up and teach kids about the difficult journey of a writer, I had to sit through a long phone call with the guidance counselor. He decided to look into what my kids’ daddy liked to write, then immediately called to give me a long list of dos and don’ts. I had to promise him I would not read from my books and that I would not pass them around so the kids could flip through the pages. I was limited to which covers I could show them. Of course, I hadn’t planned to do that anyway, but it was just one of those things he had to make sure I wouldn’t do.

I have a new book coming out this spring called Bigfoot Beach and that was an idea that emanated from a conversation I had with my kids. My kids have very big feet for their ages and my son was talking about how he was already outgrowing his new shoes. I joked that if somebody saw his footprints in the sand at the beach, he’d think there was a Sasquatch loose on the beach. My kids told me I should write a book about that. I laughed at first, but the idea exploded in my head. I tested out my notes process on them, speaking the ideas instead of writing them. They laughed and cheered me on. I decided I would write it and if nobody I liked it, I at least knew they would.

  1. For the aspiring writer reading this, tell me about your path to publication?

Wow, what a very long path that has been. It’s ongoing. Angel Board was my first published book. I worked on it for almost three years. With the help of Ronald Malfi, Jeff Strand, Edward Lee, Heather Graham, Kathleen Pickering, and a slew of other talented authors’ suggestions, I finally had something that I felt confident enough to submit. Malfi sent it over to Don D’Auria and suggested I send over a follow-up email, which I did. A month later, I got the letter that us writers have dreamed about all of our lives. This came after three years of rejection, false starts, and multiple occasions where I received a letter in the mail from a publisher in an envelope I’d filled out and stamped myself. Angel Board was the first novel I wrote, but I wrote three more after, submitted those as well and received the heartbreaking news months later. In the meantime, I just kept writing and writing.

Finally, I returned to Angel Board after a great weekend in New Orleans at Heather Graham’s writing conference. Keeping all the aforementioned authors’ suggestions in mind, I rewrote the book from scratch. When that letter came from Don, I bawled. My son was with me when I read the letter and he thought something bad had happened. I told him the good news and he was the first person to congratulate me.

It has been a wild four years since that letter. Four years! There was a time when I thought this would never happen, and here I’ve been blessed to do it for four years and I have contracts to carry me through 2017. I can’t believe it. Sure, not everybody loves my books, but I have fun writing them, and I thank God every day that I get to do it.

  1. I’m jealous that you have over a dozen works up on Amazon and around the world. What’s your process for being so prolific?

I try to write something every day. But I understand life gets busy at times and I’ve found myself going two or three days without writing anything at all. I hate it. Plus, the writing neglect makes me very cranky. My wife can usually tell if I’ve had the chance to write and she’s good about making it so I do. Sometimes making sure I stick to that plan, I find myself working late at night after everyone’s gone to bed.

But my process is to write every day. Even if I don’t get to work on the current project, I make sure I at least write something. Whether it’s a random exchange of dialogue or a paragraph of something unknown, I write. Doing story notes is a good way to make sure I write every day.

When my health went south in 2013, I still had two books with deadlines drawing near. So my wife helped me set up in our bed, with a makeshift table made from a pillow, a cooling pad, and books on my lap and the notebook computer on top. I wrote most of Proud Parents and The Skin Show in bed with an illness. I was finally moving around more as I reached the final pages of The Skin Show and got to finish I at my desk. I think working on the books helped a lot with my recovery and if my wife wouldn’t have been so adamant about me reaching those goals, I might not have ever finished those books. Even now, those two books are two of my favorites.

  1. Time and money are no object. Where would you take your dream vacation?

So many places. My wife and I would love to go on a tour of the New England states. Stay in one for two weeks, then move on to the next. I hope to visit New Zealand before my time’s up on this planet. Another place is the Hemingway house, take the tour and see his writing desk. Maybe carve my name in it. Just kidding! But I would love to see the place he wrote so many classics from. Just being close to it would be an honor to me.

  1. Calories and cost are no object. Favorite food?

Anything from the carnival or fair. The Ruftys love a good carnival. When we go, we make sure we ride all the rides first, then spend the remaining time of our visit gorging ourselves on hot dogs, corn dogs, funnel cakes, deep-fried anything, caramel apples, cotton candy, and hoagies. By the time we’re finished, our sated bellies are gurgling and about ready to burst.

  1. Authors are way more critical than the average reader. There were sections in The Lurking Season where I paused, backed up, a re-read a paragraph because there was such a sharp description, or an exceptional action sequence. What have you read recently that made you stop and say “Damn, that’s good.”

Wow, Russell, thank you so much. That means a lot to me, especially from somebody who can write like you can. I remember having admiring thoughts when I read your book, Sacrifice. Seriously, that was a wonderful book.

Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of those moments here lately. Jonathan Janz’s Exorcist Road had me saying that with nearly every page. David Bernstein’s Apartment 7C was also filled with writing that inspired me.

I read a lot of old horror paperbacks, pulp crime novels, westerns and I’ve began to delve into old sci-fi and action books. Gil Brewer was a pulp crime fiction writer and the books of his I’ve read have had that effect on me.

I also just finished reading Bryan Smith’s forthcoming Slowly We Rot. And wow…that is an amazing book. That’s a horror novel that will stand the test of time, like King’s The Shining or The Stand.

  1. The Lurking Season has some evil Haunchies, vicious little fictional creatures. But the town’s top cop is terrifying, and he could be straight out of real life. Which type of villain do you think is more frightening?

The human villain is much more frightening. There is a certain safety with monsters that makes it fun being scared, but with a human monster, that makes the book or movie a different experience entirely. It becomes less safe, makes you look at strangers around you and wonder if they might be as sadistic as a character you read about.

  1. What’s coming down the Kristopher Rufty pipeline?

The Lurking Season was just released from Samhain Publishing. Jagger will be out in March from Sinister Grin Press. Bigfoot Beach will be out in April from Thunderstorm Books. The Vampire of Plainfield comes out this summer from Thunderstorm Books, and Desolation releases from Samhain in September.

I worked really hard through 2014 to make up for all that I missed from my illness in 2013. This year, I’m going to try to work just as hard to make sure 2016 is just as full. With a new baby on the way, I need to write and write and write while I can.

  1. Any upcoming cons or signings fans can meet you at?

I’ll be doing a lot more book signings. Ronald Malfi and I are doing a couple books tours together this summer, which I’m excited about. We’re going to hit multiple places and I plan to do a few around North Carolina as well to promote my new releases.

Hopefully I’ll you all very soon!

Thanks a lot, Russell, for interviewing me for your blog. It was an honor to be here. And I look forward to hanging out again sometime down the road and chatting about writing stories.

Here’s my website: Last Krist on the Left. Anybody is more than welcome to contact me through my blog. My email is on there.

Amazon page: Kristopher Rufty: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

The Witch Hunting King

Catherine Cavendish is one of the stellar British authors in the Samhain Horror family. I’ve loved everything she’d written, including her latest, The Pendle Curse. She has an enviable mastery of history and offered to share a bit of it here on my website. Pull up a chair and she’ll tell us about King James I, the Witch Hunting King.

Pic 1

My new novel – The Pendle Curse – has some of its roots in a true story. In August 1612, ten men and women were convicted, in Lancaster, England, of crimes related to witchcraft and subsequently hanged on Gallows Hill. They became known to history as the Pendle Witches.

At that time, the first King to rule England, Wales and Scotland – James I of England (James VI of Scotland) – occupied the throne. To say he was a complicated man is probably a gross understatement. Son of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots, he considered himself to be intellectually superior to most – if not all – around him. He also believed himself to be an expert on witchcraft and had grown into a passionate hater of anyone – or anything – remotely concerned with it.

pic 2

He became king at the tender age of thirteen months, after his mother’s execution at the hands of Elizabeth I of England. In the enforced absence of his Catholic mother, James was raised as a strict Protestant, fearful of the unknown and prone to flinching from shadows and any loud noises. He was also a sickly child who compensated for his lack of sportiness by an addiction to his studies and to books. Whether this actually made him as intelligent as he thought he was is open to debate. After all, his contemporary, King Henry IV of France, called him “the wisest fool in Christendom.”


When he was married off to the fourteen year old, Anne of Denmark, whose native country was experiencing an outbreak of witch-hunting mania, James’s interest in the subject was aroused.


The couple’s marriage by proxy took place in the location made famous by Shakespeare’s Hamlet – Elsinore. Shortly after, Anne set sail for Scotland. Unforeseen storms and other problems led to the ship turning back and sheltering in a port on the coast of Norway. In an uncharacteristically romantic gesture (never to be repeated), James set sail to bring his bride home safely, in the spring of 1590. But his own ship was also beset by fierce storms – three, one after the other. Conditions became so bad, the crew and passengers believed the ship would capsize. Such catastrophic storms were not usual. Not natural. Rumours of hexes and foul deeds circulated onboard. The overactive imagination of the superstitious king went into overdrive.

pic 3James now believed Anne’s assertion (supported by her family and others in Denmark) that forces of witchcraft were at work to try and keep her out of Scotland. At that time, the penalty for witchcraft in Denmark was death by burning.


Back on dry land, James set to work. The same year, the small village of North Berwick, twenty-five miles from Edinburgh, became the centre of a string of accusations. Neighbour accused neighbour. James took an active interest, even attending the interrogations himself – some of which involved brutal torture to extract ‘confessions’. His experiences left him convinced that witchcraft did exist and that the forces it employed had been used against him, by creating those unholy storms. There was only one way to ensure his safety, and that of his wife. The witches must be found, prosecuted and burned.

pic 4More than a hundred were arrested. Thanks to imaginative instruments of torture – such as the infamous bone-crushing boot – innocent people confessed to all manner of crimes including treason, witchcraft and even to plotting to kill the king by black magic. For two years the trials dragged on. If the accused confessed, they could be permitted the mercy of being strangled before they were burned at the stake. If not…


pic 5

James was so involved, he even overturned at least one verdict. When Barbara Napier was found innocent by a Scottish jury, he ordered her execution, even going so far as to demand the jurors be tried for acquitting a witch.  Fortunately for Barbara she was well-connected. She asserted she was pregnant and so avoided the gallows. This bought her crucial time and she was quietly released some months later, by which time, James had turned his attention elsewhere.


Armed with the knowledge he had gained through his involvement with the prosecution and trials of the north Berwick witches, James now regarded himself as the leading authority on the subject. He set to and wrote a short treatise entitled, Daemonologie. James passionately believed that witchcraft was real, that witches really had plotted his death, and that this unholy tribe of satan’s servants were hellbent on a course of destruction for the whole of Christendom. James was on a mission and if you wanted to get his attention – and further your career – all you needed to do was bring witches to justice.

pic 6In 1603, James became the first king of the two countries of England and Scotland. In itself this was, at the time, something of an unholy alliance as neither country liked or trusted the other. They were natural enemies rather than friends. James brought his treatise with him, to an England which had hitherto largely ignored the subject. Witch trials were conducted, but, it wasn’t until the 1640s, with the advent of the notorious Matthew Hopkins – self-styled Witchfinder General – that witch-hunts en masse commenced there.



pic 7There was one infamous exception though – the Lancashire Witches of Pendle and the surrounding area were unlucky. In their area they had a highly ambitious local magistrate. Roger Nowell had read Daemonologie and saw in it a way of advancing himself in the king’s eyes. James had even made it easy for him, by writing, “”Children, women and liars can be witnesses over high treason against God.” This gave carte blanche to Nowell to require the young child, Jennet Device to testify against her own family – testimony which saw them hang at the gallows, was faithfully recorded by the court clerk and then used as a handbook for the Salem Witch trials in 1692.


In this way, King James’s malevolent influence extended far beyond the shores – and long after his death in 1625.

pic 8Now, here’s the blurb for The Pendle Curse:

Four hundred years ago, ten convicted witches were hanged on Gallows Hill. Now they are back…for vengeance.

Laura Phillips’s grief at her husband’s sudden death shows no sign of passing. Even sleep brings her no peace. She experiences vivid, disturbing dreams of a dark, brooding hill, and a man—somehow out of time—who seems to know her. She discovers that the place she has dreamed about exists. Pendle Hill. And she knows she must go there. But as soon as she arrives, the dream becomes a nightmare. She is caught up in a web of witchcraft and evil…and a curse that will not die.

Here’s a short extract from the beginning:

His spirit soared within him and flew up into the storm-clad sky as blackness descended and the rain became a tempest.

He flew. Lost in a maelstrom of swirling mists. Somewhere a baby cried until its sobs became distorted, tortured roars. Beyond, a black void loomed. He saw Alizon’s spirit just ahead and tried to call out to her, but his voice couldn’t reach her.

Beside him, another spirit cried out. His mother. He flinched at her screams before they were drowned in the mass—that terrible parody of some hideous child.

The blackness metamorphosed. An amorphous shape formed as his eyes struggled to see with their new vision—the gift of death. Small baby limbs flailed towards him. Eyes of fire flashed as a toothless mouth opened. Screeching, roaring and demanding to be fed. Demanding its mother.

His spirit reached out for his lover. Tried to pull her back. “Alizon!”

She turned anguished eyes to him. “It calls to me.”

He recognized it instantly. The blazing fire. The devil child. That cursed infant had come for them.

Again he reached out with arms that no longer felt connected to him, but he was powerless to stop Alizon being swept away, deep into the abomination’s maw.

“No!” His cry reverberated around him—a wail of anguish in a sea of torment.

Then…silence. Only he remained, drifting in swirling gray mists of time.

“I will find you, sweet Alizon. One day I will find you. And I will find the one who betrayed us.”

From somewhere, he heard an echo…

You can buy The Pendle Curse here:

Samhain Publishing


Barnes and Noble


About the author

pic 9Catherine Cavendish – Cat to her friends – lives with her husband in a haunted 18th century building in North Wales. Fortunately for all concerned, the ghost is friendly and contents herself (she’s definitely female) with switching on lights, and attempting to discover how the TV and washing machine work (it’s a long story!).

Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Cat is now the full time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She is the 2013 joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor, which features in the anthology What Waits In The ShadowsThe Pendle Curse is her latest novel for Samhain; her first  – Saving Grace Devine – was published in 2014.

Her daily walks have so far provided the inspiration for two short stories and a novella. As she says, “It’s amazing what you see down by the river, as it flows through a sleepy rural community.” Those with delicate constitutions are advised not to ask!
You can connect with Cat here:

Catherine Cavendish







Another Visit with Brian Moreland

It is winter, and one of the coldest horror novels I’ve ever read is Brian Moreland’s Dead of Winter. I read it in the summer in Florida and had to sit outside in the sun to stay warm. I recommend this one as a fireside read. In daylight. I thought I check in on Brian and see what he’s been up to.

dead of winter

R: I’ve read all you novels and they are outstanding. Did you write the short stories in your collections between novels or as breaks during writing the longer works?

B: Yes, after I finish a novel, which takes about year or two to research and write, I need some time before starting another long novel project. That’s when I write short stories. I’m working on a collection right now that consists of stories that I’ve written over the years. Some I’ve published and some will be new stuff.

R: You’ve announced that you’re currently working on a horror short story collection. What made you decide to put a collection together?

B: I recently read several of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood collections. That not only inspired me to return to writing short stories, it also gave me the idea to take my favorite stories I’ve written over the years and compile them together as a collection.

R: You do all your own cover design, tell me about that process.

B: When writing a book, I start to get a sense of what I’d like to see on the cover. Usually it involves the setting where the story takes place or something that symbolizes the evil of the story. For The Witching House, it was the abandoned rock house that I had envisioned, with bloody witch symbols painted on the boarded windows.

witching house

For The Girl from the Blood Coven, I thought it needed to feature the mysterious girl covered in blood who wanders out of the woods.

blood coven

For The Devil’s Woods, I chose the entrance to the forbidden forest that borders the haunted Cree Indian reservation. That’s where people keep disappearing.

 devils woods

And for The Vagrants, I decided to feature the subway tunnel where a cult of homeless people called “The Seekers” live and do sinister things.

moreland vagrants

I create these covers using Photoshop. All four of these covers are composites of images that I found at a stock photo site. I’ll search through hundreds of stock photos until I’ve found images that fit the cover idea I have in my head. I’ll find a background, like a forest or urban setting, and then composite individual images on top of it. For instance on The Vagrants cover above, I had found a photo of a subway tunnel and then individual shots of the creepy people and positioned them all in place with the shadowy hooded character in the foreground. The hooded character represents the mystery of the Seekers. The bald guy in the background with the tattooed face represents their cult leader, Mordecai. Then I play with color schemes, adjust the light and shadow, then add the title and my name. I originally had real dripping blood behind the title, but my art director adjusted the color and texture, along with the title font. When building a multi-layered cover composite, I’ll spend hours trying out different looks until I design a version that I’m happy with. It’s a lot of fun creating visual art for a story that I’ve written. I used to design these covers just for my own amusement and to show my editor what I think the cover should look like. It just worked out that the last few covers my publisher liked them and decided to use my versions.

R: What was the oddest inspiration for one of your novels?

It would have to be when I was writing Dead of Winter. I had been stuck on the book for some time. I was living in Dallas, Texas and ready for a career change. So I moved to Hawaii to live a year and a half on the island of Maui and just write fiction. I had just sold my first novel Shadows in the Mist to Berkley-Penguin, my first book deal, and was feeling on top of the world. While on Maui, nearly every day I went to the beach or hiked to a waterfall. Just living in the moment, I felt very inspired to write. My creative juices were flowing. Then I started getting visions of how I could get past my stuck point with Dead of Winter and jumped back into writing that novel. The irony was the story is about a fur-trading fort in Ontario, Canada that’s trapped in a snowy blizzard. While conjuring scenes with frost-bitten characters and below freezing temperatures, I was sweating my ass off in the tropical heat of Hawaii. Every day was bright and sunny, while my characters endured the hostile winter. While I may have gone a far distance from Canada to write my second book, it was that free-spirited time in Hawaii that inspired me to finish what has become my favorite novel to date.  

R: Do you have a personal favorite part from Dead of Winter?

B: There are many scary scenes in Dead of Winter I enjoyed writing. A couple come to mind. The first is near the beginning of the book. In Montreal, Father Xavier and his apprentice go down into the underground tunnels beneath Laroque Asylum to exorcise a demon from a prisoner known as the Cannery Cannibal. That whole scene gave me chills when I was writing it. Next would be the scenes at Fort Pendleton in Ontario, when the demon plague begins to spread to the fort colonists and animals and Inspector Tom Hatcher has to do detective work to solve the mystery. The fact that he is desired by two women, both belonging to his boss, Avery Pendleton, added some fun when writing those characters and subplots.    

R: What else is coming down the pike from Brian Moreland?

B: I’m currently working on that short story collection that I plan to publish at some point this year. I’m also working on a novella called The Darkness Inside that will either be a part of that collection or a standalone eBook. Then, of course, I’m plotting my next novel but it’s too soon to reveal anything about it. For booklovers who prefer audio books, I did learn from my publisher, Audio Realms, that Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, and The Vagrants will be releasing as audio books this year. Right now, The Devil’s Woods and The Girl from the Blood Coven/The Witching House are available as audio books.  

R: You share your skills with other authors. Tell me about some of the services you offer.

B: Yes, when I’m not writing novels and short stories, I provide professional services to other writers. I consult over the phone, edit manuscripts (both fiction and non-fiction), design book covers, format the interior layout for print books and format ebooks. I also help authors self-publish their books. My website is

R: What upcoming cons can fans expect to see you at?

B: As of now, I don’t have any signings lined up at the horror cons. I’d love to be at HorrorHound Cincinnati in March, but that will be a game time decision. In May, I will most likely attend Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas as a fan, since I live in Dallas. You should come visit Dallas for Texas Frightmare some time. It draws a few thousand horror fans and is loads of fun. Thanks so much for having me as a guest on you site.

About Brian Moreland

moreland 3 book

Brian Moreland writes novels and short stories of horror and supernatural suspense. His books include Dead of Winter, Shadows in the Mist, The Girl from the Blood Coven, The Witching House, The Devil’s Woods, and The Vagrants. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror book.



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Now available in audio book: The Devil’s Woods and The Witching House.