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Happy New Year

Although I’m a little late, I didn’t want to be remiss in wishing all of my visitors, fans and readers a happy new year. So here you go… Happy New Year!

With the old year behind us, it is time for me to look forward and make plans for 2012, decide what I want to do, how I want to tackle certain problems, how to overcome various obstacles. It’ll be interesting to see how this year will turn out, especially in the light that none of the things I had planned for 2011 really panned out. It proves to me once again that strategic forward planning in an industry that is not only unpredictable but driven by other companies is truly a waste of time. I mean how can you create a sensible business plan when all the parameters are out of one’s control… waste of time, like I said.

Nonetheless, there are goals I wish to achieve in 2012 and they are essentially the exact same ones I had for 2011. Funny, isn’t it? Feels like deja vu. Like I just wasted an entire year. The entire year of 2011 was stagnant for me, without any growth. Oh well, let’s hope 2012 will be better.

At long last, Literary Landmark Press, the publisher behind the “Spirit of Poe” Anthology, to which I have contributed a short story, has finally unveiled a release date for the anthology. Arriving on January 19, fans of the American master of macabre literature will be able to see how Poe’s stories and spirit have influenced writers across the country and infused us with images and elements of terror.

Make sure to grab a copy to support the cause that all of us contributors felt so strongly about, namely the preservation of the original Poe House in Baltimore. You can pre-order copies now at the Literary Landmark Press website.

Those of you interested in my Jason Dark mysteries will also be pleased to hear that Fu Man Chu’s Vampire, the next Jason Dark book, is with my editor at this time to get its final polish. With things moving along the way they are, I am confident that I will be able to release the title later this month. Unfortunately I have no cover for it. The response to the Cover Contest I set up a month ago has been extremely slim, unfortunately, and none of the submissions met my approval. So, it seems that for the next weeks, until the release of the book, I will have to get cranking on a cover and see what I can come up with. In a way I am very tempted to take it into a completely different direction than the previous ones, just for the fun of it, but who knows. I’ll have to find some time and play around with Photoshop a little.

Stay tuned for more about Fu Man Chu’s Vampire in the coming days and weeks.

Halloween is coming our way faster than Dr. Prometheus’ muttered curse, and as we all know, Halloween is the time of all things ghoulish. I love Halloween and for that reason I have decided it is time to celebrate a little. I have prepared some exciting cool announcements for you.

Let us start with the first one, and perhaps the most important one.

Starting today and lasting until October 31, the night of All Hallow’s Eve, I am reducing the price of all e-book versions of the Jason Dark supernatural mysteries. You can now own any of the adventures for a new, ghoulishly low

$1.99!

I thought you would like that, but wait, don’t run off just yet, to purchase these action packed adventures. There is more you should know…

The Blood Witch just came over last night and gave me another stupendous idea. How about preparing a cool give-away where fans can win awesome prices? Cars, houses, vacations, the whole shebang! Easy for her to say, I know. But the more I thought about it the more I thought there was seed of a good idea in there that I should give a shot.

Therefore I am doing a nightmarish give-away. You can win some gorific movies, books and merchandise. I have for example five DVD copies of the Hammer Horror movie “Let Me In” here, that I will be giving away. In addition, one lucky winner will not only get that movie, but also a rare out-of-print version of Anchor Bay’s “Book of the Dead” edition of “Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II.” In case you are not familiar with this, this was a release that featured a molded DVD covering made from Latex, looking like the Necronomicon in the movies. This release was a limited edition to begin with and has been out of print for years. Subsequently it has since turned into a highly sought-after collectible. Why am I giving it away then? Simple. I love my fans!

But there is more. I am also giving away a number of heavy duty Jason Dark mousepads along with Jason Dark t-shirts. And since we’re all haunted bookworms here, I am also throwing in some books, such as the incredible – and I mean incredible – “Romancing the Vampire” by David J. Skal, “Mean Streets” by Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill and some others. For a complete list of prices, please see below, but either way, I promise I will make it worth your while. :-)

So, are you game? I am sure that by now you are wondering how you could get your paws on these hot prices. Let me explain how this will work…

I want you to “Share” my books and tell the world about it. Simple as that. So, go to my books on Amazon and for every book in the list, click the “Like” button found on the product page. Next, a small pop-up box will appear and there, click on the “F” symbol to share your love with your Facebook friends so that they can see it, or click on the Twitter icon to share the love with your Tweeps. A share takes no more than two mouse-clicks — not a whole lot, considering what you could win in the bargain. Count how many of the books you shared this way.

Next, go to the list of my books on Barnes&Noble’s website. On the product page for each book, click on the “F” to share the love with your Facebook friends and also click on the “+1” symbol to share it with your Google+ circles. Again, two mouse-clicks are all that required. Once again, count how may of the books you shared this way.

The next step is simple. You simply send an email to contest@guidohenkel.com and put “Shared: xxx” in the subject line. “xxx” would, naturally, stand for the number of your total shares.

As you can see, this is really simple and no purchase is necessary. You can share my books even if you’ve never even read one. In fact, I would love for you to share information about the books anyway, because even if they are not your bag, maybe some of your friends like Victorian era supernatural mysteries.

At the end of the give-away, on October 22, I will then randomly draw winners from the shares and get their head-chopping prices to them. So, with any luck you might find some of these goodies in your mailbox before Halloween.

There is no limit how many times you can submit shares. You can send them in one at a time or wait until the end and send in the grand total, it is your choice. Your odds of winning will be the same. What is important, however, is that every time you share a book this way with your peeps, tweeps and friends, it will increase your odds of winning. The more, the merrier, as they say.

So, how’s that for a Halloween treat for you? Now, what are you waiting for? I want to see some Facebook shares show up on people’s walls and some shares filtering in my Twitter feed. Let’s make some noise. Let’s tell the world about Jason Dark and his awesome supernatural adventures in Victorian England!

Prices:

Grand Prize:

  • “Book of the Dead” Edition DVD of “Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II”
  • “Let Me In” Hammer Horror DVD
  • “Escape From Vampire Island” Blu-Ray/DVD combo
  • “Mean Streets” paperback by Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill
  • $25 Amazon gift card
  • Jason Dark mouse pad
  • Jason Dark t-shirt

2nd Prize

  • 1-year subscription to “Fangoria” magazine, America’s leading horror magazine, courtesy of Fangoria
  • “Let Me In” Hammer Horror DVD
  • “Scream 4” Blu-Ray/DVD combo
  • “Mean Streets” paperback by Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill
  • Jason Dark mouse pad
  • Jason Dark t-shirt

3rd Prize

  • “Romancing the Vampire” hardcover by David J. Skal
  • “The Ruins” paperback by Scott Smith
  • “Mean Streets” paperback by Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill
  • Jason Dark mouse pad
  • Jason Dark t-shirt

4th – 6th Prize

  • “Let Me In” Hammer Horror DVDs
  • Jason Dark mouse pad
  • Jason Dark t-shirt

A case of hummingbirds

For the past few days, my wife and I spent a lot of time photographing hummingbirds around the house. These beautiful, little birds can be mesmerizing and it is often surprising to watch just how inquisitive they are. Some of them are truly quite fearless.

Hummingbird

Since we’re using camera flashes in order to properly highlight the birds against the background, it was very interesting to see that some of the birds were actually attracted by the flash. More than one of them flew straight for the camera to take a closer look what that thing is and where the light comes from.

These birds are also very territorial. You can notice that one bird often “owns” a feeder and whenever another hummingbird tries to approach it, the owner will bully the new arrival away with loud chirps and chatter, as well as physical violence if need be, chasing the intruder away.

Hummingbird

At one point my wife decided that we should try to photograph the birds from a different angle, and, perhaps, a little more exposed to the natural sunlight so that the flash would not flatten out the colors too much. We lowered the feeder about 15 inches, set up the camera and waited with remote release in hand.

Interestingly, the birds first flew to the exact spot where the feeder used to hang. Seemingly perplexed that it was no longer there, you could see them hover around for a moment before noticing that it was simply hanging a little lower. I found this very surprising.

As humans, we would take in the bigger picture from a distance, see the feeder and directly home in on it, regardless of its change of position. Not so these birds. Obviously they are a lot more hard-wired. They seem to remember locations in a more dimensional space, it would suggest, as if driven by an internal GPS. Sight seems to come only second to that.

Hummingbird

I found this behavior incredibly interesting, though if you’re asking me why I am telling you all of this, I can understand that, too. As I was thinking about the birds’ behavior some more, I realized that I could actually use this in a book at some point. No, I am not planning to pit my Victorian era occult detective Jason Dark against a hummingbird from hell, but this behavioral pattern could be used to solve a mystery. If, for example, the crime scene were moved and the perpetrator were lured to it, showing up at the wrong place would clearly be an admission of guilt. I mean, that’s what Columbo would have done, right? And he always got his man.

HummingbirdIt’s a pretty good idea, I think, thank you very much. But don’t send me fan mail just yet, I still have to create a plot around it and write the story.

On the subject of hummingbirds, you may also be interested that my wife released a children’s picture book a little while ago, called Growing up Hummingbird, which shows the first two weeks in a hummingbirds life, as experienced and photographed by her early this spring in our backyard.

You can get a copy of the book at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and in the Apple iBookstore.

Today I have more exciting news for you. Like Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill, I met Joe McKinney during the World Horror Convention in Austin a few months ago, and I was also immediately struck not only by his warm personality, which was particularly evident also during the reading Gene and he held on one of the days.
For those of you, who are not familiar with Joe McKinney’s works, let me tell you that he is for zombie books, what George A. Romero is for zombie movies — a guiding light with sweeping ideas and a knack for great storytelling.

You can find his zombie books on the shelves of any book store in the country — if there’s any left in your corner, that is — but like many traditionally published authors, Joe was reluctant to enter the digital playing field.

While his zombie novels were published as e-books by the respective publishers, he did have the rights to some of his other books, including the e-book rights to his latest book, The Red Empire — more on that later.

To make a long story short, I suggested to Joe to work with me to get his books out on e-books and he soon came back to me with a book called The Predatory Kind. Together we’ve prepared it to be released in all e-book formats and I am proud to let you know that today is the official release date for the book! Yay!

What you have here, is a collection of ten short stories, penned by some of the greatest horror writers of or time, including the likes of Joe McKinney, Scott Nicholson, Joe Nassise, Kealan Patrick Burke, Lisa Morton, Nate Kenyon and others. To say that this book is a heavy weight is an understatement, really, because not only do these incredibly talented and renowned authors lend a hefty amount of credibility to the project, but the stories they deliver in this collection are nothing to sneeze at either.

Exploring scenarios to show that our world is not as safe and secure as we may believe, The Predatory Kind contains supernatural stories about the hunters out there, watching us, stalking us, waiting for their moment to strike. They are the predatory kind!

The Predatory Kind is available now at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo or only $2.99.

While it may not feature the human flesh-eating zombies we’ve come to know — and perhaps expect — from Joe McKinney, this book offers up about 300 pages of unbridled suspense and terror, so make sure you take a closer look and grab a copy. If the launch of this title will be successful, we will also bring out The Red Empire as an e-book soon, and that is also a book you don’t want to miss — a magnificent throwback at 50’s-style Jack Arnold-inspired science fiction, where a secret government project goes wrong and a wave of flesh-eating red ants sweeps the countryside. Awesome!

Curse of KaliThings have slowed down after World Horror Convention and I’ve been able to follow up with many of my new acquaintances from the show.

I’ve also been able to finish the first book I brought back from the show, Joe McKinney’s brand new The Red Empire. It is truly a fun little read, reminding me so much of the old-school Jack Arnold scifi monster flicks from the 50s, like Them! or Tarantula. Definitely worth a read if this is your kind of bag, as his writing is riveting and the story a fast-paced and action-packed humdinger.

As I’ve been trying to keep promoting my own recent release of Curse of Kali, I have been guest-blogging on two additional sites this week also. Over at Indie Horror I have talked about Prepared to Sell: My favorite book covers. I love cover artwork, whether it’s from books, music albums, games or movies. A great artwork inspires and fascinates me, and in this guest blog you will see some of the covers that I find truly outstanding for many reasons, so make sure to stop by and take a look.

The other guest-post I made was on Bookgasm where I wrote about Hunting monsters in Victorian England. As the title suggests, the write-up explains why I find Victorian England such an exciting setting for my Jason Dark stories, but it also goes a bit further discussing the historical and literary references I use in all of those books.

Please stop by and take a look at either of these blog posts and let me know what you think. Yes, leave comments, if you please. It always looks a bit hapless if there are lengthy blog posts but no one comments on them. I don’t know about you but it always makes me feel like a piece of forgotten cheese that has mold beginning to grow over it. So, please… let me hear your opinions and thoughts on these subjects.

Since I am still in Curse of Kali promo mode, I also thought I’d do something I haven’t done before… at least not in this way. Since you are already here, I decided to present you with a little excerpt from the book. Please, below, enjoy the opening scene from the book…

“I am not so sure I like this,” Jason Dark said, as he looked at the barren warehouse doors that loomed against the night sky in front of him.

“This is the address, right?” Siu Lin asked, allowing her gaze to rove along the unlit, square outline of the building.

It had been after dark already, when a note had been delivered to Jason Dark’s house on Sandgate Street in London’s Southwark district. Written in an unpracticed scribble, the message upon it was short, asking for a meeting in this decrepit warehouse at the dockyards at 10:00 pm. It was signed by Tom Baker, one of Dark’s frequent collaborators: a boy of 16, who had a network of streetwise urchins assembled around him, essentially acting as Jason Dark’s invisible eyes and ears in the cobbled streets of London. On a number of occasions, Dark had made use of Baker’s invaluable services. So, when the unexpected note arrived, Dark knew by instinct that the matter had to be of some import.

Jason Dark eyed a smaller, man-sized door that was set flush into the foreboding barn-size doors of the warehouse, allowing easy access for a single person. Without a word, he reached for the handle and pulled it open. For the length of a few heartbeats he stopped and simply listened. Only the soft lapping of the brackish water against the dock was audible, drowning out even the distant noise of the metropolis at large.

He turned and looked at Siu Lin. Careful, now! He could clearly read her determined face in the bright moonlight.

A thick fog rolled in from the river, its ethereal arms weaving in a sluggish dance, like ghostly wisps, eating away at the moon’s light. Dark blacked out his lantern and took a careful step forward.

The inside of the warehouse was dark, and only shadows allowed the eye to create an image of the interior. Without a word, Dark waved Siu Lin inside and closed the door, careful not to make an unnecessary sound. Together they stood in silence and listened. A foghorn blew somewhere in the distance, lonely and forlorn. Other than that, the warehouse was silent.

Almost in unison, Dark and Siu Lin opened the blackout shades of their lanterns, allowing the soft glow of the kerosene flames to illuminate the room. Thirty feet above them, the slatted ceiling covered the cavernous structure. Stairs and walkways splashed the walls with their wooden rag-tag construction. Large stacks of shipping crates and containers lined up in jumbled rows down the length of the entire warehouse, each announcing its far-away origins by stenciled-on designations. The rows disappeared into the darkness, interrupted only by smaller passages between different stacks.

Dark looked over his lantern and saw Siu Lin tilting her head as she took in the enormous structure. Time and again her dark eyes scanned the walls and walkways, before she returned his gaze and nodded. “You lead.”

As Dark took cautious steps, the sphere of light traveled with him, peeling ever new shapes and details out of the darkness. Two steps behind him, Siu Lin followed, silent as a snake on cotton balls. Walking backwards so she could see behind them, she brought up the rear, taking no chances for a surprise.

“I do not like this,” she finally whispered. “Where’s Baker?”

“Maybe he’s late.” Even as he said the words, however, Dark felt that the answer was more of an excuse, rather than any actual conviction on his part.

“Then who unlocked the door?”

“Let’s just take a look around.”

They proceeded another few yards down the main aisle into the warehouse, when Dark unexpectedly froze. Siu Lin nearly bumped into him and was ready to open her mouth, when she turned and saw what had stopped Dark dead in his tracks.

Did you like it? And that was just the beginning. The story will surprise you, I have no doubt, and take you on a roller coaster ride, so please feel free to get your copy for only 99 cents now on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Or if you would like print versions, make sure to stop by on the official website

When you are a writer, doing research is part of the job, and oftentimes it takes up a major portion of our preparatory time. If you are an author working on period stories, like I am with my Jason Dark dime novels for example, this research is typically even more encompassing. In order to ensure accuracy of the material presented to the reader and to give it more credibility I am oftentimes spending days on end researching history. In many ways I consider myself a history buff, which is kind of strange because, like virtually everyone I know, I always hated History in school. So where did the change come from?

To be perfectly honest, I think I’ve always had an interest in history, but the education system I went through in Germany did a fantastic job in maiming all and any such interest. I have never gone to an American school so I do not know how they treat history here, but my general understanding, judging by people’s overall state of education in world events, it seems even more neglected.

As I think about it, I believe there are two main reasons why history classes must be some of the most tedious and unattractive paths in school.

The first reason is the way the material is being taught. I don’t know about you, but I had to learn reams of dates by heart for years in a row. That, in essence was my history education throughout school. Every grade covered a different time period and we, the students, were expected to remember key dates and events which were prodded into us in lessons during which we would pour over stuffy explanations and date listings of said events. I mean, really, life doesn’t get any more boring than this. History out of context is as exciting as watching water evaporate; there’s just nothing there to hold your attention.

I honestly wish my history teacher would only have asked a question like “Imagine for a moment that you Lord Nelson and you want to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte at sea. How would you do it?” I am sure, it would have sparked an interest in the topic for a lifetime, instead of killing it off by forcing students to simply line up all the dates and events ad nauseam.

It would have gone a long way to show how certain people created certain events and how these events lead to other events, trying to engage the imagination, giving students the chance to connect the dots on their own terms. In the big scheme of things it is wholly irrelevant whether the Thirty Years War began on a Tuesday or a Friday. Unless you do a diligent study of the subject for a doctorate or so, it is entirely irrelevant whether Ferdinand kicked Mathias’ butt on a Sunday or Tuesday. And yet, we had to learn it all by heart. Every tedious little event, every name, every location, date and sometimes even the time of day. Boy, no wonder I tuned out every time…

To make matters worse, from my experience, history teachers are every bit as dry, boring and uninterested in the subject matter as the way they teach the material. In retrospect I realized that even my Latin teacher did a better job at instilling a love for history in me. He would take us on field trips to excavation sites and Roman monuments, allowing us to see first hand the influence and impact Roman culture had had on the world we lived in. This has instilled a love for Roman history in me that is still very much alive today.

When you look back, what was it that inspired your love in history? In my case it was movies and documentaries. Watching Holocaust in the late 70s was the first time I was really able to put real faces to the pain and horrors of the Third Reich. I began to associate real people with these horrendous events, not printed names, realizing that these were not just dry dates in a text book but the lives of people with hopes, lives, ambitions and love in their hearts. The series left me heartbroken.

There were many others and I’ve found that even the most romanticized Hollywood movie can make for a better history lesson than an hour with any of my history teachers. Some of these movies may not be entirely accurate, some of them may be biased, but the important thing is that people are becoming engaged in history and potentially interested, which is a lot more than what my text books and history classes did.

I’ll be honest with you; the Ides of March or probably the only historic date I remember from all the studying in school — and once again that comes courtesy of my Latin teacher and his way of playing out the assassination of Julius Caesar for us during a field trip to some Roman ruins. Other than that, I have zero retention of my academic history lessons.

Yet the events depicted in Holocaust or even Braveheart, Band of Brothers, I, Claudius, Elizabeth or John Adams have firmly become part of my historical vocabulary. I now know that William Wallace was one of the most passionate freedom fighters of Scotland and not, perhaps, the brother of mystery writer Edgar Wallace. I now know that John Adams was not only a president, but one of the key figures in giving us the freedom and union we enjoy every day, fighting for it on political turf instead of the battlefields. As a result of Valkyrie I finally saw a real person and his convictions behind the infamous attempted assassination of Hitler by the man whose wife and children used to live only down the street from my apartment. He became more than just a name in a book and a plaque and suddenly his efforts and sacrifice grew to dramatic proportions.

Strange as it may seem, Young Indiana Jones has been critical in generating interest in certain historic events in me that I then investigated further. As a result I came to understand how people like Lenin managed to get to power, among many other things.

So, you tell me, which one did a better job at relaying information… my school education or dramatized works of entertainment in the form of biopics and even fiction? I know there will always be the purists who clamor that the weather depicted in a scene was not accurate or whatnot, but in my opinion they are missing the point. History is worthless if no one takes an interest in it. In order to create interest, history has to be dramatized, which means that occasional liberties have to be taken.

Naturally, when I research my Jason Dark stories, my historic research is more topical and specific, but for the majority of people a general overview will usually do. In my case, when I write about the opening of the Natural History Museum in London in Dead by Dawn, yes, I want to make sure it happens on a Sunday in my story — Easter Sunday to be exact — because I want to lend credence to the fact, the event and the story. But you know, what? Most people couldn’t care less if it had opened on Good Friday…

These days I soak up history whenever I get the chance. As I get older I find it easier and easier to see how one event led to another, how people corrupted by power continually exploit others, creating intolerable conditions for the rest. History is every bit as much about strategy and political intrigue — both of which is typically filled with natural drama — as it is about dates and names.

It all holds a fascination for me that I just can’t escape and I enjoy every minute I can dig into historical research and uncover new facts and information that were previously unknown to me.