Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

Over the past weekend I was visiting the World Horror Convention 2011 in Austin, a place where horror writers from all over the country get together, share ideas, tips, experiences and lots of beer.

I was on a panel on Friday afternoon, carrying the title “Fresh Blood,” during which I had the chance to relay my story as to how I got into writing. It was a nice, lively panel with some great fellow authors, some of which had great stories to tell. I was happy to see a healthy turnout and hope that those of you who had the chance to attend enjoyed the session and got some entertainment value out of it. (I doubt we were really giving advice per se, since we mostly relayed war stories, but you never know.)

There were a couple of fine panels and sessions during the show most of them involved Brian Keene in one way or another. As a matter of fact, Brian was virtually omnipresent at the show, appearing on every other panel while also holding book readings, hanging at the parties and the mass signing, of course. In fact, when, on Thursday night, I arrived at the hotel where the conference was hosted, Keene was still having a panel at 10:30 at night. Talk about a working man here.

Peter Straub was also walking the hallways relentlessly and appeared on panels almost every day of the conference. In the times in between he was talking to other authors and signing books all the time. I had the chance to chat with him myself and enjoyed it greatly. After all, Peter Straub is not only one of the most prolific writers in the horror genre, eclipsed perhaps only by his friend and occasional collaborator Stephen King, but he is what I would call a writer’s writer. He is the example we are all striving for, not only in volume and sales, but also in quality.

But there were many other memorable moments for me, such as my meeting Gene O’Neill, whom I had talked to online a number of times but had never met in person, as well as Gord Rollo. Gord, as you may know, is a writer very much to my taste as his stories — and his interests, as I found out — are usually rooted much more in traditional horror than modern goreware.

I have made many more acquaintances and hopefully new friends during the show and I am very much looking forward to meeting them all again.

The one thing I did notice during the convention, however, was how absent digital technologies were in all the discussions. Practically all writers came from a traditional background and interestingly enough most of them view eBooks as a sideshow — something that may become interesting at some point, but is not at all at the forefront of their minds. Well, with all due respect, I think it is time to put some educational panels together for upcoming writers conferences that explain to writers that the digital revolution has not only arrived but is about to devour the few scraps they are receiving from the traditional publishing houses.

In the meanwhile things have been moving on here as well, of course. I had decided to take a 10 day Internet sabbatical and disappeared almost entirely from social networks for the time being. I also responded to email only in small time windows during the period and did almost no Internet browsing. These things, combined, are such time sinks that I felt I had to turn my back on them to get some work done just before the show. I am glad to say it did work out well and I may have to do it again, more frequently.

The thing is that I spend so much time trying to get my Jason Dark books noticed that on many days I find no time to actually write. I don’t like those days. I love writing and I feel somewhat robbed of the privilege on days where everything else is bogging me down. It is hard however, to simply sit back and ignore the fact that my book sales are small and stagnant and I constantly feel the need to be doing more to increase my books’ visibility. Ultimately, however, it becomes so frustrating when you see that not only time is fleeting away between your fingers in chunks that could choke a T-Rex, but that in many ways it is for naught. Oftentimes all the effort results in a single 99 cent sale and that is clearly a bad value proposition for the time and energy spent.

So, I have decided to fret less and instead write more, and hopefully I will be able to show some results in the not too distant future.

More guest blog posts should be coming up in the next weeks — they have been delayed by the various site operators for reasons beyond my control — but for the time being, check out this cool interview on Geeks of Doom were I had the chance to elaborate on many things regarding my books. I am sure you will find it an interesting read, and perhaps it will even inspire to pick up one of the books. Don’t forget, Curse of Kali is still available for only 99 cents on Amazon and at Barnes&Noble.

In the meanwhile, let me remind everyone also that I do offer eBook formatting as a service, so if you would like to get your manuscript turned into a proper eBook, feel free to contact me for a quote.


Well, this was a truly busy week. With the release of Curse of Kali I truly had my hands full, trying to promote the new Jason Dark mystery.

As part of the promotion and my attempt to get the title at least into the Top 1,000 of Amazon’s Kindle bestsellers, I have also prepared a number of guest-post on various blogs around the Web.

For example, why don’t you make a quick pit stop over at Scott Nicholson’s Haunted Computer, where I created a Book Bucket List for readers. It is a short list of books that I have greatly enjoyed over the years and that have stayed with me and influenced me in one way or another. If you’ve ever wondered, what kind of stuff I’ve been reading all my life, and which of these books really became a part of me, you simply have to check out that list.

Today, Bob Freeman hosts me as a guest on his Occult Detective website. I love his website because it seems tailor-made for my interests. It is all about classic horror, old-school mysteries and everything that has to do with the thing s I love and write about in the Jason Dark stories. So, it was a natural fit for me to write about my influences on Bob’s blog. It is a post called The Sherlock Holmes Connection and Other Influences, in which I explore many of the things that made me want to write Victorian Era supernatural mysteries. You should definitely stop by and take a look.

There will be more guest posts appearing on other sites in the days to come and I’ll try to keep you posted. The best way to keep up with what I’m doing, though, is to follow me on Twitter (@GuidoHenkel) or friend me on Facebook. That way you will never miss a beat.

The launch of Curse of Kali went well, though despite its 99 cent price point, people still don’t seem to be buying it aggressively enough to really push it up the charts. It is unfortunate because I am convinced that once you hit a certain threshold, the raking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and sales will beget more sales. Curse of Kali Is a long way from that, though, and could still use a bit more exposure.

Maybe you could help, even if you’re not interested in the book itself, even if a Victorian Era supernatural mystery is not your bag, even if you are not interested in reading how Jason Dark and Sherlock Holmes solve a case together… How? I am glad you asked. You will find a “Like” button right next to the book on Amazon’s website. By pressing this “Like” button you would indicate that you consider this to be an interesting title and hopefully help other readers to make up their minds easier. It is so easy, takes only two mouse clicks and would help me tremendously.

Of course, if you actually bought and read the book, feel free to leave a short review, even if it’s just a single line. Reviews are a tremendously powerful tool to help authors get their books discovered, as most readers will take a look at the general consensus before making a purchase.

So, thank you all, for helping me promote the launch and telling people about it, for liking, buying or reviewing it, or for simply listening to me ramble.

On my own reading end, I have just finished Robert McCammon’s The Queen of Bedlam and have to admit that I loved the book. The prose was occasionally a little to verbose for my taste but I could easily get past that because the story itself was so interesting. I found it particularly remarkable how everything in this book ties together. Even the most insignificant scene will play some kind of role later on in the story, making it a real trip as the story unravels. I will have to check out Mister Slaughter some time, the latest of McCammon’s books.

For now, however, I have started to read Scott Nicholson’s Liquid Fear and I have no doubts that this thriller will… err, thrill me.


Kali CoverI am currently in the process of preparing the tenth Jason Dark supernatural mystery for release. Curse of Kali will arrive very shortly and I am trying to find ways to spread the word… maybe you can help?

The book will be officially available next Tuesday, April 19, and since this is the tenth Jason Dark story, it feels like a bit of a celebration is in place. The thought to write ten such adventures seemed a bit outlandish when I first sat down to write “Demon’s Night” two odd years ago, but here we are. Jason Dark and Siu Lin fought their way through ten action-packed mysteries so far.

To give Curse of Kali a good start in its literary life I am launching it with a low 99 cent price point for a limited time. Hopefully this will help get the book up the sales charts so that it will be easier for new readers to discover.

If you would like to help me with my effort to bring the book into the Top 1,000 by the end of the month, you could help me tweet it up.

Simply tweet something like this on Tuesday for the launch.

CURSE OF KALI new #supernatural #mystery by @GuidoHenkel now on #Kindle for only 99 cents! #ebooks

or if you’d rather push for the Nook version, you could tweet something like this

CURSE OF KALI new #supernatural #mystery by @GuidoHenkel now on #Nook for only 99 cents! #ebooks

Of course, you can retweet the announcement any time you wish,the more the merrier, as they say. Feel free to post it on Facebook also.

If we manage to get this book into the Top 1,000 of either the Amazon Kindle Store or Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, I will be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card among those who tweeted up the book.

I am very excited about Curse of Kali, not only because it is yet another great supernatural mystery, but because it is filled with some absolutely cool stuff — story wise, that is. We have a nemesis of Jason Dark’s returning for this story, trying once again to get the better of the occult detective. But what’s even cooler is that this mystery is so confounding that it requires two detectives. The team of Jason Dark and Siu Lin is one of them and the other consists of… well, I’ll let you read the story to find out. Let’s just say, the encounter has been hinted at for the past nine volumes.


It has been some time since I last posted an update here, and I apologize, but the last weeks were just crazy full of things that required my attention. During this time a lot of things were going and I’d like to recap some of it for you here, in case you missed it.

Fango 302 coverFirst and foremost, Fangoria issue #302 is out! On page 74 in the magazine you will find the first installment of the Jason Dark serial Food for the Dead that I write exclusively for the magazine. Over the next five months you will find a new installment in the serial in every Fangoria issue. so, if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, run to your nearest newsstand NOW and get it. As you will see, “Food for the Dead” is truly in the vein of the other supernatural mysteries featuring this occult detective. It has the Victorian London setting, graveyards with the dead rising from their graves and it features a major cameo by one of the genre’s most notorious villains. Hey, how could you say “No” to that, huh? So, again, let me hammer thins into your heads… go, buy your issue of Fangoria before it disappears and you missed the first installment of the series!

Another interesting development over the past weeks was that I made another guest-appearance on thriller writer J.A. Konrath’s blog. As many of you may recall, in February I wrote a guest-blog for Joe, discussing how I promoted the Jason Dark series since its inception and how many of the promotional tools I had employed just didn’t work out the way I had hoped. The blog post generated a lot of feedback and as you know, I revamped Demon’s Night, the first Jason Dark mystery from scratch, taking many of the comments and suggestions that were offered in response to my blog post in an attempt to turn it into a better product. I also wrote about it in more detail here on my own blog.

Demon's night coverWith all that in mind I went back to Joe Konrath’s blog and outlined the changes I made and — since some time had passed since the release — I also detailed the impact these changes had had on the actual sales of the book. I am sure, many of the readers were surprised that the result was essentially zilch. Five weeks after the reboot of the book and the price drop to 99 cents, the book has generally not been selling noticeably better than before. Naturally, there was a large spike on the day of the blog post on Joe’s website that elevated the book up into the Top 5,000 for an hour or so, but just as quickly as it had spiked, it also reverted back. So, ultimately, I see the “Demon’s Night” experiment as a failure. While I am glad a did another revision of the book itself, resulting in tighter and better writing, all the effort I put into the creation of a new cover etc. was in essence wasted time. Time, that I could have put to better use, writing a new book. Well, hindsight is always 20/20, and it was definitely wroth the experiment, I guess, if only to support my theory once again that 99 cents is not a desirable price point.

Interestingly, during the time period that I revisited “Demon’s Night,” it was actually reviewed by Red Adept. Since the early days of the kindle, Red Adept has been one of the most visible reviewers of eBooks and over time she has reached a stature that is unique among eBook reviewers. I am no exaggerating when I say that I sighed in relief upon seeing the 4.5 star rating. See, I had sent the book to Red Adept for review about a year ago — yes, that’s how long the review queue seems to be — and as a result, it was the version before my rewrite. To see that even that version impressed a 4.5 star rating upon the reviewer, is more than I had hoped for. Of course, I wish she had read the new version, but such is life. The only criticism leveled against the book was in the writing of the book — all things I have thoroughly addressed in the recent revision. It makes me wonder if it would actually have been possible for “Demon’s Night” to get a full 5-star rating at Red Adept if the timing had been a little different. Ah well… 4.5 stars is pretty awesome, too, and I am a very happy camper.

If there are any reviewers out there, reading this, feel free to drop me a line if you are interested in checking out the new version “Demon’s Night” or any one of my other books.

It appears that my series on eBook formatting has become a major draw here on this blog and not a day goes by where I don’t receive an email or comment post with formatting related questions. Since this seems such a hot topic, and since a lot of people seem to come to this blog for that tutorial in particular, I have set up a box in the upper right hand corner that links directly to the tutorial, because with new posts pushing the eBook formatting series further and further back, it actually became a little tedious to locate. So, now you all have a nice quick link on every page. How do you like that?

The series has also led to a few contract projects. I have just completed an eBook formatting project for a major New York Times best selling author that I think looks like a million bucks. If you want me to handle your eBook formatting, feel free to get in touch and ask for a quote.

Now back to my current work in progress. Did I mention that I started writing a modern-day thriller? Well, now you know…


The truth about Jason Dark

As you probably know by now, my Jason Dark mysteries are about a homeless Leprechaun who lays golden eggs and throws rainbows at people to make them go shave their heads so they can learn to inhale soup instead of eating it…

DraculaI’m just kidding, of course. I couldn’t fool anyone into believing that, but even though you know what my books are not about, it appears to me that many of you don’t really know exactly what they are about. So allow me to tell you a little more about one of my true works of passion.

When I grew up in Germany, horror movies were a rare commodity. Age limitations, which were rigorously enforced in those days, prevented me from going to see the latest bloodfests in theaters and the only way for me to experience horror movies were Saturday late night showings of classic horror films on TV. As a result, whenever a movie like “Horror of Dracula” was scheduled, that day was a veritable holiday for me. Even though I am dating myself now, please remember that this was in the days before home video or cable TV. Yes, such a time existed, in the not too distant past, actually.

EversonCombined with horror literature, this was the only way for me to experience horror in those days. I would pour over William K. Everson’s “Classics of the Horror Film” with its countless still photographs for endless hours, reading about the innumerable horror films I had never seen and those I had watched. The book was to me what the bible is to Catholics.

As a result I developed a deep and lasting love for classic horror movies — the great monster movies of Universal’s golden era, the German expressionist films by Murnau and Lang, the stylish films of Val Lewton, the work of Mario Bava, Roger Corman’s Poe-adaptations, Boris Karloff’s body of work and above all, the masterfully atmospheric Hammer Horror films. I literally ate these movies up and there is a really good chance that I could probably bore you to death with trivia details about films from that era.

This love for the classics of the genre has never abated and it was the forge in which the creation of Jason Dark, the hero of the many supernatural mysteries stories I have written, was shaped. But it actually goes a long way beyond that.

My love for detective stories and thrillers plays into this as well, along with a long-standing faible for a certain German dime novel series and my fascination with history.

When I began writing the first Jason Dark mystery, “Demon’s Night” I wanted to create something that has the intrigue of a detective story, the mystery of a classic horror movie, the emotional roller-coaster and action of a thriller and a dash of history.

But I can hear you — enough with the background, already, how did it turn out? What exactly can I expect from your books?

ripperThe Jason Dark mysteries are supernatural mysteries, period pieces, playing in Victorian England. To me the Victorian era is simply magical and the epitome of classic horror. I mean, look at the truly iconic monsters — Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll, Jack the Ripper… they are all creatures of the Victorian era. Even Edgar Allan Poe’s stories are mostly taking place during early Victorian times. For that reason I picked Victorian England as the backdrop for the Jason Dark books, and London, in particular, is the scene for many of the adventures, with its fog-shrouded nights and cobble-stone streets. Think of it as Sherlock Holmes on steroids, a super-sleuth fighting demons and monsters.

But there’s a lot more to it. Steampunk elements create an alternate world almost, in which Dark and his friends come up with magnificent inventions to track down evil.

Unlike modern day horror, the stories are not overly gruesome or gory. They use atmosphere to set the mood and give you shivers. I’m not a big fan of urban horror or splatter and to me it has always been much more fascinating to suggest horror rather than to explicitly show it. Nonetheless, there is plenty of blood in the stories to firmly place the adventures into the horror realm, but to me it is the traditional “gothic horror” of old rather than the cold, modern horror many people associate with the genre nowadays.

BathoryThe real spice in the stories, however, are the countless historic and literary references. It is hard for me to talk about these without spoiling the fun but you will find many, many names, locations and events that are rooted in actual history or are taken from literature. Don’t be surprised to stumble across people like Inspector Lestrade in a Jason Dark book, or square off with someone like the Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a notorious serial killer who killed over 600 people — I am not making this up. She was real!

There are tiny little breadcrumbs in every one of the books that readers can discover and even though each story is standing entirely on its own, when you read the books as a series, you will see how certain names and events actually lead up to others, how there is a recurring cast, how there are villains that just can’t be kept down, how there are world events that play in the overall narrative.

Van HelsingThe best thing I could probably compare the Jason Dark books to is probably Stephen Sommers’ 2004 movie “Van Helsing.” While purist horror fans may have wrinkled their noses at it, the fact of the matter is that it was a jolly good romp with great visuals, fun characters and action to boot. In many ways that is what my Jason Dark books are about, too, while always making sure not to take themselves too seriously.

Demon's NightSo, if you feel like this might actually be something that you would enjoy, feel free to head over to Amazon and grab a copy of
“Demon’s Night” for only 99 cents and give it a try. What do you have to lose, really? It’s less than a buck, less than a cup of Joe, less than a pack of gum… I mean, why not? If you’ve read this far in this blog post you’re obviously somewhat fascinated by the kind of books they are. I am pretty sure you’ll get some enjoyment out of it.


Et tu, Brute?

Demon's NightAs you may recall I recently reworked Demon’s Night, the first supernatural mystery featuring occult super-sleuth Jason Dark. In the past days I have also created a new cover of Ghosts Templar, another one of the Jason Dark mysteries. This was also an effort to make the book appeal to a larger audience, hopefully, in order to generate more sales.

While I was spending all that time on reworking my books over the past weeks, the question “How can I get more people to buy these books?” kept going through my mind and with it an idea germinated in my mind. A focus group… well, kind of, sort of… let me explain.

I know that many of you visiting this blog have not bought any of my books, probably never even read the sample. How do I know this? Well, I really just have to look at my server statistics and unique user numbers and compare them with my book sales and it is immediately obvious that my sales are in absolutely no relation to my blog visitors. The same is undoubtedly true for my Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Ghosts TemplarNow, I do not want to shame you into buying my books here — not at all. Instead, I would like to know, why you have never bought one of my books — after all there are ten of them and I am honestly curious about the reasons.

As I said, look at it as a focus group. You are an audience and I am trying to sell books. Help me to find out how I can make my products more attractive and better by telling me the reasons why YOU decided not to purchase one.

If you simply don’t read horror or supernatural mysteries, fair enough. That is a valid reason. I’d probably never buy a romance or a poem book. It’s just not my bag.

If the covers were simply not attractive enough for you to take an interest, fair enough, please let me know, or if customer reviews turned you off.

If you thought that I am writing merely for my spiritual enrichment and that money or sales are of no import to me, feel free to let me know, just as you should let me know if you feel that Jason Dark is just a boring dude with a bad name.

Evidently, there is a reason why you haven’t bought any of the books… some reason, even if it is hidden in the recesses of your mind, even if you might be weary to pull it out in the open and face the truth… there IS a reason for each one of you, and I believe it would be helpful for me to hear what these reasons are.

Just to be clear, I am not interested in generalizations, opinions or chatter why people may not have bought the book. These kinds of notions are bountiful across the web and really not what I’m after. I want to know exactly why YOU in particular did not. Search your soul, please, and try to let me know as best as you could.

Again, let me stress that I do not wish to shame you into purchasing any of my books. I love to have you around one way or the other, but I also hope that by following me you do take some kind of interest in my work and if I fail to deliver, I’d like to know about it.


The Emperor’s new Clothes

Occasionally it seems we all are apt to ignore even our own recommendations, somehow too occupied with what we’re doing, I suppose, to stop for a moment and analyze where we are.

Book covers are my case in point today. As many of you may know, I have talked about the importance of strong covers on numerous occasions on mailing lists, message boards and blogs, including Self-Publishing Review. At the same time, when I submitted my books to scrutiny on J.A. Konrath’s blog a little while ago, it became evident that my own covers do not quite meet the criteria I had set out for others. Or maybe they did, but they did rather put my books into too small a niche to become successful.

Demon's Night V1Here is a look at Demon’s Night, the first Jason Dark supernatural mystery I wrote. When I first published it in December 2009, I deliberately recreated the look and feel of the traditional dime novels I grew up with. I expected the print market to be my main outlet and in print, these covers work beautifully with their rich cover artwork and the unified layout the suggests a series.

With this being what they are, just as I released the book, the eBook market exploded and within months it became obvious that print is on its way out, while the Kindle and Nook now generate the majority of today’s book sales, particularly when you’re not published by a New York publishing house. While this is, of course, a very desirable development as it cuts down on production costs and increases revenues, I soon found that it also changed the way I had to approach the presentation of my books.

Some time last year my wife and I redesigned the covers in response to those changes in the marketplace. We needed to make sure that the covers work on computer displays, particularly as very small thumbnails. To accommodate that requirement the updated covers zoomed in on the key feature of the cover artwork and got rid of all the ancillary details, including the series logo and any unused space.

Demon's Night V2Here is a look at the updated version of the cover Thu-Lieu created specifically for the eBook market.

I liked these improvements quite a bit but I ignored one fact in particular until a number people pointed it out to me in plain English. The covers still looked “pulpy.” This, of course, has been my desire all along but as my friend Scott Nicholson put it to me, “There is a reason the pulp era ended.”

Wham! Can you say wake-up call? The funny thing is, that this was nothing new to me. I knew that, naturally, and I knew the risks going into it the way I did. However, what Scott’s remark did, along with the comments of some other people, was to remind me that it simply might be necessary for me to “unpulp” the look of my books to find an audience. While people may not mind to read a pulp-style novel, trying to sell it to them with a pulp fiction cover simply may not have helped my game.

Willie Meikle might be a perfect example of this. He is the master of modern pulp in many ways, and he sells very well. However, a quick look at this covers show us that his books look every bit as slick as any other authors. Aha… some cogs began to spin in my head.

Fortunately, in the digital world changes are easily and quickly made, and it is possible to evaluate the performance of a book cover fairly easily. With that in mimd I decided to try and take my books in a completely new direction and see what will happen. Time will tell if all of this is right or if this is just another harebrained attempt, but in all honesty, I do feel good about this.

Demon's Night V1 For the past days I have labored over the redesign of the cover for “Demon’s Night” and you can see the final result here.

So, what do you think of it?

It may look simple, now that it is completed, but it took some time to get to this. My first attempt at a new cover was uniformly panned by my wife and friends as still being too pulpy. I was hitting a wall and just could not get past my i initial concepts. It was only when I decided to completely forgo the original cover artwork that I finally felt some fresh ideas surface.

From there it became a very iterative process of trial and elimination. I tried different fonts, different colors, different layouts and spatial arrangements, different font sizes, different color themes and so forth, until I finally ended up with the cover you see above.

I am sure you will agree with me that no longer does this look like a pulp story but like a horror story. At the same time I tried to retain a bit of a series character by using a dimmed version of my London skyline, which also conveys the setting of the book.

Best of all, however, this cover works wonderfully as a small-size thumbnail, which I think is crucial to generate interest on sites like Amazon.

I am eager to see how this cover will perform. Combined with a new product description and a clear “Supernatural Mystery” moniker in the title I am hopeful that the book will now be able to carve out its proper space in the market. If things work out, I will redesign the other books in a similar fashion.

You can now find the new version of “Demon’s Night” on, Barnes&Noble, Apple’s iBookstore and other retailers for only 99 cents! Hey, I even updated the Smashwords version, which should go a long way to show you how dedicated I am to these changes because ordinarily I don’t do anything on Smashwords any more.

Clearly, there has never been a better time to check out one of my books, so please feel free to grab a copy!


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.


If you’ve been following the discussion on J.A. Konrath’s blog before the weekend where I guest-blogged about the success of my Jason Dark series — or its lack thereof — you will have noticed that there were a large number of comments, opinions and suggestions. In the aftermath of the public bloodletting I am currently in the process of weeding through these comments to separate the wheat form the chaff — to dig out the few gems that were there.

The idea of the guest-blog, for me, has always been to put my feelers out and see how other people perceive my books because as the author and publisher it is hard for me really see it in an unbiased way.

At the same time I am a very critical person, which can easily be evidenced by the way I conduct my business. Even J.A. Konrath took note of that, evidently, when he said “I’ve never seen a more professional self-published writer.” It was a statement that made me incredibly proud because it is exactly what I have been striving for for all this time. I see myself as a professional, not an amateur or hobbyist, and when I guest-blogged on Konrath’s blog, inviting comments, I looked upon it as a focus group.

I’ve been tallying up all the comments and sort of weighed them in my own mind. Naturally, there are some that I dismiss right off the bat others were truly thoughtful and offered insight into how other people look at books and authors they are not familiar with, even when that audience consisted mostly of fellow indie writers.

In response to the comments some of you might be interested to hear that I have already rewritten the opening of “Demon’s Night.” While I do not agree with all the comments that have been made on the subject of my writing, I did take Moses Siregar’s dissection very seriously and appreciated the time and effort he put into it. Since “Demon’s Night” was the first book I ever wrote, plus I rote it in English, which is not my native language, clearly there is room for improvement and I intend to take another close look at the story to see how I can make it a stronger contender in the field.

It also struck me that there seemed to be quite some confusion regarding the “series” character of the books, something I have noticed on a few occasions before. For some reason, people seem to be under the impression that the books are actually one big story arc that has to be read sequentially. I always felt that the fact that each adventure has its own title, a distinctly separate storyline that is outlined in the flap copy was enough to convey the episodic nature of series in which each story is an adventure of its own, featuring the same principal cast. Evidently, I did not do a good enough job because it became evident that the confusion was running deep.

As a result I will completely rebrand the way I am presenting the books. Each will be represented as its own, with a title that says something like Demon’s Night, a Jason Dark supernatural mystery. There will be no more volume numbers or overt references to the series as a whole as part of the book listings or descriptions and hopefully this will make it possible for people to hone in on individual books regardless for their place in the overall series. The subject matter – demons, vampires, angels or whatnot of each individual book will then become the focal point instead and hopefully this will give each book a better shot at its own life.

In the process the descriptions for each book will also be overhauled to make sure they are as crisp and gripping as possible — though that is a very malleable term all in itself.

In addition I will revise the covers of the books. I am not sure yet how to do this and which way to go, but the general idea is to create a signature look for the series to allow easy identification of the “Jason Dark supernatural mysteries.” In the process of this there is a good chance that I may steer away from the original cover artwork also, though, we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, all the feedback I received as a result of the guest-blog has been tremendously valuable and I am grateful to everyone who made their opinions known.


I just wanted to make a quick update before the weekend, to point out that I have been guest-blogging on two sites today.

The first one is over on thriller author J.A. Konrath’s blog where I discuss some of the strategies I have employed with my “Jason Dark” series in order to get it noticed. You can read about some of the efforts and how they turned out right here! And please, make sure to join the discussion and let have your thoughts on the subject matter as all and any feedback is tremendously welcome.

I am also guest-blogging at the horror site Fatally Yours today in celebration of “Women in Horror Month.” In my post I am talking about the tremendous influence female authors have had on the genre despite the fact that these contributions are all too often overlooked or belittled. Check it out. I am sure you’ll get a kick out of it, as it is not a straight-forward editorial but instead more sort of a story.

I’ve just finished two books I’ve read and I wanted to make sure to let you know about them, too.

First, I read The Heretic by Joe Nassise. I had some reservations at first and held out on the book for a while because of its catholic connotations, I guess. I’m not a friend of organized religion at all and I rarely touch books that have religious themes. Their moralizing simply gets on my nerves. However, in the case of “The Heretic” that was a huge mistake. Not only does the religious theme take such a backseat that it is virtually non-existent other than working as window dressing, but the story itself is such a riveting read that I had trouble putting it down.

Presenting the reader with a modern-day story in which Templar Knights are a Vatican-sponsored SWAT team to fight supernatural baddies, the best way for me to describe the book is one word: Blockbuster!

This is the kind of story you would find in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie – seriously – filled to the brim with large scale action but also offering enough depth and emotion to make the characters tangible. I loved the story and the way Nassise tells it in a very fluid way that is always serving the story and never distracts from the moment. Cade is a great character with a lot of potential and a lot to like about, helping to make the book memorable.

If you want some no-holds-barred reading material, “The Heretic” should go on your to-be-read list right now!

The other book I just finished is Scott Nicholson’s latest novella Crime Beat. Boy, what a fun little read. This one just grabbed me right away and begged to be read in two sittings. I don’t know what it is but Nicholson’s style in the book is almost whimsical despite the subject matter of the story – a serial killer making headlines in an American small town. I don’t want to give away too much about the story because Scott does a much better job at it than I would and part of the fun with this book in particular is seeing it unfold.

I love the characters a lot and Nicholson makes it easy to sympathize with them. Again, it is his observational aptitude that brings these guys to life as the mull over things that we all have had in our minds. Add to it the almost subliminal sense of humor that is sprinkled in throughout and you have the recipe for a perfect read.