The Kitt Pirate cover got another rework

Last week I told you about my upcoming middle-grade book, Kitt Pirate and also showed you the cover artwork for the book. Well, as these things go so often, we actually made a number of change to the cover because there were a few things that Juan, my wife and I felt could still be improved.

So, Juan had another go at the cover and added some more detail. The result is an incredible cover artwork, I feel, that is definitely stronger than the one I showed you last week. More fleshed out, it hits the nail perfectly on the head in my opinion and if a solid cover were any guarantee for stellar sales, I am sure that Kitt Pirate would have to become an instant bestseller when it is released. Naturally, things are not all that easy, but hey, one can dream, right?

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

You may also notice from the cover that I have settled upon a pen name for the book. After much deliberation I have decided upon the name Ben Oliver. My wife and I felt that the name has a certain playful quality and a good ring, so we thought for children’s book it may be a good choice. So, there you have it. Let me know what you think of both, the improved cover and the name.

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The scoop on my middle-grade book

Some of you may recall that I mentioned before that I have been working on a middle-grade book for some time. Well, the book is essentially finished and almost ready to be published and I thought I’d give a quick heads-up, as to what it actually is.

Please meet Kitt Pirate!

Kitt Pirate Logo

As the title suggests, this is the story of a young pirate. A young lad who is captain of a bunch of salty pirates as they sail across the Caribbean in search for treasure and plunder. But they’re not the kind of bunch who will slaughter and kill just about anyone.

Kitt and his gang have a mission. they have decided to take the money from the rich and put it to use to help the poor – of which there are many. Under the oppression of the Spanish, the French and the English, no one in the Caribbean is safe from these greedy, gold-hoarding invaders, and Kitt feels it is only apropos for him to return the favor.

The book I wrote is called “Kitt Pirate: Snaggletooth’s Treasure.” Kitt has come across a treasure map that promises unfathomable riches and for months he and his crew have been sailing across the cerulean seas in search for the elusive island where the treasure is rumored to be buried. When at last it surfaces on the horizon, nothing can stop them… or so they thought.

I have been working with an old friend of mine, Juan Fernando Garcia, to provide me with interior illustrations for the book, as well as the cover artwork. I’ve worked with Juan before, as he was one of the artists on one of the game projects I was producing for Squaresoft, and I knew his style would be perfect. not only is he a killer pencil artist, but he has also branched out into other areas and has recently worked on comic books as well as — I am not kidding you — candy packaging for kids. So, clearly, he was the perfect man for the job, and as you can see from the cover artwork below, it shows.

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

For the past few days I’ve been formatting the book for its digital release and I’ve been tweaking the cover and I am now at the point where I could theoretically upload the book to distribution channels.

There’s only one snag, which keeps me thinking. My name…

I know it sounds weird, but I am seriously considering publishing this book under a pen name. Why would I do that? The main reason in my mind is that it would allow me to separate my horror books from this children’s book. While my Jason Dark mysteries are not overly explicit most of the time, I think they are definitely not suitable for fourth or fifth-graders, at which I am targeting Kitt Pirate. The last thing I’d want is for them to google my name because they liked the book and ending up reading some of my horror fiction. I am sure every parent can appreciate that sentiment — I know, I do.

So, that raises the question, what pen name should or could I use, and that’s what’s holding me up right now. A pen name is something, I feel, I need to take seriously. Not only does it allow me to project something into that name — hopefully an exciting sense of adventure for children — but it is something that will stay with me for a long time, as books do not really outmode. I am sure I will come up with a name I find suitable soon enough, and then it’s off to the races!

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The Predatory Kind might be for you!

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!

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Check out the “Mean Streets”

During the World Horror Convention in Austin earlier this year I had the chance to spend some quality time with horror authors Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill. Both of them are established and traditionally published authors in the horror genre, that many of you may be familiar with as they’ve published a number of fascinating books.

Both had not made the transition to the digital realm yet at the time, in part because of rights issues, in part because they simply weren’t all that familiar with the process. I therefore offered my help and suggested to take one book and make it a test-balloon of sorts. I would turn the book into an e-book and publish it through my distribution channels under my Thunder Peak Publishing imprint. My hope was that I could convert Gord and Gene to digital believers so that they would get off the traditional balls-to-the-wall, no-future traditional publishing rails.

In the weeks following the convention, Gord and Gene refurbished a short story collection that had been published years. Originally titled “When the City Sleeps,” the book had been out of print for almost just as long and it made a perfect candidate to be turned into an e-book. Ever the professionals, Gord and Gene didn’t just want to put out shovelware and decided to include new material in the e-book. They sat down and wrote two completely new sort stories to be included in the book.

Mean Streets CoverThe result is “Mean Streets,” a collection of seven urban tales of terror, and I can tell you this is signature Rollo and O’Neill material! Sure, I may be biased, but when I read the stories, they really pulled me in and surprised me with interesting twists. In particular “Lord Rat,” one of the new stories, is a real showpiece of smart short story writing. It never fails to intrigue and unsettle, and it takes place in O’Neill’s favorite haunt, the San Francisco Tenderloin district.

But I also enjoyed “Breath of an Angel / Touch of the Devil” very much, which reads like a who-dunnit in a dark, seedy urban setting. Very cool stuff, I can tell you, and definitely worth the read.

“Mean Streets” is now available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore for only $2.99. Maybe you can do me a favor and support the effort. Show Gord and Gene some love — they definitely deserve it — and buy the book,if only to show them that the e-book market is alive and thriving. If this turns out right, both will be more than happy to release more of their work in the digital marketplace.

So, grab a copy and enjoy the urban terrors their wicked minds have thought up. I promise, you will enjoy it!

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Meta-data… what are they good for?

As people tackle the subject of e-book formatting, every once in a while I receive an email with the question, what meta-data in an e-book are actually used for. Since you will have to re-upload your book description, the ISBN and the keyword tags on every distribution channel’s portal again and again, the question clearly becomes, why am I entering it in Calibre in the first place, if it isn’t being put to use?

First, let me say that it is possible to create e-books without most of the meta-data. Things such as the product description, keywords, ISBN identifier, publisher and so forth are not mandatory, so if you feel lazy, you can leave them out.

However… you knew there would be some kind of catch didn’t you? So, however, if you think they are not being used, you are mistaken. Meta-data are being put to use in a number of places, but the most important one for you as a reader is probably the device itself.

Meta Data Example

When you load your book onto your Kindle or Nook, you see a listing of titles in your library. Depending on your settings and your device, you will also see a small thumbnail of the book’s cover. Do you have any inkling, where that comes from? The meta-data you provided, naturally.

But that’s not all. Many devices allow you to sort books by author, again, using the e-books’ meta-data to dictate the sorting. If the library software on your device is a bit more sophisticated it will allow you to categorize books by genres and keywords, using the “keyword” meta-data you have provided in your e-book.

And so it goes, on and on. While I can’t think of any platform that currently makes use of it, it is also easily possible to think of software that allows you to take a quick preview of the book by printing the product description — culled from the book’s meta-data, of course.

It may feel like you are duplicating information over and over again as you prepare your e-books and upload them to distribution portals, and in fact, you are. I, for example, would love for Amazon to retrieve the necessary data from my e-book file by default, for example, saving me the time it takes to enter all that duplicate stuff, but ultimately it is of no relevance. The process is easy and fast enough as it is, so I have no real complaints here.

What is important, though, is to understand that a book’s meta-data are being put to use over and over again, silently, in the background, to make sure your readers will get the most out of the book and their e-book readers. In fact, I would not be surprised to see meta-data expanded upon in the future to include proper library categorization, author biography and cross references to other books by the same author or titles in a series. These additions may just be around the corner, as Apple is already requesting that sort of information when you upload your book to the iBookstore. Hilariously, though, it makes absolutely no use of the information at this time, it seems, as the iBookstore search engine is about as dumb as a piece of bread. But hey, you can’t have everything…

So, is it a good idea to skimp on your meta-data? Probably not, even though it may seem like redundant information.

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Blockbuster – where did you hide?

Every once in a while I pick up a book and as I start reading it, it turns into this revelatory, almost overwhelming, experience. Dos this happen to you, too, sometimes? You start reading and as you make your way through the book you go “How come I had never heard of this book before?” or “Why is not everyone talking about this book?” or something down the lines of “It is a shame this book is so overlooked, because it should be a best seller.”

Blockbuster coverWell, guess what? It just happened to me again and the book in question is Blockbuster by Sven Michael Davison.

The book is an incredibly witty and irreverent take on Hollywood. In essence, it is the written equivalent to something like “Die Hard” — an action story that is superbly balanced with hilarious moments, great characters, cool action and everything else that makes some of those blockbuster movies so memorable — and more.

Imagine, a group of terrorists infiltrate and take over a major Hollywood studio and take everyone hostage, from the action mega stars, the diva directors, the writers, the crew, the assistants, all of mahogany row… everyone. Can you imagine the possibilities this scenario offers? I mean, rally? Why didn’t I think of that?

What makes this book even more irresistible is the fact how it pokes fun at Hollywood, its image, lifestyle, glamor, business, the people. In every paragraph would will find a little nod at a well-known movie, actor or director, and I love the way it is always disguised a little, turning it into a fun little guessing game every time a name or movie title is being dropped.

One might suspect that I am biased when it comes to this book, because Sven and I go back some 10+ years, but I honestly do not think so. In fact, Sven and I have been working in Hollywood at the same time, and that’s how we met, because he used to be one of the head honchos creating DVDs for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Yes, my friends, if you own any Fox DVD that was released between 1998 and 2009, you can bet your sweet bottom on it that Sven had a hand in it, if only to call up the movie’s stars and book them to record a commentary track or to film an interview featurette or documentary.

And that is just the thing. Sven knows Hollywood inside out. And it shows in his book. There is an authenticity to his story that I can fully attest to. As I said, Sven and I have worked Hollywood during the same time period and I am very familiar with the people, the biz, the lingo, the status symbols, the facade, the schmooze, and so forth.

When Sven describes the circle of assistants, each of whom is trying to get their own project off the ground, each of them using the other to serve as a front for potential investors, it reminds me of the way the game is played in Tinseltown.

When he names his assistant characters with names like “Delicious” or “Botswana,” it may sound funny at first, but interestingly enough, for some weird reason, these are exactly the kind of names you find in the front offices of movie executives.

But it goes much deeper than that in the book. The way people talk, the way they carry themselves, the self-conscious way with which they behave is all too real. Add to that the level of detail Sven puts into adding little nuances about the security guards, the layout and design of the studio lot, the made-up history of his Mogul Studios, or the love for the subject matter when his characters geek out over high-end equipment, and you get a feel for what Hollywood is really like. It may scrape off the pink dreams you may have had, but always with a wink in his eyes, Sven reminds us all that making movies is a business — nothing more and nothing less.

The thing that struck me most from the first sentence, however, was Sven’s use of language. His opening chapter describes the shoot of a blockbuster movie and like the movie itself, his vocabulary is completely over the top. It is the same popcorn-style writing. Absolutely hilarious and off the wall. Rich with adjectives and metaphors, immediately bringing to your mind images of some of the greatest action movies you’ve ever seen.

Then the style changes, as the story moves away from the set and settles into a more realistic tone that is nonetheless as energetic as a sprite, filled with pixie-dust and wonderful wordplay. I found myself relishing every sentence I read.

Anyway, before I get too carried away, as I said in opening, I was completely floored by the book. I had promised Sven to read it some time ago but it took me months to actually get around to it. Boy, do I regret that now. The book is like a fresh breeze.

Do yourself a favor, grab the reading sample on Amazon and check it out. If you are a movie buff or simply someone who enjoys movies for a little escape, you simply owe it to yourself to check Blockbuster out. I guarantee you, the first chapter will hook you completely! To me, Blockbuster was like a kick in the butt, forcing me to face the question, “Will I ever be able to write a book as cool as this?”

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Writing for children – a new experience

As I am taking a self-imposed leave of absence from Victorian England and the supernatural encounters of a certain man named Jason Dark, I have been working no some material to branch out. No, I am not tired of writing Jason Dark mysteries — far from it — but I felt that I needed to add a little diversity to the books I am publishing. The idea is that I want to reach readers that I simply cannot entice to read horror mysteries — such as children.

Yes, you read correctly. I have written a book for children. A middle-grade adventure, to be exact. It is one of those things that happen to you when you’re a parent, I suppose. You start taking an interest in the material your own children are reading and you begin to detect that some of this is actually quite interesting or intriguing. In my case, it sparked an interest to write some stories for children myself.

Easy as pie, you might say, but don’t be fooled. Writing a book for children is a lot harder than writing a book for adults. The reason is quickly becoming obvious when you consider that you are trying to tell a story to someone who has only a fraction of the vocabulary of an adult. Word choice is one of the most critical elements — and one of the biggest challenges — when you write for children.

When we write a novel, it is easy for us to create diversity by spicing up our writing with words of different meaning, sometimes relying on very subtle nuances of these words to create atmosphere, mood or action. This is a lot hard to do when all you have is one or two words for a meaning.

Let’s say, for example, in your children’s book you want to write about a dark and foreboding room. For adults we could draw from a wide variety of words to create the right mood for this. The room could be gloomy, dark, depressing, spooky, ominous, foreboding, shadowy, malignant, pitched in darkness or even tenebrific.

When you write for middle-graders, out of that entire list only two or three words could be really be applied safely. Maybe a few more, depending on the exact age range you are writing for, but the general point I am trying to make is that your vocabulary is severely restricted. In order to be able to still paint vivid images with your words, you end up doing a lot of wordsmithing. I spent a lot of time revising my book over and over again. Not so much for content itself, like it is often the case with my stories for grown-ups, but instead to create sentences that flow easily, that have a solid rhythm. I will check sentences to make sure they are word appropriate, I will double-check sentences to make sure they do not run too long, and I will remove most of my sentence modifiers, rephrasing paragraphs to make the clear and to the point. All of this is essential for young readers to be able to follow your writing.

Much of this is actually good practice when writing for adults, also, but naturally there is a lot more leeway. Starting with the word choices, adults have a much wider knowledge base, usually, a vocabulary upon which we can draw as writers to create more colorful prose.

Naturally, in books for adults, we also want to make sure our sentence structure is not always minimalistic and overly simplistic. While it is never a good idea to get lost in your own convoluted sentences, I do believe that insertions and modifiers can vastly define the style and voice of a writer.

For me, it was an experiment really, to see how well I would do within such limitations. Since English is not my native language I am always very conscious about potential weaknesses in my writing, and creating this book was an exercise for me to really get down to the fundamentals of it all.

Some time soon, I’ll tell you more about this exciting new book. It is completed and I am only waiting for interior illustrations and the cover to be finished.

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Seed CoverToday I would like you all to welcome Ania Ahlborn, author of the horror thriller Seed, to this blog, as she is tackling an issue that is not discussed in public very often: hateful reviews. Many authors will not talk about it for a number of reasons, because it is painful, because whenever you’re criticizing a customer’s review you’re dangerously close to sounding touchy and defensive, or for any number of other reasons. By talking about this subject, Ania not only touches upon this subject but she goes one step further and does so from a analytical point of view. It goes a long way to show how professional and serious she is about her work and I am proud to have her on my blog today. So, here’s what she has to say about the Vampire Reviewer.


There’s something to be said for book reviews. Many writers use them as a tool–a stepping stone to improving their writing. They listen to what their audience wants and try to figure out how to make the next book better. But not all reviews are helpful. If you’re a writer who has sold even a handful of books, you’re going to run into it: the dreaded one and two star review.

Believe it or not, this is what keeps a lot of writers as just that–writers, not published authors. There’s a very real and palpable fear in the writing community of being judged, and not just judged, but judged harshly. And while it’s definitely scary to put yourself and your work out into the world, stalling your own writing career because of that fear is downright silly. But writers do it all the time. They do it because of that one reviewer–the reviewer that’s overly harsh, overly critical, and less than specific about what they liked and didn’t like about a work of literature. Every writer has them. Stephen King has a whole army of haters. They’re vampires, and most of the time they huddle in the shadows not under the cover of night, but under the cover of anonymity.

Vampire reviewers huddle under the cover of anonymity

The fact that sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble allow you to post anonymous reviews is a problem. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t be allowed. The second problem: reviews don’t have a word count requirement, and they should. The fact that people can post reviews without it being tied to them in any way, shape, or form, is basically giving that person license to be an idiot. And while some may say ‘what’s the big deal?’, if you’re a writer, it’s a very big deal. A single mindless comment can bring even the best of us to our knees.

I’m not saying that one and two star reviews shouldn’t exist. I’m a believer of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and if you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. But with reviews, there’s a fine line between critique and critic. Critique puts something on the table, be it a comment on character development or plot. It offers the writer some incite on why the reader didn’t like what they read, and while even the most constructive criticism can sting, it’s at least helpful. The critic is the guy who tosses out one and two star reviews like they’re going out of style. They’ll say something like ‘this book sucked, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.’ How does that help anyone? It doesn’t offer a potential reader any incite on why the reviewer thought the work was bad; but worst of all, it strips the writer, for just the briefest of moments, of the hard work, the effort, and the dogged determination they put into that novel… and for what? For someone to shout ‘you suck!’ from the rooftops and run away before they can be identified.

Putting a novel up for sale is a hell of a task

I’m a firm believer that if someone isn’t a writer, there’s no way for them to truly understand how much emotion goes in to producing a piece of work. And then there’s the bravery part. Putting a novel up for sale on a site like Amazon, where anyone in the world can purchase it, read it, and judge it, is a hell of a task. It’s hard enough to be judged for any multitude of reasons throughout our lives. It’s even harder when that judgment doesn’t have a name or a face, or, quite frankly, anything constructive to say.

So the next time you’re ready to post a one or two star review, by all means go for it. But stop, take some time, and put some effort into that review, because the author very well may be reading it as soon as you post it, and that author is just as human and imperfect as you are. The only difference is that they’ve got their head on the chopping block, and you’re the one wielding the axe.


AniaBorn in Ciechanow Poland, Ania Ahlborn’s earliest childhood memory is of crawling through a hole in the chain link fence that separated her family home from the large wooded cemetery next door. She’d spend hours among the headstones, breaking up bouquets of silk flowers so that everyone had their equal share. She’s been drawn to the spookier things in life ever since.

Ania has been dabbling in fiction since the age of twelve. She attended the University of New Mexico, where she received her BA in creative writing. Seed is her first published work.

You can find Ania online at www.aniaahlborn.com

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Focussing your distribution

There is a saying that goes “Money begets more money, ” meaning that the more money you have, the easier it is to make even more of it. The rich get richer, because they can make more lucrative investments.

Talking to many authors over the months, I think we can also draw a parallel here to books. “Sales beget more sales” is a mantra I think most authors will agree with. The more you sell, the more your book will be recognized, the more word of mouth it will generate and the higher it climbs in recommendation- and sales charts.

I am pointing this out, because I want to make you think about your distribution strategy for a moment.

Many authors try to cover as many bases as they can. Any outlet they can get their books listed in, they will do so. The believe is that it is a way to maximize exposure and thus generate more sales. Even if a small distribution portal makes only one sale every six months, it is still a sale, right? Money in your pocket and a reader.

I had the same idea initially but changed my approach over time. I delisted my books in all outlets that do not really perform. That means, I took my books off Google, I took them off Diesel, I took them off Smashwords and a number of other more specialized outlets. For the longest time I didn’t even upload my books to Apple’s iBookstore any more either.

Instead, I am driving all my potential sales to Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Kobo these days. These three are the key players in the market. I have even stopped referring potential buyers directly to the Jason Dark website to purchase their books and instead direct them to the major three also these days.

I am sure that by now you are wondering why I would do such a thing. Surely, I must be losing sales. “No,” I say.

I am no longer diluting my sales, is what I say, and the reason is very simple. “Sales beget more sales.” I am trying to drive every sale I can to Amazon for the simple reason that every single sale made through Amazon, improves my book’s ranking. Improving the book’s ranking improves its exposure. It gets listed higher and more often and as a result I am increasing the chances of the book getting noticed and making another sale which, in turn, makes it climb higher yet, further increasing its exposure and hopefully leading to another sale, and so on. With more sales in a channel the odds of getting additional reviews climbs also, and as we all know, customer reviews are one of the most critical drivers in the entire sales game.

It is very noticeable, I think, that books that make it across a certain magic threshold, suddenly begin to climb at an accelerated pace. They have been discovered. I attribute this phenomenon entirely to the “Sales beget more sales” effect. The sales themselves are perpetuating the book’s success by generating more sales.

So, instead of allowing my book sales to get lost in a labyrinth of a vast number of channels, I am focusing my distribution to the three major players. Companies like Smashwords take pride in the fact that they give you access to many small and some premium channels, but ultimately all of that is for naught. Good luck releasing your book as an iPhone App. Now you’re not only competing with a million other authors, but with about 50 million app developers too, as if things weren’t hard enough as they are. All of that extraneous glitter that companies like Smashwords dangle in front of you is really just a sign of how unfocused they are. Instead of getting their core product – the easy one-step preparation and publishing of eBooks for authors – in shape, for years now they have been chasing down a frazzled track in my opinion. And trust me, their core product needs some serious work.

Every author I talked to in the past 16 months tells me the same story. The real money comes only from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Kobo. Everything else is a trickle. Now, if you funnel that trickle and put it to work for you at one of the big three distributors instead, you may actually have not only those few sales, but you may generate even more by pushing your book further up the search results and rankings.

You may not agree with me, or you may simply be afraid that you might be losing that one extra sale in an obscure channel, but I hope that if nothing else, this has given you some food for thought.

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“They just don’t make them like this any more.” Whether it refers to movies, music or books, I am sure you have heard the phrase countless times before. I know I have, and it has been the reason why the Jason Dark supernatural mysteries I’ve been writing are what they are. A throwback to, what I consider, the Golden Era of horror. A kind of story and presentation they just don’t make them like any more.

gothic imageIt seems odd in this day and age for someone to write horror mysteries drenched in gothic atmosphere. While everyone around me seems to be occupied to write modern horror stories that feature either romantic half-monster match-ups or are getting more and more gritty and urban, it appears to me that very few writers actually give a second thought to more traditional horror.

It has led to a remarkable — and very unexpected — side-effect. I deliberately chose the rather unique format for my books and the Victorian England setting to allow me to stand out among what’s currently available, but it has also created the not insignificant challenge for me to explain to people what the Jason Dark supernatural mysteries actually are. People seem to have trouble wrapping their minds around the concept and the initial impressions somehow seem to lead them to wrong conclusions about the stories.

Whenever I drop the term “horror” in a conversation or description, people instantly have preconceived notions. Most people will wave me off right away and tell me they don’t read horror. As a result I find myself explaining to them about the wide gamut that horror actually covers, ranging from something like “Frankenstein,” which many people would probably not even consider horror but an intense character drama, all the way to the ultra-violent and sadistic “Saw” fare. There is a lot in-between and the two ends of the spectrum could not be further apart. Yet, the mere mention of the word “horror” has people dismissing it.

gothic imageEven the term “gothic horror,” which is designed to narrow down the genre somewhat, is all too often misunderstood. I used the term when I released the first Jason Dark stories, because it is what they truly represent. Sadly, too many people associate the term “gothic horror” with pale, pubescent girls wearing too much eye make-up who are desperately crying for attention. Some will see it as a valid lifestyle or fashion trend, but still have only the image of too much mascara in their heads. Neither is what “Gothic horror” means, and neither of it is what my Jason Dark stories are about.

“Gothic horror” is a description for a particular style of horror, which, by tradition, emphasizes atmosphere over graphic violence. A film like the old “Dracula” featuring Bela Lugosi is “gothic,” as is “The Wolfman.” It is all about the creepy imagery and atmosphere. The fog-shrouded forest and cemeteries, castles towering over steep cliffs, things that we know are moving about, terrifyingly dangerous, but we never really see them. Flickering candles in a ghostly house, long, deep shadows and staircases covered in cobwebs. All these are elements of “gothic horror.”

Universal was the master of gothic horror with its early monster movies and the Hammer Film Studios punched it up a notch. Bringing color to the party, they were able to bathe us in deep midnight blue hues, the magnificent crimson satin on the inside of Count Dracula’s cape and the bloodshot red eyes of Christopher Lee. The Hammer horror films were masterfully shot using gothic elements but ramping up their effect over and over again. Sadly, they were often dissed because of their limited budgets, but true fans of the genre will always cherish them for their mood and atmosphere.

It is for those people who love these kinds of horror films as much as I do that I wrote the Jason Dark books. Every time I read and finished a horror novel, I walked away, telling myself, “They just don’t write them any more the way they did.” If you go to Amazon and you try to search for quality gothic horror books you will find yourself in quite a bit of a predicament. Most of them you will probably have read already because they are classics like “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” Edgar Allan Poe’s work and such fare. You may be lucky and find a few, rare gems that are newer, but the majority of more modern gothic stories followed on the heels of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and most of those were already more romanticized than gothic.

gothic imageFinding fresh gothic horror content is hard — in fact I find it virtually impossible. As a result people are no longer familiar with the term or these atmospheric settings and the wonderful creepiness these stories often have. By consequence, they also have trouble imagining what Jason Dark stories would be like.

Using atmospheric cover artwork has always been my main approach to ring across the atmosphere of the books. If you look at Dr. Prometheus, for example with its cover that show gravediggers in front of a full moon, to me the message and atmosphere of the story is immediately clear.

In the sixteen months since I have launched the first Jason Dark books, I have found that it has required my eternal attention to somehow bring across the setting and atmosphere of these stories so that they might find an audience. Maybe articles like this one will help getting people excited about these action-packed creepy mysteries.

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