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Review of Lucy Leitner’s OUTRAGE LEVEL 10

A contender for the best book I’ve read in 2021, and unexpectedly so. I thought it was going to be horror — more to the point, extreme horror. Instead I was treated to a dystopian nightmare where cancel culture and “defund the police” were taken to their absurd extremes.

In this one, ex-hockey player Alex Malone is suffering from brain trauma from his playing days while fighting addiction and alcoholism. After his rehab, he gets a job with the police force as a cop. It’s a dead-end job, one where he is abused and disrespected. His job is reduced to checking permits and licenses at various business establishments as he fights through CTE-induced episodes of rage and blinding headaches. He’d end it all if he could figure out a way to do so, but in this new society with regulations and safeguards at every turn, it isn’t easy.

After an experimental treatment for his CTE, he begins remembering stuff – but they’re not his memories. And they aren’t pleasant. He’s remembering the torture and murder of “super-seniors,” a forgotten generation suffering from diseases of the brain. After meeting a compassionate nurse and a social media star, he investigates, and, well, the truth is more shocking than he thought possible.

This book made me think in a way that few books have. It made me reconsider my own beliefs and positions, because I generally fall on the side represented by the extremes in this book. And that’s what great stories should do – make you think and question…something. Did I change my mind based on anything in this vision of the future? Not really, because as I said, the story takes it to absurd extremes. But still, it forced me to think about these issues and that makes it a great book in my view. (Take a look at Dan Simmons’ FLASHBACK, a book with a similar take on the positions of the so-called “left.”)

Ms. Leitner can flat out write, and that doesn’t hurt in making this a five star read for me. She creates well-drawn characters so well that I was trying to picture the actors and actresses who would play them in the movie version. She made Pittsburgh, a place I’ve never visited, come to life to a point where I could visualize the buildings and the streets. And she does this while never once pulling me out of the story with poor writing or poor editing.

I’ve written a lot of post-apocalyptic stories (none yet published) and this is the level of quality I strive for. Well done! (not exactly a mini-review but hey, I was excited about this story.) I’ll be reading Lucy Leitner‘s next book, and her previous book. She has me as a fan as long as she keeps writing and telling stories like this.

Dyson’s Long Weekend!

We finally got away to one of our favorite places: Saugatuck, Michigan.

Saugatuck is a small lake town, set on a widening of the Kalamazoo River just before it empties into Lake Michigan. It’s a trove of shops, restaurants and bars along with a vibrant arts community represented by local artists and artisans, along with a community theater. And did I mention the boats? Lots and lots of boats!

There are no brand-name hotels in town; for those, one must travel back to the interstate highway (I-196) or to Holland, the next town to the north (which is what we did). But there are plenty of quaint little motels/hotels/inns and bed-and-breakfasts throughout the town if that’s what you’d rather do. (They’re pretty much fully booked through the summer.) Also, plenty of cottages, homes, condos and townhouses are available for vacation rentals.

Saugatuck has a rich history, going back to when the timber industry was a major industry in Michigan. There was a small lumber town built closer to Lake Michigan called Singapore, Michigan, which had the local sawmill. When Chicago, Illinois burned to the ground in the Great Fire, most of the lumber to rebuild came from across the lake in Michigan, and companies clear-cut the woods, leaving only the cottonwoods, which weren’t a desirable type of wood.

Then the winds off the lake brought the sands inland, creating large sand dunes up and down the coast of western Michigan. With no wooded areas to stop it, the sands piled up, eventually burying the town of Singapore. I’m told that the last time any of the town was visible was the summer of 1975, when the top of the church steeple was still visible. Apparently only three buildings were left by then, the rest having been “slid” up the frozen Kalamazoo River and set into place in… you guessed it… Saugatuck.

I have lots to say about the trip, but not so much for this blog. What I wanted to say was that while visiting a store, I found a series of 7 books written by local author G. Corwin Stoppel. They’re mysteries, all featuring the town of Saugatuck prominently in their stories. I started to read the first book the night I bought it, and I liked it enough to buy the rest on my last visit to town and to that particular store (which was, oddly enough, not a bookstore). I liked the characters and setting immediately, and I was happy to support a local author. They appear to be self-published, and I have found several typos and awkward turns of the phrase in the first book (so they could use some better editing), but I’ll overlook that sort of thing if I’m given a good story, which so far, THE GREAT SAUGATUCK MURDER MYSTERY has done.

It’s a great area to live in, and even a nicer area to retire to, if you can afford it. I’d love to be able to afford it, but if I can’t as a dentist, it’s highly doubtful I’ll ever be able to as a writer in retirement. Still, it’s nice to dream…and I did get a good story idea out of this visit.

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Another “Dyson Goes To The Movies” post!

I’ve never been a huge fan of zombie movies in the past. I mean, I saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and liked it, but it didn’t grab me like it did so many horror and zompoc fans. Also I hadn’t read a lot of zombie fiction.

But there was a lot of indie zombie fiction out there. I read most of the SLOW BURN series and Amanda Hocking’s zombie books back at the beginning of the indie revolution in self-publishing. And one led to another, and another, and pretty soon I was wondering about some of those movies I’d not watched.

So I watched WORLD WAR Z. It was interesting. An entertaining movie with a good cast and a seemingly big budget. Then I watched some others, including the excellent TRAIN TO BUSAN and SHAWN OF THE DEAD. That last one led me to watch HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD’S END, all of which I enjoyed quite a bit.

So on to another series I had never paid much attention to: RESIDENT EVIL movies. The first and second are available on Prime, so I was watching by myself one night and chose the first one.

And I kinda liked it! It was fun. Great unseen villain in Umbrella Corporation. Mysterious set-up where Milla Jovovich finds herself alone in a house with another guy and seemingly no memories of who she is or where she is. As she prepares to leave, soldiers break through the windows and… Well, suffice it to say that there are zombies and lots of them. And it ends with a shot of Jovovich’s character alone in a room, waking up, pulling sensors and IVs off of her virtually naked body, and wandering into the streets to find…

So of course I had to try the next movie. RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE is set shortly after the end of the first movie and starts promisingly enough as they close the city, not allowing anyone to exit. And of course a group of people who aren’t zombified are trapped inside and have to fight their way out. And Jovovich’s character (Alice) is now on the streets as well, trapped in the city by herself. Raise the stakes a bit with a little girl, the daughter of an important scientist, who also ends up trapped within the walls of Raccoon City (which disappointingly has no raccoons, as far as I could tell).

I was expecting another fun movie. Some of the acting was meh, but really, in a movie like this, who cares? It’s when the story gets weird and contradicts itself. And turns back on itself, then finally just goes over the top and turns a zombie movie into something else — still with zombies, but more about what the corporation has been up to.

Which could have been fine, but that’s not what I was expecting. At times it’s just silly and dumb, which also could have been fine, but in this one, it just didn’t work all that well.

Still, should I feel embarrassed that I sort of had fun watching it? I don’t know if I’ll go on in the series, but one never says never when streaming movie services are involved. If the mood strikes me…

Meanwhile, I’ll keep reading zombie fiction here and there and see what pops its head up above the crowded indie zombie apocalypse fiction scene.

Dyson Goes To The Movies!

Okay, I didn’t actually GO to the movies. I streamed and/or watched Blu-ray or DVD versions of them. And a couple of them bordered on horror.

So I’d seen SPLIT, the M. Night Shyamalan movie, some months ago, and was intrigued by Bruce Willis’s cameo at the very end. How do these movies tie together? I’d not seen UNBREAKABLE, so when it came to Prime, I did a viewing.

It was good. Samuel L. Jackson is really good as the comic art expert who has formed a theory about superheroes — they come from legends of former super-powered humans. As such, he has been searching for someone who fits his description, and when Bruce Willis’s character walks out of a train wreck as the sole survivor, and miraculously, uninjured, he thinks he’s found his man. Now all he has to do is convince David (Willis’s character) of this.

When I watch a movie, I want to be entertained, first and foremost. So my first question is, does this movie meet that litmus test? Answer: It does. It has a fun story with great performances and pacing that serves the story. I was invested in the outcome of David’s explorations almost immediately, in much the same fashion as I was in THE SIXTH SENSE, another Willis/Shyamalan film. I believed in him, and I believed that Elijah (Jackson’s fragile character) was actually on to something; his theory about these legends might actually be correct. So this succeeded for me, and I’m glad I watched it.

We followed it with a re-viewing (for me) of SPLIT. I was even more impressed by James McAvoy’s performance than I was the first time around. This is horror; there’s really no getting around it. Three girls have been kidnapped for unknown purposes, and are being held in — well, we really don’t know where they’re being held. It’s just secure and remote, or so it appears. When McAvoy appears with his split personalities (a selection of the 23 he is said to have), he is terrifying.

Again, this one passes the litmus test. I loved watching McAvoy become these various personalities, and I loved watching the supporting characters try to figure out what he’s doing, what he’s becoming, and why he’s becoming whatever it is. Anya Taylor-Joy is very good as the victim who doesn’t fit with the other two. What’s in her backstory? I wanted to know immediately. And in the end, the horror aspects worked really well with the thriller aspects and provided me with a very entertaining film.

At a glance, these two movies seem to have little to do with each other, but if you read close enough, you’ll find the common thread. The third of the series, GLASS, joins the characters from the first two films, along with Elijah, aka Mr. Glass. I don’t want to say too much because it will reveal a lot about the first two films’ stories, but I will just say that this one was the weakest of the trilogy, both in terms of pacing and in terms of actual story. I saw a lot of what the director was going for, but it just felt dragged out. In the end, I watched an entertaining film, still, but I did not like it quite as much as I liked the first two films. Was it a horror film? I think so, by virtue of an even better performance by James McAvoy. Otherwise, it’s a movie that mostly serves to connect two seemingly unrelated stories. Worth watching, but not if you haven’t seen the firrst two.

And that’s “Dyson Goes To The Movies” for this week. Enjoy your life!

The Haunted House

If I was writing a book called “The Haunted House” it probably wouldn’t sell a copy, because that’s a boring-a** title. Although haunted houses are (or were, at least) a hot commodity for Kindle horror stories, I don’t seem to be able to write one well. Shame, really, because I have had a couple of experiences.

Disclaimer: I don’t really believe in haunted houses or ghosts — yet I have had these experiences.

My first story about a haunted house is about the house I lived in as a senior in college. Supposedly, the Bordans (of Bordan Milk, not Lizzie’s family) originally built the 3-story structure with a full basement in Rogers Park, a north Chicago neighborhood. By the time we got around to renting it, the insides had all been painted pink by its previous owner, an older woman who supposedly died in the home. It was purchased by a Polish filmmaker named Marian Marzynski, who had the grand idea of renting it to a group of college students, namely me and seven of my friends from the dorms. In return for rent credits, we were charged with stripping the pink paint from the gorgeous woodwork and cabinetry and fireplace, and we did a lot of it. But mostly, we held massive parties every time Tau Kappa Epsilon threw one. (For reasons lost in time, we didn’t like the TKE’s and wanted to spoil their parties.)

One night, I happened to be the only person in this house, and I heard a sound like a door opening. I figured one of my roomies was home, but when I didn’t hear anyone coming up to the second floor, I shut off my stereo and listened closely. It sounded like chairs were being moved around in the dining room. And I started freaking out. I thought someone had broken in. When I called out, “Who’s there?” no one answered but the noises stopped.

Soon after I thought I heard footsteps on the stairs coming up to my room on the third floor. Then a shadow on the floor cast as if someone was standing in the stairwell just out of my line of sight. So I picked up the cat, who hadn’t reacted to anything this whole time, and I tossed her in front of the stairs and waited to hit whoever was there with a baseball bat that was in my room.

But of course no one was there. When I stepped back, I looked to see what the shadow was from. A spot on the light? Nope. The shadow was gone.

So I went downstairs to the first floor, cranked up the stereo, and proceeded to drink a bit too much, which is how my roommates found me, singing and dancing around to songs turned up way too loud. That experience did make it into a short story I wrote called “Sole Occupant.” It’s in my collection, 14 DARK WINDOWS, if you’d like to read it (along with 13 other stories).

My second stay at a haunted house was actually at The Myrtles, a haunted plantation turned bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. It was a beautiful old mansion, lots of bedrooms, and some were apparently haunted and some have never had any reports of paranormal activity. They would not tell us which rooms we were staying in, saying that if we reported something they would know if we were telling the truth or making something up because apparently the stories from the haunted rooms were all pretty much the same.

I couldn’t sleep much. I thought every friggin’ sound I heard at night was a ghost, even though I didn’t (and still don’t) believe in ghosts. Try telling yourself to be rational at two in the morning while staying in a “haunted” plantation. But I didn’t have any paranormal experiences. Didn’t see anything, didn’t hear anything that wasn’t just an old creaky house.

My lack of belief is probably why I can’t write a good haunted house story. But that isn’t something I can switch on and off.

If you have a good ghost story, feel free to point me toward it in the comments.

Linear vs Non-Linear Storytelling

(This is cross-posted from The Gates of Anthology blog)

So I’m going to start out by admitting that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m using the terms “linear” and “non-linear” in a specific way, to describe certain observations I make about stories I’ve read. I’m also using them to talk about my own writing, my successes and failures as a writer, and what I try to do to make it better.

“America’s Pastime,” my entry into the Gates of Chaos anthology, was very much a linear tale when it was written. I wrote it in the 1990’s for a contest that was called “The Publican Brief.” (The contest name was a mashup of a popular John Grisham novel and the name of the Delphi forum that I helped to run.) We were given six words and an opening sentence for this particular contest. Some of the contests only gave the six words. Some gave opening sentences. Some gave a topic. I recall that this one was both because I remember the opening sentence: “All things are found in the blood.”

I constructed a story around those words, and if you’ve read the anthology, you know the basic tale. All that mattered was what happened in the story. Nothing else. It was linear. It told the story of this ballplayer sliding into second base, getting spiked in the leg and having his calf ripped open, and passing out. When he comes around, he finds that he is surrounded by monsters. And he’s going to have to fight his way out. As he begins to be overwhelmed by the monsters, he again loses consciousness, and wakes up laying at second base with players and coaches looking down at him in a concerned manner. I used the six words and the opening sentence and constructed a story around them. (I recall that one of the words/phrases was “confederacy of the dead” and I think it’s still in the story.)

It’s hard to not be linear in a short story. You don’t have the word count to fill in the back story of your character/s. Still, I tried to add non-linear elements in the rewritten, anthology version of “America’s Pastime.” I gave my main character a bit of history. Now he’s a rookie, in camp during Covid, and he has to stay. Why does he have to stay in Arizona? That’s the bit of non-linear element that I was able to add. He can’t go home because he lives with his grandparents, and they’re elderly and susceptible to contracting a disease which was, at the time of the story (March of 2020), putting a lot of people in the hospital and on ventilators. So my character decides he’s better off staying in Arizona by himself.

And who wouldn’t want to stay in Arizona, anyway, in the spring? Have you ever been there? I have. It’s beautiful. The desert is beginning to bloom and it’s cool enough to enjoy the outdoors. And there’s tons of baseball!

Our anthology has examples of both types of storytelling. There is a lot of linear storytelling (A->B->C) but there are also neat little bits of non-linear elements in some of the stories. BT Noonan’s outstanding opening tale, “The Tunnel,” takes us back and forth in time in the mind of a veteran of the Vietnam conflict. I think it makes this story one of the finest in the entire anthology. Chris Stenson’s “Two Bobbies” has its roots going back into the main character’s past experiences to talk about the current horror he faces. Florence Ann Marlowe’s story “Dancing With The Dead” takes us into a horrific future by telling us what has come to pass in the recent past.

I recently read a book by Howard Odentz, called Bloody Bloody Apple, which uses non-linear storytelling brilliantly. In that work, Odentz takes us through the current horror his three main characters are living through by showing us the history of both the main characters and the town of Apple itself. It made me think about my own stories in much more depth. Where did I use this sort of effect in my novellas?

My story Odd Man Out does a nice job of weaving non-linear elements into the narrative (if I do say so myself). In that story, Roger Sinclair is plotting to off his “best friend” Paul Wagner, who he believes stole the love of his life. How did this come to pass? Read the story and find out! Here’s the link to it: ODD MAN OUT.

I reveal the reasons through Roger’s, Paul’s and Amy’s memories of the night in question. The slightly dark nature of the “Cabin Weekend” also comes into focus as we learn more about the main characters through the non-linear elements of the novella.

Do you, dear reader, have any thoughts about non-linear storytelliing versus linear storytelling? If so, please feel free to leave a comment!

THE GATES OF CHAOS is LIVE!

For the past several months, I’ve been involved in putting together an anthology of horror stories written by writers in the Horror Writers’ Net group here on Facebook. It’s been a learning experience, with a few hitches (an author withdrew two stories with only a week or so to go, for one) but in general it’s been a mostly positive experience as well. There are eighteen stories from fourteen different authors, including me. I also wrote an introduction and the acknowledgements section.

Today, the ebook went live for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited! The collection is titled THE GATES OF CHAOS: Stories Written During The Pandemic. Currently it is priced at $2.99 and every story is accompanied by a custom pen-and-ink illustration by artist Will Jacques.

My own story is titled “America’s Pastime” and a version of it was previously published in my 14 DARK WINDOWS collection. This version has been rewritten to take into consideration the pandemic. Remember last spring, when we thought this was going to be a short thing? That baseball would be back in a month or so? When we’d get a nice little vacation from work and things would go back to normal? Well, how must it have been for those players? What did they think?

Please take a look on Amazon!

On Dreams and Dreaming

Dreams can be weird. We all know this, right? This isn’t news. Dreams jump from one place to another, people act strangely and out of character, and objects can be different and frustrating. The stories we experience in our dreams rarely hold together logically, at least in my experience.

I had a dream this morning. I woke up right before a guy in the dream punched me in the face. So much of it didn’t make sense, so of course I thought I’d document it here.

I was at Wrigley Field when I realized that my phone wasn’t working, because it wasn’t my phone! First I had to try to find MY phone. Did I lose it? Did I leave it at home? How would I find out, without a phone? So I “borrowed” a phone from the guys who were sitting behind me, called my office, where my mother-in-law answered, but of course it’s not my office, she’s at my house with my wife. My wife calls my phone and locates it by my son’s room. Why was I back there? Why was his room “back there?” (I have no idea.)

So now it’s “what to do” with the phone I have, which doesn’t work. It’s in the pocket of my sweat pants (I rarely wear sweat pants and certainly wouldn’t wear them to Wrigley Field). It starts buzzing but stops before I can answer it. Then the phone’s owner is somehow standing right in front of me. I give him his phone back, but he’s mad because I picked it up mistakenly from a counter where he set it down. “Where?” I ask. He won’t answer; instead, he demands money. Why? I gave him the phone back. If anything, I tell him, he should give me money for finding it and returning it. He doesn’t like that idea much, and before he attacks me, I wake up.

Strange things about the dream:

Our seats. They are tiered, but they face OUT of the stadium, and are quite obstructed-view – I can hardly see the game.

The number I give the guy to call. It was almost my second line at the office, and almost my fax number. It is off by one number from each.

Why was I at a baseball game? Before that, in the ‘foggier’ part of the dream, I was at work, referring a patient’s daughter so she could play soccer at high school. (???)

In the few minutes that this phone stuff all happened, the game progressed four innings. I looked around the pole to see the score and it was 10-0, Cubs losing. Three in the first, one in the second, two in the third, and three in the bottom of the fourth with the opponent still batting. And that was strange, too — the Cubs were the home team but they had batted first?

The guys behind me were wearing masks, but no one else was. They would not give me their phone to dial, but dialed it for me. (That’s how I remembered the number I gave them so exactly.) When he handed me the phone to talk, he’d wrapped it in some sort of cloth sleeve so it wouldn’t touch my face or hand while I was talking on it.

The phone I had wouldn’t do anything for me. I couldn’t even shut it off or power it down. It continued to play odd videos which seemed to switch often.

Some people dream of stories. I have had that experience twice. I dreamed once of a psychic (I think mostly it was someone else, but sometimes the guy was me or I was experiencing what he was as he went through it). This guy owed money to a loan shark or something, and needed to contact the ghost of an old bank robber to find out where he’d hidden the money he’d stolen. That dream ended up becoming a 5K short story. (It is in my collection DIE 6, and is called “Blood Ties.”)

The second time was for a short story called “Garage Sale.” That started life as part of a dream where we were hosting a garage sale disappeared from view and we were certain she’d somehow slipped past my wife and entered our house. (That story is in the current version of the three-short-story collection called THE STRIKER FILES.)

Is there a point to this post? Not really, beyond the creativity that the mind can show during our dream-filled sleep. It won’t usually lead to anything that is cohesive, but maybe, just maybe, it provides tidbits for our conscious creativity.

It’s A Wrap!

I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time. I wanted to do a sort of “best of 2020” post with the books, movies and music I finally read, saw and heard. But I didn’t keep a list of books, so I really don’t remember what I read. Or listened to. Or watched.

2020 was a bad year for new movies. I love me some blockbusters, you know? But COVID-19 pretty much killed the theater business last year, and it remains to be seen if it is able to come back or not. Instead we spent our money on Disney Plus, and we were already paying for Prime. My son gets Hulu with his college Spotify package, and Peacock and HBO Max came with our cable package. So we watched at home. Disney released two Pixar movies, ONWARD and SOUL, and both were available in 2020 from the streaming service. Both were good; SOUL was definitely the better of the two, but both entertained. They also released MULAN direct to streaming with something called “Premium Access.” Odd that they didn’t do that with SOUL. I would have paid extra to see it immediately (we watched it when it was released on Christmas Day) but I didn’t want to see MULAN so much that I’d pay a premium for it.

We also watched WONDER WOMAN 1984 on HBO Max on Christmas Day, and I’m glad I didn’t have to pay extra for that one either. It just wasn’t that good. I finally watched the series “The Boys” on Prime, and we went through the two seasons of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy.” Both were kind of superhero-ish, but neither was a Marvel- or DC-like story. I’m hooked on both.

I don’t really remember a single book standing out in 2020. I read a lot, mostly on Kindle, but a handful in hardcover and paperback as well. I’ll have to pay better attention in 2021. I continued to read Ray Garton, John Everson, Jeff Strand, Duncan Ralston, Howard Odentz, Russell C. Connor, and Bryan Smith. Found a new author: Bella Dean Joyner. And I continued to read outside of the horror genre, especially Steven M. Moore’s latest works in both his Esther Brookstone series and his Penny Castro series. Many of those books were very good (Odentz’s book WHAT WE KILL jumps out in my memory) but there wasn’t that “one” book that said, “this is THE book of 2020.”

Music was interesting. My son has Spotify, and he introduced me to a bunch of cool bands that I would never have known about. I won’t remember all the names here, but the ones that stand out for me are Lawrence, a R&B combo from NYC, and Jukebox The Ghost, a power pop band. I also liked The Happy Fits and a few others. Of course, old standby Paul McCartney released his album MC CARTNEY III at the end of the year. Mixed bag on it. I recognize the songwriting skill and the musical skill, but there are only a few songs (so far) that make me want to listen to them multiple times.

One more thing I want to mention on my year-end wrap. I started watching some YouTube channels. This was new to me. I thought it was all gamers streaming Minecraft or whatever they’re playing at the moment. But there is some great programming. They make you laugh and sometimes teach you something. One film guy I’ve enjoyed is Patrick (H) Willems. He’s a nerdy fan of the big blockbusters like Marvel and such, but he knows filmmaking and his video essays have given me new ways to look at films and movies I enjoyed. Another is Mr. Beast, who makes videos about giving away tons of money. He’s philanthropic at times and entertaining at others. Often the two (philanthropy and entertainment) intersect. The last one I want to mention is Mark Rober, an ex-NASA engineer who does interesting and educational videos about all sorts of science-type stuff. Rober was part of the team that landed Curiosity on Mars, and some of his engineering creations for his videos are quite ingenious (and funny). But others were inspirational. I really like watching him.

So that’s it for 2020. As they say in the movies, “That’s A Wrap!”

Writing Sequels

I was perusing forum posts in a writing group on Facebook today when the question came up: should a writer consider writing a sequel to one of his stories? My response was that series books sell, and if your characters have more stories to tell about them, why not tell them?

I’ve written a bunch of stories over the years. Some, like ODD MAN OUT, started out as short stories and then morphed into a novella. Some, like DEAD OR ALIVE, morphed into a longer short story and spawned two more short stories. But most were not conceived as series stories. They all started off life as one-offs.

But recently some of those characters called out to me. In some cases, it was simply a loose end, left purposely at the end of the story (as is often done in horror stories; nothing can have a completely happy ending), which called out for resolution. Some were just interesting characters (to me, at least) and their worlds allowed for more stories. Some just seemed like they needed another chapter, something that wasn’t part of the original series. And one was a minor character in a novel who then became a character in a second novel.

First, let me talk about Rick Striker. If you’ve looked at THE STRIKER FILES (only $0.99 on Amazon!) you know that Rick is a private detective who is working on the case of a missing girl. (Spoilers for those stories follow.) The end of the trio of Striker Files stories leaves Rick in a different state of being, so to speak, and living in a new community. But I liked Rick and I liked his supporting characters, and I liked their world, so I imagined what would happen due to Rick’s actions in those three stories. And that became a novel. I haven’t titled it yet, but it’s complete for all intents and purposes.

So then I wrote another. I set the second (or third, if you count the three short stories as one) in Paris. For this one I had to do a little bit of research. My search led me to Biblical stories and creation mythology. So of course, I tried to work that stuff into the story, and came out with something that was fun and satisfying.

But lo and behold, Rick’s story wasn’t finished. I began a third (fourth?) story and am about 7000 words into it. I think this is the final story of the “series” of stories that didn’t start out to be a series at all.

Next, there is ODD MAN OUT. It may be the story I am most proud of. And one day I started thinking about those characters, Paul and Amy, Roger and Laura Walden, and the others. In the novella, Paul and Amy are engaged. So as their wedding date approaches, it would seem natural that things might go awry, considering how things are left in the first one.

So I started writing what happens next with these characters. And a story started to build out of it; I am about 6000 words into it, and eventually I’ll get back to it.

A third thing arose out of my first and only novel, RECIPROCAL EVIL. As with most of my stories, a happily-ever-after ending can’t just be left that way. But I really had no plans to ever continue that story.

And really, I’m NOT continuing that story. I had another story I was working on, and it wasn’t going anywhere. But suddenly I realized that it was set on the same college campus that RECIPROCAL EVIL occurred on. (How could it not? I was basing both on my own college.) And I always wanted to write more with Detective Thomas Chavez, the cop who investigates events in RE. Chavez becomes the same sort of supporting character in this new untitled story, and it even ties into the ending of RE without much of a rewrite. How cool is that?

Finally, I wrote and finished a short novel that I call FULL MOON, but that’s just a working title (I think). Bad things happen in this story of about 52K words. I finished it up with some of my characters getting away and crossing the country in search of safe haven, but of course I couldn’t make all end well for them. So they’re back in the FULL MOON town and other bad things are happening. Different bad things, but definitely bad things that were foreshadowed in the original story. I’m about 24000 words into this one. I don’t believe it will end up crossing that 50K threshold, but who knows? The first FULL MOON was about 10K shy when I first finished it, and then another 10K went into a few added characters and scenes. This could grow like that as well.

So what’s the plan with all these “sequels?” I’m thinking of packaging my novellas into a single volume, sort of a Stephen King thing like FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT or DIFFERENT SEASONS, and releasing them in a paper version. I’m thinking of doing the same thing with ODD MAN OUT and ODD MAN OUT 2, neither of which is currently long enough to justify its own paper edition. Then the FULL MOON books might get the same treatment, depending on the length of the second one. Finally, the Striker novels will remain standing alone for the foreseeable future.

As an aside, my Addison Falls novel is still percolating, though currently it’s on the back burner. I haven’t released anything since 2018, so my hope is to finish a lot of stuff at the same time and start putting them out one after another. I tried to do this with RECIPROCAL EVIL, THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT, and ODD MAN OUT in 2018, but while I sold some ebooks, I didn’t get any kind of momentum from the succession of releases. We also have this anthology for the Horror Writers’ Net coming out in early 2020; I’m an editor and contributor for that volume. Can’t wait to see how that one ends up.

So back to the original question. Should we write sequels? I’d say it all depends on the story and the characters. Do these guys and gals deserve more stories to be told about them? Are they interesting enough to carry more stories? If so, then why not? There’s a certain richness about these things. The possibilities open before you as you write even more easily than they do for stand-alone type of stories. I started out writing short stories, and only a couple of those have called out to me wanting their own longer tales. But when they call me, I try to listen.