Book Two Is Off to the Editor!

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Photo Courtesy of Kate Gardiner via Creative Commons
1x1.trans Book Two Is Off to the Editor!Alert the media—I’m calling this thing done! In my last post I explained what I learned writing the sequel to Tell Me When I’m Dead. Well, since then I’ve received the feedback from my beta readers and have made some final changes to the novel based on their notes. Overall, the comments were positive, which is very encouraging. (There is nothing more fragile than a writer’s ego.) And I can’t wait to share the story with you. But first things first. Now the book must go through a proper edit. The cover design still needs to be completed and the eBook formatting remains to be done.

Speaking of covers, recently I had dinner in Boston with Kevin Asmus, the artist who provided that brilliant image for the first book’s cover. Discovering his work was pure serendipity and fit in perfectly with the book’s theme. This time, I commissioned Kevin to create a new cover for Book Two and I’m confident it’s going to be awesome.

Originally when I wrote Tell Me When I’m Dead, I thought of it as a standalone book. But as I got to the end, it became clear to me that there was a bigger story to tell. The protagonist, Dave Pulaski, was just coming into his own by the end of the story. I needed to allow Dave to find out how and why the plague was unleashed in Tres Marias. And I had to find a way to test him beyond his own limits.

I believe I’ve done that, but as I suspected I am still not done with this guy. So I’m going to write Book Three to finish the story. Yep, what started as a one-off zombie novel is now a trilogy. Who knew? I wonder how often that happens. I mean, when Suzanne Collins began writing The Hunger Games, did she already know it was going to be a trilogy? I have no idea. In my case, I was surprised.

For those of you who read the first book, thank you. I hope Book Two won’t disappoint. As I said, early feedback has been good, so I think you’re in for another roller coaster ride. Stay tuned. Next up, the cover reveal!

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What I Learned Finishing My Latest Book

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Photo Courtesy of kr3st0 via Creative Commons
1x1.trans What I Learned Finishing My Latest BookSo where have I been the past few months? Off-world? In a way, yes. I’ve been holed up in my basement finishing the sequel to my zombie novel, Tell Me When I’m Dead. And let me tell you, there is no better feeling than typing that final word and calling it done. Much better than the funk I found myself in last November after NaNoWriMo when I only managed to bang out 25,000 words. Whew! So yesterday I sent a draft to my beta readers—whoo-hoo! After one more revision, I will send the book to my editor. By the time the cover, the editing and the formatting are complete, the book will be published in late summer—just like the last one. Cannot wait, my friends. I think I’ll celebrate by tearing into that Milky Way I’ve been saving.

So here’s the thing. Not only did I finish but I learned some lessons along the way. And I wanted to share those with you. Take them or leave them. I hope they help other writers out there.

Lesson 1—The Book Doesn’t Write Itself
Believe me, I’ve tested that theory. I have gone days without writing. When I get back to my computer, I am still at the same spot. No Microsoft Word fairy is clickety-clacking away while I watch old ‘Fringe’ episodes. This lesson is obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me. Often, I think I fool myself. “Plenty of time,” I say. Well, guess what, there isn’t plenty of time. Time is finite, and we need to write. Also, I find that when I haven’t been writing for a while, I become irritable. Not good when you have a family.

So here’s a confession. I’ve been writing a long time and, for me, cranking out the words is hard. It’s not writer’s block, mind you. I have more ideas for books than I could ever execute on. No, it’s the actual sitting down and getting the words on paper. It takes me a long time to work things out. In reality, I am writing in my brain. I’ve covered this before—I don’t really outline. I have a general idea of where I need to go. I typically have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the twists and turns that make the story fun are what take me the longest to work out. And that takes time.

Lesson 2—Burst of Creativity Is a Myth
At least for me. It’s not the sprint to the finish line that gets the book written. It’s the slow and steady thing. Sitting down every day and writing something. Even if I haven’t worked it all out, I’ve found that if I just get on with it, sooner or later it comes together. Now, I can hear some of you chortling out there. “Well, if you had written an outline, you wouldn’t have this problem.” Guess what. I tried outlining years ago and here is what I found—I don’t stick to it. The thing seems so rote to me. When I get to actually writing scenes based on it, I find I hate it and I veer off in completely different directions. So, I might as well do that to begin with. Why waste weeks—or months—writing an outline when I could just write the damned novel?

There is a downside. Sometimes when I write forward to get to the next part of the story, I find that things have indeed taken a different turn—or have become more clear in my mind, necessitating a visit to earlier chapters where I must revise in order to match what happens later. But that’s okay. I’ll take that small inconvenience any day. Unless I’ve gone completely off the rails later in the book, I’ve found that the revisions are usually very minor and only require rewriting a paragraph or two, or adding a scene.

Lesson 3—Social Media Is a Sinkhole
There, I said it. If I had kept up with my normal schedule of blog posts and tweets, I would still be sitting here staring at my unfinished book, instead of writing this happy post. And I really felt guilty about it—at first. But somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that I must finish the book. Nothing stood in my way. Okay, let me amend that. For me, there is nothing more important than family. There are lots of stories about famous writers who had horrible home lives because of their devotion to “the craft.” I don’t roll that way. Yes, I need to write but not at the expense of my family. My girls are growing up fast, and I don’t want to be lying in some retirement home someday with a bagful of regrets.

So, there you go. I’ll leave you with one small data point. Although I was virtually absent from the social media scene, the number of people following me has grown. Go figure. This makes me wonder if people even noticed I was gone! Actually, I don’t want to think too much about that, or I will start getting self-conscious. Then I’ll bring on a monster case of writer’s block for reals.

Now, check out Jerry Seinfeld. This, folks, is the writing process.

1x1.trans What I Learned Finishing My Latest Book

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Macy’s or Wal-Mart—Which Are You?

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By Khalid Muhammad

1x1.trans Macy’s or Wal Mart—Which Are You?In this second in an occasional series, Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office, talks about something as important as writing your book—marketing it. Brand is crucial to an author’s success, and so is how you price your book. So who do you want to be?

Macy’s or Wal-Mart—which are you?

There is a reason that marketers get paid the big bucks—we know how to position and market your product for the highest return. There is also a reason that 99% of us hate to compete based on price—because the next guy that comes along at 10 cents cheaper is going to steal our customer. That is capitalism at its finest. It doesn’t matter if the product is better or not, if the price fits, the consumer will buy.

Why do they buy? Because you haven’t given them a reason to stay with your product, in this case your book. And therein lies the rub …

When we spend months writing our book, detached from family, losing sleep, and inhaling more caffeine and nicotine than our bodies know what to do with, we are doing it because we have a story to tell. We want the readers to be absorbed, engaged and interwoven into the words that we put on the page. We want them to escape into the lands that we create, feel the emotions of our characters, and savor the experience until our next book comes to market. So why do we price our books so low that real readers don’t touch them?

For most authors, they never think of the marketing side because they are too busy working on writing the actual book, which is much more important, nor do they have the capital to go out and hire someone to do the marketing for them. So they take on the task and find themselves competing for the Wal-Mart customer rather than catering to the Macy’s loyalists. Let’s stop for a second and talk about what that means.

I am a big fan of Wal-Mart. It’s a great place to shop, and wonderful people work there, but we all need to be clear—we don’t shop there because of the great quality, we shop there for the price. Because Wal-Mart buys in indecent quantity, they are able to offer a significantly lower price to the consumer so they don’t need to worry about quality. They just need to keep the shelves full. Now, look at Macy’s. They don’t care about price. They focus on quality and the experience of the consumer. The Macy’s shopper doesn’t spend their time waiting for the flyer, they just go and buy. Price is not the decision point for them, it’s quality and experience. So, you have to ask yourself, which one are you? Are you a price point or do you give the reader a fantastic experience? That’s a tough question because it affects your entire marketing strategy, book positioning, and sadly, your book sales. So let’s ask the question.

As an author, do you deliver a fantastic experience to the reader? Do you want to have loyal readers that send you emails, post on your Facebook page and hound you on twitter wanting to know when your next book will be out? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you need to think about the experience and forget the price.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump your price to over $8 an e-book like the traditionally published authors, because you don’t carry the same expenses nor do you have a publisher that is hungry to generate obscene revenue from your hard work. This is your baby. This is your money and only you know how best to price it, so price it that way.

I know there are a bunch of authors out there who believe the best way to sell their books is to drop to a .99 price. But can I ask you a question—what do you think when you walk into a dollar store? Are you there because you want the best quality or are you there because you want to get some inexpensive things? Yeah, I thought so. The same applies to when you give something away for free. You got something for nothing, so what is it really worth to you? I should be clear this does not apply to the books you give away for reviews because that is also a marketing activity and good reviews sell books. But if the reviewer sees that the price of the book is below the price of a McDonald’s meal, they don’t take it with much value.

So I leave you this week with this question—as an author, are you Wal-Mart or Macy’s?

1x1.trans Macy’s or Wal Mart—Which Are You?

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About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

1x1.trans Macy’s or Wal Mart—Which Are You?

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It’s Spring—Time to Kill Some Zombies!

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1x1.trans It’s Spring—Time to Kill Some Zombies!Wow, I thought this day would never come! Sorry, it’s just that I’ve been slaving away since last fall, trying to cook up a killer sequel to my zombie novel, Tell Me When I’m Dead. When I started on this journey over a year ago, along with Dave, Holly, Warnick and the others, I imagined that a story about an antihero forced to confront a plague of flesh-eating “draggers” in his little town of Tres Marias would essentially be a one-off—a roller coaster to hell that would explode into a fireball. Let the poor guy suffer, save his wife, kill the bad guys who, in the midst of the terror and the mayhem, want to take over the world. Then send him home.

The problem was, once I got through the craziness of twenty-seven chapters of running, fighting and killing, I realized that there was still so much to tell. How did the outbreak begin? Would those responsible ever be brought to justice? I just had to start a second book. Well, now that it’s finished, I can assure you, it’s going to be even darker and more hellish.

In the meantime, I wanted to give you the chance to read the first book—and save money, too. So from May 2nd through 6th, I am offering Tell Me When I’m Dead for 99 cents. (The normal price is $3.99.) So far, the book has received many four- and five-star reviews. Go ahead, have a look.

1x1.trans It’s Spring—Time to Kill Some Zombies!

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Amazon Reviews
“There’s a difference between reading a book and watching a movie. I can get scared with either, but there are scenes in books that I can picture vividly for a long long time afterward, and this book has plenty of those.”

“Holy cow, what a great page turner this was. I thoroughly enjoyed a hero that had issues, and was working through problems—definitely someone I could relate to. All the other character in the book- well written and also fun to read and learn about. Until you lost one. Then it’s “NO!! NOT HIM!” I tell you, Steven Ramirez kills more people than all the Whedon brothers combined!!”

“This is one helluva zombie book! Steven Ramirez takes us on a bloody, terrifying ride through this hell on Earth he’s created, giving us plenty of backstory to skillfully develop his awesome characters.”

“One word of advice: I don’t often yell at my eReader but I did after reading the last line of this book. I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t read this yet but I will tell you it left me a hot, angry mess. Why, oh why, isn’t there a sequel yet? Get on that, would you, Steven!”

“So fasten your seatbelts and take a wild slay ride into hell in North California where if you are lucky dinner will not be served on a splatter. A FIVE STAR gorefest and a must read for all zombie fans looking for something fresh and still warm.”

Blurb
If the zombies don’t kill you, people will.

Lucky to have made it to his early twenties, Dave Pulaski wandered through life lost and drunk with his best friend Jim. Then came Holly. She made it her mission to clean him up. And he finally did it. Two years sober, Dave has plans for a family, a steady job and college.

One night Jim disappears, leaving a grisly trail of animal carcasses and murdered bodies. Now Missy, the woman Dave cheated with, threatens to destroy not only his marriage but his sobriety. Between Missy’s jealous demands for attention and the police investigation focused on Jim’s disappearance, Dave’s neatly ordered world quickly spirals out of control.

Amid the wreckage of Dave’s personal life, a contagion brings chaos to his hometown of Tres Marias. The condition, known as “the jimmies,” infects hundreds and kills quickly. But the dead find no rest. They rise as ravenous flesh-eaters.

Dave soon learns that “not all draggers want to eat your flesh, some want revenge.” And Jim and Missy, both infected, each want something from Dave.

The quarantine of Tres Marias creates hell on Earth. Badly outnumbered security forces are no match for the growing hordes of undead.

Follow Dave, Holly and a small band of heavily armed soldiers and civilians as they fight to survive looters, paramilitary nut jobs and the zombie apocalypse.

If the zombies don’t kill them, the wackos surely will. Nowhere is safe.

1x1.trans It’s Spring—Time to Kill Some Zombies!

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Dancing with a Dead Horse—Cover Reveal

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By Danielle DeVor

1x1.trans Dancing with a Dead Horse—Cover RevealOn April 30, 2014, the new novel by Danielle DeVor is hitting the shelves. Available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, this YA thriller will draw you in, closer and close— until it’s too late.

1x1.trans Dancing with a Dead Horse—Cover Reveal

Blurb
Sometimes lullabies aren’t soothing; they’re deadly.

Sixteen-year-old, Jason Miller, wants three things: to become a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter, graduate from high school, and avoid his mother’s ballet classes.

When he finds the body of the most popular girl in school, he has a major freak-out session, and then calls 911. But if finding a body wasn’t bad enough, when a horse doll made of human skin and hair is found in his locker, the entire town accuses Jason of the murder.

As the body count rises, so does the hostility. Jason is left with a choice: To run and hide or to clear his name and find out why the killer is targeting him before it’s too late.

About the Author
Danielle DeVor spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching ‘Salem’s Lot’ way too many times. After living briefly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she moved back to her hometown to write. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a Mocha Frappuccino. She is also the “Fearless Blogger” for author Tina Moss’s blog.

Her books are available at Amazon:
Tail of the Devil
Constructing Marcus
Sorrow’s Point

You can find Danielle at danielledevor.wordpress.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Interview with Alan M. Clark

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1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. ClarkOkay, this is exciting, people! I am privileged to have as my guest this week, Alan M. Clark, author of the new historical thriller, The Door That Faced West. In this extensive interview, Alan discusses his work as both an artist and author, and provides some interesting background on his new novel. As a bonus, Alan shares some of his illustrations with us—two of which have never been seen publicly!

Hi, Alan. Welcome to the show. It’s great having you here.
A pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.

You are blessed to be both an amazing writer and artist. How long have you been writing and drawing, and which came first?
Thank you for the praise! The answer depends on what you mean, I suppose. For the art, painting and drawing—I’ve been aware of a desire to produce art since about age five, so over fifty years now, but I didn’t think about doing it professionally until my teens. I was lucky to have parents who never discouraged me from considering a career in art. Even so, I went to art college largely to put off for another four years what I thought would be a life in some sort of work I’d do to make money but for which I’d have no real feeling or pride.

I didn’t expect to have a reasonably good business sense that would see me into a life of creative pursuits, but that’s what I had and what happened. Again, I’m lucky. Here’s a link to one of several galleries of my artwork on my website: http://bit.ly/1rj7Hiu

Concerning writing, I started creating fiction in high school, mostly for fun, doing it with friends. Sounds like a gateway to some sort of addiction, doesn’t it? Well, perhaps it was. The collaborations were a lot of fun. We laughed a lot, reveled in weird imaginings, but, like the artwork, I didn’t really believe I had a future in it. Still, I kept at it because I loved it. As an adult, I’ve had several groups that met to share creative process. The members of the groups have been a variety of people with different creative pursuits; writers, graphics artists, painters, photographers, song writers, poets, comic book artists, etc. We shared unfinished work primarily, talking about the processes of our individual creative endeavors. We collaborated some. I was getting good responses for the writing I presented to the groups and started submitting short fiction.

In 1995, I made my first professional sale to a paperback anthology, More Phobias, edited by Martin Greenberg, Wendy Webb, Richard Gilliam, and Edward E. Kramer. Since then, I’ve been more deliberate about getting my writing to an audience and it’s grown. Now, I’ve had four collections and seven novels published. Here’s a link to information about most of my fiction: http://bit.ly/1rj8ksa

Being creative, I imagine ideas come to you in all sorts of ways. When something strikes you, do you typically see it first as an image, then a story? Or does it happen the other away around?
As you suggest, ideas come to me several ways, usually not a clear picture as an image or story. In two-dimensional visual art, I get a rough image that isn’t a composition. If the idea is good, if I like what I see in my mind’s eye, I still have to work at presenting it as part of a composition that includes the rectangle of a picture plane.

In storytelling, it’s the emotional environment that comes first. I develop characters that struggle against the circumstances of their lives, the people in their lives, even those they love, and the conflicting emotions that the characters, themselves, experience. I like working with characters that are emotionally conflicted because they are more like real human beings. They make mistakes they have to live with or struggle to amend. The decisions they make often cause them pain, create conflict with others, alter their core values and motivations, take them in surprising new directions, ultimately change who they are emotionally. The rest: the setting, the time period, the genre, is all just window dressing.

It constantly surprises me when people ask where my ideas come from. Over the years I’ve learned there’s no answer to that. So where do your ideas come from?
Experience, life, free association, the subconscious soup, from practicing the use of imagination, exercising that “muscle” by using it frequently. My blog is called the “Imagination Fully Dilated” Blog. The title comes from a series of anthologies I helped edit. The anthologies are of stories based on my artwork by writers from all over: Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z, Brite, Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, and many others.

When I had to come up with a title for the series, I tried to give a sense of how I felt about the process of developing ideas. I thought of an eye, the mind’s eye, that can grab what we know, what we have in the way of experience, and recombine it in new ways to project possible futures, scenarios involving action and conversations, great vistas, curious mechanisms, alien worlds—but not just for fantasy, for practical function of necessity as well—hell, the whole of human invention.

So what prevents us from inventing what we want at a moment’s notice, at least within the imagination? Complacency, lack of urgency, laziness, fear of failure, fear of success and having to maintain that success? Okay, so those are some of the things that have gotten in my way. But imagine a mind’s eye that isn’t lazy, afraid, self-conscious and self-absorbed, one that dilates freely to allow in more experience, more ideas, more color, more light! The title appealed to me also because there’s something of birth in the idea of an organ dilating, opening, not just to let in, but to give forth, to allow to come into existence the products of our creativity.

So, I sound a little crazy, but all of this just to say that I think that if you exercise your imagination, just as with the muscles of your frame, it will be there for you when you need it. Perhaps your mind’s eye opens more freely with use. It seems that way to me.

Your new book, The Door That Faced West, is a work of historical fiction and a thriller, with a healthy dose of violence. What drew you to the Harpe Brothers?
I grew up in Tennessee and learned over time about the history of the State. It has a wild and wooly past. Interesting stuff. I’d read about the Harpes long ago and was fascinated by their story. They are some of the earliest American mass murderers. Perhaps they were serial killers. They were at least spree killers. Over the years their story has stuck with me, but particularly one aspect that most seem to overlook. With the three wives they shared between them, these men lived on the trail in the wilderness of very early Tennessee and Kentucky for months at a time.

It’s difficult to imagine today how foreboding that wilderness must have been and the myriad dangers that existed there. The Harpe brothers killed primarily to gain supplies since most of their victims did not have much money. For extended periods of time, that’s how the group of five survived. It must have been extremely rough living. Yet when the wives got separated from the men at one point, they traveled over one hundred miles to the agreed upon rendezvous. That seems extraordinary to me. What must these brutes have been providing the women that they’d be willing to do that, I wondered. One was the teenage daughter of a minister. How had a young woman, who presumably had some sort of spiritual upbringing, ended up with such dangerous men, been party to forty or more murders from which she benefitted materially, and decided they were worth sticking with despite great hardship?

What history tells us is that when finally the wives were separated from the men for good, they were tried and acquitted. One never remarried and lived out her life working on a plantation. The other two remarried, had children, and lived the rest of their lives in ways that were unremarkable. One of the latter two was the minister’s daughter. I wondered how she’d handled all that emotionally. That became the emotional arc of the novel. The story is told from her POV. The Harpes were extremely violent and while that’s fascinating, it’s not something we aren’t familiar with in serial killer drama. But her story set within the context of their deeds and the early American frontier—as I said, that seemed extraordinary to me.

Did you find it difficult to capture the mood and character of the period? I’m thinking specifically of the way people spoke, the idioms they used.
I like history and have a pretty good sense of when things came into existence in human experience, society and technology. I worked in a living history museum after college, a replica of the first settlement of Nashville called Fort Nashboro. I told of the history of Tennessee to tourist for several years and read a lot about the time period in the state. Tennessee had its first permanent settlements of those of European descent in the 1700s.

I have a sense of how people spoke in that time. In creating dialogue for the characters, I’ve made a compromise between giving a feel for the period and making the language accessible to the audience of today. If I’d really stuck with the sorts of language construction the Harpes and their wives might have used, I’d have tried the patience of many readers. My goal was to tell a good tale, not adhere so strictly to history that my readers might not relate to the characters. I think the flavor of the period I’ve provided helps put the audience there.

You grew up in Tennessee, a state with its own rich history. Do you feel a real connection to it’s past? If so, how does that affect your writing?
I do like Tennessee history, but perhaps no more so than that of other parts of the world. I’ve been writing about Victorian London quite a bit for my Jack the Ripper Victim series. My historical fiction novel about the life of Catherine Eddowes, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is the first novel in the series. The second novel about the life of Elizabeth Stride should come out later this year. Victorian London is endlessly fascinating.

Can you tell me who some of your favorite writers and artists are?
Writers: Kurt Vonnegut, Joe Lansdale, William Faulkner, Simon Clark, Phillip Jose Farmer, Patrick Suskind, Bruno Schultz, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon).

Visual artists: Max Ernst, Leonardo da Vinci, Rick Berry, Richard Powers, Johannes Vermeer, Roberto Matta, Robert Williams, Phil Hale, Gerald Brom.

Thank you, Alan. I wish you the greatest success with your book, and I look forward to chatting with you again.
Thanks. I enjoyed it.

Alan’s Illustrations

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the novel, The Door That Faced West.

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the upcoming novel, Say Anything But Your Prayers: The Life of A Ripper Victim.

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim.

About The Door That Faced West
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the two murderous Harpe brothers, loyal to one another but violently at odds, go on a year-long killing spree in the American frontier, dragging with them the three wives they share between them; women who form a triangle of dependency, loyalty, jealousy, hatred, betrayal, and love.

“It is not hyperbole to say that Alan M. Clark’s The Door That Faced West left me absolutely stunned. A thoughtfully haunting blend of historical fiction and thriller, this is one of Clark’s best works to date, across any medium. Simply amazing, and undoubtedly one of the best books you’ll read this year.”

—Brian Keene, bestselling author of The Rising and Ghoul

 1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

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About the Author
Alan M. Clark obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is an artist, author, publisher and founder of The Bovine Smoke Society, Bovine Smoke West and The Creative Process Committee. He currently resides in Eugene, Oregon with wife, Melody.

You can find more information about Alan at www.alanmclark.com and on Facebook.

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Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

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Once read, never forgotten.

EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL. THE BATTLE FOR SOULS HAS BEGUN.

The Dracula Chronicles is a new and exciting series adding a fresh dimension to the Dracula legend, which combines the real historical Vlad Dracula with a new and different version of Dracula the vampire. The series has been released in two arcs, one that follows Dracula the man and the other following Dracula the vampire. It is written in a style that is both literary and cinematic, that places you there in the thick of the action always.

The books are historical novels of Gothic horror; religious corruption; political intrigue; tragedy; war; dark paranormal fantasy; and deep romance. The premise is built around Creation and the divide in Heaven that results from Lucifer’s jealousy of the creation of man. This leads to the First Great War of the Angels and Lucifer’s eventual expulsion from Heaven with all those who sided with him. The annihilation of the angels continues, but rather than destroy Lucifer, God agrees to a truce. By its terms, Lucifer can contest the soul of every living being as long as he does not interfere with their free will. Should he control more souls than God at any time, he can ascend again to Heaven and cast God and the angels out. He would then have a free hand to destroy all mankind.

Lucifer turns man against God with ease. God responds by sending his prophets one after another to bring man back to the path of righteousness. It seems to be merely delaying the inevitable and in one last effort to thwart Lucifer, God sends his son made man. In giving his life on the Cross, Jesus wipes away man’s sins. This leaves Lucifer back to where he was at the beginning and means he has to start again. The Catholic Church is born on that fateful day in Jerusalem as Christ’s church on the earth. Lucifer then believes if he can destroy this great icon of God, he can turn man against God once more. He searches for over a millennium for the one who can lead his assault on God. The Crusades give him renewed hope, and he is sure the conflict between Christian and Moslem will provide the one he seeks. When this does not materialise, he turns his attention to the Balkan region where this conflict is renewed with Ottoman expansion into eastern Europe. He finally identifies the second son of Vlad Dracul as the one he can manipulate into achieving his ends. God has prepared for this event, and in the very moment that Vlad Dracula draws his first breath, so does another child sired by Dracul, though born to a gypsy woman. This child, Andrei, is blessed by the angels and bestowed with great powers as a balance to the evil about to be unleashed upon the world.

THE VLAD DRACULA ARC
The Vlad Dracula arc … Books #1 to #5. Set in the 15th Century Balkans, this arc brings to life in its entirety the world in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived. It follows his loves; his triumphs; his many great tragedies; the betrayals he endures; and his great struggle to survive his many perils and secure the autonomy of his sovereign nation, Wallachia, which is sandwiched between the mighty Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The books introduce you to all the great players of the period, their political machinations, and their great conflicts set within the battle between Christianity and Islam. They follow Lucifer and his schemes to manipulate the young Vlad Dracula into seeing through his great plan. Replete with references that are Biblical and drawn from the writings of the Kabbalah, The Dracula Chronicles also introduce a new vision of Hell and take you on a journey you will never forget.

THE BOUND BY BLOOD ARC
The Bound By Blood arc … Books #6 to #10. This arc begins with Dracula’s last great battle at Snagov in 1476. Despite winning yet another great victory, his enemies mortally wound him with arrows. He orders his men to take him to the chapel at the nearby monastery so he can die on holy ground. To his great chagrin, it is Lucifer who comes to claim his soul. The Dark One speaks of his great vision, and of how he has chosen Dracula as his instrument to bring down the Catholic Church. He bites into Dracula’s neck and then gives him his own blood to drink. In doing so, he creates a monster, superhuman and immortal, who can live through the ages and help him win the battle for souls.

Into the 16th Century, wherever the Catholic Church is harmed or loses its influence, Dracula is there behind the scenes to propagate it all. He involves himself with Machiavelli; Martin Luther; in the Italian wars between France and Spain; the Borgias; Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty; and many more.

At the same time his brother, Andrei, takes up the fight against him and arms the Church with the knowledge of how to counter him. In resurrecting Dracula’s legitimate brother, Radu, from the dead so as to exact retribution against him, Dracula and Lucifer have unleashed a powerful enemy who has joined the battle against them.

PREQUEL—THE LAMB OF GOD

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

This is a prequel to For Whom The Bell Tolls and the entire The Dracula Chronicles series. It offers a taste of what is to come, giving the background of the concept, the Crucifixion, and the night of the births of Vlad and Andrei.

If you subscribe to my blog, link below, I will send you a free download of this prequel. You can also hear an audio version, narrated by myself, on my website and on my YouTube channel.

BOOK #1—FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

“A war rages on around us every day. The struggle to save all mankind. The ultimate evil.”

All is well in Heaven until God creates man. Lucifer’s jealousy leads to the First Great War of the Angels. Hundreds of thousands of years on, the feud simmers beneath the surface. It plots the course of history as we know it today. Both sides manipulate the major players through the centuries to seek an advantage over the other.

The battle for souls has raged since the truce that followed the First Great War. God has struck the ultimate blow and sacrifice to gain the advantage, and defeat Lucifer. As Lucifer stands at the foot of the Cross that drains the last ounce of life from Christ and eradicates man’s sins, he realises that his work must begin anew.

In time, he comes to understand that his only chance to win this battle will be to destroy the institution of the Catholic Church to turn man against God. He searches for more than a millennium for the candidate to see his plan through to an end, and finally discovers the one that can cast that final blow.

On a cold night in December, 1431 in Sighisoara, an old gypsy woman delivers a prophecy to the great Vlad Dracul. She tells him he is about to sire two sons, one an angel and the other a devil.

He returns to his fortress just as his wife bears him a son, whom he names Vlad. In the very same moment across the country on the border between Transylvania and Hungary, a gypsy girl gives birth to another son, Andrei. The die is cast. The twin souls are born. The young Vlad Dracula becomes the instrument of the forces of Darkness. To balance this, the baby Andrei is blessed by the angels and bestowed with awesome powers.

This is their story.

AMAZON REVIEWS—FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
“I never thought a man could be capable of writing with such sensitivity and emotion.”

“Beautifully written with great story lines, the author does not hold back in his descriptions of many brutal acts of violence (save for a very long and tastefully done sex scene).”

“The relationships between father and son, the son and his captors and the individual characterisations are way beyond what a fantasy/paranormal book might offer. The writing is of literary class.”

“FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS differs from Shane K.P. O’Neill’s BOUND BY BLOOD sagas in that it takes place years prior to Dracula’s vampiric existence, but this in no way diminishes the power and intensity of its read. Events unfold with the depth of a historical epic.”

BOOK #2—THE PATH TO DECAY (Release date March 20, 2014)

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

“The path we walk, is the path to decay. The only way to live, is to die.”

The great Vlad Dracul is dead, fallen in battle, and his throne gone. His son, the young Vlad Dracula, is consumed with grief and a need for revenge. All alone in the world, he keeps his promise and returns to Anatolia. There, he takes a commission in the Ottoman army. On the fields outside Kosovo Polje in Serbia, he is handed his first opportunity to strike back against the men who killed his father.

He has grown into the ultimate fighting machine, and is feared by one and all. This path to decay, as described by his father, is the one he chooses to follow. Lucifer guides and watches over Dracula, but also deepens his hold over him. As time passes, though, his enemies build in every quarter, and they strive to bring him down.

With nowhere left to turn, how will Dracula avenge his family? How can he hope to win back his throne? As he faces one tragedy after another, these events mould him into the man who will be spoken of for centuries to come. A man who lets nothing stand in his way in his pursuit for revenge, and the throne that was his father’s.

 

PREQUEL—BIRTH OF THE MONSTER

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

This is the prequel to Bound By Blood, and the vampire arc. It takes you to Dracula’s last triumph on the battlefield, and his last moments as a mortal man. While he lies dying in the chapel of the monastery at Snagov, Lucifer comes to claim his soul. The Dark One speaks of his vision in destroying the Catholic Church in his quest to win the battle for souls, and creates Dracula the vampire.

BOOK #6—BOUND BY BLOOD

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

A new edition of this and the next book is currently with my copy editors, and will be released and re-launched with new covers in the summer.

“A war rages on around us every day. The struggle to save all mankind. The ultimate evil.”

As his moment of death looms Dracula suffers the ultimate betrayal. The champion of the Catholic faith in Eastern Europe realises it is Lucifer who is coming to claim him. However, Lucifer does not want his soul.

Instead he bites into Dracula’s neck and then offers his own blood to drink. Dracula suffers his mortal death, but he re-awakens. Immortalised with Lucifer’s blood coursing through his veins, the two are bound by blood for eternity. Lucifer has groomed him for this day and lays out the task before him.

Dracula is to destroy the institution of that which he has championed for so long. By bringing down the Catholic Church he can undo the Crucifixion and turn man against God once more. If he succeeds then Lucifer will ascend again to Heaven and signal the end for all mankind.

AMAZON REVIEWS—BOUND BY BLOOD
“This story is a powerful and sweeping epic. The language, the settings, the characters … they all exude Classic.”

“If you are looking for a vampire novel that is rich in detail, with historical facts, legends and folklore weaved in and splashes of gore and a bit of romance, this is for you.”

“This book will stimulate your imagination as it entertains you. Bound By Blood is among the best vampire novels I have read.”

About the Author
1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula ChroniclesShane KP O’Neill developed a fascination with Dracula from an early age. Like many others he was enthralled by Christopher Lee’s portrayal of him on the big screen. It was in his late teens that he discovered Dracula the man and the love affair began from there. An avid lover of history, he studied the period in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived, 15th Century Balkan, for many years. It followed from there then that with his love of writing he would always choose Dracula as his subject. He built a concept and premise where he could accommodate both Dracula the vampire and Dracula the man.

Away from writing, the author has a wide range of interests. He reads a lot of books from a wide variety of authors, though his main interest lies in the horror genre. His love of books is matched only by his love of the countryside and of course, his family. As an added note, he has lived and travelled all over the world. He has a love for all things historical, with a particular fascination for medieval Europe. Anywhere he travels, he likes to search out locations with an historical interest and will always hunt for the ruins of an old castle before heading to the beach.

You can find Shane at www.draculachronicles.co.uk, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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So You’re An Author

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By Khalid Muhammad

1x1.trans So You’re An AuthorI am very pleased to welcome Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. In this occasional series, Khalid discusses what it means to be an indie author, responsibilities you didn’t even know you had, and tips on creating a powerful marketing presence. In this first article, Khalid covers the basics of the author platform.

So you’ve written your masterpiece – 90,000 plus words, formatted and cover designed, and you’re just getting ready to publish it to the world’s hungry eyes … when all of the sudden fear grasps you and you start to wonder, How will people know? and What if they don’t buy? Yes, we’ve all been there, whether traditional or self-published—that moment that makes us turn ghost white wondering how people are going to find out about our book. That moment when we realize that no matter what the publisher does to promote it, we will have to brand ourselves and market our books. Oh, the horror!

About a decade ago, before the social media and the Internet became like food for everyone, marketing a book would mean buying advertising space, getting on popular radio shows and begging local and regional newspapers for reviews of your book. That all changed with the digital generation, where with the right tools, you can spend very little and get huge results. That’s if you know how to use the right tools.

This new series is designed to help authors of all shapes and experience understand how to select and use the right tools to build their brand and market their books to the largest possible audience.

The Author Platform
Let’s start with the basics. There are things that you must have as an author in today’s digital world, if you even hope to achieve a modicum of success. Those things are:

  • An author website
  • A Facebook page for either your book or yourself as an author
  • A Twitter account
  • A Goodreads author account

I know, not rocket science right? Actually, it is. The four things above are essential to any author, not having any weakens your efforts and limits the access that potential readers have to your work. This is what I call the proverbial “author platform.” Each piece of the platform caters to specific groups of readers and all work closely together to deliver what we call in the marketing world a strong user experience, but I’ll go into that later.

Remember, as an author, you need to create an inviting place for potential readers to come and get to know you. You also have to take into account that the attention span of some readers has slimmed down to 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and some will want to read more about your writing before they buy your book since you’re not a recognized name. And there are hundreds of other things you must take into account about the characteristics of your potential audience than you realize that you can’t do on any single platform alone, which is why there are four parts.

The one thing that you need to focus the most on is your author website. This is the central nervous system of your entire marketing efforts. If done wrong, you will not achieve the success that you could potentially have. If done right, you will have a fantastic platform that will feed all of your other tools with content that engages and encourages readers to want to buy your book.

We will be covering each of these points in detail over the course of this series. My objective is to help you build the pieces that will showcase your work and drive traffic to sell your book. If you have questions, please do reach out to me in the comments here or via any of my social media pages, which are listed below.

1x1.trans So You’re An Author

eBook
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About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

1x1.trans So You’re An Author

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Let There Be Blood

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By Tina Traverse

1x1.trans Let There Be BloodAaron Brooks is the star of the highly successful TV show, ‘Let There Be Blood.’ He attends glamourous parties, wears the finest clothes, and can have any woman he wants. Aaron Brooks has the world at his fingertips.

Every night, he is tormented by the same reoccurring nightmare. Every day he tries to forget by immersing himself into his work and celebrity obligations.

When he is reunited with his estranged best friend, his life settles into comfortable normalcy. Aaron’s torture subsides. Then his cast mates start being murdered around him. The nightmares aren’t over. They’re just beginning.

Let There Be Blood was born from an idea on how I was going to attract followers to my blog, Writers on the Wharf, which promotes not only my work, but my fellow authors. I decided to promote my blog by hosting a blog series, where I would post a story I would write, and post one chapter at a time once a week for a month. Kinda like a TV miniseries, except with words.

I normally write erotic thriller suspense and figured this would be a good theme for my series. The plot was inspired through my friendship with an actress who is friends with a well-known actor. In between taking acting classes, working and family life, she hosts a fan page for her friend where she spotlights his professional life. This sparked an idea. What would happen to a person if the price of fame became too much?

I wanted to write a story that went beyond the all too common celebrity break downs were they go wild with drugs and alcohol and reckless behaviour as their methods of coping with the pressures of sudden celebrity. I wanted to explore an extreme reaction to the pressure. Let There Be Blood was born.

The story centres on an actor of an insanely famous YA television show who has survived a traumatic event and suffers from nightmares. He has to push past the trauma in order to fulfil his celebrity obligations. The actor finds peace when he is reunited with his estranged best friend and soon the nightmares die away, but not for long. He discovers that his demons are not going to be so easily abandoned.

What happens to my main character is dramatic and extreme because I wanted to show that a celebrity’s life is not all glamour and is never easy. The series met with positive feedback and I decided to turn it into a novel to reach a wider audience.

About Let There Be Blood
Here is an excerpt:

Aaron stepped out the shower feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. He slipped underneath the sheets and before long he fell into a deep sleep.

The sweet smell of fresh-baked cookies beckoned him to the kitchen. The promise of warm gooey chocolate and cold milk made it hard to resist. He glided barefoot towards the kitchen, where his mother would have set a plate filled with cookies and a glass of milk on the counter for his afterschool snack. He loved to sit and talk to her as she diced up the vegetables for supper. This was his favorite time of day; just him and his mom alone, talking.

He called her name as he neared the kitchen, but was met with silence. He called again and again, with no answer. Frantic, he searched the house with no luck. He wandered back into the kitchen and slipped on something warm and wet, catching himself on the counter. Looking down, he saw a large pool of blood and his mother and father lying in each other’s arms, a bullet hole in their foreheads.

Hysterically screaming, he fell onto his parents’ bodies and wrapped himself in their lifeless embrace. Closing his eyes to stave off the burning tears, he heard a faraway voice calling to him.

“Aaron, please help! Help me, Aaron, I need you!” Looking up Aaron saw his best friend standing naked before him, her hands tied behind her back and blood pouring from between her legs.

Aaron sat up in bed, covered in sweat, with Martina still begging for help echoing in his ears. Thirteen years, and his mother and father’s senseless deaths still haunted him; two years after the living nightmare, Aaron could not erase his wife’s voice from his mind. It was a vicious, endless torment that served as punishment for the sin of his neglect.

1x1.trans Let There Be Blood

Paperback
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About the Author
Tina Traverse fell in love with writing at the age of eight when she wrote her version of the bible story, “The Good Samaritan,” for a homework assignment. This love grew into a passionate affair and has been ongoing for thirty years; and there are no signs of it waning. Though, she admits, when she was pregnant with her son Christian, the affair cooled.

Tina’s desire to write came calling once again when she needed to find a way to cope with heartbreaking news. Christian was diagnosed with autism in 2010. Her method of coping was to write a story about his journey called “Forever, Christian.”

Tina likes to joke that a girl can only write about real life for so long without jumping back into the world of make believe. She loves to venture into the world of the supernatural; vampires and witches are her favourite! Tina enjoys all sorts of vampires but admits that she is fascinated with the modern romantic vampire (think Twilight and The Vampire Diaries). She is currently working on a vampire series based on her first published book, Destiny of the Vampire, and has other projects in the works.

When Tina is not at the computer creating her exciting, magical worlds, she is kept on her toes by her two sons, Christian and Brandon. Sometimes the author manages to curl up in her favourite chair with a good book.

You can find Tina at writersonthewharf.wordpress.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Cocoa Island

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By James Amoateng

1x1.trans Cocoa IslandCocoa Island is an action thriller set in a fictional African nation that has just gained independence.

Paul Tetteh is a young university professor who is also a secret agent. One of his colleagues, Dr. Adam Smith, is the leader of a secessionist movement that eventually boils over into an armed insurgency. In order to complete his plan for an armed takeover of the government, Smith has devised an unstoppable chitin tank that will be key to his victory. However to isolate chitin in a manner that will enable him to weaponize it, he needs the assistance of Professor Benjamin, an older biochemist who is another of his and Paul Tetteh’s colleagues at the university.

The situation becomes urgent when Smith kidnaps Paul Tetteh along with Professor Benjamin. Now Tetteh must free himself and stop Smith, who takes counsel from a strange veiled priest who also serves as a government cabinet minister. It all comes to an explosive crescendo on an abandoned patch of land in the Atlantic—Cocoa Island.

One day, years ago, whilst in college, my brothers and I were discussing the 2nd world war in the house. My paternal grandmother who had come to visit us, was sitting down quietly, listening intently. Then she suddenly budged in.

“Shitler koo no?” she asked.

Meaning, “is it about Hitler’s war?” Unfortunately my grandma could not pronounce the name Hitler properly.

We said yes, and she joined in the conversation. We were suddenly taken aback by the knowledge and insight she had about that war. She said, at that time she had given birth to my dad and his younger brother and my dad had just started schooling. She used to bring bananas and kente cloth from the village to sell to the white people.

She then proceeded to give a long narrative about the British arresting Germanic speaking people suspected to be aligned to Hitler and putting them on display in cages. This went on throughout the war and long after. The talk then among the locals was that, some Nazi war criminals had actually come to live in the Gold Coast and the British were always on the look-out.

This is the idea which later on I decided to use in this story. Indeed whilst researching into the subject, I came across Hannah Reitsch, Hitler’s private pilot, who settled in Ghana after independence. The first president Dr. Nkrumah, tasked her to set up the first aviation school in Ghana. A lot of Ghana’s earlier pilots were trained by her.

The next point I want to discuss is the conflict situations that happen across the African continent. They all seem to have certain common factors. Firstly, there are some politicians and academics who give some ideological and philosophical meaning to them—be it ethnocentrism, or some social sentiments about things going wrong. Some of these people may be within the opposition but, sometimes surprisingly, they are within the highest echelons of government, plotting with the opposition.

The second factor is about resources to propagate the conflict. They usually resort to exploiting local resources, either mineral wealth, or agricultural resources like cocoa, coffee, timber and so on.

The third condition is external. Usually, a neighboring country comes in to either, actively or passively support the opposition. Sometimes these neighbors do so not for any particular gains, apart from supporting their brothers across the border, who may be of the same ethnicity. You just have to look at the artificial borders created by the colonial authorities, where cousins were divided, part under one colonial authority and the other under another. Sometimes it is simply because the neighboring country simply does not have the capacity to patrol her borders effectively. Of course some neighbors would do so for profit. Then there are other external forces from further afield like Europe and America, who may get involved for ideological reasons or for profit.

When all these factors come together, one needs a spark, some tinder to light the fire. At times, this comes in the form of something as innocuous as two people from different ethnic groups fighting over a fowl, or some land dispute, or some difficult economic situation, and there is total mayhem.

I have tried to package all these into the novel. The idea of a biomaterial tank is not far-fetched. A number of scientists believe that is the way to go in future, when all our mineral resources are depleted. Already biofuels are in use.

They were in a small stuffy room in the block Dr. Darko had shown as the chemistry laboratory. Adam Smith was seated at his desk on which lay many books of organic chemistry. Dr. Tetteh had been summoned the next morning by Dr. Darko to see the boss of the establishment. Paul Tetteh, very anxious, had dressed hurriedly and followed Darko. They had entered the building and gone along a corridor at the end of which was a room. Dr. Darko had knocked in a particular rhythmic fashion which Paul Tetteh knew was a password. The door had been opened by a tall mulatto.

So great was Paul Tetteh’s surprise at seeing this tall mulatto with the narrow face, an aquiline nose and wearing those brown rimmed spectacles, that stood at the entrance of the room for well over two minutes with a gaping mouth. Adam Smith and Darko stood smiling at him. Then Smith broke the silence.

“I see you are very surprised to see me here, Paul.”

“Good God, Adam. Why shouldn’t I be? This is the last place I dreamed of seeing you,” Paul responded.

“I see. Maybe you think I am out of place in this,” Adam continued.

“Well, I don’t know what to think. I did not know that you had anything to do with this establishment,” Paul said.

“I see,” again Smith smiled. “I am sure after my explanations you will know my part.

“And are you the boss here?”

“Well, something like that,” Smith answered.

“The voice I heard at the airstrip. You were the one,” Paul charged.

Smith just stood there and smiled.

At this point Darko left the two of them. Since he arrived here, it had been two days of constant dreaming for Paul Tetteh. Dreaming realities was what he termed it. The events looked like a dream yet they were true; his kidnap, the firing squad, and hacking of human meat to feed the animals. That was still on his mind when he went to sleep and he had a nightmare in the night. Now the latest was the discovery that his closest colleague, Adam Smith, was leader of all these people. Up till now, he had not heard anything about Professor Benjamin whom he had come to seek. Was he perhaps wrong after all?

1x1.trans Cocoa Island

Book
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About the Author
James Amoateng currently lives in Kumasi, Ghana. A Dental Surgeon and lecturer by trade, James’ hobbies include reading and playing soccer on Sunday mornings. James has been writing for about 35 years and has an anthology of poems, Lamentations from Sikaman, to his name.

You can find James at sbpra.com/jamesamoateng, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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