From Daniel Willcocks, The Mark of the Damned!

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Daniel Willcocks is a bestselling author and podcaster of dark fiction. He is one-quarter of digital story studio, Hawk & Cleaver, co-producer of iTunes-busting, and multi-million downloaded, ‘The Other Stories’ podcast, as well as the lead host of the ‘Great Writers Share’ podcast.

Your brand new book, The Mark of the Damned, is coming out 10/25 tell me about it and about your very cool cover!

The Mark of the Damned is a story I’ve had percolating for a while. I love stories in which you can mess with the fabric of reality and call in the forces we don’t understand, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. Even in the actual creation of the story itself, it took on a life of its own. What had planned to be a 10,000 word novella, ended up demanding that it reach 30,000 words when finished.
The cover art was also something which gave itself to me. In cycling through pre-made horror book art I found the cover and fell in love with it instantly. It speaks perfectly about the book, from the beetle-black eyes, right down to the pentagram hovering around the text (which I didn’t actually notice until I’d paid for the work).

What was the spark that brought about The Mark of the Damned?

It has actually already (technically) been published on The Other Stories podcast. The podcast itself allows for 2,000 word short stories, and after nearly 4 years of the podcast, I’ve personally written 40-50 shorts which have been featured on the feed or on our Patreon page.
The Mark of the Damned was originally a Patreon-exclusive story under our ‘Strange Inheritance’ theme, with a slightly altered title. Something about the story wouldn’t let me go, and I wanted to explore the wider world around what had been written and give it some depth. I also had several listeners asking for an expanded version, so here we are.

What’s your writing routine like?

I try to be as rigid and into a routine as possible. I will primarily write in the mornings, and tend to block out 6-7am for writing, get my kid ready for school, then return to the words around 9.30-midday. Depending on the word counts I’m aiming for, I sometimes go further into the afternoon, but it’s pretty stringent as I know I can procrastinate if I don’t start the day on track.

How did your writing career start?

For fun. I worked as a freelance copy-editor for non-fiction and found myself with some downtime. I’d always wanted to dabble in writing, and after being inspired by Stephen King’s short story collection, ‘Everything’s Eventual,’ I decided to give it a go.

My first novella, ‘Sins of Smoke,’ took around 4 months to write. It was 17,000 words and I edited it myself around 17 times. When I finally published it to Amazon, it was fortunate enough to make it to the #1 spot in the horror charts on Halloween 2015 which, for a horror author, is like the holy grail.

What is Hawk and cleaver and how did it come about?

Hawk & Cleaver is an independent digital story studio. It came about as a way for four creators to create, while also lifting each other up along the way.
Writing can easily be one of the loneliest professions, so having a group of people you can rely on has been invaluable. All of the guys at Hawk & Cleaver are passionate about what they do and love to create. Uniting under one banner was one of the greatest things we could have done for four little-known creators, and now we have a backlist of stories and properties which are being listened to and read the world over.

How do you see British horror fiction being different from the American counterpart?

I don’t tend to differentiate the two all that much. There’s a universality with horror that translates to all countries. I don’t rate Adam Nevill any differently from Stephen King, or conversely, Kealan Patrick Burke from Josh Malerman.

What do you think Brits do very well in horror fiction?

We know how to be miserable. That often helps. I think London and some of the older British towns are perfect locations for some of the scariest horror, and there’s a history here that transcends many places across the globe.

What horror book or movie scared you the most and for the longest time?

My answer for this will be one that might take people by surprise. My earliest memory of being can’t-fucking-sleep-it’ll-get-me scared was The Simpson’s ‘Treehouse of Horror.’ Mr Burns as a vampire scarred my childhood, but I now use that fear to propel my writing. If I can scare 28-year-old me as much as Mr Burns scared 9-year-old me, I’m winning.

What do you do to take a break from writing? I know you recently jumped off an airplane.

Unfortunately the skydive wasn’t an effort to take a break from writing! Taking a break is difficult when you’re a full-time author. Even if you’re not directly putting words on a page, your mind is in your story. Every piece of media you consume is research. The majority of my day is spent in thought or typing on the keyboard so it’s rare I take a break.
Though, when I do, it’s usually because I can sense that I’m burned out and I play several hours of Pokemon on the DS.

What’s one book that you’d wished you’d written?

Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’. It’s been one of the few books that’s engrossed me in a few years, and the horror is beautifully executed. Playing with the hidden beast is one of my favourite things to do. If you can scare someone without physically showing the monster, then you have succeeded, in my opinion.


Daniel’s Website

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Amazon author page

Eleanor Merry Brings Us a New Type of Zombie!

eleanorMerryMeet the talented Eleanor Merry, who is making her debut from Canada with her new novel Dead Aware. You can grab Dead Aware on Kindle unlimited which would make for nice free new read if you’re on it! Which is a darn good deal!
For Canadian readers grab you copy of Dead Aware here.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Talking about yourself is hard!
Yes! what a horrible question!
Well, I am from Vancouver Canada and aside from being an author I am also first and foremost a mom (to a psychotic toddler who I love to pieces) I do work full time in the travel industry. Travel is a huge passion of mine and I love seeing new places in the world! I am well known for bright hair colours (currently, blue) and haven’t seen my natural hair colour in about eighteen years. I am an avid reader of many genre’s (in 2018 I read 240 books!) and although I write horror and dystopian, I have a soft spot for dirty romance 😉 I am very close to my family and, living in BC, I love the outdoors and feel most at home in the forest and trees.

What has the writing experience been like for you?
Amazing! I have been writing since I was a kid and only began to pursue my dreams of publication at the start of 2019. I love days where the words just flow and have so many story idea’s I sometimes wonder where I will get the time to write them all. Honestly, writing is the easiest and funnest part of being an author for me.

Why horror?
A few different reasons, but mostly because I love to write what I love to read (And what I wish existed). A good horror story will stick with you long after it is finished and can affect you so many ways whether its make you uncomfortable or scared, make you think or just plain gross you out. The emotions I feel when I read a great horror novel are something unique in reading and something I strive to deliver in my own writing.

Do you write in other genres?
Not yet but I do have some plans for cross-overs including some children’s zombie books, dark romance and some other odds and ends. Chances are, most things I do will end up having some essence of horror in them.

What inspired you to venture into zombie fiction?
Aside from the obvious answer that I love zombies is that I had an idea that I wanted to see in the world of zompoc. My debut, Dead Aware, was actually an idea I had in high school about a couple who were zombies and had to cross the country to find each other. The idea expanded greatly over the course of 20 years and resulted in the Dead Aware series.

How’s your novel different from so many others?
I really wanted to have a story where instead of it being a lot of military and guns and brain eating undead, it was more focused on the ‘prejudice’ people feel against poor, misunderstood zombies. Dead Aware is written from an ‘undead’ point of view, which isn’t unique it itself, but I think the approach taken with it is something new that I really hope people enjoy.

What has been the most challenging thing about self publishing?
Everything but the writing! Marketing yourself, learning about formatting and blurbs and cover design and… Ahh! So many things! It is a huge learning curve.

What has been the most rewarding?
Getting my first review that wasn’t from a family member or friend. Knowing that someone willingly A) read my book and B) had amazing feedback.. well, it doesn’t get any better than that. As much as I would love to be rich off of writing, just getting to share my words with the world is amazing.

What is your favorite animal?
Mooses, eh. (I did say I was Canadian) Those things are big, tough, resilient and like, super cute. Also, now I think I need to write a moose into Dead Aware…

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TLF Season One – Diabetes Factories

Excerpt from The Last Flag

Diabetes Factories

The place seemed full, but the herd of obese diners that waddled quickly to and fro seemed to vanish off and on. He’d look and there wasn’t anyone around. He’d look again and the place was full. The patrons ate with gigantic, white, square teeth that were only possible in a dream and he heard their teeth scrape forks and bones, saw the food stains on the white enamel with insane, hyper-detailed clarity. The retro style diner booth he sat in was comfortable and he sank in the red fake leather cushions as the chrome details of the napkin holders reflected the cold hard light. He picked up the menu but it didn’t help much, as every time he read it the text changed, and in the end he just knew to order the Super Big Boy Winter Deluxe Supreme.

The waitress managed to be motherly and sexual, a brunette and a blonde, fat but at times slender, she delivered a plate that took most of the table’s surface. Half of it was loaded with waffles and pancakes, with and without toppings. The other half was covered with omelettes, eggs over easy and scrambled, potatoes and bacon, sausages and hash. His hollow guts growled with anticipation. The food steamed in the cold air and fogged all the windows. God, this is amazing, he thought. If only it wasn’t so damn cold. So cold.

Cagey, he looked over his shoulder; sure someone would come and take his food from him. And with a spike of fear he saw that they were all staring back at him: the waitresses, the cooks, the customers. They watched him like a hawk, while they chewed air like their life depended on it. Jaws muscles bulged and worked under the smiling faces—bulged and worked, the sound getting louder. He better hurry up and eat, he had to get out! He snapped back to his plate and dug in, shoving food into his mouth, an amazing forkful of pancake, bacon and fruit, slathered in real hot maple syrup. He had had to unhinge his jaws like a boa to fit it all in. His audience clapped and chewed louder in admiration. From the corner of his eye he saw cameras. They would love him worldwide. He snapped down his unhinged jaws…

…on a mouthful of cold air and pain. Theo came awake with a yelp, stiff and confused his muscles tight from the cold.
“Ith mah thongue. Owww,” he complained softly and sat up with the taste of blood in his mouth. The earliest of morning light filtered through the windows as he got his bearings, confused he realized that the chewing noises had followed him from his dream and for one crazy second he happily thought that the large breakfast had too. Still groggy from sleep, he turned toward the noise.
Alvin. Busy at Eliza’s neck, stared back at him…

Read what happens next!
Also on Kobo and other stores.

Illustration by U.K. artist Luke Spooner
Luke’s website
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