5 Unique Ways to Show Your Favorite Authors Some Love

By Rachel A. Brune

As the summer grinds on, I’m hard at work on the third volume in the Rick Keller series—available from the Literary Underworld! My secret agent werewolf and his partners are back on another mission, and I’ve been burning through my stash of index cards trying to figure out the twists and turns of middle section of the book.

And so, because I’m supposed to be writing, I’m instead surfing my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, refreshing my author page, and generally doing lots of things other than writing, including reading a rotating selection of books from the local library.

I picked up my phone to mark my latest book as “read” on Goodreads (gotta make that annual Goodreads challenge!) and dashed off a quick review. And it made me think—will this writer see this review? If I really like the book, should I post something on social media? Should I recommend that book? How can I let people know I really liked it?

After thinking about it—and yes, procrastinating a little more from Rick and friends, I have come up with this list of five different—and maybe somewhat unusual—ways that readers can show some love to their favorite authors.

And hey—they don’t even have to be your favorite authors – if you read their book and liked it, share the love! (I’ve gotta confess—these are all on my writer bucket list.)

  1. Place their work on your body via tattoo art. If you’re into decorating your body with art, use a favorite quote, character, or object from a book as an excuse to get more ink! Not a fan of written quotes and how they look? Take the quote to your favorite tattoo artist (I’m a big fan of James Tuck) and ask them to use it as inspiration for an original piece. (Obviously don’t do this one if you’re not allowed to get a tattoo for parental, legal, health, or religious reasons.) Literary tattoos make great conversation pieces, and you’ll be supporting not just one but two creative people!
  2. Make some fan art. As a reader, I love seeing other people’s takes on a book I’ve read and enjoyed. I especially love it when a writer will post (with permission) pictures of fan art they’ve received. These may range from basic pencil or crayon sketches all the way to professional-level drawings, but the one thing they all have in common is a shared love of the writer’s world that they are expressing authentically. Sometimes the characters depicted in the art look exactly as I’d imagined in my head—and sometimes they don’t. That’s all part of the fun of it!
  3. Pick their book for your book club. Don’t have a book club? Start one! All joking aside, this is a great way to find people with whom you can schmooze about the books you enjoy over a nice snack and beverage. Not only that, but you’re helping an author find a wider audience, and that is a magical thing. If you reach out to them, the author might even be available to attend your book club meeting and answer your questions about their work, either in person or via Zoom. At the very least, they will appreciate the gesture.
  4. Write a poem praising them. The more complicated in terms of meter and rhyme the better! There exists a long literary tradition of praising someone by writing a poem (the technical term is, coincidentally enough, “praise poem”). Channel your inner chaotic good Bard and share your love of a writer’s writing by writing them some writing about their writing!
  5. And of course, give them a review, subscribe to their newsletter, and follow their public platform! Every writer I know spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to communicate with the people who enjoy their work. Whether it’s a website blog, social media account, or newsletter, authors love to hear from the folks who have read and enjoyed their work. Let’s face it—this is a hard business to gain financial fortune; many of us really appreciate the messages from our fans that feed our souls in between royalty checks. And if you’ve followed a single writer online, you already know how much reviews mean to writers (and their publishers!)

So there you have it! Five different ways you can show authors some love. Maybe one of these will be perfect for the book you’re reading now. What’s that? You are in need of a book to read? Not to worry—check out one of the Literary Underworld’s nearly 200 titles—and if you end up getting some new ink, or hosting a book club, or want to send us some fan art, then drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

Rachel A. Brune graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in May 2000, and was immediately plunged into the low-stakes world of entry-level executive assistantship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. Rachel served five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper. After her second tour, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her M.A. in political communication, and her commission as a second lieutenant in the military police corps.

Although her day job has taken in her in many strange, often twisted directions, Rachel continues to write and publish short fiction. She released her first novel, Soft Target, in early 2013, and other books have followed. In addition to writing, she is the founder and chief editor at Crone Girls Press and edits the Falstaff Dread line of horror fiction at Falstaff Books.

The structure and writing of Days of Darkness


Days of Darkness proved to be a very interesting project for me in terms of the overall structure and kind of writing necessary to tell this particular story.  It is a unique story for several reasons, and as such it brings it into some rarer territory when it comes to the elements typically used in writing novels, or even feature film screenplays.

One thing that readers of the book may be surprised by is that Days of Darkness has no protagonist.  Nor is there an anti-hero.  In fact, the main character that readers follow the entire story with, Ambrose, is a very despicable individual, and any sense of an arc concentrates merely on the process of personal revelation, as opposed to a fundamental development of character like is seen with main characters in novella/novel-length fiction.

In most other realms of storytelling, it is difficult to tell a tale where the reader is not going to have a strong connection of some kind with the character whose perspective the story is being told through.  In most stories, the lack of a main character to bond with is a shortcoming.  In Days of Darkness, not only was it not any kind of shortcoming, I found, but rather a strength that was the best route for this tale.

Here, the dynamic of the story from start to finish is that of a steady, dark-edged thrill ride, and it is more the setting and the journey through it that propels the reader through the story, without the typical bond a reader typically has with a more common type of main character.  Ambrose’s encounters and interactions with the unfolding world around him, rather than a character arc, are what draws the reader in deeper and creates a hunger to see what comes next.

The nature of this story’s main character also had a strong effect on the overall structure of this story.  There are three primary phases in the novel, but they do not fall into any usual kind of three-act structure.  The first part of the story takes place in an urban setting, the second in a suburban setting, and the third in a rural setting, after which things come full circle for the climax of the storyline.

Throughout all of these phases, there is a constant escalation of action and scale.  It begins with the world as most of us know it, with nothing seeming to be out of the ordinary.  Then, things begin to gradually unravel, and as they do, the stakes get bigger in relation to the kinds of entities that begin to manifest and the chaos that breaks out and spreads within this world.

There is not really an ebb and flow, but rather a steady, expanding progression, until the reader arrives at the grand finale, which features an event that exceeds the magnitude of everything that has taken place before that.

The atmosphere, the settings, and the nature of this particular Hellscape drive the story on a continuum as Ambrose is taken along a macabre journey of revelation and ultimate accountability.

Looking back on Days of Darkness, I am confident that readers will find this book engaging, compelling, and intriguing; and even though it may be disturbing at times, there are thought-provoking themes regarding the nature and essence of evil underlying all of it.

To do this without a more typical novel structure, and without any sort of protagonist or anti-hero driving at the core of this story, has marked another stride in my writing and storytelling.  It is not the usual horror novel, but it delivers a powerful and unique kind of story that readers of the horror genre are going to love.  My wish is that readers come to enjoy it as much as I did writing it!

I am already looking forward to writing the next foray into the Hellscapes, no matter the form it may take!


Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and broadcaster based out of Lexington, Kentucky. His titles as an author include the Rayden Valkyrie Tales (sword and sorcery), the Ragnar Stormbringer Tales (sword and sorcery), the Hongvi Shadow Walker Tales (sword and sorcery) the Faraway Saga (YA dystopian), the Rising Dawn Saga (cross-genre), the Fires in Eden Series (epic fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (steampunk).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, short films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV pilot. Stephen also co-hosts the Star Chamber Show, a weekly live audio podcast on PodBean featuring creative talents from around the world.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Author Links:

  • Website: www.stephenzimmer.com
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7
  • X App (Formerly Twitter): @sgzimmer
  • Instagram: @stephenzimmer7
  • Threads: @stephenzimmer7
  • TikTok: @stephenzimmer7


Days of Darkness

Ambrose awakens to find dense, rolling layers of ash-gray clouds spanning to the far horizon, shrouding the city beneath in a drab pall.  He begins his day, thinking it no different from any other.

Though it is in the height of summer, an icy, anomalous chill sifts into the air later that day, until it becomes colder than the depths of winter.

Then, the sun sets, and darkness falls.

The night does not end, as there is no sunrise to follow.

Bizarre and frightening apparitions begin appearing across a city and world shrouded in an inexplicable darkness.  It is only the beginning of an unfurling, deepening nightmare, one that will take Ambrose on a terrifying journey of self-discovery and revelation.

For Ambrose, and everyone in the world around him, the Days of Darkness have only just begun.

Coming soon to the Literary Underworld store!


Opening Death’s Door

By Jim D. Gillentine

Back when I wrote my first horror/romance novel, The Beast Within, I had a very minor character in the story named KD. KD was brutally beaten to a pulp, then murdered, then thrown into the Wolf River.

This minor character was named after my friend, KD. It was done in light-heartedness just as a joke to rib my friend of eight-plus years at the time. But then he came to me, saying how many people thought I had done him so dirty. He actually seemed hurt.

So to make it up to him, I came up with the story of Death’s Door. In this story, I created the powerful vampire hunter character named KD. An ex-Green Beret badass through and through, I wanted to make it up to my friend by making him a hero. However, I have to say I still had fun kicking that character’s ass – in story, of course.

All jokes aside, A Night at Death’s Door is a fun action comedy that I wrote partially in response to the whole Twilight sparkle trend that was going on at that time. My vampires are uncaring, vicious creatures that view humans as a food source, and maybe a sexual source if you are that unlucky. They view humans as cattle, and are determined to dominate the world.

So who is going to stop them? My little band of one college girl, a guy out for revenge, and two former soldiers, that’s who.

I call my story an action comedy because I tried to put humor into the mix along with the flying bullets, throat ripping, and of course the “dusting,” as they called it on Buffy. I hope you’ll take the time to read A Night at Death’s Door. I think you will be entertained with the blood and laughs.

And always remember, don’t forget the garlic.


Janet left her simple life in Mississippi for the hustle and bustle of New York for college. At the insistence of her new roommate, Janet goes to Death’s Door, a mysterious and trendy nightclub, in reality the hidden domain of the evil vampire Jeanova. She is planning the Rising…a ritual that will give all vampires power to resist the sun, making them the rulers of the world.

In danger of being turned into a plaything for the Vampire and her brood, Janet is saved by a small group of vampire hunters determined to stop Jeanova at all cost. Thrust into a battle for her very soul, for the planet itself, Janet and allies she barely knows must fight their way through Death’s Door to stop the Rising…or humanity will fall.

JIM D. GILLENTINE grew up with a fondness for horror, science fiction and fantasy flavored with the southern tang of his native Memphis. His debut novella, Of Blood and the Moon, was published in 2009 and was runner-up for the Darrell Award. Other publications include stories in anthologies Cover of Darkness and When Darkness Sees the Light and a novella titled A Night at Death’s Door. His novel The Beast Within begins a bittersweet love story between a woman and a beast, which continued in Crossroads, published by Inkstained Succubus Press. The trilogy was completed with Heart of the Beast, published as a compendium by Pro Se Press. Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and philosophy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He is a member of the Literary Underworld and the Eville Writers, and is the biggest Godzilla fan in the western hemisphere. Find out more about him at www.jimmygillentine.com.


A fungus amongus from Crone Girls Press


By Rachel Brune

On March 19, 2020, I hit “publish” on an anthology of horror fiction.

Coppice & Brake: A Dark Fiction Anthology was the second anthology Crone Girls Press published, and it was also almost the last. Although there are many horror fans who dug into the genre during a global pandemic, it still wasn’t the best timing.

Still, deep in the dark void space that passes for my soul these days, I knew that if I kept publishing the dark, the creepy, and the liminal, our audience would find us, following the trail of moldy breadcrumbs to the feast of fear and terror that we’ve been serving up for eleven publications so far.

Speaking of mold, have you heard about what we have planned for our twelfth, full-length anthology?

So many stories to tell…

Our first volume of quiet horror, Stories We Tell After Midnight, Volume 1, brought readers a selection of stories I like to refer to as the anthology that would happen if Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark grew up and got depression and a mortgage. The stories within are a selection of tales that draw heavily on the tricks the mind can play on you, the evil hiding in plain sight, and the horror that can stem from the selfishness of a young child.

For three volumes, Stories We Tell After Midnight has followed the same idea as a series—find and publish the quiet horror, the terror that screams in your mind, even when your throat can’t make a sound.

For the fourth volume, we wanted to do the same—but different.

Mushrooms, spores, fungi…all the things that grow in the rot.

Thus Dark Spores: Stories We Tell After Midnight 4 popped out of our brains like a fairy ring of white mushrooms in your lawn after a suspiciously out-of-season thunderstorm. Carol Gyzander, my long-time writing and publishing colleague and now co-editor and associate publisher, joins me in this venture.

What inspired this, our first themed anthology? It’s hard to say, but when Carol suggested mushrooms as a theme, I looked around my kitchen, saw just how many mushroom-emblazoned items I had on the counter (I mean, who can resist a coffee mug with a mushroom on it? Definitely not me!) and said: “Of course!”

Like many small presses, we are endeavoring to invite people to become part of the project by chipping in through a Kickstarter campaign. This will allow us to offer not just your regular pre-orders, but also prizes and rewards like a mid-campaign backers’ Zoom party, with author readings and door prizes. If you like eating mushrooms as much as reading about them, we have a kitchen witch cooking up a custom recipe, which she will share through a Zoom cooking lesson.

And the authors within these pages? How do these names sound? Nicholas Kaufmann, Gabino Iglesias, Randee Dawn, Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, Gwendolyn Kiste—and those are just the authors we’ve announced so far! Tomorrow (May 14th) we will announce another slate of writers we love who have agreed to share their fungus—er, their fungus stories—with us.

In addition to the stories, a number of authors are contributing some rewards of their own. We have several books for your TBR pile, as well as the chance to die a grisly death (or, roll the dice, maybe you’ll survive!) by Tuckerization in one of our other author rewards.

How do I get in on this sporiffic campaign?

Easy! Check out the Dark Spores: Stories We Tell After Midnight 4 Kickstarter campaign. We’ve got backer levels designed for people who like digital books, readers who like paperback books, and readers who want a copy of the paperback book but only to put it on their shelf because they read everything on their e-reader. Yes. We see you.

We hope you’ll check it out! And in the meantime, I want to give a quick shout-out to Elizabeth Donald and The Literary Underworld. She contributed a story to that very first Stories We Tell After Midnight volume, followed by another in Coppice & Brake. She’s been a supporter of Crone Girls Press since the beginning, so if you happen to see her at an event, tell her we said hello! (And then buy some books…)

Rachel A. Brune graduated from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in May 2000, and was immediately plunged into the low-stakes world of entry-level executive assistantship. Her unexpected journey out of that world and into the military is chronicled in her self-published book Echoes and Premonitions. Rachel served five years as a combat journalist, including two tours in Iraq, and a brief stint as a columnist for her hometown newspaper. After her second tour, she attended graduate school at the University at Albany in NY, where she earned her M.A. in political communication, and her commission as a second lieutenant in the military police corps.

Although her day job has taken in her in many strange, often twisted directions, Rachel continues to write and publish short fiction. She released her first novel, Soft Target, in early 2013, and other books have followed. In addition to writing, she is the founder and chief editor at Crone Girls Press and edits the Falstaff Dread line of horror fiction at Falstaff Books.

If only this had happened thirty years ago

By John McFarland

It looks like 2024 may be my biggest year ever. Early last year, German publisher Wandler-Verlag caught wind of my work through my association with T.E.D. Klein, horror icon, former editor of The Twilight Zone Magazine, and early champion of Ramsey Campell. Michael Schmidt of Wandler contacted me and asked permission to publish a chapbook featuring a story of mine and one of Mr. Klein’s.

Amazingly, my publisher rejected this idea at first. I managed to talk her into it, as the deal promised to make money for Dark Owl Publishing. Also, of course, it brought some prestige to her small publishing house.

Wandler produced the small book, featuring the most reprinted tale I have ever written, One Happy Family with TED’s story The Ladder. To my surprise, Michael informed me that my story was printed in a collection in Germany before, in 1985, without my knowledge or permission!

Five hundred copies of our chapbook were printed and they sold out. With that success and having purchased my story collection, The Dark Walk Forward, on Amazon, Michael sought permission to publish the collection also. Having seen illustrations I have done for my Bigfoot kid book, Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, Michael asked if I could illustrate the collection too. That book will appear in May. He also wishes to publish Annette this year or next.

Like most writers, as soon as the first collection was out, I started work on the second. It’s looking like 100,000 words. Stories that continue the sad tale of Ste. Odile, and more. Each story has a title page with an illustration. It’s an old-timey touch that I like. I may do that from now on. The cover was done by the incomparable dark artist and native of Brazil, Gabriel Augusto and like my other books, I am satisfied that the cover is a real attention-getter. Blurbs have generously been provided again by the inimitable T.E.D. Klein, Dacre Stoker, best-selling novelist and great grandnephew of Bram Stoker, and Michael Schmidt. There is a lot of advance interest and the book drops June 1.

Getting your work out there is essential and sometimes it helps to know people, as they say. I am now friends with an Irish expat living and working in Seville, Spain, Joseph Dawson. I had happened across Joseph’s work online because he is a book illustrator in love with horror. His work is amazing. He contacted me through facebook saying he had read my historical horror novel, The Black Garden. He expressed praise for it a writer seldom hears. He loved it and said it changed him in some ways.

It turns out one of the houses he illustrates for is Zagava in Dusseldorf, Germany, who produces leather-bound, illustrated collectors editions of special books. Joseph asked if he could recommend The Black Garden to Jonas, the publisher at Zagava. Jonas loved the book too, Joseph is illustrating it and it will be out later this year.

Also later this year, possibly in summer, the sequel to Annette, entitled Annette: A Big, Hairy Grandma will be out too, as will my story The Testament of Cleander in the collection Alone On The Borderland from Belanger Books.

In my experience, the best way to sell these things are book fairs and comic-cons. I already have one under my belt for 2024; next is Beltane Bash in Champaign, Ill., always a good one; the Bigfoot Festival in Sutton, W.V.; Dark History, also in Champaign; a book festival in Washington, Mo. and various book events in Illinois and St. Louis.

JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010, and the story continues with Mother of Centuries. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.

Check out John McFarland’s work on the Literary Underworld!

Invasive Species, and the Suffering Sequence Trilogy

By Elizabeth Lynn Blackson

Invasive Species is the third book in the Suffering Sequence trilogy. Man-eating, shapeshifting daemons have infiltrated humanity’s systems of power. Their blood poisons the world. Against that threat, a clandestine group of heroes have gathered, but the more they face the daemonic threat, the more it infects them, until they are targeted for eradication.

Teetering on the edge of the supernatural, FBI Special Agent Javier Torres leads an FBI Critical Incident Response Group. In their midst, to his shock and dismay, he finds family and love. Special agent Sophia DeMarko, second in command, grapples with the fear of the demonic threat to her young child. LaTanya Jefferson, Marine-turned-Medic, has her faith in God tested. Madison “Lucy” Carpenter is thrust into the spotlight as the world watches her. David Pruitt’s Marine training prepared him to fight daemons, but never taught him how to be a father. Greg Tillman is trapped in a facility with other would-be scions of the daemonic overlords. He must serve them or be destroyed. Hannah Olson crawls out of the earth again, called back to life in service of cthonic powers. The daemon Tigrosa turns to confront her former masters. Joining them is new recruit, Vinny Bowers, ranger, tasked with eradicating this Invasive Species.

That’s the blurb. The plot in a nutshell. I don’t think it does a good job of saying what this book and series are ABOUT, though.

You want to know what my Suffering Sequence Trilogy is? A short passage from Invasive Species to illustrate:

Lucy paused, and took a breath. “I had nightmares, and I didn’t know what to do with all that… pent up… pain, I guess. And I thought ‘What if I was just honest? Totally honest.’ I didn’t have to ever show anyone the pictures if I didn’t want to. I never had to admit that I was a scared, fucked-up, ball of hurt and rage, if I didn’t want to. This feels more like a therapy session than an art exhibit to me, and any minute now, I kind of expect you all to start pointing and laughing, knowing what a fraud I am.”


The nightmare scenario for me is to try to describe my Suffering Sequence Trilogy. Urban fantasy. Dark urban fantasy or urban fantasy/horror. The Dresden Files if it were written by Clive Barker. A d20 Modern RPG if Stephen King was the game master. A modern mythological tale. My own therapy session.

In the forward of the first book I wrote this: “This book is about a succubus and how two very different people have two very different reactions to her existence. It’s about the path to hell that’s paved with best intentions. It’s about poverty and property values. It’s about racism in St. Louis. It’s about being LGBT. It’s about art through the eyes of an underclass young woman. It’s about guns and blood, and splintered bones. Except, it’s not. The truth is, this book is about trauma. It’s about the horrible things some people have to do to survive. It’s about fighting demons, figurative and literal. It’s about finding self worth.”

It’s the story of a handful of characters confronted with humanity’s systems of power taken over by shapeshifting, soul-sucking, flesh-eating Daemons.

But that’s not what the book is ABOUT. For one character, it’s about faith. For another, it’s about losing faith. For one, it’s about finding self worth. It’s about getting the ‘gold ring,’ and seeing it for the garbage it actually is. It’s about the price you pay for doing the right thing.

It’s about the masks we wear, the roles we play, and the horror of rejection when people see beneath that mask. It’s about peeling the mask away, to see the truth underneath.

And, damn, that all sounds pretentious to me when I say it like that.

ELIZABETH LYNN BLACKSON grew up in a small town in Eastern Ohio, living on a steady diet of comic books, horror movies, and Stephen King novels, while playing D&D and listening to heavy metal. It twisted her into the maniacal creature you now see before you. While certain she was going to be a comic artist, life pulled her in a different direction, and she ended up in the St. Louis metro area, where she lives with her hubby and two cats.

Invasive Species will soon be available from the Literary Underworld! Preorder your copy now! 

The Fellowship of the Book

By Elizabeth Donald

I’m honored to share that I’ve been awarded an AWP Community Scholarship to attend the 2024 conference in Kansas City.

I was lucky to attend last year’s conference in Seattle, and I absolutely loved it. AWP is one hell of a conference, with about 25 panels per hour aimed for writers and writing programs. Think Dragoncon, but all books. It’s got a heavy literary bent, but there is also programming for commercial and genre writers, tons for poets and a LOT for the teaching of writing. And unlike the very white-cis-male spaces we find in publishing, AWP has more diversity in all forms than just about any other space I’ve seen.

A few of the panels I’ve got my eye on:

  • Social justice on the page: How writing and activism feed each other
  • Writing practices for neurodiverse and disabled writers
  • Mapping the creative and pedagogical terrain of community colleges
  • Breaking the rules on chapbooks: New approaches to an old form
  • Women of new fabulism and speculative literature
  • Be Shameless: Everything you need to know to nail promotion
  • Writing life post-MFA: Unearthing the realities
  • A turn of the page: From journalism to creative writing
  • Greater than the sum of its parts: Writing and structuring essay collections
  • The fine art of the craft talk
  • Writing the literary sex scene: Dethroning the male gaze
  • Show (Me) Don’t Tell: Missouri writers grappling with the state of their state
  • Ableism off and on the page
  • How do you eat? Writers talk plainly about funding their writing lives

And about two dozen others among the hundreds available.

In addition to the daytime panels, AWP really comes alive at the evening off-site events. Readings are everywhere, wine-and-cheese receptions and gatherings in dozens of locations every night until the wee hours. I made the grave mistake in Seattle of skipping the nighttime events for the first couple of days, thinking it was like a con room party: fun but skippable. It was only on the third day that I realized it’s where so much of the creative energy of the convention comes from.

In fact, I wrote a column on ten tips for attending AWP, which you can read here. Tip No. 3 was “The real beauty is in the offsite events.”

I strongly recommend AWP for beginning writers, established writers, poets, librarians, students, editors, publishers, creative writing teachers, memoirists… basically if you put pen to paper and/or teach others to do the same, there’s something for you here, particularly in academic and literary circles.

Having graduated out of student rates, I was very afraid I could not afford to return even though it’s so close to me this year: Kansas City is a mere four hours according to Google Maps, which always means five hours for me. The scholarship makes a huge difference, and I’m incredibly grateful to AWP for its generosity and those of the donors who kick in to help underserved, disabled and low-income writers join in the fray.

If you’re interested, check out the website at awpwriter.org. And let me know if you’ll be there! All adventures are more fun with a fellowship. Didn’t Tolkein teach us that?

A Night at Death’s Door

By Jim D. Gillentine

I am proud to announce the release of my novella A Night at Death’s Door. It’s a little adventure that I wrote as a favor to my friend KD, who I used to work with at Kroger.

I had based a character on KD for my first novel, and I killed him in a truly gruesome fashion. Word got around that I based the character on him and he got several comments about how he died. He actually got a little bothered by it. So to make it up to him I based a character on him in A Night at Death’s Door. Now he’s a kickass vampire hunter, and thus a friendship was saved.

This novel is my take on vampires and I threw in a few laughs here and there. At the time I wrote this novel, Twilight was in full force and I wanted to write vampires that blew up in the sun instead of sparkle. I hope I succeeded in that, as I think this is an enjoyable romp through New York with fun characters and a fast action-paced story. I hope you enjoy it.

I also want to announce my short story “Moonless Night” has been published in the Tangle and Fen anthology from Crone Girls Press. The story takes place during World War II, and it was a challenge to write this story because I wanted to write a story with a man in love with another man. I had never written that type of story and I wanted to be respectful to the subject matter. A young British solider falls in love with his brother in arms, and finds that he holds many dark secrets about his past. Can love survive this knowledge? And what happens when it is time for the secret comes out?


A Night at Death’s Door is now available at the Literary Underworld for only $8! Tangle and Fen is only available in ebook right now, but you better believe we’ll have it as soon as it’s in print! Check them out and order for the holidays!

Witness Underground: Finding Creative Freedom Amidst Struggles

By Anthony Mathenia

I vividly recall the day I wrote my first short story as a high school assignment. Looking back, it might seem cringeworthy, but it was a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and I was immensely proud. Excited to share my creation, I showed it to my parents, who, in their concern for our religious beliefs, brought out a red marker and circled words like “lust.” That was my first encounter with the tension between creative expression and religious orthodoxy.

I was hooked on writing, and my dream of one day writing a novel began to take shape. But when I shared my ambitions with my father, he discouraged me. In the eyes of our faith, becoming a welder seemed like a more fitting occupation. According to him, the world was on the brink of its end, and such creative dreams appeared frivolous. This was how my childhood unfolded: creative expression was not encouraged, as pursuing art, writing books, or making music could brand you as rebellious, weird, or “worldly.”

During my later teenage years, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became a sensation, and it seemed like everyone I knew was picking up a guitar or a bass to learn music. For us, due to our religious background, these musical pursuits had to remain secret, confined to basements. If the wrong person discovered that you were playing and recording rock music, you might find yourself summoned to the back of the Kingdom Hall and counseled by the elders. Pushing the boundaries too far could result in exile. As a creative person, this was beyond frustrating.

However, the early days of the internet brought a turning point in my life. I connected with a group of Jehovah’s Witness kids in the Twin Cities who had formed an underground music label for JW’s called “Nuclear Gopher.” The indie rock music they produced wasn’t just good for JW’s; it was good music, period. Some of these band members were exceptionally talented, and they might have been household names if not for their religious community holding them back. Joining this group was a revelation, the first time in my life that creative expression was celebrated.

Life takes us on unexpected journeys, and many of us eventually left our childhood faith to rebuild our lives from the ashes. Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses comes with strict consequences; once you depart, even family members become unreachable, labeled as dangerous and devil-afflicted. It was a challenging time, but I was finally ready to pursue my dreams that had been put on hold for so long. I decided it was time to write that book, and NaNoWriMo not only provided the avenue to achieve that goal but also introduced me to like-minded individuals, fellow “weirdos” who supported my creative endeavors. Meeting people like Elizabeth Donald was a turning point; I was finally in my element.

Over the years, I’ve ticked off many items from my creative bucket list, with novels, comics, and graphic novels to my name. Most recently, I’ve ventured into documentary filmmaking. Today, I am excited to share “Witness Underground,” a powerful documentary I’ve had the privilege of producing. The film traces the rise and fall of Nuclear Gopher, shedding light on the pain of shunning, and illustrating the transformative power of creative expression to guide us through hardships and craft a fulfilling life.

The documentary is complete, and we are now in the process of securing distribution. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible with our heartfelt story. We currently have a Kickstarter campaign, and your support would mean the world to us. If you could share our campaign on your social media, we would be truly grateful.

This documentary is not just another exposé on Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a story with heart, soul, and a powerful soundtrack. Above all, “Witness Underground” highlights the resilience of creative expression to heal, inspire, and create a beautiful life.

Thank you for your unwavering support and friendship throughout this incredible journey.

ANTHONY MATHENIA is a writer and comic creator. He is the author of two novels, Paradise Earth: Day Zero and Happiness, Next Exit. In comics, Anthony writes Pretty Face and has produced Supreme Team, among others. He currently lives in the Appalachians and is convinced it is paradise on earth. Find out more here.

An infernal Ste. Genevieve

by John S. McFarland


As a kid in St. Francois County who already loved history, learning about Ste. Genevieve, Mo. was the treat in the Cracker Jack box. Even in my earliest years of elementary school in a small mining town that no longer exists, I was fascinated by the past. I loved historical movies, not yet suspecting how grotesquely inaccurate they mostly were, and reading stories set in historical times. I was a bit frustrated by how brief the history of the United States was, at least from a Hollywood-inspired Euro-centric perspective. We had no castles, no dolmens or Roman ruins, no walled towns and no sunny islands populated by sirens and Greek monsters. But then I discovered we had Ste. Genevieve.

I heard of it long before I visited it. It was sort of a legendary “old town” on the nearby Mississippi, a remnant of the French-controlled great river, the enormous diocese of Quebec from the 18th century. On my mom’s side of the family, there were old stories of an ancestor who was “raised by Indians” but my grandmother and her sister knew no more about the story than that. But my grandmother did know that I loved history, and feeling some vague connection to Ste. Genevieve, apparently, she and my grandfather took me there.

I was amazed, at age ten or so, that there was something so reminiscent, I imagined, of old Europe so close to my home town. A French town with 200+-year-old buildings where French was spoken, primarily, until sometime in the 19th century. There was also, when I imagined it, a sense of old world decadence out of place, out of time. It was a little slice of the French Quarter in southeastern Missouri.

Eventually I found out more about that mysterious ancestor. It turns out the old story was essentially true. He was a child of English settlers in Pennsylvania, age three or so, taken, along with his infant brother when his parents were killed in an Indian raid in the early 1750’s. The infant brother died of a fever soon after, but my ancestor, my great grandfather five times removed, survived with the band of raiders as they moved west to the Mississippi Valley. The group was on Kaskaskia Island on a day when the parish priest at Fort de Chartres nearby, Father Callet, was ministering to his second flock there.

Callet knew the boy was white, though he had little left of his English language by then. The priest bought him from the raiders for five barrels of whiskey and renamed him Hypollite Robert. Hypollite went on to become one of the patriarchs of old Ste. Genevieve and to father twelve children. Over time the name Hypollite was corrupted to Politte, which was my grandmother’s maiden name, she being a descendant of Hypolitte’s son Charles.

In my late teens I discovered the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. I was struck by how the fictional inhabitants of Yoknapatawpha County and northern Georgia in these writers’ work were people I had essentially grown up with and known all my life. As Jane Austen had found the whole world in a few counties and a smattering of families, so too had these American writers, working in a fictional field called “regionalism.”

My love of horror was at least as foundational to my development as was my love of history. In my mid-twenties I discovered H. P. Lovecraft. Here was a different kind of regionalism: an infernal one scattered with rotting gambrel roofs and cosmic terrors. One evening a light switched on in my head. I hit on the idea of creating a fictional Ste. Genevieve, an accursed, forgotten village with a dark history and tentative future.

I wanted to re-name the town. I wanted an unusual French name and oddly, I wanted the name to begin with the letter ‘O’. On many visits to the old graveyard in Ste. Genevieve, I kept coming upon the name Odile. That was perfect. Ste. Odile it was. I drew a detailed map of the town, keeping some landmarks that existed in the real location, and changing most others. Then I started thinking of a story, a dark narrative to cast a pall over my newly invented region.

I wanted all the classic elements of 19th century horror which I had enjoyed in my youth. I needed an ancient evil, a crumbling mansion, a forgotten village populated by a closed, unwelcoming citizenry. The result, after years of research and writing, was my novel The Black Garden.

The book was well-received. All reviews were good from the UK to India and beyond. The novel gave rise to a sequel, The Mother of Centuries, which resolved the life narrative of one of the essential characters of the first book. It also inspired my story collection The Dark Walk Forward, soon to be republished in German. At this moment I am at work on a second collection of Ste. Odile stories, Baby Monster which will appear later this year.

There may be one or two of my readers who wonder when I will move on and leave old Ste. Odile behind. It has happened intermittently. I am producing some tales now that have nothing to do with the crumbling village. Still, ideas keep popping into my head that include foreboding mansions, well-kept secrets and a cursed, forgotten old town.



JOHN MCFARLAND’S first novel, The Black Garden, was published in 2010, and the story continues with the recent Mother of Centuries. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley and the anthology A Treasury of American Horror Stories, which also included stories by Stephen King, Richard Matheson and H.P. Lovecraft. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers. Find John’s work on the Literary Underworld!