Stories

The Legend of the Dogman

by David C. Posthumus

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Suspense 

Something dark and malevolent stalks the majestic Northwoods of Michigan, and each corpse sends a new wave of terror through the small town of LeRoy. Anthropology professor Jack Allen uncovers a pattern of strange encounters, disappearances, and unsolved murders that shake him to his core. The deeper Jack delves into the horror in the woods, the more his life falls apart around him. With his family and all of Northern Michigan hanging in the balance, Jack must find a way to stop the cycle or risk losing everything to the ultimate predator. Meet a new kind of monster in David C. Posthumus’s bone-chilling suspenseful thriller, The Legend of the Dogman!

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CHAPTER 1

Spring: 2017

Sunday, April 29, 2017

Near Marion, Michigan

The McGregor family went mushrooming every spring. It was a family tradition that stretched back to when Joe McGregor was a boy growing up in scenic Northern Michigan. Every year in late April and May, Joe and his father would spend a few hours together out in the woods each evening hunting for the elusive and delicious morel, one of the most prized and expensive wild mushrooms you can find. Morels are conical in shape with long hollow caps with a ridged and spongy look, almost like a honeycomb.

Sometimes on the weekends, Joe and his dad would spend an entire day outside, walking the trails and combing the woods, their eyes glued to the ground in search of the camouflaged fungi that blended in so well with the leaves, pine needles, and dead grass of the previous autumn. The rush of excitement when you spotted one and the thrill of victory as you reached down to pick it just never got old. Those times Joe spent in the Northwoods in the springtime with his father were some of his fondest childhood memories.

Morels are common in Michigan, growing in every county in the state, and mushroom hunting is a popular spring hobby. Plus, it’s a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Most morel hunters are tight-lipped about their favorite spots, but the majestic mixed pine and hardwood forests of Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula are prime locations for wild mushrooms.

One of the McGregor family’s favorite spots was a densely wooded area of state land north of the small village of Marion in Osceola County. It sits between the Clam River to the north and the Middle Branch River to the south, both classic trout streams and tributaries of the mighty Muskegon River, the second largest river in the state.  

Joe McGregor, along with his wife Lindsay and their five-year-old daughter Lily, had left their home in Cadillac around nine that morning after a hearty breakfast. Joe had packed their mesh bags, a wicker basket for Lily, and a picnic lunch packed securely away in the trunk. After a half-hour drive, they parked their car on the shoulder of an isolated dusty backroad, retrieved their gear, and headed off into the woods. It was a chilly sunny day, but they were happy to be spending some quality time together in the forest.

Just after one, the McGregors finished their lunch of sandwiches, baby carrots, apple slices, and potato chips. Joe and Lindsay shared a bottle of cold and refreshing iced tea while Lily happily slurped her chocolate milk. Lily was thrilled to the gills when Daddy surprised her by pulling out three big pieces of the cheesecake Mommy had made that week. They emerged from the little red and white cooler as if by magic, neatly arranged on a plastic plate and covered with Saran Wrap.

As the McGregors hiked back into the woods to continue their hunt, Joe took stock of their haul so far for the day. It had been a productive one: Joe’s white mesh bag contained at least fifty morels, while Lindsay, who had a great eye for mushrooms, bagged at least eighty. Even Lily had stopped daydreaming and playing to find eleven morels, which now bounced around merrily in her basket as they walked.

They reached the spot where they had left off before lunch and got back down to business. Joe and Lindsey walked slowly in opposite directions, their eyes scanning the ground in front of them, while Lily quietly hummed a tune and walked over to examine a particularly neat-looking tree stump.

What the McGregors didn’t realize that crisp spring afternoon was that while they were out hunting for morels, there was something else out there lurking among the tangled trees and ferns; something dark, something menacing, something evil.

And that something was hunting them.

Joe was on fire; it seemed like he was finding a morel everywhere he looked. His father had always told him that where you found one, there was sure to be another; like they grew in pairs or something, a bit of folk-wisdom, the veracity of which Joe doubted but pondered briefly.

And there was another one!

He knelt down and cut the stem at ground level with his pocketknife and set it in his bag. This one had been peeking out from the blanket of dead leaves covering the ground around the trunk of a gigantic maple tree. Scanning the ground around it, another mushroom came into focus not ten feet from where Joe had cut the first one. It suddenly popped out of the background of leaves like one of those weird visual puzzles you stare into until you see a three-dimensional image in them. Or so they said. Joe was never very good at those damn things. While Joe was off to the east of the trail in a little gully, Lindsay was west of the main trail, up on a rise dotted with elm trees. She too was having great luck that day—the morel god of the Northwoods was surely smiling down upon her. As she bent down to pick another mushroom, she spotted two more. Lindsay smiled and nodded happily as she dropped them into her mesh bag, which was bursting, nearly overflowing with over a hundred morels.

Worth their weight in gold, she thought, patting her bag. But what would go good with them for dinner tonight? Fish? Chicken? Definitely some wild leeks on the side. 

Lindsay continued contemplating the evening’s meal as she walked, scanning the ground, a contented grin on her face. She enjoyed her status as the best mushroom hunter in the family; it was a spot of pride and also fueled some friendly competition between her and Joe. She chuckled, wondering how he was faring, knowing that he would never match her haul that day. Lindsay was about a hundred yards away from Joe, and Lily was between them, still walking and humming along the trail. The McGregors had hunted morels at that spot many times before, and they all knew the routine, so splitting up was no big deal… at least not until that fateful afternoon late in April.  

It got Lindsay first.

It happened so fast that she never even knew what hit her. The thread of her life was cut so quickly and so cleanly that she was dead before she even hit the ground. She had just found a morel in the leaves at the base of a particularly bushy old elm tree with a thick trunk and had knelt down on one knee to pick it.

That’s when it struck from behind the old elm with a blow so savage and powerful that it took Lindsay’s head clean off. It bounced off the bed of dead leaves like an underinflated basketball, making a muffled thuck sound before rolling several feet to the south and coming to rest right beside a large morel.

Joe was next.

He was really concentrating, focused, homed in on the task at hand, his eyes glued to the ground in front of him, scanning back and forth like a speed reader on crack. He met his end roughly ten minutes after his wife’s sudden death. But unfortunately for Joe, he saw his killer.

A dark figure suddenly appeared from behind a maple tree directly in front of him. Joe looked up, an expression of dumb surprise on his face, not knowing or believing what he was seeing. They were eye-to-eye for a split second before the thing dug into Joe’s stomach, opening it up like a surgeon with a scalpel while simultaneously tearing out his throat with its teeth. Hot blood jetted from the gaping wound in Joe’s neck, splashing against the trunk of the maple and pooling on the leaves beneath him. He didn’t even have time to scream.

All the while, Lily skipped along the trail through the woods, clutching her wicker basket tightly in her little hands. She was singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins, swaying along cheerfully with the movement and momentum of the song. No one knows exactly what happened to Lily McGregor that day. All I know is that she and her mother and father were never seen or heard from again.

Photo: David C. Posthumus

David C. Posthumus began his writing career at age six, when his grandfather read one of his first-grade publications and labeled him “Ernie (Hemingway) Jr.” Posthumus is a voracious reader of many genres, fiction and nonfiction, and an avid horror fan and fiction writer. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology and Native American studies, including one published book (All My Relatives: Exploring Lakota Ontology, Belief, and Ritual, University of Nebraska Press, 2018), one book forthcoming (Lakota: Culture, History, and Modernities, University of Oklahoma Press, 2022), as well as several journal articles, book chapters, and reviews. Aside from having the perfect surname for horror, Posthumus loves dogs, the great outdoors, and is also a musician and lifelong music lover.

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Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

Yeah, I grew up in Michigan and spent a lot of time either reading and writing or playing music. I also love the outdoors and played a lot in the woods with my family and friends growing up. I’ve always been into spooky stuff and horror. It probably started with Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, then progressed to R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Edgar Allan Poe, early Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and then from there to all kinds of great stuff. I’d have to say SK is my all-time favorite writer of scary stories, and I think you can definitely see his influence on my writing. I guess I’ve always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid. I used to write a lot of fiction up until about high school, mostly horror and action and adventure stories. But then other things kind of got in the way for a while when I went to college and then to graduate school. I got a PhD in anthropology and became a professor for several years, so I switched to nonfiction and published a book, several articles and book chapters, and some reviews in my fields of interest. A few years ago I got the fiction writing bug again and started getting back into it. I wrote The Legend of the Dogman in three or four months, but I had the basic idea swimming around in my subconscious since high school. Since then I’ve written two more horror novels and have a couple of good ideas percolating that I need to make time for.   

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I can make myself burp . . . like really loud and long. Like the entire ABCs in one giant belch. And when I was a kid I was in a “band” with my neighbor called The Belch Brothers. We rocked. We recorded several albums together in the mid-nineties until the pressures of the road caught up with us and we broke up. 😊 

Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!

In my gig as an anthropologist I did fieldwork for about fifteen years with the Lakota (Western Sioux) people of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. I participated in and studied Lakota ceremonial life and went to a lot of sweat lodges, sun dances, and other ceremonies. I also worked on a Lakota language revitalization project with Red Cloud Indian School. Another interesting thing is that I was once bitten by a bat. I was helping my father-in-law take down some storm windows, and there was a sleepy bat perched under the plywood frame of the storm window. I felt a strange tingling sensation on my hand, which turned out to be the bat slowly sinking its fangs into me. It was pretty disgusting, and I think it was the first time I dropped an F-bomb in front of my in-laws. Hahaha. And ever since then I’ve had weird encounters with bats. It’s like they chose me to be a human member of the bat clan or something. Spooky, huh?  

What are some of your pet peeves?

I hate it when people leave the lights on in a room they’re no longer occupying. I also hate it when people leave their shoes in the middle of a walkway. 

Where were you born/grew up at?

I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up in a suburb about ten miles north of the city. 

If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

Whoa, that’s a tough one. I guess I’d want to spend it up north at our family cottage—“the farm” from the novel—with my friends and family. There’s nothing better than Northern Michigan in the summertime.

Who is your hero and why?

Man, these are tough! I guess I’d have to say Pennywise the Dancing Clown. No, just kidding. 😊 John Lennon because his music and mind changed my life. His voice has always been there for me throughout my life. He’s been a real inspiration ever since I got into the Beatles in fourth grade. John Lennon and Jimmy Page.  

What kind of world ruler would you be?

Not a very good one. Ha! I hate politics.

What are you passionate about these days?

I’m passionate about my family (my wife, two kids, and dog), music, reading and writing, and spending quality time outside.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

Usually I’ll read something, watch a movie or show, play some guitar, have a cup of tea, go for a hike or a swim. God, answering these questions makes me realize how boring I am!

How to find time to write as a parent?

That’s tough. When I’m in the zone, so to speak, I’m really disciplined about writing for at least an hour or two every day. I try to get 2,000 words in a day, usually in the evening after the kids are in bed. But it’s a sacrifice, for sure. You have to really want to do it and carve out time for it.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less!

Funny, kind, irreverent, driven, affable.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I guess I’ve never really stopped to accept the title officially. Haha! But when I think about it, I’ve always been a writer or a storyteller in one way or another. I love the creative process, tapping into the unconscious, the muse, whether it’s writing fiction or music. I guess I officially became a writer when my first review was published around 2015, and I haven’t looked back!

Do you have a favorite movie?

Several. Halloween, the original IT from the nineties, The Shawshank Redemption, What About Bob?, Tombstone, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Grease, the list goes on and on and it’s very weird and eclectic.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?

Well, since this is my first novel, I’d have to say this one. But seriously, I think there are some great scenes in there that could be made into some real titillating cinema. Like the little girl skipping along singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” It’d make a great trailer. It could be pure cinematic gold!

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I guess I’d have to say a bat, because I’ve had a lot of strange encounters with bats. A bat bit me once when I was helping my father-in-law take down some storm windows, and ever since then I’ve had this strange connection with bats. It’s like they’re attracted to me or something. I used to get them in my office at the University of South Dakota pretty regularly, and once a bat flew down and landed like twenty feet away from me and just clicked and chattered at me. And that was in broad daylight! Aside from a bat, I’d say a dog, and in particular my dog, Luna. She always lays right next to me when I write and is my sweet little fuzzy writing companion.

What inspired you to write this book?

I grew up in West Michigan, and my grandparents lived on a farm up north in a little town called LeRoy, near Cadillac. They had some woods and trails, and my cousins and I spent a lot of time playing in the woods and going on all sorts of adventures. In 1987, Steve Cook, a disc jockey at WTCM out of Traverse City, came up with this spooky song about the Dogman, a dog/man creature that ravaged the little towns in Northern Michigan every calendar year that ends in a seven. It tied in with some local folklore—these kinds of werewolf-like stories are common in the Midwest. So, Steve Cook recorded this song about the various exploits of the Dogman as an April Fools prank, but then it took off, and people really loved it. He wrote a few newer versions, and it became something of a Halloween/Northern Michigan tradition.

My grandma and grandpa, “Nannie” and “Bapa,” recorded the song on a cassette tape off the radio, and they’d play it for me and my cousins around their table up north at the farm. This would have been in the nineties. We were all probably around ten years old, maybe a little younger, and of course it scared the shit out of us. Looking back, the song is pretty hokey, but it wasn’t as a ten year old, and it’s become very near and dear to me and my family. I think it captures something, some magic that fuels horror, like that feeling when you’re alone in the woods, especially at night, and the idea that some monstrous beast might be lurking among the trees, waiting for a chance to strike. Bapa especially always liked the spooky stuff and liked to give us a healthy scare every now and then. He’d play the song for us as kids on their old radio that sat on top of the fridge, and it’d be getting dark, and then after the song was over, and we were all sitting around ashen faced and wide eyed, then he’d say something like, “Oh, you know I forgot to turn the barn light off. Could one of you go do that for me?” We’d look at each other all freaked out, but then one or a few of us would try to be brave and make the walk down to the barn in the dark, and inevitably, Bapa would turn the light off from the farm just as we were reaching the barn. We’d all scream and sprint back to the house in the dark, as Bapa cackled to himself.

So, it was the song, mixed with a deep love for the Northwoods of Michigan and an enduring love of the horror genre that inspired the novel. Stephen King was also a big influence, especially IT.I’ve always been a writer, and I actually had the idea for the novel in high school, but I never got around to sitting down and doing it. But I eventually did almost twenty years later!     

What can we expect from you in the future?

I have two more novels and a short story that are basically sitting in my desk drawer waiting for a round of edits. They’re all in pretty good shape, but I just need to make time to get back to them. One of the novels is about a small-town church in the Midwest. This young, charismatic preacher and his beautiful wife come to town, and he starts doing all these miraculous things and gets a huge, passionate following. Well, let’s just say he’s not who he claimed to be, and things start to unravel. The tagline is: “When it turns out a small-town preacher isn’t who he claims to be, all hell breaks loose.” The second novel is about a spree of unsolved, grisly murders in a small town in the Midwest. The police chief and his deputy have no leads, and the bodies are piling up. Meanwhile, we get to know a tragic figure, a young girl who was an outcast all her life, who was harassed and tormented by her peers, who loses her parents in a tragic accident, and ends up at a school for girls with a very sadistic headmaster. The girl eventually escapes and undergoes a miraculous, creepy transformation in her isolation. The tagline is: “Isolation can turn you into a real monster.” Or something like that. That one still needs a little more finessing, but it’s in pretty good shape. So, those are the projects I have in the hopper, so to speak, but I have tons of ideas floating around for novels and other projects. I just need to make some time for them.    

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in The Legend of the Dogman?

Jack Allen is the protagonist. He’s an anthropology professor at Ferris State University. He’s dedicated to his family and very driven, some might even say obsessive. His wife is Claire, and they have a daughter named Melanie. They live on a farm in LeRoy, Michigan and share a beautiful, peaceful life together. Until the killings begin. Jack’s brother and cousins also play a role. The Dogman is the antagonist, a mysterious six- or seven-foot-tall werewolf-like creature. In a nutshell, Jack uncovers a pattern that really shocks him, and he also discovers a connection with his family. He learns that his father and ancestors knew about the Dogman, and many of the older folks in the town and in the region know about it too. He becomes obsessed with learning the truth about the creature, which puts him on a collision course with an ancient evil, something out of his worst childhood nightmares.  

How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?

I came up with concept for the book in high school. I knew I wanted it to be a multi-generational story about this guy who starts unraveling the mystery of the Dogman. So, it has a sort of detective or murder mystery element to it. It’s also something of a coming-of-age story that I hope captures some of the magic of childhood and the breathtaking beauty of Northern Michigan. It takes place in a seventh year, but then we learn about the pattern, the cycle, that seems to occur every calendar year that ends in a seven. Later, I found a way to incorporate all or most of the lines from Steve Cook’s song in the novel, too. Basically, I took the different stories from each year in the song and expanded them into chapters or incorporated them into the Jack Allen storyline. The characters came mostly from my life and experiences. In some ways, they’re a lot like me and people I know, but I always took the luxury of veering away from the models whenever it suited the story. So, in a way, all the characters are me and my friends and family, but at the same time, they’re totally different. I’m sure lots of writers have characters like that. They’re simultaneously me, someone, everyone, and no one.  

Where did you come up with the names in the story?

I knew I wanted the protagonists to be Allens. That’s my mother’s maiden name, and it just seemed right. For the others, I modified names of the models for my characters, Googled common names in the region, and even searched the Yellow Pages, digitally, of course, for some of the random names. Fans of certain classic films of the nineties might also find some names in there that will hopefully make them smile.  

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

It was a labor of love that’s been bubbling away in my subconscious since I was a little boy. It felt great to finally get that out and on the page. It was like a tribute to that song, to the genre, to my grandpa, to childhood, and to Michigan. I loved the whole process, really, but I especially loved the little bits and twists that seemed to come out of nowhere when you’re sitting in front of your computer. Those miraculous ideas really tied things together and seemed to come to me whenever I wasn’t sure where the story would go next. They were like little gifts from the unconscious that were just so perfect and so unexpected. That was really exhilarating, and it kept the process exciting and interesting. 

Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?

Jack loves his family. He’s a devoted husband and father. He’s a really driven, motivated guy who wants to be good and do the right thing. But he also gets a little too deep into the things he’s passionate about. When these killings start happening, and he gets some idea about what’s going on, he wants to solve the mystery. When he discovers the connection with his family, he gets even more obsessed with finding the answer and stopping the perpetrator, stopping the cycle. His quest takes over his life, and he vows to get to the bottom of it before the mysterious creature haunting the Northwoods gets to him and his family. 

How did you come up with the title of your first novel?

It’s basically the title of the song that inspired the novel. The song is called “The Legend” or “The Legend of Michigan’s Dogman.” I called the novel “The Legend of the Dogman” as a tribute to Steve Cook and his wonderful, creative, spooky song.

Who designed your book covers?

Greg Chapman designed the cover, and he does a lot of the cover art for Cody Langille over at Timber Ghost Press. I just love the design and the artwork. Greg really nailed it, and I’m super happy with how it turned out. It captures the essence of the story, the creature, the mystery, and the Northwoods at night, which can be pretty creepy!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. So much of it really came from inside me, from my cumulative experiences in life, from my unconscious or subconscious, from Steve Cook’s song, from the horror writers I love. When I was finished with the second draft, I really felt like it was done, like all the loose ends were tied up, and I didn’t have anything else to add. I don’t have any regrets about it really. 

Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

Definitely. I learned that writing a novel takes a lot of time, patience, and sacrifice. I learned lots of other things too that you learn as a writer, and I think each project makes me a little better, hones my style, clarifies my voice, etc. Since this is my first novel, I feel like I learned a lot about the process.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Hmmm, that’s a great question! I would say a young Harrison Ford would be my top choice. Maybe Christian Bale or Russell Crowe or Brad Pitt or Edward Norton. Johnny Depp could pull it off, too. He’d have to be somewhat of an outdoorsman who could do action scenes, but he also has to be an intellectual and be able to pull off the professor role. 

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

If you’re in Northern Michigan and it’s a seventh year, the best advice you may ever get is don’t go out at night!

What is your favorite part of this book and why?

It’s a bit of a slow burner, but I really love the pacing, especially as Part I comes to an end. I think it just builds and builds from there, and there’s a lot of tension and suspense. I hope it gives you all goosebumps and keeps you up at night! 

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

I’d spend time with Melanie, because she’s based on my daughter at that age. She’s five, almost six now, and every day is a blessing and an adventure. She’s an incredible kid, and I’d love to go back in time and spend an afternoon at Razzaque Days with her when she was three again. 

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Both. They’re all based on me in some ways and my friends and family in some ways, too. But then, like a ruthless assassin, whenever it was in any way convenient for me or the story to veer off course, I would do that. So, all the characters are in some ways based on me and people I know, but then they also deviate from those models whenever it suits the story. So, they’re all hybrids. Some of my characters are also based on characters from films and novels I’ve loved over the years and even some historical figures. 

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?

Both. I’m not really a plot-driven writer, but I do have some idea of where I want things to go. I like to let the story tell itself through me, but sometimes I know I want the characters to get to a certain point, so then I’ll steer them toward it. But in lots of cases, the characters do and say things I didn’t expect them to, and it leads us in all kinds of unexpected and interesting directions.

Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.

If you’re into spooky folktales and dark, mysterious creatures from the depths of your worst nightmares, this is a must read. Also, if you love the Great Outdoors and appreciate a good, slow-burn mystery, then I think you’ll love it and won’t be able to put it down. But be warned, you’ll be looking over your shoulder the next time you’re alone in the woods, especially at night!

Have you written any other books that are not published?

Yeah, I have two novels that are currently in the digital desk drawer waiting for second draft revisions.

If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?

Pine death.

What did you edit out of this book?

Cody and I took out lots of adverbs (ha!) and similes. We also nixed a couple minor scenes that were inspired by the Dogman song but didn’t really support or enhance the main storyline. For instance, there was a flashback to 1967 when a vanload of hippies encounter the Dogman on their way back from a wild music festival. It was pretty far out, but it didn’t support the main storyline enough, so we cut it. 

Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?

That’s a tough one. There are so many authors I’d love to sit down and chat with, but I guess I’d have to say Shakespeare, the great Bard of Avon himself. Maybe he’d slip me the answer to true literary greatness!

Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?’-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.

When I’m working on a novel, I try to write for at least one to two hours every day, seven days a week. But my motto is “If it’s flowing, keep on going,” so oftentimes on a really good day, I’ll write into the wee hours of the morning.

What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?

When it comes to fiction, I love horror and action and adventure. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Peter Benchley, Michael Crichton, etc. I read a lot of westerns growing up, like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and Larry McMurtry. I love the classics too, Hesse, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Orwell, et al. I love Ken Kesey and the whole beat and psychedelic movement. But I also read a lot of nonfiction. I’m somewhat of a history buff, and I’m endlessly fascinated by World War II and Native American history and cultures. I also love reading about classic rock bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, etc. and am really interested in religion and the occult or Western esoteric traditions. There are so many similarities when you get down to the bedrock of religious traditions around the world, and that really fascinates me.

What book do you think everyone should read?

Man, that’s a really tough one. The Bible? Siddhartha? The Bhagavad Gita? East of Eden? 1984? I guess my grownup self would suggest things that are quite different from my 18-year-old self.  

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I guess I really got going on it in first grade. I’d write books about my favorite athletes, and I’d also do these movie adaptations. Then I started writing about cops and robbers. Then I started writing my own Indiana Jones stories. Then later I started writing horror fiction. I wrote fiction from about first grade through early high school. I remember in seventh grade English class I was writing a western novel about a gunslinger based on Doc Holliday. As I’d finish each chapter, the other kids in the class would pass the manuscript around and read it, like a serial or something. That was really cool. Then in college I started writing more nonfiction, things for school, history, anthropology, etc., and I didn’t really come back to writing fiction until quite recently. I am also a songwriter and have been doing that off and on since I was in fourth or fifth grade. 

Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

Both. I usually have some idea of who my characters are, but then they develop as the writing and the story progress and take on a mind of their own. They dictate a lot of the plot, and I’m always learning new things about my characters. They keep me on my toes. I uncover their true selves a little at a time, like an archaeologist excavating an ancient site or something.

What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?

Usually it’s pretty minimal. I try to write about what I know and am passionate about. I do some research as I go, but usually not a whole lot up front. I start with what-if scenarios and try to let the story grow and unfold as organically as possible. 

Do you see writing as a career?

Unfortunately, I guess not. I wish it was my career, and that’d be a dream come true, but right now it’s not paying the bills. Ha! So, I guess I see writing as a hobby, a passion, something that I love and need to do. But not a career. I feel like a career has to be a job that produces enough money for you and your family to live on, and so far writing hasn’t done that for me. But I have a deep drive and need to express myself creatively in one form or another, whether it’s music or writing or whatever. It’s very cathartic and therapeutic for me. It’s often how I work things out and feel. It’s also something I really love doing and have always loved doing, so it’s a very deep, essential part of me, very central to who I am.  

What do you think about the current publishing market?

Well, I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it seems pretty tough. It’s kind of strange, there are so many smaller presses out there now and new ways to get your work in print, and yet it’s still extremely hard to get published (outside of self-publishing) and even harder to find an agent to represent you and help you succeed in the industry. It seems like a needle in a haystack scenario. Those agents must have very specific ideas about exactly who and what they want in their clientele. They have a lot of power as gatekeepers. I think I got really lucky finding Cody and Timber Ghost Press, and they’ve been a dream to work with. 

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?

Of course I read! I’ve always been an avid and voracious reader of many genres, both fiction and nonfiction. I like horror, thriller/suspense, action/adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, you name it. I also love history, anthropology, and religious studies, and I’m a real sucker for rock and roll biographies and memoirs.  

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

In silence. That way I can hear my train of thought a comin’. I’ve always found it easier to tap into my subconscious in a quiet room with few distractions and the door closed. Everything just seems to flow better for me that way. It evokes (or invokes?) my muse and stimulates my creativity and imagination.   

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?

One at a time. Serious writing projects take over my life, so I can only handle one at a time. It’s kind of like a marriage or having a kid you have to tend to. Hahaha.

If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?

The Bible. It’s been a bestseller for quite some time now.

Pen or type writer or computer?

Computer. Sometimes I’ll take notes or do some outlining on a pad of paper, but when it comes time to get down to business, it’s computer all the way. 

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

I really like Gandalf. That guy is the shit. I wish I could do all that magical stuff like he does. Aragorn is pretty cool too. Hermann Hesse’s characters in Demian and Narcissus and Goldmund are great. I also love every character in The Losers’ Club from IT. It’s hard not to love them. They all seem very familiar, too, like they’re all based on people you know or even yourself. Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls is also a great character. Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are also wonderful.  

What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?

I always liked expressing myself with the written or spoken (or sung) word. So, I guess there was no decision there. It’s just a part of who I am. It’s something that I naturally do. I have no choice! I’m a prisoner to the word!

Advice they would give new authors?

Writing is good for the soul.

Describe your writing style.

It’s like how Led Zeppelin played live: tight but loose. When I’m working on a novel, I’m very disciplined about getting a set number of words down each day. But at the same time, I’m very loose or freeform, almost like stream of consciousness. I hardly ever plot things out in much detail, I unleash my subconscious mind and let it roam freely, and I let my characters dictate a lot of the story.

What makes a good story?

Tension, emotion, good and evil, some likeable characters and others you love to hate or are terrified of, some lofty principles or values maybe. A good story has to be able to transport you out of your mundane life or headspace and into another dimension, into the world of the story, where things are fresh and exciting and the stakes are really high.

What are they currently reading?

Bob Spitz’s new Led Zeppelin biography.

What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?

I usually start with a what-if scenario. I have a Google doc full of basic what-if scenarios that are the little seeds of my writing projects, like little story larvae. They’re just the weird good ideas that come to all of us randomly that we usually neglect to write down and forget. Then once I have the what-if scenario, I’ll think through a rough plot outline sometimes, and there have to be characters involved to do that, but then I just like to get going and see where the characters and story take me. I find that the best and most original plot twists come out of the blue when you least expect them when you’re fully immersed in the process and living in the world of the story. They just hit you in the shower or when you’re walking the dog, and you’re like, “YESSSSSSS! That’s perfect!” It’s really quite magical in every sense of the term.  

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Worrying too much about plot. Being afraid to start. Losing steam and not being able to follow through and finish. General insecurity about writing or being able to tell a good story. Second-guessing yourself.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Distractions of any kind.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I guess I try to be more original, because I let the story flow and mutate on its own as much as possible. But at the same time, I think I’m still able to deliver the goods in terms of what readers want, and there are some good innovative twists on some classic horror tropes.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Try to make a career out of writing right away, in your teens or twenties. Don’t wait.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It depends on how dedicated I am to it. Sometimes two or three months to write a good first draft. Other times I start and stop and take weeks or months or even years off. Then it could take a good long while. But when I’m really in the zone and being really good and disciplined about it, it usually takes two to three months. And those tend to be the best projects.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

No. I have no reason to so far. *Knocks on wood*

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