Archive for October, 2008

Let me share some news!

DARK LULLABY is now available from Fantastic Literature Ltd, UK’s largest and best online purveyor of out of print books, rare books and used books in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, thrillers, ghost stories, weird tales and macabre fiction both in paperback, hardcover and magazine format.

At a trendy Turkish tavern one Friday night, astrophysicist Gabriel Diaz meets a mysterious young woman. Captivated by her beauty as well as her views on good and evil, he spends the next several days with her. Soon, however, he begins to notice a strangeness in her–her skin’s abnormally high temperature, her obsession with milk products, her child-like and bizarre behavior as she seems to take pleasure in toying with his conscience.
The young woman, Kamilah, invites him to Rize, Turkey, where she claims her family owns a cottage in the woods. In spite of his heavy workload and the disturbing visions and nightmares about his sister’s baby that is due to be born soon, Gabriel agrees to go with her.
But nothing, not even the stunning splendor of the Black Sea, can disguise the horror of her nature. In a place where death dwells and illusion and reality seem as one, Gabriel must now come to terms with his own demons in order to save his sister’s unborn child, and ultimately, his own soul…


“Mayra Calvani is a masterful storyteller… Dark Lullaby is complex and compelling…” –Habitual Reader

“Dark Lullaby is an atmospheric paranormal horror that grips you from page one and refuses to let go until you’ve raced, breathless, to the end.” –ePinions

“Dark Lullaby is a page-turner. A horror story from the top shelf! You’ll love it.” –5 stars from Euro-Reviews

“This is a terrific horror…” –Harriet Klausner

“Dark Lullaby will capture you with its rich descriptions, its exotic location, and the need to uncover the dark secrets hidden within its pages.” –Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

Dark Lullaby
By Mayra Calvani
Whiskey Creek Press
EBook formats ISBN: 978-1-59374-908-8, $5.99
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-59374-907-1, $13.95
September 2007
Supernatural Thriller
Available from Fictionwise, Amazon, and Whiskey Creek Press
* Discounts for bookstores and libraries
Contact the publisher: Phone: 307-265-8585, Fax: 307-265-4640

Thank you, Simon and Laraine, for stocking my book in your wonderful store! I had the pleasure of interviewing Simon as part of my Halloween Festival Interviews this October. Read my interview with this bookseller here.

Read some of my interviews about the writing of Dark Lullaby at:
Patricia’s Vampire Notes (note: my book is NOT about vampires)
Fiction Scribe

Watch the trailer!

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Pop culture critic, blogger and commentator Bill Sherman is the founder of Pop Culture Gadabout, a blog focusing on comics, music, TV and film criticism. He's also the Comics Review Editor at Blogcritics Magazine. In this interview, Sherman talks about his blog, the reason why zombies are the 'hard-core champions' of all horror fiends, and what's popular in horror books and films at the moment.

Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself and your blog, Pop Culture Gadabout?

I'm a fifty-ish free-lancer who works in social services by day. I've played with pop culture criticism most of my life, writing for giveaway music papers and the like in the past – as well as more focused periodicals like The Comics Journal. Per its title, "Pop Culture Gadabout" reflects my generalist take on things pop cultural: on any given day, the blog might focus on a comics title, a new music release, something from TV and/or movies – with an occasional half-assed digression into social commentary. In this, it reflects the flibbertigibbet nature of my own mental processes. I've been blogging for six-plus years now, which sort of amazes me . . . Beyond my home blogging, I'm also the Comics Review editor at Blogcritics.

Vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, ghosts…. who's the enduring champion after all these years and why?

At the risk of coming across too Hank Yarbo-like ("Robots or werewolves – who would win?"), zombies remain the hard-core champion. Apart from the gore, I think the one thing that most resonates with modern zombie horror (as opposed to the old-fashioned voodoo type best repped by I Walked with A Zombie) is the fear that we all can become mindless and indistinguishable, part of the slavering mob, so quickly. I have a soft spot for vampires from all those Hammer Films that I watched as a teen, but vampires generally feed only on the young and pretty. Zombies bite anybody and fact of becoming one isn't the least bit sexy – to geezerly me, that's the creepiest.

Some people think that horror writers, just because they write horror, must be 'twisted' in some way, but when you look at some of the famous horror authors, you see that most of them are decent, highly moral people. Some would view this as a type of contradiction between an author's persona and the books he writes. Could you comment on this?

Me, I think anybody who writes for a living must be twisted. But, seriously, when I was younger I would've probably pulled out the old catharsis line to help explicate this seeming contradiction, but these days I'm less sure how valid it is.

You review a fair amount of horror books in your blog. What are some of the titles you've particularly enjoyed these past few years? Any emerging talents you think deserve more recognition?

I've had less time recently to read much prose fiction these past few years, so my primary focus has been on horror graphic novels and manga. Of these, I've particularly enjoyed the horror manga of Junji Ito and Hideshi Hino – the latter has a talent for the disturbing that lingers far longer than you initially think it might, based on his caricature-y drawing style. I've also grown hooked on ghost-centric manga series like Mail, which at their best are as creepily evocative as any of the best Japanese ghost flicks.

With western comics, I'm most heartened by the reprints of a classic hallucinatory undergrounder Rory Hayes (So That's Where the Demented Wented), who combined a primitive art style with some gleefully disturbing storytelling, as well as the new Creepy Archives, which reprints the more conservative, but still-enjoyable old-school storytelling of the Warren magazines of the sixties. Some great art in that set by the likes of Reed Crandall, Steve Ditko, Frank Frazetta and more.

I did want to remind folks of Mike Dubisch's Weirdling, a sci-fi horror graphic novel from the end of last year with a strong Lovecraftian feel. The book deserves to be remembered.

What types of horror seem more popular at the moment? Is atmospheric, traditional horror still thriving? If so, what do you think is the reason for its enduring value?

In box office terms, the slasher/psychological wham-bang of Se7en-inspired flicks like Saw seem to be the biggest draw these days. You can even see their influence in teleseries like Criminal Minds. The best ones aren't short on atmosphere, though I've gotta admit a steady diet of dingy warehouse settings and chain-bedecked basements can get pretty wearying. There will always be a place for so-called "traditional" horror, if only because the material is so conducive to metaphor.

What about movies? What are some of the best horror movies ever made? the worst?

I'm fairly unsurprising when it comes to a best-of list: Freaks, Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, Eyes without a Face, The Brood. For me, the worst horror flicks are the ones that elicit no response at all, that just sit there. I can enjoy myself at a bad low-budget horror flick like, oh, Horror of Party Beach, or a pure piece of schlock exploitation like one of Herschel Gordon Lewis' flicks because they have an energy to 'em that keeps you watching. But when a flick can't get up the gumption to generate even a simple jump-in-yer-seat fright, that's when I'm gone.

How do you see the horror book market at the moment–thriving or declining?

Far as I can tell, the book market in general has been hurting, though great genre work of all strips has its steady devotees. Don't seem to see as many cheapie horror paperbacks as I used to in the drugstore, though, so maybe that says something about the market.

What does a pop culture blogger do on Halloween?

This year, I plan to take the day off from work and watch cheap Dollar Store DVDs of public domain grade-z horror flicks – which, come to think of it, is exactly what I've done the last three Halloweens. Guess I'm stuck in a rut . . .

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Just to advise 'em to have a safe and scary holiday.

Thanks for this interview, Bill!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Having already worked in publishing for a number of years, I was not naive when I entered the submission fray. I knew I would have only one chance to submit my fiction to my agent, and that she would have only one chance to submit it to publishers.

So I held on to it, revising and polishing obsessively over twenty-three drafts before I shared it with my agent. I knew there was nothing harder than writing fiction, and I needed to convince her (and myself) that I could write a story that breathed and sweated and sang with life. I also knew enough to hire a number of editors and professional advisors to tell me when it didn’t.

Finally, when it was ready to go out to publishers, I was the one who was sweating. It is hard to convey the night-waking, body-trembling experience of putting a creation of one’s soul out into the world for acceptance and rejection. But the day finally came when I was able to pry it out of my Muse’s clawed and nervous hands.

As my agent prepared to send out the manuscript, she heard from a Brazilian scout who had gotten ahold of the manuscript early and already had an offer from a Brazilian publisher. Wow. I was amazed. I had lived in Brazil, loved Brazil and its people, knew no one in the publishing world there, but now loved Brazil even more for their early embrace of my Muse. I guess it is fitting, since The Lost Diary of Don Juan is about love, romance, and passion, and my caged North American heart had been broken open in Brazil (that’s another story!).

We went into the American auction with a sense of excitement and Brazilian ginga (sway). I was fortunate that the best offer came from a brilliant editor named Emily Bestler at Atria Books, a very skillful and commercially savvy arm of Simon & Schuster. To my amazement, Emily wanted a two-book deal, The Lost Diary of Don Juan and an untitled next book. Outer-body-experiences are hard to describe, since all we really know are our five senses. Suffice it to say that there was a tingling sensation and a sense of the laws of gravity loosening their grip on my body, much like being an astronaut floating above the surface of my house.

And then remarkably, the book started to sell in other countries around the world, from Brazil to Bulgaria and Taiwan to Turkey. As the Dutch publisher later confided in me during a tour of Seville with journalists from around the world (another unimaginable dream come true), “I had to have it and your agent knew it.”

What would Don Juan do? We had to celebrate. So we got period costumes (the novel takes place in Golden Age Spain, about the time of Shakespeare–men were not meant to wear tights), hired a sword-fighting instructor and a Spanish dance teacher (I had taken lessons in both while I was writing the novel), made a big vat of sangria, and reenacted scenes from the novel. Unimaginable fun.

Perhaps the most truly unimaginable experience, however, was going to the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet what ultimately became thirty publishers around the world. I was asked to address the publishers. I held my glass of rioja and could hardly speak. I had been a dyslexic boy, who took a long time to read, and to this day I still break out in a sweat every time I enter a bookstore. My English teacher had told me I would never be a writer (why did teachers use to say stuff like that?), but I persevered and pursued the dream of being a novelist.

And then there I was, looking out at a room full of publishers from around the world, all expressing their gratitude for the book that I had given them and their readers. I could not believe that I was awake. But it was not a dream.

–Douglas Carlton Abrams

About the author:

Douglas Carlton Abrams is a former editor at the University of California Press and HarperSanFrancisco. He is the co-author of a number of books on love, sexuality, and spirituality, including books written with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, and Taoist Master Mantak Chia. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, with his wife and three children. In his life and work, he is interested in cultivating all aspects of our humanity —body, emotions, mind, and spirit. His goal in writing fiction is to create stories that not only entertain, but also attempt to question, enchant, and transform.

Doug’s desire in writing the book was not only to resurrect this greatest of historical lovers and to give voice to his true motives; he was also moved to write a book that would explore the tension between lust and love and that would confront the human question of how any man or woman can find lifelong satisfaction in one committed relationship. To find out more about the origins of The Lost Diary and the myth of Don Juan, and to learn about forthcoming novels, please visit www.LostDiaryofDonJuan.com or www.DouglasCarltonAbrams.com

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Thanks for stopping at the Dark Phantom today, Christine. How long have you been writing dark stories?

For a while now. Funny as while I lean towards mystery first, I always seem to want to write horror. Blame it on Stephen King. Ha!

Tell us about your story, The Witch Tree. What inspired it?

Jimmy Grayson thinks he’s found utopia – a new house, a nice porch to relax on… and then THEY came…. Day by day, they arrive by the dozens, the hundreds, their beady eyes, watching, waiting. Jimmy fears for his sanity.

How will it end?

Who will survive?

Will it be him-or them?

I can tell it’s spring out here in Wisconsin when the red-winged blackbirds appear. We’ll get hundreds sitting in the trees, swinging on the cattails. They flock in hundreds, then do the same in fall, until they suddenly disappear, flying off to wherever they go until next spring. It’s a screeching, noisy, eerie mass.

Have you written other books with paranormal or supernatural elements?

My middle grade book, Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, from Quake/Echelon Press, has some spooky elements and a creepy family legend. Sam and her friend, Lita, are staying at her great aunt’s old Victorian while they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh’s famous painting, Starry Night. They’re working in an old shed that Aunt Hilda once used as her painting studio, and where a family barn burned down, inspiring the family legend. Plus, Sam tends to like to tease Lita, who is kind of skittish about ghosts.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

Readers are welcome to stop by my website, http://cverstraete.com and also see some of the miniatures I collect. I also am featuring various Halloween miniatures at my blog, Candid Canine.

Bonus: Visit my blog for a Scavenger Hunt this week and a chance to win some Halloween miniatures and a pdf copy of “The Witch Tree.” See question at end.

What’s your favorite horror novel? What about movies?

I have several favorites, Salem’s Lot, Dracula, Pet Sematery… Movies: We’ve gotten into a tradition of seeing a creepy movie near Halloween, probably Saw. I like suspense too.

What do you usually do on Halloween?

I usually go with my sister to a few local Haunted house events. Nothing like a good scare!

Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Visit Candid Canine this week for details on how to follow my Spooky Scavenger Hunt.

Scavenger Hunt Clue 1:

On Halloween, we go door to door

To get candy, look up to get scared and more

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Prolific, multi-genre, award-winning author Karen Wiesner has written over 55 books in the past 10 years, many of which have been nominated or won awards. She's the founder of ‘Jewels of the Quill’, a group of 12 award-winning women authors from the Midwest who help to promote each other. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as her bestseller, First Draft in 30 Days, available from Writer’s Digest Books.

Thanks for this interview, Karen. Please tell us about your romantic horror short story collection, Woodcutter's Grim Series: Classic Tales of Horror Retold.

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless…and the terrors would escape to the world at large.

The collection contains my previously published books in the Woodcutter's Grim Series: "Papa" (Book 1) and "Blood of Amethyst" (Book 2), plus 2 bonus stories in the series never before published: “Dancing to the Grave” (Book 3) and "The Amethyst Tower" (The Final Chapter).

"Papa," (Book 1)

A wickedly horrifying rendering of the classic children’s story “Hansel and Gretel”, in which modern revenge is served up sweet…

Less than a year after Randall Parker left his family for elementary school teacher, Amy, the unthinkable happens–is ex-wife and two children are killed in a car accident. Ever since the accident, Amy has had terrible nightmares in which Rand’s son and daughter return to exact revenge on their father and Amy herself (the wicked step-mother) for abandoning them. When Rand convinces her to come away with him for a healing respite to an isolated cabin in the woods, Amy’s guilt-filled nightmares turn into pure horror.

"Blood of Amethyst," (Book 2)

A blood-curdling answer as to why the childhood-nightmare creature Rumpelstiltskin so wanted a child of his own…

Amethyst Phillip's father–her only family–disappears in Woodcutter Grim's evil woods. Town Sheriff and Guardian Gabe Reece sends out a search party and eventually they find the body, completely drained of blood. A devastated Amethyst refuses to do anything but carry on all by herself in the isolated area she grew up.

But something strange is happening, and Gabe realizes it every time he drops by to check on the woman who's held his heart for long years. She's grown pale, cold. She's sleeping all the time, waking only in the night, when her taste for blood overwhelmes her. Then Gabe becomes aware that something in the woods is calling to her, something that's stealing her life…

Gabe will face his deadliest foe yet when the woman he loves falls prey to a nameless creature who wants her very soul.

"Dancing to the Grave" (Book 3)

Loosely based on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” The children of Woodcutter’s Grim are changing…and only one person, music teacher Diana Anders, realizes the truth. Can she and her husband, Kurt Jones, a member of the ancient lineage of the Protectorate’s Chosen Seven, save them and the future of their town?

"The Amethyst Tower" (The Final Chapter)

Loosely based on "Rapunzel." The isolated maiden meets her knight in a time-traveler who's come into the future to rescue her from the Warlock Lord holding her captive in the amethyst tower. Where else but in the fairy-tale-horror town of Woodcutter's Grim?

You write a fair share of romantic horror. What is romantic horror and how is it different from paranormal romances?

There’s very little difference between these genres. I guess I’d have to say the main and maybe only real difference is that I consider romantic horror a harder version of scary—paranormal romances are generally much “lighter” than romantic horror. Some paranormals aren’t even scary. They’re simply unusual or include some unnatural elements. My romantic horror is the kind that you don’t want to be alone in a dark room while reading, not unless you like being scared stupid, lol! Also, with a romantic horror, there may or may not be a happy ending and certainly the ending wouldn’t be “traditional”. Two carnivorous creatures, for instance, going off to spend an eternity together isn’t exactly your typical romantic ending. In a paranormal romance, there’s the usual happily-ever-after you’d expect to find.

There are many subgenres under Horror. Do you think some have more literary value than others–traditional vs. extreme body slashers?

I can’t really answer this with anything other than my own opinion. I don’t see the point of gratuitous violence in movies or books, especially if there’s no real purpose for it. If the story can get across the impression without, it’s best not to go slasher. I don’t read or watch either. If it’s realistic and furthers plot and characters, okay, include it, though you’ll get an “Eew, that wasn’t necessary!” out of me. I do love a good scare though, and that’s what I write…stories that will make you scared of your own shadow.

An atmosphere of dread is important when writing horror. How do you achieve this? Do you have any special writing quirks–lighting up candelabra, moody music, etc?

I try to listen to music that fits the story I’m writing, and I have an absolutely huge CD collection that allows me to have on hand just about any genre of music to do this. It also doesn’t hurt to write a scary story when it’s night and you’re in the dark with only a candle lit. Plus, I think watching a movie in the genre that you’re writing before you start writing helps immensely, too. Not to get ideas, but just to get that feeling of dread deep in the chest.

What are the most important elements of a horror story?

Suspense. That’s the true key to writing a horror. Moving slowly, using all of the senses, painting a picture in the mind of the reader that gets the short hairs standing up all over their body. Also, setting the terror up well in advance makes a story irresistible. The reader knows something awful has happened, you’ve given them a taste of it, but when it comes…that reader will be shivering in his shoes. Really, really good characters (and the word “good” here refers to both well-drawn, sympathetic, intriguing characters as well as to their moral goodness) are also a cornerstone of any great story, but if you don’t have a balance to the evil you’ve presented in your story it won’t be anywhere near as satisfying. Dracula had his Van Helsing. The aliens had Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. Keep in mind, of course, that the “good” character may not set his goal to vanquish evil but might end up doing so because there’s no one else to do it. But this character shows his quality by not quitting when it might be easier to do so.

Who are your favorite supernatural fiends? Why?

Aliens (from the Alien movies). Vampires. Loved ones coming back from the dead (isn’t that a horrible thing to even admit to? but they make for the most excruciatingly scary fiends!). Dinosaurs—I just adore big, terrifying dinosaurs, and nobody does them better than Michael Crichton in my opinion. I also just read The Ruins by Scott Smith. It’s been so many years since I read a horror this good, I honestly can’t remember anything that captured me this much. The movie was terrible (gratuitous), but I read the book in a single day. I couldn’t put it down. The “fiend” in this one is totally unexpected and unique.

Who are your favorite horror authors?

A slew of the classics with a mix of some modern authors: Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King’s old stuff, Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Anne Rice’s vampires and witches. Some Dean Koontz (I’m still waiting for him to finish his Christopher Snow trilogy).

Are you dressing up this Halloween? If yes, what as?

No. Until I was older than should have been allowed, I trick or treated, usually dressed as a witch. Sometimes, as an adult, I’ll dress up as a cat. Come Halloween, you’ll find me passing out candy and trying not to eat too much of it as I do!

Will there be a second collection of the Woodcutter's Grim Series?

Definitely! This second, four book volume will be based on the oldest family in Woodcutter's Grim, the Shaussgenys (yes, owners of the cursed cabin spoken of in the first volume stories).

I'll be writing the first story, "A Friend in Need" (Book 4 of the Woodcutter’s Grim Series) This one is loosely tailored after "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse". It'll be included in Jewels of the Quill's third Christmas Anthology, Christmas Gems, coming September 2011 as well as in the Woodcutter's Grim Series collection, Volume II (early 2014 release).

Other stories in this collection will be: "Bewitched" (Book 5), based on "The Little Mermaid", to be published in Bewitched and Bejeweled, a Halloween Anthology (September 2013 release), and two bonus stories: "One Night of Eternity" (Book 6, based on "The House That Jack Built") and "Beauty is the Beast" (Book 7, based on "Beauty and the Beast"). Find our more here.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Check out my backlist of other paranormal-themed, Halloween suitable titles:

The Bloodmoon Curse
Gothic Inspirational Paranormal Romance

"Blood of Amethyst" (Woodcutter's Grim Series–Classic Tales of Horror Retold, Book 2)
Romantic Horror Novella

"Papa" (Woodcutter's Grim Series–Classic Tales of Horror Retold, Book 1)           Romantic Horror Novella

"Creatures of the Night"
Romantic Paranormal Novella

Mirror Mirror, Book 3 of the Wounded Warriors Series
Romantic Psychological Thriller

Sweet Dreams
Paranormal Romance

Thanks, Karen!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Bitten by Books is having a truly spooktacular event this Halloween Season. Over $3,000 in cash and prizes. For full details and list of prizes, visit Bitten by Books.

Good luck!
The Phantom

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California native Alexandra Sokoloff is a professional screenwriter, director, choreographer and author of the supernatural thrillers, The Harrowing and The Price. The first was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel and for an Anthony Award for Best First Mystery. She has adapted numerous novels for film for companies such as Sony, Fox, Disney, and Miramax. Sokoloff is a regular blogger at Murderati.com and Muse, a new collective of female dark suspense authors.

It's a pleasure having you here today, Alexandra. Tell us, when did you start writing?

Well, in hindsight I could say that I started writing when I was about eight or nine – not stories, but some friends and I would write little plays and put them on in a neighbor's garage, charge admission, all that! But I was really much more into the acting side of it for a long time. I was a theater kid all through high school, mostly loved doing musicals – was an avid singer and dancer and still am – but I quickly became more interested in the big picture of production. I directed the senior class play when I was 16, and from there I kept directing and also choreographing, but got more and more interested in playwriting. The moment that I committed to writing for all time, though, was when I wrote my first one-act play in a class at Berkeley and the professor chose it to have a graduate student direct it. The moment my characters walked out on that stage, real, live people, I felt like God. It's been writing for me ever since! And I’ve been a professional writer most of my adult life – I only recently made the transition from screenwriter to full-time novelist.

When did your love for the darker side of things begin? Did you read paranormal books as a teen?

I blame my Dad! He's a huge genre fan and we had all kinds of horror and mystery and sci-fi classics around the house. Anything with a spooky cover, I'd read, and I particularly liked the supernatural and paranormal, but my preference was always for the more psychological supernatural. Dad grew up in Mexico City and had some whopping good ghost stories of his own, too.

But I also had some pretty scary things happen to me, or rather almost happen to me, as a kid – I was almost abducted by a child predator when I was very young, but thankfully got away, and since my family traveled a lot I was exposed to some pretty dark things – poverty, desperation, oppression, madness. My particular obsession with portraying the dark side is very much about exploring a constant battle between good and evil, even on a very small, person-to-person level, and seeing how good can triumph, at least one battle at a time.

You're the author of two supernatural thrillers/horror novels, The Harrowing and The Price. Would you tell our readers a bit about each book and what was your inspiration for them?

The Harrowing is set on an isolated college campus just as it's emptying out for the long Thanksgiving break. Five troubled and very disparate students have all decided to stay in their spooky old Victorian dorm because they don't want to go home to their dysfunctional families. And as they start to bond, as college students will do, and realize that they have more in common than they think, they also start to realize that they are not alone in that dorm. But they don't know if one of them is playing a prank, or if someone else has stayed to mess with them, or if they're really starting to experience a genuine haunting.

And I guarantee the story will keep you guessing, even though the clues are all right there.

The inspiration for that one was a poltergeist experience I had when I was sixteen, which got me fascinated by the question of whether paranormal experiences are supernatural or psychological or perhaps a combination of both.

The Price is a completely different kind of haunting. Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan has it all – a beautiful and devoted wife, an adorable five year old daughter, Sydney, and he's considered a shoo-in for the Massachusetts governor's race. But on the eve of his candidacy Sydney is diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable tumor. Will and Joanna move into labyrinthine Briarwood Medical Center and are basically waiting for their baby to die, and going out of their minds with grief. But in the twilight world of the hospital, terminal patients seem to be recovering, against all odds, and the recoveries all revolve around a mysterious hospital counselor who takes a special interest in Will and his family. When Sydney miraculously goes into remission, Will suspects that his wife has made a terrible bargain to save their daughter's life, and must race to uncover the truth in order to save them all.

The inspiration for The Price was partly a longtime obsession with the theme of a deal with the devil (probably from working in Hollywood for so long), and partly the very sad death of the baby daughter of a friend, which got me thinking about the lengths to which we would go to save a loved one. Of course we say we’d do anything, anything at all – but what does that really mean, when it’s time to sign on the bottom line? And is it necessarily a good thing?

And my third novel, The Unseen, will be coming out in June of 2009 – it's a mystery/thriller based on the real-life parapsychology experiments done at Duke University in the 1960's.

And I have a story I like very much in the new The Darker Mask anthology of noir superhero stories. http://www.amazon.com/Darker-Mask-Gary-Phillips/dp/other-editions/0765318504/ref=dp_ed_all

You can see the trailers and read excerpts here:

The Harrowing was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. How does that make you feel as an author? Has the nomination been a good marketing tool?

It was a huge honor, and especially thrilling to be nominated for the Stoker for Best First Horror and the Anthony for Best First Mystery, because my intention is always to cross mystery and the supernatural. So the dual nomination made me feel I'd succeeded in that quest.

The nominations certainly got me a lot of attention, and I think the Stoker turned out to be particularly good for marketing because of the power of Bram Stoker's name, and the kind of elegant horror it conveys. And of course the recognition was a lovely entrée to the mystery and horror communities.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you outline the full plot first?

How long is a hard question to answer because an author always has another full-time job – which is book promotion. But it seems to take me about six months, non-stop, writing every day. And yes, I do extensive, 70 or 80 page outlines. Unfortunately I like complex stories so it's essential for me to map out the twists and turns and red herrings along the way.

And I’m a structure fanatic – I’m currently writing a very in-depth series of blogs on the process at http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com.

How was your experience in looking for an agent and/or publisher? Would you offer some advice to fledgling authors?

My experience was completely atypical – since I've worked as a screenwriter for a long time, all I had to do was give The Harrowing to my film agent, he gave it to a book acquisitions agent at the agency, and she passed it on to several good literary agents in New York. I had a great agent within a week and a two-book deal from St. Martin's within the month. But I paid my dues in the Hollywood trenches!

I have lots of advice on seeking representation – here are two blog posts I've compiled on the subject, with links to other essential resources.



What do you do on Halloween?

These days I always have a book signing event! Because of what I write, I'll never have a Halloween to myself again. At least I can still dress up.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

I’m always happy to answer questions and dialogue on my blog – http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com

And Happy Halloween!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Multi-genre author, photographer, and fiber artist Kim McDougall enjoys writing for adults, young adults and children. She's the author of the novellas, Angel Venom and The Stone Beach, as well as various short stories in the dark fantasy and horror categories.  Kim is also the founder of the new, growingly popular Blazing Trailers, a site featuring book trailers and previews.

Thanks for this interview, Kim. You write both adult horror and sweet picture books for children. How do you switch modes when writing in these so totally very different genres? 

Well, I like to think that my 'voice' doesn't change much, even if the subject matter does. My stories tend to have a lyrical or old-fashioned tone. I've always been fascinated by the darker side of emotions and what drives people to extremes. This is how I started writing. But I'm a curious person by nature and I love animals, so children's fiction gives me an outlet for these types of stories. 

Tell us a bit about your horror and dark fantasy stories and novels? 

I read a lot of submissions guidelines for magazines and it struck me as odd that many fantasy editors say "No vampire stories." I love vampires, but I realize that they have been done to death (pardon the pun). Still, this inspired me to write a series of vampire stories that I could slip by those editors. I've written four so far, and they've all been picked up for publication. The most recent one is "Black Bet's Home for Toothless Vampires," a dark, humorous tale in this month's Necrotic Tissue Magazine. The editor of Necrotic tissue said he didn't even like vampire stories, so he was impressed with this one. 

The others are "Luminari" which is an exploration of how far one man will sink for the love of a vampire. This is available at Eternal Press.

"The Raft" is a psychological fantasy in the old-style, about a two men adrift at sea. One of them believes the other is a vampire. This is in the latest Twisted Tails III anthology, Pure Fear from Double Dragon. The last one is coming out in 2009 in the next Twisted Tails anthology. It's called "Megan's Baby," and is the darkest of all. I also have a novella from Double Dragon called Angel Venom. This is a dark fantasy about man who goes into the wilds of Frontier to convert the savages to his religion, but finds his faith under fire instead. It has all the grandest themes: Love, war, religion and angels that bite. You can read excerpts and see the trailers for all my stories at my site www.kimmcdougall.com 

Do you read horror? Who are your favorite authors? 

I read more dark fantasy than horror, but I like Clive Barker. My favorite would be Neil Gaiman. His children's fiction is quite frightening too. Coraline was a great novel, but too scary for my daughter so I read it myself. I also love Edgar Allen Poe. When I read his stories, I can imagine him next to the fire, reading them aloud to a rapt audience. 

What is the scariest novel you've ever read? 

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. I read it as a teen and I couldn't sleep for weeks. I reread it later, and thought it wasn't so scary after all. Perhaps, it was because this was my first exposure to horror fiction. The scariest movie I ever saw was Pan's Labyrinth. A wonderful story, but shockingly violent and frightening. The violence is not random, however. It is inherent to the plot and the character development.  

How much violence is too much violence in a YA horror novel? 

In any story, violence needs to be relevant to the story, or it's too much. I'm not a fan of "splatterpunk" or violence for the sake of violence. There needs to be purpose and redemption behind the violence to keep my attention This is even more important for YA fiction. Being a writer of children's fiction is a great responsibility. I would never write a story that I wouldn't want my daughter to read some day. 

How do you celebrate Halloween? 

Halloween around here is all about the candy! A few days before Halloween we make 100 candy bags to give away. We also like to carve elaborate pumpkins. And roasted pumpkin seeds is a yearly treat. Our pumpkins are hand picked from the pumpkin patch (no grocery pumpkins for us!) and we always get lost in the corn maze. My eight-year-old daughter doesn't like anything scary, which is strange since she was nursed to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But that means we don't do haunted houses yet. 

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers? 

I invite you to visit my three sites: 

www.kimchatel.com is my children's site, with fun and games and a writing contest for kids. You will also find information on my YA paranormal novella The Stone Beach.

 www.kimmcdougall.com is my adult fiction site, with information on all me releases as well as trailers and some poetry. 

www.blazingtrailers.com is my new endeavor. This site is dedicated to book trailers. Here you can easily browse for books, watch trailers, read excerpts and reviews. 

Thanks, Kim! 

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Inanna Arthen is the author of The Vampires of New England series and founder of By Light Unseen Media, a publishing company specializing in vampire fiction and nonfiction. She’s also a regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine. An expert in vampire folklore, Arthen is here today to talk about her series, her new press, vampires, and their endless appeal through history since the release of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She also shares with us the titles of some of her favorite vampire books and movies.

When did your fascination with vampires begin?

When I was eleven, back in the 1960s. I vividly recall the very first vampire movie I ever saw, The Brides of Dracula, on TV during the afternoon. (My mother was not home at the time.) In the sixth grade, I decided to dress as a vampire for Halloween, and I designed my own costume. Rather than the stereotype caped, Goth or sexy look, I worked up a costume from stained, ragged sheets, like a tattered shroud, latex fangs that I made with one of those "plastigoop" molding kits and a blood-smeared face. I have absolutely no memory of where I got this impression of a vampire as a ghoulish revenant, but it was a rather effective costume.

In 1968 I joined the teeming hordes of Baby Boomers who watched Dark Shadows every day, but I was already mad for vampires, so it didn't start with Barnabas Collins. That same year I began collecting vampire fiction and anthologies, read Dracula in one sitting and discovered Montague Summers' seminal compilation of vampire folklore, The Vampire In Europe. My passion for vampires has only intensified in the years since then. When I was in high school, one friend and I coined the word, "vampiromaniac" to describe ourselves. "Vampirophile" wasn't strong enough.

Tell us about your New England Vampire series. Why did you choose New England as the setting? Is it because you're from there? What is it about small New England towns and horror stories?

The Vampires of New England series was born when I decided to link together three sets of characters I'd created for different stories in progress and connect their narratives and history into one fictional universe. All the stories were based in New England primarily because it's where I live and it's a region that I'm familiar with. The characters will wander quite a bit as the series goes on, but they'll always come back home. More information about the series is on my author website, http://inannaarthen.com.

There's an obvious advantage for a writer to set stories in locations that you know well, and can easily research and fact-check because you're right there. I was born in Springfield, Vermont, and I've lived all but ten years of my life in New England. I plan to retire in Maine. I've always had a deep love for this region. After all, it's my native earth.

New England has a convenient combination of characteristics as a setting for horror stories. It has a long and deep history, more like Europe than most of the United States. It's not empty and remote like a wilderness area, but it's not too densely populated to be mysterious. Many people automatically associate New England with witchcraft and the paranormal, because of Salem. Some of the best known horror writers, from H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King, set many of their stories in New England because they lived here. I think New England is often associated with a pleasant, genteel facade that hides a lurking dark side, and that is a classic pattern in horror fiction. Other regions of the United States don't carry that association. If you think of places like Chicago or New York or New Orleans, the dark side is right out in the open.

You're also the mind behind the company, By Light Unseen Media. Tell us about this venture and its mission?

My lifelong passion for vampires is matched by my fervent love for books. Since I started reading at the age of four, I've loved books, writing, libraries, bookstores, and the whole process of making books from start to finish. I had a fantasy of running my own small press, with a print shop that would run only at night, combining my two loves by publishing books about vampires. But I never thought I'd be able to afford it.

In 2006 I came into some money, and I started researching the publishing industry seriously to see what my options were. I found that digital printing technology would allow me to have my publishing company without the large capital outlay upfront that I'd always assumed I would need. I also realized that I'd been collecting relevant skill sets all my life, such as graphic design, web design, editing, typesetting, page layout, and small business management, to name a few. It seemed like the universe was finally giving me a chance to do the work I was born to do.

Unfortunately, the universe then threw all kinds of hurdles into my path. My mother and one of my authors passed away from cancer, and now the economy is going into a recession. In consequence, By Light Unseen Media has had a slower start than I originally planned. I'm not discouraged. Creative problem solving is my gift. I think the future of publishing will include much more electronic and audio media, and I'm staying right on top of that. I'll be releasing titles in multiple formats, including print editions, e-books and audiobooks. Mortal Touch was among the first batch of books to be available for the Amazon Kindle last year.

My mission is to publish high-quality vampire fiction with strong characters and great stories that avoid camp humor and cliches, and non-fiction works with primary source research and new ideas. I'm accepting queries, and authors are welcome to check the submission guidelines.

How has the vampire evolved through the decades since the writing of Stoker's Dracula?

As Nina Auerbach describes in Our Vampires, Ourselves, every decade gets the vampire fiction that it deserves. Bram Stoker changed everything when he wrote Dracula, to begin with. He freely invented a number of the vampire traits that immediately became fictional canon, including vampires not having reflections, having to be invited into a dwelling before they could enter, and needing special soil or earth to rest in. Those are all inventions by Stoker, they have nothing to do with "legend" or earlier fiction.

In 1922 silent film director F.W. Murnau invented the idea that vampires are destroyed by mere sunlight for his movie, Nosferatu. That original notion, which isn't found in folklore or any earlier fiction, became the most lasting "vampire trait" of the Twentieth Century. At first sun-struck vampires just withered into ashes. Now they explode into flames or even blow up like bombs in some movies. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it looks dramatic onscreen and sets up all kinds of potential story conflicts, so most writers use the incendiary sunlight device.

Many writers describe the "good guy vampire" as a modern innovation. In fact, vampires in folklore always had a strong element of ambiguity to them. These were your friends and family members returning home, and they weren't always unwelcome. I talk more about this in my paper on Greek vrykolakas folklore. When Dracula was first presented on stage, women were fascinated by the Count, regardless of the fact that he was depicted as irredeemably evil. The "bad boy" has always had appeal, and the vampire is too complex an archetype to have only one aspect. The real change since Dracula is the depth and complexity of vampire characters, so they're now more likely to be good with a bad side, or bad with a good side.

Two other major fictional conventions have become ubiquitous since 1980. The first is the concept of vampire "clans" that have an elaborate underground society, with leaders, hierarchies, enforcers, outcasts, feuds, politics, an independent economy with their own night clubs and hangouts, and so on. This idea owes a lot to Anne Rice and White Wolf's role-playing games, but many authors and filmmakers have adopted it. The second is the vampire as superhero. Vampire characters, especially in television and film, now have super strength, super speed, super senses, and are impervious to harm. They bound through the air, stop cars with their hands and kung-fu fight like Neo in the Matrix movies. The 21st century vampire is defined more by his or her superpowers than by immortality or blood drinking. Along with this trend, vampires are interpreted less often as the walking dead and more as an alternate species or victims of a virus.

What is it about vampires that strikes such a deep core in young people? No other supernatural creature has had such an effect on society. Or am I wrong?

You're not wrong. You could fill an entire book with a discussion of the vampire's universal and timeless appeal. It's not a simple question, because the fictional vampire is so complicated and multi-faceted. Whether you like noble heroes, tortured antiheroes, romantic leading men, average joes, stone-evil villains or ravening mindless monsters, there are vampire tales for you.

The stories that earn the broadest popularity, however, definitely have common elements. A big part of the vampire's appeal is the initiation fantasy. The most popular vampire stories either have sympathetic vampire characters or are told from the vampire's point of view, and they feature humans who are chosen as special and then are transformed. By being "turned," humans are inducted into a secret society where they belong by right. They leave behind the boring mundane world for an exotic subculture where everyone knows them and they don't have to struggle to fit in. In some popular stories the human character never takes the step of being turned, but the possibility is always there. You can see the attraction of this fantasy for anyone who feels "different" or awkward or lonely.

Vampires also are superior beings who nevertheless need humans to survive. They don't age, they're immune to diseases, they heal from almost any injury and they have superpowers, but they're dependent on humans for blood, if nothing else. This makes them different from other supernatural creatures, such as werewolves or zombies. Vampires are the dark twins that look back at us from the mirror–they're "other" but they're not completely alien. They're ourselves transformed in ways that are enviable and desirable, at least in the most popular stories. Even "vampire hunter" stories like the Blade series or Buffy the Vampire Slayer can't get away from this appeal. Both series were drawn into depicting more sympathetic vampires and playing with the idea of humans transforming into vampires without becoming irredeemably evil.

The most popular vampire stories affirm that death is not the end of existence, and suggest that we can transcend human frailties, if we're willing to pay a price. At the same time, the vampire retains more of its humanity than any other supernatural creature. It's hard to imagine being a ghost or a zombie, or a werewolf in animal form. It's not at all difficult to identify with a vampire character. We all know what it’s like to hunger for something that we can’t have.

What are some of your favorite vampire novels and/or movies?

One of the main reasons I wanted to launch By Light Unseen Media is that I was so often disappointed by the vampire fiction and movies that were out there. I'm not a fan of most of the "big name" vampire writers. I don't care for the fiction of Anne Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton, for example. But I'm addicted to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain series, and I own all of the Jack Fleming and Jonathan Barrett series by P.N. Elrod. Those would be among my favorites. I love Bram Stoker's Dracula, which I think is the greatest thriller in the English language.

I'm still waiting for a really good vampire movie to be made! But I do enjoy a number of them, with various reservations. I still like the first one I ever saw, The Brides of Dracula. Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers, Fright Night, The Lost Boys, Shadow of the Vampire, and an odd little 1959 movie, Curse of the Undead are among my Top Ten vampire movies. But my favorite filmed vampire story isn't a movie, but a British miniseries–Ultraviolet starring Jack Davenport. I'll never stop sulking that they only made six episodes. I have it on VHS and DVD.

What do you usually do on Halloween? Do you dress as a vampire?

I've dressed as a vampire a few times, many years ago. But I'm a Pagan, so Halloween, or Samhain, is a sacred holiday for me. I don't party on Halloween, I'm usually doing something much more solemn. I almost always carve a vampire jack o'lantern, though.

If supernatural vampires were for real and one offered you immortality in exchange for your soul… what would you do?

It would depend a lot on the circumstances, but honestly? The odds are pretty high that I'd accept the offer.

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

I'd encourage people who are interested in fictional vampires to delve into the history of the genre, including folklore and reality. There is a lot of misinformation circulating around, and you'd be surprised what's true and what isn't.

Thanks, Inanna!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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Started in 2009, Echelon Press publishes short stories, novellas and novels in various genres. Under their new imprint 'Quake', they also publish fiction for middle graders and young adults. At present, Echelon publishes two paperback novels a month as well as one or two of their popular short story and novella downloads. Here to talk about the company and how it was created is owner Karen L. Syed. If you want to know what a publisher blog is about, visit Karen at The Life of a Publisher.

Thanks for being here today, Karen. Why don't you begin by telling us a bit about Echelon Press? When did it get started?

Echelon will be eight years old in February 2009. We started the company to make a place for writers to make a name for themselves. People seem to confuse that with not wanting to be successful. It has ALWAYS been my goal for any author at Echelon to go onto bigger and better things. If that means many books with Echelon, great! If that means one or two with us and then a contract with a bigger house, awesome. We are definitely not just a playground for writers who want to be published. I have recently discovered that there is a difference being an author and being a published writer.

You publish a fair amount of horror, both short stories and novels. What type of horror do you publish?

So far it hasn't been as much as I would like. I love the horror genre. What I'd like to see more of is the types written by John Saul or Douglas Clegg. I don't mean alien horror, they are more thrillers. I love the stuff that presents the unknown and grabs you by the throat and holds on tight without letting you immediately know what 'it' is.

What you do not like to see in a horror story and what are the most common mistakes horror writers make?

I am not a big fan of the total gore scene. I love the unknown. Knowing something is right around the corner, your skin crawling with apprehension and fear, while adrenaline rushes through you, leaving you breathless and unable to move. So many of the horror stories I read focus so much on the shock value that they don't give their stories a chance to develop fully. They spew slime and blood all over everything and think that this makes it spooky. It just makes it gross. Why can't authors rely on their senses to indulge the fear gene instead of just wanting to make people sick?

What makes a horror novel or story truly compelling?

The only thing compelling is the unknown. To recognize danger and fear and not know where that danger comes from. To feel the presence of an unknown entity so close that it's putrid breath blows across your cheek. To shiver against the chill of dread caused by words so powerful and explosive you have to close your eyes against the next phrase.

How do you see the state of the horror fiction market at the moment? Is it thriving or declining?

I don't know that it is declining, but neither is it thriving. I think so many authors in the genre have resorted to the shock value of the gruesome. The movie industry has made that so glamorous that authors feel the need to "keep up." This is not the case. Books are not the same as movies. Some people say that Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies are horror, but in fact I think they are more thrillers or gore flicks. Keep in mind this is just my idea, and many others may disagree.

What types horror books do you think are most popular with readers?

I can't even begin to answer that question. Different readers like different books.

You also publish horror for young adults. How much horror is too much horror in a young adult book?

I'll take a stab at this one, but let's be clear on one thing. How much is too much is up to the reader and their parents. For Quake, our new young reader line we like to keep things in the head. We aren't going to go out on a limb and offer gratuitous gore just to sell books. We all know that kids love all that blood and guts spurting here and there, but perhaps it's because it's all we offer them. When you present something as cool then what do you expect? A dude running around chopping off heads is not cool. A cloud of mist that sweeps into a room and envelops a sleeping girl while whispering secrets of evil, a little cooler.

On average, how many submissions do you receive in a month? Of those submissions, what percentage you end up accepting for publication?

Our paperback submissions are closed except for invitations and referrals, and eBooks, but we still get at least a dozen or so unsolicited submissions per week for paperback. Writers seem to ignore the potential for eBook sales and all want paper publication. eBooks have such great potential to build a readership, and if an author can build a readership with an eBook they can do anything.

As for acceptance, we do only twelve titles per year in paperback and right now aren't even getting enough submissions for eBook to do one per month. Did you know that tens of millions of dollars are spent on eBooks each year? Why wouldn’t an author want their share of that?

What tips would you offer authors who are doing book signings this Halloween?

Make them fun! They have to be fun. Don't let the readers wonder why they even bothered to come to your event. Show them with your words, you attitude, and your books that they are important to you. Don't make them wonder. And by all means get into the spirit! A little bit of spook goes a long way!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

This industry is one of the greatest. Don't take it for granted, whether you are a reader or a writer. Writers, don't ever forget why you sell your books for publication. It's all about your readers. You can write all you want, but if you are serious about being a solid published author, don't ever forget how you get there.

And readers, let the authors know what you like and don't like. Your opinion matters. If you don't like something, don't buy it, be honest and be open about your favorite authors. If the last five books you read by your favorite best seller stunk, then why keep buying them? Don't be afraid to try new authors, they are the future of the industry, and you might be surprised!

Thanks, Karen!

Interview by Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. Her paranormal books include Embraced by the Shadows (romantic horror/vampire) and Dark Lullaby (atmospheric horror). She is also the co-author of the nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing.

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