Thriller Thursdays: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN + Giveaway (part 2)

Welcome back to Thriller Thursdays! This week we’ll be continuing our House of the Rising Sun feature with a preview of chapter 2.

For those of you who tuned in last week for chapter 1, the action picks up right where it left off. This chapter is a bit longer, so a few of your lingering questions may be answered, but most of them won’t. Guess you’ll just have to stop by next week for the third and final chapter preview…

Next week will be your last chance to get entered into the drawing for a free trade paperback copy of House of the Rising Sun. Let us know what you think of chapter 2 in a comment thread for a chance to win!

CHAPTER TWO

“Are you fucking kiddin’ me?” Tony Zello screamed, nose to nose with Ray, spit spraying across Ray’s face.

They stood in the storeroom behind the second-floor bar. Tony and his boy Rocco had dragged Ray up the stairs and shoved him into the storeroom as soon as the four armed robbers left. Tony wanted to find out firsthand what had happened. So far he had not liked what he had heard.

“Let me get this straight,” Tony said. “Four guys waltz in here with guns, rob us blind, kill Vincent’s son, and all you did was lay down like a bitch?” Looking disgusted, Tony turned away and pressed the heels of both hands into his eyes as if he were trying to keep them from popping out.

Then he spun back around and threw a punch. Ray tried to duck but he wasn’t quick enough. Tony’s fist caught him just above the left eye and bounced his head off the wall.

Tony stared at Ray and flexed his right hand. “Is that how you acted when you was in the joint? I bet you just bent over and took it up the ass, didn’t you?”

Ray looked back and forth between Tony and Rocco, biting back the rage that welled up inside him. He wasn’t going to provoke Tony, not here. Tony stood in front of him in his charcoal gray, hand-stitched Italian silk suit, wearing it over a cream-colored shirt and burgundy tie, his feet encased in a soft pair of Bruno Magli loafers. The whole thing was worth an easy fifteen hundred bucks. Tony Zello, the man everybody called Tony Z. He was forty, just a couple years older than Ray, a real up-and-comer, the right-hand man to the guy who ran the House—Vinnie Messina.

Tony spit at Ray’s feet and turned away. Ray figured he was disappointed that Ray hadn’t tried to hit him back. Tony looked at Rocco. “You believe what a fucking pussy this guy is?”

Rocco just nodded. He was big and dumb and never said much. He had on a nice suit, too, but he couldn’t pull off the look the way Tony did. Rocco always looked like he had trouble stuffing himself into his clothes, like maybe they were a size too small. The two of them were always together, just in case Tony Z. needed someone’s leg broken or a skull cracked.

The storeroom door stood open and Ray could see a few employees milling around on the other side of the bar, peeking in and listening to what was going on. Tony liked to have an audience. Somebody called out. “Tony, the cops want you downstairs.”

Tony Z. nodded to Rocco. “Let’s go. This punk’s making me sick.”

Ray heard Tony tell everyone to go downstairs. After everybody left, Ray walked out of the storeroom. He found a towel behind the bar and wrapped some ice in it. His head had stopped bleeding, but he could feel his left eye starting to swell. The second-floor casino was deserted.

As soon as the gunmen had left and before anyone called the cops, Tony and Rocco had shown all the gamblers the back door and reminded them they were never here. Then they did the same thing on the third floor, except it had taken a little longer since a lot of the customers weren’t dressed. The girls had been told to stay in the rooms and keep quiet.

“Shane!” someone shouted from the stairwell. Ray walked over and looked down. Rocco stood halfway down the stairs, one hand on the rail, the other cupped next to his mouth.

“Yeah,” Ray said.

“They want to talk to you.”

“Who?”

Rocco took a couple of steps up. “The cops,” he whispered, but still loud enough for everyone to hear.

Read more of this post

Western Wednesdays—GATHER MY HORSES + Giveaway

Western Wednesdays returns this week and in style! I’m previewing the first chapter of Spur award-winner John D. Nesbitt’s latest Gather My Horses.

Also, I’m giving away a trade paperback copy of Gather My Horses to one lucky commenter, so be sure to let us know what you think of this sneak peek!

Happy Reading,

Allison Carroll

Editorial and Web Coordinator

 

CHAPTER ONE

As he came around a curve in the trail, swaying with the motion of his horse, Tom Fielding caught a view of the valley below the rim. Up here on top, the earth was ocher-colored, dotted with sparse vegetation and small rocks. Past the edge, the valley stretched out in dark hues of waving green. Across the sea of grass, the hills to the west rose in lighter tones, still green, while beyond them in the distance, the Laramie Mountainsstood in shades of bluish gray and light purple, with patches of darkest green. Another turn in the trail closed off most of the view as the edge of the rim slanted upward. A minute later, the trail turned to the left again and began its descent, a gentle slope that led into an opening in the wall. Thirty yards ahead, the trail fell away in sharper decline, down through a gash in the bluffs. Fielding drew his horse to a stop and paused on the verge before going down.

He turned in the saddle and looked back as the first four packhorses came to a stop. The kid Mahoney had come to a halt as well, and the three pack animals he was leading bunched up behind him. Fielding motioned with his head toward the trail through the gap, and Mahoney nodded.

After a moment’s breather, Fielding nudged his saddle horse and started forward. The trail itself was wide enough for wagon travel, but late spring rains had washed trenches in the road, and the horses had to pick their feet up and set them down with care as they shifted and sidestepped. By habit, Fielding held the lead rope at his hip.

Though the ruts called for careful navigation, Fielding didn’t mind them. Until someone could get a team and a scraper up here, the only way to get by was on horseback, so a bit of business had come his way, packing supplies to a couple of ranches and farms up on the flats. It had been an easy trip, with not a single tree or rock for a horse to rub a pack against, and the kid Mahoney had gotten an introduction into this line of work.

Fielding glanced down at the ravine on his left, a deep cut in the yellowish earth where dark green cedars grew in the bottom and back up in a couple of clefts. Then the trail straightened out and the valley came into full view.

Straight ahead lay an expanse of grassland that sloped down toward darker grass. Beyond the meadowlike area, Chugwater Creek marked its course with a procession of trees, left to right, as the creek flowed northward to the Laramie River. Past the creek a half mile or so lay the town of Umber, which at this distance looked like three and a half rows of packing crates set along the railroad. The tracks themselves caught a shine from the afternoon sun as they ran parallel to the creek, through the center of the valley.

Fielding’s gaze traveled from the middle distance out to the edge and around. Off to the south, two tree lines showed where Hunter Creek flowed into Chugwater Creek. Between those two protecting groves of cottonwoods would lie the headquarters of the Buchanan Ranch. Straight ahead across the valley, where the hills began to lift, he could pick out Bill Selby’s place marked by a pale clump of trees. Farther back in the hills and up a ways, Andrew Roe’s buildings squatted in a corner made by two hills. Even farther and to the left, in a place he could not see from here, would be Richard Lodge’s hardscrabble claim that he called the Magpie. Then swinging his view around to the right and following the treetop course of Chugwater Creek about five miles north, Fielding picked out the site of J. P. Cronin’s ranch, the Argyle.

These were his reference points as he took in the valley as a whole—the creek, the town, the railroad, and the ranches big and little in the country that spread out all around. Less distinct for him was a spot on Antelope Creek, tucked away on the other side of the far line of hills. It wasn’t much as he pictured it, just a set of pole corrals, a large spreading cottonwood, a level area where he pitched his camp, and a grassy creek bottom where he turned out his horses. He couldn’t rightly call it his because it was on the public domain, with no fences or boundaries to separate it from the rest of the open range; but it was his base, the place he left and returned to when he went on pack trips.

Fielding brought his attention back to the trail as his weight shifted with the horse. He had come almost to the bottom of the steep part, and the ravine on his left opened up like the mouth of a small canyon. On the far edge stood a thicket of chokecherry bushes, leafed out and grazed across the bottom like so many trees in cow country. The earth all around the thicket, except on the uphill side, was worn bare where cattle took to the shade.

Behind him he could hear the horses coming down the last part of the grade, thirty-some hooves swishing in the soft earth, nicking on stones, as the horses heaved and snorted. Fielding looked back and appreciated the procession, rocking and jostling, sometimes lurching as a hoof slipped, but orderly all the same.

The kid Mahoney rode easy, the reins in his left hand and the lead rope in his right. The young man had reddish brown hair and a light, freckled complexion, and the upturned brim of his hat did not keep the sun off his face as he turned in the saddle and gazed off to the northwest.

At the bottom where the trail leveled out, Fielding stopped the animals to let them rest for a couple of minutes. All the packs were riding even, which was to be expected, as they carried nothing but ropes, empty cloth and burlap sacks, folded canvas, and the camp items. Out of habit, Fielding counted the packhorses.

Mahoney rode up alongside and stopped. He pulled on the tag and string that hung out of the pocket of his black vest, and out came the bag of makin’s. After giving the lead rope a couple of dallies around his saddle horn, he kept the reins in his left hand as he went about rolling a cigarette. He narrowed his blue-green eyes, which never seemed to be open all the way, and paid close attention to his work. He rolled a tight one, licked the free edge, and tapped the seam. Then he popped a match, held it to the end of the quirly, and drew a deep lungful of smoke. Ten seconds later he exhaled, with his head tipped again toward the northwest.

“Horses are all takin’ this trip real good,” he said, wrinkling his round nose and turning halfway around to look backward on his left.

“Uh-huh.” Fielding thought the kid had become pretty knowledgeable in a short while. Give him a couple more days, and he’d be telling the boss how to throw his hitches and pull the slack.

Mahoney turned to his normal position without looking at Fielding. He took another drag on his cigarette and fixed a hard glance at the valley, as if it were going to yield to his scrutiny.

Fielding took a deep breath to keep himself from getting impatient. He told himself Mahoney was just a green kid trying to prove himself. From the looks of him, he had just gotten his new outfit a short while back inCheyenne. His round-crowned hat, striped shirt, denim trousers, and brown boots were all close to brand-new. So were his nickel-plated spurs with one-inch rowels, and so was his .44 with the clean wooden grips and the new bluing. Just a kid with a fuzzy mustache.

Fielding waited until Mahoney finished his cigarette. Then he put his horse into motion and looked back. The other horses no doubt knew they were on the way home, as they picked up their feet and jogged along. Mahoney fell in behind with his three horses, and the little pack train moved in order as before.

The group stopped in town long enough for Fielding to leave off the mail he had brought down from the flats and for Mahoney to water the horses. When Fielding came out of the little wooden building that housed the post office, he saw the kid slouched by the water trough, a cigarette drooping from his lips and his right thumb on his gun belt. His left hand held the ropes for the two strings of pack animals, and the saddle horses were hitched to the rack. Fielding gave an upward toss of the head as he moved to untie his horse, and when he had the reins, the kid handed him a lead rope. Fielding led his horse out, checked the cinch, and swung aboard. The afternoon sun had still not dipped below the tip of his hat brim when he crossed the tracks and headed westward.

Traveling light as he was, he figured he could cover the four miles to his campsite in less than an hour. If he were pressed for time and riding alone, he might save from a quarter to a half hour by straightening out the route rather than follow the trail as it wound through the low hills. But he had no reason to hurry today. He was on the tail end of an easy trip, with plenty of daylight left.

After the first curve in the trail and going into the second, which set the course westward again, Fielding saw the light green shades of box elder and young cottonwoods that marked Bill Selby’s place. Fielding had seen it from across the valley and up a ways, but from the valley floor to here, swells in the rising land closed off all but the fringe of the treetops. Now the ranch site came into view, a quarter of a mile to the left.

It looked as if Selby had company. He was facing three men who stood by their horses. The men had their backs to the lane that came in from the main trail.

Fielding gave the scene a close study as his horse clip-clopped along. A feeling of displeasure rose within him as he noted the layout. Selby stood hatless in the middle of his ranch yard, face-to-face with a larger man in a dark shirt. From this distance, the man looked like George Pence, one of J. P. Cronin’s riders and not the most likeable. The other two men were standing back holding the horses, with not much more than their hats visible.

A voice rose on the air as the man in the dark shirt made a flicker of movement. Fielding tensed, then reined his horse to the left and nudged him to follow the lane into the yard. Fielding glanced back to see that Mahoney was following, caught a curious look from the kid, and turned forward to keep things on course. As he approached the ranch yard, the men and horses stood ahead on his right.

Another voice came up, followed by the loud one. Fielding rode closer, wondering when the men in the yard would hear the footfalls of the nine horses.

As the voices died away, one of the two men holding the visitors’ horses came around the front of the nearest one and stared at the oncoming party. He was a clean-shaven man, a little taller than average. He wore a brown hat, brown vest, and white shirt. Fielding strained to try to recognize the man, but he saw nothing familiar about him.

The horses moved on, thirty-six hooves clopping and scuffing. The man in the brown vest raised his head in an expression of authority, then spoke over his shoulder to the large man facing Selby.

The scene ahead shifted, and the large man came to stand next to his associate. Fielding recognized the tall-crowned hat, dark blue wool shirt, beefy face, and brown side whiskers. It was George Pence, just as he had thought at first glance.

As Fielding brought his horse to a stop, the man in the brown vest spoke. His words had an even tone, neither friendly nor menacing.

“Afternoon, stranger. What’s your business?”

Fielding dismounted. He didn’t like to ride into someone’s camp or ranch and look down on him, just as he didn’t like another man to act that way toward him. “Not a stranger,” he said, passing the reins to his right hand. “Don’t need to be on business to drop in and see a friend.” He motioned with his head in the direction of Selby, who had come forward but stood a few paces away from the other two.

The brown hat nodded. “We’re all friends,” said the man. “That’s what we stopped in for. A friendly visit.”

Fielding noted the smooth voice, the polite accent he had heard in others who affected a gentleman’s image. “That’s good,” he said, “for everyone to be friends.” He flicked a glance at the blocky form of George Pence, met his dull brown eyes, and came back to the clean-shaven man with the clean vest and white shirtsleeves. “My name’s Tom Fielding, and I’m a packer.”

The other man smiled without showing his teeth. “I like a man who says what he is.” The dark eyes traveled down the file of horses and came back. “And I like a man who is what he says.” Another smile. “My name’s Al Adler. I’m the foreman at J. P. Cronin’s Argyle Ranch.” The man pulled a brown leather glove off his right hand and offered to shake.

Fielding obliged, noticing that the firm hand was pale and the fingernails were clean. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“All mine.” Adler tossed his head sideways and said, “I would guess you already know George Pence.”

 Fielding nodded in the direction of the big man, whose eyelids halfway closed as he nodded back.

“And here’s Henry in back. Do you know him, too?”

Fielding looked across the saddles of the first two horses and caught a smile and a wave from Henry Steelyard. “How do, Henry?”

“Howdy, Tom.”

Adler’s smooth voice came out again. “So, as I was saying, we were all just having a friendly visit.”

 “Sure.” Fielding turned toward Selby. “And how are you today, Bill?”

Selby’s ruddy face was redder than usual, but he said, “Good enough, I suppose.”

Adler’s voice cut in. “Did you have any business with Mr. Selby? Any goods to deliver?”

“No more business than I already stated.” Fielding tipped his head toward his packhorses. “I’m travelin’ empty, back to my camp.”

“Well, don’t let us keep you, then” said Adler. After half a pause he added, “Who’s your man?”

Fielding followed the glance of the dark eyes. “That’s Fred Mahoney. This is his first job with me.”

Mahoney, who had not gotten down from his horse, raised his hand from the saddle horn in a small wave.

Adler’s eyes rested on Fielding again. “Like I said, don’t let us keep you.”

“Oh, we’re not in a hurry.”

“Maybe you ought to be,” said Pence.

 The surly tone was nothing new to Fielding, who felt a spark of resentment. “I said I wasn’t.”

Pence stepped forward and squared his shoulders. His right hand hung over his smooth-worn gun belt. “Maybe we think you should. You interrupted a conversation, you know.”

Fielding cast a glance at Selby. “Is that right, Bill?”

Selby’s voice seemed to have a quaver in it as he answered. “I suppose so, in a way. Pence here was trying to tell me where to run my cattle, or where not to. I said it was open range, and his boss didn’t have any more right to it than I do.”

Pence cut in. “That’s a mealymouthed way of puttin’ it. What I said was, he’d better keep his rib-racked cattle off the Argyle meadows.”

Selby came right back, his voice steadier now. “And I told him that if any of that land was private, it was up to the owner to fence it off. That’s Wyoming law, and everyone knows it.” Read more of this post

Pardon the Interruption—DWELLER book trailer

Jeff Strand rocks and that’s all we have to say.

Dweller by Jeff Strand, a 2010 Bram Stoker finalist, is available in e-book and massmarket paperback.

All About Audio(books)—THE DANGEOUS BOOK FOR DEMON SLAYERS

Today’s edition of All About Audio(books) brings a little spice to your Monday with Angie Fox’s The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, the hilariously fun follow-up to The Accidental Demon Slayer. Listen to the first chapter for free and start your week out right! 

“Fox is back and serving up a second helping of high-octane mania. The world according to new demon slayer Lizzie Brown is full of major potholes and irritating biker witches, and the gaps in this heroine’s demon-slaying education are both hilarious and dangerous. The phrase Sin City never rang truer than it does in this supernatural ruckus!”
—RT Book Reviews

“THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DEMON SLAYERS by Angie Fox is a riot! But be prepared for cheeky humor and some outrageous behavior, as this seems to be the modus operandi for Ms. Fox.”
—The Romance Readers Connection

“Fox will snare you with humor, crazy but lovable characters and more than a dash of excellent dialogue. In a dictionary somewhere, Lizzie and Gertie are featured under the definition of ‘fun.’ Enjoy!”
—Fresh Fiction

“Angie Fox charms readers with her uniquely humorous storyline and outrageous characters that steal their way into readers’ hearts. I have to confess I’m anxious to delve into more of Ms. Fox’s storylines in the near future—they’re demonically good.”
—Romance Junkies

“This book is a pleasure to read. It is fun, humorous, and reminiscent of Charlaine Harris or Kim Harrison’s books.”
—Sacramento Book Review

“THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DEMON SLAYERS was a fast, savvy, hilarious romp through a real world populated by paranormal mischief…Fox is one of my new favorite paranormal authors. Her books are simply a delight…give Fox’s Demon Slayer books a try…fantastically fun reads and leave you craving more.”
—Pop Syndicate

Thriller Thursdays: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN + Giveaway (part 1)

Recognize these faces? They’re starring in the film adaptation of Chuck Hustmyre’s House of the Rising Sun, compliments of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

House of the Rising Sun, a July trade and e-book release, is as gritty and exciting as you’d expect a New Orleans-set thriller to be. Ray Shane is an ex-cop who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After the House of the Rising Sun, the mafia-run strip bar where he works, was robbed by gunmen, Ray finds himself targeted by the mafia for a crime he didn’t commit. The corrupt may govern in New Orleans, but can Ray unearth the lies before there’s nowhere left to turn?

So now’s your chance to preview the first chapter for yourselves, thriller fans. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to stop reading. Be sure to tune in next Thursday for chapter 2!

Thrill on,

Hannah Wolfson

Marketing & Promotions Coordinator

GIVEAWAY: We want to know what you think! Give us your feedback on chapter 1 in the comment thread to be entered for a chance to win a trade copy of HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN (winner to be announced on 3rd and final chapter preview on 6/7).

CHAPTER ONE

Ray Shane turned around and found a gun stuck in his face. The muzzle was a black hole the size of an ashtray, barely a foot from his nose. Somewhere at the other end of the barrel a voice whispered, “Don’t move, motherfucker.”

Ray had been working the front door of a place called The House of the Rising Sun, a mob-owned strip joint on the ground floor of an old four-story hotel in the French Quarter. That was the legal part of the business. What happened on the other three floors was…less legal.

Normally, Ray didn’t even work the front door. He had only been filling in for the regular doorman, a pimply faced Mexican kid named Hector who asked Ray to cover for him while he went to take a leak. Ray had entertained himself during Hector’s absence by chain-smoking Lucky Strikes and watching the freak show flowing past him on Bourbon Street.

Halloween night brought out all the weirdos, but it was late and the crowd was thinning. Most of the tourists had reached their limit and called it a night. The only ones left were kids too dumb to know when to quit and hard-core drunks who couldn’t.

After playing doorman for twenty minutes, Ray had checked his watch and saw it was just past three a.m. He pulled a walkie-talkie from his back pocket and called Hector. When the kid didn’t answer, Ray figured he was probably hanging out by the stage, gawking at the strippers.

One more cigarette. That’s how much time Ray had decided to give Hector. Standing on the sidewalk, he lit another Lucky Strike, breathed in a lungful of smoke, then closed his eyes and rubbed a hand over his face. He was so tired he was having trouble staying awake. Just three more hours. Then he could go home and crash.

Leaning against one of the metal poles holding up the cloth awning over the front door, Ray saw a guy pass by on the street dressed like a hot dog. His partner—Ray couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman—was covered from head to toe in a foam rubber bun.

Hector’s time was up. Ray took one last drag, then flicked the butt into the street. He turned toward the door.

That’s when he found the gun stuck in his face. The muzzle twelve inches from his nose. He still had the walkie-talkie in his hand. Read more of this post

Summer Sale on Beach Reads!

Remember the days when all you needed at the beach was a towel and a good book? Well look out traditionalists, because the new beach essentials are sunscreen and an e-reader!

No one wants to be caught with only one book at the beach; it’s just as irresponsible to have a minimal amount of reading options as it is to intentionally give yourself skin cancer. So grab your SPF and load up your e-reader with our Summer Beach Reads! Whether you’re looking for a steamy romance or a lighthearted contemporary, these books are the perfect addition to your seaside forays. And we’re offering them at $3.99 just for you!

Happy Summer!

              

All About Audio(books)—sample chapter of SNOW, autographed copies available

“What if a snowstorm wasn’t really a snowstorm, but a camouflage for something hideous? A cover or a mask for something horrible that comes in to feed? ” —Ronald Malfi

Malfi asks the questions and provides one hell of an answer with Snow.

Preview the first chapter of Snow for free.  A limited supply of autographed copies are available at the regular price, so be sure to order your copy today!

“Ronald Malfi has a way with words. His command of the language will leave you breathless, dreaming of vivid landscapes, and in terrible fear for your life. The monsters in Malfi’s mind become tangible and all too real when he sets them loose on the page. Snow is an incredible modern horror story with a decadent feel, and the perfect marriage of beauty and brutality. His writing is reminiscent of the old classics, but has all of the daring and flair of the modern genre.” —Paperback Horror

“Malfi’s use of language and his power of description are sublime.” —Fear Zone

“An immensely talented writer.” —Literary Strange Digest

“What horror should be! [Five stars]” —SF Reader on The Fall of Never

“Filled with subtle horror, imagination and skill. [Five stars]” —Horror-Web on The Fall of Never

“Ronald Malfi masterfully blends psychological terror and traditional gothic horror.”
—Dark Realms on The Fall of Never

Ligeia Lives—special guest author John Everson + Giveaway

This month, my dangerous but seductive Siren is in bookstores… again.

The story remains the same, but this time around, you can read about Ligeia in trade paperback format. It’s been a long strange road for my beautiful, melodious sea creature. She has a habit of making her voice heard… She also has a strange habit of killing people… and publishers.  

From an idea to the page

Back at the start of 2009, I was tossing ideas around for what my next (4th) novel would be with my editor, Don D’Auria, and in all honesty, I was thinking that we’d probably go with a concept that I’d just hatched about a strange occult series of murders called The Pumpkin Man. But instead, after some back and forth on the plots, we ultimately agreed that Siren, a novel about a man who falls in love/lust with a mysterious nude woman near the ocean would be best as my next project. (The Pumpkin Man, by the way, did get written, and will be out this fall. Ligeia just shoved him out of the way for a bit.)

I began writing the story of Evan, an aquaphobe who has lost his son to the ocean, in February 2009. I was only a few chapters into the novel when Ligeia first showed her stormy side. See, she’d been envisioned as a mysterious “cypher” of a character in my original outline for the book… but suddenly it seemed she wanted her own, more focused space. Without warning, a whole parallel plotline took over the novel, which is set a century before Evan’s experience with the siren… and tells Ligeia’s side of the story. Turns out, she has pretty deadly means of getting her way.

Unfortunately, her habit of dispatching those who get close to her extended beyond the plotting of the book. Siren was scheduled for release in mass market paperback from Dorchester’s Leisure Books imprint in July of 2010. I’ve had a long history in working with small independent presses, and so, as with my other novels, there was also a limited hardcover “collector’s edition” of Siren scheduled for release in the spring of 2010 through Necro Publications, the small press publisher who also issued the hardcover edition of my previous novel The 13th and my short fiction collection Needles & Sins.

The Siren‘s Curse

But in early 2010, just as production began on the collector hardcover edition of Siren, the publisher called me one night to announce that due to personal and business issues, he was being forced to put his press on hold—after more than 15 years in business. 

Ligeia’s curse had struck. There would be no hardcover edition of Siren from Necro. Luckily, another long-time small press, Bad Moon Books, picked up the hardcover project, and a collector’s edition did end up appearing in the fall of 2010—after, instead of preceding, the Leisure mass market version. But here’s the more critical kicker:

A couple of weeks after the mass market edition appeared on shelves in stores around the U.S. and Canada in July 2010, Leisure Books announced that after more than 30 years in the business, their mass market model was no longer sustainable. Rapidly declining paperback sales due to shrinking chain store orders and, not coincidentally, the rise of e-books (and perhaps a bit of Ligeia’s terminal touch) killed the paperback line that Siren was written for.

Siren holds a dubious place in publishing history as the last release of Leisure’s mass market horror line. 

That was two publishers in a row. (And lest you think Bad Moon escaped her venom, in addition to the collector’s hardcover edition, a super limited “Lettered Edition” was originally planned as well, which would have included extra material… that edition was ultimately scuttled. So call it three in a row!)

Very few copies of the small initial pressing of the Leisure paperback version of Siren reached bookstores, and within a couple of months, the only way most people could find a copy of Siren  was as an e-book (or the few remaining copies of the fairly pricey hardcover edition). 

The next few months following the shutdown of Leisure’s mass market line were filled with uncertainty for Dorchester/Leisure authors and readers. Would/could the publisher survive? What would happen to the books that had planned to be released (not to mention those that had just gotten on the shelf like Siren, before the mass market line was cancelled?) It was certainly the worst period in my professional writing life. I had spent years trying to “crack” the Leisure line. Leisure was the most prolific publishing house of horror novels, and many of my favorite writers had books on the imprint. It was a dream come true for me to see Covenant, Sacrifice and The 13th released under the Leisure logo.

And then within days of Siren‘s release and my turning in the manuscript for my fifth novel, The Pumpkin Man…the entire Leisure empire seemed to implode. Many of the people I’d worked with at the house, including my editor, were laid off. The mass market line was gone. Even my books were gone—for months even the authors could not get any copies of their books while the company struggled to reorganize. For several weeks, I didn’t write a word (aside from emails to fellow Leisure authors, commiserating and sharing our personal stories).

But time heals (or buries) all, and by the end of the year, I came out of my writing shellshock and began working on new projects, as Leisure also began to re-emerge, solidifying its release schedule for 2011. While their new focus followed the reading demand of the public (e-books), they also launched a trade paperback line to replace the mass markets, and unveiled a more ambitious entry into the audiobook arena, thanks to a licensing arrangement.

As Leisure struggled to reinvent itself to suit the times, many authors chose to seek their fortunes elsewhere and took their book rights to other smaller publishers for guaranteed, if less widespread release, but Ligeia had other plans.Dorchester’s reorganization plan for the Leisure imprint promised a new chance for my sexy siren. Both an audiobook and a trade paperback edition were scheduled for the “new” Dorchester/Leisure line this summer, and Ligeia opted to stick it out with the publisher she’d already killed once. It was a gamble, but who was I to argue with my headstrong siren?

Things have been slowly turning around for Dorchester/Leisure, as they’ve struggled to adapt to a new publishing world that is changing on all sides. While a lot of slag has been sent their way in the intervening months, they are not alone in their tribulations. Dorchesterstumbled as it tried to keep up with a changing reader model. As a former music critic for 20 years, I instantly saw many parallels with what happened to the music industry in the 1990s and 2000s. While I didn’t like what was happening, it was a very familiar process to me. Deja vu all over again, to quote John Fogerty!

And as Leisure stumbled in its race to adapt, so did the delivery vehicles for its books (gee… does anyone see a parallel here in the story of Tower Records? Sam Goody? Peaches, Virgin?).

The bookstore chains that we’ve all grown up browsing in are contracting and burning. At the same time as chain stores are falling apart, some smaller presses are cashing it in while other small presses are diving into the business of e-book creation, promising authors easy access to the burgeoning e-book reader market (what those presses fail to understand is that producing an e-book is only the first step in actually producing a successful e-book that actually manages to stand out from the ocean of e-books and attracts sales… but that’s a subject for another blog entirely). 

Ligeia Lives

So that’s a long way to say it’s been an industry-shaking, stormy year since the first edition of Siren made its way, albeit shortly, to bookstore shelves.  But there’s light at the end of the hurricane.

This month, Ligeia will have her say in bookstores again, and I hope she’ll provide beach reading for a lot more readers than she had the chance to entertain last year. Ironically, I know a lot of those beach readers will be looking at her story on phones and iPads and Kindles and Nooks… but to me, the best way to read about a siren at the beach or pool is still via the printed page. Real books are far more tolerant of saltwater, salt sweat, suntan lotion and burning sunlight than e-readers. 

I’ve suggested to Ligeia that this time, she might want to let the publisher and the industry as a whole survive the process of printing her story.  

At least for the coming beach season.

 —John Everson

Giveaway: If you were to be lured to the waters by a siren, what song would get you there? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Siren in either trade paperback or e-book!

Pardon the Interruption—SECRET LEGACY book trailer

What can we say? Anna DeStefano’s one classy lady. And a heck of a writer.

 

 

The Legacy series by Anna DeStefano available in e-boook and trade paperback.

June Bundles: Grab Em’ While They Last

If you love e-books AND great deals, then e-book bundles are for you, bookworm! Take a look at the remainder of our June offers:

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