I do not know who Thomas F. Monteleone is and I intend to keep it that way.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I do not know who Thomas F. Monteleone is and I intend to keep it that way.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Through this weekend, Stargazers, along with the second and third My Dark Library titles, is on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle version. If you have been interested or on the fence, now is the perfect time to take the plunge for cheap! The novella can be purchased here.
Dark Matter Presents: Human Monsters is available for pre-order! This year has been a whirlwind for me, beginning with my first pro-sale for Cemetery Gates’ Picnic in the Graveyard. Human Monsters was my next target. I submitted my story the minute window opened and got the good news pretty soon after. I believe it was mentioned on Twitter there were over 1000 submissions, with 25 selected. I am definitely in exclusive company for this one, with several bestselling authors in the TOC. Had I only landed The Bystander in this anthology I would have considered the year a success. The opportunity to submit Stargazers came soon after, and as of today it has 163 ratings with a 4.45 average on Goodreads. One question I received from those who read Stargazers is…what happens next? For a couple of months I did not have an answer. I thought the story was told. Then, my daughter asked a question that got my wheels turning. It’s early days, but I am about 6000 words into answering that question. The working title is “Skylights: A Stargazers Story.”
Stargazers has been out in the wild for a month-and-a-half now. The feedback has been wonderful and so very validating. As of this writing, it has almost 100 ratings on Goodreads and a 4.4+ average. To add to the coolness, Stargazers is included in this listicle! https://the-line-up.com/golden-age-of-horror-novellas
Yesterday, I had the first-in-a-lifetime experience of doing a live podcast/reading/Q & A/book signing at Lark and Owl Booksellers in Georgetown, just north of Austin. I was joined by two of my favorite writing/horror community ladies, V. Castro and Agatha Andrews of the She Wore Black podcast. It’s a day I will not soon forget, the first of many, I hope.
Review copies are out in the wild and I hope the reviews are soon to follow! I can’t wait for you to meet these characters and follow their journey through a chaotic, heartbreaking landscape. This is my first novella, and although I could have grown this universe, followed the characters past the final scene (which I am quite proud of), I think it’s a satisfying experience in its current form. I don’t have my website set up for purchasing yet, and the book won’t be available on the Cemetery Gates Media site until July. However, I do have signed author copies available $15 shipped. Email me at LesPHernandez@gmail.com if interested. Thanks to V. Castro and Gabino Iglesias for their blurbs. It’s still shocking to know these authors I admire so much have read my writing…and had wonderful things to say about it.
Lots of good news this year, so I wanted to share a bit about each of the upcoming releases.
May 3 – Picnic in the Graveyard (Cemetery Gates Media) – an anthology of cemetery-themed horror stories featuring my story “Cemetery Joe.”
June 6 – If I Die Before I Wake : Tales of Savagery and Slaughter (Sinister Smile Press) – an anthology of brutal horror featuring my story “Family Annihilator.”
June 6 – Dreadful: Tales of the Dead and Dying (re-release with Velox Books) My first collection edited and featuring a new story “Seconds.”
June (Night Worms box) – Stargazers (Cemetery Gates Media/My Dark Library) – a novella published as part of Sadie Hartmann’s “My Dark Library” initiative. Full release in July!
September 5 – Institutionalized (Sinister Smile Press) – an anthology of the deranged featuring my story “Hesitation Cuts.” A few big names in this one, including Richard Chizmar and Ronald Kelly.
October (TBD) – Dark Matter Magazine’s Human Monsters issue (Dark Matter Ink) – an anthology of human monsters featuring my story “The Bystander.” Lots of big names in this one and will also be included in the October Night Worms box!
Each of these releases is a thrill in its own way. The publishers are wonderful and the writers alongside me are top notch. I am surprised but delighted to be in their company.
I don’t know if I’ve “made it” as a writer, however you define that term. Though I have made strides getting accepted into anthologies in the past 1-2 years, and I want to share what I learned in the hopes it might be helpful.
I have been considered a good writer since I was young, around eleven years old or so. This was mostly due to an above average vocabulary and a sprinkling of imagination. I held onto this idea of good writing through my youth and early adulthood. Good writing meant I had a thesaurus in my lap, channeling Henry Miller into increasingly obscure stream of consciousness diatribes, the more syllables the better, as if my overall goal was to alienate the reader. The story was a platform to advertise my intelligence…and that is why I did not sell a story until my mid-thirties.
I had some success with The NoSleep Podcast and a few homegrown anthologies, using feedback to hone my craft, and reading reading reading. This is what changed for me, and this is what I hope to share with you. Voice matters so much more than I knew. I landed a story with Sinister Smile Press last year titled “From the Red Dirt.” It was an atypical zombie story told through the eyes of a young man during the Great Depression. I leaned into his imagined experience. A thirteen-year-old, uneducated boy in rural Texas would not have a thesaurus handy while describing the way his recently resurrected dead grandfather smelled, how the flies went into his nose dry and came out wet. Of the positive reviews I have read for this story, the voice is often highlighted.
My third story with Sinister Smile, titled “Hesitation Cuts,” is told through the eyes of an elderly man in mental decline. I wanted the story to feel uncomfortably claustrophobic, the reader trapped in the head space of a person unaware of their imperfect perception of the world. I repeated certain ideas, never letting the reader stray from this worldview. Whether people love it or hate it, they won’t forget it.
I landed two dream submissions this year, and in both stories I really just went for it. No more thesaurus. No second-guessing. I let my humor shine in both, something I have been reluctant to do in most horror stories I have written. I conjured awful people and let them run wild on the page. I was so positive I went too far with my Cemetery Gates submission I wrote another story for them because I really, really, really wanted to land that call. To my surprise and delight, they loved my awful character.
To me, it is the difference between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Jared Leto’s Joker. They’re both home run swings, but one landed while the other was either a foul ball or a long single depending on your perspective. You won’t know home run or foul until you swing. Heath felt like the Joker. Jared felt like an actor attempting to convince the audience Heath Ledger’s Joker never existed.
Voice is why I fell in love with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. It’s not just character dialogue, it’s how they move through the space the author creates, what she chooses to show us and how. In “Hesitation Cuts” I liken my elderly couple’s physical encounters to “enemy ships without munitions.” I forget the full metaphor, but I was likely inspired by Flynn’s description of her married couple sliding past each other like fish in the tight spaces of their home.
Your voice will not resonate with everyone. There are negative reviews of Ray Bradbury’s (Ray Bradbury!) Something Wicked…lamenting his prose. (Blasphemy!) It will resonate, though. The closer your writing voice is to your actual voice the more authentic the work will be. When you’re writing, periodically ask yourself if you are Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday or whoever played Doc Holliday in the Kevin Costner version.
As for me, well, I’m your huckleberry.
2022 kicked off with a plethora of intriguing submission calls. I would get to work on a story and, within a day or two, another submission call would slap me in the face. I submitted a story to Cemetery Gates Media’s Picnic in the Graveyard anthology project earlier this month. A few writer friends shared their success in landing stories relatively soon after it was announced. Days passed after my submission and I began to question if my story was too…unrestrained. The title alone was an eyebrow-raiser. Another story idea descended from the ether, a more traditional cemetery tale, and I wrote that one in a couple of sittings. Within hours, I think, of emailing Cemetery Gates the second story and halfway apologizing for the first I received an acceptance email of that eyebrow-raiser of a story. Cemetery Joe, its reformed title, will be included in Picnic in the Graveyard among a growing list of outstanding authors. Publishing details to come, but this is my first story to pay professional rates!!
The second story, Under no Circumstances, will find a home eventually. I am equally proud of both, but I think those who know me for emotionally-tinged horror will be in for a surprise with Cemetery Joe.
Dark Matter Magazine also has a call out for Human Monsters. This call is headed by the lovely ladies at Night Worms and will be featured in a Night Worms subscription box later this year. I have a story titled The Bystander, which has some of the roughest material I’ve ever written, ready to submit when the call opens on 15 Feb. I have been a Night Worms fan for many months, and I loved the Dark Matter Magazine from the October (I think) box. Cemetery Gates have also partnered with Sadie from Night Worms for a novella call. I am chipping away at a novella titled Stargazers for this one, which will likely shape up to be an emotionally draining horror odyssey quite a bit different from Cemetery Joe and The Bystander.
Still to come this year, more NoSleep, Institutionalized from Sinister Smile Press, and I am sure much more.
Finally, I’ve pre-ordered two books this month, Spontaneous Human Combustion by Richard Thomas, and the anthology A Woman Built by Man featuring a couple writer friends. I will have to make time to write as I want to dig into both of these as soon as they arrive.
It has been about 2.5 – 3 years in the making, and finally The Rat King is free of my Macbook. He was last spotted at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and one haunted Borders which exists trapped between the reality of our world, where Borders no longer exists, and an alternate world, where Borders has become more powerful than the American government. The collection features four stories adapted by The NoSleep Podcast, three of which were on the pay side and might be new to many people. Also included is the story “Daddy Longlegs” which was awarded second place in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition for genre fiction.
A couple of years ago I reached out to an artist I found on Twitter asking if he was open for commissions. At the time I was mostly thinking about a cover image for the book, and I admit it was a strange and wonderful experience seeing art inspired by my writing. So, in addition to the cover I commissioned him (thank you Brett!) to create illustrations for each of the fourteen stories. I am obviously biased, but I love each of them. His images for “In the Valley of the Headless Men” and “A Sundown Town” are two standouts for me.
As I was finalizing The Rat King I began edits on my first collection, Dreadful: Tales of the Dead and Dying in preparation for a re-release from Velox Books. It’s amazing to me how far my writing has come in the last three or four years. I don’t know how to articulate that feeling without coming off as boastful. There were both positive and negative reviews for Dreadful, as can be expected. But as I worked to refine the collection I understood where those negative reviews came from. Ideas that didn’t quite make the leap from mind to pen, wording that was overly complicated because I thought good writing meant more syllables. Maybe in five years I will look back at The Rat King and think the same. I hope I do.
You can order a paperback, available through most book retailers (I recommend simply because the artwork deserves to be held) or ebook here.
I do not know how long this will be, so apologies in advance if it is overly long. This is just a little insight into my writing the finale of The NoSleep Podcast Season 16.
2021 has been a whirlwind for me and my family. I believe it was January when Jessica McEvoy presented an intriguing challenge – to write an epistolary story. Approaching a story from a different perspective was inspirational for me. I churned out a couple that ended up being accepted for Season 16, The Hole in the Great Grass Sea and Knocking After Midnight. Right about that time I received an acceptance from Sinister Smile Press for their anthology If I Die Before I Wake vol 5. 2021 was off to a roaring start.
When I am not writing stories my day job is as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the United States Air Force. As you can imagine, this occupation can demand a lot of my time and attention. I learned in the Air Force opportunities are typically a blessing. Not always, but usually. I returned from a deployment to Brooklyn in support of the vaccine rollout, a gratifying but tiring time in my life and the second substantial time away from my family in eighteen months.
I came back and slipped into moving mode. I had an assignment to Texas just a couple of months away, a house to sell and a house to buy. Suffice it to say, writing took a backseat.
I never stop writing. If I am not writing I am thinking of what I am going to write next. I go to sleep thinking of stories and write throughout the day. But, nothing was coming. In the brief downtime I did have I could not think of anything.
I have not been asked where my ideas come from, but this is something asked of more renowned authors so I suppose I can offer my thoughts. The origin can be anything from a song to a podcast to a real life experience. Sometimes it comes from the ether, or comes from somewhere so deep in my past I don’t even recognize it. A Sundown Town, for example, is a mixture of the family I was raised in and the place I eventually lived.
But, I was in a rut. The stories weren’t coming. I tried to think of a story and it didn’t come. Writer’s block. It’s happened before, but this time it kept going. One week. Two weeks. Nothing. There were calls for stories in various anthologies. I could not think of a story, not even the nugget of a story. I remember Googling something like horror story prompts. Still nothing.
There is a progressive metal band called Persefone and I fell in love with their album Aathma while I was deployed to Kuwait in 2019 and 2020. It’s a concept album, and one that spoke to my beliefs about life and the Universe. It basically describes the journey of understanding the dynamics of life and death and the soul. Here is an example of the lyrics:
My soul is not contained within the limits of my body
Instead, my body is contained within the limits of my soul
I’m not this body
Nor this realm of senses
I am not this face
These eyes, these hands
I’m a living wave, calmed
Around May of this year a story started to form around the lyrics. The story, at that time, was titled The Call of the Void, and it was a much different story than They Have Suffered. I did not consider it a story I might eventually submit for consideration as a NoSleep Podcast Season Finale. But, the story came, almost fully formed. I had the journey in mind but not the characters, not the specific scenes. That story was about a person who recognizes their experience in reality is false, forced. After much trying, she connects with another who accepts her perspective. Something, the guardians of the tapestry of the Universe, was attempting to keep them apart. These would be the basis for the gray men in Suffered. Thinking about it, I saw the potential for a season finale. I thought of The Whistlers and Whitefall. What made them classics? It wasn’t sustained horror. It was characters. It was the journey.
I had not written it. I kept turning the idea over in my mind. Imagine a rock tumbler. That was my brain over the summer. The original ideas rubbed against the new ideas, refining, smoothing. And I did sit down to write. They Have Suffered was a placeholder title, one I assigned to a different short story I have had in my mind for a couple of years now. Early in the writing I found a perfect place for the term. Eventually, I recognized how it applied to both the main characters and the people in the background. Honestly, I just kind of loved the title and it fit.
As I mentioned, the Air Force taught me to seize opportunities when they present. They Have Suffered was coming along, but there were other markets asking for stories, my new job, and my family. We lost a dog this summer, our third in a couple of years. The kids were back in school after a COVID-inspired vacation. I was taking my time with it. I knew I wanted the story to end in Marfa, and I planned a trip there possibly next year. And then the opportunity came. Jessica recounted this part on the NSP Book Club page so I feel comfortable relaying it here. She asked if I had an 18-20K word story ready to go. I did not. I had an 18-20K word story partially written. I had the characters in place, the ending solidified in my mind, and about 12K words still to write.
Of course I said yes. My mother came on a planned visit and my wife suggested we go to Marfa together. That was a special trip both for how it contributed to the story and because it was the first trip my mother and I had taken together in maybe twenty years. Marfa is wonderfully weird. The telephone booth I describe in the story plays Taylor Swift on a loop when you pick the phone up. It’s just this strange corner of Texas that feels out of place. It was the perfect place to end the story.
What does They Have Suffered mean to me? A lot of my soul is laid bare in that story, from a father who wasn’t there to thoughts about the Universe. It’s answering, in story form, the questions I have asked myself throughout my life. What if there was a reason your father left, something noble he just couldn’t share? What happens when you die? What exists beyond this realm of senses?
It isn’t perfect. No story is. If I had a year to write it I would still find flaws in the final product. But, my goal isn’t perfection. It is to write from my soul stories that make people think, make them wonder. I don’t answer every question the story presents. I might one day, but for now it is up to the listener.
I am grateful for this opportunity, for the trust Jessica, David, and Olivia had in me. Whatever is to come in my writing career, this is a highlight. Thank you for reading.