Online Issue 15


TSP OI15 cover

Darrin Doyle’s short story collection, Scoundrels Among Us, hit shelves this week and Darrin is here to talk about the common thread that ties these stories together. “A lot of fiction contains somebody doing something bad or wrong, but often they’re making bad decisions for themselves (or to themselves). My collection features many folks (mostly men) behaving in creepy, questionable, violent, or otherwise unseemly ways.”

I found the collection to be a celebration of the absurd and highly entertaining. Darrin also shares what’s on his TBR pile – including works such as Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, Christine Schutt’s All Souls, Christine Sneed’s The Virginity of Famous Men and Katie Chase’s Man & Wife.


Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature. Hunter also talks about his cats, Iris and Salem, in this author assistant feature.

Judy Penz Sheluk talks about her writing companion, a pup named for a character from NCIS: Gibbs

James Oswald talks about writing from the female perspective, insights from social media and claims to be “rubbish” at performing one specific author task.


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Scoundrels Among Us by Darrin Doyle reviewed by Sandra Ruttan

Solemn Graves: A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery by James R. Benn reviewed by Theodore Feit

The Sinners by Ace Atkins reviewed by Theodore Feit

A Book To Look Up


What is ‘voice’ anyway?


Thoughts on Horror


I suspect there could be as many conversations about what horror is as there are about what noir is. Laura Lauro’s tweets pointed me to the article by M.M. Owen, which is well worth a look.

“Horror is what anthropologists call biocultural. It is about fears we carry because we are primates with a certain evolved biology: the corruption of the flesh, the loss of our offspring. It is also about fears unique to our sociocultural moment: the potential danger of genetically modifying plants. The first type of fear is universal; the second is more flexible and contextual. Their cold currents meet where all great art does its work, down among the bottomless caves on the seabed of consciousness. Lurking here, a vision of myself paralysed in the dirt, invisible to those I love.”


Hunter Shea admits his love for Real Housewives and talks about the scariest night of his life and inspiration for Creature

Fun Fact: Hunter says, “I’m actually a big Real Housewives fan!”

SR: What’s your new book about?

Creature coverHS: Creature revolves around a couple, Kate and Andrew, struggling with Kate’s debilitating illnesses. Her quality of life is rapidly deteriorating. Andrew as a caregiver is doing the best he can, but he’s running out of hope. After Kate receives a powerful new treatment, Andrew takes the summer off from work and rents their dream cabin by a lake in Maine. It’s a perfect place to heal and relax, but nothing goes as planned. Strange sounds in the woods and rocks being thrown at the cottage are the harbingers of worse things to come.

SR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

HS: This is a very autobiographical book for me. My wife suffers from a host of autoimmune diseases that had made our lives, at times, a living hell. When Flame Tree Press approached me about writing a book for their premier horror line, I wanted to draw on our experiences, weaving real life with palpable horror. Readers seem to really feel Kate’s real terror and are equally scared of what’s circling the cottage.

SR: What’s the scariest experience you’ve ever had?

HS: The scariest and worst night of my life was back in the mid-1990s. My wife had been in the hospital for a few months and wasn’t getting better. One night, the doctor came in and told me she would most likely not make it through the night. They asked if we’d like a priest to come in and administer last rites. I was literally numb, along with sad, mad, confused and terrified. It was the longest night of my life. The good news is, she DID NOT die that night and is still by my side twenty years later.

SR:  Your protagonist has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

HS: I think Kate would look for someplace that is filled with life. I’m thinking the streets of Barcelona. She’s been sick and shut in for so long, she craves for the beauty and fun of life. She would love to walk down Las Ramblas, tour the architecture and revel in the nightlife.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

HS: Kate could certainly go insane. Dealing with chronic pain and illness takes as much a toll on the mind as it does the body. Not to mention, some of the medications to treat these things can also play tricks with your mind. For Andrew, I’m thinking prison. He’s filled with so much rage at what’s happening to his wife, if he stopped his punishing running routines, he would eventually lash out at the wrong person and find himself in some serious trouble.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

HS: Andrew’s is quite simple – Kate dying. She’s the center of his universe and he can’t imagine life without her. For Kate, the exact same thing, namely because she doesn’t want to hurt her husband by not being around for him.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

HS: I wanted to give readers a glimpse into real life with autoimmune diseases. It’s a very real horror that is largely misinterpreted and misunderstood. The constant swirling of emotions is as real as the brute pain and fatigue. But I also wanted to show that people with these diseases deeply love and live everyday. Oh, and dream cottages in the woods are not always what they seem. ☺

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For your protagonist?

HS: I have seen so many bad movies, it’s so hard to pick just one that would be my vision of hell. I think Tom Cruise’s horrendous version of The Mummy might do my soul in. I hated that one so much, it made me furious. How dare they destroy my beloved Universal monsters? Music wise, definitely Call Me Maybe. That’s an ear worm of a song that needs to be exterminated.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

HS: The first ‘big people’ book I read as a kid was, not shockingly, Stephen King’s Night Shift. I absorbed those stories like a sponge. I was already a huge horror movie fan, but that book solidified me as a lifelong horror reader. As a horror writer, I don’t think you could have a better inspiration than King. An entire generation of horror creators owe their careers to that man.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

HS: Just being able to settle into your made up world and do literally anything you want with it. I love tucking myself away and hearing the sound of my fingers tapping on the keys of my computer. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by sounds and images and a million distractions, writing is forced quiet and reflection time. It’s very meditative and quite relaxing…at least until you have to write action sequences and it can be an adrenaline rush.

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing? Is there a worst thing?

HS: There’s always a moment when you think to yourself, “This book is crap. I can’t believe I just spent all this time writing utter garbage!” Working past that feeling is both the worst and best. I enjoy the whole process of writing, from the first draft to editing round number ten.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

HS: It’s all about the characters. If you can’t make compelling, relatable characters, its game over. You can craft the perfect location, the scariest monster of all time, the most terrifying plot twists. But if you don’t have characters that readers cheer or jeer, all is lost.

SR: What movie or TV world do you wish you could live in? Why?

HS: Oh, I would desperately want to be the third wheel to Mulder and Scully in the X-Files. Give me a gun, cell phone and access to a monster a week and I’d be in heaven, even though said monsters would try to kill me. I’d be happy to be Scully’s sounding board and shoulder to cry on. 😉

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

HS: If I’m not writing, I’m reading. My TBR and current read pile next to me is a dozen books, with so many more locked and loaded on my Kindle. I also love going to the movies. The Alamo Drafthouse theater by my house is a godsend. Beer and movies is the perfect combo.

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

HS: I’m going to buy a huge motor home and travel the country  distributing books and teaching people the importance of literacy. If you look at people in history that have made a lasting impact, they were all voracious readers. Their love of the written word and curiosity fueled them to change the world. In a day and age where attention spans are dwindling, we need to reconnect with books and deep learning.

SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?

HS: I’ll be bopping all over the place on blogs and podcasts and live events in support of Creature. Stay tuned by visiting me at to follow everything.


Hunter Shea talks about his trust author assistants, Iris and Salem, here.


Hunter Shea Headshot 2016

Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge and many others. His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays.

Author Assistants: How Iris and Salem Inspire Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea Headshot 2016Fun Fact: Hunter says, “I yearn to be a long haul trucker because I love motoring down the highway so much.”

When you have two cats, nothing in your house is untouchable or sacred. It’s virtually impossible to keep them off of anything. Thankfully, my cats are very different from one another, each with their own specialty. How do they help me with writing? Hmmmm, let’s explore.

IrisFirst there’s Iris. She’s a 12 year old Calico (at least we think she’s 12. She was a shelter cat, so we can never be sure). She’s very small and quite agile. I’ve watched her leap onto my top shelf from a sitting position with no problem. She’s also a home wrecker, as in she delights in destroying our stuff. I try to keep her out of my writing room, but she always finds her way in. And when she does, she spends all her time knocking all of my horror memorabilia off the shelves, scattering them everywhere. Sometimes, the anger I feel towards Iris is channeled into my writing, so in that sense, she’s quite helpful. She also likes to attack people, especially in the dark and when you’re asleep. She’s the real monster in our house. Walking down our pitch-black hallway at night, tense because you’re waiting to see if your ankles will be scratched, is real fear. You have to experience fear to convey it with your writing. Thanks Iris!

SalemOn the flip side is Salem, a black cat as big as a cougar who thinks he’s a dog. He plays fetch, rolls over to be pet on his tummy and is the most gentle, yet clumsy, cat you’ll ever find. After a rough writing session, he’s right there, purring, waiting to be pet. There’s no better stress relief than petting a beloved cat or dog or even hamster. He’s also great comic relief. Being such a big cat, it’s amusing to watch him try to leap up to the window. He has about a fifty percent success rate. Salem is my bud, so much so that I wrote him into my book, The Jersey Devil. And yes, no harm befell my fictional Salem. I couldn’t do that to the big guy. One very good thing about him – he can’t get onto my shelves and wreak havoc. He’s more floor bound, and that suits us both just fine.

So yes, my two ‘writing assistants’ are quite different and inspire me in their own way. I’ve written articles and blog posts about them in the past, and for that they are exceedingly helpful. Just watching the things they do can give me inspiration or a break from the insanity of ‘people life’. They both have it pretty good in the Shea lair, and we’re happy they’re members of our family. Even when Iris bites our toes while we’re sleeping.


Hunter Shea talks about his latest novel, Creature, here.


Creature cover

Hunter Shea is the author of over 20 books, with a specialization in cryptozoological horror that includes The Jersey Devil, The Dover Demon, Loch Ness Revenge and many others. His novel, The Montauk Monster, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. A trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum will find several of his cryptid books among the fascinating displays.