Well - the reviews have been coming in thick and fast. Thank you to our readers and reviewers.
Calvin Demmer has now got 5 five star reviews on Amazon (US) for his The Town That Feared Dusk (Book 17 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series) with recent comments including: "A great read", "Total classic" and "Another hit".
Chris Stanley received a five star review on Amazon (UK) for his The Forest Is Hungry (Book 16) with the added comment: "Compelling!".
Dan Howarth received a four star review (Amazon UK) for his Dulce Et Decorum Est (Book 14) with the reviewer saying: "Great story."
Kev Harrison received 2 four star reviews for his Cinders Of A Blind Man Who Could see (Book 13) with the comments including: "Thoroughly entertaining" and "Exciting and pacey."
Well done all and keep 'em coming!
Demain Publishing has in recent weeks been receiving many plaudits. Of course that has something to do with the amazing stories our authors have created (that goes without saying!) but some of the congratulations MUST also go to cover artist Adrian Baldwin (thank you to Trevor Kennedy for making the introductions) who’s work has gone above and beyond what was asked of him. As well as designing covers / artwork etc Adrian is also an accomplished author and screen-writer – in fact he has many strings to his bow as the recent chat between Dean and him goes someway to prove:
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Adrian, your turn now (and I’ll be next don’t worry) for an interview – I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while...
ADRIAN BALDWIN: Hello, Dean. Thanks for inviting me along to participate in a Demain interview. Rather than plead the 5th I have decided to answer all your questions - you only have yourself to blame!
DP: Don’t worry, I think I can live with it on this occasion ha ha. Okay, so for those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background.
AB: I am an artist, writer and designer. Back in the 90s I wrote for a number of comedy television shows; I have written 3 novels (to date) and I’ve had several short stories published.
DP: Yes, your cv is very impressive. I have seen a lot of those shows you wrote for (and watching them again on the ‘net brought back some happy memories)...if someone (well, me in this case) asked you: “why do you do what you do” – how would you answer?
AB: I’ve always been a big reader and have written comedy material since I was at school. I have no idea what compels me to write / create. I think it might have a lot to do with being allowed to stay up late and watch Monty Python when I was a kid! I’ve always been interested in art too so I attended art college for four years to avoid having to get a real job! I studied photography layout, format, and typography. I never thought I’d be designing book covers one day but I’m very happy to be doing so for Demain, Phantasmagoria and the like.
DP: It was only when we started talking that I realised how much of your work I had seen without appreciating fully it was all by the same artist. You do really have a keen eye and I love that for each publisher etc you work for that the art / cover etc is unique to that particular brand – so for example, what you do for Demain is very different to what you do for Trevor Kennedy which again is very different to what you’ve done for Alex S. Johnson – I definitely raise my glass to you my friend. How do you work and do you you think your work has ‘developed’ over the years?
AB: I have an idea; I run with it. I scrub what I don’t like and work over what I do until it hopefully reaches a point where I feel it’s good enough to share. I’m really unmoved by a lot of modern book covers, I think so many just look the same. The covers I saw on books when I was a kid seemed to have so much more colour and character. I now draw on these covers from the 50s and 60s for inspiration. Retro is the new trendy!
DP: Yes, I know what you mean – I personally love those old garish Grand Guignol posters too...would you say that your personality is reflected in your work?
AB: Well, I guess it shows what moves me and that I like fun and eye-catching forms but basically I just go with whatever feels right to me.
DP: Of your many talents / mediums – what do you enjoy doing the most?
AB: I enjoy both writing and creating covers but which do I enjoy most? I guess it just depends on my mood for that day. Primarily though, I would class myself as a writer who moonlights as a book cover designer.
DP: In your work (stories or art) do you think there are particular themes you return to time and time again?
AB: Well, for covers, the themes are usually dictated by the publishers’ outlining brief, plus my spin on what I think works for that particular volume or individual story. As for my writing, I think that probably has a lot to do with using my dark sense of humour as a coping mechanism for dealing with setbacks of any kind - including death and illness. Especially since my father passed away a few years ago. Deep huh? - maybe - but if you can sometimes laugh in Death’s face, at least you won’t be too sad all the time.
DP: That’s a good outlook and philosophy to have. My father also passed away a few years ago (actually just as I was having success with the anthologies etc) and I noticed that my writing ‘changed’ following that. I’m not sure how it changed exactly but I know that it did – saying that, I suppose my style has always been a little bit ‘out there’ (I’m getting better though and am trying to be more mainstream ha ha) and I remember my parents coming to see one of my plays in London (about serial killers – natch!) – afterwards, in the bar, some of the cast spoke to them and asked what they thought. My mother smiled politely but my dad said: “Don’t worry, I’ll speak to Dean when we are alone! I think it’s time we had a little chat!” What would you say was your favourite piece of work to date?
AB: I couldn’t choose a favourite from my stories (I love all my children). Covers wise I like those that include the art of others, such as Roberto Segate or Les Edwards. I do have a favourite sketch: The Predictable Lighthouse Keepers (which I wrote for Smith & Jones). Link follows:
DP: Oh my Lord! Griff is amazing isn’t he – he reminds me actually of one of those silent film comedy stars...hang on, I’m going to watch it again...I’m laughing...brilliant, brilliant, well done. Let me get a grip of myself...so as you are (more than) capable of creating across the mediums do you feel that the two disciplines of writing / art are connected?
AB: Yes, for sure. As a writer I’m basically painting with words. With either discipline I am aiming to amuse, disturb, entertain - invoke a reaction of some kind in the reader / viewer. (I say disturb because dark comedy can often venture into the arena of the troubling; I think of Dark Comedy as Horror’s weird cousin.)
DP: Definitely, which is something which I wager the League Of Gentlemen would also agree upon. What (if any) is Adrian Baldwin’s artistic outlook on life?
AB: I always aim to create what pleases me, and hope others will enjoy the results. And if they don’t: Oh well, never mind. Artists should always be true to themselves. As David Bowie once said: Never play to the gallery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_Rsx-3RoY8
DP: The response to your work for Demain has been overwhelming – I really mean that. We have received so many amazing comments – I hope that as time goes by and the output continues that you are recognised in some way – how have the responses been your end?
AB: I’d have to say mostly positive, which is really cool. My work isn’t for everyone of course but that’s fine. My writing can be quite strange at times too and I have heard from a few who just don’t get it. I don’t think I’ve heard from anyone yet that they dislike the covers I’ve done but maybe it’s just a question of time!
DP: I will also be grateful that we were all on the same level when we launched the Short Sharp Shocks! Series – as soon as we spoke, you just got it...some quick questions then if you don’t mind: Does food, drink or music inspire you?
AB: Food and drink, no. Music, books, films, and people I’ve met, yes.
DP: Do you have to do a lot of research for the covers (and / or for your stories)?
AB: I research all the time; details often need to be accurate. Sometimes I feel I need to add an “I’m a writer!” footnote to my Google searches. Example: How much does a human head weigh? Would it float? - that kind of thing.
DP: Ha ha – I know that...I won’t say any more but I know exactly what you’re talking about there. Advice: I suspect you’ve been given lots (haven’t we all – often by people who’ve never written a book / created a piece of art!) – what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
AB: Go with your instincts.
DP: What’s your professional goal (if you have one obviously).
AB: Books: as I’ve said, to entertain, amuse and disturb. Covers: to catch people’s eye and if I can, build a brand for a publisher.
DP: Well, for us you’ve certainly achieved that. Would you say your work aims to say something (or is it just a ‘distraction’?)
AB: Covers: Look over here! Look at me! Books: All sorts of things. If you’d like to know more why not try one?
DP: For the covers / as an artist who are your biggest influences?
AB: Salvador Dali, Edward Hopper, and David Bowie.
DP: Three amazing artists in their own fields aren’t they? For those that may want to hire you...do you seek out opportunities or do Clients come to you direct?
AB: I’m usually pretty busy so I tend not to actively seek out opportunities; most jobs come from word of mouth recommendations / requests from friends of friends. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes no; depends on my workload and/or the attraction of individual projects.
DP: Yes, knowing what you’re doing for Demain alone I imagine that you are very very busy. Do you ever have writer’s / creative blocks and if so, how do you overcome them?
AB: Take a break from that particular section; work on a different part; come back to the ‘tricky’ bit later with a fresh eye - seems to work in the end.
DP: Finally Adrian, what is your most important tool as an artists and is there anything you couldn’t live without in your studio?
AB: Gimp. And it’s free! Amazing tool.
Thank you so much for your time and again for everything you’ve done for Demain, may it long continue!
If you would like to connect with Adrian direct – please visit him here:
Well done to Calvin who has (on publication day!) received several glowing reviews on Amazon for his Short Sharp Shocks! with one reviewer saying: "...I wanted more! I could read a full length novel of this story and be on the edge of my seat with the way Calvin Demmer writes!...very well done and entertaining. I love when a short story sticks...Demmer's stories are like a breath of fresh air for someone like me." And another reviewer stating: "Well, this being a Short Sharp Shocks, I’m not going to ruin it for future readers! I will say that Calvin Demmer does it again! He gives you a town with something horrible going on and it centers around a bridge! The end leaves you wondering and wanting more from this story and the author!"
Read the reviews (and buy the book!) here:
Benedict J. Jones
Their Short Sharp Shocks! Books are out today and available on all the Amazons. Thanks to Adrian Baldwin for the amazing covers too.
Enjoy and thank you also to our readers.
Author Interview: Calvin Demmer, Book 17 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series The Town That Feared Dusk
We welcome Calvin Demmer to the Demain family with his Short Sharp Shocks! entry, The Town That Feared Dusk. Dean and Calvin recently spoke about the book prior to publication.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi Calvin, let’s just go for it, can you tell us all about the The Town That Feared Dusk and what made you write it?
CALVIN DEMMER: Hello and yes, of course. An earlier story of mine featured a supernatural event occurring nearby a bridge, but I wanted to explore the idea of having the structure being more of a focus in a story. I also wanted a connection between the town nearby and the bridge, and thus the seed for the tale was planted. The Town That Feared Dusk was one of the stories I had in the ‘working on’ folder the longest, and I had a rough first draft written almost two years ago. I’ve tinkered with it quite a bit and received some helpful feedback from people who read early versions of it. I’m very happy that it’s found such a great home.
DP: Us too, we really enjoyed reading / publishing it. Did you face any particular challenges when writing it?
CD: There is a shift that comes later in the story. That required a few rewrites to get it exactly how I desired it. The other challenges were a certain thread I wanted to have running from start until the end and then making sure everything was tied up (to a point).
DP: I love it when there are some ‘loose ends’, it lets my imagination run riot. When you wrote The Town That Feared Dusk did you base any part of it on events in your own life?
CD: There was a strange bridge in one of the towns I’ve lived in that I kept in mind when trying to create the atmosphere of it. But, other than that, I can’t say any events were based on my life, though, there are strange stories I’ve heard over the years that went into/contributed to some of the ideas I had for the tale. I probably share some of Sylvia’s (a journalist in the story) curiosity and drive. It would be hard for me not to go and check out a landmark or building if I heard it might be haunted.
DP: Ha ha! Recently I was asked to spend some time in a so-called haunted castle, I was all bravado and up for it, until the last moment when I declined as the ‘fear’ overcame me...one day I might give it a shot when I’m feeling stronger. But not today. So, would you say that you have a specific writing style?
CD: I have a style that usually shines through no matter the story, but I do like to experiment, and will always try out new approaches, if it benefits the tale I’m telling. The hardest part for me is polishing the story to get it exactly as I want.
DP: Sure, and I suppose the old saying is true: a story is never finished, it’s just abandoned. Who influenced / influences you / your writing?
CD: Dan Simmons, Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Lauren Beukes, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ania Ahlborn are just a few of the authors that influenced me early on in my writing journey. I read so many new authors nowadays that it would be impossible for me to pick one favorite. I’m always drawn to authors who have unique voices and approaches. I also enjoy it when an author never rests on one formula, but can surprise you with the next book by going down a road (be it via tone, theme, genre etc.) that you didn’t expect.
DP: Yeap, I’m an admirer of that too. There are some authors I will also work with for that very reason. What are you working on at the moment?
CD: I’m always working on more than one project at any time. At the moment, I am looking to collect some of my short stories, and I’m working on a novella-length work as well. I also have some other short fiction in a really cool anthology, coming out later this year.
DP: Good for you, good for you. Writer’s block – you ever suffer from it?
CD: I haven’t yet. There are times where it can be harder to hit the zone, when words don’t seem to come easily, but I’ve never not been able to write something. If I’m battling a bit, I can usually eek out a few words, which sometimes helps to get back in the groove. I don’t force it, though. I find sometimes just taking a break (this also helps with thinking of new ideas to add to the tale, or when I’m stuck on a plot point) or working on another project for a while helps.
DP: Exactly, exactly – I’m wondering then do you outline your work before you start or just go for it?
CD: I’ve tried both approaches, and I found that either can work depending on the story. For The Town That Feared Dusk, for example, I just went for it on the first draft. I like to have fun when creating all these different stories, so I’m always up for experimenting to see if another approach might work better for that story, character, or theme.
DP: Finally, what’s your favourite theme to write about?
CD: I don’t have a specific favorite theme or genre. Most of my work tends to be dark fiction of some sort, but I’m always open to exploring new avenues. I usually finish a first draft and then start to decide what the main theme/genre is, although sometimes I will know in advance if I have a specific vision for the tale beforehand. It all comes down to what the main idea was that got me interested in writing the story. Was it a scene? A character? A theme? Etc.
Well, thanks for the chat Calvin – all the best with The Town That Feared Dusk.
If you would like to connect with Calvin direct:
Website Address: www.calvindemmer.com
Twitter Address: @CalvinDemmer
A corker of a review of Stephanie's Asylum Of Shadows appeared on the 'Sci-fi And Fantasy Reviewer' website, where it was said (amongst other great comments): "Asylum of Shadows is truly a beautiful piece of horror fiction." Some amazing things were also said about Demain which we are truly grateful and humbled.
Here's the link to the full review - check it out:
Book 16 in the Short Sharp Shocks! Series is The Forest Is Hungry by Christopher Stanley. Prior to publication Dean and Chris sat down to talk about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: So, Chris, great to meet you can you tell us about The Forest Is Hungry?
CHRISTOPHER STANLEY: Quite often my stories come from several different places. In this one, the walk at the beginning, where the parents are separated from their child, is a walk I’ve done a number of times with my family. Then my sister moved into a big new house and she told me about some of the conversations she had with the site foreman. And we have a family friend who cuts our trees for us. All of these things happened around the same time and – bang! – there’s the story.
DP: And what a provocative story it is – when you were writing it did you ever feel you were one of the characters?
CS: Not so much in this one, no, but I enjoyed writing two of the supporting characters. Carl is the nuisance neighbour, who was a lot of fun to bring to life, and Helena is the tree surgeon. I always had so much confidence in Helena to save the day, even though the challenges she faced were a long way from her day job.
DP: I love annoying / nuisance neighbours as I’m sure I’m one myself ha ha. Let’s talk a moment about influences – which authors / books influenced you do you think?
CS: Ah, that’s a hard one! All of them? Along the way I’ve been a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, Franzen, DeLillo, Eggers and McCarthy, but recently I’ve been rediscovering Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. I read The Shining again last year and it’s incredible. My favourite horror novel, the one that terrified me even more the second time around, is House of Leaves. The way that story sucks you in is creepy!
DP: Oh my Lord! I love House of Leaves – I watched the second season of The OA recently and believe they must have been influenced by it – what a great book it is, difficult, but great. What have you got lined up for the future?
CS: This spring, I have a short story called Gods of the Southern Horizon coming out in the Exquisite Aberrations anthology from FunDead Publications, which I’m excited about. And I’m just finishing another novelette about a mysterious box and boy whose dad went missing off the west coast of Scotland, but it’s too soon to say whether it’s a keeper.
DP: Wow they all sound brilliant – well, good luck with them and keep us updated. What about the dreaded writer’s block? Have you ever suffered from it?
CS: I wrote nothing for the first six weeks of 2019 – does that count? More than that, I felt unable to write anything, despite having loads of ideas. I don’t know about writer’s block; I think I was exhausted. I hate not writing but I didn’t beat myself up about it, I just found other things to do to keep me busy. Then I wrote 5,000 words in a weekend and I haven’t looked back since.
DP: Good for you – do you outline your work before you start and just go for it?
CS: Definitely the latter. Usually, I dream up a basic plot, decide what characters I want to involve and play around with ideas until I have my opening scene. Then I start writing and see where it takes me.
DP: So, I’m a movie producer, what would be the pitch for The Forest Is Hungry?
CS: It’s about a sick daughter, a father’s race against time to find the one thing that might save her, and the mysterious tree growing through his kitchen floor. How’s that?
DP: That’s perfect. Last one then, can you tell us something surprising (about you)?
CS: This is a tough one! There’s a Wikipedia article about the first time the football anthem, World at Your Feet, was broadcast live on Radio 1. This was during Chris Moyles’ breakfast show on 21 April 2006. At the same time, in a pub in Bristol, a BBC One reporter was filming the live reactions of four people to the song’s debut. The interviews got a lot of coverage during the day because one of the interviewees said the song was too slow, and I guess Chris Moyles must have been watching because, midway through the song’s debut, he replied "It’s not too slow!” – live on the radio. Anyone listening would have had no idea who he was talking to. Anyway, I was one of the interviewees, and I was still on TV when I got home from work that evening. Must have been a slow news day!
Ha ha – I wasn’t expecting that answer. Thanks for your time Christopher and the best of luck with The Forest Is Hungry.
If you want to connect with Mr Stanley direct:
Website Address: whenonlywordsareleft.wordpress.com
Twitter Address: @allthosestrings
Dean and Allison Weir have appeared together in various publications compiled / edited by Trevor Kennedy. It was a no-brainer that she would be involved in the Short Sharp Shocks! Series at some point. Book 15 (Blood, Bears & Dolls) by Alli is a profound (and seemingly very personal) piece of work. Recently they sat down to talk about the book...
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Blood, Bears & Dolls is more than a worthy inclusion in the SSS! Series – so well done. Can you tell our readers a little more about it?
ALLISON WEIR: I wanted to draw on some of my real life experiences when I was abroad a few years back – some of it was just inexplicable in the verbal form so I felt I had to clarify it in the written.
DP: Yes, there are at times – and I mean this positively – such an onslaught of images, themes...did you find that (or anything else to that matter) particularly challenging?
AW: I would have to say one of the challenges was the word count. I was so absorbed in developing the story that I sometimes forgot how much I’d written! I also found some of the medical scenes a constant battle to try and etch from my memory whilst at the same time, recall them for Shona’s showpiece.
DP: I get that but I believe you were more than successful so again a massive well done. I guess then that there is a lot of Allison Weir in Blood, Bears & Dolls?
AW: There is definitely some of Shona in me! Not the hypochondriac parts ha ha. A good chunk of it was based on a terrible time I had. Her huge phobia with dolls stems from the fact that mine was one of needles, which are pretty hard to hide from when you’re admitted to hospital =/
DP: I bet...and I’m with you on that, needles aren’t my thing at all...for those that aren’t familiar with your work would you say you have a specific writing style? Do you find writing challenging?
AW: I guess I do have a certain style, yes. But it’s difficult to pinpoint which one exactly. Perhaps it’s true to say that I write with dark humour. Or sometimes in riddle. I like to keep readers guessing as to where the story could go next. As much as this may sound chaotic it is definitely not predictable, which is what I think a good story should seek to avoid.
DP: I agree – I love the unpredictability of a good story. (As a slight aside) I don’t know if you are familiar with the NETFLIX series, The OA at all...I watched Season 1 and enjoyed that but when a month or so ago Season 2 was advertised I wasn’t that bothered as I was watching so much other stuff, however, I decided to give it a go and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed – it was totally (as far as I was concerned anyway) unpredictable but there are certain points which I found incredibly profound...especially the Old Night character...I won’t say anymore but if you haven’t, check it out. Who are Allison’s influences? Reading anything interesting right now?
AW: I’m going to blow you away here and say I barely read books these days…! I run my eyes over the odd thing here and there, mostly in Spanish and German, but I don’t have a favourite author. I do like short stories by Harlan Ellison and Philip K.Dick’s stuff has always fascinated me. He has the ability to write about pretty much anything.
DP: Yeah I’m a great PKD fan though I haven’t yet seen The Man In The High Castle – need to check that out when I get five. You working on anything new right now?
AW: Well, I’ve just finished a non-fiction piece for a good friend of mine. He’s at an exciting stage in his life and I was happy to pull off the editing for him!
DP: That sounds exciting, good for the both of you. You ever suffer from writer’s block?
AW: I used to suffer from it terribly - I’ve found because my daytime job is so demanding nowadays, my brain instantly reaches for the storytelling stuff as soon as it’s 5pm! My creative juices are flowing more often than not, put it that way.
DP: Good to hear – I’ve been talking a lot about this with writers recently: do you do an outline before you start a new piece of work or are you somebody who just goes for it (probably the latter from what we’ve spoken about previously)?
AW: Yes and no. I find brainstorming helps me set the exact scene but sometimes I would just scribe and see what happens. That’s the fun part =)
DP: Indeed it is – what’s your favourite genre? Also – did you learn anything from writing Blood, Bears & Dolls?
AW: Ooh, that’s a toughie! I still love to write sci-fi and fantasy fiction the most. I feel there’s more freedom and no treading on anyone’s toes with what you can come up with there. Things learned from this story? Doctors don’t always get it right but they’re a Godsend when they do!
DP: That is so true my friend, so true. Okay, so imagine you had to pitch your story to a film producer...how would the pitch go?
AW: When you’ve perfected the role of the poor pathetic invalid for so long, just remember your turn to fight back may come sooner than you think.
DP: Oh I like that, it sums up the story perfectly. Perhaps slightly trickier then: if you were writing a synopsis of Blood, Bears & Dolls how would it read?
AW: Shona Whiting is a loner of a lass. She means nobody any harm yet people are still wary of her because she is so very different. Medically she is screwed. The teenager suffers from what is dubbed ‘vampire disease’ and some generally ugly flashbacks that mirror her shockable experiences with ill health. So she must live her life as carefully as possible, with the help of her good friend, Cassie and dog Rolo. One fateful night, two joyriders lose control of their cars causing a huge crash between their vehicles. Whilst Cassie looks worse for wear, Shona ends up being admitted to hospital once again. Disoriented and highly medicated, she awakens from the incident with no recollection at first. She believes the medics are her enemy and she sets out to defeat her biggest fear: dolls. And they’re running about the hospital, taking down teddy bears as well as humans. Shona simply cannot escape the madness in her head and in real life. What is real and what is not? She just doesn’t know anymore - but one thing’s for sure: the blood transfusion that would supposedly save her will now turn her life upside down…
DP: You nailed it! Final question then, will you tell us something about you which your readers might be surprised to discover...
AW: I can write ‘legibly’ with my left and right hand – I’m naturally left handed but I trained myself to be dextrous with both!
Now that is pretty cool. Thanks a million for your time Allison – all the best with Blood, Bears & Dolls.
If you wish to connect directly with Allison:
Twitter Address: @Alli22235324