Discussing The Devil’s Nightmare

This week, I vacate the coveted blogger’s chair to this week’s guest author…only because he owns a Corvette. Oh, right, he’s also written a scary novel, from which an excerpt follows. You can also check out my take on the book at http://www.braytonsbookbuzz.wordpress.com.

Hmm, if he’d allow me a spin around the block in his care, or maybe he’d let me cruise downtown…

Devil’s Nightmare: Behind the Scenes

Thank you for allowing me to take over your corner of cyberspace for a day, Stephen. My name is Robert “Sharky” Pruneda, author of the Devil’s Nightmare series, and one of many hooligans represented by Booktrope’s Forsaken horror imprint. On this stop of my blog tour, I’d like to give readers a special behind-the-scenes look of my supernatural occult horror novel. Afterwards, I’ll give you an opportunity to win some prizes. We’ll start with an incident that gave me the idea for the first book in the series.

Devil’s Nightmare very loosely based on actual events.English_ouija_board (Public Domain - WikiCommons)

I can’t remember my exact age, but when I was somewhere between ten and twelve years old, my sister introduced me to a parlor game that supposedly would allow us to speak with the dead. The game had a planchette and a board with alphabet and numbers painted on it, along with four complete words: Yes, No, Hello and Goodbye. I knew what a Ouija board was (and I had seen a movie about it), but I had never played with one before. It seemed like innocent fun . . . until I started using it by myself. Apparently, you’re not supposed to do that. Meh, I didn’t care. It was just a game, right?

I don’t have a story about ghosts throwing me across the room or demons possessing me. None of that happened, but aside from experiencing horrific nightmares and anxiety attacks, what really terrified me was an incident that happened at approximately 3 a.m. in my bedroom. I woke up feeling an intense amount of pressure against my chest, and I could not breathe. It was then that I noticed something hovering above me, just inches from my face. Fear paralyzed my body when a pair of demonic eyes appeared within the silhouette. I wanted to scream, but the pressure on my chest somehow left me completely mute. To this day, I have never been so terrified about anything in my life. Finally, my lungs filled with air and I let out a hysterical cry for my parents. The apparition disappeared as soon as Mom and Dad rushed into my bedroom and turned on the lights. I burned the Ouija board in the fireplace the next day and haven’t played with one since.

Devil's Nightmare (Cemetery-Eyes No Title)

Scientific explanation or demonic encounter?

That incident in my bedroom in Austin, Texas was probably nothing more than a common phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. I’ve also had it happen to me as an adult. Basically, you wake up and are unable to move, speak, or react. It’s almost like you’re somewhere between sleep and waking up. Your brain and body haven’t quite synched up together. The demon I saw was likely a hallucination from a waking dream.

While science can explain what happened to me that night, it didn’t make it any less frightening for me as a kid. But what if it was real? What if had broken some sacred spiritual rule and inadvertently summoned a demon? What if there was an ancient curse involved? While I only loosely based Devil’s Nightmare on my childhood experience with the Ouija board, it still gave me the heebie-jeebies when I thought about it while writing the 360-page novel.

The “Bat Mobile” in Devil’s Nightmare.

If you already follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you probably know that I love American muscle cars and own a 1981 Corvette, which my friends and I like to call “The Bat Mobile.” One little Easter egg in the novel refers to a near-death experience that happened to me while driving my Corvette. As I accelerated onto the highway during rush hour, my transmission broke. I had to quickly maneuver off the highway and onto the grass (it doesn’t have an emergency lane) in order to avoid an 18-wheeler slamming into the back of me. That experience gave me ideas for a couple of scenes in Devil’s Nightmare . . . but this is a horror novel, so of course I had to change things up a bit.

The Bat Mobile (and Batman)

A friend of mine sent me this edited pic of my Corvette as a joke.

Cameo Appearance in Devil’s Nightmare

At the beginning of Devil’s Nightmare, someone or something chases eleven-year-old Cody Sumner out of a cemetery. When he gets home, his mother and stepfather rush into the bedroom to find their son crying underneath his window. Tony Scoletti, Cody’s stepfather, is also a character in my debut novel Pursuit of a Dream¸ which I self-published in 2004. In that novel, he’s an unemployed alcoholic jerk who verbally and physically abuses his wife and stepson. I think you can probably figure out the fate of Tony Scoletti in a horror novel. Had he known that nearly ten years later he’d end up in a horror novel, he might have behaved. Too late.

If you’ve read Devil’s Nightmare and Pursuit of a Dream, I you might have caught the other subtle tie-in reference when Detective Sanders first questions Cody Sumner at the hospital. This is something I like to sneak in with my novels. Stephen King inspired me to include “Easter eggs” in my novels by his cameo appearances in movies based on his novels.

Devil’s Nightmare Giveaway

I hope you enjoyed my behind-the-scenes look at Devil’s Nightmare. I love chatting with readers, so please leave me a comment on this page or on social media. If you’d like a chance to win one of the prizes I’m giving away, including a signed copy of Devil’s Nightmare and other goodies, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest below. Good luck and thanks for visiting!

Devil's Nightmare (Forsaken eBook)

The Devil’s Nightmare


Sole Survivor

I arrived at the crime scene at seven-thirty on Monday morning and parked my black ’81 Corvette Stingray behind a police car that had the left rear door hanging open. A young boy with sandy blond hair sat in the back, staring at the seat in front of him. Emergency vehicles packed the street in front of the house. Police officers, crime scene investigators, and paramedics performed their jobs while reporters yelled out questions to anyone within earshot. A mob of reporters barked a barrage of questions at me, but I ignored them and ducked under the police tape, making my way to the front porch. A bloodstained curtain hung out of a broken window to the right of the front entrance. The shattered bay window to left of the entrance had pieces of the frame bent towards the interior of the house. The highest-ranking officer of the Austin Police Department, and an old friend of mine of many years, exited the home just as I stepped onto the front porch. I shook his hand. “So, what’ve we got here, Chief?” “It’s bad, Aaron. Tenemos dos víctimas.” Chief David Hernandez spoke perfect English, and without much of an accent, but that didn’t stop him from throwing in a little bit of Spanish for my benefit. It was David’s not-so-subtle way of trying to mold me into a bilingual detective, which of course is useful in Texas. I still couldn’t speak the language, but, thanks to David, I could at least understand it. “So, who are our two vics?” “Carol and Tony Scoletti. Whoever killed them must have been really pissed.” “Yeah, that’s usually the case” I bobbed my head in agreement. Murderers do tend to have slight anger issues. “So, we have a double-homicide. Doesn’t happen here much, but what’s so unusual?” “You haven’t seen the bodies… or what’s left of them, that is.” “Okay.” I lowered my brow. “Now you have my attention. Just what exactly are we dealing with?” “Follow me,” he said, and led me to the living room. The body of a decapitated Caucasian woman lay mangled on top of a shattered glass coffee table. Her left arm hung from her shoulder, attached only by tendons. Intestines spilled onto the floor from her torn stomach. She also had three large gashes across her breasts and several more on her bare legs. “Jesus! You weren’t kidding. What the hell did this guy come at her with, a chainsaw?” “You haven’t seen anything yet,” Chief Hernandez answered, and then headed down the hallway towards the bedrooms. I followed him inside the first bedroom. Blood and gore painted the walls and ceiling. Only the torso of what used to be a body lay in the middle of the room in a pool of blood, guts and ripped flesh. Pieces of bloody flesh hung from the ceiling fan. There was a severed arm on a blood-soaked pillow on the bed and a detached leg protruding out from underneath it. Where was the rest of the body? “This is the kid’s bedroom,” he said. “He’s lucky to be alive. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but why spare him?” I noticed muddy footprints mixed in blood underneath the shattered window. “Come on, Aaron. You don’t really think anyone would do this to a kid, do you?” No, I didn’t, but you could never know for sure. Some people have absolutely no conscience whatsoever. The kid was lucky. After examining the remains of a man’s body, I asked, “That kid in the squad car. Has he said anything?” “Nada. Not a word since we arrived.” “I’ll go to talk to him. See if I can get him to open up.” I tapped the shoulder of the crime scene investigator taking photos of the body. “You have a swab kit I can borrow?” “Yeah, sure.” The young CSI set her camera down and retrieved the items from her crime scene kit. “Need me to come with?” “Nah, that’s okay. I got it.” My heart sank from the boy’s blank expression. Dry blood splatter peppered his cheeks and forehead. The blood covering his clothes told me he’d had a front seat view of what had happened. A seat that would have also given him a clear view of the perpetrator. “What’s his name?” I asked the police officer in charge of babysitting the boy, while a bunch of strangers with badges, guns, and funny-looking suits, filtered in and out of his home. “Cody Sumner,” the officer answered. “I can’t imagine what he’s going through.” She shook her head and added, “Poor baby.” I knelt down next to Cody and introduced myself. “Hi, Cody. My name is Detective Aaron Sanders, with the Austin Police Department. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” Cody didn’t acknowledge my presence. “Are you hurt anywhere?” Nothing. He just stared ahead. “Can I see your hands?” That time he gave me a subtle shrug. I put on a pair of latex gloves and tenderly turned his hands over. Dried blood covered his palms. I sighed and placed the boy’s hands back on his lap. I pulled a buccal swab from the kit that I borrowed from the crime scene investigator. “I need to get some samples off your clothing and hands. It’s not going to hurt though. Can you give me a little nod if that’s okay?” Cody faced me, his blue eyes watering, and said, “They’re dead.” “I’m sorry.” I placed my hand on the back seat. “I promise we’ll find and punish the person who did this, Cody, but we need your help. Can you tell me what happened?” Cody focused on the back seat again. His crying came in constricted whimpers and sniffling. “That’s okay.” I squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “We’ll talk later.” “Aaron!” Chief Hernandez yelled from the porch, gesturing me toward him. I met him halfway on the front lawn. “What is it?” “We have another crime scene.” “Another one?” “Memorial Heights Cemetery. Busy day for the APD, and it’s about to get even busier for you, amigo.” “Can we get Anderson or—” “No, I want you on this. You should head over there right away.” “Why? What’s so special about this one?” “The grounds crew found three bodies. Two of them with their heads missing.” He rubbed his hand over his face and took a breath. “What?” Finding dead bodies at a cemetery was normal enough, but they tend to arrive in caskets. And they typically have their heads attached. I asked again, “What?” “They’re kids, Aaron. Niños!” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. “What the hell is going on here?” “I don’t know, pero we have one sick cabrón targeting children now. I need you to head over to the cemetery. I’ll call the FBI. This is way over our heads.” “Whoa, wait a minute.” I hated dealing with feds. “The last thing we need is a bunch of bureaucratic suits flashing badges around here and putting up a bunch of red tape. We can handle it ourselves.” “Aaron, this isn’t a typical murder case. I think we’re dealing with a serial.” “Yeah… maybe.” “Maybe?” Chief Hernandez said. “Decapitations and bodies ripped apart don’t exactly fit the description of a normal homicide. And speaking of decapitations, where’re the victims’ heads?” Good question. “All right, I see your point. I’ll check out the cemetery. What about that kid over there?” Cody had stopped crying. A police officer handed him a bottled water. “He’s our only witness.” “I’ll let you know where he ends up. Probably Brackenridge. Now go.” “All right, all right. I’m going.”

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Chapters – VI

C06We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”

Yellow sand? Who peed on the beach?


Because the complaint mentioned a supposed mistake in a brochure, this brings up the topic of making sure you’re as correct as you can be before writing down anything. I’ve discussed before about authors needing to be factual about many things – medical procedures, the law, physics, and geography. Obviously, there is creative license so sometimes you can fudge on locations of things, but unless you’re writing about a mixed up Earth, you can’t have the Eiffel Tower in Mumbai.

Actually, I think more along the lines of the many taekwondo tournaments I’ve attended throughout the years and how correct the judges have to be. Let me explain.

The tournament floor is covered with ‘rings’ for the various divisions of competitors. Three judges are assigned to each ring. In the forms competition, Judge A assesses the quality of the kicks and stances; Judge B looks at the hand technique (blocks, strikes, hands in the proper position); and the Center judges various specifics about the overall form. Aspects included are: timing, rhythm, attitude, etc. Each judge will give a point value of between 9.2 and 9.9. The competitor with the highest score wins. There are other rules about ties and such, but I don’t want to get too detailed but especially on ties one has to stay true to one’s choices to be correct.

Weapons competition judging is based on the utilization of the weapon. Are the strikes correct, the target correct, power existent? Sometimes, the judge has to pick out minor differences to be able to score correctly.

Sparring competition has too many variables and rules to detail here but judges have to think fast and be able to score correctly. There are other types of competition (XMA, Creative, Combat Weapons) but the judging is similar to the traditional competition.

So we can see that there are many areas where the judges have to be correct. The competitor, parents, and supporters are observing the proceedings and keeping track of each score and decision and will point out mistakes. (Sometimes not in a kind way.) Judges are human and, yes, mistakes are made, but having three judges helps minimize errors. I’ve been judging for over twenty years but sometimes I have a discussion with the other judges about what the correct call should be (this deals with rules not a judgment call for forms or weapons) or have them clarify a rule or help me be correct on some aspect that might be a rare occurrence but is nonetheless important.

Paperwork is one of the biggest issues for a judge. It has to be as complete as possible or the head table reps will reject it. Competitors names, ID numbers, scores, judges’ signatures (printed with their ID number), ranks. The information on the outside of the packet must be filled out. Ring number, competition division (age-, gender-, and rank of competitors), number of competitors, number of medals/trophies awarded, judges’ names/rank/ID number, scorekeeper and timekeeper information.

My organization headquarters doesn’t want to get incomplete information because they get miffed and call the tournament host, who gets miffed and may have to track down the specific judges involved. So, those head table people are not to be messed with if they say you’ve missed something. They’re doing their jobs so in the future, nobody gets their butts kicked.

I enjoy tournaments and I enjoy judging. I’m not so gung-ho on competing. I still do, but if I don’t, I don’t feel cheated. For a long time I’ve had the attitude that I’m at a tournament to help others have fun. We’re always told that to have fun, we have to have safety. I have to be correct in my judging because others are judging me. A minor cost of having fun is that I have to spend a few extra minutes being correct on the paperwork.

Can you think of other areas where being correct is so important? (Yeah, I know. This one’s too easy a question.)

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Around The Globe With Tricia Skinner

So, this morning, I pick up this week’s feisty guest author and we’re off to sunny Ochos Rios, Jamaica. We’re lounging on the beach with a plate of fried breadfruit between us. Sun, sand, surf…ouch! What? Well, isn’t that wonderful? She slapped my hand when I tried to take a piece of breadfruit. Now she threatens to do more bodily harm. What? Open a can of Whoop-Ass if I don’t get my own plate?

Whew! Better get to the interview while I’m still able to walk.

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

I’m Trish, a writer of dark, diverse, dangerous romance. Fascinating? Hardly. I’d rather think other Jamaicans see me as one of their own whose dreams are coming true because I worked hard.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I used to have 14 pen pals from the former Soviet Union. As a kid, I loved writing letters and receiving them. Where we lived in Detroit, the post office couldn’t figure out who in the world would be getting mail from Russia and Ukraine. One day, the mailman actually held the mail until he saw who it belonged to, which had me laughing. I wasn’t a Communist, just a kid who loved to write. I went on to study Russian in college, but I can only read Cyrillic now. I’ve forgotten most of the language.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

I couldn’t play an instrument, dammit. I did own a keyboard like Nick Rhoades from Duran Duran at one point, but I never took lessons. Man, that would have been awesome. Instead, I read a ton and marveled at how authors transported me to different times or places using only words. I became a newspaper reporter, but writing facts all the time wasn’t nearly as fun as making stuff up.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

Gah! Seriously? Um… Susan Ee, the author of Angel Fall would be cool. I’d like hearing how she went about creating her dystopian world where angels arrived to destroy humans. Those are the kind of angel stories I like, where they are not the super sweet beings we all think they are.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

My iPad is packed with books, which would allow everyone in an airport to avoid my whining. If you think about it, books are perfect company. They give so much, take you to so many cool places. You can ride dragons, or breathe under water. You can marry a rainbow alien and live on his spaceship. There’s no end to the fun a book can provide. I’d never leave my island.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

I always write a brief synopsis of the story in my head. I get down all the plot points I want to hit and then I try to layer in the romance if I see it’s missing. Once I start writing, I’m rather linear. I’ve tried jumping around, but that causes my brain to spasm. I tend to write about three scenes per chapter until the end. Research is tough because it’s the gateway to distraction and procrastination for me. I’ll just make a note where I need to come back and add something, if possible. If I can’t avoid the Internet, I grab quick info from Wikipedia just to fill the void until I can dig deeper or head to the library.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Try writing your story idea out in a few paragraphs. Begin with something happening, real action. Focus on what the character is trying to accomplish in the scene, and then end with a cliffhanger. Now, do the same until you have another scene, and another. Make your characters suffer, keep adding roadblocks until they can’t do anything but succeed or fail. Make them work for their happily ever after.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

“You keep what you kill.” Okay, that’s from The Chronicles of Riddick. Ha! My real philosophy is rather simple: “Go big, or go home.” I’ve chosen writing as my career. There’s no going back for me. This is what I want and where I belong.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

Next up is a novella and two more novels in my Angel Assassins series. I also have a new trilogy I’m working on, and a standalone that’s darker than what I’ve previously written. All are romances.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

If they visit my website (http://www.triciaskinner.com) and sign up for my newsletter, they’ll always be on top of what I’m doing. Plus, I invite readers to influence my work through polls and questions about characters or plot.

Angel Lover

Tricia Skinner

Release Date: 6/30/15

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

There’s no danger greater than falling for your enemy…

Book Description:

The Nephilim are bound. Their powers cursed. But half-angel Kasdeja will do anything to free them from Heaven’s tyranny. When Kas is approached by a striking, mysterious woman, she tells him his greatest enemies hold the key to his freedom.

Mariel keeps herself shrouded in secrets, using them to hide her true self. For she is not just employed by the Renegades–enemy fallen angels—she is a double agent, working on the sly for Heaven. Her directive is to seduce the gorgeous Nephilim—despite her insecurity about such sensual acts.

For Mariel is playing a dangerous game, and falling for Kas could only cause trouble; her assignment isn’t just seduction. It’s destruction.

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balanceThe second attribute the two students chose was Balance. Here are their essays on how and where they can exhibit Balance.


Balance is very important. The definition of balance is “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” I need balance so I can do tricky things. Like climbing the huge rock at the recreation center. Or ziplining at Anna’s house.

I can use balance in most places. At home, I need balance when my brothers try to tackle me. And wrestle me. If I want to keep my head, hands, neck, and legs, I need to use my balance. Even if I’m on one foot, it’ll be hard, but balance is the key.

I can use balance at school. When I’m playing during recess and I’m playing on the balance beam (look, it even says it in its name) I need to balance. I guess, whatever I’m playing at recess, or whatever I’m doing, I need to balance FOR EVERYTHING.

I can use my balance in the community. How, you say? Well, say I’m riding my bike. I need to use my balance so I don’t fall off and hurt my leg by some of the sharp stuff that the bike is made of. I need to use balance for everything and balance is the key.

Hmm…if I need to use balance for everything and balance is the key, what make it important? If I lose my balance, I’ll fall and hurt myself every time I try to stand up. Now do you see why balance is important? But, I had one mistake in my essay. Balance isn’t the key. It’s you.


I need to use balance everywhere I go: at home, at school, or in the community. At home, I have to use balance a lot. I have to balance my chores and playtime evenly so that I will have time to do my schoolwork and to go to bed on time.

At school, when I’m playing kickball, it’s hard not to slip. So, I have to balance and round the bases properly. When playing dodgeball in P.E., I have to balance so I can dodge the ball when needed (like when it’s flying at my face).

In the community, I need balance, too. I have to balance when I’m at my friend Carson Breon’s house. He has a zipline on his play set, and if I fell, I’d hurt myself badly.

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speedThis week, I present another couple of essays from two of my students. One of their assignments was to take two of the attributes I had assigned to their form and write a one page essay on how they could use them at home, at school, and in the community. They picked Speed and Balance.

First up – speed.


I can use speed anywhere I go. At home, at school, or in the community. At home, when I’m running from my huge Great Dane, Lincoln, I have to go super fast because he can chase me and then tackle me.

I can use speed at school. When I’m in the track, I need to breathe so I can run fast. If I’m working on schoolwork, I have to take my time and do my work fast both at the same time.

I can also use my speed in the community. On Wednesday nights, I go to a church group called Cadets. If I’m about to be tackled in our “Midnight Street Fight” game, I have to flee quickly. I also have to make a really speedy car in Cadets that will go at least 10.5 mph in the Derby so I can win a trophy.


I can be speedy in plenty of ways. I could be speedy or quick almost everywhere! (Unless I am in a contest to see who can be the slowest for the longest…) But that’s beside the point. Having speed, ‘the rate of a measure of he rate of motion’ or moving quickly’ is a choice. I have to choose to do it and then stick to it – I must stay determined.

I can have speed at home. When I’m doing my chores so I can do something fun with my family, and I want to do it quickly, I can use speed. I can do my job quickly. But I cannot do that if I don’t stick to it.

I can also use speed at school. If recess has already started and I want to make it to the swings, I must speed up, stop chatting, and finish whatever I’m doing. If I’m trying to get a worksheet done, I have to speed up and finish quickly. But if I want a good grade, could I speed up? Yes. I have to have quality. You don’t want to go too fast. You want to have a pace. Sometimes it’s good to o slow and steady. Set you pace, and you’ll see it will speed up you time – just like in the mile run.

Another place I can use speed is in the community. Let’s say I’m picking up trash in the square. I want to make it to my brother’s baseball game. I have to speed up my work. That is a case where I must use speed. Even if I’m tired and I want to go slow. I have to stay determined. Because it will be worth it. (Especially when you’re watching you brother pitch to the grand-slam batter in the game.)

It’s kind of like the pilot fish and a shark. The pilot fish frees the shark from any kind of parasites, and in turn, the shark gives the pilot fish protection from predators. You see, you can have speed, and you can have determination and perseverance. But how do you persevere if you have nothing to try for? You have to do both, and everything will work out. Set yourself a pace. You’ll see.

Next week: Balance

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Wizard World: Comic-Con, Des Moines 2015


When I don’t have current issues or events to discuss and highlight, and when I don’t have author interviews or blog tours promote, I have presented the latest in several series of blogs written some time ago so that I would be ahead on posts and wouldn’t have to think of something at the last minute.

My current series are: Adult Truths, Food For Thought, Martial Arts Aspects, and Chapters, which usually involve some humorous complaint.

However, the Adult Truths will be ending soon and, again, I wanted to be ahead of the game so I’m not at a loss.

SAM_0159Thus, Wizard World. This company promotes Comic Con around the country and last weekend, it came to Des Moines for the first, but not last, time. At this event, several authors from the Davenport Writes team were in attendance (as seen on the banner above) to sell books and enjoy the event.

Oh yeah, there were a few celebrities who showed up and signed autographs and sat for pictures.

PART_1434148976045_20150612_173743-2William Shatner.

Lou Ferrigno, Cassandra Peterson, Dean Cain, Billy Dee Williams, wrestlers Paige and Seth Rollins, Michael Cudlitz, and Robert Englund and a few more. No, I didn’t spend the money for autographs or pics (Shatner’s quick pic came from a friend of an author friend) but I can say I saw them. (Well, all except Rollins. I did see Paige just as she was leaving. She is short.)

At the event, I took over 400 pictures. However, some of them disappeared. I don’t know what happened. I specifically remember the few that disappeared.

Anyway, here are just a sample of the characters (and characters) who agreed to pose for pictures. The rest I will throw in every so often and have a related post attached. So, until next year’s crop of Comic Con attendees, welcome to Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines, 2015!


Lots of vendors. 12 aisles. Selling everything from comic books (of course) to celebrity photos and cardboard cutouts ot movie prints to sugar bears. (Yes, live animals.)


A version of Captain America and Mario characters.


One of our authors, Miyoko Hikiji (the pretty woman in blue), with C.A.


Okay, I didn’t recognize ALL of the costumes, but they were all fun to look at.


These two switched out Sunday to Catwoman and Batman.SAM_0171

The Riddler and Miss Riddler.

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Food For Thought – Riccelli’s

3803 Indianola Avenue
Des Moines, IA

Lori Campisi has returned to her place of residence and reporting to her Washington, D.C. contact, John Hundt.


Mr. Hundt,

In my continuing effort to keep you ‘entertained’ by my activities here in Des Moines, I write this missive regarding my dinner earlier this evening.

I joined three of my colleagues at Riccelli’s. It is an Italian restaurant that offers more than just traditional Italian food.

The building is unimposing from the outside, but inside is filled with photographs of actors and actresses from the era that included Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable. Since this was Saturday evening, the parking lot was filled and there were people waiting in the lobby.

The hostess, who also doubled as table cleaner/setter, and who never smiled, kept bustling back and forth from the cash register to the dining area. No wait time was given, or party names accepted, but the crowd was courteous enough to express who was next up to be seated.

When we were shown to our table I noticed that there were more tables empty than I had thought. Many of them hadn’t been cleaned and reset for the next diners. I realized that either the establishment was short-handed in staff, a bit unorganized, or a combination of the two.

The menu was extensive with a limited number of appetizers, but many entrees, a selection of wines, and desserts. The meals ranged from fried chicken (one of my coworkers ordered this and received four large pieces), Ribs, Chicken Livers, Orange Roughy, several steak selections, plus the standards like Veal Parmesan and Ravioli with Meatballs. Prices were not outrageous. $9.75 for simple spaghetti to $39.50 for Filet with Lobster tail. Most items stayed within the eleven and twelve dollar range with some of the steaks a bit more.

I should insert here that while waiting for a table I saw at least two take-out orders.

We ordered our drinks, then upon the waitress’ return, our food. I chose the broiled catfish.

Our meals were delicious. The catfish was tender, the salad seasoned just right.

My only concern was the wait time for the food. Our bread came after we were done with our salads and for the entrees, we sat for at least half an hour. The waitress faulted a malfunction in the kitchen and apologized. She didn’t mention if the malfunction was mechanical or human.

Save for the lengthy wait, the food was good, and I’d recommend visiting if you’re in town.

Until next time, have a good evening.



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Chapters – V

C05“The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”

What did you expect the beach to be? Covered in tile?

Some of these complaints are more inane than others. I think my snarky comment, while made in jest, brings up a valid point. What did these folks expect when they went to the beach? A beach, one for tourists, is mostly sand. There are rocky beaches but they would have complained about too many rocks, I suspect.

This common sense expectation holds true for many things. In a past blog I discussed being reasonable when it comes to hotel prices. If you walk into the Marriott, you don’t expect to get a room for $50. Why? Because it’s not that sort of hotel. You should know that going in.

Books, too, hold certain expectations. For instance cozy mysteries aren’t going to have excessive amounts of profanity or sex, if any. The actual murder and the sex are all ‘off screen’ as it were. The heroine may stumble upon the body and see that a knife is sticking out of the corpse’s neck, but that’s as much as the reader is going to know. You’re not going to read about the seeping blood, the maggots, the detailed slice across the guy’s neck before the fatal plunge, the neck gristle and muscle showing…too much? Okay, sorry.

Each genre has certain rules to follow for a book to be a success. There are exceptions and you can get away with a few things, in rare cases. (Obviously, you’re not gong to see hot, steamy, lusty, busty, throbbing, heaving, bosomy genitalia in YA books. If you’re self-publishing this sort of stuff, you might get a visit from the porn police.)

Readers expect certain things from books. In gritty serial killer thrillers, you expect a bit of gore and profanity. You expect to see the blood.

Years ago when I was reading Ludlum’s novels, I was amused at the times he used italics for emphasis. In fact, I defy you to find more than ten pages in any Ludlum novel where he doesn’t use italics. It’s expected. The intensity is such that it almost requires it.

In regards to my books, I warn people that there is going to be profanity (not a lot, but some) and in Beta, there is going to be a sensitive topic discussed. I’ve also told people that I think I’ve written it in such a way that people are not going to stop reading because they’re disgusted. With this subject matter, when the bad stuff happens, I break a rule and tell you what is happening, rather than show it. However, you will get the idea and be able to move on.

Authors who write series have fans who expect certain aspects of the story each time. J.D. Robb’s ‘Death’ series will have some good humor, steamy sex, and technological standards in the each of the futuristic stories. Rex Stout will have fine meals, beer drinking, and subtle humor in the Nero Wolfe mysteries. Sparkle Abbey’s Pampered Pet mysteries will show the constant battle for a gaudy brooch between the main characters.

Fans enjoy and expect these things and as authors we cannot disappoint. When Stout died and the publishing company wanted to continue the stories, they accepted submissions from authors on where future Wolfe mysteries might go. In the end, they settled on Robert Goldsborough because he stayed as true to the character as possible. I think they did right by this. I don’t think people would have responded well to Nero Wolfe riding a motorcycle. (This is true, one writer had him doing this.)

What expectations from what authors do you have?

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Times Of Future Past, Second Week

More pictures from the TOFP event.

036One of the vendors.049Two Ladies

078Not sure. He claimed to be Sherlock Holmes. Go figure.

079Hawkgirl.084Lara Croft086A gentleman and his lady.033Two cool dudes.

013Knight of the Realm

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Times Of Future Past

005Where can you find Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Beverly Crusher from Star Trek all watching belly dancers moving to everything from Jimmy Buffet to the Time Warp? At the Costume Fair – Times of Future Past.

This was the first year for this event held out behind Sleepy Hollow Park in the same venue as the annual Renaissance Fair.

The event also hosted several authors, dressed appropriately, selling books. Attendees were able to watch skits at the huge castle, Romans sword fighting in front of their king, hear Indian tales, and superheroes saving mankind. They could practice archery and knife throwing.

Hippies and pirates, southern belles and Superman.

I was in attendance, but unable to take too many pictures, but an author acquaintance took, uh, well, a bunch of pictures and sent them all to me. Thanks, Dan for overloading my email server. Lol.

Anyway, I thought for this week and next, I’d give you all a taste of this year’s costumed event. Being the first year, attendance was pretty low, but next year should see more promotion and more fun.

003 004 006 008 011 017 021 028

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