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An Extraordinaryly Close Encounter w/ Duncan P. Bradshaw

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Many of you may have heard his name whispered in certain circles. Down dark alleyways. Flickering pubs. The smoke stacks of places sunlight dare not tread. Rumors written on bathroom stales right next to an elaborate image of Lobstercock and bible verses and call-for-a-good-time and that strange looking oval shaped hole cut out in the wood. You dare not recant his name three times whilst standing in front of a mirror, for fear he may just show up, hidden if not for the odor of fresh tobacco and the wool of a fashionable newsboy hat. But the worst is when he laughs. A chuckle belonging to the creatures only children believe in, whistling sunny songs before being dragged down between the sewer drain. Shuffling into your house late at night, his shadow is cast by the yellow porch light, and in his hands he offers you a sampling of tea and biscuits. You may have heard the name before, the name of Duncan P. Bradshaw. If you have, then you’re one step already in the door, if not, well…you’re in for a treat. Newcomers and everyone in-between, I invite you to sit back, for you are about to behold something truly wicked, a one-on-one interview with the real urban myth.

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Machine Mean: Let’s get some basic introductions out of the way, shall we? Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? What got you into writing? What brought you into the genre of horror?

Duncan P. Bradshaw: Why hello there! Tis I, Duncan P. Bradshaw, from the land of tea and crumpets. I reside in the majestic county of Wiltshire, in Southern England, with my amazing wife Debbie, and our two cats, Rafa and Pepe. I started writing a few years back now, finally managing to get my love of zombies down into words. I think if it wasn’t for my penchant for the undead, I doubt I would’ve been drawn to the horror world.

MM: What’s your favorite book and why?

DPB: It has to be World War Z by Max Brooks. I just love the style of how it’s done, instead of taking a normal narrative, it’s this after-action series of interviews. Just love how this big huge earth changing event has been and gone, and now you have people trying to go out and record what happened, by speaking to those who survived through it. I rarely read the same book twice these days, as my TBR pile is in danger of taking out a satellite or two, but WWZ gets re-read every few years.

MM: Here’s a hard one… What is your favorite zombie movie? Should zombies be fast or Romero-esk slow?

DPB: Hands down, without a doubt, the original Dawn of the Dead. Yes, if you watch it now, it is a little dated, the zombies are a touch too much blue, especially the Blu-Ray version, but that is all part of the charm. It’s just become the archetypal zombie film, you have video games based on the setting, an entire sub-genre is undead and kicking thanks to it. Really does showcase the human condition extremely well. How they take the mall back, and slip into that kind of nonchalant aloofness, that is only challenged when they are under attack by the biker gang.

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Personal choice here, I prefer the Romero shambling dead, to me, they pose a more terrifying threat than the ones from the remake. It’s that slowly moving wall of dead, which just loom down on you, building up dread. Over-confidence is the worst thing, as you assume they are easy to evade, but then BOOM, you round a corner and one is nibbling on your jugular, they’re my favourite ‘monster’.

MM: Duncan, you seem to have a wide arsenal of genres and sub-genres within the horror/dark fiction umbrella that you write in, from horror-comedy to science-fiction, to mystery, and even a bit of extreme. Is there one particular sub-genre you prefer to write?

DPB: I like to try different things out, mainly just from the weird and wonderful thoughts that I have going on. My aim is to get to the end of 2017, have a look back at what I’ve done, and try and focus down onto what I enjoyed doing, and try to specialise a little more. I’d say, here and now, the book I loved writing the most, was Class Three. It is equal parts horror and comedy, and I think it’s safe to assume that I’ll be trying to go down the comedy route in time. Whether that also includes horror, maybe? I think there will be elements in there, I like a bit of blood and guts, but I doubt it’ll be chilling psychological drama that I’ll be releasing.

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MM: You are keeping busy, by my count you’ve had Celebrity Culture, Prime Directive, Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers: A Horror Anthology, The Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 2, and now you’re releasing your newest book, Hexagram. Do you have a writing method that you like to keep to? A schedule of sorts? Do you have a special place you like to do your writing?

DPB: Cheers man, had quite a productive end to 2015, which meant that I had a number of titles ready to go at the beginning of this year. Definitely more luck than design I’d say. I don’t have a method at all, most of my books start from a line of dialogue or one event, I’ll have a few days to think about it in general, then just start writing and see where it takes me. Like most writers, I try to get something down every day, but that’s not always possible with a full-time job and other commitments. Still, I miss it when I don’t do it.

I’m lucky that I have a room upstairs which is now converted into my office, which has all my junk in it. Got a desk there which I work from, with a speaker dock for my tunes. Though if I’m editing or doing a short story, I’m more than likely just to sit downstairs on the sofa, with some random sport on in the background.

MM: According to the all-knowing and all-powerful Amazon, you’re last publication was Prime Directive, which is a science-fiction story, something a little out of what you’ve normally published in the past, correct? Can you tell us a little bit about Prime Directive and what compelled you dabble in this sub-genre? Are there any future (no pun intended) works in store for us in the Bradshaw science-fiction realm?

DPB: Yeah, I think Prime Directive was a bit of a head scratcher for some people. It came about when I was writing the first draft of a novel called Deadlock. I had these five words of dialogue repeating in my head, over and over again. Then that little spark fused with a number of other ideas I’d had in the ol’ brain, and BOOM, I had a story. Deadlock was getting to a bogged down part, so I took a few weeks off, and wrote Prime Directive.

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I’ve always loved space exploration, find it enthralling and terrifying in equal measure. There’s just so much that we have no idea about, it’s inevitable that there are things out there which are even worse, morally speaking, than us humans. It provides such a wealth of opportunity. So, using an old story idea about the first set of Mars explorers, I was able to get it done. I’ve got no immediate plans for another one, but you never know…

MM: You are one of three of the founding members of Sinister Horror Company, alongside that vile cat-loving Daniel Marc Chant and the locks-people-in-basements Justin Park. What’s it like working with your partners and with Sinister Horror? How do you like working with other horror authors? Do you guys have any big plans down the road?

DPB: Honestly? It can be tricky, you’ve got three people, who have very different ideas on how they do things, and how best to approach growing the small press. It does cause friction, anyone who says otherwise is lying. But…at the end of the day we are all friends, and we find a way to make it work. It’s like a relationship, in that you have to work at it, and whereas before, when we just used to hang out, drink, play video games etc, now we are all responsible for this fledgling company.

I personally have not had much of a working relationship with the other people that have been published to date, or in the pipeline, as they are being dealt with by Justin or Dan. The one obvious exception is Kit Power, when we put GodBomb! out. As soon as I read that premise, I wanted us to be the ones to publish it, and am so glad I managed to speak to Kit and get it sorted.

We’ve got a really packed end of the year coming up, there will be new releases out every few weeks, but I’m quite lucky in one sense, as none of them are mine or I’m connected to. Sounds selfish, but I’ve been non-stop up until now, and I’m looking forward to watching Dan and Justin get some of their work out there. My plan is to try and clear a number of projects I’ve got on the go.

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MM: Okay…let’s talk a little bit about your new book coming out, Hexagram. The cover looks wicked. Can you tell us a little bit about the story? What sub-genre in horror would you label it?

DPB: Cheers fella, appreciate it. The idea for HEXAGRAM, came about from the adage, ‘We are all made of stars’. I wondered what would happen if stardust could be extracted from people, could it be used in some way to create something? From there, I started to write what I thought would be a novella. Typically, as soon as I started it, I thought about the origins of the ritual, and settled on the Inca. Then…my stupid brain suggested that I start with the Inca, and work a set of stories through history, to the modern day, and the story I had started on.

After a bit of going through a number of historical events, I managed to find a path through which I could do it. It became six stories, based on stardust. BOOM, a six pointed star, each point one step closer to the completion of the ritual, starting five hundred years before the climax. For each story, including the Inca tale, I used an actual event as either the foundation, or inspiration. So we have a survivor from the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet, a Confederate soldier at the Battle of Kolbs Farm, a detective with information on one of history’s most notorious serial killers, and the Jonestown Massacre.

In many ways, it is almost a collection, rather than a novel. For people who don’t like reading novels, as they’re ‘too long’, this is essentially five short stories and a novella at the end. As for which sub-genre, I don’t think it really has one. Some of the stories, I’d argue, aren’t particularly horrific. I don’t like aiming to fit my books into pigeonholes, I think it’s just a slightly weird concept, with horror elements. Best thing really, is to go and pick it up yourself. (SHAMELESS PLUG TIME).

MM: In the description, it looks like the book deals with some Inca rituals and shipwrecks, and suicide cults. What kind of research did you have to do with Hexagram?

DPB: When I was working out the chronology, I discarded a number of possible historical events, as I wanted ones which gave me the room to do my own thing in. So, when I did the story based on the Treasure Fleet, I used one of the ships that was never found. Likewise with the American Civil War story, I settled on a relatively small engagement, but which had some cool features in. I checked out some maps on the layout of the town, and in particular, the church.

One thing I get asked about, is the penultimate story, which is based on the Jonestown Massacre. They asked why I didn’t just use the event itself, why make up something? I just felt that using something so recent, which has been pored over by a multitude of journalists, would not enable me to do my own thing. I want people to enjoy the story, not picking holes in it, saying that so and so didn’t do this, or nitpicking the details. This is a work of fiction, so even the other stories use the events as a background, not a slide rule.

MM: The book cover for Hexagram looks freaking sweet. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Who designed it? Did you both get any say in the creative process?

DPB: I love the cover to HEXAGRAM, it’s done by a chap called Mike McGee, who runs Big Foot Studios with his mate, up in Liverpool. I found him when I was after the CLASS THREE cover, and wanted to use him again for the right project. When I finally settled on the book name, I had the idea of having each main character as a point of the star, with a little picture of something within their story. As it’s borne from the Inca, I wanted that golden coin in the middle.

I’m quite a particular person, and covers are no exception. I fully understand that when I write a brief for an artist, that what I will get back will not match it exactly, but it must incorporate a number of the key elements. When I got the black and white drawing back from Mike, I was blown away, he could not have gotten it more perfect. Once I had it, I then made the galaxy background, and it was all done.

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MM: Before we go, can you drop a little hint on future projects you may have cooking?

DPB: I’m working on a horror novel called DEADLOCK, about a retired jewel thief lured out of retirement for one more job. He ends up in Hell, and has to go through a number of trials to try and get what was promised to him. There is a comedy horror book called SUMMONED, about an apocalyptic monster that gets accidentally summoned. This is a multiple narrative book, with a mini comic, and a choose your own adventure, hoping this will be ready early next year.

I also have to finish up the CLASS FOUR trilogy, book two, VERSUS, is next on my list, so looking forward to getting that all done. Typically though, I already have two more books bubbling in my head, one is called AFTERTHOUGHT, and the other unnamed one, is a comedy horror post-apocalyptic book, set during the Brit-Pop years.

This concludes our interview with Duncan P. Bradshaw. We here at Machine Mean wish Duncan the best during his launch of Hexagram, now available on Amazon in both eBook and paperback editions for the mere price of $2.99 and $12.48 respectively.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Sinister Horror Company Website

 

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Duncan P. Bradshaw lives in the county of Wiltshire, nestled around the belly button of southern England, with his wife Debbie, and their two cats, Rafa and Pepe. During the day, he is a mild mannered office goon, doing things which would bore you, if he was forced to tell you. At night, he becomes one with a keyboard, and transforms his weird and wonderful thoughts into words, which people, like you, and me, can read. Why not pop over to his website, http://duncanpbradshaw.co.uk/ or give him a like over on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/duncanpbradshaw or read his ravings on his blog, http://duncanpbradshaw.blogspot.co.uk/

 

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Follow along the tour with these hashtags:  #Hexagram #IncanRituals #HookofaBook

Hexagram, Synopsis

  • File Size:3282 KB
  • Print Length:232 pages
  • Publisher:EyeCue Productions (July 25, 2016)
  • Publication Date:July 25, 2016

Their lands plagued by invaders, the Inca resort to an ancient ritual. By harvesting star dust from people, they hope to accumulate enough to raise the sun god, Inti, and reclaim their lands.

Yet when the collection is interrupted, it sets in motion events which will rattle human history.

Six stories. Six different time periods. One outcome.

We are all made of stars.

When an ancient Inca ritual is interrupted, it sets in motion a series of events that will echo through five hundred years of human history. Many seek to use the arcane knowledge for their own ends, from a survivor of a shipwreck, through to a suicide cult.

Yet…the most unlikeliest of them all will succeed.

Praise for Hexagram

“Hexagram is a visceral journey through the dark nooks and crannies of human history. Lovecraftian terror merges with blood sacrifices, suicide cults and body horror as Bradshaw weaves an intricate plot into an epic tale of apocalyptic dread.” – Rich Hawkins, author of The Last Plague trilogy

“A rip-roaring boy’s own adventure yarn. This novel contains multitudes, and the sheer scale and breadth of the story is exhilarating. A glorious, unhinged thrill ride.” – Kit Power, author of GodBomb!

Praise for Bradshaw’s Writing

“Duncan Bradshaw has a fantastic writing style. He gets you engrossed in the characters from the very outset. His mix of comedy and horror and real life are superb.” – Confessions of a Reviewer

“The true genius of Duncan P. Bradshaw is the rollercoaster ride of words and expressions.  I have never seen an author go from the depths of dark and gore to laugh out loud all within the same paragraph.” – 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“Remember, you’ve now willingly plunged yourself into the mind of Duncan Bradshaw. You’re completely at the mercy of his strange imagination and all the eccentric oddities that his curious mind can conjure up.” – DLS Reviews

“Bradshaw is able to weight the horror set pieces with a dry humour and plenty of laugh out loud moments.” – UK Horror Scene

“One of the first things that I did after reading The Black Room Manuscripts, was to go out and buy Class Three by Duncan Bradshaw. I just found his writing in Time for Tea to have this gleeful kind of undertow to the carnage he wrought on his tea drinkers and wanted to see what his writing was like in a longer format.” – Ginger Nuts of Horror

Purchase Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Sinister Horror Company Website

Want to Feature Duncan Bradshaw?

If you’re a member of the media or a blogger and you’d like to feature Duncan Bradshaw or Hexagram, then please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com

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Do a Book Signing

I recently read an article by a fellow author who kept emphasizing the word “do.” As in, book signing. Not “host,” or “have,” but “do.” And I couldn’t agree more with at least that much of what she had to say, everything else, beyond “doing” is and should be up to the potential author “doing” a book signing. The implied meaning behind “doing” is proactive, the author should be proactive during a book signing. I’m sure you’ve seen those authors, just as I have, perhaps at your local shop or Half Price, cramped inside a tiny space, little to no imagination to the table or placement, and the author sits there, immobile, either glaring at customers as they walk quickly by or at their phone or tablet waiting for that special someone to come to them. And if you are one of the poor sods to ever make eye contact with such a person, the look of desperation will chill you to the bone. Its the look of something kin to saying “I just buried my loved one in the cellar, would you please come buy my book…” And you feel for these authors cause you fear deep down that if you ever did a book signing, that would be you, the strange loner stuck in some hobble corner watching with that same crazy look as people avoid you as if you’d been quarantined by the CDC.

Now, I’m not going to sell you a ketchup popsicle. I’m very new to the game of publishing and recently had my own very first book signing. And I can say with pride and honesty that I too, like you perhaps, was a little nervous meeting and greeting people I did not know and/or being shunned as readers shopped for other peoples books, or laughed and pointed at or worse, became the dreaded disinterested weirdo hawking my wares to no one but an empty table and some smelly fellow calling himself Fernando. So, what did I do to overcome these fears? What did I do to prepare for my book signing event? Where was my location? What did I wear? Etc. etc. Well, I’m so glad you asked!

Let me tell you what I did, and perhaps in reading both my successes and blunders, you can take away something that you can either avoid or implement in your own book signing.

Here’s my list:

  1. Remembering the emphasis “doing,” rather than “having.” Stating the obvious here, but “having” implies inactivity, it implies the author sitting on their rump while thousands of fans are lined up out the door waiting to see you. If this is the case, well…you don’t need to read my ramblings, do you? However, assuming you’re a bit like me, and the fans are not quite lining out the door, you may want to reconsider your game plan. Be proactive. What does that mean? Get off your butt. Walk around, talk, chat. Smile, hand out flyers with your work (more on this later), but please, don’t be weird about it. Just be yourself, so long as yourself isn’t glued to your chair or on your phone. In fact, keep that phone hidden. The only time you should be on your phone is if you’re taking a picture with someone who bought your book and you want to tweet it out. We have a bad habit nowadays (not to get on a rant) with always having something in our hands keeping our attention. The idea of “doing” rather than “having” also implies that you’re there to work. Keep that in mind.
  2. Location. I feel like location will determine a lot of different things, including the proactive emphasis. Some book stores are really cramped and there’s not much room to wander about. And there are other book stores that are so massive, your little table will get swallowed into irrelevancy. Also, some book stores have themes which will determine your attire (we’ll get to that soon). So what do you do? Simple enough, seek out a venue that will suit YOUR needs. If you’re like me, you need your space. Being cramped will do you more harm than good. For my first signing, I went after Barnes & Noble, who are generally super friendly to authors (for B&N you’ll need to get a hold of the Customer Relations Manager or CRM in person or over the phone). If your B&N is like my local B&N, the store is rather large. This is nice on the nerves because your not cramped into a small space, but because of the square footage, people may miss your table among the many other displaces and shelves and what not. What to do? Here’s what I did. Ask the CRM if you can set your table next to the Starbucks. Yup. Don’t scoff. Panhandling to coffee addicts will help boost your table traffic, especially if you’re walking around and talking with them. I did not go inside the Starbucks, I was place strategically outside, quasi near the registers, which made it really helpful when people wanted a signed copy but needed to pay first. Making it easy for potential buyers/readers is the name of the game!
  3. Your table shouldn’t be cluttered. Clutter looks disorganized and unprofessional. Lucky for me, the B&N CRM at my store already had a table, a nice thick wood table, and already had ordered my books and made posters directing people to the event. Just another reason why I love and will certainly go back to B&N for any future book signings. On my table I had, obviously, the books B&N ordered for the signing, a stack of flyers with my backlog (all my work), bookmarks, and business cards, a note pad (for spelling out people’s names), a large bowl of candy (the good stuff, not leftover Halloween or Easter crap) and a couple of fine point acid free pens. That was pretty much it. Your table will be YOUR table, so decorate as you see fit, just be sure to discuss whatever you do with the store and/or CRM, and so long as you avoid clutter, AND be sure not to bring along books not sold at B&N, if the store has agreed to order your books for the signing, keep to those books. Your backlog flyer will point people to your other works. In conclusion regarding the table, I considered my table as the base of operations, but as any decent troop will tell you, you need to get out into the field, whilst keeping a close eye on your base of operations.
  4. Materials of obsession…i.e. FREE STUFF!!! As mentioned above, I had bookmarks, business cards, and candy, all free. Now my experience may differ from yours, but folks coming to my table were not very interested in the free candy. I did however ensure every book signed came with one bookmark and a business card, both or at least one of these should include your information, as in where the reader can find you in the vastness of cyberspace, you may want to include your Facebook info, Twitter, and blog. The one thing I forgot to include on my table, and I’m kicking myself in the butt for it, is the newsletter signup sheet. So…ya…you’re going to want to do better than me.
  5. Attire. Again, depending on your book store, dress accordingly. For me, B&N is kinda a nice place, I dressed in slacks and a nice polo. You may want to consider something between full on hobo and wedding attire. You don’t want to look unprofessional, but you also don’t want to overdress (unless the book store has a theme and/or part of your pro-activity is wearing a costume that has to do with the book you are signing, such as fantasy book wizard robes or maybe crime thriller James Bond-esk tuxedos). Some basic rules ought to apply regardless of theme, deodorant, do not go heavy on the cologne or perfume, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. Bathing would also be helpful.
  6. Attitude. This should be a no brainier, but I feel it must be said, cause we’ve all seen those authors at signings that act like crazed loons selling severed heads in baskets. Don’t be that person, don’t have an angry face, especially not when people are not coming to your table. Don’t be overly pleasant either, too pleasant comes off sounding fake. Be yourself, but as stated from the beginning, also be proactive. If someone is not interested in your flyer or your book, say thank you and walk away. Don’t start with “do you want to buy my book.” Give the reader a reason. Be normal. Here’s what I did, I walked around the store, keeping a close eye on my base of operations (table) and approached people I felt wouldn’t mind being talked to and asked if they would like a flyer. Most people did. This is your foot in the door. Next, I told them who I was and what I was doing at the store. I kept it short and sweet, mentioning the books I was signing, generally, theme or genre, nothing too in-depth. So, chin up solider. If people are not flocking to your table consider what I’ve mentioned above, but also keep in mind the store traffic. Its been a while since I was last in retail, but customers come in waves. Be prepared for that. ALSO, if you think a book signing event is about selling book you might want to adjust your thinking. A book signing is only marginally about selling books; the most important part of a book signing is talking with your potential readers. Selling you more than your books.
  7. Book Manager. If you don’t have an official BM, get one, or get a close friend or family member to help you out at the signing. This was something I did not plan for but by some strange miracle my BM from another publisher drove 3 hours from her place of residence to help me with my book signing. My BM had asked previously if I needed help, and me being who I am (taking no help typically from others) said no. But she came anyway and stayed the entire slotted time (11-2) and even almost 2 hours extra, cause the CRM was cool and let me stay as long as I wanted. What did my BM do? She helped talk with folks coming to my table, which was super helpful when I was engaged with another potential customer. She helped guide people to my backlog, promoting my other work and not just the books I was signing. Basically, a BM ought to be an extra hand, helping guide store shoppers to you. This was something I did not plan, but helped tremendously. Plus, the help passerby’s think you’re not alone at your table, other people are interested, maybe they should be too. As in nature, a flock draws crowd. Maybe not right away, for those readers who are introverts, but once the crowd disperses, they’ll approach, or send their kid, as with a few who ended up purchasing my books did.

And I think that’s about the whole enchiladas. The event went fantastic. Having and following the above items helped aleve tension and nervousness and kept me away from the always dreaded loony tunes stigma. I walked and talked with a lot of interesting people, including a few veterans who were likewise interested in writing, which is awesome for me because I too am a veteran interested in writing. I learned more about my audience as well. I had a general idea/stereotype of who reads thrillers and dark fiction, however, the majority of those who bought my books were ordinary (as in, not scary goth kids), in fact one was a wife of a WWII Screaming Eagles veteran, how freaking cool is that! Bottom line, was I hesitant about getting away from my bubble? Yes. Profoundly so. My bubble is safe and warm and far removed from crowds and strangers. But I’m glad I did. I think coming prepared mentally helped a lot too. And most of all, having my BM from Booktrope show up to help was a very nice added bonus. I have little doubt having her there helped pull in more readers than what I could have done on my own. There’s a wise saying, “For every Solo, there is a Chewbacca” (sorry Lauren, not calling you a furry Wookie).

How did I do? Well, unfortunately I forgot to have a newsletter sign up sheet, so without the sheet, its kinda hard to gauge how many people came up to my table to talk and/or purchase my books. I can say though that B&N ordered 40 copies (20 each of Dwelling and Emerging) and in the end, there was only 6 total books leftover (some sold after I left the event). Not to brag, but from what I’ve been told by other authors and by the B&N CRM, that is a fantastic sells %. And I have been asked by the CRM to sign the rest of the books because they want to keep them and sell them, AND if I would be interested in a future signing event. I’d like to think, a huge part of my success was what was done in the items mentioned above. In closing, if you’re new to book signings, I hope my experience helped you in some way. If by chance you’re an old pro, please, share your experience and/or suggestions for budding authors in the comments section below.

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Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of terror. He grew up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, but in 2001, left home to enlist in the U.S. Army. Following his third tour in Iraq, Thomas moved to Houston, Texas where he now lives with his beautiful bride and amazing daughter. Thomas attended night school, with a focus on creative writing and history. In 2014, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from UHCL. Thomas blogs at machinemean[dot]org where he reviews movies, books, and other horror related topics.