Tuesday, March 24, 2015





Melissa Stevens is my Woman In Horror today! Melissa not only writes some bone-chilling horror, but she is a fantastic artist as well.  In fact, some of the anthologies she's in have cover art done by her. Melissa, like many horror authors, finds that releasing terrors from within the soul  in non-violent ways, such as writing and her art, works rather nicely.

In Melissa's words:

Melissa Stevens is a self-taught cover designer and author.

Since breaking into the writerly world several years ago, she has rediscovered her love for creating--whether it be through words or art. For the past three years she has been focusing more as a cover designer and building her reputation for quality work.

Her first cover was The Evolution of a Conceptual God: Navigating the Landmines, by Jim Vires. Illustrations to Phibby Venable's book, The Wind is my Wine, was her next artistic accomplishment. Since breaking into the art business, she has managed to create several book covers, and plans to keep making more.

She has several published works in the Vicious Horror Anthologies and one short story in The Corner Club Press' debut issue.  Two of her shorts were included in I Believe in Werewolves, published by NetBound Publishing, The Lake included in Dangers Untold anthology, and another short story to be published in Spirits of the Night, an anthology of ghost stories.

She lives with her husband, daughter, an unruly cat and one puppy in rural East Tennessee.

If you would like to be in touch, please contact her by TheIllustratedAuthor@gmail.com

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I picked this link up from off Melissa's website  http://www.theillustratedauthor.net/book-covers.html This will give you an idea of the great covers she has done for many authors.Obviously, since the statement Melissa made above, she has been hard at work with her art. I might be a little biased, but I consider The cover and interior work Melissa did for Sideshow to be her crowning glory so far. Full page, full color art, and it is gorgeous. Who knows what she will come up with in the future?

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Amazon Bio:

Melissa Stevens is a self-taught author and illustrator.

She has several published works in the Vicious Horror Anthologies and one short story in The Corner Club Press' debut issue. Two of her shorts were included in I Believe in Werewolves, published by NetBound Publishing, and 'The Lake' was accepted into Dangers Untold, with another short story published in Spirits of the Night, an anthology of ghost stories.

Her first cover was The Evolution of a Conceptual God: Navigating the Landmines, by Jim Vires. Illustrations to Phibby Venable's book, The Wind is my Wine, was her next artistic accomplishment. Since breaking into the art business, she has managed to create several book covers, and plans to keep making more.

She lives with her husband, daughter and two unruly cats in rural East Tennessee.

If you would like to contact her, please visit www.theillustratedauthor.net

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Story time!


Book Description
October 10, 2014
Come one, come all! The Sideshow has come to town! This isn't your usual freak show, we have wonders to show you that you will not find anyplace else. Marvel at the Human Illumine, lose yourself in the Amazing Mirror Maze. Come for the Last Show of the Day! We have it all. But be careful, not all is as it appears...danger may lurk in the shadows. There are some things that should be kept in the dark. Ticket please...

5.0 out of 5 stars Sideshow October 15, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Fantastic! Just what I needed to curl up with and turn everything else off!
Kathy Peck 
5.0 out of 5 stars A good scary anthology November 4, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good scary anthology! I love the illustrations which give this book a very vintage circus feel. There is a good variety of psychological horror, monsters and gore and supernatural mystery. My favorite stories so far at Punch and Judy, Tattoo and Karma Carnival. It just keeps getting better each story I read.

Especially recommended for fans of American Horror Story Freakshow. It has a lot of the same throw back feel but even more horror! 
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 Poly-Artist, Melissa Stevens Melissa StevensTo be an author, you must be willing to become another person, to pull your characters’ skin tight around you and see life through their eyes … and then destroy it, intent on creating something even better.
                       —Melissa Stevens

Putting together our lineup of authors, it’s amazing the number of poly-artists we have.  You, for example, a musician—piano player and instructor—a painter, illustrator—book covers, interior art, logos, signs, banners—and, finally, an author, short stories and poems … and to think you’re just starting.
When did you first discover this artistic bent, and in multiple mediums?  Were you a child?  Did these various talents develop in tandem or sequentially?  And who were your mentors and/or cheerleaders?
Hmmm.  Well, as far as the music part of me goes, I started playing piano around four or five.  I remember going to my aunt’s house for lessons and waiting on my cousin to get off the bus.  So I know I was not yet in school.  I continued because it was [and is] an outlet.  A way to let off stress and express my feelings.
Artist-wise, I don’t feel you can confine creativity.  From the time I was able to hold a pencil, I created something.  Wasn’t always pretty, but … practice, right?  In elementary school, we had book reports, which I hated.  But, you got to draw your favorite scene from the book—which I loved.  In middle school, I wrote (bad) poetry and a book that was a rip off of a Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew mesh, and actually entered them in a contest.  Always was art in my life, and to prove it, I still have the sketch pads.
In high school, art was my go-to.  And for college, well, I really wanted to go to art school.  But the funding was not there, so I chose a different career path.  And college was the time I rediscovered my love for writing, though I didn’t do a lot of it until I had reconstructive surgery and was housebound for several months.  I’ve found a lot of different outlets.  Cake decorating, writing, cross stitch, knitting, gardening (yes, gardening), but something I could do for months on end without being bored?  Digital painting.  I love it.  And that’s come about only in the past few years.
I can’t say I had any mentors.  That may sound harsh, but art/writing has always been something I do for myself, and only in the past six years have I went public with any of my work.  I work hard on my own.  And occasionally, I make myself proud.
My cheerleaders are my daughter and husband.  They make me want to push myself.  My grandmother also played a large part in me becoming active in the writing and art world.  Before she passed, I would read her some of my stories, and then being the great grandmother she was, she would praise me repeatedly, and tell me not to give up my dream.
Growing up, who were your favorite authors?  Who were they in your teens?  And now as an adult?
Okay, so there is this book, which I am going to order for my daughter, that I read when I was in elementary school.  Actually, it’s an entire series.  Bunnicula, written by James Howe (and his wife, for the first one).  It’s about a vampire bunny that drinks carrots dry, and I remember staying up late to read them.  Loved the series.  And obviously, I started my supernatural phase at a young age.  Something Wicked This Way Comes was my first true novel, which I also read in elementary school, and got in trouble with my mother because it had “language” in it.
Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys I ate through as fast as I could find them.  Also were the Sweet Valley High and The Babysitter’s Club series that I was in love with (and still own, thank you very much).  I found The Incarnations of Immortality in early middle school, and drove my parents crazy hunting down the last two of the series.  But not until a friend gave me a Dean Koontz novel did I truly find a passion for horror.  Within a year I had read all the horror in my high school library, and afterwards quickly sucked down thrillers and mysteries.  Watchers was my introduction, and I think I’ve read that story a half dozen times.  I moved quickly through Dean Koontz and started Stephen King, and really, those are still my two favorite authors.  For a classic author, it has to be Poe.
Now, I’m still a sucker for Koontz and King, and will always be a fan of Poe.  As you can see, I have a problem with series, and tend to stay within my comfort zone.  I can also now add Charlaine Harris and Jonathan Mayberry to my list of favorites.  What I cannot stand, and what a certain best-selling author does with every one of his novels, is having cookie-cutter outlines or plots.  Once you’ve read one book by the author, you know what will happen in every one after.  The only things that change are the names.  I want originality.
In a recent interview with Lisa Morton, dark fiction author Sarah Langan mentioned that during her college days, she found the sentimentality in Stephen King’s work a bit off-putting.  That King’s kids were already born when Carrie was published, whereas she didn’t have any children during the publishing of her first three books.  Langan went on to say: “These days, I find myself saying really cheesy things [now that she’s married and has a daughter] that never would have come out of my mouth ten years ago, like, ‘I’m so in love with you.  You and your sister and your daddy are my whole world.’  If I’d read something like that, pre-kids, I’d have assumed it was made-up bullshit.”
So, with you, did you find that your written work changed once you had a family?  Is it still changing?  And what about your other endeavors, from your artwork to your music, how have they been influenced?  Or how does all your artistic endeavors influence each other?
When I was pregnant, everyone told me I would have plenty to write about once mySideshow Pain daughter was born.  And it’s true—some of the things she comes up with, well, they should be filmed because that’s the only way people would believe it.  And now at four, when she makes up her own stories (some quite detailed), I am a very proud mama.  But with my written work, nothing has really changed.  I’ve always been cheesy and romantic, so yeah … that didn’t change.  All of my female characters are either barren or childless, because that was me for many, many years.  I’ve not deviated from that because if I write horror, I don’t want to include children.  I never write about children being abused, or murdered, or anything horrid, but it’s not all because I have a child.  Partly, sure.  But even before I had a family, I could never write something like that.  Some writers are proud that they can write about anything, and kudos to them.  I’m proud I don’t write about everything.  Some horrors are better left unsaid.
Of course, my daughter has influenced me in subtle (and not so subtle) ways.  She is an integrated part of my life that I will always feel blessed to have.  Her true influence hasn’t been an overt part of my preferred subject matter, no, but she has given me the ability to be confident with my work.  And maybe, just maybe, she’ll want to follow along in her mother’s footsteps.
As far as my artistic endeavors influencing each other, I don’t think they do.  Everyone has a right and left hemisphere of the brain … well, I think I have about four other hemispheres.  Writing, playing the piano, and painting all seem to originate differently inside me.  When I play, I am rigid in the notes I hit, but I am passionate in the tonal shading.  When I write, wanting readers to become absorbed by my words, I strive to find the right combination.  And when I paint, I go with my gut and ride it ’til the end.
It’s been said that if writers don’t always have high IQs (intelligence quotients), they most certainly need high EQs (emotional quotients).  That it’s a must in order to connect with characters, the ability to feel their pains and joys—even with villains.  This seems, too, to echo the quoted sentiment of yours heading this page, that of the need to be willing to become another person.  But apparently, this need isn’t limited to just the written word.  Reading some of the posted testimonials on your site The Illustrated Author, there’s the following running thread concerning your book covers:
…  Patty Green of Chicago, who described Melissa’s cover job as “dark, but crisp and powerful,” said that when she was done reading Someday Always Comes she re-examined the cover to find story elements present there….
…  Stevens is not only a craftsman who understand the importance of quality art, be it a book’s front or back cover, or any internal illustrations, what with all of the necessary aesthetics involved, but she’s one who first understands a cover has to carry a book’s theme, its message, verily, its heart!  ….
…  Mel has the unique mind of both a writer and an artist, which lends her the vision to really embody a book in its cover. She took my idea and turned it into something beautiful and sexy….
…  She used her talents to manufacture designs for me that were almost right out of my mind….
How does this … well, sense of empathy work?  Can it even be described?  When did you notice it, and how have you honed it?  And, if it’s a given with your writing and artwork, do you also find it working with your music?
Ha, well, I hate to burst your bubble, but really, it’s just called “listening.”  I understand that the cover art is what sells the book beyond … say, an author’s immediate circle of friends.  One thing I refuse to do is create pre-made covers, because that cover has nothing to do with the book itself.  How can it, when it was made weeks or months before the book was finished?  No, I want all that blood, sweat, and plenty of tears that went into that novel, to be splashed across the front of that novel.  And I listen very carefully to what the author says about his or her book.  Not necessarily the plot, but the woven story itself.  And I research.  I study other covers, I search other sites that create covers, and I look for what drives me to click on that thumbnail in a sea of thousands of others.  After all, I’m a reader, too.
There is one other thing I use.  Some people see numbers as colors or feelings.  When someone tells me about their novel, I see a color.  And that becomes the base I work from.  From there, I have what I lovingly call The Click.  Intuition, if you will, or perhaps there is some odd wiring in my brain.  It’s hard to describe, but when I’m working and I think I’m close to being done, I’ll stop, zoom out, and look at the picture I’m working on.  If it clicks, I’m golden.  If it doesn’t, then I’m far from being through.  I can say without a doubt, I’ve scrapped many a piece to begin anew three-quarters of the way through.
But that is just in my art.  I don’t have that click with my written words, and part of that, I believe, is because I’m not as confident with my writing as I am with my art.  It’s a different kind of thought process. The same goes with music.  I’m much more rigid in how I play than how I draw.
With publishing having gone through—and still going through—such major upheavals of change, what are your thoughts on how a budding writer might proceed?  And if they’re looking to make a living, which route might be best: indie, legacy, or self-publishing?  With your own work, for which do you find a more accepting marketplace, your stories or your art?
First, if they are looking to make a living from writing, they need to back up and take a good, long look at the industry.  Very few authors can truly make a living from writing fiction.  For a budding writer, I would suggest starting with short stories, and make a name in the writing community first, before tackling that elusive novel.  A novel is hard work, and in choosing a route, it all depends on the person.  I know writers in all three routes, and this is what I see.  You have to be dedicated, and hardworking, for all three.  More so for self-publishing.  You also have to be willing to handle the business side of writing.  (Yes, there is more to it than just throwing down words.)  You have to be a go-getter and willing to commit the time to research blog hops, tours, PR, cover designers (I should mention, there is a difference between artist and designer), editors and formatting, all for the love of your novel.  And then, there is cost.  As a self-publisher, be prepared to spend plenty of money for all the above.  And, don’t go cheap on the cover or editing.  If you are still dedicated and hardworking, but don’t have the upfront money, go indie or legacy.  Indie will work with your ideas better than legacy, but be prepared to pull a lot of weight on the PR side, out of your own pocket.  Legacy is a business.  They look for what will sell, not necessarily what is well written.  Don’t expect to have much say-so, either.  If you are a control freak, legacy is not your friend.
With my own work, it’s a toss up.  I feel as though I am known more in the writerly community for my stories, but my art is beginning to pull ahead.  Cover artists/designers don’t really have a community (at least not one that I’ve yet found), so I don’t have a foothold in that world.  Now I am trying to just have authors see me as both a writer and an artist.
With “Anna,” your Sideshow story, without giving away any spoilers, what was your inspiration?
Actually, my inspiration came from a piece of art I created for Sideshow—A Living Doll.  From there, it took on a life of it’s own … and if I tell you too much more, you’ll know the story.
With Sideshow, you’re not only a contributing author, but also the sole artist behind the cover and the interior work.  What process did you go through to come up with such perfect images?  And with each, in their own right, a gem, how did you find a way to have all the pieces fit together as a greater whole?
Carnivals and sideshows are fascinating.  They are a world within our world, and with their own rules.  I took my fascination and attempted to mold it into an image after reading each story.
The great thing about this anthology is the versatility of the writings, which plays into the sideshow theme.  Each act is its own, held together by a big striped tent.  I took the stories and pulled little nuggets from each to create the artwork.  Each piece of art can stand by itself, a dedication to the author.  I wanted a Tales From the Crypt feel—you know, in the beginning of each short, they showed a piece of artwork that told about the story.  Something that didn’t give the story away, just added to it, until the end, when you finished and went, “That’s why that horse’s leg was sitting on a bench!”
To tie them together, I used the background.  Every work has the same background, that same tent, if you will, and the same type of banner.  That’s it.  That’s how the sideshows do it, and I figured, they’ve been around for a long time, so they must know what they’re doing.
What words of wisdom would you give a budding writer, and what warnings?
If you’re in it for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reason.  If you’re in it to tell the story, then you’ll become a good writer.  Listen to others, but don’t change yourself to fit their mold.  Make your own mold, taken from the experience of others, lots of hard work, and lots of research.  And don’t stop.  It’s easy to quit.  It takes a lot to keep going.
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.  There are a lot of scam artists out there, ready to swindle you out of money.  Do your research, ask questions.  If they are legit, they’ll be happy to answer you.  Don’t take rejections personally.  This is a business, after all.  You don’t take it personal when a cashier holds your twenty up to the light to make sure it’s real.  Publishers and agents see more slush in a week than we can write in our lifetime.  You are a piece of paper to them.  It’s up to your words to make them see you as a person.
Will you give us a teaser about your next writing project?
My latest writing project is a novel called Wellings Farm.  I’m trying hard to keep it a thriller, but supernatural tendencies want to keep creeping in.  Without giving too much away, it’s about a serial killer stalking a family whose cranberry farm is about to get hit by a severe storm (flooding, tornadoes, all that good stuff).  Here’s an excerpt:
THE ROOM was dark, with only a thin sliver of gold light illuminating an L shape in one corner of the room.  He sat in the opposite corner, fixated on the dim glow and waiting on her to awaken.  Her face was void of any makeup, letting him see her features better, and unconscious in her bed. He had taken the liberty of unplugging her digital alarm and moved the small lamp on her nightstand to the floor next to him.  Pictures littered the floor around him, all unseen in the darkness but committed to his memory.  A military green duffel bag lay beside the bed, one he brought in from his stolen car.  She tossed for a moment, the sheets rustling and dragging his attention to her, but she fell silent once again.
He was patient.
He could wait.
A small jolt of pain sluiced up the nape of his neck as he drew his head down to control it as much as possible.  A migraine was building in his head, already.  He closed his eyes and gazed unseeing at the floor until the wave of nausea left.
She could be her sister, really.  Everything about her matched; her hair, her petite form, her lips.  Everything but her eyes.  They were the wrong color, the wrong shape.  He had been so excited to sit down at her booth, certain of her, until she turned to face him.  Disappointment had flooded through him, making him almost sick to his stomach until he could control his emotions.
“So close…,” he whispered.
A moan escaped her, followed by a whimper.
She was awake.
Melissa Stevens2
Need a book cover?  Want to hear about Melissa’s latest projects?  Then visit her Website, located here.  Or check out her Amazon author page, located here.

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Dangers Untold

Book Description

September 25, 2012
"We think a monster can at least be killed; it's flesh and blood.
Therefore it can die.
If it doesn't die, it will always be there—lurking in our shadows."

Dangers Untold isn’t your normal horror anthology; not a vampire, zombie or werewolf to be found. Filled with unusual monsters and unexpected terror, Dangers Untold is a series of seventeen short stories from horror industry professionals who have a different take on what makes for good horror. From a legend come true to hidden artifacts in the ice to a child’s playmate, these tales will creep in through the cracks when you aren’t looking to linger in your mind long after you have closed the book. Keep the lights on because you’re about to read Dangers Untold.

This anthology, presented by The Horror Society and edited by award-winning editor Jennifer Brozek, Dangers Untold features stories by Gary Braunbeck, Erik Scott de Bie, Jason V Brock, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Nathan Crowder, and Ryan Macklin. Cover art by Shane Tyree.
4.0 out of 5 stars Definite Halloween read! September 29, 2012
By Jamie
Format:Kindle Edition
Positives: Not a zombie in site! This anthology made a point to seek out different angles on horror. The classics are great, but there is a lot more out there and you will find it here. Oracle bones that bleed, sea monsters of old, piecing together the soul, soul collectors... this collection is challenging and bold in scope.

A few standouts:

A Monstrous Touch by Marty Young
Mutes by Rob Smales
Beware the Nuckelavee by David Price
The Dybbuk Wife by Lillian Cohen-Moore
The Oracle Bone by B.E. Scully
The Lake by Melissa Stevens
Man With A Canvas Bag by Gary A. Braunbeck

Negatives: Any anthology is never going to please everyone all the time. There were a few silly ones, a few that went too far out on a limb, and one that went so far out it never came back.

Summary: A solid collection and well worth adding to your Halloween haunt list! 
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual monsters and chills! March 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
As much as we all love zombies, werewolves, and vampires, it’s refreshing now and then to run across stories or novels that tread different ground. To me, horror can and should be an unlimited genre. What’s more creepy than a storm late at night or a creaking floorboard when you are sure you are alone? The haunting sound of footsteps out of the fog? The Dangers Untold anthology is a reminder that horror need not always come in the Universal Monsters package.

This collection deliberately set out to challenge writers beyond the usual horror suspects. Where can your imagination take you when you look beyond the usual? When can the normal become abnormal? The authors presented here step up to the plate quite nicely. We have a wide range of nightmarish scenarios laid out before us. Scientists unleash a strange energy source that turns our modern technology against us with sinister results. Evil lurking just beyond our dimension breaks through to horrific results. Ancient monsters lurk in dark Scottish lochs. Jewish ghost tales and Chinese oracles add a distinctly international flavor that was quite interesting. These are tales of our inner demons, monstrous creations, and sinister beings of which we are not aware.

Whenever authors take chances, there will of course be failure. Some of the stories in this anthology went so far down the rabbit hole of strange they became rather lost. There were those that for some reason just did not stand out from the larger collection. Weak characters or too many loose threads perhaps. Those weak stories do not however, outweigh the ambitious creativity in the outstanding gems. This anthology is a different breed of horror. While the classics never go out of style, it’s refreshing to discover new nightmares, new evils, and old things resurrected afresh.

Originally published at Horror Novel Reviews 
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As you can see from the first review, Melissa's story was one of the reviewer's favorites. And so it should have been.

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I believe In Werewolves

Book Description

July 1, 2011
Teeth, fangs and claws, rent flesh, and howls in the night send fear as the creatures that were once men bring terror and death to those they encounter. Werewolves, vicious demons of the night, hunt for prey as their hell curse drives them to a destiny undreamed by them as men.

Netbound Publishing is pleased to announce what will be the first in a series of horror collections that will become an integral part of their “Night Terrors” imprint.

We've gathered together the best in independent horror authors to create a fresh and exciting anthology that will leave you wanting to howl at the moon. Your screams will fill the night as you read from one story to the next, each more terrifying than the last, as Werewolves feast on your nerves.

Afternoon Tea by Jennifer Tucker, Winter Moon by John Irvine, Justice Comes With The Moon by Jeremiah Coe, The Hunger Within by Elizabeth Kolodziej, Werewolves Of Mauvin by Robert A. Read, The Reunion by Melissa Stevens, No Poaching Allowed by Rob M. Miller, Lily's Angel by Shawn Pfister, The Lycaning by Lori R. Lopez, Parenting - Not For The Faint Of Heart by Scott M. Goriscak, Lakota Justice by Blaze McRob, For The Good Of The Fatherland by Mary L. Underwood, Queen Of The Dogs by Lee Pletzers, Once Bitten - Not So Shy by Sirrah Medeiros, Lie Canthropy by Jerry McKinney, The Seventh Son by Melissa Stevens, Mouretta by Linda M. Lovecraft, Solitary by Michael Bertolini, Wolf Killer by Mikel B. Classen, The Investigation by Jennifer Tucker

5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend October 31, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I do not often read werewolves stories often but I got asked to review this and well since it is Halloween time and did not have any plans for the weekend I decided to read this.
Wow! What a great bunch of stories.Some were longer and others and some I did enjoy more than others but it kept me reading up to the end of the entire ebook. None of these stories scared me but I am not easy to scare.

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Read November 5, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Overall I enjoyed this collection. Some tales were better than others, but that's to be expected. 
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Melissa has two great stories in this fantastic anthology. And she did the cover art!
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Well, there you have it. Melissa does many things supremely well. Author or artist and more: she is a master.
Melissa Stevens is a Woman In Horror!
Blaze McRob. 


Dangers Untold by Gary Braunbeck, Erik Scott de Bie, Lillian Cohen-Moore and Ryan Macklin (Sep 25, 2012)


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I Believe In Werewolves by Mikel Classen, Linda M. Lovecraft and Melissa Stevens (Jul 1, 2011)


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Sideshow by Melissa Stevens, Phil Hickes, S. MacLeod and Leigh M. Lane (Oct 10, 2014)


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