Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Christmas Takeover 31: Stevie Kopas

Happy New Year
By: Stevie Kopas

Christmas was supposed to be different this year.  Just last week I'd arrived back in my home town for the holidays.  I didn't tell anyone I was coming; I had just left Garrison and decided to go back home.

            I was going to set things right.  I hadn't talked to my sister, my only living kin, in years, and I'd hoped that we could set our differences aside and become a family again.  Whatever friends I once had, I was going to make things right with them as well, but on the days leading up to Christmas Eve last Saturday, I found that no one was returning my calls or responding to texts.  Facebook messages went unanswered and even when I dropped by my sister's house and rang the bell, only the barking dog beyond the locked door was there to greet me.

            I ended up at a diner, eating a simple meal alone on Christmas Eve.  The place was dead, save for my waitress; I could see her eyeing me with pity as she stared at me shoveling mashed potatoes and gravy into my mouth.  Christmas music played on the old speakers, reminding me that this was just another year that I'd spend alone during what was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  The waitress sat down across from me in the small booth and slid a chocolate milkshake to me.

            "On the house," she'd said with a smile.

            I smiled back; she'd reassured me that, while my old hometown had changed quite a bit since I'd been gone, there was still good here.  For the remainder of the meal, she'd sat with me, at first making small talk, but then we got to know one another.  She was a simple woman named Gladys, a churchgoer and a volunteer on most weekends down at the children's center.  I told Gladys my story, expecting her to run off and abhor me just as the rest of the people in my life had done without reason, but she told me a story of forgiveness and placed her hand on mine.

            "Everyone deserves a second chance."

            That's where I got my idea for the New Year's Eve party.  Gladys was a genius.  A party was the best way to get everyone in one place and to go into the new year with a sense of togetherness and joy.  A new year and a new beginning for me, for everyone, but I was staying in a motel and that was no place for a party.

            Gladys offered to throw the party at her apartment, and I sincerely felt like I was the luckiest person in the world all of a sudden.

            Over the next week, my calls continued to go unanswered and people were still ignoring me as if I didn't exist.  I kept thinking that I ought to just give up - no one wanted me back in town, no one wanted to forgive and start over.  I called Gladys and told her that I wanted to cancel the party; I didn't see a point in trying anymore if no one would even give me the time of day.

            "Don't give up," she told me.  "You'll find a way to get everyone together."

            I don't know why I trusted Gladys so much - I didn't even know her - but something about her voice on the phone comforted me, made me think that everything was going to be alright.  So I took her advice and didn't give up.  The following day, New Year's Eve, I set about getting everyone together at Gladys's apartment.  Surely no one was going to judge me on the place - there was barely enough time to plan a party; I couldn't even think about decorating.

            Gladys talked me through the whole thing.  I had to be the ultimate party host, so I set about picking everyone up and bringing them back to her place, one by one.  She even came with me to pick up my sister, Amelia.  It was a bittersweet reunion, and I was lucky Gladys was there with me.  I liked her, liked having a new friend that cared about me.  She understood how important the holidays were and how important it was for me to get everyone together to make things right.

            Back at her apartment, it was nearly ten o'clock, two hours to midnight.  Two hours to the new year!  Everyone was so excited.  My ex, Samantha - I hadn't seen her in years - she'd changed so much.  Her hair was super short now, but she was still so beautiful.  We'd been high school sweethearts.  I didn't mind that she was married now; it was nice of her and her husband to both come to the party.  They sat together at the dining room table, eyes fixed on one another.  I couldn't help but smile, though I was a tad jealous.  It was rather romantic.

            My best friend from high school, Todd, and his roommate, Joey, hung out by the television like a couple of couch potatoes.  I still remembered Todd's favorite beer - several empty cans strewn about the coffee table and his clothes were soaked with it.  He was already wasted.  It made me laugh.  I wondered if he'd make it to midnight drinking at that rate.  My other friends from high school that still lived in town - Jacob, Mary, and Frank - were gathered around the cheap card table I'd set up for more seating.  They kept to themselves mostly; understandable - it'd been so long since we were all together, a little awkwardness and shyness was to be expected.

            Amelia stared at me from the recliner, an empty look of disdain on her face.  I know she'd forgiven me, but she still didn't seem like she wanted to be there.  Gladys was the only one really doing any talking.  I asked her to sit with Amelia for a bit, try to help her warm up to everyone while I filled drinks.  They seemed to be getting along okay.

            As the time ticked on, everyone was starting to liven up a bit.  We played some party games; I won every single round of charades!  It was hilarious; no one seemed to understand the concept of the game, which was a bit frustrating, but hey, I don't ever win anything, so I was totally okay with it.

            I turned the volume up on the television as midnight approached and gathered everyone in the living room.

            "Let's raise our glasses for a quick toast," I instructed, and everyone obliged.

            I looked to Gladys and she gave me an encouraging nod.

            "I'm so glad you could all make it here tonight.  This is all I've thought about since I've been away... getting you all in one place so that I could make things right between us.  I know none of you thought that this evening was ideal, but that doesn't matter.  You're all here now, and I couldn't be happier to start the new year with anyone else."

            I made my way around to everyone so we could touch our glasses together - a toast to a fresh start, a toast to the new year - and then the countdown started and the ball began to drop.


            I shouted.


            I looked from face to face.


            Everyone was here.


            Everyone that I'd missed the last thirteen years.


            And they were all smiling at me.


            Someone was knocking at the door.


            Had I forgotten someone?


            Surely, I hadn't.


            The pounding on the door was getting louder.


            My welcome to the new year was interrupted as the front door was smashed open.  I dropped my drink and stared in awe as several police officers poured into Gladys's home, weapons pointed at me.  One of them suddenly became sick and began vomiting in the living room.  I dropped to the ground as instructed by another officer, confused and scared - why would they interrupt my party like this?  Why were they ruining New Year's Eve?

            "Jesus Fucking Christ," one of them said, as another cuffed my hands behind my back.

            Why were they doing this to me?  I shouted for Gladys, struggling to find her in the room.  The officer dug his knee into my back and ordered me to stay still.  I screamed for Gladys, but she wasn't there.  Why did she leave me?

            "Gladys was never there, Gabriel," someone said to me.

            And suddenly I wasn't in my apartment anymore.  I was in an office, sitting across from a man I recognized.  His desk was tidier than anything I'd ever seen in my life.

            "Dr. Fields?"

            "Yes, Gabriel.  I'm here."


            I said her name and suddenly I couldn't remember what she looked like.  I desperately searched my head for her face, for the clothes she was wearing the night I first met her in the diner, but all I cold seem to recall was the angry waiter who'd thrown me out for disturbing the other customers.

            "Where did she go?  Where's Gladys?"

            "Gabriel," he said sternly.  "Gladys was never there.  The apartment you were in belonged to a man named Kevin Price.  He worked at the diner.  Do you remember what happened to Kevin?"

            My head began to swim; I couldn't place my finger on just one thought or memory.  There were too many of them, but the angry waiter, I did remember him.

            "He slept through the party.  He was in his bed.  Gladys lied!  She told me it was her apartment!"

            Dr. Fields leaned back in his chair.  "Calm down, Gabriel.  And listen to my words.  Gladys was never there."

            I repeated the words back to him.

            "That's right, Gabriel," Dr. Fields said, adjusting his glasses on his face.  "Now, can you remember what really happened at the New Year's Eve party?"

            I began to sweat as all the memories came crashing into the forefront of my mind like a freight train.  Amelia, my sister... lifeless in the recliner, her dead gaze set straight ahead.  Samantha and her husband, their throats slashed, lying side by side on the dining room table in a pool of blood.  Todd and Joey, blue faces with telephone wire still tightly wrapped around their necks.  The others... Jacob, Mary, Frank... hands and feet tied, their bodies lifeless on the floor around the card table, throats cut wide open.  And that waiter... dead in his bed, his head smashed in...

            "No!" I shouted, bringing my hands up to my head.  I hit myself over and over to make the memories go away.  "It's not real!  None of this is real!"

            Dr. Fields pressed a button on his desk as I continued to scream.  He put those thoughts in my head; none of it was real.  It couldn't be.

            "Gabriel, calm down," he said as two men in white entered the office and grabbed hold of me. "We made great progress today; we'll try again tomorrow."

            The two men restrained me and dragged me from my seat.  I tried to fight them, but they were much too strong.  One of them injected me with something and I suddenly began to feel weak; I could barely move.

            I heard Dr. Fields; he sounded a million miles away.

            "Keep him restrained and under twenty-four-hour surveillance.  The patient is still prone to self-harm."

            I couldn't wrap my head around everything that was happening.  There was no way I could hurt Amelia and all of my friends.  It was Gladys; it had to be.  If only I could remember what she looked like, I could tell Dr. Fields and they could find her and arrest her.

            They secured me in a wheelchair and threw a chart down on my lap.  It was getting harder to control my head as it slumped forward and drool poured from my mouth.  My vision was getting blurrier and blurrier, but I could make out something printed at the top of the chart.

            Garrison Home for the Criminally Insane.


            I started to fade, but I forced myself to repeat the word over and over in my head until I finally realized what it meant.  This had been my home for thirteen years.  I wasn't a resident of a city, but a prisoner, a patient.  I'd done something... bad... all those years ago.

            And I think I might have done something bad again on New Year's Eve.

About the author:
Stevie Kopas was born and raised in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  She is a gamer, a writer, and an apocalypse enthusiast.  Stevie will never turn down a good cup of coffee and might even be a bit of a caffeine addict.
            Stevie is the author of The Breadwinner Trilogy.  Books 1 and 2, The Breadwinner and Haven were originally self-published in 2013 and 2014.  The Breadwinner Trilogy was picked up by Permuted Press in May of 2014 and the second editions of both the first books were released in March and April of 2015.  The third and final installment of The Breadwinner Trilogy, All Good Things, debuted in May of 2015.
            Kopas also participated in the At Hell's Gates horror anthologies and all profits are donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  Her short stories, Nefarious, Patient 63, and Spencer Family Traditions can be found in the first two volumes of At Hell's Gates.
            She currently resides in Panama City Beach, Florida and tries to spend as much time as she can in the sun.
            Stevie is also the Managing Editor of the website Horror Metal Sounds and a writer for the site.  She is an avid reader and watcher of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction (especially zombie-poc).
            Stevie's official website can be found here and you can connect with Stevie on Facebook and Twitter.

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 62: AMONG THE STACKS: Lisa Vasquez

Due to a couple of authors getting lost in the Christmas hubbub, I decided to stick an interview of the pretty awesome Lisa Vasquez in as my Christmas Takeover #30 (I mean, it is my blog so I can do what I want, right? hahaha).  She's got a couple of books under her belt that look really awesome (can't wait to read them) and, well, who doesn't want to learn a little bit more about these fabulous authors that we hold so dear to our hearts?  Enjoy...

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Welcome to The Gal, Lisa.  It's a pleasure to have you here today.  Let's start with something "easy" - tell us a little bit about yourself.

Lisa Vasquez:
I'm actually pretty boring.  I like to stay home most of the time and write.  I write from home and have a full house.  My family is very close so we all live together right now.  I have a new grandson who I take care of and he keeps me pretty busy.  Outside of that, I have an awesome collection of Living Dead dolls, Nightmare Before Christmas toys, Godzilla toys, and horror posters/novelties.  I was a personal trainer for 18 years and loved it, but got tired of trying to find something "normal" to wear and only seeing spandex in my closet.  I worked for Estee Lauder as a business manager (another job that was awesome!) for a few years before I got very sick.
            Currently I'm the CEO of Stitched Smile Publications, which is a dream come true, a Crisis Text Line counselor, book cover designer, and of course... an author.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Lisa Vasquez:
a) I've never met David Gahan (Depeche Mode) even though I've been a die-hard fan since I was 15 and have tried for years.  It's a bucket list thing, now.

b) I love all of the old John Hughes movies and know them word for word.

c) I still listen to Information Society.

d) I also listen to classical or opera on the stereo.

e) I went to a mosh pit with my son for his 16th birthday.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Lisa Vasquez:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Lisa Vasquez:
Several submissions to SSP, but I re-read books I love: The Hannibal series, Fight Club, the Rot & Ruin series, Bird Box.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Lisa Vasquez:
Wuthering Heights, or the Estee Lauder Biography.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Lisa Vasquez:
I decided to write professionally about 8 years ago.  I kept trying to finish a book I started and people kept telling me to do it.  It's hard to do that when you have little to no time to think.  I'm sort of the "eye of the storm" in my house.  I'm in the middle, sorting through everything like an octopus.  That leaves little time to collect my thoughts, but once I did it... it was the most amazing feeling in the world.  I accomplished something not many people have.  It wasn't Mount Everest, but it was almost as grueling mentally!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Lisa Vasquez:
I wish I had a special place to write.  I write whenever and wherever I can.  I'm an opportunist.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Lisa Vasquez:
If I listen to music that has words, I'll type the words.  So I listen to Chopin or soundtracks, like The Matrix or Batman.  I love Christopher Young (Exorcism of Emily Rose), too.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Lisa Vasquez:
Probably the timeline "thing."  I write from page one to "the end" and sometimes, because I have the attention span of a squirrel on crack, I skip a scene and have to go back and fix it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Lisa Vasquez:
The Unsaintly, my first novella.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Lisa Vasquez:
Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, for sure.  Stephen King's Salem's Lot and Thomas Harris' Hannibal series.
            Authors who inspire me are Anne Rice and Jeff Brown (A.J. Brown) because they tell actual stories; they aren't writing just to write words or put out books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Lisa Vasquez:
To tell a story, you have to engage the reader and build suspense.  The reader has to relate to the characters and feel something for them: hate, love, pity, etc.  If you're bored, your reader is bored.  To really build a story, there has to be a backstory.  The author should be able to go into detail about the character, their past, their idiosyncrasies, their ego, and their id.  Otherwise, the character is two dimensional and flat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character? 

Lisa Vasquez:
The characters that I've always fallen in love with are the ones that are what most people consider evil, but digging deeper, you find out that something made them that way and there might be a piece of vulnerability or humanity within them.
            Lestat was created and abandoned, Louis lost his wife and was suicidal, Claudia lost her mother in the Plague.  All of them flocked to one another because of the pain and loss they had experienced.
            Hannibal was a happy child until the war killed his parents and the deserters killed and ate his sister (which they fed to him).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Lisa Vasquez:
Probably a cross between Fay and Isabel.  The story of Fay hasn't released yet, so that will probably remain a mystery to people for a bit.  Isabel is the main character in The Unsaintly Chronicles.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Lisa Vasquez:
Haha, absolutely.  I'd rather a plain cover with just a color background and title than a horribly designed cover.
            I'm involved with every book cover... I design my own.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Lisa Vasquez:
a) Take your time.  When you think you're done, sit on it another week.  If you rush it, you'll always miss something.

b) Do not edit your own work without letting someone else final proof it.  An editor is more important than the cover sometimes.

c) Did I mention not rushing?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Lisa Vasquez:
I don't think there's been a scene that was hard to write psychologically or mentally.  I've had a few times when the scene wouldn't come out the way I wanted it to.  That's when I walk away for awhile, maybe a day, to mull it over.  The mind has this fantastic way of working things out while you focus on something else.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Lisa Vasquez:
I think what stands out with my books is that I write in an "omniscient" point of view.  I hate first person.  I also add an element of fantasy to my horror because I love both genres so much.  People always tell me they can tell it's my work or writing, so I must have a "signature."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Lisa Vasquez:
For awhile, and you can tell by several of my books... I had a thing for Un-names.  Since the late 1990s, I've an un-name for social media.  On AOL, I had unsaintly and unholier.  I made it my brand. I snagged every social media I could and used unsaintly.  Then a college started using my name for one of their teams.  At first, yeah I was pissed - but it's great publicity for me when they look up UnSaintly and find me everywhere!
            I think the title, for me, is always the easiest, to be honest.  There's only one book I can't pin down a title for.  Interestingly, it's for my multiple personality character!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Lisa Vasquez:
First, I want readers to love my stories.  I want to reach into their dreams, their thoughts when they're otherwise occupied, and their lunchtime conversations.  I want the characters to be "real" to them.  My target audience are readers who love their stories challenged and who love to think.  If they could take one thing away from my stories, I'd love it to be that it left them breathless.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Lisa Vasquez:
I deleted one scene because it showed up, near verbatim, in a movie that had the same content was very popular.  I joke that they stole it.  
            (No, really... I think they did sometimes :( )

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?

Lisa Vasquez:
I have The Unhowling - Viking Werewolves (swoon), Unrequited - a female assassin with a few extra horrific habits (Fay), The Unsaintly Chronicles 3, a few anthologies, and crossing fingers... my gothic Betty Crocker Cookbook!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Lisa Vasquez:
I'm committed to writing and publishing more of my work.  Now that I run a publishing house, I have to show my staff an authors that I can walk the walk and I have some credibility.  I have to lead by example.  So I will do anything I ask them to do and more.  Plus, I love to write and it helps me keep a promise to myself.  Hopefully, I will have more cover work and elevate my status there, too!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Lisa Vasquez:
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (rarely used, but I'm there): @unsaintly.  Wordpress and my Official Website.  If you want samples of my works in progress, visit me on WattPad.  The rest are in my bio.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks, again, for stopping by, Lisa.  It was an honor to have you join us here.
            One more thing before you go: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Lisa Vasquez:
I'd love for them to know how important reviews are for indie authors.  You, the reader, give us a voice that matters.  Whether the review is bad or good, or just a star rating... please, please, take just a moment to give us that gift.  Big time corporations like Amazon and the brick and mortar stores, think we're a joke and they look down on us.  You, the consumer, have the power to choose what to read and what gets shown to you.  Places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million are coming around, but we still need your support.  Word of mouth is worth all the heartache and funding we put into producing the stories you love.  Thank you so much for giving me a few moments of your precious time!

About the author:
By design, Lisa Vasquez creates horror with vivid, dark, and twisted words and images that not only drags the reader in between the pages, but onto the covers that house them, as well.  When she releases her grasp, readers are left alone to sort through the aftermath those images leave behind; each one becoming a seed that roots itself within the soft confines of their psyche.  She takes this passion for writing horror and uses it to mentor other authors and volunteers as the Publisher's Liaison for the Horror Writers Association.  In January 2016, Lisa took her commitment to the next level and opened an independent publishing house, Stitched Smile Productions.
            Her work can be found in several anthologies, and her upcoming, full-length novels will be released in 2016.  For more information and updates on Lisa's work, you can find her at: her website or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About the book:
The Unsaintly is the journey of Isabel, the daughter of Louis VII and Blanche of Castile, who devoted her entire life to the servitude of God.  When Isabel begins to suffer from stigmata, she learns that it is just the beginning of her role in the fight between Heaven and Hell.  Her sacrifice is not enough when the abuse inflected by the stigmata she suffers leaves, and is replaced by the real horrors inflicted by God's rival, Lucifer.
            All that she's learned up to this point will be tested along with her faith, in the horrific story of good, evil, and everything in between.