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Dec. 18th, 2016

Origin Stories: OCTOBER ROSES

I'm continuing my Origin Stories series with the tale of how I came to publish my Halloween-themed novella OCTOBER ROSES.

I've always loved Halloween fiction. Every October I write Halloween tales, and every October I also like to read Halloween-themed tales. I had discovered that Bad Moon Books routinely published Halloween novellas every year during the fall. It provided me with a lot of really good fiction to read (Paul Melniczek and Lisa Morton published a lot of those), and also got me to thinking.

I am such a lover of all things Halloween, I thought I might be a good fit for Bad Moon's Halloween novella series. October of 2011, I contacted Roy Robbins and asked if I wrote something by the end of the year, would he consider publishing it as part of the series. He responded that he could make no guarantees, but he would be happy to consider anything I might put together.

I had the germ of an idea, and I immediately began working on it. A seemingly straight-forward possession tale with a twist at the end, I figured I could get it finished by Christmas. Turns out I was being a little optimistic. Hit a few roadblocks, mostly because a small section wasn't working so I solved that by excising it completely from the story. I rebounded and finished by February 2012.

I sent it off to Bad Moon and did what I always do when waiting to hear about a submission...I crossed my fingers and waited rather impatiently. I remember the rush of joy I felt when I got the thumbs up. There were some light edits, but nothing too taxing. They provided an absolutely stunning cover.

The book was released in October of 2012 in paperback and digital forms, and I was thrilled to have my second Halloween-themed book on the market. The book hasn't received a wide audience, but it has gotten some nice notices. I even made a Best Of list which was pretty cool. https://horrornovelreviews.com/2013/07/22/the-five-best-recent-horror-novellas/

The following Halloween, I held a book signing at a local bookstore. Mostly friends came by, but I managed to sell one copy of OCTOBER ROSES to a random stranger who happened by. She took the book and left, but she returned an hour later to tell me she went straight to the nearby park and read the story from start to finish. She wanted me to know she enjoyed the novella. It was a very gratifying moment. I found out only later that she had a blog where she reviewed books.

A personal side note, when this was released, it became the first book published after meeting my now-husband and I actually dedicated it to Craig.

I found out a couple of months ago that Bad Moon Books was downsizing their publishing business, removing most of their titles, including mine. Luckily Crossroad Press took over the digital editions of both OCTOBER ROSES and GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC.

I'm glad that OCTOBER ROSES is still available, at least as an ebook. It can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/October-Roses-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00A2ET2N0/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482068609&sr=1-20&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Dec. 11th, 2016

Origin Stories: SEQUEL

Continuing my Origin Stories blog series with my slasher-homage novel SEQUEL.

SEQUEL is a novel I had written before I ever started publishing. I actually initially had the idea during my college years, and I wrote it sometime around 2002. I had a lot of fun writing it, but when I finished, I wasn't sure if I had something that was publishable or not. I did try it with two different small press publishers but had no luck with either. In neither case did it have much to do with the book itself. One publisher wanted a stronger romance angle to their releases, and the other decided to focus on nonfiction as opposed to fiction. At that point, I basically put the book aside and kind of forgot about it.

In 2009, I sold my first book to Sideshow Press, and they seemed very interested in publishing more of my stuff, particularly they asked for some novel-length works. I decided to dust SEQUEL off, polish it up, and submit it to them.

Tom at Sideshow really liked the book, and at one point they planned to have it be my second book with them. Eventually that was re-thought, as SEQUEL features two prominent gay characters and Tom felt that he wanted to just establish me as a new voice in horror fiction before highlighting what might be considered a "gay horror" novel. (That didn't exactly work out because before I published another Sideshow book, Apex put out ASYLUM which features an almost exclusive gay cast.) Instead, my second Sideshow book was WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT. In fact, I had several more books out with Sideshow but SEQUEL wasn't one.

What did happen was Tom decided to start another publishing company, Gallow's Press, which would not offer limited signed hardcover books but just mass-market paperback and digital books through Amazon. He asked if I would be willing to put SEQUEL out through Gallow's. I was more than willing.

Tom created a cover very reminiscent of a movie poster for an 80s horror flick, which was perfect as the book was written as a homage to those films. We did some editing, taking out a few scenes I later released on this blog as "deleted scenes", in keeping with the film them. (http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/7754.html, http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/8091.html, http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/8285.html) He put it in production and it was one of the first Gallow's releases.

I think SEQUEL is one of my most fun novels, and the response I've gotten for it has been mostly positive. I even got a cool YouTube review for it.

Largely though the book hasn't gotten as much attention as some of my others. It's one I really hope continues to find an audience.

You can purchase SEQUEL here: https://www.amazon.com/Sequel-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B008K7QBKS/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_41?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481492937&sr=1-41&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Dec. 3rd, 2016

Atlanta - The Birthplace of Zombies (How WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE Was Born)

Atlanta seems to be ground zero for zombies. As most people know, it features heavily in The Walking Dead, and it is also the place Where the Dead Go to Die was born.

Where the Dead Go to Die is the novel I co-authored with the very talented Aaron Dries, and it has just been released by Crystal Lake Publishing. It is a zombie novel, but a unique one. I think we handle the creatures in a fresh and emotionally resonant way, and along the way we have things to say about illness, grief, compassion, fear, death, and love.

And it all started in Atlanta.

I’ll explain. In 2015, the World Horror Convention was held in Atlanta, GA. I had always wanted to attend one, but work and financial limitations never made it possible. However, Atlanta is within driving distance of me, and I could easily drive down for one day of the event.

And I did, along with my lovely husband. I had planned to just go as an observer, attending different panels and readings, getting some autographs, but I was honored that they let me actually speak on the zombie panel. I got to sit right next to Jonathan Maberry.

I had a great time, and I got to meet a lot of really cool people. One of the coolest was Aaron Dries. I was somewhat familiar with him through social media, and I had recently read his novel House of Sighs and been blown away be it.

In person, he blew me away as well. He gave a dynamic and energized reading of one of his short stories, and after he hung out with me and Craig for quite a while, just chatting about everything under the sun. He proved to be funny and charming and a real gentleman. We instantly hit it off.

During our time there at the WHC, Aaron talked about collaborating on something in the future. I was more than game. I actually really enjoy the collaborative process, and I was a little in awe of Aaron’s talent. Being realistic, I figured it might be quite some time before such a collaboration could happen. We both had our own projects brewing, not to mention our everyday lives.

Shortly after the convention, Aaron sent me a message telling me about the germ of an idea he had using the idea of zombies in a symbolic way. I found what he had to say very intriguing, and before I knew we were messaging back and forth in a rapid fire way, brainstorming and exchanging idea. Right before my eyes, the idea was growing into a full-fledged story.

I was so excited by what we were coming up with that I went ahead and wrote a first chapter then sent it to Aaron, just to see if he felt I was on the right track. He instantly picked it up and we kept on from there, working diligently all the way to the end.

I feel like we worked very well together, blending our styles and voices into a strong story that is exciting and emotional and even at times funny.

And it all started in Atlanta.

Here is the book trailer for WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE:

The book itself can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Where-Dead-Die-Aaron-Dries-ebook/dp/B01N1LYOGP/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Nov. 6th, 2016

Origin Stories: THE QUARRY

Returning to my Origin Stories blog series with THE QUARRY.

I wrote the book over the course of a summer, and almost immediately subbed it to Sideshow Press. Tom had some nice things to say about it, gave me a few suggestions about edits, but ultimately did not accept it. I then sent it to another publisher, who also did not accept it. Interestingly, Tom said he liked the first half but the last half needed more work. The other publisher liked the last half but thought the first half needed more work.

I sort of put the book aside for a while, tinkering with it, making some of the edits suggested by Tom, but ultimately it seemed destined to be a "trunk novel."

And then Charles Day from Evil Jester Press contacted me, said he'd read a digital short of mine, "Dancing in the Dark", and he suggested I submit a story to an anthology they were putting out. I did, getting my story "Must Be Something in the Water" in Help Wanted. Peter Giglio was the editor on that anthology and seemed to really like my writing. He and Charles asked if I had any novel-length works without a publisher.

I dusted off The Quarry, polished it up a bit, and sent it to them with fingers crossed. They were very enthusiastic and next thing I knew, I was about to publish a novel. Before this, everything had been short stories or novellas, this would be my first published novel.

Peter was a great editor, they did a cover that actually incorporated photos I'd taken on the Limestone College campus (where the story is set), and they did some heavy promotion for the book.

I was very proud of the book, and it had a lovely reception when it was published. I've actually written a sequel that will hopefully be out before the end of the year.

I hope people continue to discover and enjoy the novel. It can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.com/Quarry-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B0073PMCY2/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_34?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478469192&sr=1-34&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Oct. 24th, 2016

CURTAIN CALL-My New Collection

Having a new book out is always exciting, and my newest release is particularly exciting for me because it's my first book with Cemetery Dance Publications. It's a 10 story collection entitled CURTAIN CALL AND OTHER DARK ENTERTAINMENTS.

This is particularly special and thrilling for me, because working with Cemetery Dance is a dream. They are a large outfit with a great reputation and they work with a lot of heavy-hitters, including Stephen King himself. Being able to say I have a title with them is a career high.

The collection is only available as a digital release, but I do not consider that any lesser of an accomplishment. I know some people who are devoted to print and simply will not do ebooks. I am not one of those people. I love print books, there is a tactile sensation to them that is intoxicating, and print books will never go away. They have real strengths--durability, for one--that ensures their survival. However, I think digital books have a place as well and will co-exist beside print books. As a reader, I just love story, I don't care the delivery system. Therefore, I consider a digital release just as "real" and exciting as a print release.

I actually got a chance to go on the news with the local NBC affiliate to promote the book as well as discuss digital versus print.


I am incredibly proud of CURTAIN CALL. The 10 stories are some of my favorites, many of them taking place in locations that are important to me as a person. I also have a story that is a follow-up to my novel OUTCAST.

I hope people will give the collection a try and enjoy it. To try to entice folks and get them interested, I did a series of YouTube readings from a few of the stories.

I hope you will forgive me for the long blog, but I am just beyond ecstatic about this release. CURTAIN CALL can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Curtain-Call-Other-Dark-Entertainments-ebook/dp/B01MF8HW19/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477347880&sr=1-1

Oct. 15th, 2016


The next title I will discuss in my ongoing series about how each of my books came to be published is my digital collection GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC.

I have said before that short fiction is truly my passion, and my dream has always been to have multiple collections on the market. I decided that I couldn't wait around for publishers to approach me, I needed to take the initiative and and seek out places to submit. So I did a little research to find publishers that were open to the idea of collections with authors that weren't "names."

One such publisher was Bad Moon Books, headed up by Roy Robinson. I was friends with him on Facebook, and I decided to just take a risk and send him a message. I talked of my passion for short fiction, my belief that there was an audience for it, and how I thought together we could create a special collection. He responded very kindly, informing me that he was interested in collections but they had so much in the pipeline that he couldn't fit me into the schedule for possibly two years.

So I had an idea...I had noticed Bad Moon was starting to get into the buisness of digital reprints of previously published work. I have a love of digital books as well as print books, so I suggested we do a collection as a digital original. Bad Moon's first in fact. Roy was open to the idea, told me to put together a manuscript and send it his way.

And so I began pouring through my literally hundreds of stories, selecting pieces that I thought would be fun and entertaining and show a range. I selected a few more reprints than I had with TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT, pieces that had appeared in small ezines and magazines over the years. I made a list, marked some stories off, added others, and ultimately came up with a Table of Contents that consisted of 14 short stories.

Next I had to come up with a title. While looking over the stories I'd selected, I noticed I had quite a few ghost tales, so I figured it should have something to do with that. GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC is what I came up with, my hope that it would be simple yet evocative and descriptive.

I sent the manuscript to Roy and waited with crossed fingers, and I was beyond ecstatic when he accepted the collection for publication. For the cover, I went back to my friend Tom Moran and enlisted his help. He created something with an E.C. Comics feel.

The collection was released in the summer of 2011 and remains available even now. I love all my books, but I have a real soft spot GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC. It was the first time I ever approached a publisher I had no history with and pitched an idea, and I am very proud of the stories within. In some ways, while I still think there is a lot of chilling and scary stuff here, it is a "gentler" collection, showing my admiration for subtlety and ambiguity in horror.

You can purchase GHOSTS IN THE ATTIC here: https://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Attic-Mark-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B0059JHU64/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_37?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476537582&sr=1-37&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Oct. 2nd, 2016

Origin Stories: DARK TREATS

Continuing my series on how each of my books came to be published, next I’ll talk about my short Halloween collection DARK TREATS. Very appropriate considering the time of year.

This book was one I actually pitched to the publisher, Sideshow Press. The reason I brought them the idea was partially because I adore Halloween, and partially an attempt to get something new out on the market. Right after Sideshow published A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, they had talked about getting something else out relatively quickly to ride the wave since that book sold fairly well (for someone at my level, anyway), but for a myriad of reasons, that didn’t seem possible. It looked like I may not get my next book out with them for well over a year.

So I had the idea to do a digital Halloween collection of four stories. Because it would be a digital exclusive, it wouldn’t require as much time or resources to produce, and people could order it leading up to Halloween and have it immediately to read and enjoy. It would keep my name out there, and I’d get to have my very own Halloween book.

I’ve never outgrown the joys of Halloween, and every October I have a tradition of writing Halloween themed stories and reading Halloween themed books. I was very enthusiastic about being a part of that.

Tom over at Sideshow Press seemed enthusiastic too. He created the cover for the collection, and we started brainstorming a title. It didn’t come easily, actually. It took quite a while and several tries before we settled on DARK TREATS.

October 2010 got closer and closer, and I got more and more excited…but then, at the last minute, it was decided to pull the book. I won’t go into the reason, it had to do with business and distribution platforms, but the end result was the book wasn’t going to happen. However, Tom assured me that next year, October 2011, Sideshow would put the book out as a paperback.

Shortly after that I sold and published ASYLUM, then WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT came out in the early part of 2011, and true to his word, in October Tom put out DARK TREATS as a paperback from Sideshow. It came out a little closer to Halloween than I would have liked (I wanted people to have time to order it and get it before the holiday), but I was beyond thrilled to have the book out there. For the paperback, I even added a fifth story so that the final TOC contained “Halloween Returns to Bradbury”, “The Town that Halloween Forgot”, “Treats”, “My Halloween”, and “Family Plot.” The book didn’t exactly burn up the sales chart, seasonal books are maybe a harder sell, but I remain very proud of it.

In 2012, Tom rereleased DARK TREATS through Gallow’s Press in paperback, and the following year a digital edition became available. I have such an abiding love for autumn and especially Halloween, and I tried to imbue these stories with a little bit of that love.

DARK TREATS is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Treats-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00EUIFBM0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1475442473&sr=1-1

Sep. 26th, 2016


Continuing my blog series about how each of my books came to be published, next up is my first full-length short story collection, Tales from the Midnight Shift.

Tom Moran, who owned and ran Sideshow Press, had already published two books with me, A Laymon Kind of Night and Whisonant/Creatures of the Light, in paperback. He knew that my true passion has always been short fiction, and he approached me and asked if I would be interested in doing a short story collection as their first trade hardcover.

Needless to say, I wasted no time answering in the affirmative. The way we went about it was I sent Tom about two dozen short stories, and he read through them all and selected the ones he thought were strongest. I pretty much went along with his thinking, except there were two stories he did not choose that I felt strongly should appear. "Out of Print" had appeared in the very limited hardcover edition of A Laymon Kind of Night, and I wanted it to have a chance at a wider readership; Tom agreed to that right away. The other was a tale entitled "The More Things Change", and Tom wasn't so sure about including that one. He felt the message of the piece might be misinterpreted, but I'm not really a message author. I write a story because an idea interests me and I want to entertain. Doesn't mean a message might not emerge, but that is honestly secondary to me. It took a bit of convincing, but finally Tom agreed to add that story into the table of contents.

Next I had to come up with a title...which wasn't that hard. I had been dreaming of having my own short story collection for many years. I wanted to write novels and novellas, yes, but short stories are my first and most abiding love, so a collection was really my ultimate dream. And when I worked as third shift security, midnight to 8 a.m., for several years, writing on my shabby used laptop in the wee hours of the morning while on duty, I would envision finally having my own collection and I thought I would call it Tales from the Midnight Shift. It felt very appropriate. Now was my chance, so I ran the title by Tom and he agreed.

Tom also provided the stunning cover, which is one of my favorites. He used not any particular story for the imagery, but a certain mood and the fact that I was a security guard that had worked on third shift.

The book was released as a trade hardcover, 100 copies, which did eventually sell out. A handful of years later, after Tom had started up Sideshow's sister publishing company Gallows Press, he re-released Tales from the Midnight Shift in paperback and ebook. Those are still available. You can get the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Midnight-Shift-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00DPLTMYQ/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474925927&sr=1-20&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q

Sep. 18th, 2016


I continue my new blog series in which I discuss the road I traveled to get each of my books published with my two novella collection WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT.

After Sideshow Press published my chapbook A LAYMON KIND OF NIGHT, they told me they wanted to put out some longer works by me. I decided to send them some novellas I had written. They were instantly taken with CREATURES OF THE LIGHT, and suggested that we could pair two novellas together into one book. My first choice for the second novella was ASYLUM, but for a few reasons detailed in my last blog they were not keen on that one. However, I sent them a strange ghost story set at Limestone College, my alma mater, entitled WHISONANT.

Tom at Sideshow responded very positively to this story, though he said the ending didn't work for him. He asked if I would consider coming up with an entirely new ending. I was open for that because, truth be told, the ending never worked for me either. It felt too cartoonish and tonally too different from what had come before it.

So I set about trying to figure out what the new ending would be, and once I hit on the right idea, I went about crafting the new ending which necessitated some changes throughout and the addition of several flashbacks interspersed throughout the story.

It was actually the first time I made that an extensive of a revision to a piece for publication, and I actually enjoyed the process very much. I definitely ended up with a story that was stronger than the original version. And I was excited to be publishing a story set at Limestone, a place I love so very much. Anyone who follows my work (all 2 of you) knows that Limestone became a frequent setting for my tales.

Tom came up with the great design idea of doing a "flip book." Each novella would have its own cover, and you would hold the book in your hand and have one cover and the novella then flip the book over and turn it upside down and have another cover and the other novella. I loved that idea and was very happy with the two covers.

Michael Moran did the classically gothic cover for WHISONANT.

Tom Moran himself did the vibrant, colorful cover for CREATURES OF THE LIGHT.

I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of the two very different covers, and just loved the flip book design.

The book was released in paperback and limited hardcover editions. Eventually I self-published a digital edition that is still available. I am disappointed that these two novellas haven't garnered as much attention as I would have liked. I'm a writer who lives and breaths for feedback.

The digital edition is still available here: https://www.amazon.com/WHISONANT-CREATURES-LIGHT-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B00I0JRXVW/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_32?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474222466&sr=1-32&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q#nav-subnav

Sep. 6th, 2016

Origin Stories: ASYLUM

I continue my series of origin story blogs, detailing how each of my books came to be published, with my second book, Asylum.

After Sideshow Press released A Laymon Kind of Night, they were interested in publishing some of my longer works. They suggested a two-novella collection and had already chosen a novella of mine entitled Creatures of the Light, they just needed another to pair with it.

I had recently finished Asylum, a zombie tale about a group of characters trapped inside a gay nightclub when the dead arise. I was very proud of it, and sent it to them right away.

Sideshow rejected the novella for a couple of reasons. One, it had a post-apocalyptic feel as did Creatures of the Light and they wanted something with a different vibe. Two, they felt the setup for the story was too traditional. Ultimately they went with another story for the novella collection.

But that left me with Asylum which I very much wanted to publish. I started looking for another publisher that would be willing to take a chance on it. The length was a little too short for most publishers. The ones I did submit to rejected it for one reason or another. I was at told by at least one that the primarily gay characters and gay subject matter would not be of interest to the fan base of horror and that I should look at finding a publisher that focused on exclusively gay fiction. Nothing against those publishers but I felt strongly that this was a horror story and I wanted to go with a horror publisher.

I started to think seriously about self-publishing the novella when I randomly found online a call for zombie novellas from Apex Publishing. They were starting an imprint called Zombie Feed that would focus on zombie tales. I wasted no time submitting Asylum to them.

I would say it took less than a month to hear back from Jason Sizemore, letting me know they Apex would be publishing Asylum. I was over the moon, and things moved very quickly from there. Jason sent me his editorial notes, I did a revision and polish, and it was only a matter of months before the book was released with the very cool cover.

I have to say, Apex went above and beyond in the promotions department. They secured a lot of interviews, sent out ample review copies that resulted in a great deal of reviews, most of them positive. They even created a book trailer for it.

I was gratified at the response, especially from heterosexual male readers, proving that a book with gay characters and some gay themes could appeal to the horror audience.

The book has been good to me, I even managed to get on a couple of panels on zombie literature because of it, including one at the World Horror Convention. Tony Karnes was nice enough to create some promotional art for it as well.

So that my friends is the story of how Asylum came to be published. If you want to check it out, you can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Asylum-Mark-Allan-Gunnells-ebook/dp/B004GEAMOA/ref=la_B005C18L7Q_1_15?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473196713&sr=1-15&refinements=p_82%3AB005C18L7Q#nav-subnav

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