Gary W. Olson, Author of Brutal Light, talks about stuff!

Gary is a fellow Damnation Books author. Awesome guy. His book, Brutal Light, is available at



Writing, Rewriting, Impending Apocalypse, and Everything After

Every writer has a particular way of approaching writing and rewriting a story.  Some rely on heavily detailed outlines and character notes, leaving little to chance during the actual writing process, while others favor a more ‘seat-of-the-pants’ approach, embracing spontenaety while dealing with the messiness that it brings.  What follows is the step-by-step approach I took to writing and re-writing my dark fantasy novel Brutal Light.  If you’re a writer, I can’t promise this approach will work for you, but it’s something to consider.


1. I started with an outline–but not a detailed one.  I already knew who some of the characters would be, as I was using an unpublished short story of mine as a springboard, but I needed to work through the story in a methodical way, to both see if there was enough there to make a novel and to try to think through any problems that I had not yet foreseen.  For instance–from where do various characters get the energy to go from the real world to the unreality I was calling the Noumenal?  How much did a certain clairvoyant in the book actually foresee?  Would night-gaunts from the dead spaces do all the research they promised me?


2. On finishing the outline, I waited for several weeks, until it became apparent that no clever Windows virus would come along and transform it into a novel.  Reluctantly, and only after a pep-talk delivered by Jaranash’ghthk the Indweller of Night (my new Life Coach), I started the actual writing.


3. The first quarter of the novel came out fairly briskly in first draft, after a few misfires.  I realized that, no matter how cool it would be, it was unlikely that the secret conspiracy documented by intentional misprints in variant editions of Alice in Wonderland actually had anything to do with the rest of the book.  Also, zombies are terrible at making balloon animals from their own intestines.  No amount of magic realism can cover that!


4. Revision time!  I went back over the first seven chapters to find the inconsistent bits.  I then went back over them to see if there were any consistent bits, as those were more likely to stand out.  I then worked them over–not until everything was consistent, but until the consistent parts were definitely consistent, and the inconsistent parts were consistent with one another, though not with the consistent parts.  I also broke some run-on sentences up into sentence fragments by pounding my head against the keyboard in strategic spots.


5. I wrote the second quarter of the book a little slower than the first.  Jaranash’ghthk was being a baby about my concussions from the revision round, so I fired him.  I managed to finish despite being plagued by faceless terrors that roam in the night and leave pissy little post-it-notes on computer screens.


6. During my post-completion-of-second-quarter revelry, I somehow was drawn down to the scientifically hyperadvanced underground civilization of the Deros.  (They hate being called ‘DEtrimental RObotS,’ by the way, and insist that ‘Deros’ actually means ‘DElightful RodeOS,’ which I was told are a defining characteristic of Lemurians.  That and a love of lutefisk.)  After tough negotiations, the Deros agreed to oversee the continuity of the novel.  I wrote the second half in a hallucinatory daze, then spent the next several months translating what I’d written from the ‘mantong’ of the Deros to English.  This mainly involved excising all the ‘lols’ and ‘moars’ and removing all instances of various characters recommending products endorsed by the Lemurian Chamber of Commerce.


7. I returned to the surface world, to find out that everything I knew was wrong.  So, situation normal.  I put my first draft away and did some more reading, while the Deros smoothed out my continuity errors and the night-gaunts did my holiday shopping.


8. My reading of books on occult and alchemical matters (including Manly P. Halls’ “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” and Sonia Trotmeyer’s “Oh, Come On, No One Names Their Kid ‘Manly,’ Do They?”) makes me realize that a lot of what I’d put into the first draft and its revisions had additional meanings that could be drawn out to either deepen the mystery or just screw with peoples’ heads.  As I am all in favor of both, I made notes on incorporating these into the next draft.  I also fired the night-gaunts for eating all the ho-hos.


9. Second draft!  I wrote, revised, wrote some more, added scenes, deleted large sections, put back more stuff, fixed some issues, broke some others, and on and on.  I’m pretty sure my ‘second draft’ was actually thirty-six drafts.  By then, I was subsisting entirely on clamato and rice cakes, and whenever I showered, some form of mutant creature would rise from the sewage plant the next day, intent on razing the world of the living.  The traffic backups were unbelievable.


10. In the middle of heavy editing, I was conscripted by the armies of darkness and forced into their stealth battle against all that was good and true and noble.  My part of the battle was to fix plot points while helping the Deros build their continent-shattering neko-bombs.  (Do you know how many catgirls and catboys you need to achieve critical neko mass?  It is a frightening number!)  But for every item I fixed, more seemed to break.  Sentences fragmented.  Participles dangled.  Tenses grew passive.  Cat-humanoids wailed.  The time of man was at an end!




12. I finished the last revision, dabbed a tear from my eye, and saved my files.  The next day, I sent my manuscript on to a publisher, then strode out into the world that was also enjoying its second chance.  I basked in the sun, breathed the fresh air, and sang for joy.


13. I woke up in the hospital, recovering from everything that was thrown at me for my singing.  I was mildly distressed to find that Jaranash’ghthk was now my nurse.  But I was still happy, for I had completed my novel.




Blurb for “Brutal Light”:


All Kagami Takeda wants is to be left alone, so that no one else can be destroyed by the madness she keeps at bay.  Her connection to the Radiance–a merciless and godlike sea of light–has driven her family insane and given her lover strange abilities and terrible visions.  But the occult forces that covet her access to the Radiance are relentless in their pursuit.  Worse, the Radiance itself has created an enemy who can kill her–a fate that would unleash its ravenous power on a defenseless city…


Rhea Cole is also on the run, after murdering her husband with a power she never knew she had–a power given her by a strange girl with a single touch.  Pursued by a grim man unable to dream and a dead soul with a taste for human flesh, she must contend with those who would use her to open the way to the Radiance, and fight a battle that stretches from the streets of Detroit to a forest of terrifying rogue memories.




Excerpt from “Brutal Light”:


She swam through his new flesh, tearing him from the mountain and into the searing bright sky. Blood and terror streamed in her wake. As he fell to the sea, he smiled. She had come to him.


Kelly Creyts savored his pain. That he could feel pain again made him scream with joy. He was told to be ready to receive her, and thought he had known what to expect. As always, she proved to be more.


He let the mountain he had stolen fade, a moment before he struck the roiling waters.


You’ve gotten better,” he called without opening his mouth. “I never felt you until you were in.”


He expected a reply from his lover of old. She did nothing, save drink the raw energy her violent entry set free. A day before her assault would’ve killed him but now he had power to spare.


Once she called it poison, and craved it more than her life.


To see her and taste her again–had they really been apart less than two years? If she knew the things he had done, the compromises he made–


You’re in trouble already, girl. Why come to me?


The weight of the sea increased as he sank, but Kelly refused to give up the body he had so recently taken the power to recreate.  He knew he had made her angry, maybe angry enough to do lasting damage. If he struggled at this point, he thought he would lose, having ceded so much advantage. He had come so far and done so much. Nothing he had been told had yet failed to happen.


“I will come to you,” he said. “As I promised.”


Intense light erupted from his wound and trailed his blood in the black waters. She coalesced into a rough human female shape, with fingers that burned his flesh where they dug into him. Her tongue blackened his lips, despite the presence and pressure of the deep sea. He kissed her and she erupted into him, cauterizing his wounds as she passed back through the door she had carved.




Buy links for “Brutal Light”: (.mobi, .epub, .pdf, .pdb): (Kindle edition): (Print edition):

Links for of all other vendors (continually updated):

Print ISBN (for ordering paperback via bookstore): 978-1-61572-539-7

Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-538-0




Bio for Gary W. Olson:


Gary W. Olson grew up in Michigan and, despite the weather, stuck around.  In 1991 he graduated from Central Michigan University and went to work as a software engineer.  He loves to read and write stories that transgress the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, while examining ideas of identity and its loss in the many forms it can have.


Away from working and writing, Gary enjoys spending time with his wife, their cats, and their mostly reputable family and friends.  His website is at, and features his blog, A Taste of Strange (, as well as links to everyplace else he is on the Internet, such as Twitter ( and Facebook (





Stricken by Sean A. Lusher

Advance request for forgiveness for any typos or weird words. I’m blogging from my Kindle Fire. It also places periods in bizarre and inappropriate places. Sorry!


Stricken starts off like pretty much any other sci-fi horror plot. An inconspicuous search and rescue crew on a mission to save/salvage a suspiciously deserted colony/moon/planet/spaceship amid gallons of gore and body parts. There are the prerequisite characters, including the hot chick with the locked-down vadge,  the Reddick-wannabe, the pensive, wounded hero, and red-shirt slackers. How perfectly the story fits into the sci-fi/horror mold is one of the meh factors of Stricken.

But somebody said, if the story’s been told, tell it better. The good news is Lusher is a great writer. He crafts the story well, and weaves in tension, suspicion, and intrigue. While, to some degree, we know how this story will ultimately end, Lusher lets us have fun on the way there. It takes a while to really develop an emotional connection with any of the characters–there are just a lot of them and most have

a backstory that gets hinted at, but never really explored, and sometimes it seemed like characters were supposed to have a larger part later in the story, but Lusher said, “Ah, screw this dude,” and let a monster eat his face off. Granted, it’s a novella, so there isn’t a lot of room to fully flesh out every single character.

Eventually bad things slow down, and the survivors finally open up–surprise, tragic back story about how they ended up where they are–but a good thing happens here. The main character, Trent, goes from angsty flat hero to being human. His fear creates a connection with the reader. he panics, and he doesn’t really act like a scifi-horror hero, he acts human. He wants to run and hide. He drags himself into the fray.

The monster is a little different from the usual supernatural-devourer-of-all. I wasn’t completely impressed by him. I was more chilled by the secondary plight of the survivors: the isolation, the possible threat of a bloodthirsty monster on the loose, and the certainty that one of the other survivors was going to turn on the others. All in all, I think that’s what made this story enjoyable for me. The first part of the story was just people running around, shooting scary things, getting ripped to shreds. The second half of the story was about survival.

Stricken is an easy read, full of creepy atmosphere and lots of gore. Absolutely gets a “READ THIS” rating from me.

The Banishing by Fiona Dowd

The Banishing

By Fiona Dodwell

Published by Damnation Books

Buy Now:

Rating: 2

Melissa lives in torment. Her once-loving husband has
started beating her and garsh-darnit, she loves him, so she doesn’t leave him.
Doesn’t seek help. Through some research, she finds out the house they live in
was once the home of a maniac who killed a bunch of women in order to summon a
demon. DUM DUM DUM…..and the demon is STILL IN THE HOUSE.

Yes, my sarcasm meter is going off the charts.

While Ms. Dodwell is a good writer and manages to fill the
pages with some tension, it’s mostly offset by the fact that Melissa is a
friggin’ idiot and sets a horrible example for women everywhere. Her husband
beats the shit out of her. He rapes her. He insults her and humiliates her.

And she takes it.

Because she loves
him, and she has to help him, because he wasn’t always like that. She lets him rape her (is it rape if she lets
him??) By ‘let’ I mean she doesn’t fight back. She doesn’t tell anyone. She
doesn’t cut his dick off with a rusty knife while he’s sleeping, or dump a pot
of hot grits on his face while he’s out cold after a satanic chit-chat with the
demon. She’s an intelligent woman with a career and friends that care about
her. By the end of the book—*I was asked by the author to remove the spoiler, but it’s part of the book that pissed me off the most, so I’ll just reword this to say THE ONLY FRIEND,
THE ONLY ONE WHO ACTUALLY CARED ABOUT HER, basically gets crapped on in a really bad way. She also leads on the
guy who should have been the hero of this story, and then never thinks of him

I got pissed off halfway through the book. I HAD to finish
it, because if I didn’t, I couldn’t write an accurate review.

While Ms. Dodwell weaves some decent tension and suspense into
the story, it’s hard to just enjoy it as a horror story because Melissa is such
a pussy. There was nothing noble or heroic in her ‘sacrifice’. Nothing to
redeem her, or to make her a stronger person. She was not a sympathetic character at all, in
any way, because she just LET SHIT HAPPEN to her. All in the name of ‘love’. She didn’t even attempt to fight the demon.
She got scared of shadows in the night and bloody specters in the kitchen, and
as soon as she found out she could take the easy way out, she took it.

So, read this book just because Ms. Dodwell is a good writer.
Maybe you’re a better ‘reader’ than I am, and can disconnect from the

The Circus Wagon by Andrew S. Fuller

Title:  The Circus Wagon

By: Andrew S. Fuller

Publisher: Damnation Books

Genre: horror

Rating: 4

Reviewer: Ash

The circus wagon sat in Christopher’s grandmother’s backyard his entire childhood. When he grew up, it followed him. What is it? Why does it follow him?

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have a single flippin’ clue what this story was about, other than a creepy circus wagon. And the questions only came up in the very last couple of paragraphs, so it wasn’t an issue that really affected the story.  

The Circus Wagon is dark and creepy. Damnation Books has put out yet another gripping, disturbing short story by an extremely talented author. Fuller manages to draw you into Christopher’s frightening world of obsession and possession quickly and easily, with his easy, natural voice. The entire story has this undercurrent of darkness. It moves quickly, zipping you along in the characters’ lives.

The questions arise with the end, as I said earlier. Fuller might have given the reader a few more hints about what exactly was going on with Christopher and the wagon. I don’t understand Christopher’s motivation, or exactly what his sudden revelation was.

Other than that, I enjoyed this short story immensely. I read it in absolutely no time at all, and I’m still thinking about it. Fuller is an excellent writer, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.

Dead of Night by C.M. Saunders

Title: Dead of Night

By: C.M. Saunders

Publisher: Damnation Books

Genre: horror

Length: novella

Rating: 4 midnight screeches

Reviewer: Ash

Nick and Maggie are on their first trip together. It’s a new relationship, and Nick really wants it to work out right. They’re on their way to a nice little camping spot to a perfect little spot, where he hopes just maybe they can take their relationship one step further. But late at night, something moves in the bushes, and a battalion of rogue Civil War soldiers steps out into the moonlight. Only problem is, the war’s been over for 160 years…

I have this horrible OCD quirk. It’s doesn’t matter how boring a story is, I have to finish it. Fortunately, that didn’t kick in with Saunder’s Dead of Night. This is a fun, short read that carries on with the latest trend of zombie soldiers. While Saunders doesn’t really bring any new to the table, it’s a cool chapter in the great big scheme of zombie stories. The cover art by my buddy George Silliman adds to the enjoyment as well.

I had a few little nit-picky things, as usual. Saunders’ tries to write a story set in the US, but several times, he used European terms and references. It wasn’t a huge thing, but it was enough to jar me out of the story for a second. I liked his commentary on Michael Jackson, but thought the idea of “as independent the fairer sex liked to appear, deep down they all still wanted and needed a man willing to step up to the plate and take control occasionally. Every girl liked to be protected, it felt good” was really antiquated and pretty annoying. In the end, Maggie ended up stepping up to the plate, so it would have made the story a bit stronger emotionally if maybe Saunders had picked that up and used it as a theme in the story—girl wants to be protected and spoiled, but when she’s got to survive and protect herself and her man rather than vice-versa, her character goes through a development arc. 

Other than that, this is a great story. It’s quick read with great cover art, and I do have to say, MUCH better than Saunders’ first novella from Damnation Books (sorry, CM…this one really is a so much better).

The First Angry “Man” by Samuel King

Title: The First Angry “Man”

Author: Samuel King

Publisher: Damnation Books

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4 sparks

Reviewer: Ash

Joel has an attitude problem. He’s a sentient AI, capable of creating solid 3-d objects. He’s a salesman, and he’s damn good at what he does. So good he gets a little bit of leeway when it comes to the boss, who hates him. But when Joel’s moodiness pushes his boss a little too far, an unexpected hero steps in to save him—but what will it cost sweet Claire?

Once again, Damnation Books provides readers with an excellent short story. The First Angry “Man” is an interesting, well-written science-fiction story that reminded me of Phillip K. Dick’s short stories. The twist at the end is surprisingly—you definitely don’t see it coming!

The First Angry “Man” is a short, quick read with a lot of depth. King’s writing is smooth and easy to read. He paints a great picture of the mundane daily life, and then peels away the layers to show the reader the darker spots.