Every once in a while, God and Lucifer visit the earth and make a wager. Now it’s time for the next one; the most daring yet, and quite possibly the last.

“This venture to live as men for a full year had been such a hilarious idea to start with. Prove Abe wrong… again… then head back to their respective domains and gloat about it forever. Only it hadn’t worked out that way. Things were different now. Having omniscient sight removed from him actually made Nick see things more clearly than he ever had. There’s harm in getting too close to a picture, but a different sort of harm comes from getting too far away from it.”

What starts as a simple contest becomes something more as their newfound humanity forces them to revaluate their relationship not only with the world, but with each other as father and son. Seen through the eyes of two men, on opposing sides of a family feud of epic proportions, each of them faces trials, heartache, love and real pain as they learn what it means to be human. Can old wounds ever really be closed? Can the past truly be forgiven? And can anyone ever fall so far that it’s too late for them to be caught? “After the fall? You rise.”

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Nick and Abe explores the question that Joan Osborne asks –  “What if God Was One of Us?” Author Lex Jones takes two eternal archetypes, God and the Devil, and renders them small and human, giving them all-too-relatable problems as they navigate their way through the earthly realm without the assistance of divine powers and omniscience (well, Nick does cheat a little towards the end, but he wouldn’t be the Devil if he wasn’t open to bending the rules from time to time…). At first glance, Abe’s casting as a humble janitor and Nick as a ruthlessly successful ad executive seems clichéd. And it is, deliberately so; all the better to smash apart the clichés to get to the real people beneath.

Jones has some interesting takes on what we commonly hold to be true about the Christian faith. Nick isn’t really evil – but he is opinionated, materialistic and hedonistic, and driven by his long-standing feud with his father. And Abe seems hopelessly naïve for a man who is the fleshly representation of an all-powerful deity – until you understand that God’s entire modus operandi has been to observe from a distance, thus his understanding of humanity is incomplete.

Don’t expect thunderbolts, moving mountains and lofty proclamations – the story is character-driven and heavy on the dialogue, the quality of which is the novel’s greatest strength.

Nick and Abe on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Abe-Lex-H-Jones-ebook/dp/B01AXCM53O/

Today’s guest post is from horror author Mark Allan Gunnells. Mark loves to tell stories. He has since he was a kid, penning one-page tales that were Twilight Zone knockoffs. He likes to think he has gotten a little better since then.  He lives in Greer, SC, with his fiance Craig A. Metcalf.

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When Sinister Grin Press first approached me about the possibility of submitting something to them, I was ecstatic. I still feel like that writer just starting out who had trouble getting publishers interesting in his work, so it always thrills and humbles me when a publisher requests to look at something from me.

At the time they asked, I was in the middle of writing a zombie novella called FORT. They said they’d be happy to read it when it was done, but in the meantime I inquired about their interest in a short story collection. That’s not always an easy sell, but to my delight they were enthusiastic about the idea.

So I immediately set out choosing and arranging stories to go into a collection. I have hundreds of shorts so I had plenty to choose from and the hardest part was narrowing it down.

Once that was done, I had to decide on a title. I think titles are important, and the title of a collection should be something that sort of captures the spirit of a diverse assemblage of tales. Only once did I name a collection after one of the stories in the book, and that was just because the title of the story—“Welcome to the Graveyard”—just seemed to fit perfectly. Most times I like to come up with a unique title to sum up the collection.

With this one, I was having trouble coming up with something that felt appropriate. Inspiration came from the unlikeliest of places. My fiancé is a Buddhist and likes to listen to talks given by Buddhist monks. One day he was listening to one of these about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who lift you up and are a positive influence as opposed to being companions in ruin.

COMPANIONS IN RUIN! As soon as I heard that phrase, I fell in love with it. I instantly knew it would make a great title, and it Companions in ruin coverseemed like a wonderful match for this collection. I have received some positive feedback from readers regarding the title, and I’m rather proud of it. And to think, I have a Buddhist monk to thank.

When it came time for Sinister Grin to come up with a cover, they consulted me for ideas. I freely admit I’m not great when coming up with cover concepts, but I gave it a shot. Suggested maybe a group of people that vaguely resembled some characters from various stories wandering through ancient ruins. An admittedly lame idea, so the fine folks at Sinister Grin asked me if there were any stories in the collection that I thought contained particularly striking imagery that could be utilized for a cover. I sent a list of four or five stories I thought might do.

The story they settled on was a flash piece titled “Sentinel”. The tale concerns a couple driving down a deserted road and up ahead they see a figure standing by the road draped in a white sheet wearing a skull mask. It was this image they decided to run with.

Frank Walls was the artist assigned to do the cover, and when I got a load of what he’d done, I have to say I was one happy boy. The startling red of the background in sharp contrast to the stark figure makes for some nice ghastly eye-candy. I have received a ton of compliments on that cover, and my fiancé actually says he thinks it’s the best cover to have appeared on any of my books, and all the credit for that one go to Frank Walls and the Sinister Grin team.

So there you have it…how the title and cover of my newest collection came to be. A pretty good title, if I do say so myself, and a hell of a great cover. Now I only hope the stories within do them justice.

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Visit Mark’s blog here: http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/

Visit Mark’s Amazon Author page here: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Allan-Gunnells/e/B005C18L7Q/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Purchase Companions in Ruin here: http://www.amazon.com/Companions-Ruin-Mark-Allan-Gunnells/dp/1944044116/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Refuge Collection Volume 3 was released in e-book format yesterday. It contains my short story “The Lizard and the Maiden”, and sits alongside tales from Ramsey Campbell, Kaaron Warren, Steve Dillon and E J McLaughlin. The Refuge Collection is a project edited by Melbourne-based writer Steve Dillon. All the stories are set in the mythical Australian town of Refuge. They can be read as stand-alone pieces, but ultimately when the project is completed (Steve is looking at 6 volumes with a total of 36 stories) they will combine to build an overarching plot. All the proceeds from the e-book sales go to help refugees via registered charities Sanctuary Australia Foundation and Refugee Action UK.

A long time ago when I first started submitting stories for publication, an editor told me that I ought to be writing stories based on my culture and using New Zealand mythology. Ironically, the longer I live away from my country of birth, the more I look there for inspiration. Like my stories “The Touch of the Taniwha” and “Father Figure”, “The Lizard and the Maiden” incorporates elements of Maori myths, legends and spiritual beliefs. This fits with Steve’s vision for The Refuge Collection, as he aims to curate a collection of stories from a variety of cultural backgrounds and perspectives.

You can purchase Volume 3  for $5 from Smashwords in several different electronic formats to suit your reading device of choice. Alternatively, and as with most of the other individual stories in the collection, “The Lizard and the Maiden” is available as a standalone piece for a mere 99 cents.