On Location

When The Turtle Boy was first released back in 2003, I included an afterword letting readers know that Myers Pond, where Timmy Quinn first encounters the boy who will change his life forever, was based on a real place, as is the neighborhood in which Timmy lives. The pond is in Delaware, Ohio, which is where I was living when I wrote it. This is not the first time I have used real places in my work, so I thought it might be fun to share a few of them with you here.

The Turtle Boy, Currency of Souls, “Snowmen”, “Mr. Goodnight” – Delaware, OH

Myers Pond

All the locations used in the novella are real and are still there today, though, as documented at the end of the story, a house was built by the pond, which made it private property, and the water was subsequently dyed green, an aesthetic move I can only assume proved fatal for the turtles who once called it home. In the town proper, the economic downturn meant that most of the people you encountered looked dispirited, burdened, a sight so prevalent it inspired an entire novel and the creation of the haunted town of Milestone.

The Hides, “The Acquaintance”, “Prohibited” – Dungarvan, Ireland


Photo courtesy Wikipedia/Mik Herman

The Hides was my chance to revisit my hometown in the south of Ireland and populate it with ghosts and other things. While I took some geographical and historical liberties to service the story, the majority of locations in the book are just as they appear in real life, with the exception of the leather factory (now a block of apartments) and the library (since moved to a new location, though the Old Market House which used to house it, still remains.) The Moresby Buoy (“there was a dead woman clinging to it”) has been restored and stands as a monument to the lives lost when the titular ship was sunk just outside the harbor.

Vessels – Inis Oírr, The Aran Islands


Photo courtesy DiscoverIreland.ie

Located on the west coast of Ireland, Inis Oírr is the smallest of three islands which make up The Aran Islands. With a combined population of approximately 1200 people, I couldn’t think of a better place to send Timmy Quinn, who, by the time we catch up to him in Vessels, is desperate for isolation.

Peregrine’s Tale, Nemesis, The Tent – Hocking Hills, OH


Photo courtesy ExploreHockingHills.com

I’ve been to Hocking Hills dozens of times. With its caves, nature trails, wide expanse of untamed woods, hideaways, and cabins, it’s a great place to get away from it all. And when you find yourself in the forest without a cell phone signal, well, how can you not write a horror story about it?

Nemesis – Adare Manor, Ireland


Photo courtesy Adaremanor.com

In the final book of the Timmy Quinn series, Timmy finds that there are others who share his curse/talent. These people call themselves The Conduits. Led by the mysterious Catherine Moriarty, their base of operations is a mansion, inspired by the very real and very beautiful Adare Manor in Ireland.

Kin – Alabama


Photo courtesy The Miami Herald

I had never been outside of Ohio by the time I took my first road trip. That trip took me through Alabama, some of the best and worst parts of the state. Then I saw a cotton field, something I’d never seen before. I walked through it, watching as the sun hit it just right, my fingers trailing over the cotton, and inspiration struck. While Kin had been on my mind for quite some time, that’s when I knew where it would start. When I returned from the road trip (to Florida), I immediately sat down and wrote the first four chapters of the book. The wind-wracked tree upon which Claire etches her initials and those of her friends, is real too.

Jack & Jill – Logan, Ohio


Photo courtesy Wikipedia

With no disrespect to the people who call it home, there is something very much amiss about Logan. For a start, I have been there three times and never seen more than a handful of people there. On my first visit, a beautiful blonde woman in white was playing a violin on a bandstand at twilight, to no audience. I was convinced she was a ghost. For another, on my last visit, as I was talking with my friends about best places to photograph, a woman burst out of her house and fell to the ground screaming and covered in blood. My friend’s son questioned Heaven as we were walking through the cemetery. There are an unusual number of car accidents there. The worst thing that’s ever happened to a friend happened in Logan when she was a child. There’s a feeling in the air there that’s just wrong. The graveyards are on a hill that overlook the town, and at the opposite end, there stands a parade of mausoleums, many of them sunken, many of them open. I cannot explain what it is or why it is that’s so odd about the place, but Jack & Jill describes it better than I can here.

Master of the Moors, “Tonight the Moon is Ours” – Touraneena, Ireland


Photo courtesy FlickrHiveMind.net

I spent a lot of my childhood in Touraneena, which is where my grandparents lived. It’s a beautiful, rural area surrounded by mountains on one side and endless fields on the other. It’s ancient, steeped in history, an anachronistic paradise for a storyteller. Many of my adventures and misadventures ended up making it into future stories. In the short “Tonight the Moon is Ours”, everything but the supernatural element really happened, though when you’re in Touraneena, it’s not hard to believe all of it could have happened. The fields, the horses, the mountains, the fog that appears abruptly, all of these combined to help influence my novel Master of the Moors.


Everybody Loves SOUR CANDY

Sour Candy - Resized

Okay, not everyone, because that’s pretty much impossible (and for those of you who didn’t, I tried, I swear), but I am certainly gratified by the positive feedback I’ve received for my humble little (read: weird and twisted) novella. In addition to the overwhelmingly great reviews from readers and reviewers alike, some of my favorite writers also weighed in with the following praise (a kindness for which I am endlessly indebted):

“SOUR CANDY is spectacularly good. A brilliant premise, marvelously executed, it’s as close to a perfect story as I can remember reading. I only wish I’d written it myself.” – Bentley Little, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE POLICY and THE CONSULTANT.

“On top, SOUR CANDY is a parental nightmare. But just under the lid is a mindscrew-story of a man’s life exploding. Like The Twilight Zone and the great, shorter stuff by Beaumont and Matheson, Kealan Patrick Burke opens a door that we didn’t even know was in the house.” – Josh Malerman, author of BIRD BOX

“SOUR CANDY is Kealan Patrick Burke at his beautifully hideous best. Original, compelling, and unsettling as hell, it’s must-read horror!” -Christopher Golden, New York Times #1 bestselling author of DEAD RINGERS

“An unexpected knife-turn in psychological suspense…” Christopher Fowler, author of NYCTOPHOBIA, THE SAND MEN, and the Bryant & May series.

If you haven’t already found out why Phil Pendleton really shouldn’t have accepted candy from a strange kid, you can procure your SOUR CANDY here.


Three Days to SOUR CANDY…


Announcing: SOUR CANDY

Sour Candy - ResizedAt first glance, Phil Pendelton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to eat candy whenever he wants and set his own bedtimes. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined.

What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life.

A new novella from the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of THE TURTLE BOY and KIN.

Coming 11/13/2015.

(Subscribers to Digital 50 will receive this later today)


(This article was originally published in Cemetery Dance #62)



I remember when the commercials for Legion: Exorcist III first started showing on TV screens in Ireland. I was fourteen years old, and although I hadn’t yet seen The Exorcist, thanks to the whole “video nasty” ban—that insidious restriction imposed by the church and browbeaten politicians (here’s looking at you, Mary Whitehouse) in order to protect impressionable children from what they deemed inappropriate material, I was well aware of the movie. It had, like so many of those movies blocked from our shores, gained something of a mythical quality by virtue of its banning. We would talk about it at recess, embellishing the things we’d heard to make it seem even more torturous to have been denied its horrors (I recall one kid telling us that there was a scene in the film in which a baby’s head explodes and a cat crawls out!).

I had, however, seen Exorcist II: The Heretic, which, considering the larger-than-life reputation of the first film, came as a great disappointment to all of those gathered there with the curtains drawn in my friend’s house one sunny Sunday afternoon. It confusThe_Exorcist_3ed us, made us wonder if perhaps we have built up the first film a bit too much in our febrile young minds.

But when those first trailers showed up on TV for the third installment, it looked like a completely different animal, and ample justification for our delight. But despite the many ad spots for Exorcist III, the film never hit the theaters on our side of the pond. Instead, it was relegated to the video stores and all but forgotten. Even then, it was hard to find.

Once adulthood starts lurking like a thief on the borders of adolescence, it’s rare that anything you were ever excited about delivers the same level of gratification. But years later, on a Bradburyesque Halloween night, I attended a midnight showing of the director’s cut of The Exorcist, digitally remastered, and I fell in love with it. It lived up to all my expectations (despite the conspicuous absence of the exploding baby), and I emerged into the crisp night air buoyed by the experience.

There is much that I can say about that night, and that movie, but The Exorcist has endured so steadfastly in the public consciousness that there is little I can add that hasn’t already been said, and said better, in the past, so let’s leave it at that and return to the point of this essay.

Inspired by that midnight screening, I hunted down a copy of Legion: Exorcist III. Unlike the original, I had few expectations when I sat down and slotted that VHS tape into the machine. As I’ve said, I believed nothing could come close to mirroring the sheer mind-blowing experience of the first film, but I had read the novel Legion, and was encouraged to see that it had been directed by the author of the book, so I kept my misgivings in check.

And I’m glad, because William Peter Blatty’s Legion (which is how I’m going to refer to it from this point on) is a terrific film, and has grown to become one of my all-time favorites.

In the company of horror fans, all you need do to indicate the movie you’re thinking of is mention one scene: a long static shot of a hospital hallway, silence broken only by the soft squeak of rubber-soled shoes and the muted crackling of ice melting in a glass. Then, an unexpected zoom-in on a figure shrouded in white wielding an oversized pair of stainless steel shears as it bears down on a pretty young nurse. It’s an incredibly frightening and masterfully crafted scene, and it has become an enduring memory for all those who’ve seen it. And it is only one of many notable scenes in a movie unfairly criticized at the time of its release.

The deranged lady crawling like a spider across the ceiling…

That voice in the confessional…(“…it’s a problem I’m working on, Father…all this…bleeding.”)

The jarring, incongruous faces on some of the religious statues (look carefully and you’ll spot them…)

The bizarre dreams of Heaven…

Had the movie been released bearing only the title of the novel upon which it is based, it might have been rightfully considered a solid, superbly written, and genuinely scary exercise in existential horror rather than a disappointing sequel to a seminal classic. It seems that audiences who went in expecting more crucifix masturbation, projectile vomit, uncouth demon spawn, or spinning heads, left somewhat chagrinned that the third installment in their beloved series had, much like the dreadful second entry Exorcist II: The Heretic, failed to emulate the original.

But to compare Legion to the original is to miss the point. There are of course, similarities, particularly in the nature of the protagonists in both movies (Father Karras in The Exorcist, and Lt. Kinderman in Legion), who believe more in Evil than Good because the evidence of the former seems more prevalent in the world they see around them, a perception that forces them to question their beliefs. But for all the questions and moral dilemmas raised in first movie, Legion takes it a step further. All the theological and spiritual questions are there, but rather than solely documenting the age-old struggle between Good and Evil, it almost seems to propose that evil may already have won.legion

Lieutenant Kinderman (the late George C. Scott, filling the shoes of the late Lee J. Cobb) is a decent man who has seen the worst the world has to offer over and over again and it has left him with a distorted view of the world, one in which the idea of devoting oneself to the worship of a higher power seems preposterous while children are being brutally murdered in direct mockery of that same devotion. Some of the best scenes in the movie center around the banter between Kinderman and his closest friend Father Dyer (Ed Flanders, taking over for Reverend William O’ Malley). Kinderman takes no small delight in goading Dyer, in poking fun at his friend’s faith, but the humor is borne of the detective’s disgust with the world in which he exists, and nothing will convince him otherwise. And by the time the movie reaches its climax, the only revelation that Kinderman experiences is that he was right.

As is typical of Blatty’s work, both on the page and on the screen, the grim proceedings are offset with wry humor. Perhaps my favorite exchange takes place at the entrance to the movie theater where Kinderman and Dyer meet once a year every year to watch It’s A Wonderful Life. Kinderman’s anecdote about the carp (“if I see it moving its gills, I’ll kill it”) is hysterically funny but Blatty does not allow the light-hearted tone to last long, and immediately follows this scene with one in which Kinderman numbly relates to Dyer the gruesome details of a young boy’s murder. There are rapid switches in tone throughout Legion (though fewer in the third act), and they only make the humor and the horror more potent as a result.

The performances are uniformly excellent, from supports to leads, with Scott in top form as the embittered Kinderman. He is truly convincing as a man grasping at the last straws of his faith not only in God, but in humanity itself. His one and only breakdown in the movie is, though brief, a truly heartbreaking moment, and as mentioned, his scenes with Ed Flanders are worth the price of admission (or rental) alone. The late Jason Miller, as Karras (the only cast member featured in both the original and sequel) is not on screen for long, but when he is, we are told all we need to know by the deep lines in his face and the pallor of skin, the death in his eyes. Kinderman’s old friend is suffering.

But special mention must go to Brad Dourif (a favorite among horror aficionados) who delivers a wonderfully manic and terrifying turn despite being forced to sit in the same spot in a straightjacket for the entire time he appears onscreen. His sneering, seething, direct-to-camera diatribes are another of the movie’s highlights. We believe he is insane. We believe he takes an almost childish delight in being permitted to carry on his heinous work. We believe he is the Gemini Killer.

Legion is well-written, beautifully shot, and for the most part a great adaptation of the novel. But the movie’s greatest deviation from the source material becomes its biggest flaw. Apparently under pressure from the studio, Blatty altered the ending to include an exorcism and was forced to tack “Exorcist III” onto the title of the movie. Whether or not this was the case, the final sequence with Father Morning (Nicol Williamson) seems like an afterthought and somewhat cheapens what is to that point, a solid, cerebral and scary supernatural thriller. It is not, however, enough to ruin a great film. It just leaves one wondering what might have been had the producers been savvy enough to let Blatty ride his own train to the very end.

In the end, Legion is a thoughtful, well-executed study of man’s everlasting struggle against overwhelming darkness. And nowhere is it better emphasized than in that dark cell, when The Gemini Killer speaks to Kinderman. The old detective’s expression only further compounds one of the underlying messages at the core of the story: We, like Kinderman, will never fully understand why God allows monsters to roam the earth, or why terrible things happen to good people. We are never certain if there even is a God, or a Heaven. We only know what we’ve been told and shown, and led to believe.

Faith is fragile. Evil is certain

There are no immediate answers.

Maybe later.

Pre-Made Cover Art

I very rarely do pre-made cover designs, as the custom projects take up the bulk of my time, but I’ve just added a page to my site which features the five pre-made designs currently available. You can also see them below (click on any of the covers to go to the design site).  I’m offering a $100 discount on these, so if they fit your book, please do let me know at info@elderlemondesign.com, or via the comments here, as on the rare occasions in which I offer these, they go very quickly.




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The Playwright

playwrightIn collaboration with the Biting Dog Press we are pleased to announce the release of The Playwright, a limited edition print by writer Kealan Patrick Burke and xylographer George A. Walker.

This limited edition print was inspired by the novellas The Timmy Quinn Series by Kealan Patrick Burke who won the prestigious Bram Stoker Award in 2004 for Turtle Boy.

THE PLAYWRIGHT is a new hand printed broadsheet written by Kealan Patrick Burke and printed with woodcuts and art by George A. Walker. Published by Biting Dog Press there are only 200 copies of this collectable work. Each broadsheet has been signed by the author and artist. This fine press edition of Kealan’s poem is printed on Arches Velin 100% neutral ph rag paper so that it is archival and will provide years of enjoyment. The whole project was printed on a Vandercook SP15 letterpress with each sheet fed into the press by hand one at a time.

Printing Details

Size: 11” x 15”

Paper: Arches Velin Cream rag paper with deckle edge

Edition size: 200 signed copies

Colors: 5 colours = gold hue, yellow tint, dark gold, orche, black

Mediums: woodcut, letterpress, polymer plate, Royal Barlock typewriter

PRICE: $60.00 each

Kealan’s text was prepared for the press by setting the type on a 1910 Royal Barlock typewriter. The runes were set using a newly designed Irish Runes font that we used to replace the roman letters that the Iliad text was set in. The woodcut was made on a piece of birch faced plywood. All the text was printed from polymer plates made at Boxcar press.

What do the RUNES mean? The runes when translated reveal a quote from Homer’s Iliad. Here’s the quote:

“Come, Friend, you too must die. Why moan about it so? Even Patroclus died, a far, far better man than you. And look, you see how handsome and powerful I am? The son of a great man, the mother who gave me life — A deathless goddess. But even for me, I tell you, Death and the strong force of fate are waiting. There will come a dawn or sunset or high noon when a man will take my life in battle too—flinging a spear perhaps or whipping a deadly arrow off his bow.”

What is the PLAYWRIGHT about?

On the beautiful summer day in which 11-year-old Timmy Quinn encounters an odd boy on the banks of a local pond, his life changes forever. Over the next thirty years, he will be tasked with facilitating the vengeance of murderous revenants, reuniting them with those responsible for their deaths. In the process he becomes aware of the existence of The Stage, a parallel dimension where the dead impatiently await their chance to return and The Curtain, the veil that separates their world from ours.

Throughout the series, Tim battles all manner of creatures in his struggle, not only to survive, but to protect those he loves from being contaminated or killed due to their closeness to him.

Ultimately, Tim discovers that The Stage and The Curtain are only one of myriad realities, and that this one was man-made, accidentally, by The Four, a group of creatives who messed with powers they didn’t truly understand in an effort to fashion a “creative Heaven”. The process condemned one of them—William Godwin, a failed playwright—to The Stage, essentially making him its god. The play he writes “Nemesis”, is Tim’s story (the whole Timmy Quinn series of books, in other words), but whether he created Tim or just documents his life is unclear.

In the end, the only way Tim can save those he loves, and the very world itself, is to sacrifice himself by taking The Playwright’s place and writing the ending himself.

The poem is the voice of the PLAYWRIGHT!


Kealan Patrick Burke was born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, he is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of five novels (Master of the Moors, Currency of Souls, Kin, The Living, and Nemesis: The Death of Timmy Quinn), over a hundred short stories, four collections (Ravenous Ghosts, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania & Others, Theater Macabre, and The Novellas), and editor of four acclaimed anthologies, Taverns of the Dead, Quietly Now: A Tribute to Charles L. Grant, Brimstone Turnpike, and Tales from the Gorezone, proceeds from which were donated to children’s charity PROTECT.

When not writing, Kealan designs covers for print and digital books through his company Elderlemon Design. To date he has designed covers for books by Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Scott Nicholson, Bentley Little, William Schoell, and Hugh Howey, to name a few.

In what little free time remains, Kealan is a voracious reader, movie buff, videogamer (Xbox), and road-trip enthusiast.

A movie based on his short story “Peekers” is currently in development through Lionsgate Entertainment.

George A. Walker is a letterpress printer and book artist. He holds an MA in Communication and Culture from Ryerson and York University. He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) in 2002 in recognition of his achievements in Canadian Book Arts. He is an Associate Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University where he teaches book related arts in the Printmaking program. He is the graphic novel acquisitions editor for the Porcupine’s Quill and has six titles in print with them. He is the author of the popular how-to book, The Woodcut Artists’ Handbook (Firefly 2005) now in its second revised edition (Firefly 2010), and he is recognized for his art history book on wordless novels, Graphic Witness (Firefly 2007) which has sold over 16,000 copies and an anthology of his own wordless books titled, Written In Wood (Firefly 2015) Since 1984 his letterpress printed artists’ books have been collected internationally by institutions such as the University of Toronto, Morgan Library and Museum N.Y., Columbia University, N.Y. and Princeton University N.J. and the Victoria and Albert museum in London England.

You can preorder THE PLAYWRIGHT here.