{Feature} Author Steve Stred & Author/Cover Artist Mason McDonald share some backstory on Steve’s latest novella’s Ritual & The Window In The Ground.

Hey everyone! Gavin has kindly invited me back to give a bit of a background post regarding my latest release, Ritual.

I’ve also managed to wrangle a piece from Mason McDonald, my good friend and frequent cover collaborator. At this point, Mason has done the covers for Invisible, Left Hand Path, Wagon Buddy, YURI, The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, Dim the Sun & The Night Crawls In. He’s also done the covers for my upcoming releases The Window in the Ground, The One That Knows No Fear, Scott: A Wagon Buddy Tale and Pieces of Me. We also have a number of other covers to come, that I can’t share just yet!

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So I’ll jump right in and discuss Ritual.

I originally wrote Ritual as a short story for submission. I can’t remember where I was going to submit it, but I believe it was David Sodergren who suggested maybe I don’t submit it and I expand on it for release.

The basis of the story came to me at work when I was locked in the ritual of the boring. I had had three or four days of exactly the same patients and appointments and I had one of those moments where I had no clue what day of the week was; groundhog day once again.

I, as you may have noted, have a pretty warped imagination. So I took our character Brad and plopped him in a job he hates, but it’s a means to an end. I personally love my job, but for Brad’s sake – he doesn’t and he doesn’t like his co-workers.

Because of the nature of the original submission guidelines, I’d made the out of work setting to be Brad’s devotion to his Bible and to working towards this ceremony.

I’ve been pleased as punch so far with how the story has hit folks. I’ve described it as one of my darkest stories yet, but as you can see from Mason’s comments after here – it’s got some pretty brutal parts!

I’ve never written a ‘religious’ based story before and I’m really not sure I will again. Of course I should add – never say never! And while the story is only 70 pages or so long, I spent a few hours re-reading the Bible to find sections I felt worked best for each part.

Now I’ll hand it over to Mason to give his thoughts on working with myself and the cover for Ritual!

Mason here!

RITUAL is fucked up. Let’s make that clear. Steve likes to use the descriptor “dark” for his work, but that word does not fit here. RITUAL is not dark. “Dark” implies there is light in the world, it implies that for things to be dark and bleak and bad, there is a brightness that is being defeated. RITUAL is not like that. The world of this story has no brightness, no saving grace, no happiness. Steve paints a world devoid of human decency. A world where bad shit happens and hey, you know what pal, that’s all that happens. That’s the story he wrote.

Going into this one was different than say The Window in the Ground, as I was able to read the story first. The feeling this story gave me, besides the urgent need to get a shower and cleanse myself of the horrible acts committed between the pages, was a familiar one. It made me think of years ago, when you would go to a Blockbuster and grab a straight-to-DVD horror movie from the early 2000’s that you never heard of before and after watching it realize, hey, this is messed up but so, so good. That era is my favourite in all of horror films (unpopular opinion but hey sue me) and I wanted to create a design that reflected that time and feel. I like to think I did a good job with reflecting both the tone of the story and that great feeling it gave me. Steve thought so too.

Oh, and Steve? We’re friends. You’re my bud and I love you, but if you ever ask me to go to a religious gathering, I’m going too politely, but sternly, slap you in the gums and run for my life.

When I surprise revealed four upcoming releases covers recently, this was one of them that really seemed to intrigue people. It also helped that my buddy, David Sodergren, tweeted about beta-reading this and that he considered it creepy as hell.

The Window in the Ground was another story idea that came to me from two random thoughts. The first happened while I was playing with my son in his sand table. There’s a green, clear measuring scoop that we use to dig some dirt. I started putting it on top of cars and then covering the rest with sand so that we could still see through the material. I thought ‘wowsa, that’s pretty neat,’ and stored the idea.

Then not too long after Eureka! moment #1, we were out at a little hiking spot close to us called the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary. At one point there is a large, open clearing with a bunch of deep grass and small trees. Far off in the distance near the tree-line, I spotted a square section of lush, green grass. It was as though someone was doing lawn/yard maintenance on a twenty by twenty section of nature. I put two and two together and voila – The Window in the Ground.

The synopsis is simple – beyond the edge of town, up a path, in the woods, lies a clearing. Within that clearing is a secret, a secret the town’s people work desperately to hide. If word got out, people would swarm the area, as they’d all want to take a look through the window in the ground.

I think this one will really be loved by those folks who love The Girl Who Hid in the Trees! It’s near the same length and will be a fast, snappy read!

As we get closer to its 2020 release date, I’ll share more info about the story, but as for now, I’ll hand it off to Mason!

Mason here – again!

Steve and I share a lot of interests, I feel I should get that out there. We like the same type of music, we like the same type of fiction, we both have a passion for supporting Canadian art. Having these similarities makes working with him very easy, and I mean that in the best way possible.

WINDOW IN THE GROUND is the best example of this. When Steve came to me about designing the cover for this story, it hadn’t even been written yet (as far as I know) (STEVE NOTE – THIS IS TRUE). At that point, it was either just an idea or only partially written. All Steve could tell me about it was that it centred on a small village that held a dark secret regarding a window in the ground on its outskirts. That was it. I still, as of writing this, don’t know what’s on the other side of the window. But just the title alone put a very clear image in my head. Now, most people might say that without reading the story, how could I get a proper feeling for the design? How could I get it right? Well that’s where the friendship between us comes in handy: we like the same shit. I made a design I like, sent it over to Steve, and BAM, he says we have a match. As easy as that. It’s a different, somewhat odd way of doing business, but it works for us. And that’s what matters.



Meet Brad.

A quiet, hardworking man who goes about his daily routine with joy.
He works as a telemarketer, trying his best to sell poorly made, over-priced products to the unsuspecting people on the other end of the phone.

Brad doesn’t mind though, it’s a means to an end.

Life’s about to change for Brad. Now that Father has anointed him the Chosen one, the one to open the gates and allow them to flock into the Black Heavens.

Eternity awaits.

But is Brad ready to perform on the big day?

You can buy Ritual from Amazon UK Amazon US

Steve Stred

Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.

Steve is the author of the novels Invisible & The Stranger, the novellas The Girl Who Hid in the TreesWagon BuddyYuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick, and the dark poetry collection Dim the Sun.

On September 1st, 2019 his second collection of dark poetry and drabbles called The Night Crawls In arrived. This release was specifically created to help fund the 1st Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred

You can visit Steve’s Official website here

Mason McDonald

You can follow Mason on Twitter @Mas0nMcD0nald

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