What inspired you to become an author?
Probably my friends are who inspired me. We always talked and played games, shared stories and dreams, it was clear that they knew I was a dreamer. Several of the ideas I had shared with them, they believed I needed to write in a story. So, I decided to try. When I first wrote my book, I thought it would just be between my friends and me, but then they started telling me I needed to publish it. Now, here I am.
Do you write in different genres?
Yes, I do. Right now, I am working on the sequel Urban Fantasy to A Campfire Nightmare, but I am also working really hard on a Sci-Fi novel. It isn’t really as different as most people think, but there are slight differences.
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
Actually, I can’t tell you which is better. My Urban Fantasy is fun because I get to play with magic, but my Sci-Fi has super powers. I think the major difference is that I write my Urban Fantasy is 3rd person whereas I write my Sci-Fi in 1st person. Both are fun, but both have serious challenges.
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
I actually won’t title my books until I am at least half way through with my book. I have the general idea of the book ready, with a working title, but I won’t know an exact name until it jumps out at me. A Campfire Nightmare didn’t appear to me until I had finished chapter 5. For those who have already read my book, you know why I named it so.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are several messages I have in my novel that I want readers to grasp. First, and foremost, no everything is what it seems in life. So many people go through life trying to figure out exactly how everything is or trying to explain everything away. There are so many things we don’t know about, so, open your mind.
Second, don’t be a bully. Don’t be Peter. I hated writing about Peter and his attitude toward Jimmy. I have never liked bullies and I wanted to emphasize that bullies make the world wrong. So, don’t be a bully.
Third, and last one I want to talk about, is that you need to believe in yourself. So many people lose confidence in themselves and have a hard time with confidence, but I want to tell readers that they’re better than they realize and life is better than you think. If I could, I would tell my readers that they are amazing and that they need know that they are important to me.
What books/authors have influenced your life?
There are so many books and authors, especially in the fantasy genre. First and foremost R.A. Salvatore and his Drizzt series. Salvatore’s books were some of the very first fantasy novels that I read. Next, would be Magician by Raymond E. Feist. Magician showed me a refined storyline that made me so fascinated with magic. Jim Butcher is, without a doubt, my favorite Urban Fantasy author. The Dresden Files led me to want to write Urban Fantasy and my type of Sci-Fi.
What is your current “work in progress” or upcoming projects?
I have three books in progress, two of which I want to have released before the end of year. The first one is the sequel to A Campfire Nightmare. The second is a Sci-Fi book about someone who executes superheroes who have gone dark. The third runs as a side series to A Campfire Nightmare. It is about 3 mercenary brothers who are guns for hire to exterminate monsters.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I think the hardest part of writing is trying to describe what you see in your head without giving too much detail. As writers, we need to, not only, create a good story, but give enough detail to create a movie in your mind. If I take too much time to write about every little detail, I’ll lose readers. On the other hand, if I don’t put enough details in, people won’t be able to visualize what is in my mind. It becomes really hard to move my thoughts from my brain down onto paper at times.
Just for fun questions
If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?
This one is super easy for me; I’d have telekinesis. First of all, you can most stuff with your mind, how cool would that be?! Plus, if we went all X-Men, Jean Grey style, I would be able to fly. So, that’s two powers in one. Basically, it’s a two for one and they are the greatest powers ever.
If you could keep a mythical/ paranormal creature as a pet, what would you have?
If I could have a mythical animal, it would be a phoenix. They are, without a doubt, the most magical creature in existence with capabilities that range from being a pretty bird to a near godlike being that would fascinate me. I would love to have one and study it. Plus, watching it burst into flames and reborn would be exciting.
If you could spend a day with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you do? What would you ask them?
I actually just got done reading the biography of Walt Disney. There are so many things I would ask him and want to know. Some of the things I would want to know are: What do you think of your Empire now? What would you change? Is magic still real to you? Can I have all of your earnings for that past few decades? You know, the important stuff.
A Campfire Nightmare
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Stagg Literature, LLC
Date of Publication: March 1, 2016
Number of pages: 344
Word Count: 117,824
IN AGES PAST, the Flathead Native Americans fought a war against a monstrous force that stalks the woods surrounding Flathead Lake. So says William Rox, legendary musician and director of the prestigious Colman’s Amateur Music Program, known as CAMP.
Jimmy Downs is thrilled to be attending CAMP—or he would be, if he weren’t being bullied by campers who seem to think wealth can buy talent. Jimmy doesn’t have money, but he can drum like no one else. As for the bullies, at least his best friend, Michael Munday, is with him. The two have had each other’s backs all of their lives.
But bullies are about to become the least of Jimmy’s worries. Dark, hulking figures begin surrounding the woods around camp…figures that bear more than a passing resemblance to Rox’s campfire stories.
Jimmy and Michael are about to become players in a very old war—assuming they survive.
DANGERS OF THE NIGHT
The cloaked figure felt his horse shiver under him as it caught the scent of something unnatural around them. His fingers loosened on the reins as he gripped the saddle horn in a single pale hand and leaned forward to take in the scene before him. His nearly colorless eyes scanned the pine forest. It was clear that he wasn’t alone right now.
He had ridden through the woods following the tracks of a lone wolf monster until he had happened upon this clearing, entering the small campsite to find utter chaos. A red-and-gray tent that could have gray tent that could have gray housed four or five people comfortably lay in shreds. Pieces of the cloth hung raggedly from low hanging branches while broken carbon-fiber tent poles had been shattered as if some massive weight had dropped on top of the meager shelter.
“Oh no,” the cloaked man whispered as he lowered himself to the ground. His soft leather boots hardly made a crunch as he stepped on a pine cone, but it was enough to make him pause, fearing he had alerted the thing in the woods to his presence.
After another moment of stillness, he finished dropping his second foot from the stirrup. His eyes never stopped moving as the shadows of the forest danced between the tree trunks, making the cloaked man feel like he was not alone. Even without any sort of flashlight or the campfire that had clearly burned out hours ago, the pale man could see into the darkness as if it was illuminated with torches. Only the deepest, darkest shadows around the trees could conceal any sort of enemy from his vision. As his hand left the hard saddle horn, it tightened around the slender grip of his massive longbow. With his other hand, the man withdrew an arrow with a razor-sharp broadhead.
“Easy,” the pale man ordered his dark mount as it let out a quiet whinny. Then, lifting his voice loud enough for anyone in the immediate area to hear him, he said, “Hello, is anyone out there?” Notching the arrow, he moved toward the tent, his eyes studying the ruined mess. “Hello, my name is Moose. I work for the camp a couple of miles away. Is everyone all right here?”
Stepping up to the shredded tent, Moose knelt down, trying to find a clue of what had happened here. Gripping the bow and notched arrow in one hand, with his freed right hand, he lifted a large scrap of cloth so he could get a better angle. The gray piece was limp in his hand as something dark began to drip off, staining the ground. With a shake of his head, Moose let the bloody rag drop. The wolf had done away with whoever had been foolish enough to camp in these cursed woods.
The snap of a branch in the woods caused Moose to leap to his feet, his fingers reflexively bringing the string of the notched arrow to his cheek. Eyes darting about, Moose knew that it hadn’t been a natural sound of the woods; something had accidentally stepped on the dried wood. The tip of the arrow moved from one space between the trees to another.
“Where are you?” Moose hissed just before something heavy took another step toward him. Without thought, Moose turned and fired his arrow between a pair of old pines, the projectile flying within an inch of a branch thicker than his own leg. The arrow made a solid impact sound as it drove deep into a furry shoulder. A second arrow followed the first, then a third and a fourth. The archer’s white hand halted the release of the fifth projectile as he waited. A loud thumping sound echoed through the clearing as the heavy beast fell to the ground.
Waiting for just a moment, Moose began to step forward to see what he had done. It had been too easy. Warwolves never made themselves this easy of a target. They were back in numbers that had never been before, but for some reason, this wolf had made itself vulnerable.
Halting his forward movement, Moose’s eyes opened in surprise as he realized how bad his situation was. As if his sudden clarity had been a signal, a sound akin to that of a mountain lion screaming mixed with the howl of a wolf rent the night around the cloaked man. Spinning in place, Moose’s eyes searched for the source, but the first call was echoed by a second throat, and then several other howls joined the tortured voices.
Not skipping a beat, Moose darted toward his horse, leaping into the saddle and screaming, “Yah!”
The horse twirled around on its rear hooves, and Moose leaned forward, low to the saddle. They were off in an instant, the hood of his cloak falling back as they sped through the trees. Hooves thundered between the trees as Moose risked a peek behind them but wished he hadn’t. Black hellish forms on four legs chased the rider; their ability to keep pace with his horse had always unnerved him. He didn’t know where they came from or if they bred like normal animals, but these killing machines were becoming more numerous and aggressive than he had ever seen in the past fifteen years.
He couldn’t use his longbow on horseback to shoot at the pursuing predators—no man could—but he didn’t want to take the time to but he didn’t want to take the time to but try and unlimber the small recurve bow he had strapped to the side of the saddle. Tucking his head and shoulder through the longbow, Moose freed his right hand; from a large holster on his hip, he drew a large revolver that had rounds large enough to put a hole the size of a quarter through a warwolf’s hide.
Laying his chest flat against the saddle, Moose noticed the approach of a fallen tree. Instead of trying to avoid the obstacle, he spurred his horse on, shouting encouragement for the mount to hurry. With heavily muscled legs, that dark mare hurdled over the fallen trunk and continued to run. Turning in the saddle, Moose thumbed back the hammer of his revolver and fired. The round blew a hole in the shoulder of the first werewolf-like monstrosity that followed him over the tree.
This was the first time tonight Moose had a good glimpse of one of these mutant wolves. The one he had shot tumbled to the ground, two humanlike arms flailing as it tried to regain purchase with its razor-like claws but finding that the Moose’s aim had ruined its chance in pursuing him. More and more of the shadowy beasts bounded over the tree, but Moose was slowly gaining enough distance that he couldn’t accurately hit any of them. But he knew that this was a short-lived lead.
“We need to get back to camp.” Moose shouted into the horse’s ear, trying to drive home the urgency.
Tall pine trees whipped past him as his horse ran on. There seemed to be no escape for them. He couldn’t help a slight flutter of hope entering his chest when the woods around them seemed to stop in a solid line. The sound of hooves on soft soil changed to the loud popping and cracking noises as steel horseshoes met the loose gravel of the road leading up to the camp. The horse breathed heavily as it charged on. Moose could feel her strength starting to fade; they had been out for more than three hours on a quick-paced patrol, searching for the one wolf without any sort of respite.
Thumbing back the hammer again, Moose turned and fired into the darkness of the trees on his right and just behind them. The wolves weren’t dumb enough to try to enter the open space behind him where he could have a clear shot at them, instead opting to ghost along parallel to him. They were less than a mile from the camp. It would all come down to who had more energy in store for this final sprint.
“Show me that you have no equal in speed!” Moose shouted over the rushing wind, and he leaned as flat against the horse as he could and dug in his heels into her flanks.
With one last kick, the mare charged ahead, her head bobbing up and down. Moose held his breath as they rocketed by the last set of trees that turned into lush, green grass. After one more blind shot into the woods, Moose holstered the large pistol and began shifting around to allow him to unlimber his bow once again. Listening hard, he couldn’t hear any sound of pursuing monsters, but it was hard to hear anything over his horse’s hooves and gasping breaths.
Just ahead of them, a light appeared as the door of the gigantic cabin opened and the oversized shadow of a man filled its depths. Squinting, Moose tried to force back the tears as the stinging light pierced deep into his head. He rode straight ahead, following the gravel path to where the man stepped out of the doorway, a large, heavy automatic assault rifle held confidently in his hands.
“Moose, where are you?” The deep voice of the other guardian of the camp called urgently, his British accent always seeming to grow thicker whenever he was stressed.
Instead of answering, Moose began to slow his horse’s momentum but still continued to move as fast as a running man. He turned in his saddle, and it took a second before his eyes readjusted enough for him to see clearly into the woods behind him. There, six massive warwolves stood on hind legs, watching the two guardians before them. They hadn’t left the protection of the woods, but it was clear that they wanted to do nothing more than rush forward and rip the two men apart. Each of the demon wolves stood at least seven feet tall and heavily muscled. Their muzzles sniffed at the air, trying to catch the scent of their prey, but their golden eyes were locked on the mounted horseman.
Just as his mare came within a ten feet of the other guardian, Moose leaped from the saddle into a controlled tumble, coming to stop in a crouch, arrow notched to bowstring. His eyes flashed back to where he had last seen the threat, but in the brief instant he had looked away, they had vanished, not a single hulking form to be seen.
“What happened? I heard shooting,” the large British man demanded, his eyes searching the darkness for the archer. It was clear he couldn’t see anything beyond the tip of his nose. The darkness was the weakness for his kind, while Moose’s people thrived in the low-lit domain.
“I followed a set of tracks. I thought one of them had been alone and that I could pick it off long before it could get back to the pack,” Moose answered quickly, his eyes continuing to trace the forest; but he knew that they had gone. He couldn’t help it as a wisp of nervousness crept into his voice. “William, they set a trap.”
William Rox’s head spun around as he tried to see his friend as he asked, “What do you mean?”
“The trail led to a small campsite not three miles away from here. Whoever had been there is definitely dead, but when I got off my horse to check the tent, they tried to get me. I dropped one there and one or two on the way back, but that was too—look out!” The last was a shout as look out!” The last was a shout as look he grabbed the director of the camp by the front of his shirt and pulled him to the ground just as something flew out the woods where he had last observed the warwolves.
Thankfully the other guardian allowed himself to be pulled down. They were rewarded with the disturbance of air as something jetted just above their heads. After it passed, a loud crunching and the shattering of glass from behind them made it clear that something had smashed into the small bus that they used to transport campers in and out of the grounds.
Moose was back on his feet, bowstring pulled back as far as it could before he released the arrow into the darkness. He was rewarded with the twisted scream of one of the beasts as it retreated into the woods. A second arrow followed, but it was more to remove any idea from the beasts’ minds to try again.
“Bloody hell, what was that?” Rox blurted as he heaved himself to his feet, spinning to try to look at the bus. “Careful, I’m going to turn on a light.”
“Go ahead,” Moose answered as he drew the hood of his cloak over his head to block out any of the light from getting to his eyes. “What is it?”
A loud clicking told him that Rox had turned on the LED flashlight attached to the end of the rifle. The big man walked away from Moose’s side as the archer continued to stand guard. It took a minute before Rox let out a deep breath and shut off the light.
“You’ll want to see this.”
Moose was surprised that Rox hadn’t just told him. After one more quick search of the tree line, Moose turned to see what had happened.
The back end of the bus was ruined. The entire right end of the transport vehicle was caved in, windows shattered, and rear axle bent. What horrified Moose the most about this scene was the blood and the body that was still being held against the bus due to the metal wrapping around it like an embrace.
“That’s impossible,” Moose whispered as he eyed the hellish form of a warwolf that had been thrown. “They would have needed to work together to throw it this far.”
Rox stared just to the right of the corpse, blinded once more, and nodded.
“William, you need to close the camp. We can’t protect all of the campers and counselors!” Moose reasoned, turning back to the woods, but the wolves had not returned.
“You know we can’t,” Rox said, turning back to the column of light pouring through the mess hall’s front door.
Moose felt frustrated as he tried to reason with the man. “They are working together, William. They come closer to the camp each night; they’re setting traps. There is something going on, and we can’t just lift the kids up like lambs to the slaughter!”
Whirling around in frustration, Rox glared at a space nearly a foot to Moose’s left and snarled, “I am not a fool, Moose. I know there is something going on here. It probably has something to do with the campers, with the campers, with but we have a duty to carry out. As God as my witness, I will keep the campers and every man, woman, and child who sets foot in my camp safe. But until they breach the perimeter, I will not shut this camp down.”
Moose ignored the stinging within his head as he watched his friend turn away, step through the front door, and slam the heavy wooden entry closed. He was right; they had a duty to carry out. Looking over to his still-panting mount, the archer let out three rapid whistles. With a shake of its head, the dark-coated mare turned and began walking toward the massive barn that housed all of the other horses of Colman’s Amateur Music Program.
With a quick glance to the night’s sky, Moose knew he had a couple more hours before the sun began illuminating the countryside, forcing the wolves back into hiding until tomorrow night. Instead of following his horse back to the barn, Moose lifted a small cloth to cover his face, checked the arrow still notched to his bowstring, and ran back toward the woods.
It was time to go on the offensive.
About the Author:
Jeffrey was born in Ogden, Utah in 1989.
Born to a podiatrist from Utah and a rancher's daughter from Montana. Stagg was able travel throughout his childhood finding solace and inspiration in the wild.
His interest in nature has made Stagg realize that the melding of natural world with magic was where he could excel. To keep ideas alive, Stagg is an avid nature photographer, imagining book scenes wherever he travels.
While attending Weber State University, Stagg was able to work as an artisan cheese maker for the award winning Beehive Cheese Co. in Ogden, Utah. It was there that the details of A Campfire Nightmare came together. During the 5 years he was employed at Beehive, Stagg has created story lines for many series he is in the process of writing.
Now, Stagg works as an educator and works with students in reading and writing. Encouraging those around him to spend more time in books.