The Book Of Witness – Volume #1

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short read, erick mertz, paranormal fiction, the book of witnessEver heard of the parable of the blind men and the elephant? I will do my best to make this a short read but it goes a little something like this:

A group of blind men hear about a mysterious beast known as only the elephant. They want to get an idea of what the beast is about, so they touch it. But they only touch one part. One touches the flappy ears. Another touches the smooth tusks. Another touches the tail. Later on the blind men meet and take turns trying to describe the creature they experienced. Ultimately, they cannot agree because what each man touched was so wildly different than the other.

Writing a supernatural series like The Strange Air often feels like that parable. Whenever I try and bring a part of this massive world into the light, it’s becomes that elephant. And I’m a blind man.

It’s not just a tusk. Or a tail. It’s all of it.

~

My inspiration for the concept behind The Book Of Witness collection came from three places.

1.) Fiction readers want more short content. The novel is still king in fiction, but a short read performs well. Studies of Amazon buying behavior provide market insights proving this idea.

Readers want short fiction.

2.) I already have quite a few short pieces in the Strange Air series written. Going back a few years, every time I wanted to develop something in my world, I would write a witness account.

As a result, my Strange Air file was bursting with little “witness testimonies” as I liked to call them.

3.) Time did nothing to sour my enjoyment of these stories. Skimming back through my files, I found gems. Whether it was a character or a situation, I felt good about my ability to produce a short read.

~

the book of witness, erick mertz, supernatural fiction, short readAt first, bringing out a volume of stories because it makes market sense offered conflict. Seeing how I had already these stories though, and readers want them, it just made sense.

Once I decided to go through with publishing the Book Of Witness project, the real hard part followed. Deciding on four witness testimonies that I liked.

The first volume contains the stories of four Canyon County residents and their encounters with the weird. If you have read The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice (thank you!) you’ll recognize a few locations. Some of the characters may be familiar too.

The stories are not connected. Events take place more than a century apart in some instances. These stories are interrelated though, each offering a unique peek at the weird.

Whether that peek be at the tusk or tail.

The first volume of The Book Of Witness is due soon. Sign up to my email list for updates on where and when you can get your copy of the book.

emertzThe Book Of Witness – Volume #1
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Erick Mertz Author – “Koko”

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erick mertz author, portland, oregon, supernatural mysteryIn every possible way, Koko mesmerizes all five senses. If Erick Mertz Author had an unofficial soundtrack for this dreary final winter chapter it may be this album.

What I like about Koko is how many distinct places the sixteen tracks (which are relatively short for ambient) travel in a short amount of time. Some evoke images of nature. Others feel cold and technological. The sound travels from space station to rain forest in the flutter of a heartbeat.

I can get lost in this album. The tracks bleed in and out like rain streaking down a water color painting. Over the year that I’ve had Jobanshi as regular background music for writing, I’ve never had the same experience twice. Jobanshi has crafted something like a recurring dream. Each listen may be relatively similar to the last, but it reveals something different at the same time.

Bedlam Tapes is among the best sources of music for writing on the internet. No surprise this album is featured on Bandcamp in their massive trove of music. The album is labeled electronic and experimental, which makes sense, but there are also some nonsense terms like “ghost tech” and “field recordings”.

Whatever the genre, Koko builds into a trance like state, the perfect waking dream for your writing time. You can download the album by Jobanshi here on Bandcamp.

Want to know maybe the best part? It’s free.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you had an opportunity to listen to Koko by Jobanshi?

erick mertz author, portland orego, supernatural mysteryLeave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page for the latest Oregon supernatural mystery Erick Mertz Author is working on.

emertzErick Mertz Author – “Koko”
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Best Of 2018 – Music For Writers

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Usually by mid-December my email and social media feeds are filled up with a lot of “Best of 2018” lists. Not wanting to leave my readers out, I thought I would offer another one.

If you are a writer like me though this list may actually be of some use to you. I have taken a moment to compile a list of my favorite albums to write by of 2018. Anyone who has read my blog before knows I write supernatural mystery, so naturally, I like my musical accompaniment dark and minimal.

Just as a caveat… these are not necessarily the best new albums of 2018. Only a few were released this year (one comes out January 2019). These are my favorite personal discoveries in minimal ambient, dark ambient and classical of 2018.

Enough with the handwringing… here it the list.

A-Sun Amissa, Ceremony In The Stillness

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFar and away, I listened to this album more than any other in 2018. I still use Apple iTunes for music on my laptop, so I come away with a pretty accurate read on how influential an album was on my creative process. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, which probably represents like half of my writing days.

One reason this four track album has been so deeply influential on me is that A-Sun Amissa achieves a gloomy mood through an effortlessly minimal blend of key boards and guitars. There are a few stirring peaks on the track list and there are also a few moments where the sound simply leaves you alone. On Ceremony In The Stillness there is depth and woe and a few times glimmers of the surface. Best writing album of the year.

Do yourself a favor and download Ceremony In Stillness here on A-Sun Amissa’s Bandcamp page.

Tsunxmi, Digital Paradise

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersEven now, I can feel the swirling, seasick atmospheres on this record. They’ve settled down in the very depths of my coffee filled belly.

I’ve struggled to capture the feeling here, but I’ll do my best. This recording feels as though it was culled from a box of warped records discovered at the bottom of a lilac colored cosmic ocean.

Yeah, Digital Paradise comes together in bizarre ways. It is definitely an album for crafting other worlds. This is the kind of suggestive album that a writer can put on as a vehicle to get lost in their creative process.

You can download Tsunxmi’s Digital Paradise for free here at their Bandcamp page.

Spurv, Myra

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersPost-metal may seem like an odd fit as an accompaniment for writing, but hear me out. There were precious few heavy music releases of 2018 that were this murky and triumphantly emotional while grinding as hard as it did. Leave it to the Norwegians, am I right? The guys from Spurv crafted a record in Myra that is satisfying on one hand as a heavy metal release and on the other as a work of damp atmosphere.

Usually, I break up my writing music into two camps. There is music I use for writing and there is music I use for thinking about writing (which in my process is two separate times). This album falls comfortably into the latter. I wouldn’t drill down into the line with this on, but the doom laden atmosphere on this is a wonderful porthole for exploring the hell you want to put your characters through.

You can download Myra from Spurv’s Bandcamp page.

Black To Comm, Seven Horses For Seven Kings

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFor my next favorite record we head to Deutschland for the dark mastery of Black To Comm. Anyone familiar with the music site Bandcamp will attest to the fathomless depth of content contained on the site. It’s also worth noting how many artists with massive backlists are out there churning out outstanding albums.

Black To Comm is one of the many projects of audio artist Marc Richter. This album is an experimental blend of horror inspired electroaccoustic and psychedelic tinged electronics in a funhouse atmosphere. The tracks on this album really get under your skin and push the creative needle. There is also a subtle element of magic on Seven Horses that I’m at loss to put a finger on, even more than thirty listens in.

Black To Comm releases Seven Horses in January of 2019. You can pre-order it here on Bandcamp.

Monplaisir, Loops

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersAs noted above, Bandcamp houses an endless supply of fantastic music. Monplaisir’s album Loops was an exciting early year discovery that managed to hold up through the last turn of the calendar to 2019.

Call it “vaporwave” or call it “ambient” either way the results from repeated listens of this album are out and out dreamy. As a writing companion album, Loops gives you freedom to tune everything else in your surroundings out. Got a kid? Not anymore.

Often when I put music on while writing it’s to block out noise… other times it’s to isolate one noise in particular. We lose sight that the proper auditory conditions are often subjective. This record offers an almost perfect balance. I can put it on and tune out everything but this and my story. The songs here are really a tightrope I traverse between ideas and content.

You can download Monplaisir’s album Loops for free on Bandcamp.

Oly Rafle, Notes From Another Sea

The last record on my list comes from the under-appreciated world of contemporary classical music. There are few records I have listened to in the last year that can match the beauty on Notes From Another Sea… make that the last decade. What Oly Rafle does while seated at the piano is quite simply a sublime divination of tranquility.

Often it feels like you’re in a room by the sea with him as he plays.

In college I had a roommate who felt that the aesthetic quality of the music he listened to while studying had a direct influence on his retention of information. I don’t believe that. I think great ideas can come from anywhere (as this list reflects, I am fond of introducing a lot of darkness to my process). If my roommate was right though, and he had this album, he would have ended up a Rhodes Scholar.

You can find Oly Rafle’s record, Notes From Another Sea on his website. 

Are you a fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while you’re writing? Have you given any of the albums on this “Best of 2018” list a listen? supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon, best of 2018

What do you think?

Leave me a comment below or suggest a writing album that I can cover in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

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Podcast Review – “The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward”

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erick mertz, charles dexter ward, supernatural fictionThe BBC recently dropped a new adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward based on the horror novel by HP Lovecraft. First written in 1927, this story was never published in Lovecraft’s lifetime but in the 90 years since it has become one of his canonical weird tales.

For those unfamiliar with the source material, Charles Dexter Ward is a young man in his mid-twenties. The story drops us in at a point where he is locked up in a “mental asylum”. Ward’s psychological infirmity stems from a burning obsession with Joseph Curwen, a distant relative. Charles physically resembles his relative (an accused wizard) and he works to resurrect his relative’s occult spells.

The BBC has chosen to reinvent the story using a true crime/investigative style. Doctor Willitts (who is also the investigating character in the original) works to understand his disturbed patient. In the podcast interviews begin back in recorded conversations with the boy. Willits contacts his teachers as well as a cast who knew the young antiquarian when he was into hanging out and playing video games.

The BBC was clearly disinterested with preserving HP Lovecraft’s original tone.

erick mertz, charles dexter ward, supernatural fictionHere it is critical to note the difference between podcast and audiobook. The latter is defined as a simple dramatic reading of the text. The former however implies episodic, and it lends itself to a broader and more adventurous story interpretation. The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward has been adapted into an audiobook numerous times. It is available on Audible and here. It was also broken down admirably with performances on an early episode of the HP Podcraft Literary Podcast.

The BBC ventures far from the source. Their adaptation feels more like the wildly popular Serial that took the podcast world by storm than an audiobook. For one thing, the story is updated to the modern day. The story is also told using a female point of view. It views the titular character as a disturbed boy. Episode One even alludes to a most modern plague: school shootings.

It is critical to note the inclusion of a female character because Lovecraft almost never wrote female characters. Certainly none of those token mentions was given a point of view.

Another distinction is the inclusion of examination of an in depth child character. Once again the BBC is going somewhere the source author rarely did. Aside from the fantastical creation of Wilbur Whateley in The Dunwich Horror children are largely left out of Lovecraft’s fiction.

For Lovecraft purists, the BBC’s adaptation may sting a bit. Some might view it as unnecessary. My bristle is a bit more with how this adaptation uses too many horror motifs. We get a lot of female protagonists. Disturbed children are the genre’s stock and trade.

Scholars postulate that Charles Dexter Ward is HP Lovecraft’s most obviously biographical character. I think of this this story as Lovecraft’s most purely psychological. While many of his tales involve insanity, what afflicts Charles is more relatable. This is less about monster myths and more about an inborn psychological frailty therefore this story stands as pretty modern and stands up to adaptation.

The BBC’s adaptation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward works in part because reminds us of a key aspect in understanding HP Lovecraft: the open source nature of his work. The author wanted new generations of writers to tinker with his worlds therefore this should be viewed as a reflection of that desire.

If Lovecraft were alive today (a phrase that launches countless debates) I’m sure he would listen to podcasts. He might even produce one. I would hazard a guess then that had The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward been written in 2018, it might sound a little more like this.

Want to check it out for yourself? Here is the link to the BBC Sounds presentation of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward.

Have You Listened To The Podcast Version of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward already? 

Leave me a comment about this podcast or review. Perhaps you could suggest a supernatural fiction podcast for me to check out.

While you’re at it check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzPodcast Review – “The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward”
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Episode #6: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

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erick mertz, episode #6, the lies and truth of doctor desmond brice, supernatural fictionThe Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice Episode #6 brings us another step closer to the end of our titular character’s misadventures. Thus far, I have avoided blogging about the publishing process.

As near as we are now though, I feel it’s a good time.

Bringing an episode of this novella out every week (or so, I get it…) has been a fun little adventure. But would I do it the same way again? Maybe.

Serial publishing is nice because it gives me, the writer and publisher, a chance at increased interaction. Writers are always complaining about not having enough relevant material to blog or write about to their audience. This process has given me an opportunity to introduce and discuss a piece of new work on a weekly basis. From readers, I have gotten the impression that this works too.

What serial publishing has done though is made me eager. I am really ready to have this whole book out. There has been so much getting ready and getting the book together that arriving at the end has felt too long.

Here we are though. Episode #6 “The Old Lie”. According to Doctor Desmond Brice, the last of his many lies. The next episode, the last in the ebook we discover the consequences of truth.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January/February 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

emertzEpisode #6: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”
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Episode #5: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

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erick mertz, supernatural fiction, episode #5, the lies and truth of doctor desmond briceA couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog confessing that Episode #4 took longer to release than expected. Well, in that case, the amount of time I took getting Episode #5 out and off my desk has been just plumb ridiculous.

I’ll blame the holidays, how’s that? I’m sure that you’ve heard that excuse before. But it’s true.

I spent last week with family down in balmy Carlsbad, California up the coast from San Diego. Once I got back home to Portland, I decided it was a good idea to take a few days to acclimate back to life in the normal lane.

Better never late, I know, but the episode is out just the same.

After Episode #5 “A Cover-Up” there are only two more episodes left. Best get writing, right?

What Happens In Episode #5?

In the most succinct possible terms, Episode #5 finds Doctor Desmond Brice face to face with a new foe. Anson Jeffs arrives on his doorstep with an offer that he claims Desmond cannot refuse.

Is there such a thing? Find out in Episode #5, “A Cover Up” the latest installment.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January/February 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

Sound interesting? Sign up today and receive this mailing list exclusive.

emertzEpisode #5: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”
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Erick Mertz Author – Black To Comm – “Seven Horses For Seven Kings”

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dark ambient, erick mertz, music for writersThis album is dark ambient. It’s as dark as night.

But if you allow the collection of sour electroacoustic sounds on Black To Comm’s newest record, Seven Horses For Seven Kings to have their way with your imagination, they spin a beautiful tapestry as well.

Black to Comm is a mysterious electronic outfit that comes out of Hamburg, Germany. Over the last decade or so the group has produced a long string of dark ambient recordings, making bleak atmospheres and cinematic sonic experimentation their signature.

Seven Horses For Seven Kings is layered with distorted and harrowing electroacoustic sounds. The experimental aspects come across as rich and complex. They stand out front and are deeply satisfying. The thirteen tracks wash together into a glowering labyrinthine mix. There are a few sonic swells on the record that may prove distracting to the creative process. It may be an album best listened to at lower volumes, but the resulting backdrop fills up a writing session with bits of cosmic ponder as well as terror. A lot of dark ambient postures around a high concept and Black To Comm delivers that. This recording is sticky and has a cinematic scope.

I would recommend this album to anyone who writes fiction. I think this would be especially appealing for those working in the horror or supernatural thriller genres. There are a host of scary emotions throughout and the visuals are difficult to set aside. The run time clocks in at just over an hour, making Seven Horses For Seven Kings ideal for exploring a haunting sequence or breaking out a kill scene.

You can get the digital version of Seven Horses For Seven Kings here from Thrill Jockey. Also, check out Black To Comm’s Bandcamp page here for their extensive back catalog.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite writing album? Have you given this Black To Comm album a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

Leave me a comment below, or better yet, suggest an album for writing and I’ll cover it in my another installment of my “Music For Writers” column.

Want a free eBook?

Sign up for my email list for a free copy of my novella, The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice. It is the first book in The Strange Air series of supernatural fiction.

emertzErick Mertz Author – Black To Comm – “Seven Horses For Seven Kings”
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Episode #4: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

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erick mertz, the lies and truth of doctor desmond brice, free ebook, episode #4, supernatural fictionSo, the publication of “Episode #4” took me just a little bit longer to get out to my readers than I would have hoped.

Sorry folks. I missed the good Doctor Brice too.

Today is release day though. The latest, “Episode #4” of The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice will drop to all my loyal email list subscribers later on this afternoon.

This episode I’ve entitled, “Falsehood”.

And just so you don’t go thinking I was too indulgent with my  week away from publishing… I went out to Lake Chelan, Washington and got a lot of writing and novel plotting done with the good folks from Write On The River.

Also, Episode #4 features a brand new eBook cover. Anyone like this one better than the last? Leave me a comment below.

I have to say, I missed the process and I missed dropping eBooks in your email boxes.

Thank you for your patience… and enjoy.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?:

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

What Happens In Episode #4?:

Desmond Brice returns home from school for the Thanksgiving holiday in this episode. As you lovely readers have discovered, the good Doctor isn’t exactly a normal guy.

While most of us return to our home towns looking to reflect by the home fires, Desmond comes back seeking something else altogether. For Desmond, the idea of a home fire has an entirely different meaning altogether. In Episode #4, he is reminded of that.

Sound interesting? Sign up today and receive this mailing list exclusive.

emertzEpisode #4: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”
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Writer’s Retreat #1 – Onto Lake Chelan

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erick mertz, supernatural fiction, author, retreat, lake chelanI think that every writer shares a similar dream. A time to get away. The space to think clearly. The much coveted writer’s retreat experience is that rare opportunity to get both at once, usually in a gorgeous location to boot.

As a few of you have noticed, I took this last week away from publishing episodes of The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice in order to prepare for a retreat to Lake Chelan, Washington. The curious Doctor Brice remains in my thoughts, as I do hope he remains in yours. The time away will be a chance to focus on what comes next and I am thankful to Write On The River in Wenatchee for affording me the opportunity to share space with some of Washington’s finest writers.

What comes next? As many of you are aware, Doctor Desmond Brice fits into a larger supernatural mythology of Canyon County, Oregon. While up in Lake Chelan on this specific writer’s retreat, I am going to break out the time twisted plot of The Strange Air which will be the second novel in my supernatural mystery series. Also, I am going to take a little of my three days to work through edits and ideas for The Mask Of Tomorrow which I anticipate releasing in January or February.

Stay tuned. I also anticipate a few blogs and pictures along the way.

By the way… don’t think for a moment I’m taking a retreat just anywhere ordinary. According to legend, Lake Chelan is haunted by a dragon.

Don’t believe me? Check out this story.

Sound interesting? Sign up today and receive this mailing list exclusive.

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

emertzWriter’s Retreat #1 – Onto Lake Chelan
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Podcast Review – “Welcome To Night Vale”

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erick mertz, welcome to night vale, supernatural podcast reviewI don’t know whether it was a mistake to announce at a recent board game night that I was in the market for a new supernatural podcast. When the entire room shouted “Welcome To Night Vale” in unison I felt like a fool.

Only momentarily a fool though. Then I felt grateful.

To say that “Welcome To Night Vale” has everything would be an understatement. The podcast takes the form of a free form community calendar with each episode featuring town news and updates on the locals. An idyllic, small town feeling exists throughout, and there is usually a piece music to boot referred to as “the weather”.

The fictional Night Vale is not a normal town though and your host isn’t an everyday local radio DJ rube. Strange things happen in Night Vale. Bizarre turns of events are part of the community character. A recent High School Football preview show dissected the local team’s chances on the gridiron… only with bizarre touch like dismembered limbs and undead coaches. You get the picture.

Did I mention your bi-weekly host? Cecil Baldwin is the show’s host and narrator and one of the first things listeners notice is the resonant magnetism of his voice. His baritone read on news is a draw. He’s funny. He’s mysterious. When I listen to Night Vale it’s easy to just slide in and forget I’ve ever lived elsewhere.

The world of Night Vale is more surreal that it is terrifying. It’s bizarre. In one episode a boy turns into a tree which is a strange fate but his transformation is for poetic reasons and his fate is cruel, yet touching.

The writing is top notch. The characters are memorable. On the binge worthy scale, “Welcome To Night Vale” is up there and well-worth your headphone time.

Have you checked out “Welcome To Night Vale” yet? 

Leave a comment about this podcast, this review, or suggest a supernatural podcast for me to check out. While you’re at it check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzPodcast Review – “Welcome To Night Vale”
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