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Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters--the Story first--always the Story.

In 2008 Mike earned his masters degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University

Visit Mike on twitter @mikemehalek

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hellbender Wednesday Redux

I’m supposed to be revising.

I’m not.

Why not?

Because today is a day of celebration.

What are we celebrating?

Hellbender Wednesday!

What’s that?

Today is the official launch of Raw Dog Screaming Press and Jason Jack Miller’s debut novel, Hellbender, the first of at least five novels in the Murder Ballads & Whiskey series.

A book launch is as much about celebrating the author as it is the book itself, and so rather than telling you why should consider reading Hellbender, I’m going to make a virtual toast to Jason Jack using the Appalachian blood that runs through my veins.

I’ll pause here for you to fill your toasting goblet with your finest jug wine:

(and also mention that just in case you want to know a bit about Hellbender, I’ve linked you to my Amazon review SATORAREPOTENETOPERAROTAS and some other fun links below, just after the toast)

Let the toasting commence!

I’ve known Jason well over a decade now—we taught together in fact—and have shared highs (mostly his), lows (mostly mine), dreams (one of which I now find myself writing about), Halo battles (he kicks my ass), Doritios Locos Tacos (resulting from...), copious amounts of Jamieson (which kicks both our asses), while his brilliant and foxy wife Heidi rides shotgun and forgives us all of our sins (read: “Tricky, why are there Cheerios and Woodchuck Cider caps all over my living room floor?”)

To say that we’ve done it all is clearly obnoxious and a little conceited, but it’s also a little bit true.  You see Jason and Heidi and I have been on a journey together for a long time.  A journey that has very much shaped us into the people we are today.  Back when I was teaching, I didn’t have a lot of direction in my life, especially not my career.  Teaching was rough, I’d spend my spare time writing poetry or a short story and think about how writing for a living would make my life better.  That I could show the world that I was the next Stephen King or Dean Koontz.  That I was more interesting than my, then, completely unstylish self portrayed.  But let’s face it, I was going nowhere.

And then by luck, one Saturday as I finished up administering the SATs, I bumped into two fellow teachers—a young married couple—who I worked with but until then never really spoke to, Jason and Heidi.  If you’ve met any of us, you know that conversation invariably turns to reading and then writing, and that conversation was no different.

For me, that’s where the journey began.

They say getting there’s half the fun, and for me at least, getting to share those “horrible” early drafts, to attending Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program, to those early rejection letters--those frequent rejection letters--to those first successes, to getting to take time today to say, “Wow, man your first novel.  You’ve made it. Woot!”--getting to do all of those things with Jason around is what truly made the journey righteous.

So what comes next?  A writing career is one of those things unique to the individual.  That unknown can be a scary thought.  But today is not about unknowns and what-ifs.  It is about what-dids. If that’s not a word, then it should be.  It is a high-five, it is a well deserved pat on the back; it is as I said at the beginning, a toast. . .

. . .Now is the time.  Please raise your glasses. . .

. . .to a friend, a brother, not of blood, but a brother nonetheless, whose writing career has formed into a bright beacon from the amorphous nebula where all writing begins.  Jason, you’re a truly talented writer who’s busted his butt to be where he is.  Savor this moment and all of your successes.  Many more lie ahead.  I know this, not because I’m magic and Tricky like that, but rather because like the great Harry Stamper, you don’t know how to fail.



My Amazon review of Hellbender (excerpt):

Whew, now while the devil is preoccupied with figuring out what the heck that subject line's all about, let me introduce you to Jason Jack Miller's killer novel Hellbender, and why if you only have time to read one book this year, it should be from the Murder Ballads and Whiskey series, specifically Hellbender which hints at what Miller and his writing is all about.

The reason for such a bold opening statement rises from the fact that are so many things worth saying about Hellbender that finding where to begin. . . well the beginning, let's start there.

A funeral.


If you just want my conclusion:

The key to Hellbender's success lies in Miller's carefully chosen word choice and poetic style. He flawlessly segues between lyrical and staccato, using both power chords and nuance, matching style with the requirements of each scene. Even when the plot is its grittiest, the words glimmer. This type of literary prowess continues to grow within the horror field. Novels like Hellbender and serials like Murder Ballads and Whiskey will bring a new heyday to the genre.

Learn a bit more about Jason, his writing, music, and the Murder Ballads and Whiskey series at http://jasonjackmiller.blogspot.com/


  1. Aw, you're too kind, Mike. But that's why I love you. Cheers, bro.

  2. We'll toast to this properly in October