August 27, 2015

Not for the Squeamish: a guest post by Nick Jones, author of "King's Cross"

Nick Jones’ debut novella ‘King’s Cross’ certainly qualifies as ‘dark fiction’.

The author says he has set out to ‘discomfort’ his readers. Much in the way that Henry James gave us all sleepless nights after our first reading of ‘The Turn of the Screw’.

King’s Cross’ is a contemporary story, set in Sicily and London.

Mark Sutton has decided to recuperate from a nervous breakdown, by going on a quiet religious retreat in a convent on the Mediterranean island, where he meets – and falls in love with - a beautiful young nun named Beatrice.

When the action moves to the King’s Cross district of London, things get fraught for poor old love-struck Mark. The story doesn’t have a happy ending, though there is a surprising twist on the final page.


Not for the squeamish!


To learn more about Nick Jones and his work, be sure to visit: http://www.ampersandworld.co.uk/

August 26, 2015

Control + Alt + Defeat: an interview with Tom D. Wright, author of "The Archivist"

In 2052, Artificial Intelligence surpasses humans, and global technology collapses overnight. Thirty years later, primitive communities struggle to survive. Throughout this broken world, a secret organization called The Archives seeks to preserve what knowledge and technology has been left in the ashes. However, a Luddite cult--the Disciples of The Earth--is just as determined to ensure there will be no technological rebirth for humankind.

Retrieval Archivist K'Marr's mission seems simple: make contact with a source in a remote port town and trade for vital technology that could secure humankind's future.

But few retrievals are ever easy.

While keeping his promise to a dying man and avoiding Disciples who seem to know his every move, K'Marr fights to complete his mission and get back home to the woman he loves. Against the odds, The Archivist must do everything he can to return to The Archives. (source: http://www.evilgirlfriendmedia.com/books/archivist/)

Tom D. Wrights The Archivist is available at Amazon.com

Gef: A.I. wastes zero time in decimating civilization in The Archivist. Not a fan of artificial intelligence and our impending robot overlords?

Tom: I wouldn’t put it quite that way. An underlying premise of The Archivist is that the Singularity takes place in 2052, when machine intelligence not only becomes self-aware but surpasses the highest human intelligence. Two typical outcomes of that situation are what I call the Terminator theme and the Asimov theme; superior Artificial Intelligence will either wage war to exterminate the human pestilence or become our benevolent protector, saving us from ourselves. The Archivist explores a third alternative, which I consider more likely—that Intellinet (the AI network) will turn off the lights of civilization so humankind can’t follow, and then head for the stars rather than waste their resources on a mutually destructive war.

Gef: Did you find yourself getting swamped in research for this one? Any rabbit holes of trivia that you fell down?

Tom: This was not the most research-intensive project I have worked on, but I did devote a fair amount of time to making sure I got details right wherever possible. I probably got the most geeked-out while reading up on various space drive theories, before settling on what Intellinet used for their Exodus from our planet. I do have to say that there are some fascinating Department of Defense videos on Youtube regarding the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, subsequent to World War II—that is a few hours of my life I won’t get back!

Gef: With this information age and so much being digital, how precarious is its preservation in the face of some global cataclysm?

Tom: I certainly believe that current trends are moving our globalizing societies toward becoming quite vulnerable.

In The Archivist, by the time the Collapse takes place in 2052, virtually all manufacturing, food production, construction, etc. has been turned over to more efficient and productive robots under AI supervision. This trend is already well under way as, for example, multinational corporations continue to purchase land for corporate farming around the world, including Africa. Goods are already mass-produced in heavily automated factories and it is only a matter of time until humans are displaced altogether. As 3D printing matures, even handcrafted items will become increasingly rare.

This combination of increasing automation, consolidation of manufacturing/production into multinational conglomerates, and a growing scientific and mathematical illiteracy are all creating the conditions for a perfect storm of global collapse.

Gef: Are you an early adopter of technology or do you identify more with the Luddite crowd?

Tom: I work in the IT field myself, so I do not have an aversion to technology, but neither would I call myself an early adopter. I’m content to use what I have as long as it meets my needs, then I don’t shy from the latest technology. That said, I believe we allow ourselves to become enmeshed in far more complexity than we really need, so the Luddite perspective has some valid points as well.

Gef: What was it about this novel, if anything, that you approached differently from the previous titles?

Tom: The one thing unique about this project was the first person, present tense point of view of the main character, K’Marr. Nothing I have written before or since has used this POV. When I wrote the short story on which the novel was based, this was the POV that the main character insisted on. Don’t ask me why, K’Marr brokered no argument about how he wanted to tell his story, and that continued into the novel as well.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the post-apocalyptic genre?

Tom: I have a personal theory that the popularity of the post-apocalyptic genre is rooted in a common sense of futility over whether we can genuinely change the world. Brief periods of bright optimism, such as in the Sixties, have been crushed by monolithic institutions of politics and economics, which seem to foster more divisiveness than solidarity. In the face of intractable forces which are literally global in scale, it is easy to feel that the status quo can only be disrupted by a commensurate agent of change, whether it be zombies, disease, a mile-wide comet or in my case, the Intellinet.

I would say, then, that the saving grace of the post-apocalyptic genre is that it offers hope. Few people want to experience the turmoil and chaos of global collapse, but at least on a subconscious level many of us may feel it is the only way things could possibly change and lead to a new, better world.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Tom: I don’t know about the worst advice, but one meme I wish would go away is the idea that a writer is either “a pantser or an outliner,” meaning either you write by the seat of your pants, or you create rigorous outlines that you slavishly adhere to. Personally, I fall in the middle of that spectrum and depending on my project, may shift more one way or the other. And over time, I have found that my writing process evolves as well. Every writer, as an artist, needs to find what works for her or him at any given time. If that sounds mysterious, well, it is.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Tom: My guilty pleasure is letting myself get sucked into watching a series on Netflix. For me, the first episode of something like Farscape,Battlestar Gallactica or Caprica is like mental crack—I just can’t stop until I’ve completely consumed it.  So when friends tell me I should watch this amazing series, that means I dare not even look at it unless I’m between projects.

One other indulgence I have is MMORPGs, particularly Star Wars: The Old Republic which I use as a reward when I reach certain milestones. At least I can tell myself that I’m doing research for my next TerraMythos novel, which is my science fiction series based on MMORPG gamers and programmers.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Tom: At present I am working on the fourth in a series of science fiction murder-mystery novellas, which take place in a near-future, non-competitive society called Malhutan. The novellas are available online in e-book format, and when I complete the fifth and final novella this fall I will release them as a compiled print-only version. The e-book versions will remain available individually.

After that, I have plans for at least eight more novels, including a pair of sequels for The Archivist and am working on the rough draft for a new trilogy. So it will be a while before I start watching any Netflix series.

Details on my writing projects (including links), con appearances, etc. can be found on my website: http://www.tomdwright.com/


August 25, 2015

An Excerpt of Christopher Farnsworth's 'The Eternal World'

If you could live forever, what would you die for?
Five hundred years ago, a group of Spanish conquistadors searching for gold, led by a young and brilliant commander named Simon De Oliveras, land in the New World. What they find in the sunny and humid swamps of this uncharted land is a treasure far more valuable: the Fountain of Youth. The Spaniards slaughter the Uzita, the Native American tribe who guard the precious waters that will keep the conquistadors young for centuries. But one escapes: Shako, the chief’s fierce and beautiful daughter, who swears to avenge her people—a blood oath that spans more than five centuries. . .
When the source of the fountain is destroyed in our own time, the loss threatens Simon and his men, and the powerful, shadowy empire of wealth and influence they have built. For help, they turn to David Robinton, a scientific prodigy who believes he is on the verge of the greatest medical breakthrough of all time. But as the centuries-old war between Shako and Simon reaches its final stages, David makes a horrifying discovery about his employers and the mysterious and exotic woman he loves. Now, the scientist must decide: is he a pawn in a game of immortals. . . or will he be its only winner?



Here's an excerpt of Christopher Farnsworth's The Eternal World:
CHAPTER 1
C I UD A D  J U Á R E Z , M E X I C O  T W O  W E E K S   A G O
THE BUTCHER CROSSED the bridge on foot at El Paso. With a few days in the sun, he was dark enough to pass as one of the many day laborers on their way home to Juárez for the evening after long hours cleaning, cooking, and mowing the lawns of white people.
He wore sagging dad jeans and a T-shirt that said Metallica and a sweat-stained trucker cap, all fished out of a Goodwill bin. His face was still unlined, his body strong and young. One woman glanced in his direction and gave him a friendly smile. He smiled back, showing all his fine white teeth. She looked away quickly, and surreptitiously crossed herself.
He tried not to laugh. It wasn’t easy. He wanted to tell her that he’d believed once, too. Now he knew better.
Now he was God, or as close as any of these people would ever see. Once, he had been Juan de Aznar y Sandoval. For a while, he’d variously been known as the Moonlight Murderer, the Servant Girl Annihilator, Bible John, and the Torso Killer. Now he was known best as El Carnicero, El Ver- dugo, El Sanguinario—the Butcher of Juárez.
Juárez was a city regularly drenched in blood. People died every day in the relentless drug war between the cartels and the military. So many died that the government was unable—or unwilling—to keep an accurate body count. The usual estimate was about eight murders a day. In a city where life was so cheap, it was easy to lose track.
It took real effort to rise above the usual background noise of gunfire.
But over the years, people began to notice: young women—girls, really— who worked at the maquiladoras, the factories that straddled the border, were turning up dead.
In 1993, seventeen women were found slashed, strangled, mutilated, and, in one case, burned. They all suffered similar cuts to their breasts. The next year, at least eleven were killed. Eighteen the year after that, and more the year after that, and after that.
The victims, all girls, were drawn to Juárez from their villages in the country with the promise of good jobs. Their pictures began to appear in the newspapers, the faces beaming right next to graphic descriptions of the rape and mutilation their bodies had endured.
People finally began to count all those faces, and all the bodies found in fields or vacant lots or back alleys. Some people got as high as four hundred over a ten-year span.
The police said that was impossible. They said no one man could be responsible for so many deaths. When the outrage over their inaction became too much, they would arrest someone and try to pin all the murders on him.
But the girls kept dying, no matter what the police did or said.
Now most people, if they thought of him at all, believed he was an urban legend. There was even a song about him. He heard it played on a cheap portable stereo as he was walking over the bridge one night. It took him a moment to realize that someone had composed a narcocorrido about him:
Oh little girl,
watch where you walk tonight,
Oh little girl,
watch where you go,
Don’t you know the Butcher is waiting for you,
Stay here with me tonight,
Or the Butcher will claim your soul.

August 21, 2015

For the Love of Vampires: an interview with Jeanne C. Stein, contributing author to "Nightmares Unhinged"

Nightmares come in many forms. Some rend the veil of sleep with heart-stopping madness. Others defy sanity to leave a helpless corner of your mind twitching for release. Sometimes, hours after waking, a nightmare drifts across your memory, tainting your day with wisps of discomfort. NIGHTMARES UNHINGED reveals horror in all its mutable forms—abject to absurd—through twenty tales of terror.

Contributors include Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of the Felix Gomez vampire series; Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant; New York Times bestseller Keith Ferrell; Jeanne C. Stein, bestselling author of The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles; Shirley Jackson, Bram Stoker, Black Quill and Colorado Book Award finalist Stephen Graham Jones; Bram Stoker Award winner Steve Rasnic Tem; Hugo Award winner Jason Heller; Colorado Book Award winner Warren Hammond; Gary Jonas and many others. New York Times bestseller Steve Alten will pen the book's foreword. NIGHTMARES UNHINGED is edited by USA Best Book Award winner Joshua Viola and is the first anthology from Hex Publishers.


A portion of the book's proceeds will be donated to Rocky Mountain Cancer Assistance in honor of Melanie Tem. (source: http://www.hexpublishers.com/publications-nightmares-unhinged.html)

Jeanne Stein is the national bestselling author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles. Her character, Anna Strong, received a RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist in 2008 and was nominated again for the 2011 book, Crossroads. Anna Strong was named one of Panaromal Fantasy’s Top ten Ass-Kicking Heroines by Barnes and Nobles’s reviewer, Paul Goat Allen in 2013. Jeanne also has numerous short story credits, including the novella, Blood Debt, from the New York Times bestselling anthology, Hexed (2011). Her series has been picked up in three foreign countries and her short stories published in collections here in the US and the UK. The ninth in the Anna Strong series, Blood Bond, debuts in August. Cursed, the first in a new series written with Samantha Sommersby under the S. J. Harper pseudonym, debuts in October.


Jeanne lives in Denver, CO where she is active in the writing community, belonging to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (where she was honored by winning the Writer of the Year award in 2008 and is nominated again for 2011), Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Horror Writers of America. She has taught at numerous conferences and on-line academies. (source: http://www.fallensiren.com/)


Gef: How was it you came to be involved with this anthology?

Jeanne: Dean Wyant is a longtime friend of mine and he introduced me to Josh Viola. From there, the rest is history.…

Gef: When did you discover you had an affinity for monsters and nightmarish creatures?

Jeanne: I love vampires, from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice to Charlaine Harris to Buffy
the Vampire Slayer to me.…

Gef: I haven't experienced too many nightmares in my life. How have you fared in your dreams with that? Are they experiences that dissipate as soon as you wake up? Do they drudge up ideas for stories? Do they have any kind of influence on you?

Jeanne: I, too, have never been bothered by really horrific nightmares. Mostly, my dreams involve people I know (or want to know - last night it was Clint Eastwood). I have gotten story ideas from dreams, though. I wish I remembered more of them.

Gef: How much of a gear shift is it for you between writing short stories and writing novels?

Jeanne: It was very difficult the first time I wrote a short story. But then I realized that it’s much easier than writing a novel - no subplots, just the few main characters necessary for the story, far fewer words. I’ve enjoyed writing them and some of my favorite stories are the short ones.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Jeanne: I do use setting in both the Anna Strong novels and the Fallen Siren stories (written as S. J. Harper). I enjoy using real settings and it’s a joy when a reader visits one of the places and tells me about it. One reader even put together an Anna Strong tour of San Diego. It was a great compliment.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the horror genre?

Jeanne: It’s a safe way to visit terror upon ourselves and others. Or to explore questions like who are the real monsters? Vampires or werewolves or humans who prey on each other.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Jeanne: Actually, the writers I mentioned above. And Buffy’s creator, Joss Whedon. Also, the late Robert B. Parker. His books taught me more about telling a story through dialogue than any writing class I ever took.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Jeanne: Write what you know. Stupidest advice ever. There’s a world you can learn about without even leaving the confines of your room. Most books would be dreadfully dull if we only wrote what we knew.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?


Jeanne: I’m working on an Anna Strong novella, a third Fallen Siren novel, a biography I’ve been contracted to write, and a couple of new ideas my writing partner and I hope to sell soon. I can be reached on jeanne@jeannestein.com and all my shenanigans can be followed of fallen siren.com. I’m also on Facebook (moderately active) https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000177556968 and twitter (once in awhile ) @jeannecstein.

August 20, 2015

Beware -- Nature Kills: a guest post + giveaway by Hunter Shea, author of "Tortures of the Damned"

SHOCK…
First, the electricity goes—plunging the east coast in darkness after a devastating nuclear attack. Millions panic. Millions die. They are the lucky ones. 
 
AFTER SHOCK…
Next, the chemical weapons take effect—killing or contaminating everything alive. Except a handful of survivors in a bomb shelter. They are the damned.
 
 HELL IS FOR HUMANS
Then, the real nightmare begins. Hordes of rats force two terrified families out of their shelter—and into the savage streets of an apocalytic wasteland. They are not alone. Vicious, chemical-crazed animals hunt in packs. Dogs tear flesh, cats draw blood, horses crush bone. Roaming gangs of the sick and dying are barely recognizable as human. These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the tortures that tear families apart. This is hell on earth. The rules are simple: Kill or die.


AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM AND BARNES & NOBLE

Beware – Nature Kills
by Hunter Shea

If you grew up in the 70s and 80s like I did, and spent a great deal of time at the movies, you were exposed to a plethora of movies centered around a common theme - Nature gone wild. Me, I loved them all. From small creatures made impossibly large and ravenous (Empire of the Ants, pitting Joan Collins against ants the size of cars or Food of the Gods, an island of oversized animals out for blood, especially the rats) to hordes of everyday beasts out for a little payback (Frogs, Ssssss or Grizzly), the whole concept fascinated me.

I mean, we’re supposed to be the top of the food chain! What kind of world would it be if we toppled to the bottom? Not one you and I would want to live in for long…if the ten foot ferrets would let us.

There’s a whole sub-genre of horror that explores the delicate balance between man and Nature. Sometimes, Nature strikes back, and maybe in a karmic sense, it’s long overdue.

When I was doing research for last year’s thriller, The Montauk Monster, I spent a lot of time learning about the animal disease testing facility on Plum Island. Out there where no one can see what’s truly going on, scientists studied and preserved a host of the most deadly diseases and viruses you could ever imagine. We’re talking truly terrifying stuff. If some of it got released, it could lead to massive animal die-offs or complete rewiring of their brains.

That really stuck with me, so much so that when I sat down to write my apocalyptic thriller, Tortures of the Damned, I knew I had to add a very pissed of Mother Nature to the mix. With most post-apocalypse stories teeming with zombies, I wanted to add a bit of realism with a dash of the fantastic from the movies I loved, and still adore. I’m pretty sure that if our world is drastically altered to where we’re fighting for survival, the undead won’t be one of our problems. Call me crazy.

But what if chemical weapons managed to turn our beloved pets against us? And what if another chemical weapon laid waste to almost everyone around us, presenting the rabid animals a veritable buffet of flesh? We’re talking the feeding frenzy of all time. And in the midst of that is a family and their neighbors, struggling for answers, clinging to life and running like hell from any living creature.

My apocalypse ain’t easy, and the more you know about the dangers that are already out there, it’s frighteningly plausible. You might not find yourself fleeing ants the size of Shaq, but then again, that might be the lesser of the two evils.  


Hunter Shea is the author of the novels The Montauk Monster, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, and Evil Eternal. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales and the Cemetery Dance anthology, 
Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror.
His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. He lives in New York with his family and vindictive cat. He waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com.

IF YOU'D LIKE A CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF TORTURES OF THE DAMNED, JUST FILL OUT THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM BELOW. GOOD LUCK!

August 17, 2015

Cruel Summer: an interview with Edward Lorn, author of "Cruelty"

Edward Lorn is a reader, writer, and content creator. He's been writing for fun since the age of six, and writing professionally since 2011. He lives in the southeast United States with his wife and two children. Not to mention, Ash and Coal (a.k.a. his Goombas). He is currently working on his next novel, EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE NOW. (source: Amazon.com)

This is Cruelty, the epic ten-episode serial novel collected for the first time in one massive volume containing over 600 pages of horror. 

On a lonely stretch of deserted Texas highway, Will Longmire breaks down. But he's not alone. 

In the dead of night, Innis Blake hits someone - or something - with her car. The figure should not be getting up. But it is. 

An unstoppable force is after Will and Innis. And before the night is over, both strangers will know the face of Cruelty. 

Forgiveness is only a few miles down the road, but safety is nowhere in sight. 

Every monster has its origins.




Gef: So Cruelty started out as a serial novel. What prompted you to take that route in presenting the story? Have you been a fan of serial fiction in the past?

Edward: Yeah, you could say I’ve been a fan of serial fiction since I was a kid. Radio plays and the like. I especially enjoy television series with continuing plot lines. Like Breaking Bad and the first season of True Detective. But when I first began writing Cruelty, it wasn’t meant to be a serial novel. It just kind of worked out that way.

Gef: Was there anything particular you had to approach differently when writing this novel compared to your previous work? Like the plotting of each installment as opposed to a more traditional chapter setup?

Edward: You know, it’s funny. I wrote the book as a novel, but when I went back and reread it, it felt more like a television program. Because, honestly, the book doesn’t work well as a novel. Just like most television shows wouldn’t work well as standalone movies. The structure is too choppy. There’s no rhythm to the chapter lengths. You have one long chapter followed by several short chapters, then several longer chapters followed by a short chapter. There are even two chapters in the book that occur back to back that are only one sentence long. Every chapter is from a different POV character, too. There are many varying themes, too. Each episode feels like a television episode in that regard. It has a specific purpose and time frame in which to reach its goal. If Cruelty was on TV, it would likely be on the paid-cable networks with hour-long, commercial-free episodes. What’s funny is, I didn’t mean for it to be that way. It just happened. I find it extremely cool that the story knew all along what it wanted to be, while its author didn’t have a clue.

Gef: With Texas as the backdrop, what was the allure in setting your story there?

Edward: I first came up with the idea for Cruelty while driving through Texas on my way to my grandmother’s funeral in California. Originally the novel was called Endless Texas, and it was going to be about a serial killer dressed as a baby doll chasing the main character from Kerrville to Fort Stockton. There’s a long strip of lonely Interstate 10 that I am particularly fond of, and it was going to be the set piece for that book. Well, as is often the case, the book had other ideas for where it wanted to go. Instead of William Longmire taking off for Fort Stockton, he ends up taking refuge in a gas station. And the serial killer in the baby doll outfit became so much more than your average slasher. I think fans of the series will find it interesting to know that Innis Blake was never going to be a part of the book, but she is. From the second chapter, she’s a major part of the story.

Gef: How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

Edward: I can say with the utmost honesty that I look back at some of my earlier writing now and cringe. I was a little too simplistic at times, and quite a bit of my language was immature. I’m not only talking about foul language, but some of the descriptions were just… well, so damn basic. Not that I’ve acquired a complete maturity of style now (I don’t think any good author ever truly stops learning) but I’ve gone from describing a room as being bright to there being a golden veil draped over the furniture. Which is kinda like calling janitors Custodial Engineers, but I dig it.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Edward: Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz (he lost a little something special when he dropped the R. from his name), Richard Laymon, Chuck Palahniuk, Marisha Pessl, and Michael Moorcock, just to name a few. (I read a lot.) Each one of those authors have influenced me in some way. Above all, though, Stephen King is my hero. He’s had his misses, but no one fiction writer has had such a varied and lengthy career. Some have had longer careers, some have written in more genres, but none have been as prolific, as mercurial, or as dependable as King. He’s also one of the only popular novelists who still care enough to take risks. Palahniuk still does it, but he’s been failing more than succeeding as of late and doesn’t publish near as much as King, and Dean Koontz has damn near given up where originality is concerned.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of the horror genre?

Edward: Has there been a saving grace? If I’m honest, I don’t think there has been one. I think my beloved genre is still just as bullied and ignored as it always has been. If you’re asking why horror is still around, once again, I gotta ask, is it? Is it really? The only horror novels coming from the major publishers have been Horror Lite or they’ve been other genres with horrific elements. Or they’ve been blatant rip-offs of better, earlier material. The horror genre these days is, for the most part, zombies. The Walking Dead has seen to that. Nick Cutter is the most popular new horror author, but he’s only regurgitating ideas from the eighties. Infectious diseases/worms that devour us from the inside out, or underwater horror in the vein of Sphere. Cutter does what he does very well, but it’s nothing new. Then you have Josh Malerman and his Bird Box novel, a story so devoid of an ounce of humanity that it’s fooled seasoned professionals into thinking it’s art. So, once again, I ask, has horror found its saving grace? Will it ever? Probably not. And I’m okay with that.

You have Darkfuse and Samhain and Thunderstorm Books doing their thing and doing it well, Sinister Grin and Subterranean and Severed Presses rocking the dials, and Cemetery Dance is still going strong, but they’re all doing it on a smaller, more intimate level. Backstage, where shadows belong.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Edward: Any piece of writing advice that starts out, “Don’t write about…” Seriously, Gef, fuck that noise. A writer’s job is to, first, entertain themselves. Then their job is to challenge themselves. And, hopefully, by entertaining and challenging themselves, they entertain and challenge their readers. There are far too many authors out there worried about upsetting their readers, worried about what not to write. Some of these worried word slingers are actually horror writers. How can that be? It is what we do. We’re here to disturb and disgust. We’re here to fill our readers with dread and trigger emotional responses. Anything else would be to write as if all your readers are timid children, to talk down to them. If you want to play it safe, write romance or comedy. Better yet, write self-help books. Or take up knitting. I hear beanies are popular with the kids.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Edward: Anybody who follows on social media knows I have a perverse fascination with all things Howard the Duck. Mainly the 1986 movie. I’ve only recently started reading the old comics because my wife, being the amazing person that she is, bought me the omnibus Marvel put out a few years back. Truthfully though, I still prefer that cheesy-ass movie to the comics. I’m also a Minecraft nerd. I play survival mode while listening to audiobooks, because I’m hardcore like that. Who needs to hear a creeper coming? Not this guy.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future?

Edward: If I haven’t put your readers off by pissing all over Josh Malerman’s truly terrible debut, then they can find me some of everywhere on social media. My books are available everywhere books are sold, but not everything is on sale everywhere. Many of my works are Amazon exclusive because they give me back rubs when I’m feeling lonely.

As for future projects, I’m always busy. I have a new collection of short stories coming out toward the end of August, 2015, a new novel slated for next year, and some other surprises, including a possible second season of Cruelty. We’ll see.

Thanks for having me, Gef. It’s always an honor when you ask me to drop by.


August 13, 2015

Chasing Tale [Books Received for August 13, 2015] + It's Not the Heat, It's the Hostility

Chasing Tale is a regular feature on the blog where I highlight the latest books to wind up on my to-be-read pile, followed by a rant on whatever happens to be on my mind.


The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block - A brand new Block novel coming out in September. This one deals with a retired cop getting up to his neck in trouble and women down in Florida. Florida? Why what kind of trouble could a fella get up to in that state?

The Neon Boneyard by Paul D. Brazill - This one is a new novella featuring the hard-boiled werewolf PI, Roman Dalton. If you like your urban fantasy with some grit and pulp, here it is.

Divine Scream by Benjamin Kane Ethridge - A spring release from Journalstone that looks to be a blend of fantasy and horror. Banshees are a monster I don't see much of in genre fiction, but this book's got one. I'm curious to see what Ethridge does to play with the folklore.


Cage of Bones and Other Deadly Obsessions by John Everson - This short story collection came up as a freebie on the Kindle Store at the start of the month, and considering how good Everson is with the blending of erotica and horror, I couldn't resist.

The Eternal World by Christopher Farnsworth - This is a new release through William Morrow with a bit of a historical bent to it, revolving around the fable Fountain of Youth and a centuries long struggle to control it between the lone survivor of slaughter and the soldiers who did the slaughtering.

Gator Bait by Adam Howe - Another new release here, this one a novella from Comet Press, that goes back to Prohibition Era Louisiana. It looks like a perfect storm of historical, hard-boiled noir with the added bonus of a giant gator. Nice.


Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley - This is the sequel to Hurley's The Mirror Empire, and it's scheduled for release in October. I'm just wrapping up reading The Mirror Empire, which is a pretty ambitious epic fantasy of sorts, so I'm keen to see how Hurley follows it up.

Wolf Land by Jonathan Janz - A new Janz novel slated for November from Samhain Publishing's horror line, and this time he's going with werewolves. I have a feeling this will be a balls-to-the-wall horror novel, which Janz has a bit of a knack for when he puts his mind to it.

The Dead Won't Die by Joe McKinney - I think this is a sequel to McKinney's Plague of the Undead that came out from Pinnacle, but it may well work as a stand-alone. This one sounds like it's got a Day of the Dead vibe with survivors holing up in a military facility at odds with both the zombies and the scientists experimenting on them. Neat.

... and now a rant.

***

It's Not the Heat, It's the Hostility

I thought for sure the bellyaching over the Hugo Awards had run its course. An unimpressive attempt at a boycott of Tor Books back in June kind of showed that the rage train had lost momentum. People were in their neutral corners grumbling away with the same talking points they'd been grumbling for months, all of them waiting for next weekend when the winners of the Hugo Awards are finally announced. And then it happened. One last bit of f**kery to round out the fustercluck.

It took place several weeks ago apparently but only came to light this past week. One of the announced Guests of Honor, David Gerrold, took to social media to criticize the disingenuous tactics used to manipulate the Hugo Awards ballot. One of many people in the SF/F community to do so, though Gerrold's words tended to be more even-tempered than others. It seems one of the nominated authors took the criticism from Gerrold to heart and felt it specifically was somehow so egregious he had to retaliate. So he contacted the police chief of Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo Awards are happening, and claimed Gerrold was "insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on," was "inciting violence," and "belongs in a secure psychiatric facility."

That is some grade-A f**kery right there.

I mean, someone voices an opinion contrary to yours and your first impulse is to fabricate a report to the police. These are not the actions of someone with a firm grasp of his mental faculties. And yet, astonishingly, he has a cheerleading section applauding his unconscionable behavior. To his credit, the guy put out a fairly contrite apology after he bragged about it on a podcast and then got called out on it, but it's also been brought to light that this isn't the first time the author has pulled a stunt like this, and even after the apology he managed to turn an editor, either intentionally or inadvertently, into a target of rape and death threats via his supporters after she rescinded a previously accepted short story he'd written.

And all this--all this!--because a bunch of scifi authors covet a rocket-shaped award that looks more like a dildo. Its appearance seems rather apt actually when you think about it.

Every genre has its own brand of jackasses these days, whether it be the romance writers or the comic book artists or the horror genre's small press. But all the petty bullshit that permeates the writing world pales when compared to the cesspool of craven, vindictive zealotry polluting the SF/F community. If these writers behave in real life the way they do online, they must be pariahs in their own neighborhoods.

August 11, 2015

Full of Rage and a Twelve-Gauge: an interview with Greg Barth, author of "Selena"

About Greg Barth's Selena:

Scatter shot revenge.

Selena is living the dream on her terms – carefree and sloppy and all in the pursuit of pleasure. When a careless act of petty theft puts her in the crosshairs of a violent crime syndicate, her choices are clear – either curl up and die, or tear down the whole damned organization one bloody shotgun blast at a time. 

Nothing will satisfy her but savage retribution. Nothing can stop her. Get ready. 

Available at Amazon.com

I had the chance to ask Selena's author, Greg Barth, a few questions about his new book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: What was the impetus behind Selena, the character as well as the novel?

Greg: The impetus for me was the character. I fully intended to write about someone who was basically amoral and willing to do things that most people would not but would still be likeable enough to win over readers. What caught me off guard was what writing this character would do for me as a writer. Selena is someone who demands freedom, lives life her way on her terms, is not ashamed to put it all down on the page, and refuses to give up when she is wronged. The sheer emotion that I could capture through Selena gave me a charge that pushed this story farther and faster than I had planned for. She has a conflicting psyche that compels her to be self-loathing and self-destructive while at the same time pursuing pleasure and refusing to roll over and die when she is hurt. It’s as though she is content with killing herself the slow way but is not accepting any help in the effort. While possessing an underlying lack of self-confidence, there are a lot of things that she is quite good at. She learned some nasty skills just to survive, and she naturally gravitates toward those when she has nothing else to fall back on.

Gef: Did you take any inspiration from grindhouse cinema or maybe some of the grittier, more noir-ish fiction from years gone by?

Greg: From a cinematic standpoint, Death Wish was the most influential film in mind while writing Selena. I Spit on Your Grave was a distant second. I saw both during that influential, early-teen period of life when imagination was everything. But in some respects Selena is not true to that Rape/Revenge film genre that spawned Death Wish and so many others. While Paul Kersey’s journey was an influence, I had no interest in describing the actual rape scene in my novel. We know it happens, we know it’s horrific, we see the aftermath, but Selena doesn’t give the details—it’s the one (and probably only) thing she is uncomfortable talking about. Selena is willing to go a lot of places, and I took her to those places and described the gory details of what happened there in the book. The rape, however, occurs completely off stage. It is not my intention to exploit my character to that extent, and I extend her that personal courtesy.

Gef: Crime fiction legend, Bill Crider, mentioned in his quite positive review of the novel that it's more like three interconnected novellas than what readers might expect from the more traditional novel. Is this how you originally envisioned the story playing out, if accurate, or did it kind of morph out of something else you had in mind?

Greg: I’ve had feedback from some readers who state that it feels like one book. Others have said it feels like three stories (each with their own beginning, middle, and end) that are interconnected. The truth is, the story was originally written as three novellas titled SelenaHostility, and Ravage. Each is complete while also integrally connected to the others. Taken together they formed one overall story. Hostility begins within minutes after Selena ends. Ravage picks up minutes after the final scene of Hostility. The fade out scene of one is the opening scene of the next. Each individual part takes Selena both deeper into her problem while also bringing her closer to resolution.

The details behind the scene are much too boring to hash out here, but there were some compelling reasons to release the first three in one volume. And I think it works well for the most part. There are two additional novels that are already written that follow Selena. These are complete novels vs. any combination of novellas, and the complete three volumes (SelenaDiesel Therapy, and Suicide Lounge) should make for a nice collection. Overall I am very pleased with the presentation of Selena, Hostility, and Ravage in one volume.

Gef: There's no shortage of revenge tales out there, and like any genre there are the pitfalls of tropes, cliches, and reader expectations. Did you keep any of that in consideration in creating this novel or was it a matter of putting it all out of mind and solely focusing on the story you wanted to tell?

Greg: I didn’t keep much of it in mind while writing. I am fairly familiar with the tropes from having read the excellent Men Women and Chainsaws by Carol Clover. My sole intention in writing Selena was to have the character totally own the point of view of the story. Readers would not get to be a spectator watching her being attacked or her taking her revenge. The reader would be inside her head for both experiences. I made every effort to elicit the same emotion in the reader that Selena felt. Aside from that, I made sure the hurdles got larger and that she had opportunity to grow into them. As a writer who also loves to ready gritty crime action stories, I limited the amount of help she would have when trying to get out of the nastiest situations. I wanted her to use her wits and what she had at hand.

I wanted to craft a compelling story, and I didn’t worry too much about what was a trope or cliché and what was original or subversive. My take on writing is you have to have a great story and a great character. It helps if you are a skilled writer, but—even if you are not—a great story and a great character can survive mediocre writing. On the other hand, it takes a highly skilled writer to make a mediocre story work. So I focused on story.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Greg: First and foremost Richard Stark. Then there would follow Ed McBain and Lawrence Block with their straight-forward writing styles. Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was impactful, as it showed me that you can write this kind of story with a unique, female protagonist. I was reading a lot of the Jack Taylor novels by Ken Bruen just before I started writing Selena. Sometimes I think I see a bit of Taylor in her. They both like to drink.
I’ve also picked up some additional influences that affect me today but not necessarily while writing Selena, as I had not read them then. I am a raving fan of Mike Monson, Vicki Hendricks, and Jake Hinkson. Jake Hinkson hands down wrote two of the best things I’ve read – ever. Those would be The Big Ugly and The Deepening Shade. Alec Cizak is amazing too. I have to be careful with citing present influences, both out of fear of going on all day long about them as well as the fear of leaving someone out. Oh, yeah, there’s Eryk Pruitt. Everybody should check that guy out. Today.

Gef: What do you consider to be the main selling point of crime fiction among its fans, and its saving grace among those that aren't?

Greg: Not everybody is going to be a fan of this stuff. That’s what genre is for. You can take something you like and juice it up a bit. Distill it. Make it stronger than the watered down works that transcend genre and wind up on the shelves at the front of the bookstore. It won’t hit the New York Times Bestseller List, but some people might get a kick out of it. I don’t look down on any writer. The fact that I don’t read E.L. James or romance novels does not mean that I don’t respect what those writers are doing, and—most importantly—the fact that there are people out there (a lot, apparently) that read it and love it and get enjoyment out of it. Crime fiction is much the same. Selena is a bloody, sexy, stomach churning book. It fits in niche in a genre that a few people enjoy.

I think what draws people to crime fiction first and foremost is that the stakes are so high. We are literally writing about life and death, and mostly death. But also I think you reach a point in your life where you are somewhat stripped of illusions, you have days where you are depressed, work can be meaningless and overwhelming, life can be so demanding, the difficulties in familial relationships are trying, and you’ve got all those people lined up to take your paycheck before you even get it. You feel like you’ve been sold a bill of goods. You might drink a little on weekends to turn off the stress and take a mental break from it all. You think you’re on the brink of a breakdown, but you have just enough fortitude that keeps you from falling apart. There’s a sense of desperation. The more difficulties life hands you, the more you start to feel a little pissed off. On days like that, reading the current bestseller may not crack through what’s left of your exhausted brain. You might get more of a kick out of a story about some bank robber whose girlfriend is a stripper and takes drugs. The bank robber is betrayed by a partner, and he’s going to get his revenge. You might even drive by that bank yourself a time or two… Such fantasies are best lived out on the printed page.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Greg: I don’t think of it as advice, more of an expectation. That expectation is that you take a story and suck the life out of it. Your character can be flawed, but your character must be good. You cannot write something that is too explicit, or violent, or sexual. You’ll be an embarrassment and no publisher will ever look at you. And—worst of all—you have to take your story and bloat it with description and subplots and everything else until it’s the right size for mass transportation to the book stores. A thick, doorstop of a book that has just enough story for a novella.

I don’t believe any of it. Back in the 1970’s we had something called the R rated movie. Ever heard of it? TV was for the family, but the cinema was for adults. Then along came the PG-13 rating and the cinema has been about family entertainment ever sense. There are few strong, adult-oriented films being made these days. TV is where it’s at currently. Look at the success of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, Banshee, and Game of Thrones. Grown-ups crave grown up entertainment, pure and simple. The small press and independent publishers active today are doing the same kind of thing for novels. I couldn’t tell you the last time I read anything that was not put out by an independent publisher. The mainstream press is all Coke and no rum. Too sweet. Does nothing for me.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Greg: I don’t think of them as guilty pleasures necessarily, but my entertainment intake doesn’t deviate much from what I write. I love movies like The Drop, and Nightcrawler. I enjoy the old Bogart and Bacall films. With music, I’ve been a Stones fan for most of my life—my favorites being the brilliant back-to-back string of Let it Bleed, Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Mainstreet, and Goats Head Soup, but quite honestly I like them all. In regards to more current music, I haven’t listened to much else since the latest Dead Sara album came out. That thing is freaking beautiful. When it comes to TV, I tune in to things like Ray Donovan, True Detective, Banshee, and Game of Thrones. A true “guilty pleasure” would be Big Brother (Go Vanessa!)—can’t miss that show.

When it comes to reading, crime noir dominates. The people I love include, but are not limited to Vickie Hendricks, Jake Hinkson, Alec Cizak, Chris Rhatigan, Tom Pitts, Mike Monson, Jason Starr, Todd Morr, CS DeWildt, and on and on and on. There is so much good stuff coming out, it’s like being fed from a fire hose, I just take in all that I can. And then some of the old guys as well like Jim Thompson and David Goodis, and Richard Stark, McBain—you name them, I’m probably trying to read them.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Greg: First and foremost there are two additional Selena novels that should be released in the relatively near future. They’ve been written, but I expect they’ll need some polishing. I also have a couple of nasty short stories that are in good hands, and I hope will be out soon. As far as new content is concerned, I’m at work on another novel that is chock full of poor choices, bad behavior, good times, and extreme violence—and I’m having a blast working on it.

The best places to keep up with me are:
Twitter - @GregBarth1


August 10, 2015

Come As You Are, It's Time for Some Noir: a review of Lee Thompson's "It's Only Death"

It's Only Death
by Lee Thompson
DarkFuse (2015)
142 pages
ASIN: B00PIVTJYO

Available at Amazon.com

I already knew Lee Thompson could write horror and dark fantasy, so when this noir novella came out at the start of the year I had a fair hunch that he'd rock that genre too.

James returns home at the behest of his estranged sister, because their mother is dying. Cancer. He hasn't seen either of them since he fled town years ago following a botched bank robbery during which he shot and killed a cop. His own father. To say James has enemies back home would be an understatement.

With a story like this, I imagine Lee could have had fun plotting it out meticulously and coming up with a insanely wild ride, but here it feels like he let the characters lead the dance. The emotional horsepower driving this story along is powerful, even at points when it feels like JAmes is charging headlong into certain death in contradiction to his stated goals. It's when he makes it out of those early scrapes that I'm left scratching my head, but I'm reassured as the escalations carry heavy costs and James' warpath has a vicious wake.

Melodramatic at points, sure, but when it comes to noir you need that sometimes. And have you seen the news coming out of Florida lately? That place has more melodrama than swampland.

I have Lee's A Beautiful Madness on my to-be-read pile, another crime/thriller novel, which after having read this I will be eager to dive into to see if he captures Texas there the way he captured Florida here.

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