January 23, 2015

Go Hard or Go Home: an interview with Anonymous-9, author of "Bite Harder"

Anonymous-9 is the pen name of Elaine Ash. Although her work is synonymous with Los Angeles, Elaine was born and grew up in eastern Canada. At seven years old her first published work in the church paper won a Temperance Award. It inspired her to take up drinking responsibly at an early age. (source: http://www.anonymous-9.com/)

Her Books:

I had the chance to ask the pseudonymous crime writer about her books and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: With Hard Bite, and by extension its sequel that was released this year, Bite Harder, the premise sounds absolutely amazeballs. At the very least with the inclusion of a helper monkey as partner-in-crime shows an aptitude in bad-assery. Where did the impetus for this series come about?

Anonymous-9: Hi Gef and thank you so much for the work you do promoting authors. The impetus for HARD BITE came about with a short story that won Spinetingler Magazine's Best Short story on the Web 2009.  Everbody said, 'That should be a novel." So I wrote one and it got picked up by Blasted Heath. They didn't TELL me they wanted a series. I thought it was a standalone book and Al Guthrie writes and says, "You know, we really want a series." Sometimes, you can't plan stuff, it just comes along and you have to roll with it.

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Anonymous-9: I'm always looking for the unlikely protagonist, the premise I haven't read before. That's what I want to read so that's what I want to write. In terms of research YouTube is my friend. I spend butt-busting days searching out videos and then watching them over and over to gleam information. One trick is to watch videos not for what's said or done, but for what's in the background. I'll take screen shots and them import them into a program and blow them up, finding clues and details the cameraman isn't aware he/she's getting. That's a good trick.

Gef: You very recently came out with a novella, Crashing Through Mirrors, that has earned its share of praise from readers and writers alike. How much of a gear shift is it to go from writing a novel to a novella?

Anonymous-9: Ha! An easier shift. I've adopted trying stories out on readers before putting in the investment a novel takes. (CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is technically a novelette at 15,000 words.) I'm a natural short sprinter as a writer. It's easier for me to writer shorter than longer. That being said, CTM has done so well, and been so well received, that I will probably turn it into a novel and sell it. Releasing it as a novelette first means it can find its readership, get rated, and ultimately sell for more money as a "known" quantity. I like to be as "out of the box" businesswise as I am premisewise.

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

Anonymous-9: The saving grace of the crime genre is the kind of writers it attracts. The crime genre is concerned with ugly violent things and when people exorcise ugly and violent urges out of their systems and onto a page, they can then turn around and be civil and supportive to one another. Unlike musicians, who are team players. and have to watch their aggression or nobody will want to play with them, writers for the most part are lone wolves. Writers can savage each other at the drop of a hat. Just throw a bunch of comedy writers into competition and watch the blood squirt. But crime writers aren't like that. They're civil and kind to one another, excepting rare aberrations. That's the saving grace of the genre, and why I'm sticking with crime.

Gef: What's the allure of using L.A. as a backdrop? Is it just the kind of city that lends itself as a character or is it as simple as just living in California? How 'bout Texas? Or eastern Canada for that matter?

Anonymous-9: It's as simple as living in California where I can write realistic descriptives. I do want to end up in Texas cause it's rich in so many ways: history, culture and storytelling. I would love to be a southern writer, at least for a little while. In terms of eastern Canada, I wrote my first novel set there and in Toronto (now out of print). I may spend some time in Newfoundland before I'm done and at least write a novella there. For my latest work contracted to Uncanny Books, I referenced Farley Mowatt's GREY SEAS UNDER. A great Canadian writer from the old days.

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?

Anonymous-9: A major New York agent advised, "Get rid of the monkey." That person shall remain nameless.

There's no writing advice I wish would go away, but I wish the industry would stop WHINING. The book industry has never stopped complaining and crying and heralding the demise of the book since it was born. In the 90s, when Borders/Chapters and the big chains came in, and my first book was nationwide in Canada, the barking and howling was deafening. The biz was going into the toilet they said! There was no future in publishing they said! I believed the hype and left writing novels to try screenplays because "it was the future." But novels were my first love and what I did best. I lost ten years of my novel-writing career because I believed those lying complainers. Have you seen a reduction in books since 1990? Heck NO!!! But they never stop. I think it's a ruse to beg for everything they can get and keep writers cowed. They whine because it works. My best advice is make a name for yourself and then charge what you want. Learn to negotiate and stop with the "I don't know anything about business" mantra. That's a guaranteed losing mindset. Not that I'm such a genius but at least I know it's a vulnerable place to be.

Now would you like me to tell you the way I really feel?

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

Anonymous-9: I have no guilt regarding sex or pleasure. I know it's very American and I want to be a good citizen but I don't get it. Why feel guilt about pleasure? Does not compute.

Gef: Looking back at 2014, everyone and their mama has written year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites of the past year?

Anonymous-9: Hunger Games captured me in a big way. Streaming free episodes of shows I can't get on my TV via Amazon Prime hit me big in '14.  

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

Anonymous-9: I'm snailing it to the finishline on a novelette for Uncanny Books called DREAMING DEEP, a Lovecraftian tribute set on a tugboat in Long Beach, CA. Just when I think it's almost finished I throw out the second half and start again. I'm a perfectionist and no amount of drafts are too many to get it right. I read Part 1 out loud to a gathering of Port of Long Beach tugboat operators not long ago and they loved it. So I refuse to let those people down. It's got to rock hard from start to finish.

I also landed a gig bringing an untold story in the life of Tennessee Williams to light. Mia Phoebus was a housemate and cohort of Tennessee Williams back in 1940 in Provincetown. I have delightful vintage pictures of them together at the house and on the beach. Incredibly, her story has never been told and I'm beyond thrilled to be part of a book that will join the chronicles of Williams' life and times. It's a bit of a change from the hardboiled crime fiction scene, and still exciting. Mia will be using her exposure with the book to cross promote her original poetry, some of it dedicated to Tennessee. She's marvelous with language. No big surprise, with Tennessee Williams as her confidante.

Great talking with you, Gef. Again, THANK YOU for your blog and all you do for books and writers.

January 22, 2015

Building Castles in Hugh Howey's Sandbox: an interview with Timothy C. Ward, author of "Scavenger"

I first heard about Timothy C. Ward a couple years back when he was doing his AudioTim podcast, then transitioned over to the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing podcast. Now he's entered the realm of writing with a serialized book set in Hugh Howey's Sand universe, called Scavenger. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his books and his journey thus far. Enjoy.

Timothy C. Ward on Amazon.com

Gef: What was the impetus behind jumping into Hugh Howey's Sand universe?

Tim: Hugh writes my favorite kind of scifi, the kind that is only a touch on the science and mostly about a rapid adventure with characters that evoke strong emotions. Sand is an incredible story of a family who's lost their father and is struggling to survive in a future America where sand diving and treasure hunting is both exciting and deadly. I wanted to explore that world with my own characters, one of which came from a scene near the last tenth of the book. I won't ruin the story, but a kind of people were described in passing and I wanted to see what they looked like up close and in the flesh. 

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a story set in someone else's creation as opposed to one purely of your own invention?

Tim: I don't know if there is more prep before writing than I would do in my own world, but I read the source material at least twice (in this case four times as I had the audiobook and listened through twice). I kept notes on world and science and just made sure I stayed true to what was built. In a way, it is easier with someone else's book because it is firmly established.

I generally only work on one story at a time. I finish the draft and then go back to something else and edit or write a new story. No real difference in how those gears shift.

Gef: What kind of little tip and tricks have you picked up in working in these shared universes like Hugh Howey's and Michael Bunker's?

Tim: My success varies between my stories set in Hugh's and Bunker's worlds. With Scavenger (Hugh's world), I am self publishing one novella at a time. This has made editing cheaper than a whole novel, but my sales are nowhere near covering that expense. It has challenged me on whether or not I'll be able to afford to keep publishing them. Life happens and I've had a rough four months. Scavenger: Blue Dawn (#2) published Oct. 1 and while I'm almost done with Scavenger: Twin Suns (#3), three months between novellas is a bit to ask of readers. On the other hand, #2 only has 3 reviews, so I wonder how many people are ready for #3. People have so many books in their queue, it is very hard to slip in. I hoped to do that with Scavenger: Red Sands (#1) being only a novelette length story, but while I got more readers for that, many haven't had time to read part two, which is four times as long.

My tip then for my experience with Scavenger is to understand that self publishing fan fiction as a new writer is likely going to cost more money than it will make, at least in the first six months, maybe more. Granted, Hugh Howey's experience publishing Wool #1 is my model, he had like seven books out by then, so his audience helped push the sales needed to invest in writing the rest of the parts. I don't know if he had them edited or not and he did his own covers. Self publishing has grown to the point where you have to get professional looking covers and editing. The competition is too great to go cheap on those.

If Scavenger were not fan fiction, I might scrap the idea of self publishing, finish the story and submit to a trusted small publisher. I don't know if I can do that with fan fiction. I haven't asked Hugh if he'd care. I did ask for permission to write and sell in this world, so definitely do that if you're planning to write fan fiction and sell it.

As for writing in Michael Bunker's world, I was invited to write a story for his anthology, Tales from Pennsylvania. I was not a first choice, and was given a week to produce a story. My tip: when given a professional paying gig to write a story in a world you've enjoyed, take it, even if the time frame seems impossible. I spent the weekend rereading Pennsylvania and making notes, then connected an emotion I had from reading an article in the paper (a mother soldier returning from war to embrace her son) and wrote a story with that in a setting in Michael's world. Thankfully, I'm experienced enough to have made that opportunity work. And the paycheck I'll get in six months will go toward self publishing costs. I've contemplated taking more time to write short stories for paying markets as a way of paying for self publishing. The return on investment is higher than self pubbing at the moment.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of fan fiction?

Tim: Sharing fan bases with your favorite writers. Not only is it a good way to get new fans, it is an amazing experience to share a story in the same world as someone you look up to. For many, this is how we've been given a start in publishing. I'm eternally grateful for that.

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?

Tim: No piece of writing advice is worse than any other because all of them make you think about what you want to do and if you agree or not. Becoming a writer is reading, writing, editing and thinking about how to become a better story teller. When someone gives me advice, it makes me think, and I can come out just as good after hearing advice I disagree with as advice I agree with. That said, I wish I had been more confident to stick to my guns earlier on. 

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

Tim: I'm a huge Walking Dead fan. Yes it is a popular show, so maybe it isn't guilty, but I say Walking Dead instead of just zombies because I'm not a give me all the zombies you can dish out kind of fan. I am very picky with my zombie stories having solid writing and characters. Fiend by Peter Stenson (meth zombie apocalypse) and The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey (parasite like none other zombie apoc) are two highly recommended zombie stories. 

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Tim: I need to make a top five list. Without thinking too hard on order, here are my top five I read this year:

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (released earlier than 2014)

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

Tim: I'm hoping to publish Twin Suns in January. I submitted a novel about the newly opened rift between Iowa and the Abyss, so we'll see on that. I'm trying a new blog at www.timothycward.thirdscribe.com, which includes a community of readers and writers as well as website creation for those who want to focus on writing. I have a newsletter for updates on new releases and sales athttp://eepurl.com/NA__X. I'm offering a first one hundred reviewers program where if you review Scavenger: Red Sands (#1) and sign up for my newsletter, I'll email you the next part free. Review part two, I send you part three free, and so on.

January 20, 2015

Lost and Confound: a review of Brian Keene's "The Lost Level"

The Lost Level
by Brian Keene
Apex Book Company (2015)
186 pages
ISBN: 9781937009106

Available on Amazon.com

Brian Keene's brand of horror is the kind that will rip your heart out and feed it to you. But he's got a knack for delving outside strictly horrific fiction, especially the zombies that made him famous, for more rollicking fare. His collaboration with Nick Mamatas on The Damned Highway would be a good example of that. So I was curious how he'd pull of some pulpy fantasy adventure.

Aaron Pace finds himself trapped in a distinctly alien land after getting a little too complacent with his self-taught dabbling in the occult. Oh, sure. Opening portals into alternative dimensions is fun and games at first, but all it takes is one brain fart and suddenly you wind up in the one universe that doesn't have an exit. And it's not like he wasn't warned. The books he read referred to it as The Lost Level, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross that threshold has never returned. So Aaron's only hope of seeing home again is to be the first jabrone to find a way back.

A little bit Edgar Rice Burroughs, a little bit David Gerrold, Jules Verne, a little bit Lovecraft, yeah-yeah-yeah. There's a heaping bowlful of winks and nods to what's come before, but this book is all Keene. Throw a blue-collar stiff with an unsettling acumen in the occult and fling him into a cosmic meatgrinder, and you've pretty much got a Brian Keene cult classic in the making.

Now, while the book never felt it reinvented the wheel, it remained true to the genre, and lured it off the beaten path just enough that Keene's indelible voice rings through, kinda like a Springsteen song echoes through the halls of a sanitarium.

It's pretty simple, really. If you're already a fan of Keene's work, there's no question as to whether or not you should read this. If you've yet to sample the man's writing, either because he hasn't been on your literary radar or you've been squeamish about reading all that horror fiction, then you've got a great gateway drug here in the form of The Lost Level.

January 19, 2015

An Excerpt of "Surviral" by Ken Benton

About SURVIRALThe deadliest flu season in a hundred years is about to turn a whole lot deadlier. When an accident at a famous medical research facility lets a mutated avian flu strain out, a nightmare scenario unfolds.  Before authorities can react, millions are infected—and that’s just the beginning. The mortality rate exceeds 80%. Leaders and elected officials soon learn the man-manipulated virus respects neither rank nor stature. The resulting chain reaction leads to a collapse of modern society—even in Colorado, where no cases of the killer strain have yet appeared.

Clint Stonebreaker, a happily-married software engineer living in Denver, doesn’t like watching the news. He especially doesn’t let Jake, his wacky doomsday-prepping brother, watch it when he visits. But when chaos goes viral through the entire country, Clint and his wife Jenny are forced to acknowledge reality. They find themselves hitting the road with their gun-enthusiast neighbor to escape the deteriorating city. Their goal? Reaching Clint’s hunting cabin in Southeastern Colorado and trying to make a homestead of it.

They don’t get far before running into a gauntlet of obstacles. Colorado seems to have become a giant sociological experiment, with dire consequences for making the wrong decisions. The spirit of American resolve is pitted against the ugly realty of criminal opportunism in every direction they turn. Ironically, Clint isn’t sure which is worse: being forced to survive in the midst of civil unrest, or knowing he’ll have to admit to Jake that he was right. Assuming he can find him…

Available at Amazon.com

An excerpt of SURVIRAL
by Ken Benton

Because Harold and Barry were both light sleepers, they decided Clint should take the first “watch.” It was only prudent for someone to stay awake and keep an eye on the cars, as well as the personal belongings Barry and Shay had to unload in order to fold their rear seat down for their makeshift bed. Harold would relieve Clint in a couple hours, and then Barry would take the last shift. Barry assured them he would be awake in the wee hours anyway.

“There is one thing that concerns me,” Barry said. “I’d feel better if our perimeter was more …secure.”

“I know what you mean.” Harold scanned their surroundings. “Well, we could move the cars to fence us in better.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Jenny said.

Harold and Barry adjusted the two wagons so they were back to back, overlapping just a little. They decided it was good enough and everyone but Clint retired to try and sleep.

Clint sat in the comfortable canvas chair he brought along and gazed at the night sky. The smell of campfires was still heavy and the stars were out. He thought about Jake. Jake always liked the stars. Clint checked his cell phone for the twentieth time, but there were still no bars.

Jenny came out of the tent. Clint expected her to come over and kiss him goodnight, but instead she scurried to Harold’s tent and called him. The two of them talked in low voices before Harold got up and walked to his car. He came back with a small vinyl bag and handed it to Jenny. She thanked him and they both went back inside their tents.

Clint could still hear bits and pieces of conversations from the other campers. Not enough to understand the exchanges, but he picked up certain words that gave him the gist of the topics being discussed. Everyone was trying to go somewhere. People were concerned about their own safety, in addition to the safety of the ones they were going to see. Complaints about phones not working were also popular. Clint realized he and Jenny were in the same predicament as everyone else. Barry and Shay, too. They were nice folks. Good thing Clint picked this spot, so they could partner up with them for the night.

Clint caught himself nodding off twice. He eventually decided to move to the picnic table to prevent any further occurrences. Harold got up and relieved him shortly thereafter. He had a book, and turned the lantern back on so he could read.

Inside the tent, Jenny was sleeping lightly. She rustled as Clint found a comfortable position next to her. That’s when he noticed the vinyl bag Harold gave her was partially unzipped. He couldn’t be certain in the dark, but it looked to contain one of Harold’s pistols. Clint wasn’t sure whether that should relax him or make him nervous.

It must have relaxed him, because the next thing he knew it was morning. The sounds of people talking—along with car doors shutting and engines starting—caused his eyes to open and find sunlight.

When he and Jenny crawled out of the tent, Harold was talking to Barry next to his brown Volvo. Barry and Shay were packed up already, and apparently about to leave. Shay waited in the passenger seat. Clint and Jenny approached them.

“Good morning!” Barry said “The roads have reopened. Here.” He held out a piece of paper. Clint took it. There was writing on it.

“That’s the name, address, and phone number of Shay’s sister in Pueblo. If you need anything, or have any trouble travelling, feel free to contact us there. Or, if you happen to find yourself in Pueblo, stop by and visit.”

Shay rolled her window down. “Bye, guys. So nice meeting you. Bye, Jenny. Good luck!”

Clint was still groggy as they said their final goodbyes. He wished he had a cup of coffee. They had a bag of grounds packed away, but no practical way to make it.

Barry got in his car and joined the crowd of vehicles that were all attempting to leave at the same time. He first tried to wedge his way into the line, but then seemed to have an inspired notion. He turned and drove right through the trees to get to the side road, his windshield acquiring a small pine branch in the process. Several other cars then followed his example.

“We might as well wait until this clears out more,” Harold said. “Go ahead and use the bathrooms if you need to. I’ll start packing up.”

Harold had everything loaded when Clint and Jenny returned from the restrooms. The field cleared out fast and was nearly vacant by now. Unsightly patches of burned grass marked the sites of last night’s campfires. One of them was still smoldering.

“Are we ready?” Harold said. He appeared to be in good spirits.

They took one final look around before climbing into the car for the road trip. Clint was hopeful of a reunion with his brother before this day was through. Harold started the engine and put the car in gear.

But then he put in back in park.

“No,” he said. “Dear God, no!”

“What’s wrong?” Clint didn’t like the sudden desperation in Harold’s voice.

Without answering, Harold turned the ignition off, opened his door, jumped out, and ran through the trees towards the road.

“What’s the matter now?” Jenny asked.

“I don’t know. Not car trouble, I hope. Looks like he tried to run after Barry and Shay. Did they leave something behind?”

“Or accidentally take something of ours, maybe?” Jenny asked.

Clint looked at her and tilted his head. She raised her eyebrows. They both got out of the car. Harold had disappeared. The traffic was now thinned out, so the remaining cars were moving freely.

Clint turned to Jenny and made an exaggerated shrug. As he did, he noticed a black Chevy Suburban driving on the field. It parked next to the still-smoldering fire. A well-dressed man got out and stomped on it.

“There he is,” Jenny said, pointing to the trees. Clint turned back around.

Harold was back in view, shaking his head and muttering as he slowly returned.

“I’m so stupid,” he said. “So stupid. We’re screwed. Damn those shysters!”

“What’s the problem?” Clint asked.

“They siphoned us. Took all our gas. We had over three-quarters of a tank. Now on empty!” He walked up to his car and pounded a fist on the hood. “Dammit!”

“Are you sure?” Jenny asked. “How can that be? You guys watched the cars all night, right?”

“Let me see,” Clint said. He came around to the driver’s side, slipped in sideways and turned the key one click to the accessory position. The gas gauge rose only to E and the need gas light came on. He cranked the ignition. The car started right up, but the gas reading didn’t change.

“Oh, no.” Clint turned the car off and rested his head on the steering wheel.

Jenny came up next to him. “I don’t understand. Who could have stolen our gas? How could this happen?”

“Our friends,” Harold said. “Barry and Shay. They must have been low.”

“No,” Jenny replied. “No, I don’t believe it. No way it was them. Maybe we punctured the gas tank or something?”

“It was Barry,” Harold said. “Only person it could have been. There’s no gas leak. I saw the gauge when we repositioned the cars last night. There would be a smell, and a puddle under the car.”

“Well then it had to be someone else—like that Zane character, maybe.”

“He’s right, honey.” Clint shook his head. “I remember thinking the position he put his wagon in was a little weird, overlapping the rears like that. It was so the gas caps were lined up.”

“Right,” Harold said. “Remember when he offered to siphon some gas to us? That struck me as odd. Obviously, he had a siphon. Now I see it was a sly way of finding out how much we had.”

Jenny looked shocked. “I …I just can’t believe it. They were so nice. And they gave us their address and phone number.”

“Fake,” Harold said. “Guaranteed. That’s why he wanted the last watch. I shouldn’t have fallen for that. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

“Not your fault,” Clint said. “They fooled all of us. Good actors. But what are we going to do now?”

“We need help!” Jenny shouted to the air. She began waving her arms frantically. “Somebody, help!”

She then lowered her voice and looked at Harold. “We need to find someone who will give us some gas.”

“Not bloody likely,” Harold said.

The sound of a big motor drew close as the black Suburban on the field suddenly pulled up next to them. The passenger window rolled down and the driver leaned over in his seat.

“You folks all right?” the driver said. “Having some kind of trouble?”

Jenny ran up to his window. “Oh yes, yes, thank you for stopping! Someone siphoned all our gas last night while we were sleeping. We made friends with this other couple, but we think they ended up stealing our gas! Please, can you help us? We just need some gas. At least enough to get back to Denver.”

The driver turned his engine off and climbed out. Clint thought the man looked out of place as he came around the front of his big SUV. Probably in his early fifties, he was too well-groomed, and appeared too well-rested, to be one of the campers from last night. He wore a dress shirt and sports jacket, which smartly complimented his jeans, cowboy boots, and partially-gray hair. This man moved with a certain confidence. Somehow, his presence here relieved much of the stress of the current situation.

“Name’s Wade. Sorry to hear about your trouble. Gasoline has become a scarce commodity, so I’m not surprised by your story. Unfortunately, I can’t spare any, either. And I’m not going to Denver anytime soon—like for the rest of my life, if I’m lucky. About the best I can do is offer you a ride into Springs.”

“Did you spend the night here?” Clint asked. “I don’t remember seeing your car.”

“No.” Wade shook his head. “Not in the park. I got stuck in the Black Forest, too, though. Fortunately, I have some friends with a house here. Heard about the impromptu communities of stranded motorists and decided to take a quick survey of the scene before heading home.”

“You look familiar,” Jenny said.

“You folks live in the Springs area?”

“No, Denver. But we have a second home down near Springfield.”

“I see.” Wade looked disappointed. “Too bad. Well, my offer stands, anyway. You seem like nice people. I’m your fifth-district congressman, Wade Bennett.”

“Oh.” Jenny giggled. “That must be why I recognized you. I’m Jenny Stonebreaker. This is my husband, Clint, and our neighbor, Harold. We were trying to make it down to our second home.”

“Maybe we still are,” Harold said. “Would you mind making room in your truck for some of our equipment?”

“I suppose I could do that. Not the entire load, I hope.” Wade eyed the rear compartment of Harold’s wagon.

“No,” Harold said. “Only the bikes and backpacks.”

“Wait a minute,” Clint said. “We need to discuss this.”

Wade nodded. “Of course. Talk it over. I’ll wait a bit. Those look like good bikes, and you all seem to be in decent shape. You might be able to get back to Denver by early afternoon. Although…”

Everyone looked at him.

“It might be safer heading south. Guess it depends on your second home. Denver had some problems last night, from what I hear. More riots and looting. Just so you know. Up to you.”

Wade sat in his car while Clint, Harold, and Jenny talked. Clint wasn’t initially sure about trying to finish the trip by bike, but when he heard the congressman’s warnings about Denver he was much more inclined towards it. The ride would be difficult either way. But at least going south figured to be more downhill than facing the steep inclines back to Denver.

Then there was Jake. Clint still had no way of knowing if he was okay. Stopping by his house in person might be the only way to do that now. And travelling by an internal-combustion powered vehicle no longer seemed to be an option.

Harold, predictably, was all for it. Jenny took some persuading. Ultimately, though, she was sympathetic to Clint’s fear of riots and acquiesced.


Ken Benton appears to be your run-of-the-mill city slicker at first glance, blissfully playing with his iPhone at the bar of the local barbeque joint while sipping on craft-brewed IPA. But he has a secret passion: doomsday survival prepping. And if you ever snuck up behind him to see what he was reading, it would likely be one of those apocalyptic-survival stories set after the collapse of modern society. Yes, he’s one of those nuts. But someday soon, Ken believes, those nuts may become the new upper class in society. Until then, we’ll just have to make do with story-telling. And preparing. Cheers.

January 16, 2015

Chasing Tale [Jan 16, 2015]: Getting Angry All Over Again

Chasing Tale is a regular feature on the blog in which I highlight the recent additions to my bookshelves, both physical and digital.

Good news! Angry Robot Books isn't dead after all. When their crime imprint died a rather sudden and spectacular death last year, their lead editor jumped ship to Tor, and the publisher basically halted all upcoming titles for the last half the year, things were not looking great. The woes of the company came out of nowhere for outsiders like me, as they were churning out high-quality novels on a regular basis and seemed to be going full steam ahead. Well, whatever straits they had seem to have been navigated, and now they're slated to release 27 books in 2015. That's ... a lot, considering the first of the books aren't set for publication until March and their 2013 schedule was about half that. Granted, Orbit released something like 50-60 books in 2014, so it's not a crazy number for Angry Robot.

It's still a more restrained publishing schedule than the absolutely bonkers number of releases from Permuted Press, who released over a hundred books in 2014 before collapsing under its own weight in the fall (much to the chagrin of many of its authors), and even after restructuring its output and several contracts with disgruntled authors,  is set to release a dozen books in the month of January alone. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

I dunno, man. 2014 saw publishers doing some fancy footwork to keep out of the quicksand, and I have a funny feeling quite a few more publishers will be doing the same in 2015. The question is which ones.

... Oh, and a crap-ton of books wound up on my to-be-read pile thanks to the influx of review copies and an Amazon gift card in my Christmas stocking. Check 'em out.

Relic of Death by David Bernstein -This one sounds cool with a blend of crime and horror fiction. A couple mobsters in the countryside carry out a hit, then find a suitcase full of diamonds ... cursed diamonds. Dun-dun-DUN! This is right up my alley.

Truth Lies Bleeding by Tony Black - I see Tony's name pop up here and there when I'm checking out reviews for British crime fiction, so when I had the chance to snag this first book in his Rob Brennan series from the Kindle Store, I went for it.

Last God Standing by Michael Boatman - Oh God, you devil. This one about God quitting Heaven to try out being human on Earth, only to have the other gods scheme to take the Throne. Somewhere between Kevin Smith's Dogma and Neil Gaiman's American Gods by the looks of it.

The Pendle Curse by Catherine Cavendish - A new novel coming in early February from Catherine. She'll be stopping by the blog soon with a guest post to help better highlight the subject matter and inspiration behind this one. It's got witchcraft, so that's a checkmark in the win column right off the bat.

Coyote's Trail by Edward M. Erdelac - I don't a whole lot of new western novels popping up on my radar, but this one from Ed came on sale over the holidays and I just couldn't resist. I think any book with a plot summary that features a "sadistic whiskey peddler" should be an instant buy for me.

The Bleeding Season by Greg F. Gifune - Here's one about a group of friends forced to face some terrible truths about one of their own who may have led a secret, murderous life. Eep. I've only read a couple of Greg's books so far, but I've thoroughly enjoyed them, so I have my fingers crossed on this one.

Strategies Against Nature by Cody Goodfellow - Broken River Books, a small crime fiction press, now has a literary imprint called King Shot Press. I don't know when I was sent this advance review copy or even who sent it, but it's on my to-be-read pile in any case. I hear good things about Cody's work, so that's reassuring, and BRB has a good line-up of titles on its own.

Everyone Hates a Hero by Gregory L. Hall - This is a short novel from the Funky Werepig himself. A dopy ghosthunter must help an ex-girlfriend with her daughter's possible haunting. Sounds good to me.

Hell's Waiting Room by C.V. Hunt - A power outage set off a descent into madness for a pair of survivalists in their home. I've not read Hunt's work, but the premise for this one sounds interesting enough, and I just dig that cover.

Dreamwalker by Russell James - I'm not sure if this one is strictly horror or veers more towards dark fantasy, but I'll have an interview with Russell on the blog soon, so he can clear that up for us. 

Last of the Albatwitches by Brian Keene - I read Keene's Ghost Walk years ago and just dug the heck out of Levi, the Amish demon hunter. This is a book that has two Levi novellas, so I'm definitely gonna dig this.

Ugly Little Things Vol. 1 by Todd Keisling - Todd has brought together the short stories in his ULT universe together in one collection. I already had these stories separately--the ones already published anyway--so this offers mainly convenience for me to read 'em all in one go.

Things Slip Through by Kevin Lucia - Speaking of collections, Kevin's collection was on sale during the holidays and I just had to scoop it up. The setup sounds neat with the Skylark Diner and a strange book given to the local sheriff serving as the throughway for each story to unfold.

Malediction by Lisa Morton - Some L.A. horror from Lisa here. I'm listening to the Audible version, narrated by Michael Hacker. I enjoyed her Monsters of L.A. collection from a couple years ago, so I'm optimistic about this one.

Leverage by Eric Nelson - This is the other King Shot Press title that I found on my hard drive. It's odd, as I have a record for every other ARC I receive, but there's no paper trail that I can find for these. I can vaguely recall conversing with Michael Kazepis who works with KSP, but have no records of the convo on my email or social media. So mysterious!

Love Bites by James Newman & Donn Gash  - A novelette with a succubus from Newman & Gash (that could be a buddy cop show). I'm not familiar with Gash's work, but James Newman is a straight-shooter in the horror department, so I figured I'll like this.

Death Match by Jason Ridler - A murder mystery mixed with pro wrestling? I'm in. 'Nuff said.

Island of the Forbidden by Hunter Shea - Hunter is back at it with the haunted side of things, and he's brought back Jessica Blackman, who appeared in Forest of Shadows and The Sinister Entity. I have a review with Hunter coming up soon too, so watch out for that.

The Slab City Event by Nate Southard  - I'm not sure if the horde of dead that attacks this hot rod/biker rally are strictly zombies, but it doesn't matter to me. It just sounds like the kind of balls-to-the-wall action-horror story that I could really sink my teeth into.

Cecil and Bubba Meet the Thang by Terry M West - Some southern-fried horror here. This one is novella-length, and I just had to tear into it right away. It is just bonkers and wonderful and exactly what you'd expect from a book with that title.

Sam by Iain Rob Wright - Iain has a free ebook offer going on for subscribers to his newsletter. So I signed up and opted for the first book in a series, which features a haunted boy at odds with a priest and a ghost hunter.

Shock Totem 9 by various authors - The latest issue of ST--well there was Halloween special issue, but whatever--features some stories from Stephen Graham Jones, Bracken MacLeod, Tim Lieder, and more. Even interviews with Jones and one with F. Paul Wilson. This mag never disappoints.

January 15, 2015

Tears Are Gonna Fall, Rollin' In the Deep: a review of Nick Cutter's "The Deep"

The Deep
by Nick Cutter
Simon & Schuster Canada (2015)
400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501101519

Available via Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Back when I read Craig Davidson's Sarah Court, I thought the guy had a real handle on wringing every bit of tension out of the most mundane instances of contemporary life. Then he took on the pen name Nick Cutter to release one of the more hair-raising horror novels of 2014, The Troop. Now he has The Deep, and I think this is where he makes the balance between the two.

Okay, so it's a very near future where the world is ravaged by a disease that causes people to forget. Not just "Where did I leave my keys?" stuff, but right on through to "How do I breathe?" The civilization that is hanging on bands together to find a cure, but things aren't going so great. There's an inkling of hope way down in the deep blue sea, though. There's been a discovery down there, a substance dubbed Ambrosia that may be the cure, but it's eight miles down and the facility at the bottom of the ocean researching it has gone silent. The brilliant, if not slightly disturbed, scientist leading the charge calls upon his brother to come down, and so he does. It's already a strained relationship between the two, so throw in a perilous journey below the sea to a claustrophobic sea station with drudged up memories and a possible sentience at work related to the Ambrosia, and things just get compounded.

The tension mounts and mounts, from all angles, for all members of the crew, and what really works as the cement between these bricks of horror is the familial bond between the two brothers and what we see of it through the induced flashbacks. Where The Troop took the parasite horror trope and breathed new life into it, the Crichton-esque horror new technologies impeding on our grasp of reality is given a breath of fresh air in The Deep, but given it a more relatable experience through its humanity that I just never got from a Crichton work.

There's a lot of ways to describe this book, but I kind of like Edward Lorn's: “Event Horizon shags Sphere who then fornicates with Carpenter’s The Thing.” Bingo!

I'm lukewarm to the movie, Sphere, but Event Horizon and The Thing are two classics in the sci-fi/horror realm, and if The Deep ever sees its way to the movie screen it would fit in nicely among this pantheon. It doesn't reinvent the genre, but what it does do is fine tune it so that its engine purrs. The Troop was very good, The Deep is just plain great, so I'm really keen to see what Nick Cutter manages to do with his third outing.


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