February 1, 2017


Things are going to be pretty quiet on the blog for awhile, but hopefully there will be more reviews, interviews, and such later in the year. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, enjoy 2017 by reading a good book Or try writing something yourself if you feel compelled. Oh, maybe even, if opportunity should present itself ... punch a nazi in the face.

2017, y'all.

January 30, 2017

Good Angels, Better Beasts: an interview with Jerome Stueart, author of "The Angels of Our Better Beasts"

JEROME STUEART'S THE ANGELS OF OUR BETTER BEASTS - The Lemmings are really researching the Arctic biologists, the werewolves sing sweet Christian praise songs, and the signing gorilla just wants someone back in the cage for a minute or two. The Gryphon can fight your war for you, and there isn’t really a problem when the man you’ve been online dating turns out to be a bear, is there? No worries. Those old lions in the canyon aren’t up to something, are they? The doctors in the red coats just want to cure you of a terrible blood disease. Trust them. In the forest, the sasquatch has fallen in love with the cryptozoologist who follows him, while the god of the Brazos River courts the young, pretty Texas college students.

These fifteen illustrated stories of beasts—and the beasts we sometimes become—ask us how much influence we have over each other, to bring out our beast sides or our best sides . . . and how much control the beasts already have over us.  

So how did the ball get rolling for this collection?

I approached Brett and Sandra of ChiZine with a book proposal for the collection--all my short stories which had been published in magazines, and a brief outline of what stories I wanted to write for the collection, as well as a theme and possible audiences.  I may have gone overkill to sell it, but they liked it!  They also bought, at the same time, the rights to the novelization of my short story, "One Nation Under Gods."

When putting together a collection like this, how much of a balancing act is there in choosing which stories to include?

Well, I actually had just enough stories that could form a collection.  So they made up the bulk of it.  I wrote two others for the collection--longer stories.  I tried to sneak in a novella--but I just ran out of time, and my editor, Andrew Wilmot, told me it was probably better this way.  He thought a novella at the end of a collection might throw off the balance of stories. I agree. We did try to space out the flash fiction, the poetry on the edges, the comedic stories, give a feel to reading the collection through from start to finish.  It was a lot of fun for me to arrange the stories in patterns.      

How would you gauge your progression as a writer thus far?

I'm doing okay.  I'm proud of this collection.  I took a long time to publish, I think, because I didn't know if I was ready.  So I took writing workshops in college and learned a lot, and then took Clarion and learned a lot.   I feel late to publishing, but honestly, I'm not sure I had anything to say before now.  I took a lot of time to both find myself and explore different jobs and places--a summer on Long Island as a park ranger, ten years in the Yukon as a vaudevillian, living in a remote subarctic research station, or being a trolley conductor.  In some ways, I was doing the prep work for much of what I'm working on now.  

Your debut novel is also due to be published this year by Chizine. Is there much of a gear shift for you when it comes to story length?

My first novel is a travel novel--a journey across the US modeled on Huckleberry Finn.  It's going to feel episodic within a greater story arc, so that makes chapters into story lengths which is easier for me to think about, I think.  I tend to write long anyway---often coming in at just under 20,000 unless I have a preset wordcount cutoff.  And because it's a novel, I'm kinda letting my narrator just talk right now.... he's a talker.  So, I'm looser with the narrative and where the story could go than I would be in a short story.  I'm discovering where the novel wants to go---though I have a pretty good outline too.  I allow myself to write outside of the plotlines frequently if the narrative feels more important to go there.  

Compared to a novel, say, what do you consider to be the saving grace of the short story?

Tightness of focus and action--always keeping your attention on getting through the story--and leaving you with a clear understanding of that character at that time.  Also, a moment that lingers with you.  

You've also co-edited an anthology with Sandra Kasturi, so I'm guessing the relationship with her and ChiZine has been good so far?

Yeah, they are good people.  Brett first read my "One Nation Under Gods" story back in 2009 for Tesseracts 14.  He wrote the nicest emails, wanting it.  That kind of encouragement has just kept coming from them.  Sandra also teaches me about the business of being a writer, which is very helpful.  They've become great friends.  

Who do you count among your writing influences?  

I'm a hodgepodge of influences, I think.   I feel like the kid of Ray Bradbury + Madeleine L'Engle.  They both found a way to balance adventure, wonder, ideas and message together and they were both some of my earliest reading.  In my very religious household, I was raised on CS Lewis, Fairy Tales, the Bible and Star Trek.   As a kid, I also read  lots of mid-80s Comics, especially X-Men, Spider-man, Green Lantern, Flash, and Fantastic Four.  I read everything Agatha Christie, Stephen King and Piers Anthony wrote when I was a teen, too

And then I read some very different works:  in high school i was deeply affected by Tennyson's tragic, beautiful Idylls of the King--a whole different way of thinking about heroes, about King Arthur and Merlin and Lancelot than I'd grown up with.  In college, I read Catcher in the Rye.  Peter Straub's Shadowland.  Shakespeare. James Baldwin. Ernest Hemingway.  I liked the kinds of feeling these novels gave me when I read.  I think I've always been trying to make a reader feel something in my stories and novels.  

I loved Fitzgerald, John Irving and Alice Munro too.  Today, I'm in love with Kij Johnson and Ted Chiang and Kazuo Ishiguro.  

What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

I think, for me as a science fiction and fantasy writer, "write what you know" has always felt limiting.  I agree that one should always try to capture every experience, every "scar" as Stephen King says, to put in our fiction.  But I think if beginning writers meet up with "write what you know" they will feel boxed in to memoir, or fiction that resembles memoir (and hey, I like that stuff too! but...).  We have to use a lot more imagination--have to think about people living in space beyond what anyone knows, imagine things that have never happened.  I just think we should read that statement as "You can use everything you've experienced" and "write what you can imagine" maybe.   Those sound more encouraging. 

What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

An everyperson that struggles forced into a situation where they don't know the rules.  I also like stories that make me feel something--a little sacrifice, a little difficult choice. People striving to improve their situation, even if they fail.  I like flawed human characters.  I have to feel that the author cared about the characters so that I can care too.  I'm also a sucker for stories with siblings, or families, with a dog, for mentors who do not die in the middle of novels and who guide our hero, and for puzzle stories.  I reread The Great Gatsby, Mariette in Ecstasy, Frankenstein, Watership Down.  Their characters really push to be something more in their worlds, and often they fail.  I don't know why, but that appeals to me--seeing how they push for more, or how they deal with failure.  That's inspiring.     

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

Well, I'm finishing up two longer stories.  One is about two sisters and their rival gods and the father the sisters fight over.  The other one I'm "cooking up" is about a chef on a starship promoted to diplomat to help negotiate reparations to a society Earth badly abused.  And the bigger project is, of course, the novel One Nation Under Gods due out in June of 2018.  Till then, I have a story coming out in the Spring in a collection from Lethe Press about a retired faun forced to teach jazz clarinet lessons to the boy who now unknowingly owns the faun's ancient powerful clarinet that can work wonders in the world. It's called "Postlude to the Afternoon of the Faun" and it will appear in Friends of Hyakinthos.  You can follow me on jeromestueart.com or on twitter @bearnabas.  If shenanigans happen--they will happen there.

January 18, 2017

The Phantom Bride of Marcellus: a guest post by Catherine Cavendish, author of "Linden Manor"

The Phantom Bride of Marcellus

My novella – Linden Manor – features the ghost of Lady Celia Fitzmichael, about whom a scary nursery rhyme was written. This has haunted my main character – Lesley Carpenter – since childhood. In it, Lady Celia is never mentioned by name. Instead, she is referred to as ‘The Scottish bride.’ And woe betide you if you laid eyes on her ‘blackened face’.
Writing this story inspired me to go in search of allegedly true reported sightings and tales of tragic brides who seem unable – or unwilling – to leave the place of their mortal death.
My quest has led me to all sorts of interesting stories. A number occur at the site of fatal road crashes. Here’s one from a very twisty road, aptly named 13 Curves (or Cedarvale Road to give it its proper name) in Marcellus, southwest of Syracuse in New York.

The road certainly twists and turns, and sixty years ago - so the story goes - a young ‘just married’ couple, without a care in the world, were driving along there on their wedding night, probably concentrating a little too much on the honeymoon to follow rather than the perils of the dark road ahead.
Rounding one of the bends, the car spun out of control, off the road and plunged into a nearby creek. The couple were killed instantly. What followed has been reported in many ways by many people, most of whom were previously unaware of any such sightings.
Some people report seeing a ghostly bride, covered in blood and carrying a glowing orange lantern. Others say her eyes glow as she wanders along the road, apparently searching for something or someone. Others have reported seeing the apparition standing on one of the hills along the road. At times she is reported as behaving in a reckless fashion, leaping out at unsuspecting cars and causing their drivers to swerve out of control and crash their vehicles.

She has also been reported causing accidents by suddenly manifesting herself in the driver’s rear view mirror, apparently sitting in the back seat of their cars, dressed in white, spattered with blood. When they turn around, she has gone. A variation on the story says that, in fact, she wasn’t killed that day – only her groom was. She died much later and returns to this spot, searching for her long dead husband. A common theory is that she died on Friday 13th and only returns on this date.
Whatever the truth of this story, the road is undeniably spooky at night. Its many curves require due diligence when negotiating them. This is not a road to lose concentration on, so maybe the Phantom Bride of Marcellus comes back to warn the unwary to take care, or risk suffering her fate.

Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:
Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body? 

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it. 

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish Bride herself. A sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley - terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last. 

Linden Manor has just been reissued by Crossroad Press and is available from:
Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:

And are currently available – or soon will be – from:

Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-18th century, which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.
You can connect with her here:

January 16, 2017

The Rhodes Less Traveled: an interview with J. Kent Messum, author of "Husk"

From award-winning author J. Kent Messum, a serial killer thriller for fans of The Straw Men and The Shining Girls.


For a lucky few, death is merely an inconvenience. With the help of technology the mind can survive long after a body has been laid to rest. This afterlife, however, is far from paradise...


Rhodes is a 'Husk'. It's an illegal, controversial and highly lucrative job - renting out control of his body and mind to the highest bidder. It's a sure way to gain a better life, but some clients go too far. Sometimes, he wakes up with scars.


Then the visions start - terrible sights that haunt his waking hours. They could be dreams, or they could be something far worse - they just might be memories ...

What was the impetus behind Husk?

I think writing Husk was the next logical step for me. My first novel 'Bait' was a gritty piece of pulp(ish) fiction; a fast, nasty little read about stranded heroin addicts. For my second novel I wanted to write something a bit longer that was more intricate and had more depth. Basically, I wanted to better my storytelling on all fronts. Husk was a big idea; speculative fiction that raised a lot of difficult questions and covered a lot of ground. The concept alone spurned me on as I found it increasingly captivating the more I worked on it.

How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

At times the research process gets slow and heavy because I strive to make my stories airtight. I've got a certain inventiveness, which is an asset, but I have to be careful not to slip into simply 'making stuff up' for the sake of the story. Whatever you create fiction, it needs to be based in reality for readers to receive it well. Even the fantastical still has to be supported in ways that are believable and accessible.

The internet, of course, is a godsend for research. But among all that easily accessible information is a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news as well. I've learned not take anything at face value. Be discerning and constantly cross-reference your research. There's plenty of false or incomplete data paraded as fact that can make you look like a fool later if you're not careful.

Along with that research, was there anything that stood out as particularly intriguing but couldn't find a place for it in your novel?

There is always the temptation to explore a lot of different avenues in a novel. Unfortunately, there is also a risk of wandering too far from the story. Writers are in constant danger of getting lost, and I'm no exception. You have to pick your path and plan your route. I always have too many ideas that I want to put in a book, but it really depends on whether the story is the right vehicle for them. A lot of cool stuff eventually ends up on the cutting room floor because they're not the right fit contextually.

Was it tricky writing a near-future novel, as far as some aspect of it becoming dated before it's actually published?

It was definitely was. I allowed myself some wiggle room by not actually stating what date the story takes place in (it could be ten years from now, or it could be twenty-five). However, I'm one of those people that believe the more things change the more they stay the same. So, the trick was to strike a balance; create a fictional near-future that was sci-fi enough, while at the same time convincing readers this world could already be here.

With this being your sophomore novel, did you feel any pressure following up your debut novel, Bait?

My intention is to constantly better and better work, so there's always a bit of pressure personally to outdo myself. Exterior pressures are more prevalent though. The publishing game is growing increasingly corporate; book sales and shareholder satisfaction becoming the only priorities, often leaving authors out in the cold. The business is constantly riding on the coattails of trends and fads too. For instance, there's pressure on authors to make trilogies and quadrilogies (even a series that continues indefinitely) all the time now. I'm not that kind of author. My ideas are largely one-offs and I prefer the idea of a good solid stand-alone novel over these series featuring the same characters over and over again.

And there is plenty of pressure to copy what's currently popular. Honestly, the big joke among authors right now is: If you want your book to have a better chance at success, simply put the word 'Girl', 'Bone', or 'Dark' in the title. I think I'll just call my next novel "The Girl Who Got Boned In The Dark".

Who do you count among your writing influences?

I've got a small and selective list of authors I admire and try to emulate. They are, in no particular order, Cormac McCarthy, Raymond Carver, Thom Jones, Dennis Johnson, Stewart O'Nan, Dennis Lehane, Chuck Palahniuk, and Craig Davidson.

How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Probably not as much as other authors. Personally, I see setting as the canvas used in the creation, maybe even the glue that holds a good story in place. It's largely background to me, a support structure that needs to hold the weight of every page, though that doesn't mean its importance is diminished in the slightest.

What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

"Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life" is a piece of advice I can't stand. There's this current belief that "work" is some kind of dirty word, that pursuing your passion should feel effortless and enjoyable all the time. I believe that's total and utter crap. Even if you love something, making progress with it should still feel like hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears produces the best art in my opinion.

For specific 'writing' advice, I'm sick of hearing about the importance of maintaining a proper writing schedule. Although it's important to clock in the hours, I don't think a regimented schedule is necessary. There is no 'correct method'. Do whatever works for you. Personally, I'm a night owl and often stay up all night to write. Don't think you have to adhere to a system or strategy that someone else deems necessary.

What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

I like books with no bullshit. Pacey, compelling storytelling with few words wasted really gets my attention. Generally, I lean toward the dark and gritty, authors who don't shy away from tackling the hard stuff. I'm quite a fan of war stories and any fiction that pushes the envelope. There's a real lack of originality in the majority of publishing these days, and I'm always seeking out that which is new and interesting.

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

I'm currently wrapping up work on my third and fourth novels. They're both stand-alone books in the thriller genre, but are poles apart in subject matter. One deals with a newly discovered species that becomes an unexpected addiction in Los Angeles, and the other is about a young boy's disturbing relationship with a haunted tree. Hopefully one of them will be out later this year with the other soon to follow. I keep folks posted on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.


January 13, 2017

Dream a Little Dream: an interview with Oliver Langmead, author of "Metronome"

About METRONOME by Oliver Langmead:
'You and I, we wear our wounds. I wear my scars, you wear your tattoos, and we don't forget who we are.'

It is for the entities known as Sleepwalkers to cross the doors between dreams, and hunt the nightmares that haunt sleeping minds. Theirs is a world of impossible vistas, where reason is banished and only the imagination holds sway: the connected worlds that all sleeping minds inhabit, and the doors that lead between.

But tonight, one Sleepwalker has gone rogue. Abandoning her sworn oath to protect the dreamscapes, she has devoted herself to another cause, threatening to unleash a nightmare older than man. The only chance of stopping her lies with a man named Manderlay. Once a feted musician, William Manderlay is living his twilight years in an Edinburgh care home, riddled with arthritis and filled with a longing for his youth, for the open seas, and for the lost use of his hands and the violin he has always treasured.

For too long now, Manderlay's nights have been coloured by dark, corrupted dreams: dreams of leprous men in landscapes plucked from his memory, of dark figures seeking him on city streets. His comrades in the retirement home believe Manderlay is giving in to age and senility - but the truth is much worse. For in dreams, maps are made from music – and it just might be that one of William Manderlay's forgotten compositions holds the key to unleashing the nightmare that holds the world of dreams in balance. The Sleepwalkers are zoning in on him. He might be their saviour, or his music might be their damnation...

From the acclaimed author of Dark Star comes a literary fantasy like no other.

What was the impetus behind Metronome?

My first published book, Dark Star, was both literally and figuratively dark. It was defined by those few things my protagonist could actually see, and those things, though startling, were often bleak. It wasn't a happy book, and it's difficult to call it colourful. I took a step back after finishing it, and thought about where to go next. I've never been too fond of authors who write the same book over and over again (with exceptions – trilogies and series, for instance: anywhere the story needs multiple books to work), and I felt like going somewhere completely different. In that way, Metronome is a burst of colour. I wanted to write a journey instead of a procedural, so it ended up being an odyssey, and I wanted to really test the limits of my imagination, so it ended up being fantasy instead of science fiction. If Dark Star is a rain cloud, then Metronome is a rainbow.

What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from your previous work?
Metronome is barely similar to Dark Star. They're both in first person, and I like to think that they're both quite visual books, but it's there that the similarities end. Dark Star was in verse, and Metronome is in prose. Dark Star was in American English, and Metronome is in British English. Virgil, the protagonist of Dark Star, is a celebrated young detective serving a law enforcement agency in a city engulfed by perpetual darkness, and Manderlay, the protagonist of Metronome, is an elderly man with a long life behind him, living in an Edinburgh care home and beset by terrible dreams. As a reader, I want to be taken to places that I've never been before, and the same can be said for my writing.
Who do you count among your writing influences?

As a writer, I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve. Metronome, I think, is clearly a celebration of the contemporary fantasy novel, as spearheaded by such brilliant writers as China Miéville and Neil Gaiman. But it also takes its lineage from the imagination of Mark Twain (in particular, the controversial The Mysterious Stranger), and the richly visual writing of Mervyn Peak, and even classical texts, like John Milton's Paradise Lost. There's definitely a bit of Philip Pullman in there, as well, and even a little Bret Easton Ellis if you squint.

Beyond Metronome, I tend to read as much as I can of pretty much everything. Variety is key. One of my fellow authors with Unsung Stories, the remarkable Verity Holloway, recently said that an author should strive to read books that they don't want to read – to look outside the genres their work fits into – and I can't agree enough. I'm hugely into Cormac McCarthy and the great American novel, and I've recently been reading a lot of twentieth century feminist writers – enjoying taking a tour of the likes of Shirley Jackson, who is completely superb, and even Virginia Woolf, who I once found impenetrable to read, but am now beginning to fall in love with.

Some folks for whatever reason turn their nose up at science fiction. What do you consider to be its saving grace?
I'm glad to say that attitudes towards books that might be considered genre fiction – science fiction and fantasy included – are beginning to change, at least in the academic sense. I have the privilege of being enrolled in the University of Glasgow's Fantasy masters, the only one of its kind in the world, now in its second year, and the field that me and my fellow students are studying feels relatively untouched by literary critics. Certainly, books at the edge of fantasy and science fiction – or those that have the good fortune to be considered primarily as works of literature – have been explored. Look, for instance, at Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, one of the most important Russian novels of the twentieth century, which happens to be fantasy. Or at Virgina Woolf's Orlando – no doubt an important modernist novel, but also a work of fantasy. It feels as if we're working from the outside in, studying those well-explored works of literary fantasy and science fiction first simply because an extensive critical framework already exists, and working our way to those equally as celebrated, yet academically ignored texts yet to be acknowledged as works of literature. The Harry Potter series, for instance – doesn't it deserve academic acknowledgement? In some small way, it feels like we few Fantasy students are pioneers, bravely traversing undiscovered countries, and from that point of view, the future feels bright. Change is coming.
Otherwise, the answer is simple. Some people will read only science fiction, and some people will only read crime thrillers, and some people will only read books considered to be literary. That's just a matter of taste, and I don't think it'll change any time soon.
What is the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

The one piece of advice that really bothers me is “write what you know.” I'm sure it's something that works for some people, don't get me wrong. Take Karl Ove Knausgård, for instance, with his My Struggle series. He has written so many books about his own life, often in excruciating detail, and is showing no signs of stopping. He sells millions of copies of his books, so it's not like he lacks readers, either. But... it doesn't work for me, both as a reader and a writer.

The problem, I think, comes down to boredom. If you're writing about something you don't know – say, exploring a new, fantastic kingdom you came up with, or a new planet, or anything like that – then your excitement as you explore comes through in your writing. I long for that spark, of discovering the undiscovered, and when I truly capture it, or feel it coming through the page of a book I'm reading, then it's like no other feeling in the world. But if I write about something I know - Law, for instance (I have a degree in it I plan on never using) - then I find myself being bored by it. There's nothing new there for me to find, or for anybody else to find. There's just a bunch of dull moments I already know very well, often captured in excruciating detail that doesn't feel exciting to me, and I'm sure wouldn't feel exciting to anyone else either.

What kinds of stories resonate with you as a reader?

I like reading stories that take me somewhere I've never been before. That doesn't necessarily mean going very far – just to the next town over, or showing me something from a different point of view – but I am all about escapism in some form or another. Certainly, I appreciate language. If your prose is excellent, then it should be acknowledged and celebrated as such. But if I'm not going anywhere new, then I seem to lose interest. A great example of this is with David Foster Wallace's Eternal Jest. When I first got stuck into it, I was excited. The world he'd created was rich and intricate, and his language was something special. But then... it never really got going anywhere. It stayed in the same place, with the same characters, not doing very much. And while his prose remained brilliant, I simply lost interest and went in search of a book that could take me somewhere new instead.

How has the relationship with your publisher been so far?

Unsung have been nothing short of brilliant to work with. They've responded to both the books I've submitted to them with enthusiasm, and I'm happy to say that that enthusiasm remains, even for Dark Star, which was published nearly two years ago now. They're doing something that not a lot of publishers are doing these days – namely, taking chances on books that the public at large, and a lot of editors, wouldn't usually be brave enough to approach. Dark Star was a poem the length of a book, and Metronome is a fantasy odyssey whose protagonist is over the age of eighty, and not only have Unsung been bold enough to publish them, but to publish them cleverly and thoughtfully – finding ways to bring books that mainstream editors would never dare to put in front of their marketing teams to mainstream audiences and niche audiences alike.

Is theme something you have in mind when your writing the story, or is that something that kinds of reveals itself later in the process?
It's difficult to write a book using a strict plan. Books are more like trees – you start with the acorn of an idea, and grow it, and it doesn't stop growing until it's finally made it past all the editors and copy editors and found its way to the shelves of bookshops and the minds of readers, where it finds its final form. Themes are pretty similar. You can go in with a plan for which themes are going to emerge in your writing, but, so far as I've found, you're always going to end up being surprised by what actually comes out. And even then, you, as an author, might not find them all. Readers discover new themes all the time. One of Metronome's first reviews read the book in a way that neither me or my editors had considered, and it was wonderful. It's not like there's any wrong way to read a book: everybody's interpretations are equally as legitimate (at least, I don't consider myself the ultimate authority on how my books should be read. I can only tell you what I meant).
What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Do you ever get those times in your life where a million opportunities and events come up at once after a long period of calm? I'm currently going through one of those times, and it comes with the irritating caveat of being able to talk about exactly none of it. Of course, I'm writing. I can say that much! I'm writing and writing and writing, and there is a chance that some of it may find its way to publication. The best place to keep up with that is: oliverlangmead.com

January 3, 2017

Ten books published in 2016 still on my TBR pile that I REALLY need to read in 2017

While I did manage to put out a list of the books I read and enjoyed this past year, there are still so many books that came out in 2016 that are sitting on my to-be-read pile that could've just as easily wound up on that list had I read them.  One of these days I'm gonna learn to speed read, so I have half a chance of reading ALL of the books on my TBR pile.

So I thought I would make another list to give a shout-out to a few of the books sitting on my TBR pile that I really should've read in 2016, but just let fall to the wayside for some ungodly reason. Some of these books I've seen end up on a lot of people's year-end lists, and the others I'm kind of surprised haven't shown up on more lists because all of the authors listed below are super-talented and deserve as many eyeballs on their books as possible.

And they are ...

Company Town by Madeline Ashby - This one caught my attention at first because it is set in the Maritimes region, my stomping grounds. What hooked me was that it's a near future, murder mystery, sci-fi thriller set on a city-sized oil rig. Phwah! Yes, please.

Savages by Greg F. Gifune - Everything of Greg's I've read so far has been quiet and contemplative as far as the horror goes, so this balls-to-the-wall, lost-at-sea slasher is not something I was expecting from him, but you can be damn sure I'll devour it.

Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz - I have fallen behind in keeping up with Janz's work, which is shameful on my part because he gets better with each book he puts out, and by the sounds of it this coming-of-age cryptid tale is his best novel yet.

The Rib From Which I Remake the World by Ed Kurtz - A bit of black magic noir set during World War Two? I'm salivating already. This book may be on more year-end lists than any other I'm highlighting here, and with good reason I reckon, in that Ed is a helluva writer.

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle - Playing in Lovecraft's sandbox can be fun, but I think readers enjoy it even more when Lovecraft's---hmmm--problematic worldview can be confronted or even subverted by authors. And it sounds like LaValle did a great job of that with this novella.

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod - I had to add this one to my bookshelves when I heard "in the spirit of John Carpenter's The Thing" among the myriad of advance praise it received. A shipwreck thriller set in the arctic with a Twilight Zone caliber curveball thrown in? Sounds like perfect reading for this winter.

The Train Derails in Boston by Jessica McHugh - I'm a fan of haunted house stories, but I ain't of a haunted house story quite like this one. I haven't read a McHugh novel yet, and I think this one is the perfect place to start.

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest - Speaking of haunted houses, here's another one that caught my eye in the fall, with a salvage crew heading out to an old property that's due to be demolished only to find that the place isn't all that dilapidated and isn't all that abandoned. Eep.

Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar - This one came out in the summer and since then I haven't heard too much talk about it, which is too bad because the idea of a supernaturally endowed family being the one thing keeping calamity at bay and using that to exploit the townspeople sounds so devilish.

Holy Death by Anthony Neil Smith - This is the fourth and latest installment in Smith's Billy Lafitte series. I'll need to catch up in this series, but when Holy Death came out there was no hesitation in buying it, since Smith is a helluva noir writer and Lafitte is a helluva anti-hero.

December 30, 2016

My First Year as a Published Author: a guest post + giveaway by John Quick, author of "Consequences"

John Quick has been reading and writing scary and disturbing stuff for as long as he can remember, and has only recently begun releasing some of his creations upon the world. He is the author of the novel Consequences and theshort story collection Three Shots and a ChaserHis work has also appeared in the Full Moon Slaughter anthology from JEA Press. His second novel, The Journal of Jeremy Todd is due for release from Sinister Grin Press in the summer of 2017.He lives in Middle Tennessee with his wife, two kids, and four dogs that think they're kids. When he's not hard at work on his next novel, you can find him online at www.johnquickfiction.com, Facebook at johnquickbooks, Twitter @johndquick, and Instagram at johndquick.

Reflecting Back on 2016 as My First Year as a Published Author

by John Quick, author of Consequences
It’s weird for me to consider this, but I actually now have a back-catalog. It consists of one book, but still, it counts. And it’s pretty surreal. Which got me to thinking (I know, oh crap, he’s thinking again….).
When I first hit the “publish” button on Consequences back in April, I had no idea what I was in for. Oh, I’d convinced myself I knew, but I really didn’t. See, no matter how much research you do, no matter how many people you talk to, no one can truly prepare you for that feeling right after you send your first tale out for other people to read. People you don’t know, or that never knew you even were considering being a writer, much less had something so close to release. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, depending on what they hope to get out of it, but for me, who hoped this would be a springboard to a long-term career, it was a gut-punch of reality.
“What was I thinking?” “What if no one buys it?” “What if everyone who buys it, hates it?” “I must really be nuts, I can’t believe I’ve done this.”
That’s a small taste of what ran through my mind in the hour after I hit “publish” in CreateSpace and waited for the links to go live on Amazon. I’d heard the whole “writing is a lonely profession” line before, and now, suddenly, I understood completely. It’s different when you’ve got a team working with you, editors and marketing and cover designer and the like; you act as cheerleaders for one another to a large degree. But for me, at that time, I was all I had. My family and friends had my back, sure, but it’s not quite the same. I wish I could say I handled the affair stoically (even though I’ve already indicated I didn’t), but the truth is that within an hour of hitting “publish”, I was stumbling drunk and fighting a case of the shakes so bad it only served to multiply the effects of the whiskey. How fragile was my emotional state? I went from all of that to laughing like a nut simply because I got a friend request from one of the authors that heavily influenced the book on Facebook. Flipped on a dime, all over that.
After a couple of days, the panic and mania faded, and I was able to push forward. I started making contacts, I started figuring out the things I needed to do in order to make Consequences as successful as I possibly could, all while knowing I was fighting the uphill battle that comes from self-publishing, even with how accepted the practice has become nowadays. I started making connections in the horror community, all of whom were supportive, even though they really didn’t know anything about me. They saw I was trying, and that I was serious about making it work, and that was enough. I found an incredible publicist, who was not only willing to take me on as a client, but also taught me what to do and how to do it and how to make it work more effectively.
And somewhere along the lines, friendships were forged where I never expected them to be. I’m a bit old-school, so the concept of becoming friends with someone who I only interact with only online was strange, but I have to say it was extremely welcomed.
And Consequences started to become the little book that could. Reviews began to come in, and to my surprise and delight, they were good! I’d worried for nothing. Even the ones that found faults in the book were things I’d wondered about myself at various times while it was being written, and were constructive enough I took them to heart and put them to use in the other things I worked on. Somewhere in there I landed a contract with one of the best horror small presses to ever release a book, Sinister Grin, for the follow-up novel.
Suddenly, everything I’d dreamed of—once I settled into realistic goals for being published, that is—started to come true. I wasn’t about to become a multi-millionaire through writing, but I’d sold copies to people I didn’t know, and strangers had enjoyed the story I’d crafted. For me, that was reward enough.
As the fervor that immediately followed the release began to die down, I started looking toward what came next. The Sinister Grin novel wouldn’t be released until the middle of next year, so there was a gap where I worried that momentum I’d built up might slow. So the idea came to do another self-published release, something to tide people over until The Journal of Jeremy Todd was revealed to the world.
I’d only recently begun exploring writing shorter things at this point. For whatever reason, the story ideas I came up with were too broad in scope to be restricted to only a couple thousand words. I managed to find a home for one of them, “In the Moonlit Forest Glade,” with the Full Moon Slaughter anthology, but I had a few more floating around that I wasn’t even sure where to look for placement. They sat just outside easy definition, which is the opposite of what’s needed for most anthology open calls. Then again, I did have that gap and was looking for a way to fill it, so why not a collection?
I pitched the idea to some friends both in and out of the business, and got an almost universal yes to it. My publicist, Erin, who is also an editor, agreed to put those editorial skills to use on it, and so Three Shots and a Chaser was conceived. I cleaned the stories up, and added a wrap-around tale to tie it all together. I got a cover together that looked incredible. The pieces were falling into place, so I set a release date and started to brace myself for another series of panic-induced sleepless nights.
Only a funny thing happened. This time around, I didn’t feel alone. My family weren’t the only ones sharing the announcements about this collection on social media. I had people to talk to about issues figuring out how to set up the pre-order on Kindle. I found that I could reach out with questions and get answers easily when I needed to. I had that team I’d been missing. I was self-publishing, but I wasn’t doing it all by myself.
The release date came, and instead of panic and doubt, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. This time around, I got to ride the high, so to speak, and actually feel some pride at having proved I wasn’t just a one-trick pony when it came to putting things out there.
Some of this was due to it no longer being a new experience, but I think there was more to it than that. This time, I think, once the release date came, all the rough edges and little worries that had built up during the preparation for Consequences had been worn away by the support and encouragement I felt along the way.

This has been a rough year in many, many ways, but for me, it’s been incredible as well. I had no idea when I made the decision that I would have something published, no matter what, that this is where I’d be by the time Christmas came around again. I would like to thank everyone who’s supported me these past few months, whether it was just a kind word, a “like” on a post or a tweet about Consequences or Three Shots and a Chaser, or sharing the word however you could. Maybe you didn’t feel like it was all that much, but what a difference it made to me.

Enter the GIVEAWAY for a Print Copy of Consequences!
Purchase the e-copy on sale!
You can purchase CONSEQUENCES at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E6B9ZV8

December 25, 2016

Thirteen Books I Read and Enjoyed in 2016

I may not be the guy to look to for a definitive list of the best books from this year, mainly because I didn't read nearly as many as I had intended to, but I can at least come up with a list of a baker's dozen that I did read and enjoyed enough to recommend to my fellow genre mutts.

So here ya go. And have a MERRY MERRY and a HAPPY HAPPY!

Resume Speed by Lawrence Block - Maybe the best noir writer out there? Maybe? Yeah, probably. This novella about a new fella in town trying to make a fresh start as a dark past catches up with him is as good a call sign for the kind of dark fiction at which Block excels.

Zero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare - While the book isn't drenched in the 80s nostalgia like so much of what has been heralded this year, the arcade is one of those things I associate with my formative years of that time, and Cesare manages to turn it into coin-operated carnage as only he can.

The Terminal by Amber Fallon - 2016 was a tire fire, but at least we weren't invaded by interdimensional barbarians. Yet. Same can't be said for Fallon's gory ode to holiday air travel though. as she turned the dial from zero to mayhem in no time flat. 

In Midnight's Silence by T. Frohock - This novella was the first in Frohock's Los Nefilim trilogy, and is a riveting piece of urban fantasy that has the added touch of being historical fantasy with a tremendous backdrop of the impending Spanish civil war.

In the Shadow of the Axe by Nicholas Kaufmann - Speaking of historical, Kaufmann's channeling of Hammer films was a treat to read, with the spectre of a necromancer terrorizing a remote German village.

Pressure by Brian Keene - In keeping with the globetrotting was this bit of deep sea horror set in the Indian ocean. A sea bed crawling with Lovecraftian horrors isn't a bad way to go and the first half of this novel was absolutely spellbinding with the buildup to the monster's reveal.

Hap & Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale - A year can't go by without me including something by Lansdale on a year-end list. This time it was the short story collection that complemented the airing of the TV series. The meat of the book comes from two novellas, but there's plenty more to enjoy.

Wilted Lilies by Kelli Owen - Maybe this novella is the best thing Owen has written yet, but it's hard to say because I haven't been let down by anything of hers I've read so far. This one starts off with a police interrogation of a young girl who claims to talk to the dead and it just gets more unsettling from there.

Greetings From Moon Hill by Anthony J. Rapino - Granted, I had already read everything in this collection at one time or another before it was all brought together through a Kickstarter campaign. But that doesn't change the fact that the guy can spin one weird tale after another.

Mother of Abominations by Desmond Reddick - If being a brilliant podcaster wasn't enough with Dread Media, Reddick is turning into a heckuva writer too, and this debut novel with kaiju beasts romping and stomping the globe shows real promise.

Devils in Dark Houses by B.E. Scully - I hadn't heard of Scully's work before, but enough people whose opinions I hold in high regard praised her work enough that I felt the need to check out this book of connected novellas. I was not disappointed.

Still Mine by Amy Stuart - Stuart's mystery novel was another debut that caught my eye this summer. I felt her protagonist, Claire, was more compelling than the actual mystery Claire was trying to solve in this book, but that's hardly a complaint considering I'm keen to read more Claire in the future.

Little Dead Red by Mercedes M. Yardley - This novella won a Bram Stoker Award this year, and it was a well-deserved win at that, as Yardley's prose is downright magical. Even with a story that had an ending I felt was a bit too telegraphed, it was the journey of a distraught mother seeking justice for her missing daughter that had me captivated.