September 1, 2014

An Excerpt of Matthew W. Harrill's "Hellbounce"

Hellbounceby Matthew W. Harrill 

Demons don’t always hide in the dark.





Synopsis:

As a psychologist in a prison hospital, Eva Ross had always dealt with her share of sinners. The corrupt, the insane, their minds were all hers to unlock. But when those around her, those she trusted with her life start to exhibit the same characteristics, she is forced to turn to a stranger, a man whose name she is incapable of even remembering, for sanctuary. 

Follow Eva as she crosses continents to unlock the answers, and her eventual destiny.




Excerpt:

Harold Fronhouse was a short man, not far over five feet in height. He sat secured in a straightjacket, and strapped to a wheelchair. He wore no mask. As Eva and Jenny entered the room, he watched, unblinking. As Jenny sat down, he gazed at her with the eyes of a predator. “Nice.”
Eva glanced at Jenny, who watched Harold the way a small child watched a stranger, not taking her eyes off him. She was uncomfortable.
“Harold. How are you today?”
“Hungry,” came the reply, although Fronhouse still had not taken his eyes off Jenny. This was going bad quickly.
“Well I see from your records you don’t appear to have had much problem with your meals.”
Fronhouse eyed Jenny up and down once more, and then turned his head to Eva. “Unsatisfied.” His eyes widened slightly and he fidgeted.
“Nothing changes then,” agreed Eva, motioning Jenny to take notes, more to give her something to do than for the need. “Harold likes to play games,” Eva lectured. “One-word answers can go on for days if he feels like it. It’s a shame. He is such a conversationalist. But I know what you love to talk about, don’t I?” Eva spoke as she would to a pet.
In response, Fronhouse grinned, the vacuous smile of one not in possession of all their mental faculties. “The bomb.”
Eva leaned forward, a conspirator to his cause. “Yes the bomb. Why don’t you tell us the story of the bomb.”
Fronhouse trembled with excitement, and looked at Eva as if seeking to please a master. “I was young, not more than a child. We lived in a farmhouse in the hills. My parents used to have parties. The sorts of parties where you put your car keys in a jar and the wife left with whoever owned the keys she pulled out. They loved that sort of thing. It gave them excitement.
"Over time, my mother pulled the same keys repeatedly. My father grew suspicious.” Fronhouse cackled to himself at some perceived vision.
“He took me with him once and showed me my mother and her lover through a window in the house. He was behind her. They were naked. She was moaning.” Fronhouse again watched Jenny as he said this, evidently gauging the impact of his words. Jenny had dropped her pad and pen in her lap, just staring.
Fronhouse, restless now, fidgeted more. “My father took me home and told me he was going to make my mother pay for this, and he wanted my help. We built a bomb, and fitted it under her car.” He turned his head to one side and growled: “Yes, I can feel it, too.”


Reviews:

Hellbounce is the first book of the ARC chronicles and was recently released by Heart Powered Publishing. Since then, the novel has gained exceptional reviews from people across the web:

“This book caught me in the opening and never let up.” -ruffy, Amazon review

“Wow. This guy has talent. Serious talent. . . . [Hellbounce] pulls you in, mangles your emotions and pushes your senses to the brink, and when you're done, you need a drink and a good night's rest. With the lights on.” -P. Palmer, Amazon review

"Hold on to your seats and take a ride to hell and back. A prison hospital psychologist spends a romantic night with a man she simply cannot remember. When you think her life could not be any more complicated, all hell breaks loose and she finds herself on a mission unlike any other." - Claudia, Goodreads review 

"This is not a genre I would generally read, in fact it's a genre I dislike. . . . However . . . I was hooked from the first few pages and I haven't devoured a book this quickly in long time. . . . I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy." - Sean Groom, Goodreads Review



Where to Get it:


Learn more about Hellbounce, read other reviews, or purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

August 29, 2014

Infernal Inspirations: a guest post by G.R. Wilson, author of "Right Behind You"

Hello literary world! My name is G.R. Wilson, and I try to minimize how much I write about myself in third person. I'm a relatively new author: I used to write short stories frequently in elementary school, and then for whatever reason just sort of stopped as I got older. In college a couple years ago I started again, and ended up publishing my first book, Right Behind You: Tales of the Spooky and Strange in Fall 2013. This month, my short story The Tale of Patchy Jack was featured in Michael K. Silva's The Nightmare Engine, Issue 7.

Right Behind You is a scary story anthology, and I wrote with the Young Adult demographic (around ages 13 and up) in mind, though I venture that people much older than that enjoy it. My goal was to write some stories that would be good for campfire reading, some better suited to solitary late-night reading, and some suited for both.

In my Horror writing, (and Horror is my specialty genre for right now,) I'm inspired by many things: my own dreads and phobias, ghost stories I heard as a kid, history, technology. I'm confident that this wide range of inspiration shows in my book, where the stories feature everything from a Borg-like, hive-mind computer, to Lovecraftian tentacle beasts, to deranged doctors, to a wereskunk. And, good old-fashioned traditional ghosts, too.

The way I wrote Right Behind You was this: a couple years ago as I said, when I began writing again after a decade long hiatus, I quickly jumped to writing Horror. It's always just been a genre (among others) that's excited my imagination, and, I used to have nasty nightmares as a kid, so I think writing and talking about Horror has been a form of “taking control” for me. Anyway, I wrote one scary story, then another, then another, and then I had many short scary stories, I took some good ones, edited them, and self-published them into a book. My friend helped me edit, and another friend did the cover art, for which I'm very grateful.

When I'm not writing about giant neon hybrid spider/wasps and ancient Cambodian dragons, (look for my next book this October 1st by the way; Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson) I like to ride horses, collect and play war board games, run, and spend time with my bad-ass and supportive girlfriend. A few of my favorite fiction writers include Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Ayn Rand, and Mark Twain.

My official website is www.authorgrwilson.com. You can find all kinds of information, excerpts, and news there. Most importantly: you can sign up for my free twice-a-month newsletter there, in which I give out free scary stories, news on my upcoming projects, and recommendations of other good Horror media I come across. Subscribers will get a special offer regarding my second book, Paranoia, another Horror anthology, which I aim towards an older demographic.

Anyway, thanks for allowing me to introduce myself and my work to you. If you're in the mood for scary stories you can read in a single sitting, and you like variety, please consider checking out the excerpts and reviews of my book. And, sign up for my newsletter: you get a free story just for signing up!

Best regards,

G.R. Wilson

August 27, 2014

Book Trailer Tips for Indie Authors: a guest post by Patty Templeton, author of “There Is No Lovely End”

Book Trailer Tips for Indie Authors:
A Guest Post by Patty Templeton, author of “There Is No Lovely End”






Is there anything worse than suffering through a crappy book trailer?
I mean, yes. Yes, there is. Cancer. The Apache Tracker. When some a-hole at the bar keeps playing “We Built This City” over and over on the digital juke box.
But still. The point of a book trailer is to give the author yet another social platform to connect with readers. You want folks to share your trailer…not eyeroll, snort, and move on.
Here are a few tips when prepping for the birth of a book trailer.
  • NETWORK! Online and in-person.
I’m serious. By network, I mean MAKE FRIENDS! Not HAWK THY SELF.

Step 1: Go to writer conventions, local open mics, readings, and other bookish events. Be a part of in-person communities like your library and local bookstores. If no open mics exist in your town…organize one. I hear they’re free when thrown in your living room or the park. Think about what other interests you have that tie to your writing and find those people, too! Are you a horror or dark fantasy author? Check out local horror fan conventions. Are you a romance writer? Find somewhere willing to host a romance movie marathon to meet people.

You’ve created entire worlds in your fiction. Suck it up and create an open mic.

Sub-tip: People are just as lonely, scared, and shy as you. Just say hi.

Step 2: Be a part of online communities. Pinterest! Twitter! Tumblr! Facebook! Blog! All these things…do one or two of them. Hell, do all of them, but use them to build community with folks. To make friends. Not to be all “I HAVE A BOOK! I HAVE A BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!” Because F that S. No one cares. People want friends. They want genuine interaction. They don’t want to be sold to.

What does this have to do with book trailers?

I scored my book trailer company (Rule2 Productions) because of a longtime convention-circuit friend. They are an affordable company who do quality work. I can’t afford much, but we were able to come to an accord. I would’ve never known about Rule2 if I hadn’t first sought bookish friends.

An important realization about your author brand is that “successful marketing is about delighting existing fans”…meaning friends. Delight your friends and they will delight in sharing your work. You have to have friends (online or in-person) to delight them.

  • RESEARCH! What works and what is crap?
Would you write about Salvador Dali at the World’s Fair without having at least scanned Wikipedia? Would you write a Mary Todd Lincoln-griffon hybrid/Susan B. Anthony-centaur slash fic without researching what they looked like? Would you write a 1970s Kentucky-werewolf-trucker story without looking up CB slang? No. You wouldn’t. Do your homework. Research good and bad book trailers so you know what you want and what you want to avoid.

Here’s a few folks that are doing it right:

C.S.E. Cooney

Neil Gaiman

Jenny Lawson

Tom Rob Smith

Chuck Wendig

They are all writers at different points in their careers and with different levels of involvement in their book trailers. Some of these are high budget affairs. Some are low to mid-level. The point: idea build by looking at other book trailers.
  • Your book trailer editor will probably not read your book. So…
You need to have certain elements ready for them.
  • A short script. We are talking 1 – 1.5 minutes. This is not your book jacket copy. Think of it as an amped elevator pitch. You probably don’t want your entire trailer to be dialogue or voiceover from frontend to back. You can make it longer than 1.5 minutes, but it better be GOOD.
  • An excerpt of the book for the book trailer editor.
  • A page or less synopsis of your book – because your editor probably won’t have time to read your excerpt.
  • Buzzwords about your book that should be reflected in the trailer. Example: I told my book trailer editor that my novel was darkly humorous, whimsical, Tim Burtony, murderous, and Victorian.
  • Art. Do you have cover art, character art, clever ad art? Any art you have should go to the editor.
  • Music. You don’t necessarily have to come up with this, but if you want a certain song – you have to ask permission to use that song and give credit to the artist in your book trailer’s info. Permissions usually cost money…unless, maybe you MADE FRIENDS WITH A BAND! Soundtracking is something that your book trailer production company should deal with though.
  • Blurbs, links, and promotional hubbub that can be used as back matter for the book trailer.

  • Go for simple.
Unless you have a Hollywood budget or hella talented friends working for you, you shouldn’t try to do a movie trailer concept for a book trailer. A simple, intriguing trailer is of much better use to you than a hokey, overdone one.

Last thoughts? Don’t give it all away. Ask writers who they’ve used for book trailers. Query the companies of book trailers you’ve enjoyed to see if they have sliding-scale payment options. Don’t try to mash too much into one minute. Decide if you want to be visually striking or verbally striking…can your trailer be both? Think of the mood you want to invoke in your viewer, and go for it.

High fives, and good luck, my friends.

If you want a gander at the book trailer for my first novel, There Is No Lovely End, here it is…



PATTY TEMPLETON is roughly 25 apples tall and 11,000 cups of coffee into her life. She wears red sequins and stomping boots while writing, then hits up back-alley dance bars and honky tonks. Her stories are full of ghosts, freaks, fools, underdogs, blue collar heroes, and never giving up, even when life is giving you shit. She won the first-ever Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award and has been a runner-up for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. There Is No Lovely End is her first novel.


Say hi over at her Twitter, Tumblr, or blog

August 26, 2014

Chasing Tale [8/26/14]: Do Kindles Kill Brain Cells?

The Guardian discussed something that's been floating around for at least a couple years now, and that's the notion that e-readers are reducing our capacity to retain the books we are reading. I'm not sure how accurate this study is, because what it basically found was that between a mystery novel read in paperback form and on an iPad, the paperback readers were better able to list 14 specific plot points in the correct order. That's it. And it was apparently attributed to the tactile feel of the pages passing through the fingers while reading.

Fine. I have a Kindle, not an iPad, so is that thing making it harder for me to retain the details of the books I read. I don't think so. I haven't really put it to the test, though. I figure if anything is killing my brain cells, it's social media and reality TV, the latter I avoid like the bubonic plague. The one medium I've noticed a bit harder time in retaining details has been audiobooks, but that's because it is a very passive reading experience and I will occasionally allow my mind to wander with some random thought while the audiobook continues to play. That is something I need to work on.

So, what say you? What's your preferred reading method? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know, and let me know what you've been reading lately. Here's a bunch that I've added to my to-be-read shelf recently, too.


Hard Bite / Bite Harder by Anonymous-9 - Blasted Heath dropped the price on this one as an enticement, I assume, since the follow-up novel, Bite Harder, was released recently. C'mon, a crime novel with a helper monkey? You know you'd read that.

Inside Straight by Ray Banks - Another one from Blasted Heath, this time from Ray Banks. Nothing like a little British noir to throw onto the to-be-read pile.



The Infinite Battle: Star Hounds by David Bischoff - I received an Audible version of this sci-fi novel from its narrator, Bryan Reid. I haven't read any space-faring stuff in a while, so this should be a nice change of pace.

Borderline by Lawrence Block - I received an Audible version of this classic crime novel from the man himself. I've only just started getting into Block's work, mainly through his Scudder stories, but I'm quickly appreciating why he is so heavily praised by readers.

Thirty by Lawrence Block (as Jill Emerson) - Another audiobook by the man, but with a different narrator this time, as well from his previously published works as Jill Emerson. Steamy stuff from what I understand, too.



Crude Carrier by Rex Burns - Here's another much-heralded author who's been around for decades and I've yet to read his work. Well, Open Road Media will publish this one this fall, so maybe I'll just have to start with this one.

Wee Rockets by Gerard Brennan - More noir from Blasted Heath, this time around it's set in West Belfast with a gang of teen hoodlums and the shit they get up to. Ought to be good.

Night Kills by Ed Gorman - I found this for a couple bucks on the Kindle Store. A guy comes home and finds a dead hooker in his freezer, but he can't call the cops because of his shady past. Not a bad kick-start.


The Last Stop by Matthew Hanover - This was a short story Matthew sent me for review via Audible. A neat little Hitchcockian-style story by the sounds of it with a gaggle of strangers trapped on a train.

Once Upon a Sixgun by Lee Houston Jr., Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Mark Galineau, & Joseph King -A weird western won via Todd Keisling's recent Facebook release party. Thanks to Nikki for this one, and one further down the list.

Exorcist Road by Jonathan Janz - Janz has a new novel out this summer, which is weird because I could have sworn Castle of Sorrows just came out a couple months ago. Prolific little bastard, ain't he?


Long Lost Dog of It by Michael Kazepis -Broken River Books offered this noir novel as a freebie not too long ago, and considering the caliber of authors I've seen them publish, I downloaded this without hesitation.

Die for Me / Yesterday Is Dead / Speak for the Dead by Jack Lynch - Three more Jack Lynch novels slated for re-release soon from Brash Books.



The Ten Thousand Things by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin, & Kenny Soward - Some more weird western on my Kindle, this one a follow-up to Those Poor, Poor Bastards.

The Vagrants by Brian Moreland - In Samhain's horror line, I've bought or been given several books, but never one by Moreland that I can recall. Well, I fixed that with this short novel.

A Chick, a Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn by Nikki Nelson-Hicks - This is a short story with a long title that I won, but by gawd, it sounds like it's right up my alley.


Less Than Human by Gary Raisor - Road house + vampires. Stop right there. I'm sold.

Lock-In by John Scalzi - I downloaded the Audible version of this to review. There are two versions apparently, by Amber Benson and Wil Wheaton. I went with the Benson one, but hard to go wrong either way I reckon.

Right Behind You by G.R. Wilson - A collection of nine "spooky "stories that are aimed at a YA-and-up audience. Hmmm. maybe some Brian Lumley or R.L. Stine inspired stuff, perhaps?


World War Cthulhu by various authors - I received my fundraiser's e-copy of this one shortly before its release. An anthology of gigantic, Lovecraftian apocalypse? Yeah, totally my cup of tea. Lots of cool artwork and a ton of stories to be read. Should be fun.

August 25, 2014

I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes--Especially Giant Snakes: a review of Brian Keene's "Scratch"



Scratch

by Brian Keene

self-published (2012)

first published by Cemetery Dance (2010)

ASIN B009ARHZ0C



The river that winds up the valley where I live looks like a snake when seen from above, with one oxbow after another, and it has seen its share of strange creatures swimming through its waters. But it's never had something like what Brian Keene has concocted for this story, Scratch.



Evan Fisher is a comic book illustrator and devoted father to his son, Dylan, but his limitations in keeping his family safe are tested when the Susquehanna River floods during the spring. It's not so much the rising waters that creep along his backyard that test his mettle, but the tentacular impossibility he sees on the other side of the river. Old Scratch is supposed to be nothing but folklore, but it's hard for Evan and his neighbor to dismiss what they've seen reach out of those torrential waters.



In quick fashion, Keene captures Evan's fear and resolve when the flood comes. The guy has a knack for taking the most wondrously terrifying creatures in horror and shackling them to our mundane reality. The flood waters ought to be terrifying enough if your child has ever strayed to close to a riverbank, but throw in a slithering monstrosity and what should be cartoonish in some regard feels downright palpable. That said, the ending offered up feels a bit anticlimactic, though there is a piece at the end that spikes the tension right back up.



Along with Scratch, there's a short story called "Halves" that was as comical as it was creepy. If you've ever owned a cat that brought you "gifts" to your door of the recently killed variety, you'll know what I'm talking about. Throw in an afterword from Brian Keene about the stories, and this ebook is a nice little glimpse into the horror master's mind. It might not be the book I point to as a gateway for new readers, but they could certainly do worse when searching out something short and scary to read.

August 21, 2014

Cajun Killers: an interview with D.J. Donaldson, author of "Bad Karma in the Big Easy"

Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans Requiem, Louisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy. Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the storm-ravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karma combines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.



Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Sylvania, Ohio, a little suburb of Toledo. It was a nice little town, where as a kid, I spent untold hours fishing in a nearby creek. My favorite spot was under a big poplar tree, whose roots formed a large tangle over the water. Through those roots, I caught many pumpkinseeds, a kind of bluegill with turquoise markings on the side and a bright orange belly. It was probably those beautiful fish as much as anything, that made me want to become a biology teacher.

But after college I discovered there weren’t many high school biology jobs to be had. I’d have to work my way up to that exalted position by first teaching ninth grade general science. I remember being surprised by that and being told by my university job placement officer, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” WHAT? I’m a college graduate and I’m now a beggar?

Okay, I’ll do it. General Science could be fun. And eventually, I’ll move up. Except I soon found that ninth graders aren’t interested in Science. Nor was that what they really needed. They needed someone to teach them how to be civilized human beings. Though I loved the kids, this wasn’t what I signed up for. That and the fact my wife and I couldn’t afford to pay our December utility bill, even though she too, was working, made me rethink things.

While taking a post-graduate course for science teachers, I ran into someone who pointed me in a new direction. Dr. Art Kato taught embryology like a detective story. He didn’t just tell us what was known about development, he talked about the experiments that revealed how a fertilized egg becomes a child and he spoke with passion about the men who did those experiments. I wanted to be like those men.

So, with Dr. Katoh’s help I got a graduate student fellowship in the Tulane Medical school department of Anatomy in New Orleans. Before leaving to start my new life, another member of the faculty at the public school where I taught came up to me and marveled about how brave I was to be “leaving all this” to become a student again. I guess he didn’t have any trouble paying his utility bills.

During my five years at Tulane I had no thoughts of writing novels. Memorizing thousands of anatomical facts and trying to carry out a research project worthy of a Ph.D. degree were all I could handle.

Than came two decades of teaching and research at the University of Tennessee Medical School. In all those years, I never thought about writing anything but research papers, grants, lectures, and test questions. Then one day, I woke up and thought… I want to write a novel. I have no idea where this insane idea came from. I call it insane because I had no training in writing fiction. They say there are more unfinished novels in this country than unmade beds. So chances were good that I’d never even complete one novel let alone get it published. I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to write that first novel because it’s embarrassing. But of course, I had a lot to learn. That book became, CAJUN NIGHTS the first of my seven Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn forensic mysteries.


How did you create your characters?

Long before I started that first novel, I attended a talk given by Dr. Bill Bass, the forensic anthropologist who created the real Body Farm, made so famous by Patricia Cornwell. In that talk Dr. Bass described some of the fascinating forensic cases he’d worked on over the years. This was well before forensics became such a prevalent part of popular culture, so I had never heard about such things. Later, when I got the urge to write a novel, there was no question that the main character just had to be someone in the field of anatomical forensics… like a medical examiner.

But I’m not a pathologist. So how could I write like one? Fortunately, one of my colleagues at the University was Dr. Jim Bell, the county ME. Jim generously agreed to let me hang out for a couple of weeks at the forensic center and follow him around, which I did. Sadly, Jim died unexpectedly a few months before that first book was published. Though he was an avid reader, Jim never got to see a word of the book he helped me with. In many ways, Jim lives on as Broussard. Broussard’s brilliant mind, his weight problem, his appreciation for fine food and antiques, his love for Louis L’Amour western novels and his good soul… that was Jim Bell.

Kit Franklyn was created as a na├»ve counterpoint to Broussard. I thought it would be interesting to see how a beautiful young woman working for a medical examiner as a suicide investigator would react to the horrors the office has to deal with. I also anticipated that through her relationship with Broussard I could show that mutual non-romantic love was possible between an unrelated man and woman of greatly differing ages. Though he’d never admit it, Broussard loves Kit like the daughter he never had. More open about her feelings, Kit loves Broussard like a father. Of course, being set in New Awlins, I also had to add a couple of eccentric Cajuns to the mix.


Tell us about your newest book? How did it get started?

After writing six books about Andy and Kit, I took some time off to try my hand at medical thrillers in which each book would have an entirely new set of characters. That turned into a four novel hiatus during which I thought I would probably never write about Andy and Kit again.

And for a long time, I didn’t. In fact, worn out from the rigors of creating so many characters and stories, I stopped writing for a while. But Andy and Kit remained a part of me, so much so that a few years after Hurricane Katrina, I began to wonder if it would be possible for Broussard to solve a crime in the aftermath of that storm. With the city in a shambles and no one where they would normally be, could it be done… could it be written? BAD KARMA IN THE BIG EASY is the result.


What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

My first piece of advice is to get copies of 10 best-selling books in the genre you like, and study them. Read carefully and try to figure out why they’re so compelling. That isn’t an easy thing to do, because in good books, you’ll get carried along in a scene and forget to analyze. That’s the time to stop and ask yourself how did the author draw me in like that? In time, you’ll begin to see techniques you can copy in your work. And this is one test where copying is perfectly okay.

What I said above applies to anyone who wants to write a novel. But here’s some advice for the younger aspirant:
I once heard a tattoo artist say that tattooing was all he wanted to do in life. So to make sure he’d be a success at it, he had his face tattooed, the idea being that looking as he does, he’d never be able to get any other kind of job. It would force him to be a successful artist. That’s certainly an admirable level of commitment, but what would he do if his eyesight failed, or getting body ink suddenly became unfashionable?

Writing is a brutally difficult profession. For decades it’s been nearly impossible to get an agent, let alone a book deal. Sure, with the new digital age and the advent of e-books and the many small publishers springing up, that’s changing to some extent. And now, Amazon even has a self-publishing program. But ultimately, you still have to generate a product that will sell books. To do that, a writer must be able to draw on first-hand experiences to create a compelling world that others want to share. My anatomy and research background enabled me to understand the science of forensics, and the technology behind the things I’ve written about in my medical thrillers. It also provided a decent income while I figured out how to write fiction. And if I had never been able to find a publisher for my work, or sold a single book, I could still have a rewarding life. So, yes… dream about writing that novel, and hone the necessary skills. But also become a policeman, or a carpenter, or a sewer inspector (yes, there is a mystery series with a sewer inspector as the main character). Figure out how to make a living that doesn’t require you to produce a best-selling novel. Then you’ll not only have a Plan B, but might even be able to work your “real life” world into your writing.


Buy the ebook now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1nNOP5A
Buy the ebook now on Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1zXyMMx
Visit Astor and Blue editions for more books: www.astorandblue.com

August 20, 2014

Good Grief and Bad Memories: a review of Kelli Owen's "Deceiver"

Deceiver
by Kelli Owen
DarkFuse (2014)
142 pages
ASIN B00JFAS1XY

I thoroughly enjoy Kelli Owen's horror fiction, so it is no stretch for me expect the same level of quality when she has a crack at a psychological thriller. And Deceiver is just as good, if not a bit better than any of her horror titles.


The premise feels somehow familiar, with a grieving widower growing more and more suspicious his dead wife led a double life, and yet the unraveling of the mystery left me unable to think of anything quite like this story. If there was an obscure Hitchcock film with that premise, I'd totally buy it. This is a new one though, and it just ratchets up the tension after he finds his murdered wife's diary in her suitcase.



The atmosphere is great and how the veil is lifted on just what his wife had been up to all those years is so expertly done that when the big finish comes around I was just about as close to the edge of my seat as I could get while sitting comfortably in my recliner.

From what I've read of Kelli Owen's work, she has a real knack for honing in on one or two characters in a book and just putting them through an emotional wringer to the point where you expect them to fall of the floor like a piece of discarded loose leaf paper. If taut thrillers are more your thing than straight-up horror, you'll definitely want to try this one out.



Available via Amazon.com

August 18, 2014

By Blood We Read: an interview with Mark Morris, editor of "The Spectral Book of Horror Stories"

Spectral Press releases a new anthology in September, featuring stories from Alison Littlewood, Gary McMahon, and many more. I had the chance to ask its editor, Mark Morris, a few questions about the book. Enjoy!


Gef: The Spectral Book of Horror Stories looks to showcase some high-caliber British horror. How did this anthology come about?

Mark: Not just high-calibre British horror, but high-calibre international horror! As well as some of the best UK horror writers in the business, we’ve also got stories from US writers like Brian Hodge and Steve Rasnic Tem, Canadians like Helen Marshall and Rio Youers, and we’ve even got a story from an Aussie, the brilliant Angela Slatter.

As for how the anthology came about, my first introduction to adult horror fiction was through reading short story anthologies. I read hundreds of horror stories before I read a single horror novel. At the age of nine or ten I started reading the Pan and Fontana horror and ghost story anthologies, the Armada ghost, SF and monster story anthologies, and dozens of one-off anthologies, which I borrowed from the library on a regular basis. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: I think short stories are the lifeblood of the horror genre, and ever since I became a professional writer, over quarter of a century ago, I have harboured an ambition to edit an annual anthology of non-themed horror and/or ghost stories. I approached Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press a year or so ago with my vision and a breakdown of how much money he’d have to fork out to make it happen – and happily he said yes!

Gef: The table of contents looks like a who's who in the genre. I see Gary McMahon, Lisa Tuttle, Alison Littlewood, Brian Hodge, and even Ramsey effing Campbell. So, is there a lockbox in Spectral Press' possession containing an assortment of incriminating photos?

Mark: Ha ha! No, no one had to be coerced or threatened. Fortunately a lot of writers in this genre love short fiction as much as I do, and I received a huge amount of very positive and enthusiastic feedback when I told them of my intention not only to do this anthology, but to make it an annual event – depending on sales, of course. I’m hoping that once the book is out there and hopefully starts to gain some positive feedback I’ll get more great writers wanting to come on board for future volumes. My ambition is for The Spectral Book of Horror Stories to gain a reputation for excellence, and to showcase the very best that the genre has to offer. I have a huge list of writers I’d like to see stories from in the future – and, of course, I’d like to discover some great new writers too, and perhaps help set them on their way to a full-time writing career, as Charlie Grant did for me twenty-odd years ago when he published a story of mine in his anthology, Final Shadows.

Gef: With such an array of talent, the anthology should offer a pretty colorful mosaic of the horror genre. Is there any kind of unspoken theme or tone to this anthology?

Mark: No, which is the whole point of it – it’s non-themed. Themed anthologies are all very well, and in fact there are some great ones out there, but my preference has always been for the idea of an anthology which celebrates the almost limitless breadth and depth of this fantastic genre. As a kid, reading the Pan and Fontana books, I loved the fact that I had no idea what was coming next, and that each individual story had its own tone and style and theme.

Gef: How do you see the state of the horror genre these days? Robust or is Spectral Press a bastion fending off an army of hacks?

Mark: There are some really great writers out there, and if you’re prepared to shop around and become familiar with the world of the independent presses, of which there are many superb examples – PS Publishing, Cemetery Dance, Spectral, Gray Friar, Tartarus, Subterranean, ChiZine, to name just a few – then you’ll realize that the genre is in fine fettle. What there isn’t a great deal of is money. There are many fantastic writers who are earning little more than a pittance for their work. But if you’re new to the genre and looking for good stuff to read, you’ll find it in abundance. As well as the writers in this anthology, and the biggies like Stephen King, Peter Straub and Joe Lansdale, who are all still producing very fine work, check out the fiction of Joe Hill, Graham Joyce, Tim Lebbon, John Langan, Nathan Ballingrud, Lisa Hannett, Adam Nevill, Simon Bestwick, Simon Strantzas, Paul Finch, Ray Cluley, Thana Niveau, Chris Golden… oh, and literally dozens of others. They are all writers who I’d love to feature stories from in future volumes of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories.

Gef: The anthology is set to debut in September at Fantasy Con.in York, England, but what of it beyond the U.K.'s borders? How long must we wait and where do we look to buy it up?

Mark: The wonder of the internet is that the world has become a very small place. The book can be ordered direct from Spectral Press at http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/sbohs-cover-reveal/

Gef: Vincent Chong is responsible for the cover art. So, how stoked were you when you saw the proposed masterpiece, because that kid's got talent?

Mark: Vinny is a truly fantastic artist, and one of the nicest, most self-effacing and accommodating guys you’ll ever meet. We discussed ideas, and he did a few sketches, which were variations on the theme of the three creepy children – but when I saw the final cover artwork it absolutely blew me away! I just love the colour theme he’s used, the composition, the attention to detail… it’s one of Vinny’s best pieces, I think; it’s stunning! And the great news is that Vinny’s with us for the duration. He’s agreed to do the covers for The Spectral Book of Horror Stories for as long as the series runs – which is fantastic! I’m so excited I’ve already started discussing possible colour themes and images with him for volumes two and three…

Gef: What other projects do you have in the works and how can folks keep up with what's going on with you as well as Spectral Press?

Mark: The best places to keep up with me are on Facebook and Twitter. I’m continually posting news and film/book reviews and all sorts of nonsense on there. This is becoming a very busy year for me. Rather ridiculously I’ve got four novels out this year – the official movie tie-in novelization of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah was published in February/March; Zombie Apocalypse! Horror Hospital, the first novel based on the Stephen Jones-created franchise, came out a month or so ago; then at FantasyCon in September, where we’ll be launching The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, PS Publishing will also be launching a new novel of mine called The Black; and finally, in October, Titan Books will publish The Wolves of London, book one of my new dark fantasy trilogy Obsidian Heart. Looking ahead from there I have two new novellas coming out next year – one from Spectral, one from Salt Publishing’s new horror imprint, Remains; a new short story collection from ChiZine; the second book in my Obsidian Heart trilogy, which is called The Society of Blood; and hopefully The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories. I’ve also got new stories of my own popping up in a few anthologies, and there may be one or two other projects in the pipeline, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet.


Gef: Thanks, Mark. As for the rest of you, you can grab yourself a copy of the anthology by visiting Spectral Press' shop and making a pre-order, plus find even more great titles. http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/spectral-shop/

August 15, 2014

Getting Graphic: "Preacher Vol. 7: Salvation" by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Preacher Vol. 7: Salvation
written by Garth Ennis
illustrated by Steve Dillon
DC Comics/Vertigo (1999)
256 pages
ISBN13: 9781563895197

Just when I think Preacher can't push boundaries of good taste any further, I pick up the next volume in the much-heralded series and am quickly shown there are no boundaries at all.

Salvation is a divergence from Jesse Custer's quest to put a curb-stomping on God. After seeing Tulip in the arms of Cassidy, he feels like he just fell out of a plane and hit the ground hard--oh wait, he literally did that. So, rather than take a moment to compose himself and take a rational approach to what's happened, Jesse goes all emo and effs off to a small Texas town called Salvation. And somehow the one-eyed ass-kicker becomes sheriff and the thorn in the side of one weird little sausage baron known as Meatman.

Meatman, real name Odin Quincannon, is a peculiar little turd. Imagine the old guy from those Six Flags commercials from a few years ago, only even more evil and insane. He owns a meat processing plant that is basically the sole industry for the little town of Salvation. It's a pretty bleak existence, as evidenced by the influx of mean-spirited Klanners that make up much of the workforce. Well, Custer will not suffer a fool, and he is pretty much surrounded by them and commenced to putting a good ol' fashioned butt-whoopin' on the more stubborn of the bigoted hayseeds.

Compared the previous six volumes, Salvation feels damn-near bucolic and serene. Perhaps that's because a fair bit of the story revolves around Custer discovering his mother is still alive, and recapturing that familial aspect of his life that had been previously corrupted by those swamp-dwelling villains who had taken him after leaving his mother to die in the swamps. Well, she's alive alright, and with the scars to prove it. But that revelation doesn't do a whole lot to tie in with the main conflict that is Meatman.

It's hard to complain about a Preacher comic, and what little criticism I could offer regarding the gratuitous shock factor and lack of nuance is really of minor concern to me. This volume was an interlude, sure, but one that offered its fair share of humor and horror, sometimes coming all at once.


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