October 7, 2015

EDGE SF&F WEEK Giveaway #3: Aviva Bel'Harold's "Blood Matters"

Blood Matters
by Aviva Bel'Harold

Grief changes people.

Brittany used to be a normal teen. She ate like one, slept like one, and had typical teenage mood swings. But after she found her best friend dead, everything changed.

Grief might explain her loss of appetite and her lack of sleep. It might even explain why she sees her dead friend everywhere she goes. But it certainly won't explain why everyone she touches develops bruises or why she's attracted to the smell of blood.

And, she's pretty sure grief doesn't make you want to rip apart your boyfriend just to get closer to his beating heart.

But what happens when it's the choices we make, not the creature inside, that proves the monster is in us all?


If you want a chance to win a copy of Blood Matters, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

Aviva Bel’Harold writes young adult fiction: Horror, Science Fiction, ­Urban Fantasy, etc. — as long as the ­characters are young, full of life, and out for adventure.

When she’s writing, you’ll find her curled up on a sofa with a pen and a pad of paper, ­surrounded by her adorable puppies.

Born in Winnipeg and raised in Vancouver, Aviva Bel’Harold ­currently resides in Calgary with her husband, four children, and six dachshunds.

Find Avia on Twitter / Facebook / Official Website
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October 6, 2015

EDGE SF&F WEEK Giveaway #2: "Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts 18"

Wrestling With Gods:Tesseracts 18
edited by Liana Kerzner & Jerome Stueart

A mechanical Jesus for your shrine, the myths of cuttlefish, a vampire in residential schools, a Muslim woman who wants to get closer, surgically, to her god, the demons of outer space, the downside of Nirvana. The 24 science fiction and fantasy stories and poems included in Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods take their faith and religion into the future, into the weird and comic and thought-provoking spaces where science fiction and fantasy has really always gone, struggling with higher powers, gods, the limits of technology, the limits of spiritual experience.

At times profound, these speculative offerings give readers a chance to see faith from the believer and the skeptic in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife.

Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.

If you would like to win a copy of Wrestling With Gods, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for your chance. Good luck!

Liana Kerzner is an award-winning TV producer & writer who has also stepped in front of the camera as the co-host of the legendary late night show Ed & Red’s Night Party, the Canadian Comedy Award-winning this Movie Sucks!, and Ed the Sock’s I Hate Hollywood!  An episode of I Hate Hollywood was lauded by mental health workers for de-stigmatizing mental illness.  Another early episode was well-received for its look at religion in Hollywood.

Liana also provides commentary, reviews and video interviews for video game site gamingexcellence.com.  She is co-columnist of 411 Mania’s “The 8 Ball”, and host/writer of Liana K’s Geek Download, heard weekly on the internationally syndicated radio program Canada’s Top 20.  She has edited and contributed writing to a comic book mini-series: Ed and Red’s Comic Strip.

She has hosted and produced the Prix Aurora Awards ceremony three times.  She is founder and chair of the Futurecon organization, which uses Science-Fiction and Fantasy elements to reduce various types of stigma and raise money for various charities.

Her stranger achievements include: modeling for video-games, having her superhero toy & art collection featured on TV’s Space channel, researching and presenting a paper on Mormon Cosmology in the Twilight Saga, and having a DC Comics character named after her. Liana is an avid cosplayer and her costume work made her the face of Western cosplay on Wikipedia.

Jerome Stueart makes his home in the Yukon Territory. Hailing from Missouri and West Texas, Jerome came up to the Yukon to work on northern science fiction. He fell hard for the place.

Stueart is a graduate of Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop in San Diego (2007) and of the Lambda Literary Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices (2013).  He has been published in Fantasy, Geist, Joyland, Geez, Strange Horizons, Ice-Floe, Redivider, On Spec, Tesseracts Nine, Tesseracts Eleven, Tesseracts Fourteen and Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead.  He earned honourable mentions for both the Fountain Award and Year’s Best Science Fiction 2006. He co-edited Inhuman. As a cartoonist he was featured in the Yukon News, and as a journalist he wrote for Yukon, North of Ordinary, Air North’s in-flight magazine.  He’s worked as a janitor, a trolley conductor, an embedded reporter in a remote northern research station, a Religious Education director, and a marketing director.  He wrote five radio series for CBC, and one of them, Leaving America, was heard around the world on Radio Canada International.  Jerome has taught creative writing for 20 years, and taught an afterschool course in fantasy and science fiction writing for teens for three years.  He teaches a workshop he designed called Writing Faith in churches across Canada and the USA.

Find EDGE SF&F on Twitter Facebook Official Website

October 5, 2015

EDGE SF&F WEEK Giveaway #1: J.A. McLachlan's "The Occasional Diamond Thief"

The Occasional Diamond Thief
by J.A. McLachlan

What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his "trade"? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?

When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a universal translator, she is co-opted into travelling as a translator to Malem. This is the last place in the universe that Kia wants to be—it’s the planet where her father caught the terrible illness that killed him—but it’s also where he got the magnificent diamond that only she knows about. Kia is convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond.

Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up, the skill of picking locks - Kia unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner.

But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? Can she trust the new friends she’s made on Malem, especially handsome but mysterious 17-year-old Jumal, to help her? And will she solve the puzzle in time to save Agatha, the last person she would have expected to become her closest friend?

Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humor, and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naïvely optimistic in Kia's opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.


If you would like a chance to win a copy of The Occasional Diamond Thief, just fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below. Good luck!

Jane Ann McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, Connections, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. But science fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and The Occasional Diamond Thief is her second published Science Fiction novel.

J. A. McLachlan currently resides in Kitchener-Waterloo with her husband.

Find EDGE SF&F on Twitter / Facebook / Official Website

October 4, 2015

The Number of the Beasts: an interview with Brendan Detzner, author of "Beasts: 16 More Weird Stories"

About Brendan Detzner's Beasts: A nurse gives a tow truck driver her number while the spirits watch attentively. 

Sasquatch and Chupacabra clash across universes. 

A skeleton billionaire throws his annual halloween party. 

A woman kisses her husband good night and locks him in a room in their basement. 

And twelve more.

Available at Amazon.com

Gef: What brought about the creation of this collection?

Brendan: It's my second short story collection. I'd had a critical mass of material for a while and wanted to put another book out, but I kept getting stories published. It's a great problem to have, but it slows things down because you have to wait to get the rights back. As it turned out, the delay worked to my advantage because by the time I was in a position to release the collection I'd quit my job to write full time and could put a lot more energy into getting it out into the world.

Gef: How much of a gear shift is it for you when writing a short story as opposed to something longer?

Brendan: Short stories are my home base. The adjustment for me is in going long, and most of my longer stuff still has a lot of short-story-sized chunks mixed into the ice cream.

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

Brendan: I started devoting regular effort to writing at a young age and never really stopped. I can do stuff now that I couldn't do before and I see opportunities now that I would have missed previously, and if I can say the same thing a year from now and a year after that then I'll be pretty pleased with myself.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Brendan: I try to cast as wide a net as I can, but one source I go back to a lot that I don't hear other people in my circles talk about as much is crime fiction, not just the classic stuff like Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain but also Richard Price and George Pelacanos and basically everybody who ended up writing "The Wire". I've also started to appreciate how big an influence all the 90's era Vertigo and Vertigo-inspired comics were in setting my inner goal posts. That was a great time for the inmates taking over the asylum, but at the time that I encountered it I didn't understand that. I just took it for granted that you were allowed to go crazy and do what you want, and made my own plans accordingly.

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

Brendan: It depends on what I'm writing. When setting is important for something I'm working on, it's something I take very seriously. I go on a lot of field trips and do a lot of research, and it's a big turn off for me when I feel like the author of something I'm reading didn't go to as much trouble.

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

Brendan: The big thing that keeps me happily tied to horror is that the audience around it actively wants to be surprised and shocked and caught off guard. It's part of the mechanism of how those kinds of stories work, and when things are going well it creates a lot of freedom to do interesting stuff that hasn't been done before.

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?

Brendan: Anything that insists any particular genre only exists as part of a certain "tradition" or "culture" or whatever else. Genres stem from things that human beings naturally do- people explore their anxieties, people dream about how things could be different than they are, people fight wars, people break laws, people think about the implications of new technology, and so on. None of those activities needed to be invented, and if you want to participate in them you don't need anyone's permission. Read what you think is interesting, learn from what's going on around you, and pursue what you think is important. Don't worry about the hall monitors.

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

Brendan: Guilt doesn't come naturally to me but I have been on a little bit of a professional wrestling kick lately. There's things to learn there but I have to admit it might be time to move on for a while.

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

Brendan: If you like either of my last two collections than there's plenty more where that came from. At this point I don't see any reason not to put out a new short-story bundle once a year or so for a good long time. I also have some novel-length pieces in the trunk that are going to see the light of day one way or another, either me putting them out myself or coming to an arrangement with a publisher. To keep track of what I'm doing you can head over to my web site at http://www.brendandetzner.com and sign up for my mailing list and Facebook page and all that good stuff.

October 1, 2015

Chasing Tale [Books Received for Oct 1, 2015]: My Favorite Time of Year

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

He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies by Katie Cord - This is a short story collection that offers a zanier take on zombie apocalypses and such. I've never read her work before, but the title's catchy, so that's something.

Lot Lizards by Ray Garton - Truckers and vampires. Say no more. I'm sold.

Arena of the Wolf by Jim Gavin - Truckers and werewolves. Say no more. I'm sold.

Ghosts of Christmas Past and Luminous by Corrina Lawson - I won these two novellas from Corrina a few days ago as part of the Farryn's War release party with Christie Meierz on Facebook last week. I also won a copy of her steampunk novel, Curse of the Brimstone Contract, which is in the mail. Thanks again, Corrina.

The Box Jumper by Lisa Mannetti - I received a copy of Lisa's newest novella, which features a sleuthy incarnation of Harry Houdini. With her atmospheric style of horror, I'm quite curious to see how this little tale turns out.

The Hatch by Kelli Owen - I reviewed Kelli's apocalyptic novella, Waiting Out Wintersome time back, and the follow up novella came out earlier this year, and now there's a copy of it on my Kindle. Looking forward to cracking this one open.

Spider Bite by J.R. Rain & Scott Nicholson - This vampire novel came up as a freebie the other day on the Kindle Store, and since I already bought the first two books in the trilogy, I figured this was the perfect time to complete the set.

White Knuckle by Eric Red - More truckers? Gosh, it's kind of a theme this week, ain't it? This one has a serial killer on 18 wheels wreaking havoc on the open roads for decades. I've never read Eric's work, but some folks I know seem to enjoy it, so I'll give it a whirl. Great cover, at any rate.

Stamps, Vamps, & Tramps edited by Shannon Robinson - Here are some more vampires from Evil Girlfriend Media in the form of an anthology. They have a couple other anthologies with zombies and witches as themes, too.

Roadside Ghosts by Stephen Vernon - A collection of eight short stories from the Nova Scotia's harding working horror author.

The Archivist by Tom D. Wright - Tom actually stopped by the blog recently for an interview, which you can check out by clicking here, and now I have a copy of his post-apocalyptic scifi novel.

My Favorite Time of Year

It's October! The road to Halloween is officially here and I am steadily getting into the spirit of things. We had a torrential downpour last night, which I think rang in the season quite nicely. The temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing color, the geese are effing off in V-shapes for the south. It all adds up to autumn, when I adjust to sweater weather, bite-sized candy, and my annual kvetching over what to wear as a Halloween costume.

There is one unsavory detail to this time of year, and that is the unwelcome encroachment of Saint Nick on our hallowed time of year. Honestly, it's not enough Christmas takes up all of December, but it's usurped Thanksgiving with its hostile takeover of November, and nowadays it has set its sights on All Hallows Eve. No, I say! You shall not pass!

It's bad enough when corporations try to peddle their Xmas wares on our turf, but when decent folks turn to the darkside and start putting up Christmas decs and playing Christmas carols before they hand out weird homemade candy to trick-or-treaters ... that's a true travesty.

Thankfully, those weirdos are in the minority, and we weirdos still rule the roost. If I can at least carve one jack-o-lantern and watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I'll have hit my bare minimum for Halloween enjoyment.

What is it that you're looking forward to most this month?

September 30, 2015

Does Art Have To Imitate Life?: a guest post by Eric Matheny, author of "The Victim"

About The Victim: In the spring of 2003 on a desolate stretch of Arizona highway, Anton Mackey’s life was changed forever.  A reckless decision to get behind the wheel when he was in no condition to drive spawned a moment that threatened to destroy everything the 21 year-old had spent his life working toward.  In an instant, Anton made a decision to save himself.  A decision that claimed the lives of two people.

Eleven years later, Anton is a rising star in the Miami criminal defense community.  He is married and has an infant daughter.  He is earning a good living and steadily building a name for himself as an aggressive advocate for the accused.  Anton shares an office with veteran defense attorney, Jack Savarese.  A mentor of sorts, Anton strives to model his practice – and career – after Jack’s.  A Miami criminal defense legend, Jack’s accomplishments in the courtroom are second to none.  However, Jack remains burdened by the conviction of Osvaldo Garcia, a mentally-ill client from ten years earlier found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the death of a troubled teen.

When Daniella Avery, the beautiful wife of a man accused of a heinous act of domestic violence, comes into Anton’s office seeking his services, Anton thinks he’s landed a great case with a great fee.  But when he succumbs to temptation, he realizes that Daniella is a figure from his past.

Anton finds himself caught between the possibility of being exposed and the fact that his client – Daniella’s husband – may be an innocent pawn in the victim’s attempt to carry out her revenge against Anton.  As Anton struggles to balance defending his client while concealing the secret he has sought to forget, he uncovers the truth behind what really happened on that highway eleven years earlier.  The truth that may be connected to the conviction of Osvaldo Garcia.

Does Art Have To Imitate Life?: Do Genre Thriller Writers Have To Live The Stories They Tell?
a guest post by Eric Matheny

When I began writing, I never consciously sought out to become a legal thriller writer.  I guess that’s just where my imagination takes me.  Now, I am a practicing criminal defense attorney and the world of cops and prosecutors and courtrooms is what I experience on a daily basis.  I like to bring my experience and firsthand knowledge to my stories to create a sense of authenticity.  I’m big on that.  If you’re going to write a technical story - a medical thriller, a spy thriller, a police procedural - then you’d better know what the hell you’re talking about.  Some of the great genre thriller writers have worked in the fields that set the stage for their stories.  Grisham and Turow were both practicing attorneys (Turow still is).  Barry Eisler was a CIA operative before becoming a bestselling author of spy novels.

Not that firsthand experience is required.  Tom Clancy never operated a nuclear submarine and I’m pretty sure Stephen King has never seen dead animals rise from the grave.  Michael Connelly and John Lescroart are not lawyers yet they create excellent, well-researched legal thrillers (Connelly has the acclaimed Lincoln Lawyer series and Lescroart has a string of bestsellers featuring San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy). 

A great writer can research a field they know little about and create a magnificent and authoritative novel.  While not my favorite stylist, Dan Brown’s work (The Da Vinci Code, Angels And Demons) is a clinic in research.  His pages resonate with authority yet he does not have a background in symbology.  He was a musician and an English teacher before becoming a bestselling author.  But when he takes on a subject - be it the Vatican or the works of a renowned Renaissance artist - he dives headlong into grasping the minutia of a subject, creating an experience for the reader where one is entertained at the same time they are educated. 

I think that is a tremendous feat for a writer.  Keep your readers turning the pages while at the same time teaching them about a subject they know little about.  I certainly tried to do that with The Victim, walking my readers through the progression of a criminal case from arrest through trial. 

As far as process goes, here’s what I can tell you from my experience.  If you are a lawyer and you are writing a legal thriller, the research component has likely been satisfied.  Your life’s work is your research.  The years spent in law school, the tough cases you’ve handled, the battles you engage in on a daily basis, make up the lifeblood of your story.  The technical details that non-lawyer-authors will have to seek externally (talking to other lawyers, observing trials, reading texts and treatises) are already there for the lawyer-authors; a built-in mechanism.
So in that respect - and perhaps only in that respect - is the writing process a little bit easier for us.  At the very least, less time-consuming.

For your non-lawyers, you must look beyond your own experience to find the technical accuracy your audience demands.  Talk to practicing attorneys about their cases, go watch trials and take copious notes on procedure.
The same can be said for any genre.  Non-doctors can write great medical thrillers (read Trouble by Jesse Kellerman).  Non-CIA operatives can write great spy novels.  Clancy, Baldacci, and Terry Hayes (I Am Pilgrim) all come to mind.

The difference I see between writers with technical experience and writers without is not in the major plot elements.  A non-lawyer can just as easily understand how a criminal trial works the same as a lawyer.  But those in the know - your lawyers, your doctors, your spies - understand the personal aspects of their trades.  How their characters think and feel beyond their professional arenas - outside the courtrooms, away from the operating tables.

I believe it is that experience that provides a richness and depth that may give the slight edge to those writers who have walked the walk.

Eric Matheny was born in Los Angeles, California, where he lived until he went away to college at Arizona State University. At ASU he was president of Theta Chi Fraternity. He graduated with a degree in political science and moved to Miami, Florida, to attend law school at St. Thomas University. During his third year of law school, he interned for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, where he worked as a prosecutor upon graduation. In 2009, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. He is a solo practitioner representing clients in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Broward County, Florida. He has handled everything from DUI to murder.
In his free time, Eric enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He published his debut novel Home in 2004, which centers around a successful drug dealer catering to the rich in Orange County. His second novel Lockdown, published in 2005, follows a law student trying to prove that an inmate serving a life sentence in one of California’s toughest prisons might actually be innocent. Eric’s latest novel The Victim, is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. It was published by Zharmae in August 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon.
Eric lives outside of Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two young sons.
Readers can connect with him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.
To learn more, go to EricMathenyBooks.com

September 29, 2015

Available Today: Susan McBride's "Say Yes to the Death"

If evil bakers and wedding planners are your thing, check out the latest from Susan McBride: Say Yes to the Death. It seems lighthearted for a book that essentially starts with a knife in the throat, after all.
Say Yes to the Death is the sixth in the Debutante Dropout series and it goes on sale today! You can find it at Amazon, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and anyplace else you like to buy books.
Someone old, someone cruel
Debutante dropout Andrea Kendricks is beyond done with big hair, big gowns, and big egos—so being dragged to a high-society Texas wedding by her socialite mama, Cissy, gives her a bad case of déjà vu. As does running into her old prep-school bully, Olivia La Belle, the wedding planner, who's graduated to berating people for a living on her reality TV show. But for all the times Andy wished her dead, nobody deserves Olivia's fate: lying in a pool of blood, a cake knife in her throat—but did the angry baker do it?
Millicent Draper, the grandmotherly owner of Millie's Cakes, swears she's innocent, and Andy believes her. Unfortunately, the cops don't. Though Andy's fiancé, lawyer Brian Malone, is handling Millie's case, she's determined to spring Millie herself. But where to start? "La Belle from Hell" had enemies galore. Good thing Andy has a BFF who's a reporter— and a blue-blood mother who likes to pull strings.

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood, the first of the Debutante Dropout Mysteries. The award-winning series includes The Good Girl's Guide to Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night of the Living Deb, and Too Pretty to Die. She's also the author of The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, all Target Recommended Reads. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and daughter. Learn more at her website or on Facebook.

September 28, 2015

A Demon in the Paperback: an interview + giveaway with Hunter Shea, author of "The Dover Demon"

Hunter Shea is the author of the novels The Montauk Monster, Tortures of the Damned, Sinister Entity, Forest of Shadows, Swamp Monster Massacre, Evil Eternal, and The Dover Demon. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales, and the Cemetery Dance anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. He’s currently working on or completed a few more manuscripts set to come.
His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on.
Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors, and anyone else living in the horror lane.

He lives in New York with his family and vindictive cat. He waits with Biblical patience for the Mets to win a World Series. You can read about his latest travails and communicate with him at www.huntershea.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Dover Demon is real…and it has returned.

In 1977, Sam Brogna and his friends came upon a terrifying, alien creature on a deserted country road. What they witnessed was so bizarre, so chilling, they swore their silence. But their lives were changed forever.

Decades later, the town of Dover has been hit by a massive blizzard. Sam’s son, Nicky, is drawn to search for the infamous cryptid, only to disappear into the bowels of a secret underground lair. The Dover Demon is far deadlier than anyone could have believed. And there are many of them. Can Sam and his reunited friends rescue Nicky and battle a race of creatures so powerful, so sinister, that history itself has been shaped by their secretive presence?

Available at AmazonBarnes and NobleSamhain

Gef: There is no corner of the world it seems without a story about an alien encounter. In the U.S. in particular, Area 51 and Fire in the Sky seem to have a lot of the hype out in the south west. So what was the hook for you to write about the Dover Demon, which is set in the northeast?

Hunter: You know, as my brain pan was formulating the story, I thought of the Dover Demon strictly as a cryptid, an earthbound creature that popped up in Massachusetts over two nights and was never seen again. I read Loren Coleman's account of the encounters and was thrilled with the idea of tackling another mysterious 'monster'. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this could have been an brush with something not of this world. What if it was just something that happened to touch down, pay a quick visit and take off to a place we couldn't fathom existing? I've been very interested in UFOs all my life. I have shelves of books on the subject and will watch any movie about aliens, no matter how terrible. Monsters and aliens are my wheelhouse. How could I resist? 

So now I had a dilemma. Just what the hell was the Dover Demon? I live in the northeast, so I'm very familiar with the terrain and the legends. The hard part was finding a way to meld all of these possibilities into a narrative that would not only terrify my readers, but make them question their own reality. The Dover Demon is a true enigma, and I realized trying to fictionalize the story was going to be a big challenge. I like a challenge. 

Gef: When I was a kid, the idea of aliens freaked me out. Even E.T. was the stuff of nightmares for me when I was little. So how did you take to them in your formative years? With wonder or terror?

Hunter: I'm not going to lie, I was totally fascinated by them. If a spaceship landed in my yard and aliens came shambling out like they did in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I was ready to go with them. Then I read Whitely Streiber's Communion, his account of being abducted multiple times in a place not far from my house. It was terrifying, and my views on aliens and UFOs changed. I dove into books by Budd Hopkins, J. Allen Hynek and John Mack. Maybe aliens weren't so benevolent. I was enthralled, but I had my reservations. I didn't want them in my house and I wasn't going to run into a waiting spaceship. It's such a fascinating subject, and if one percent of what abductees says is true, it's the most frightening thing in our world. 

Speaking of frightening, I've had one instance of sleep paralysis in my life and it involved aliens. I was pretty sick with a summer flu. My girlfriend came over to take care of me, getting me Tylenol, something to drink, a cold washcloth, the works. I drifted off to sleep and she went downstairs to watch TV. It seemed like I woke up immediately because my room was filled with a green light. I couldn't lift my head off the pillow to see what was causing it. Next thing I know, my bed was surrounded by what we call tall, thin gray aliens. I wanted to scream but was frozen. One of them reached down to put its hand over my mouth. Mercifully, that's when the whole thing broke. I finally pulled out of my sleep paralysis and the light and aliens went away. It was totally a product of my mind, but if people actually experience that, I pray for their souls and sanity. 

Gef: Any tidbits in your research that you thought were great but didn't make it into the novel for whatever reason?

Hunter: Because the Dover Demon was only spotted by a half dozen teens over two nights, there isn't a lot of meat to the story. I pretty much put it all in there. My concept was this - what if other teens saw something but didn't tell anyone about it because what they saw was so disturbing, they were too terrified to speak of it. That gave me free reign to add other aspects of aliens and unknown creature lore to the tale. 

Gef: I'm not sure exactly how long the whole UFO phenomenon has been going on, but it has certainly been something that has latched onto the human psyche. I mean, even with our awareness of how handily a pic can be photoshopped or a video given the ol' Lucas Arts treatment, a new UFO sighting or such will become water cooler talk in no time flat. Are we just predisposed to believe or want to believe in alien encounters?

Hunter: Mankind has had encounters with unknown creatures and has been seeing odd things in the sky for thousands of years. From Ezekiel's flying chariot of flames in the Bible to tales of wee folk in Ireland, we've been trying to make sense of our strange world. In the 20th century, they became UFOs and extraterrestrials. There's more to our world than we can think of, and the way we perceive it changes as our culture changes. Plus, it's a whole lot more fun to believe that there is something out there, an intelligence far beyond our own, and hopefully someone that can lead us better than we've led ourselves. 

About UFO pictures, it's because of the advances in technology when it comes to manipulating them and video that we put less and less trust in what used to be considered solid avenues of proof. We have to look back at older pictures and 8mm videos as more concrete evidence. 

Gef: What's your favorite alien-related flick? Something recent or one of the classic B-movies?

Hunter: I watch Communion at least once a year. It's about Whitely Strieber's experiences. I love that it's set in New York, stars Christopher Walken (more cowbell!) and has a soundtrack by Eric Clapton. I'm not saying it's a great movie, or even a good one, but it's one of my go-tos. I just love the vibe of that flick. Alien is my all time favorite horror and sci-fi movie. Dear God, please don't let real aliens be anything like them! Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of my all time favorites, as is Invaders from Mars. I could sit here listing alien movies all day. 

Gef: Aliens and horror seem like a perfect fit, but for every good execution, there must be two or three that miss the mark. What's the trickiest thing about creating a horror story that involves alien life?

Hunter: I think a lot of people either tread ground that's been trampled to death (yes, you got abducted and probed and the mean aliens left you on the side of the road) or too ambiguous for a reader or viewer to get a sense of what the hell just happened. You have to make the threat seem plausible. Your characters have to be relatable. Put them in vulnerable positions. Meld the familiar with something fresh and terrifying. It's not easy, but it can be done. 

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

Hunter: I've written four books this year, so readers have a lot to look forward to. First up will be a brutal little novella called I Kill in Peace! It's a total departure from anything I've written before. No monsters in that one, but something far scarier. Next will be my first sea monster story called They Rise. That was a blast to write. I have another cryptid novel coming out with Pinnacle next fall and my last book, tentatively titled We Are Always Watching will either come out later in the year or early 2017. You all can keep track of my insanity at www.huntershea.com. While you're there, sign up for my newsletter because I tend to give a lot of free stuff to subscribers. Thank you so much for having me today. You hit on one of my favorite subjects to talk about - aliens, not myself! 

First giveaway!
On this tour, win one signed print copy of The Dover Demon if you are in the U.S.! Just sign-up at the Rafflecopter link below:
Second giveaway!
Hunter Shea’s other summer smash hit, Tortures of the Damned, was featured in Fangoria magazine. He’s giving away 2 signed copies that Fangoria. How do you win? Anyone who signs up for Dark Hunter Newsletter (http://huntershea.com/newsletter/) before the end of today and lives in the US is eligible. Already signed up? Refer a friend and if they win, grab it from their mailbox.

September 25, 2015

A Dangerous Assumption: an excerpt of Christie Meierz' "Farryn's War" (+ a giveaway)

Award-winning author Christie Meierz writes space opera and science fiction romance set in a civilization of empaths on the edge of a dystopic Earth empire. Her published works include her bestselling debut novel, The Marann, its sequels, and two prequel short stories published in Into Tolari Space ~ The First Contact Stories. Her latest novel, Farryn’s War, came out on September 22, 2015.

Christie has spent a night and/or eaten a meal in all 50 U.S. states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her mathematician husband and an assortment of stuffies. When she’s not writing, she writes about writing on her blog, Meierz Musings (christiemeierz.com/blog), Twitter (http://twitter.com/christiemeierz), and Facebook (facebook.com/christie.meierz and facebook.com/tolarispace), where she welcomes comments and friend requests.

 Excerpt from Farryn’s War, Chapter 3
© 2015 Christie Meierz

RPS Cormorant-C, 18 Dec 2553
The business class nightclub piped Neapolitan piano jazz over the comms. A few brave souls clustered under an antique disco ball, attempting to dance to the irregular, shifting beat. Adeline, in uniform because she’d had nothing else in her go-kit, wove her way through the chairs and tables around the dance floor, conversations stilling in her wake, her eyes on the bar at the back of the club. It had been a very long day sifting through data from the Far India office.
A lean man with eyes like jade and hair that might have once been auburn stood behind the counter, racking wine glasses. He looked her up and down with raised eyebrows, clearly surprised to serve someone in gray. “What’ll it be?”
Was that a touch of New York in his voice?
“Scotch, neat.” She scooted onto a barstool. “Britannic, if you have it. Make it a double.”
He eyed her as one hand reached unerringly for a bottle on the rack behind him. “That’s a man’s drink.”
“I do a man’s work. You have a problem with that?”
He turned to pour the drink before she could determine if his twitching lips meant he was trying to stifle a chuckle. The back he presented was… broad-shouldered, and narrow-hipped, and might have been muscular, under the loose ship’s jumpsuit. Nice. His face smooth once more, he laid a paper coaster—real paper, not plastin-paper—on the counter in front of her and placed a squat, hexagonal tumbler of scotch on it.
“Must be a VIP aboard.” She fingered the coaster.
He smirked and began to wipe down the bar top, starting at her end. “You mean you don’t know?”
“I booked this passage fifteen minutes before it left.”
“So you’re the one who delayed us.”
She lifted the scotch to eye level and peered at him through the gently sloshing liquid. “A whole minute. Whatever will you do?”
This time he did chuckle. “Pitch you out the nearest airlock. And it was three minutes.”
“We’ll be scrambling to catch up for weeks.”
“I’m sure you’ll survive. Somehow.”
“I suppose our reputation for punctuality will have to make way for the good of society. What brings you aboard the good ship Cormorant? Pursuing a dangerous fugitive or some such?”
“Something like that.”
He offered a hand. She shook it.
“I’m Kieran.”
“Ada? Adrienne?”
“Sweet.” He winked.
“You must get that a lot.”
“Only from suicidal bartenders.”
A waiter interrupted them with a drink order. While Kieran busied himself with bottles, shakers, and ice, Adeline sipped at the scotch. The flavor—
“This isn’t Britannic,” she said.
Kieran cleaned his work area after the waiter shouldered the tray of drinks and left. “Nope.” He turned the bottle, briefly, to reveal a yellowed and worn label from an ancient distillery in Scotland.
She whistled. “I need to look up that VIP.”
“Just a spoiled Ahmadiyya aristocrat who didn’t want Daddy to know he’d been drinking, too rich to care what he left behind.”
“Convenient. So why serve it to me? People in my profession aren’t exactly popular.”
“I wondered what a nice girl like you was doing in that uniform.”
She savored another mouthful of the vintage scotch. “That’s a dangerous assumption to make.”
“What is?”
“That I’m a nice girl.”

Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and ebook copies of the entire Tolari Space series using the Rafflecopter form below.

September 23, 2015

Dark Fiction in the Dark Ages: an interview with Lesley Conner, author of "The Weight of Chains"

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS: Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul.

When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles's tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family –move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.

Gef: What was the allure of medieval Europe that it wound up as the backdrop for your debut novel?

Lesley: It wasn’t the allure of medieval Europe so much as the allure of Gilles de Rais that led me use 15th century France as the backdrop for my debut novel. When I was in high school I toted around this old Time-Life book about serial killers. My teachers all thought it morbid and strange, but I was seriously obsessed with the thought process of someone who would do something so wretched. Gilles de Rais had a brief section in that book, which led me to doing more research on him. He was a nobleman and a war hero. People looked up to him, respected him. And he slaughtered the most innocent of his subjects. The idea horrified me, but I also found it fascinating. Add in the fact that he was into the occult, but still held a rigid ideal of being a good Catholic, and he became a character that I couldn’t resist.

Gef: The tone of the book feels very dark, at least with the premise of tyrannical rulers and demonic summoning and all that jazz? Would you say the story falls in with what's been called "grimdark" these days?

Lesley: Grimdark seems to be used more often to refer to fantasy novels, which doesn’t really fit The Weight of Chains. While it is set in a medieval times period, and shows medieval life in a more realistic setting (starvation and disease are real threats that play an integral part of the novel), it is definitely a horror novel. Actually, extreme horror would probably be a more accurate description.

When most people think of horror in general, or extreme horror more specifically, they don’t often think of historical stories, especially ones set during the 15th century, which I think is a shame. One of the things I did while writing The Weight of Chains was search for other current horror novels set during this time period. I wanted to see how other authors handled things such as dialogue and tone and whether or not to use contractions. I wasn’t looking to copy anyone’s style, but I wanted to get a feel for what worked for me and what didn’t. My search came up pretty dry. Sure, you have Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies and a few others that follow that format of mashing literature with horror, but that wasn’t what I was going for. I did read Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon. Fantastic historical horror, but more than 200 years too recent.

I would love to see historical horror become more popular. There are so many time periods and situations in which authors can throw monsters, both supernatural and human.

Gef: With a story like this, it sounds like you had to not just carve out your own world, but a magic system to boot. How much of a rabbit hole is it for you when dealing with those aspects of the world building?

Lesley: I actually managed to avoid the magic rabbit hole for the most part, which is good because believe me when I say I fell down plenty of world building rabbit holes while working of The Weight of Chains. There’s a LOT of research that goes into writing a historical novel, everything from what the people would have worn to the layout of castles. So much research.
Yes, there is a wizard in the novel. His name is Prelati, and he’s hired by Gilles to raise a demon called Barron. But the thing is he’s not a very good wizard. He does manage to contact Barron, but it’s more like if a spirit sees a bunch of teenagers playing around with a Ouija board and decides to fuck with them. The teenagers didn’t actually contact the spirit, the spirit contacted them. Barron noticed Prelati trying to conjure him, so he decides to see what’s up. And when he sees what is going on in the castle and the situation that Prelati is in, it doesn’t take long for the demon to decide that sticking around to see what kind of chaos he can add to the mix will be a grand time.

Gef: Say the word "wizard" these days and the casual reader is going to think Harry Potter quite likely, so what is your approach with things like that, where preconceptions may run completely contrary to what you've concocted?

Lesley: I think it’s impossible to write a novel now a days without people jumping to conclusions and thinking that they know what it’s about without reading it. I guess that’s normal, considering how much half-information we can all glean by scrolling through Twitter or ready a couple of blog headlines. It’s impossible to avoid.

As to how to approach those preconceptions … Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve tried to be very upfront about what The Weight of Chains is. It’s a horror novel. And a pretty violently graphic one at that. If people choose to not believe that, or if they skew what that means because they see the word “wizard” or “historical” or because they have preconceptions about what horror written by a woman is or how it should be, there is nothing that I can say or do to change that. At that point - the point where they have a copy of the book in their hands - then the only thing I can do is let my story stand for itself.

Gef: Is this a world you're hoping to revisit in future books?

Lesley: My personal preference tends to lean toward stand-alone books, and when I wrote The Weight of Chains, I intended for it to be a one shot deal. But I’ve had a lot of people who have read it ask me about a sequel. They want to know what happens next. I do have a glimmer of an idea for a second novel, nothing solid, nothing that I’m running off to write right this minute, but if it starts to take on more shape and to fill in with some details, and if there seems to be an interest, then coming back to this world is a possibility.

Gef: How has working as an editor helped you approach your own writing?

Lesley: Working as an editor for Apex has really helped me see how publishing – and writing as an extension of that – is a business. Getting a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad story. It could mean that it wasn’t right for that publication, or that they already have a story that is similar waiting to be published. It could mean that the editor really liked the writing, but the ending didn’t quite click for them. Apex Magazine receives around 1,000 short story submissions every month. We publish 3 or 4. That means we end up rejecting some pretty amazing stories every month, because it’s impossible to buy all of the good ones.

It’s also shown me that editors and publishers are people. People who love to read and love books and want writers to succeed. I think when you’re first starting out as a writer, it’s very easy to imagine editors as these publishing gods, sitting up on their thrones made out of rejected manuscripts, casting judgement with no thought or consideration to the lowly writer’s feelings. Editors are people. I’m a person. One who has a job and a family and responsibilities just like anyone else. My job just happens to be as an editor.

So how have these realizations helped me approach my own writing? Well, they’ve really put into focus that I need to write the story that I want to tell. I can’t let the word of an editor change who I am as a writer, because it could be that the story just isn’t for them. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t for any editor out there ever. The Weight of Chains started out as a short story. I submitted it to an anthology and got back a nasty rejection with the editor of the anthology telling me it would never be published because it was too violent and graphic, and it involves children. I cried. I was completely shattered and put the story away for about 9 months. I kept writing other stories, but “The Weight of Chains” and its characters kept talking to me. I decided to pull it out of the short story junk drawer and ended up talking to J.F. Gonzalez about it. I didn’t know what to do with this 8,000 word historical story that took place in the halls of a castle. Something I said must have sparked an interest because he asked to read it. Even though I was terrified that he would say the same thing the editor had told me, I sent it to him. A few days later I got a response. He thought I should expand it, that the story needed to be a novel. Same short story, two completely different responses by writing professionals.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received?

Lesley: In my opinion, the worst piece of writing advice is probably the one that most writers hear most often: Write every day.

I think the underlying intention of that sentiment is good – write, if you want to write a novel (or a short story, blog post, essay, anything), you have to write, you can’t just talk about it – but I have two young daughters, I’m the managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, I’m the troop leader for a very active Girl Scout troop, I do freelance editing, I’m a wife, friend, and daughter. And you know what, every single one of those things is important to me and takes time out of my day. Having those things in my life doesn’t mean that I’m not a writer, or that writing isn’t important enough to me. It means that I have a life and I’m building experiences that will make my writing richer and better. And I do write. It just might not happen every single day.

Daniel Jose Older recently wrote an essay about this, and the shame that can come from failing to write every day, and he’s spot on. When I first started writing with the intention of being published, if I would fail to write one day, this mass of guilt and anxiety and the very real dread that I was failing would slowly begin to eat away at me. I’d wonder why I was even trying to carve out time to work on my stories. If I can’t do it every day, then obviously it wasn’t important enough to me.

That’s bullshit. Believe me when I say that I have more than enough self-critical thoughts roaming around my head trying to trip me up. I don’t need to heap on guilt and anxiety over missing a day of writing.

Gef: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to books or movies or whatnot, or anything a little off the beaten path from what most folks enjoy?

Lesley: I love zombies. Books, movies, TV shows. It doesn’t matter. I will consume them all. Hell, half my wardrobe consist of t-shirts with zombies on them. I love them. I was a fan before they became enormously popular, watching old movies with my little brother and a bowl of popcorn most weekends when we were kids. And when they suddenly hit big, I was in absolute paradise! After a few years of being everywhere, a lot of people seem to be getting burned out on zombies, but not me.

Yes, a lot of the time it can be the same basic story, a group of survivors against the undead, different names and faces all going through the same motions, but I think that’s part of the appeal to me. I read a lot – different genres, different styles, different voices – but when things in my life are getting hectic and I can’t focus on a heavy read, I will almost always grab a zombie novel or watch a zombie movie. There’s something comforting in the familiarity. Add in a dash of death, some chopping teeth, and a healthy dose of gore, and I’m happy.

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

Lesley: Jason Sizemore and I are currently editing a Best of Apex Magazine anthology that’s set to be released in early December. Going back through and reading all the original fiction from past issues of Apex Magazine and pulling out the best of the best has been a lot fun.

On the writing front, I’m working on a new novel. It’s a near future sci-fi that’s heavily influenced by the 1920s speakeasy scene and a reviewer for the New Yorker named Lois Long. Lots of alcohol, sex, and obituaries written for the gin joints that didn’t make it. The mixture of futuristic science fiction with history, and prose with magazine articles is incredibly exciting to write. I’m still testing out what’s going to work and what I’ll end up cutting, but the story is starting to take shape.

To keep up with everything going on in my little corner of the world, people can follow me on Twitter at @LesleyConner.


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