December 27, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway: And the winner is ...

Alright. I threw the entries for the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway in the proverbial hat and had pick out an entry for me (I gave each one a number as they were received), and the winner of Michael West's Cinema of Shadows is ...


Congrats, Heather. I'll be sending that book out to you tomorrow. Incidentally, she has a blog called Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World, so pay her a visit if you feel so inclined.

A big thanks to everyone who entered. I hope you're still enjoying the holidays. Don't get too wasted this New Year's, and I feel your pain if you're the designated driver that night--being sober around that many drunks can be a chore sometimes.

Be on the lookout for more giveaways right here on the blog in 2012.

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The blog is going on a bit of a hiatus for the holidays. I'll announce the winner of the 12 Days of Christmas giveaway soon, but aside from that not much will be going on until the New Year.

I hope everybody has a great time--or at least refrains from homicidal rage when those incessant carolers come round.

To help cheer you up in case you are in the dumps over Christmas, here's some YouTube goodness I found. With the hilarious Eddie Izzard's take on Christmas:

December 23, 2011

My Favorite Novellas and Short Story Collections of 2011

I think 2011 was the year of the novella for me. I read dozens of them. They're just about the perfect length of story for an e-reader, and when you can get your hands on a really special one in actual book form, all the better. Then there is the short story, which I continue to devour at every opportunity. So rather than try and squeeze one or two into my list of My 10 Favorite Novels, I thought I'd create a couple short lists of my favorite novellas and my favorite short story collections.

My 5 Favorite Novellas from 2011:

#5 Theatre of Curious Acts by Cate Gardner (Hadley Rille Books) - Cate's brain is a kaleidoscope of the fantastic, and this book was a prime example of just that.

#4 Gun by Ray Banks (Amazon Kindle) - I think it was Anthony Neil Smith who put me on track to discovering this gritty story about a young father-to-be looking for quick cash and trying to make it the only way he knows how--and it ain't honestly.

#3 Deathwatch by Lisa Mannetti (Shadowfall Publications) - This is actually a couple of novellas packaged together, but they're both really good and deserve a little tip of the hat. Of the two, my favorite is Sheila Na Gig, but you can't go wrong with either one.

#2 The Dead Man by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin (Amazon Kindle) - This series of novellas is on its sixth installment, originally self-published and now under the huge Amazon umbrella, this series started off strong with what is still my favorite of all six novellas, The Face of Evil. The eighth installment is due to be released on January 27th.

#1 Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli (Chizine Publications) - This book may have depressed me more than any other this year, but I was incredibly thankful to have read it all the same. The story of an author's fall from grace, seemingly powerless to stop his own life from falling apart a piece at a time, only to resort to finding his answer with a gun and a visit to his estranged brother. A morose and haunting piece of work.

Honorable mentions: Sparrowhawk by Paul Finch; The Neighborhood by Kelli Owen; Temporary Monsters by Ian Rogers

My 5 Favorite Anthologies and Short Story Collections from 2011:

#5 Cthulhurotica edited by Carrie Cuinn (Dagan Book)- Tentacle porn it is not. Well, there was one story as I recall--anyway, this was an oddly entertaining batch of Lovecraftian erotica. Wouldn't have figured I'd like it as much as I did, but there you go.

#4 The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 edited by Jason Sizemore (Apex Publications) - After being entertained by the first volume of stories from The Zombie Feed, I sure hope there's a second volume in 2012.

#3 Shock Totem #4 edited by K. Allen Wood (Shock Totem) - After buying the digital edition of ST#1, I won #4 from Lee Thompson and enjoyed it even more. I think #5 is out this month. Should be great.

#2 Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits by Cate Gardner (Strange Publications) - Just take that snippet of praise I gave Cate for Theatre of Curious Acts and apply it here.

#1 Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books) - I'm never let down when I see Ellen Datlow's name on the book cover. Throw in two more of my favorite words, Supernatural and Noir, and this was a recipe for success.

Honorable mentions: Arcane: Penny Dreadfuls #1 by Nathan Shumate (editor); Push of the Sky by Camille Alexa; and The Red Penny Papers by KV Taylor (editor)

December 22, 2011

My 10 Favorite Novels of 2011

It's that time of year again. List time. I thought I'd offer up ten novels released in 2011 I consider my favorites. The key word being "novels." I'm putting together a couple of other lists for novellas and short story collections. This year was a really good one for quality storytelling if you ask me, and I could have easily cooked up a list of twenty books to recommend, but let's not get carried away.

#10: King's Justice (Knights of Breton Court Book 2) by Maurice Broaddus (Angry Robot Books) - "The fantasy element is more understated than I had anticipated, but it is there and used to great effect. I mean, you can't have a real world setting and then have mystical battles waged in the middle a major American city. People might notice."

#9: Resurrection (Demon Squad Book 2) by Tim Marquitz (Damnation Books) - "The thing I liked most about the book is the same as what I liked about the first: Frank Trigg's sardonic and sophomoric wit. The former heir to Hell's throne is as cynical as ever, subject to his own lascivious mindset even in the most dangerous of circumstances. Half anti-hero, half asshole, Frank is simply a great character to have tell a story."

#8: Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore (Skyhorse Publishing) - "With elements of horror, comedy, mystery, and even a pinch of romance, Kenemore does a really good job in finding a balance. The story flows fairly well and feels like a genuine blend of genres, though there is a bit of a speed bump in the pacing about midway through, that's carried by a very likeable and sympathetic character in Peter."

#7: Willy by Robert Dunbar (Uninvited Books) - "Willy is a far cry from Robert's debut novel, The Pines, which was outright horror. This novel is the personification of sinister subtlety. A few passages feel laborious, but the work as a whole is masterful."

#6: Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) - "I read one review of this book that described Dewitt as "Nancy Drew by way of Hunter S. Thompson." I can kind of see that, since Dewitt is a former child detective now grown up, tatted up, and has no compunction with taking recreational drugs."

#5: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe (Tor Books) - "As a whole, the book is as much a modest bit of magic as the Tufa. Strong storytelling, damn near perfect characterization and dialogue, and a wholly satisfying end. I'm even more eager to read more of Alex's work after reading The Hum and the Shiver, and I bet you will too."

#4: The Woman by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee (Crossroad Press) - "The first two acts of his novel avoid the more extreme elements of the subject matter, instead establishing the stakes, the behaviors of the characters, and the setup for an inevitable showdown. It's the third act, however, that throws the playbook out the window and goes full-bore."

#3: Devil Red (Hap and Leonard Book 8) by Joe R. Lansdale (Alfred A. Knopf) - "The writing is gritty and plain-spoken, which suits the story to a tee. The dialog is fantastic and really funny in spots. The action is great and doesn't let up for very long, since it's only a two-hundred page novel. It's just a damned fun read. It's Lansdale."

#2: Book of Tongues (Hexslinger Book 1) by Gemma Files (Chizine Publications) - "Heroes are pretty hard to come by in this novel. Just about every major character we experience this story through has either some serious emotional baggage or just a mean-spirited streak running through them."

#1: Fun and Games (Charlie Hardie Book 1) by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland Books) - "Hollywood has its own mythology, or maybe it's just really good at revamping the mythologies of other places with a lot of glitz. In either case, Duane Swierczynski has concocted a novel, the first of a trilogy it turns out, that taps into the kind of conspiracy-laden thrill rides only Hollywood could call its own."

One of the little bits of trivia I noticed when I put this list together was the absence of any self-published books, though a couple came damned close. As a matter of fact, I figured I'd throw in a few honorable mentions to highlight some more books that I really enjoyed from this year.

Honorable mentions: R.J. Clark's The Rift; Teresa Frohock's Miserere; Layton Green's The Summoner; Steve Savile's and David N. Wilson's Hallowed Ground; Catherynne M. Valente's Deathless.

Likely contenders on my TBR pile: Z. Constance Frost's No Shelter; John Adjvide Lindqvist's Harbor; Lisa Mannetti's The New Adventure of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn; Barry Napier's The Bleeding Room; Kaaron Warren's Mistification.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what books you read and loved this year, or if you've got a list of your own posted on your blog, leave a link so I can check it out. These best of lists are always great to compare notes and add more books to my watch list.

December 21, 2011

An interview with Ty Schwamberger: author of "The Fields"

It's pretty easy to declare the zombie genre dead, pun intended, but it seems there is always an author who will come along and offer some new perspective, some new twist, on the well-worn walking dead. TySchwamberger is the latest to step up to the plate with The Fields, which promises to be a stand-out in a crowded room.

Here's some info on the book courtesy of The Zombie Feed:
Billy Fletcher learned to farm the family’s tobacco fields–and beat slaves–by the hands of his father. Now, his father is dead, the slaves have long since been freed, and the once-lush fields are dying. Salvation by the name of Abraham knocks on the farmhouse door, bring wild ideas. He can help Billy save the plantation and return the fields to their former glory… by raising his father’s slaves from the dead.

Can the resurrected slaves breathe life back into the Fletcher farm? Having brought the slaves back from graves that his father sent them, can Billy be the kind master his father wasn’t? Is keeping the farm worth denying the men the freedom they earned with death?

Billy’s conscience holds the key to those mysteries, but not the biggest one: what does Abraham really want from the former slave owner’s slon?

Welcome to The Fields.
Now, on to the interview:

Gef: Your new novella, The Fields, takes a rather unique twist on the zombie genre by delving into post-Civil War era subject matter. What prompted you to go there?

Ty Schwamberger: I wanted something different. I didn’t want to rehash the same old “zombies are coming after us, we need to blow their heads off” type story. I didn’t do much outlining before starting the story, but did do some character sketching. I’ll usually jot down a couple things I’d like to see happen, but more often than not, the story takes on a life of its own and leads me to a different ending. Nine times out of ten, it comes out better than originally planned.

Having said that… I think Jonathan Maberry, whom wrote the introduction for the novella, said it best: “It’s part horror story in the classic sense – misdeeds from the past coming back to haunt the present. It’s part zombie story. It’s part adventure. And it’s part social satire in its darkest sense. The Fields is a morality tale. With zombies.” I wanted something deeper, more meaningful, but also something at its core would scare the ever-living hell outta people. I think it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

Gef: Do you find in your reading and writing that there is a setting or time period where zombies just don't seem to work as a storytelling device? Or are the undead buggers a one-size-fits-all kind of monster?

Ty: Well, I’m sure writers have placed the undead in all different time periods, but I think it takes a little extra effort to effectively pull it off. In the movies, we more or less see zombies in present day, not in the past. I’ve heard from a few film production companies that have read the manuscript that they love the story, but it would be difficult to adapt it on the screen. I don’t take this as a negative. No. I take that sort of reply that I hopefully wrote something so unique, so special, that putting it on the “big screen” just wouldn’t do the story justice. At least I like to think that way.

Gef: Now that you're working with The Zombie Feed, are you a little zombied out yet? Or is your appetite for zombie tales an insatiable one?

Ty: Good question. First, I’d like to mention that Jason Sizemore (owner of Apex Publications) actually picked up The Fields almost a year before I took over as managing editor of The Zombie Feed Press. Having said that, The Fields is my first zombie story. Again, I didn’t want to rehash what others have already done, so I wanted to wait till I had an original idea before pounding out a story. I’ve always loved zombie books and movies, and I love the business side of publishing just as much as the creative side, so when Jason asked me to take over TZF it was a logical next step for my writing/editing career. I’m definitely having fun with it all!

Gef: Aside from zombies, The Fields also tackles the whole father/son dynamic as your main character inherits his family's tobacco fields, and it doesn't sound like his dad was the best moral influence on him. Is he a character you had in mind before the thought of zombies entered into the fray?

Ty: Below was my thought process behind The Fields:
  • “Wouldn’t it be cool to write a zombie story?!”
  • “I need to come up with an interesting setting for the story…ah, the middle 1800s after the slaves were freed.”
  • “I need to come up with an interesting way to bring them back to life…ah, how about a stranger wanders onto a plantation, where the tobacco fields are dying, and offers up an incantation to bring them back to life to help out in the fields.”
  • “The son of the former slave owner would probably be dealing with his inner demons on whether to save the land or let the dead slaves remain underground and in peace…”
  • “What does the stranger want from the farmer?”

Those are the questions I asked myself prior to and while writing the story. I don’t want to say too much else or I might give away the farm, err, the fields.

A big thanks to Ty for stopping by the blog and for the interview. You can follow Ty on his blog tour, as his next tour stop will be at Hunter Shea.

You can purchase The Fields and learn more about it by visiting: Apex Book Company or

Ty Schwamberger is a growing force within the horror genre. He is the author of a novel, multiple novellas, collections and editor on several anthologies. In addition, he’s had many short stories published online and in print. Two stories, ‘Cake Batter’ (released in 2010) and ‘House Call’ (currently in pre-production in 2011), have been optioned for film adaptation. You can learn more at:

Wish List Wednesday #106: Greg Gifune's 'Saying Uncle'

This is a recurring blog segment in which I highlight a book on my wish list. Sometimes it's a new release, sometimes a beloved classic, and sometimes it's a hidden gem.

I think I first heard about Greg Gifune during an episode of Pod of Horror. That was nearly three years ago though, and I've never seen one of his books on a store shelf. So thank you, Internet. I've got a couple of Greg's novels on my wish list, including one published by Uninvited Books called Gardens of Night. The one that recently caught my eye is a novella put out by Delirium Press called Saying Uncle.

Here's the write-up via Goodreads:

Author Greg F. Gifune has crafted a journey of one man's voyage into the darkness of the past with the pace of a thriller but the poetic and thoughtful writing he has become known and praised for by critics and readers alike. A lyrical, complex and mysteriously enchanting novel that delves deeply into the dark side of family, friendship, love, grief, loyalty, revenge, and ultimately, redemption, Saying Uncle is a lean but thought-provoking novel about crimes of the past and the scars they leave behind. A study of violence and spirituality, of a family torn apart by a senseless act of brutality and the equally brutal aftermath that haunts them still, Saying Uncle is at once elegant, horrific, emotionally shattering, and sadly beautiful. A remarkable novel from the author of Dominion, Blood In Electric Blue, and The Bleeding Season.

It sounds really promising, and if it's good enough for Robert Dunbar and Teresa Frohock, who both praised it heavily, it's good enough for me.

Have you read any of Greg Gifune's work? What would you recommend?

December 20, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Sparrowhawk" by Paul Finch

by Paul Finch
published by Brentwood Press (2011)
originally published by Pendragon Press (2010)
ISBN 190686425X

A Christmas Carol is a perennial favorite of mine this time of year. The movie that is, and has been since I was a little kid. Everyone has their favorite Christmas movie; that one's mine, namely the Alistair Sims adaptation. That's how I came to know the story, and always will, even after reading Dickens' own words. As for a Christmas read, I don't really have one. It's Halloween that gets my attention when it comes to seasonal books. For Sparrowhawk, however, I may make an exception.

Paul Finch's darkly-tinged novella is set against the sooty backdrop of 1840s London. Captain John Sparrowhawk is rotting away in a debtors prison (onga familiar setting in more than one Dickens story) until a mysterious and alluring woman, Miss Evangeline, visits him and offers him a job and a new start. His debts are paid in full and all he has to do is protect an anonymous man from three nefarious persons out to do him harm. Given Sparrowhawk's harrowing experiences in Afghanistan, he's well suited to do some muscle work, though he carries a good deal of emotional baggage given his fall from grace when he returned from the war, and that threatens to undermine his second chance at life.

In a modest 130-or-so pages, Paul builds a rich and memorable story of a tormented man whose torment has not nearly reached its end. London is captured expertly, warts and all, in this story, and the dialogue between John Sparrowhawk and Miss Evangeline is magnetic. The back-and-forth between them initially feels a bit familiar with the dashing rogue and femme fatale vibe, but it quickly develops into something all its own, with just enough sinisterness to make you wonder just which side she's on. The struggle doesn't come from Miss Evangeline, but from the powers that be out to harm the man Sparrowhawk is sworn to protect--and do so without the man ever knowing he exists.

The ending packs a punch and the allusions to Dickens' A Christmas Carol are a treat as the story progresses. It is 19th-century London, after all. I'm a guy who continues to struggle with appreciating historical fiction, at least the kind that steeps itself in the language of the time. As much as I'm a fan of Dickens for A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, his prose is a chore to get through more often than not. Paul Finch, on the other hand, offers a style of writing that harkens to that time but offers enough of a contemporary feel to make a schlub like me get immersed in the story with little effort.

You can also read my review of Paul Finch's King Death.

December 19, 2011

My 10 Favorite Movies of 2011--and my least favorite

I haven't set foot inside a movie theater in years. I just can't justify it. I still love movies, but I want to sit in a comfortable chair--maybe stretch out on the sofa if I'm lucky--eat good food, and not have to endure a-holes who talk or text through the whole movie. Since TV is garbage, at least for me since I don't get HBO, I watch a couple DVDs a week. As such I've seen some great movies and some truly horrendous wastes of plastic.

So have a look at these lists and tell me how far off the mark I am:

The 5 movies from 2010 I watched this year and loved:

#5 Easy A - Emma Stone's wry performance in Super Bad caught my eye, and she's gotten better with each role she's had. And she's about the only thing about the new Spider-Man movie that might make me watch it.

#4 The American - George Clooney doesn't always knock it out of the park, but more often than not he does. And this brooding tale of an aging assassin is one of the best ones, and more understated performances on his resume.

#3 Black Swan - It was pretty easy to see why Natalie Portman won an Oscar after I saw this. She really busted her ass to put on the performance of a lifetime. And this is probably the only time I'll ever care to watch ballet.

#2 True Grit - I still the Dude whenever I see Jeff Bridges on the screen, but when he dives into a role like Rooster in this film, he just disappears into his role and makes it come to life. And he may have done an even better job than John Wayne.

#1 Let Me In - Easily the best vampire movie I've seen in ... maybe ever. It's also one of the best coming-of-age stories, not to mention tragic love stories. The only real way to top it is to go back to the original Swedish adaptation, or just go and read the book.

The 5 movies from 2011 I've seen so far and loved:

#5 X-Men: First Class - I had my doubts about this movie when I first heard about it, but it really impressed me and wound up one of the better superhero movies in the last few years.

#4 Cedar Rapids - This dark, hidden gem of a movie caught me by surprise. Ed Helms' rube character is annoying and endearing at the same time, and the supporting cast only bolsters his performance.

#3 Rango - Johnny Depp is the kind of actor who is hit-or-miss with me. Sometimes he seems to take his role a bit too seriously, then with movies like this one he really embraces the silliness of it and makes the whole movie better.

#2 Super - Boy, this movie was dark. The last time Rainn Wilson and Emma Page were in a movie together was Juno. Well, Super kicks Juno's snarky, pregnant ass. And it's got Kevin Bacon playing sleazeball at full volume.

#1 Trollhunter - A breakout movie if there ever was one. A Norwegian monster movie shot like a documentary. I tend to despise shaky cameras and mockumentaries, but this one really worked and the monsters were amazing.

The 5 Movies that might make it on the list once I see them: Bridesmaids, Hanna, Horrible Bosses, Insidious, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

The 10 Movies I absolutely hated from the past year:

#10 The A-Team - Purposely campy, yes, but I didn't buy Liam Neeson for a second in the role of Hannibal. Cutting in old footage of George Peppard would have been better.

#9 The Social Network - An over-hyped and overwrought waste of my time. The critics can rave all they want, I thought it was terrible and Justin Timberlake was a big reason why.

#8 Transformers 3 - Sequels tend to be worse than the originals, but the first two Transformers films were so bad I figured there was nowhere to go but up--I was wrong.

#7 Children of the Corn: Genesis - I've effectively wiped the original movie from my memory. Hopefully, in time, I can do the same with this dreck.

#6 Pandorum - A movie with a lot of potential on paper, but it only ended up a pile of hot garbage. Poor Dennis Quaid. The guy deserves better.

#5 Gulliver's Travels - I'm officially over Jack Black. I was on the bandwagon like everyone else when he hit it big, but he should probably stick to Kung Fu Panda for a while until he finds a good script.

#4 Cars 2 - Disney really needs to knock it off with all the sequels, especially when the lead character is voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. How did Michael Caine get snookered into this?

#3 The Last Airbender - I made it through forty minutes before I had to turn this flavorless slop off and pour salt in my eyes just to feel alive.

#2 Killers - Whoever it is in Hollywood that keeps trying to convince audiences that Katherine Heigl is a bankable star should be publicly flogged. And Katherine should learn to read those scripts before she signs on.

#1 I Am Number Four - I made it through a whole twenty-five minutes before I quit this movie. Had I not borrowed it from the library I would have set fire to it or used it as a substitute for a clay pigeon.

December 15, 2011

Rabid Reads: Darkness Falling (Forever Twilight, Book 1) by Peter Crowther

Darkness Falling (Forever Twilight, Book 1)
by Peter Crowther
416 pages
ISBN13 9780857661692

One of my favorite sci-fi movies from the mid-20th century is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so when I checked the back cover of this book I realized I had an immediate want to read it. Whether aliens, zombies, or whatever the monster is, the concept of losing your identity and becoming part of a collective is frightening.

Darkness Falling starts off with a flash of light, piercing bright to a painful degree, and in its wake all but a few people disappear. Gone. Like a Rapture. Ronnie in particular, a disgruntled husband, has his world turned upside when his wife (and everyone else except two others) vanishes in mid-flight as they sit next to each other arguing. Ronnie's two companions in the aftermath are a little girl named Angel with an apparent quasi-clairvoyance and a cartographer in the cockpit with a tenuous knowledge of how to fly. After they crash land into a Barnes & Noble, something I found especially poetic given today's publishing climate, they exit the plane and find the world--or at least Denver--is absent of any human life. Actually, all life seems to be gone. Birds, bugs, everything.

Other characters are highlighted in the story, as their paths converge. There's the foursome holed up at a small radio station who venture out and find vehicles and buildings empty, as if abandoned a la Chernobyl, engines running and appliances humming. As they try to piece things together, they wonder if their proximity to the radio tower may have spared them from disappearing too, and worry if another flash of light will occur.

Then there are a couple of, shall we say, eccentric characters: Virgil, a serial killer with an affinity for wrapping his victims in fabric like a mummy until they suffocate; and Sally, a woman with some form of multiple personality disorder, with a head full of children's voices representing all the kids she wish she could call her own. These two, along with the sporadic mind-reading of the little girl, really amp of the 'weird' factor in this novel, and give the whole plot a smorgasbord of Twilight Zone elements.

And when the people who disappeared come back; sporting Bono-style shades and work gloves, and amble around as if they're just learning to walk or like puppets on strings; all bets are off.

On one level the book is a really exciting read with a rewarding level of mystery and menace. The action doesn't let up very often, especially as all of the characters near the point at which they all meet. On another level though, the book is aggravating. 'Book 1' is clearly emblazoned on the cover, so I expected some level of "tune in next time, folks!" but the novel left off feeling unfinished. I basically felt like I'd read the first act of a three-act story. Allusions to tensions within the whole group go unresolved and there are no real answers provided about the nature of the zombie-ish people who reappeared and started hunting the survivors down. The story was originally published years ago as a series of novellas, so maybe that explains it. Another irritant was the blocks of narrative that appeared more than once, but I'm willing to pass that off to the idea that I read an ARC copy of the book (I didn't see advance review copy or uncorrected proof printed anywhere on the book, though).

It's a good start to what I suspect will be a very entertaining saga, but even after four hundred pages I felt the book needed more, namely Book 2. I wonder how long readers will have to wait for that to come along.

December 14, 2011

On My Radar: Seventh Star Press, The Zombie Feed, Shock Totem, and Angry Robot

Been a while since I threw out a little signal boost for all the authors and publishers that have been cranking out good stories and such, so here we go.

From Seventh Star Press:

Seventh Star Press is proud to introduce Seventh Star Singles, an exciting new eBook series that represents a creative approach to eBook publishing.  The debut of the new line kicks off with brand new tales from sword and sorcery/fantasy author Steven L. Shrewsbury, and epic fantasy/urban fantasy author Stephen Zimmer.  Best of all, the new eBook short stories are all priced at just 99 cents.

Seventh Star Singles offer more for fans of the authors' novel series, as well as being stand-alone stories.  The short stories are set in the worlds that the authors' novels with Seventh Star Press are based.  For example, readers who came to know Gorias La Gaul in Steven Shrewsbury's Thrall will now be able to go on more adventures with Gorias in the Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul short stories included in the Seventh Star Singles line.  Similarly, fans of Stephen Zimmer's Fires in Eden series and Rising Dawn Saga will get to explore more of those worlds in his Chronicles of Ave and Annals of the Rising Dawn short story collections for this new line.

"I was the instigator of the new Seventh Star Singles, as I wanted a way for readers of my series to explore more of my worlds in a way that was also accessible to new readers," Stephen Zimmer commented.  "They are entirely stand-alone stories, but provide all kinds of background, further depth, and perhaps even some foreshadowing that all relate to the novel series.  They have been a blast to develop, as there are so many stories to be told from these worlds that can't be addressed in the plotlines of the Fires in Eden and Rising Dawn Saga novels.  I'm really excited that Steven Shrewsbury stepped forward to develop a Gorias La Gaul collection.  Any fan of Robert E. Howard is bound to love Steven's work and this new series opens things wide for him to write all kinds of Gorias adventures! "

Steven Shrewsbury's collection Blood and Steel: Legends of La Gaul starts off with two new Gorias La Gaul tales, Author and Finisher of Our Flesh, and Insurmountable.  Stephen Zimmer has three contributions to the Chronicles of Ave collection, Into Glory Ride, Land of Shadow, and Lion Heart.  Stephen has one story for the Annals of the Rising Dawn, Temples Rising.

A new page on the Seventh Star Press website gives full synopsis and availability on the various story collections.  The page can be found at:

Many new titles are planned in the series in 2012, to be released on a monthly basis alongside the scheduled novel releases. 

Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at,
Short stories are a pretty easy way to sample an author's work, and stories that stick to the established worlds of some authors are nice asides for fans of a particular series. Should be interesting to see what some of these stories are like. I think Michael West may even have a short story or two coming out through Seventh Star, too.

From The Zombie Feed:

Here's the book trailer for Ty Schwamberger's new historical zombie novella, The Fields. I think it looks promising, and it should be interesting to check out a longer work by Ty, as I've read short stories by him thus far.

from Shock Totem:

E-book versions of all Shock Totem Issues are available exclusively on the Kindle Store for 99 cents each. There's even a Christmas issue for all you people in the mood for some holiday horrors. I've read #1 and #4, so this will be a great chance to read the rest. Highly recommended.

from Angry Robot Books:

To celebrate Christmas, Angry Robot has a series of guest posts on their blog, counting down the 12 days of Christmas. Here's a link to the first one by Madeline Ashby, author of vN.

December 13, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Peter the Wolf" by Zoe E. Whitten

Peter the Wolf
Zoe E. Whitten
Aphotic Thought Press (2011)
ISBN 9780982042731

NOTE [SPOILERS AHEAD]: After Zoe read my original review of this novel on Goodreads, she was ... upset. Now, I don't make it a habit of rewriting reviews, but I felt I could afford to revisit the book. After going over certain passages again, I see a couple things I'll address, but my overall opinion of the book stands. I'm not discouraging anyone from reading this novel. In fact, I'd like to read others' opinions, as I've already seen two starkly different reviews on Goodreads from Michele Lee and Rebecca Sutton.

For those who haven't read the book, it is essentially the story of Peter Holmes, a fifteen-year-old who tells his own tale. He's damaged goods. His parents were the scum of the earth, who sexually abused him and his fraternal twin sister. At the age of twelve, after his sister was murdered by one of their parents' clients, Peter finally summons the will to turn them into the police. His father is killed by inmates, while his mother rots in prison. As for Peter, the system sweeps him under the rug. The novel begins with him at fifteen-years-old, living with a compassionate family of four. He's only surviving, and then he meets Alice.

Alice is a gymnast and a gifted one at that. Through her, Peter find a passion for gymnastics. While this healthy introduction into his life takes shape, so does a disturbing one. His sexual urges, that he's suppressed through his own methods because he has no faith in anyone's ability to help him, focus directly on Alice. That might not sound too terrible, except for the fact that she's only ten when they meet. Their friendship grows, until Peter crosses that line and molests her. He tries to stop himself and agonizes over what he knows is wrong, but ultimately gives in and lies to his family and Alice's in the process. From then on, I didn't see him just as a victim, but as a predator as well.

Peter's sense of self-worth seems to improve as he trains to become a gymnast, he comes out of his shell and makes friends at school, but it's threatened. Not only by his relationship with Alice, but by her father when he and Peter's foster family discover what they've been doing. If that's not enough, some jocks at his high school have found out about the horrid childhood he had to live due to video footage floating around online, and decide to blackmail him with it.

In my original review, I said I lost all sympathy for Peter when he crossed the line with Alice. To be more accurate, I lost sympathy when it became clear he wasn't going to stop crossing that line. Yes, he was a victim through most of his life, and he openly admits what he's doing is wrong, but he does it anyway. And even though I lost sympathy for the guy, I was still wrapped up in the story. It was written very well, and in scenes where Peter wasn't intimate with Alice or lying to others about it, he was a character I wanted to root for. He even accepts a therapy session at one point, but the relationship continued.

Even though Zoe didn't intend this as a love story between the two, a great deal of Peter's and Alice's interactions felt that way to me. Now, Zoe is a heckuva writer, but this novel just didn't jibe with me. What really lost my emotional investment was the last third of the novel, which veers wildly into left field as Peter discovers he is a werewolf, just like his mother who has escaped from prison to hunt him down. I'd spent the first two-thirds of the book becoming emotionally invested in Peter's life and turmoil, which were riveting regardless of any objection I had to Peter's relationship with Alice, but it was all but forgotten as Peter's mother arrived, kidnapped Alice, morphing the story into a damsel-in-distress tale. I mean, the whole contemporary drama of Peter's life was already engrossing and that's what I wanted to see focused on. Frankly, the return of his mother felt like a distraction from the important through-line of the novel. And by the time the story gets back to tackling Peter and Alice, I had already dropped out of the story on an emotional level.

The book is the first of a trilogy, so it's pretty clear the bigger picture is yet to be revealed. Maybe reading all three books together would help better appreciate the story, but with just this one book to go on, I didn't care for it.

December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop: Win a copy of Michael West's "Cinema of Shadows"

Intoxicated By Books is hosting a giveaway blog hop and I'm taking part with one more book to giveaway to wrap up the year that was 2011.

What's up for grabs? One lucky winner will receive a trade paperback copy of Michael West's gruesome haunted house novel--haunted theater, actually--called Cinema of Shadows. If you'd like to read my review of this book, you can click here.

"Cinema of Shadows" published by Seventh Star Press

What are the rules? This giveaway is open to anyone from Toronto to Timbuktu--worldwide, even. Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a name and way for me to contact you if your name is drawn. Eezy peezy. The giveaway ends December 24th around midnight. Now with Christmas holidays being what they are, I may not be able to announce the winner until December 26th, so fair warning on that little detail.

And be sure to check out the other great giveaways!

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Rabid Rewind: Dead Snow

Dead Snow
starring Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, and a bunch of Nazi zombies
directed by Tommy Wirkola
screenplay by Tommy Wirkola & Stig Frode Henriksen
Euforia Film (2009)

Roger Ebert loves every foreign film ever made; it's a fact. But I bet he had a hard time enjoying this one, assuming he gave up ninety minutes of his life to watch it. Dead Snow it turns out is Norway's answer to the question: Can Europe make a horror movie as cheesy as Sam Raimi?

The answer is yes.

A quintette of college students decided to spend spring break in a cabin in the mountains, but when they arrive their friend whose family owns the cabin isn't there yet. No matter, they've got a roaring fire and plenty of booze. Even the creepy old man who happens by while hiking doesn't faze them, though his tales of Nazi occupation in Norway and the villagers who finally chased them into the mountains to starve to death isn't exactly a cozy bedtime story.

Now, you might be wondering about the language barrier, so let me tell you: it's not an issue. If this was some drama with a lot of character development and riveting plot, there would be cause for concern for those with an aversion to subtitles. Dead Snow, however, doesn't suffer from such distractions. It's a bunch of zombies dressed as Nazis chasing idiots and ripping them limb from limb. That's your plot. I highly doubt this movie would benefit any great deal if the actors were speaking English. In fact, it's kind of nice, as bad acting is more palatable when you can't understand what the hell the actors are saying.

Some of the comedy bits were really effective. When one of the twenty-somethings hurls a Molotov cocktail at a zombie and winds up burning the cabin down. Moron. The trouble is that while I was laughing at the characters, I didn't care about them.

As for special effects go, they were good. I was worried the zombies and the gore was going to look really low-rent, but Wirkola and whoever his practical effects team was did a really good job in that regard. There was a point in the movie, however, where I suspected there has a half-off sale on intestines.

For zombie fans and folks who love campy horror flicks, this is a decent one to go with. If you want anything remotely cerebral though, sorry about your bad luck.

December 8, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Hallowed Ground" by Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson

Hallowed Ground
by Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson
Crossroads Press and Macabre Ink Digital (2011)

I don't read a lot of what you could classify as weird westerns, but on the occasions I have (i.e., Stephen King's The Gunslinger and Gemma Files' Book of Tongues) it's been a thoroughly entertaining experience. And the collaboration of Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson is no exception.

Right from the striking cover art by Robert Sammelin, Hallowed Ground promises a blood-soaked, bullet-ridden fable. Usually when there's a pretty gal holding a gun on a book cover, it's urban fantasy, but this is a shade grittier than what I've read from the UF crowd.

The book starts with a band of wayward freaks setting up camp outside the dustbowl town of Rockwood, led by an eerily charismatic man known as the Preacher. In their wake, the crows come, harbingers of something bad on the horizon. As the Preacher sets his pawns in motion on the board, more players enter the impending fray. Provender Creed, one of the few in Rockwood not cowed or culled by the dark forces at work, strives to find out what looms for the small desert town; Sheriff Brady who fights to save a dying town; Dr. Samuel Balthazar and his Traveling Show; Lilith; and Mariah, the resurrected love of Bejamin Jamieson who sold his soul to bring her back.

There is a huge, robust cast of characters, and many of them all have their own personal stakes in what's happening in and around Rockwood. If I'm criticize this book for anything, it's that there were times where I got lost in the narrative and had to double back more than once just to remind myself why one character was behaving a certain way or reacting to something in a surprising fashion. The ending is wholly satisfying though, and while it feels like a complete story, I got this sense that there wasn't just room for a follow-up novel down the road, but the follow-up could be even leaner and meaner than this one.

This was my first chance to read a novel by David, and my first chance to read anything at all by Steve, so I'll be seeking out more by each author in the future thanks to their collaboration. And if they come out with more collaborations, I'm all for it.

December 7, 2011

Book Lover's Holiday Hop: And the winner is ...

I threw all of the entries I received for the Book Lover's Holiday Hop--and there were a lot this time around--gave each one a number and threw them in

And the winner is ... RYAN!

Congrats, Ryan. You've won a copy of Steve Vernon's The Lunenburg Werewolf.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. Don't feel too bad if you didn't win. There's going to be another book giveaway on this blog very soon to finish off 2011, so keep your eyes peeled.

In the meantime, you can visit Ryan's own blog, Wordsmithsonia.

Chasing Tale (December 7th, 2011) Digital Edition: Gabrielle Faust, Ron Kelly, Ian Rogers ...

I have officially joined the Dark Side: I've got a Kindle.

I would have loved an e-reader that can read all e-book formats, but that's not going to happen any time soon. And since most of the e-books I have are in Kindle format, thanks to the ease of use with the Kindle for PC app, and the fact it's easier for me to convert EPUB to a Kindle friendly format than the other way around--goddamn DRM--the Kindle just kind of fell into my lap as the easy choice.

And honestly, between Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Amazon wins every time. As for Kobo--please.

Here are the latest e-books I've bought or received:

Dark Faith edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon - During Black Friday, Apex Books knocked 25% off the price of all their e-books, and I've had my eye on this one for a while, waiting for it to become available in a digital format. Score.

Regret by Gabrielle Faust - I've had this book on my wish list for a while (Wish List Wednesday#85), so when I got an e-mail alert from Amazon telling me it was on sale, how could I hold off any longer?

King Death by Paul Finch - Spectral Press has come out with their fourth chapbook, a novelette set in 14th century England during the Black Death. I'm on board for this one, but it's a story that comes with its own glossary. At least I won't need my dictionary.

The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz - After Leisure Books went to hell in a handbasket, editor Don D'Auria found a new home with Samhain Publishing and one of the latest novels he's worked on is this debut novel from Jonathan, who was kind enough to send me a review PDF.

Undertaker's Moon by Ron Kelly - One of the featured titles at Crossroad Press in November was this grizzly looking novel. I tried reading a Ron Kelly novel a couple years back, simply titled Fear I believe, and I didn't much care for it. I figured it was about time I tried his work out again, especially since his work is touted so positively by Dead in the South.

Temporary Monsters, The Ash Angels, and Black-Eyed Kids by Ian Rogers - A fellow Canadian is hard at it with a trio of novellas through Burning Effigy Press. Ian sent me some review copies to check out after I noticed the kudos he received for his work over at The ManEating Bookworm. He also got a mention recently at Dreadful Tales in their spotlight on Canadian horror authors.

The Forgetting Wood by Steve Savile - I recently read Hallowed Ground, which was a collaboration between Steve Savile and David Niall Wilson (you can read my review tomorrow). I thought it was really entertaining, and I figured I ought to read more of these guys. So I found this book on Crossroad Press.

The Light and the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector - This is one of those horror novels I've heard bandied about for years as a quintessential vampire tale. This is also the 25th Anniversary edition of a book from a genre I'm not overly familiar with: splatterpunk. I may need to pop some Rolaids or Tums before I sit down with this one.

All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith - In mid-November, Anthony offered this thriller for a scant 99 cents. It's a thriller set in Somalia. It's gotten some good reviews, so add that to the enticing price point, and my liking what I've read of Anthony's work so far, it was an easy buy.

Maelstrom by David Niall Wilson - The other book I snagged after reading Hallowed Ground was this novel about a ghost hunting romp in a cemetery goes horribly wrong. The premise sounds deliciously dark, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

What e-books did you get recently?