November 30, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Miranda" by John R. Little

by John R. Little
108 pages
ISBN-13: 9781587672637

Write a story about a man who ages backwards and you're instantly going to provoke comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Benjamin Button. However, John R. Little's Miranda takes the premise and goes one better, by having the protagonist quite literally age backwards, essentially living his entire life in reverse, as if God hit the "Rewind" button.

The only thing that doesn't run backwards is the man's consciousness, which gradually adjusts to living each day from end to beginning. And as a reader, it's a bit disorienting too, with dialogue written backwards while our protagonist, Michael Johnson, narrates the story to us. He starts out as an invalid, which in a way for him makes his a newborn, grasping at language and the flow of time until he grasps what is happening. And it's not like he can plead his case to anyone, since he's going back in time and his experiences are playing out as if going forward. Confused? I wouldn't blame you.

While the story is really interesting, exploring free will, fate, identity, and loneliness, the story gets overshadowed a lot of the time by its style. Oh, there's plenty of meat on the bone, but because the aging-backward premise is adhered to in such a literal fashion, it distracted me at times when my focus should have been more on Michael's relationships which come few and far between in the story.

The real heart of the story comes from the title character, Miranda, a woman Michael meets. What makes Miranda so special is the fact that she too is living life in reverse. Neither has no memory of their other when they first meet--which is actually the last time they ever see each other from anyone else's point of view--and they hit it off immediately, relieved to finally find someone who recognizes what the other is going through. From there, their relationship grows in a wonderful balance of experiencing new things and simultaneously reliving things that may very well have happened before.

Throw in Doof the weiner dog, Michael's canine companion through much of the story, and I was pretty much hooked. It's that easy for me--throw in a dog and I'll let go of most of whatever hangups I might have with the story and how it's told. Seeing life with a dog played out in reverse was possibly even more intriguing than the love story between Michael and Miranda, as Michael wanders into a vet's office one day for a reason that escapes him until he sees a dead dog on a table that springs to life, albeit sick and old. Michael, in a weird way, nurses it back to health, though Doof is basically just getting younger as days roll backwards. The kinship formed with Doof, and indestructible love for Miranda, are wondrously told and by the end the poignance of it all really shines.

A bit aggravating at moments, Miranda is likely to be a bit of a chore for readers looking for something more conventional, but it's a story worth reading and if you can stick it out to the end--or is it the beginning?--you'll likely walk away quite satisfied and impressed by John R. Little's writing.

November 29, 2012

Chasing Tale - Kindle Edition (11/29/12): Greg F. Gifune, Michael Marano, Cherie Priest ...

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the e-books I've recently downloaded and added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies forwarded to me, some are purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

It's nearly the end of the year, which means it's just about time for everyone and their mom to put out their "Best of 2012" lists. I must admit, I have a few lined up to appear on the blog in a couple weeks. One thing I noticed while going through the books I've read this year is that I have read more novellas this year than novels. I can thank my Kindle for that, as getting a paperback novella is effing hard to come by unless you're willing to pay through the nose. Bemoan the digital age all you want, but I'm inclined to believe Amazon--as the e-book leader--has opened the doors wide open for shorter fiction to find an audience.

One thing I'm going to have to try out in 2013 is read one of those thousand page tomes on my Kindle. I know there is a gigantic anthology by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer called The Weird, which collects countless short stories from horror, scifi, and fantasy writers that all fall under the "weird" umbrella. While the physical book would be a fantastic collection piece, I doubt it would be all that comfortable lumbering it around to read. Like leafing through a cement slab, I imagine. There's are digital versions, so maybe I'll pull the trigger and get that in the new year.

In the mean time, I have added more e-books to my Kindle. And they are:

Occultation by Laird Barron - I remember Ellen Datlow giving this book high praise, plus I've enjoyed a few of Laird's stories in anthologies that I've read, so I figured it was a bargain when this collection of eight stories was on sale briefly a few months ago.

Bound by Jade (Sam Truman Mystery #4) by Adam Cesare - Abattoir Press forwarded along the fourth installment of the Sam Truman Mysteries, which is penned by the talented Adam Cesare. I'm looking forward to checking this one out, though I wonder if I'm going to need to read the second and third installments beforehand.

Catching Hell and Gardens of Night by Greg F. Gifune - The former is a novella re-released by Samhain Horror, the latter is a novel from Uninvited Books. Both look very promising in the literary horror department.

Dragonslayer by Casey Hollingshead - Epic fantasy. It's a genre I've tried a few times before, and it's never been an overly enjoyable experience. I cracked open a Tolkein novel and tossed it out of frustration. So it was with slight trepidation I accepted a review copy of this one, the initial hook being that it's from the viewpoint of an outlawed orc.

Personal Demons by Gregory Lamberson - The first book in the Jake Helman series, this book sees a disgraced NYPD officer heading up security at a genetic-engineering facility that's partaking in some very shady--and very scary--secret projects.

Stories from the Plague Years by Michael Marano - Chizine is coming out with a limited edition TPB of this collection that was originally published by Cemetery Dance a while back, and I was given a PDF review copy. It looks promising and I've had good luck with horror collections this year, so let's hope this keeps the streak alive.

The Red Empire and Other Stories by Joe McKinney - This is one I have been meaning to get ever since it was released early in the year. I've read a couple of Joe's stories in different spots, so I'm optimistic about this collection.

The Damned by William Ollie - This book sounds like a Rapture tale without the Rapture. A young man wakes up in a rehab center with a world gone to Hell. The beginning of the books sounds reminiscent of 28 Days Later, a movie I really enjoyed, so I'll cross my fingers on this book.

Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss - Cemetery Dance released this e-book a while back, and it's been recommended to me more than once. It's a trio of short stories presented as a series.

Clementine by Cherie Priest - I have Priest's Boneshaker on my wish list (WLW#51), but when this ebook set in the same universe went on sale on the Kindle Store in October, I couldn't resist. I just wonder if I need to read the preceding books before getting around to this one.

Space Eldritch edited by Nathan Shumate - Nathan sent me an e-ARC of this scifi/horror anthology. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the best scifi is horror scifi. And with Nathan's eye for stories, as evidenced with previous editing gigs, I'm optimistic for this one.

Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan - With some pretty clear winks and nods to Marilyn Monroe, this novella has a geeky guy buy a coveted piece of memorabilia instead of a birthday gift for his girlfriend. Pack your bags, buddy. You're going on a guilt trip.

There's what I've added to my to-be-read pile lately. What's new on your pile?

November 28, 2012

Wish List Wednesday #126: Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus"

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

I am not a fan of clowns, but I do love a good circus. More than that, I love a good story about a circus, and it sounds like this debut novel from Erin Morgenstern could be very good.

Reading the back cover blurb, there is a Bradburian vibe to it, in so much that it reminds me a little bit of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Whether of not that's accurate, I'll leave that for when I can get my hands on the book and read it for myself.

Considering this is a debut novel, I wonder what debut novels you might have on your wish list. I must confess that I've never read Stephen King's Carrie, which may be a cardinal sin since I'm such a fan of his work. I'm also curious to read Sarah Langan's The Keeper after I was so impressed by her novel Audrey's Door. So what about you? What debut novels do you have your eye on?

November 27, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Clown in the Moonlight" by Tom Piccirilli

Clown in the Moonlight
by Tom Piccirilli

If by chance you were hoping this book was about a clown, then I hope you're sitting down; I have some bad news. If I can offer some measure of consolation, it comes in the form of Tom Piccirilli's impeccable writing. Clown in the Moonlight tells the story of a deeply troubled young man who becomes embroiled in the inner circle of Ricky Kasso. Who is Ricky Kasso, you ask? Oh boy.

The narrator of the tale, who never reveals his name, recounts his introduction into the world of the Acid King by way of a masochistic vixen named Linda. She leads him back into the Aztakea Woods to get a look at a dead body. The body is that of an unfortunate young man murdered by Ricky Kasso, and since that night classmates have been getting the fifty cent tour to see the rotting and mutilated corpse. The narrator and Linda feel a bit like Sid and Nancy on a first date. He's young and simmering with anger and violence, while Linda is an almost manic sex kitten with a mean streak a mile long. Together, they leave the corpse to join a party where they are supposed to meet up with Mr. Acid King himself. On one hand, it feels like a portentous event in the making, but the narrator already seems to know that the man isn't going to measure up to the myth.

Now, prior to reading this novella, I had no clue that it was based on (or at least inspired by) a real event. By the midway point, however, I started to get that sense there was something rooted in our world, which really amped up the unsettling feeling this book provokes. Tom Piccirilli's ability to squeeze tension and emotion for all its worth is on full display with this relatively brief story (I think it clocks it at a little more than a hundred pages). Linda feels like a mix between a siren and a broken wing. At points it feels like she is leading a poor sap on a road to ruin, but as the story progresses, the narrator reveals he has as much or more rage roiling under his skin than the most sadistic of those he meets.

The story doesn't stick to the one moment in time, actually moving forward several years later in the book, which took me much by surprise. The undercurrent remained, but the progression of the narrator's life takes such a divergent turn that I almost wondered if I was reading from the same character's perspective.

The book as a whole may feel a bit disjointed, not just with shifting ahead in time, but with the very mindset of the narrator, but it's such an engaging read that it all whips by at a furious pace. When Tom settles in with a particular scene, like the party the narrator and Linda go to, everything is fleshed out with such excruciating detail that you are instantly there and irreparably involved with the characters and all their frailty. It's grim and bordering on nihilistic, so I don't think it's going to be the kind of book to attract more casual readers--especially if they have their hopes up for a clown in the story.

November 26, 2012

Harmonious Horror: an interview with Michael West, author of "Spook House"

As part of the Spook House virtual book tour via Seventh Star Press, here's a little interview I did with the author himself, Michael West. Enjoy!

Gef: Harmony, Indiana seems to be turning into your Castle Rock, so to speak. How does such a backdrop for recurring stories affect your storytelling? Does it act like an anchor or touchstone, or is there something else to that universe that draws you back?

Michael: It has become a place where I really feel at home, so to speak. I know it like the back of my hand, so it is easy to set a story there and know the geography, the people, the history. It has become a refreshing well that I can go to again and again. I've done stories and novels set in all corners of the world, but since they are removed from my every day experience, they require much more research (in other words, they're a lot of work). Harmony is a place where I can kick back and relax.

Gef: One of the hallmarks to being published by Seventh Star Press is the artwork of Matthew Perry? How much collaboration is there with regards to the cover art and other pieces created with each of the novels you've published with SSP?

Michael: It really is a collaboration. Matt will ask me what I'm thinking of for the cover, and I will give him the basics. For instance, on Spook House I told him that I was seeing a classic looking haunted house with a skull in the sky above it and tentacles draping down over the roof. I also wanted a glow in the door and fog spilling out. Matt gave me that, but the way he did it...WOW! And then with the interior illustrations, he asks for passages that I think might lend themselves to artwork, and then he uses my words as the basis for his illustrations. I'm always blown away by what he gives me in return. Sometimes it's really scary, like he walked into my brain and took a picture of what I was imagining, and other times it's even better than I had envisioned. I've loved all of Matt's artwork for my stuff, but I really think he's outdone himself with the cover and illustrations for Spook House.

Gef: Since you've got such an affinity for haunted houses, is there a haunted site somewhere in the world that you consider a dream vacation destination?

Michael: I would love to stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. It's the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, and they actually filmed the mini-series there. It has also been featured on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures and is considered to be one of the most haunted places in America. Would love to one day say that I've been there, done that, and bought the coffee mug.

Gef: It's the World Series of haunted tales, America Vs. Great Britain. Who are you putting your money on?

Michael: Oh my! Well, Great Britain has some really good ghost stories, plus they have castles, but we have more towns and cities to draw from...I don't know if I could pick a true winner in that match-up, but I know I feel more comfortable writing about small town America.

Gef: I've got three loves in genre fiction: monsters, ghosts, and robots. You've got two out of three covered with Spook House. Any chance of a robot run amok making an appearance down the line?

Michael: Anything is possible. Harmony may be a small town, but there are still a lot of stories to tell there.

Thanks, Michael. And as for the rest of you, I suggest you pay a visit to Michael via Facebook or Twitter, or check out his site/blog:  

And you can find Spook House at or anywhere books are sold.

November 23, 2012

Rabid Reads: Lamplight Quarterly Vol. 1: Issue #1

Lamplight Quarterly | Volume 1 | Issue 1 | Sept 2012
edited by Jacob Haddon
Apokrupha LLC.
ISSN: 2169-2122

This year has seen the debut of more than a fiction short fiction markets, which probably isn't that newsworthy considering there are new markets popping up every year. But I've had the good fortune to read a couple new online fiction mags that are really promising, and I think I need to include Lamplight Quarterly to that list.

I think I first heard about this magazine from Robert Dunbar, added with the debut issue offered to readers for free, and I decided to give it a go.

Within the table of contents are a couple of familiar names and a few new ones. There are a half-dozen short stories, among them a featured artist who is also interviewed for the magazine. This time around the featured artist was Bob Ford, with a short story called "Early Harvest," followed by an interview conducted by Jeff Heimbuch.

There was also a reprint of one of Ambrose Pierce's stories, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." I haven't read a lot of Pierce's work, and the last time I did was years ago, so this was a nice change of pace and retrospective on classic horror. I think "Lamplight Classics" (the working title for classic reprints) could be a good gateway for folks who don't really go back to read stuff that's older than they are.

There's also the first part of a serial novella. "And I Watered It With Tears, Part 1" by Kevin Lucia. This was one of the stories I was really interested in checking out. Andrew and Deyquan are each down on their luck. Stuck in line to pay his power bill before his lights are cut off at home, he and everyone else in the building are basically scraping by with lives that seem to be slowly going from bad to worse. Well, worse comes in a hurry when a woman at the head of the line has a breakdown and appears to have killed herself in the ladies washroom. But when Andrew and Deyquan see what's become of her, suicide seems unlikely--and the condition of the dead woman's body is the least of their problems. Argh. I gotta wait until the next issue of this quarterly to read Part 2? Argh. Ah well, it's a great hook to entice readers to pay up for that second issue, I'll say that much.

The stand-alone stories are not without their charm either, as I especially enjoyed William Meikle's "The Kelp" and Nathan Yocum's "Elgar's Zoo."

So, I presume the next issue comes out sometime in December. I'll be waiting.

November 22, 2012

Chasing Tale - Kindle Edition (11/22/12): Ania Ahlborn, Scott Nicholson, Lee Thompson ...

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the e-books I've recently downloaded and added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies forwarded to me, some are purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

Oh, it's been a wellspring of cheap e-books. What's more astonishing has been the names on the covers of these very affordable reads. Sure, there are the up-and-comers looking to get their foot in the door, but there have been some book sales from publishers this fall that have offered firmly established authors' works for a couple books a pop. And for a strapped-for-cash plebeian like me, that's a godsend.

So, here are even more e-books that I have added to my Kindle recently that were either dirt cheap on the Kindle Store or the publisher's own website.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn - I would have gotten this book sooner, but when I put it on my wish list (WLW#112), I read an interview in which Ahlborn said the book was being re-edited and published through Amazon's 47North imprint. Well, I finally bought it off the Kindle Store this fall.

Eerie by Blake Crouch & Jordan Crouch - Blake Crouch is no stranger to collaborations, but this supernatural thriller marks the first time he's worked on a published story with his own brother, Jordan. It sounds like a haunted house story, so that's a plus right off the bat.

Restoration by Greg F. Gifune - When I signed up for Dark Fuse's newsletter I received an e-mail with a link to a free e-book. This one. Hey, a free book is cool. A free book by Greg Gifune is sweet. A free book by Greg Gifune about a creepy ghost boy haunting the man who shot him is super sweet.

The Dead Man Vol. 3 created by Lee Golberg and William Rabkin - While I've read and reviewed the first six novellas in the Dead Man series, a whole lot more have been released since the sixth episode by Harry Shannon. Well, Christa Faust has penned an episode, and Barry Napier will have one released very soon, too. So, I figure I need to catch up and this book contains episodes 7-9.

Dark Forces (25th Anniversary Edition) edited by Kirby McCauley - I was going to keep scrounging the used bookshops for an old paperback copy of this anthology, which was recommended via a couple blogs I visit. Then, during the Presidential election in November, Cemetery Dance had a 50% discount on all their books, and I saw they had this updated edition. Sold.

Girl Blue by Alan Nayes - I won a copy of this courtesy of Samhain Publishing. I'm not entirely sure what the book is about, but it's got a very cool cover. Between that and Samhain's quickly building reputation in the horror genre, I'm looking forward to checking this one out.

The Home by Scott Nicholson - I managed to score a $20 Amazon gift card from Scott during a promotional giveaway, so I snagged his new novel The Home right off the bat. Trouble kids, secret experiments, paranormal activity? Sold.

Slippin' Into Darkness by Norman Partridge - This was another book I bought during that half-off sale by CD. I haven't read Partridge's work since I was wowed by his short novel, Dark Harvest, so I thought this would be a good one to go with.

When We Join Jesus in Hell by Lee Thompson - After reading Before Leonora Wakes, I was on board for the rest of Lee's Division series. The trouble is that the books aren't plainly numbered or anything like that. I'm not sure where this one fits in with the series, but Lee said I should read it before the other book of his that I have on my to-be-read pile. Good enough for me.

Shock Totem #5 edited by K. Allen Wood - The latest issue of Shock Totem hit the Kindle Store in November. I won #4 from Lee Thompson, but I've downloaded all the other ones from the Kindle Store. This might be my favorite short fiction magazine, so I didn't waste any time downloading this one.

November 21, 2012

Wish List Wednesday #125: Amber Benson's "Death's Daughter"

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

I have had the misfortune of reading novels by celebrities, which for all intents and purposes point out the fact that publishers prefer name value over writing ability. I should probably just avoid any book alleged to have been written by an actor, singer, or--god forbid--reality star. There are exceptions to this new rule though, and one example is Amber Benson.

Amber has a series of books revolving around a character named Calliope Reaper-Jones, the first of which is called Death's Daughter. Calli is, you guessed it, Death's daughter. While she would prefer to live a normal life in New York City, she is forced to take up the family business when her father is abducted. Now that's daddy issues.

Like more than a few readers, my point of entry for this series is my undying adoration for Joss Whedon's Buffy series, of which Amber Benson was a castmate. And while it could be easy to just brush off this series as some kind of cash-in on fandom, the laziest of browsing through shows that Amber is no slouch in the writing department. If this book was some one-off, ghost written piece of fluff, I wouldn't even bother, but it is quite apparent this is a book written by an honest-to-god writer and the premise sounds like it could be really entertaining.

How about you? Has an actor or other TV personality surprised you--for good or bad--with their foray into writing fiction?

November 20, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter" by Edward M. Erdelac

Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter
by Edward M. Erdelac
Damnation Books (2009)
287 pages
ISBN 1615720618

There is something about a weird western that just sets my imagination alight. I think it is the fusion of a bygone era such as the Wild West with fantasy elements like magic and monsters. And I've become a real fan of the genre over the last few years, and much like urban fantasy, I think I've always been a fan of the genre and just didn't know it yet. And Ed's collection of four novellas here is a prime example of just how weird the west can be.

The Merkabah Rider might earn some comparisons to Roland, from Stephen King's Dark Tower series, but with each successive story in this book the Rider carves out his own identity and makes clear that the two are worlds apart. The Rider definitely has that spaghetti western vibe that most hard-bitten gunslingers exemplify, but certainly strikes his own chord.

"The Blood Libel" kicks things off with the Rider wandering into a small town with a Jewish settlment on the outskirts that is about to be struck by an angry mob over the disappearance of a little girl. All the antisemitism simmering among the whites builds up and the Rider faces down a good deal of it before heading into the settlement in search of the truth--and an old enemy. While the story had its hiccups, it did a great job in establishing who the Rider is and what he's capable of when trouble's brewing.

From there, "The Dust Devils" managed to show a little more vulnerability from the Rider, as he finds a ghost town in the middle of a storm, its people devastated by a desperadoes and a formidable sorcerer that may have the Rider's number. A much more exciting turn this time around, at least more suspenseful and the bad guys were a real treat. Scarchilli kind of felt like he escapes a Clint Eastwood film, while Kelly the hoodoo man was just plain menacing.

Vulnerability aside, the Rider survives moving on to the other two tales, "Hell's Hired Gun" and "The Nightjar Women." The former delves a little deeper into the history of the Rider and the impending "Incursion." It also features a pretty bad-ass villain that roams the countryside with a pack of about a dozen pigs. Hey, if you're gonna have a posse, why not a bunch of bloodthirsty demon pigs? The latter tale involves Lilith leading a band of prostitutes in a town with no children.

The wandering hero harkens back to the kinds of stories I watched on TV as a little kid and loved, like The Incredible Hulk and Kung Fu and those Clint Eastwood westerns I'd watch with my dad. I can't think of anything from those shows and movies that rival the violence/mysticism blended in this book's pages. It's not quite a blowout, but it felt each novella surpassed the last, and there are two more volumes of these bad boys to go, so I'm optimistic to see what else Ed has up his sleeves, and what's in store for the Rider.

November 19, 2012

Finding a Home for Horror: an interview with Ian Rogers, author of "Every House Is Haunted"

Ian Rogers' new short story collection from Chizine Publications, Every House Is Haunted, hit shelves in October. I had the opportunity to read and review it recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And as an added bonus, Ian was generous enough to answer a few questions about the book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: Every House Is Haunted ranges from your first sale to your most recent, in terms of time frame. How would you describe your evolution as a writer?

Ian: My evolution as a writer is probably much like any other person's. There were some embarrassing moments in the beginning, some growing pains along the way, but I'm pretty happy with where I am, and who I am, today. I was torn a bit about including my first sale, "The Tattletail," in the book, but in the end, I realized that while it might not be my best story, it was still good enough to be published. After all, an editor thought it was good enough to publish six years ago. Sure, I've written better things since then, but I like having it in the book. It's like a baby picture in a photo album. A little embarrassing, but it's part of my life.

Gef: A couple of these stories are rooted in Cape Breton. Do you find that region conducive to ghost stories and the like, more so than other places you've visited?

Ian: Definitely. The East Coast of Canada is rich in ghost stories and folklore. Maybe more so than any other part of Canada, if only because that's where our history as Canadians began. My family is from the East Coast and growing up I heard many, many ghosts stories from my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins -- everyone! And these stories were never told for entertainment value -- at least, not entirely. My family truly believed the stories they were telling, which of course made them even more terrifying.

Being a huge Stephen King fan, I've always been impressed by what he did with New England, turning it into this hotspot for ghosts and monsters. I wanted to try and do the same thing for the Maritimes. I've only written the four stories that are included in Every House Is Haunted, but it's definitely my intention to write more tales in my Maritimes Mythos.

Gef: My favorite story from the collection may have been "The Dark and the Young"? What was the impetus behind that story?

Ian: "The Dark and the Young" was written at white heat in a single day to meet the deadline for an anthology for which it was eventually rejected. I think every writer of scary story tries his or her hand at the popular tropes -- the ghost story, the bug story, the creepy kid story, etc. This was my "creepy book" story. Sort of H.P. Lovecraft meets "The Cabin in the Woods," although I wrote this story years before "Cabin" came out. My interest in UFOs and government conspiracies, especially Area 51, probably played a part in setting the story in an underground facility in the Nevada desert.

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

Ian: I've been lucky enough to avoid any really awful writing advice. The best I ever received was probably that I should take all writing advice in stride. That what works for one writer may not work for another. Part of building your career is listening to those with more experience than you, and part of it is cutting your own trail, not just by doing this right but by doing things wrong. I've made mistakes, as we all have, and I've learned more from them than the things I got right. "Always be a professional," is probably one of the pieces of advice that I always live by. Don't be an idiot, don't ignore submission guidelines, don't act like the editor/agent/whoever is your best buddy. Be a professional.

Gef: How have you found the working relationship with Chizine Publications?

Ian: It's been an absolutely dream. Right from the beginning of the process, when they announced that they were going to buy my book at a room party at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas, to the actual work of putting the collection together, seeing the cover art and the layout.... I could never have guessed how much it would affect me. Each step along the way has completely exceeded my hopes and expectations. And to see the book getting so much attention now, with reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, pictures of people on Facebook finding the book in actual book stores, I'm just really grateful that Brett and Sandra at ChiZine believed in me enough to publish this book. It really does represent my first six years as a published author, and seeing it out there in the world makes me feel like I've "leveled up" as a writer. It's also giving me and my work exposure I've never had before. It's like the literary equivalent of a debutante ball.

Gef: Along with these stories, you also have the Felix Renn series. In terms of short fiction, how does a recurring character affect the storytelling process?

Ian: If I have any saving grace with the Felix Renn stories, it's that I learned, from reading other series, especially those where the mythology and world-building ends up contradicting itself, that it pays to plan ahead. I haven't figured out every little thing about Felix Renn and the Black Lands, but I've got most of the important parts clear in my mind. I enjoy dishing out pieces of Felix's background at the same time I reveal potions of the world of the Black Lands. It's like telling two stories, one up front, one below the surface. Subconscious storytelling, if you can dig it. I always know which parts to cut out of a Felix Renn story, the stuff where I end up running on about the world. When I'm moving away from the main plot of the story, I know I need to take it out and save it for later. Because while it may be interesting, and fun to write, at the end of the day I'm writing a story, and not a world resource book for a role-playing game.

The other thing I've realized about writing a recurring character is that while Felix is the main character, and the voice through which the stories are told, he doesn't have to be the only one. It's a lot of pressure to put everything on one character, which I learned when I introduced Jerry Baldwin, a friend of Felix's who works as a real estate agent who only represents haunted properties. Jerry is a bit of comic relief, but mostly he's there to show how other people are living in a world where the supernatural exists. It takes the pressure off of having Felix do every little thing. It also made sense from a storytelling point of view, because even recurring characters need a supporting cast. I plan to do more with Jerry, as well as Felix's ex-wife/assistant Sandra, in the future.

Gef: What other projects do you have in the works that you can divulge?

Ian: Well, I've got the Felix Renn collection, SuperNOIRtural Tales, coming out in November. It collects the three Felix Renn chapbooks, a short story reprint, and a brand-new, 50,000-word story called "The Brick," that I feel is the best thing I've written to date. It's the perfect bridge between the shorter Felix Renn stories and the novel series that I'm working on right now. I'm also shopping around a science-fiction satire that I wrote last year. It's very weird. I describe it as "The X-Files" meets "Arrested Development."

A big thanks to Ian for his time. If you'd like to find out more about Ian and his work, be sure to visit him at

November 16, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Every House Is Haunted" by Ian Rogers

Every House Is Haunted
by Ian Rogers
Chizine Publications (2012)
ISBN 9781927469194

I love ghost stories, so by the title alone I was instantly drawn to this book. The stories, however, are not focused solely on apparitions and spooky old houses. The book does have its fair share, though. I think Paul Tremblay puts it best in his introduction: "Ian's stories are explorations of the cosmic, social, and paranormal what-ifs, of the terrible and wonderful awe of possibility. Yeah, that's this book in a nutshell.

The book is segmented in five parts, with a few stories in each: the vestibule, the library, the attic, the den, and the cellar. The stories don't use those rooms as their theme so much as reflect the exploration of Ian's imagination.

Things start off creepy as heck with "Aces," about a young man coping with his teen sister, Soelle, whose been kicked out of school. That doesn't sound so bad until you discover it's because one of her classmates died after Soelle gave her a malicious tarot reading that sent to panicking girl into the path of a bus--and it's not the first time Soelle's fascination with the paranormal has played part in someone's death or disappearance. The story carries that squabbling brother/sister tone perfectly and only amplifies it as Soelle starts to embrace the idea of being seen by everyone as a witch.

"Cabin D" had a great Stephen King kind of vibe when a man named Henry walks into a diner and orders everything on the menu. The waitress finds him mildly amusing at first, but his odd, fatalistic mood grinds on her. The story seems to take in one long, straining breath through the first half of the story, and then it switches to Henry's point of view and it's like that breath is being forced out for some great purpose, and it all has to do with an abandoned cabin where Henry has to go. This one may have been one of my favorites from the collection.

Another stand out is "The Dark and the Young," about a translator specializing in ancient texts, fresh out of college and desperate for work. She's setup with a prime gig, albeit with modest pay and odd accommodations. She winds up in a neighborhood almost in the middle of nowhere, working in what looks like an old glove factory on the outside, but is a secret underground installation housing one very dangerous piece of literature. Think Necronomicon with a chip on its shoulder. This story worked wonderfully for me, especially as I'd recently watched The Cabin in the Woods, and the whole secret underground installation motif was played to the hilt. Loved it.

I could prattle on about some of the stories that captivated me, like "Wood" and "The Cat" and a disturbing bit of flash fiction called "Hunger," but sufficed to say that this book will rank highly on my year-end favorites list. There are but a couple stories that fell flat, due to ending so abruptly as things were getting good, but the overall collection is just a great showing of Ian's evolution as an author. And to think he's just getting warmed up. If Ian wasn't already on my "authors to watch out for" list, this book would have cemented it.

November 14, 2012

Wish List Wednesday #124: Damien W. Grintalis' "Ink"

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

I don't have a tattoo. I've been tempted to get one a couple times in my life, but I don't go through with it because of the permanence. What the heck would I get anyway? I have never been able to think of anything that I'd want etched onto my skin for life. Chalk it up to commitment issues. And I've seen way too many ugly tattoos to ever want to roll the dice on getting one of my own if I could settle on something.

With that in mind, tattoos are a neat idea for a horror story in my line of thinking. So, leave it to Damien Walters Grintalis to make her debut novel about a tattoo. I'm a fan of Damien's short fiction, picking it up here and there in anthologies and online mags, and am keen to describe her as "deviously talented." So, I was quite pleased to hear Samhain was publishing her debut novel, Ink.

Ink concerns a young man who gets the perfect tattoo, a griffin etched along the length of his arm, which turns out to be alive--and hungry. And the man's life winds up linked to the tattoo, so it's not like he can just kill it. And removing it seems out of the question, since the parlor where he got it is gone. Now, this sounds like the kind of story I'll enjoy. The last horror story I can remember involving a tattoo was some cheesy 80s flick (I think Scott Backula was in it) about a back tattoo that kept growing. I could go for a story that's done right, and I reckon Ink is just what I need.

So, who's got a nightmare tattoo story? Anyone have buyer's remorse for a tattoo they got in their youth--or maybe mid-life crisis?

November 13, 2012

Chasing Tale - Kindle Edition (11/14/12): Nate Kenyon, Ronald Malfi, Michael West ...

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the e-books I've recently downloaded and added to my to-be-read pile. Some are review copies forwarded to me, some are purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

Thanksgiving is almost here. Well, it's almost there--in America. We Canadians already had our Thanksgiving. Ours was a quiet affair in contrast to how our neighbors to the south celebrate. Perhaps if we had what I call the "football industrial complex" the way the U.S. does, we might make a bigger deal of it up here. As it stands, we're content to get together for a little turkey dinner and family squabbling. For me, if I'm to be thankful for anything, it would have to be the end of the U.S. election hullabaloo. Much like the time between American Thanksgiving and Christmas, we've been afforded a day or two of breathing room before the parade of pundits start anew, this time for the 2014 midterm elections. Gah!

One thing I'm definitely thankful for is my Kindle, which spares me from having to heft gigantic hardcovers or go bleary-eyed reading from my laptop. As for the books, here are ten more e-books that have been added to my to-be-read pile:

Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista - There are some genres I just don't gravitate towards, among them are political thrillers and legal thrillers, so combining the two in a sense seems like bad news for me. But I always want to read outside my comfort zone, and this novel about a lawyer tasked with defending an alleged banker for Al Qaeda at least looks interesting.

Midsummer by Matthew J. Costello - I have Matthew's novels, Vacation and Home, on my wish list already, but when Cemetery Dance re-released Midsummer as an e-book this summer, I scooped it up sight unseen. It was cheap, plus the premise of a small town falling under the influence of an evil presence is something I'm a sucker for, so fingers crossed. I saw the old cover on Goodreads from the 1990 edition through Diamond/Charter and it's hideous. If nothing else, CD has upgraded the aesthetics.

Prime by Nate Kenyon - I put this scifi novella on my wish list a while back (WLW#84). Since then, Nate has released this author's preferred edition. Cool. I'm not sure what the difference is between the original release and this newer one, but I'm willing to bet it's for the better.

Via Dolorosa by Ronald Malfi - Another release, this time put out by Abattoir Press, Malfi's 2006 novel deals with a war veteran's ghosts--figurative and literal--coming back to haunt him as he tries to keep his marriage together and complete a mural for the Paradis d'Hotel. I first heard of Malfi a year or two back when praise for his novel, Floating Staircase, permeated through the horror blogs.

Chronic Fear by Scott Nicholson - I may not have read Scott's sci-fi thriller, Liquid Fear, yet, but that didn't stop me from downloading the follow-up novel this summer. Brain-altering drugs, government conspiracies, a facility called the Monkey House, it sounds like a bit of a departure from the southern gothic stories I'm used to from Scott. I may just read both back-to-back now.

Valley of the Dead by Kim Paffenroth - This is a book I've had on my wish list for quite some time (WLW#6). Dante's Inferno with a starkly horrific bent, and zombies a plenty. Permuted Press had it on sale this summer, reminding me it was on my wish list, so I snatched it up.

Dead Ringer by Allen Wyler - I haven't had the chance to read and review Allen's previous novel, Dead End Deal, but I still received a review copy of its follow-up. This one deals with the black market on body parts, which I first heard about a few years ago with Chinese death row inmates supposedly getting fast-tracked in order to harvest organs. Cozy thought, eh?

Winning the City Redux by Theodore Weesner - There seems to be a bit of a Weesner renaissance happening this year, as this is the third review copy of one of his books I've received. It says something of my to-be-read pile that the first is just nearing the top of the queue. This particular novel deals with a fifteen-year-old boy growing up Detroit during the 60s and using basketball as a getaway from a pretty terrible homelife.

The Mill by Mark West - After being thoroughly impressed by Mark's chapbook from Spectral Press, What Gets Left Behind, I now have this novelette to my review pile. This one also concerned a haunting of sorts, as a widower suffers visions of his wife luring him to the afterlife. If it's as good as Left Behind, I'll be pleased.

Spook House by Michael West - Last year, Michael had a ghostly romp called Cinema of Shadows. One year later, his followup spookfest Spook House is ready to haunt bookshelves and e-readers alike. This time around it's set on an abandoned farmhouse where some really atrocious shenanigans went on. Michael did a good job making an old movie theater scary in last year's offering, so I wonder how he'll try to outdo himself with this one.