December 21, 2012

Chasing Tale [Kindle Edition]: My Christmas Shopping Spree

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 or elsewhere, and others are freebies that caught my eye.

It's the holiday edition of Chasing Tale, and I'm crossing a bunch of books off my wish list. Aside from the occasional Stephen King novel, I don't usually find books under my Christmas tree. I'm hard to shop for, I get that, and it's the thought that counts after all. Still, when Christmas rolls around, if I want books then I go out and buy them myself. This is the second year where the shopping spree has happened mostly online. I love the brick-and-mortar stores, support them when I can, but the affordability of buying books from places like Amazon, Book Depository, and even direct from publishers is undeniable.

Anyway, lot of books. Here they are, including a couple advance review copies that sneaked their way into my inbox.

Stupefying Stories 1.11 edited by Bruce Bethke - It seems fitting that the December edition of Stupefying Stories should be dedicated to the end of the world, considering how bloody stupid a fella would have to be to genuinely believe the whole of existence was coming to end any second now. This edition has eleven stories dedicated to apocalyptic scenarios.

To Each Their Darkness by Gary A. Braunbeck - I bought this from Apex Books and read a couple chapters right away. It's been riveting stuff, I can tell you that. Braunbeck, an accomplished horror author if ever there was one, rhapsodizes about the genre and writing in general, shares some absolutely wrenching stories from his life, and opines on some of his favorite films and books.

Dark Faith: Invocations edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon - This is another one from Apex. I read the first Dark Faith anthology about a year ago(readthe review here), and I dare say the list of contributing authors is even more impressive this time around--and it was pretty darned impressive last time. Oh, and if you like, check out my interview with Maurice about the book.

The Last Call of Mourning by Charles L. Grant - A while back, I read a blog post by Kevin Lucia extolling this late author's writing, particularly his Oxrun Station series. So, I kept his name on my radar in case I stumbled across one of his books at a used-book store. No luck. Then I saw Crossroad Press has a couple books from the series on their website. I decided to roll the dice on this one. 
Feed by Mira Grant - Quite a few blogs I follow rave about this book, and the trilogy as a whole, so I put it on my wish list (WLW#47). Then, it popped up as a recommendation while shopping on Amazon. Some folks say zombies are overdone, but some authors seem to find ways to keep them interesting, and I've got a feeling that's the case here.

This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs - Speaking of zombies ... I have John's debut novel, Southern Gods, on my wish list (WLW#105), but I've seen a lot of praise this year for his zombie novel, too. His books have been recommended often enough, I figured it was about time to buy one of his books and give it a go.

The 13 Ghosts of Christmas edited by Simon Marshall Jones - Spectral Press has published an anthology of Christmas-themed horror stories a la the classic ghostly tales of yore. The limited edition hardcovers are gone by now I'm sure, but there's a trade paperback version for those interested. I'm thinking I'll crack open my review copy over the holidays, just to get into the spirit of things. Get it? Spirit? I know, I know.

Devil in the Dollhouse by Richard Kadrey - I really enjoyed the first two books in Kadrey's Sandman Slim series (Sandman Slim and Kill the Dead). So I was kind of stoked to see this free novella on the Kindle Store. I've been buying the books in paperback though, and this is set between the third and fourth books by the looks of things, which I haven't bought yet.

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann - I recently blogged about Nick's short story collection, Still Life, and even posted an interview with him last week. Well, I remembered this novella (WLW#59) and saw Chizine had it on sale for Cyber Monday. With the story revolving around a heroin-addicted descendant of Saint George hunting for the dragon her ancestor failed to kill, it's gotta be good, right?

Scratch by Brian Keene - I figured I needed to a Brian Keene book to my TBR pile. Then I saw this novella about a monster that terrorizes a town in the wake of a flood. Yeah. I bought that pretty quick.

The Coyote by Michael McBride - After I read Snowblind, and even interviewed Michael for the blog, I checked his backlist and thought this one was especially intriguing. Set in the Arizona desert, it sounds like a grizzly thriller, and I've got a feeling I'm gonna like it.

Swan Song by Robert McCammon - I guess this is the season to add those battle-tested authors to my to-be-read pile, as this is another book I've had recommended to me quite a few times. God, now that I think of it, I have a few McCammon novels sitting in a box somewhere I've been meaning to read, too. Boy's Life being one of them, so I'll have to see which one I sit down with first.

Multiplex Fandango by Weston Ochse - I put this short story collection on my wish list during my Summer of Shorts Marathon months ago (WLW#117), then I got an e-mail from Chris Morey and the Dark Regions gang telling me it was now available as an e-book. You better believe, after being thoroughly impressed by the few short stories of Weston's that I've read in anthologies, that I hit that Amazon link toot sweet.

Kayla and the Devil by Bryan Smith - Horror readers have bandied Bryan's name about for a while when talking about standout authors, so I figured I should buy a book. But I had no idea which one to get. Then I saw this one on sale for a buck and figured that would be as good as place to start as any.

Pressure by Jeff Strand - I was going to get this book not long after I put it on my wish list (WLW#16), but then the unpleasantness with Dorchester Publishing kicked in. Well, it's finally been re-released. Jeff has a knack for blending humor and horror, but this one is light on humor. It got a fair amount of praise all the same, though.

The Way of the Leaves by David Tallerman - This is the latest chapbook from Spectral Press. They've never steered me wrong, so I'm looking forward to this one. This story won their 2012 This Is Horror short story competition, too.

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson - I have been meaning to dive into the Repairman Jack series for years, but for whatever reason I've just never made the effort to track down a copy. Well, I've kept my eye out at brick-and-mortar stores, but no sign of it. Then I stumbled across it on the Kindle Store while buying McCammon's Swan Song, when it popped up as a recommendation.

The Last Invasion (Sam Truman Mystery #2) by Brandon Zuern - I got around to reading the first Sam Truman Mystery novella last year, so stands to reason that since I liked it enough to want to read the second, I should add it my TBR pile. I also have the fourth in the series for review, so I suppose I should get a move on--dot org--and start reading.

That's a ton of books, son. Anyway, the blog will be pretty quiet over the holidays, so I'll end 2012 simply by wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Digital Publishing: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? (a guest post)

Here's a guest post from the Tony Viardo, CEO at Astor + Blue Editions, concerning e-books. Their first year's worth of e-books are on sale through the holidays until January 7th, ranging as low as $1.99 and even 99 cents. You can learn more about the sale by clicking here: For now, enjoy the guest post:

Digital Publishing: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?
by Tony Viardo
So how many articles have we read about E-books and Digital Publishing this year? For anyone who generally follows the book world (rabid booklover, book-blogger, industry pro or casual reader), we’re literally inundated with the amazing numbers—“E-book sales up 125% (again) over the 175% they were up from last year’s 225% increase!”—and equally amazing technological announcements—“Next Fall, the new ZimWittyZoomDitty tablet not only updates your Facebook and Goodreads friends whenever you snort in disgust … it cooks dinner for you at the same time!”

This leads many to take at least casual stock of what’s going on/going to happen to the “Publishing World” as we know it.  And if your friends are like my friends (hardcore print book consumers), that stock is usually pretty morbid (sharp Greenwich Village angst not included): “Print books are doomed, so are brick-and-mortar stores.  Goodbye literary quality. Oh and some pajama-wearing techie living in a basement with a laptop is going to be the new Sulzburger; we’ll all have to bow down!”

If you (or that good friend of yours) fall into the mortified category, my take (for what it’s worth) may come as positive news:  E-books are not, and will not be, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas; in this case, the “Print World’s” bacon. Now, as the owner of a “Digital First” publishing house (Astor + Blue Editions, my opinions may easily be written off as self-serving and invalid.  But bear with me for a minute… these are fact-based observations and I might just make sense (Someone tell my mom and dad).

As someone who earns a living from publishing, I have to follow numbers and industry trends as closely as possible.  And while some see doom and gloom for Print, I see exciting developments for both Print and E-book formats.  What do the numbers show?  Digital book revenue is skyrocketing, print revenue is declining.  Natural conclusion?  E-books are killing print books. But not so fast.  Historically, Print revenue has always seemed to be declining (even before E-books were invented), but that doesn’t mean the book market is dying or shrinking.

We have to remember that in fact the book market is growing. Readership always grows because population always grows.  Every year, new readers enter the vast pool of the club that is “adult readership,” (despite Dancing with the Stars). And every year more readers are being born and theoretically being inspired by Ms. Crabtree’s elementary reading class.  **So why the decline?  Readership grows gradually, but the sheer number of books and book vendors grow exponentially, showing an investment loss almost every year. (Basic statistics: the widening universe makes it look like a shrinking pie when it isn’t).

So what does this mean?  If you look at the numbers (historically), revenue for print books may have declined, yes, but not more than “normal,” and not significantly more than it did when there were no E-books around. (This is arguable of course, but the long term numbers do not show a precipitous drop-off). The yearly revenue decline, if there is one, can just as easily be written off to economic conditions as to E-book competition.  Bottom line:  Any drop in print revenue that may be caused by E-books are not significantly sharp enough to declare that E-books are destroying print book sales.  (Hence no Grinch).

What may be happening, and what I believe is happening is that a whole new market for E-books is developing, while the print book market growth, like Publishing as a whole, is still growing at a historically gradual pace. (Boringly flat).  Come up with your pet anecdote here, but I believe that more new readers are entering the market (who otherwise wouldn’t have) because of E-readers; existing readers are consuming more books (both print and e-book) than they did before; and while it would seem that a certain print title is losing a sale whenever readers buy it in E-book format, this is offset, at least somewhat, by the fact that more print titles are being bought (that otherwise wouldn’t) because of the extra marketing buzz and added awareness produced by the E-book’s cyber presence.  All of it evens out in the end, and I believe, ultimately fosters growth industry-wide.

So take heart Print fans, E-books are not the dark villain you think they are.  And here, I should correct my earlier analogy—that E-books are not the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  They may actually be the Grinch…in as much as, at the end of the story, the pear-shaped green guy ended up not only giving all the presents back to the singing Who-villers, he created a flash mob and started a big party as well.

December 20, 2012

Fave Five of 2012: Novels

Oh, man. This list is one I should mark as incomplete, because I have a whole slew of novels sitting on my to-be-read pile that came out this year that I just didn't get around to reading yet, and I'm pretty sure that at least a few of them could wind up on this list. Those books will just have to wait until 2013. Looking back at these books, I can say that whatever doubt there is on the state of publishing, there can be no doubt on the state of reading, because these were great reads.

Go. Find them. Read them. Thank me later.

The Steel Seraglio by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, Louise Carey - I don't tend to gravitate towards historical fiction, but there are backdrops from days gone by that I do enjoy reading. I wouldn't have thought I'd take such a liking to the Middle East and this exploration of storytelling and liberation. But, I did.

Choke Hold by Christa Faust - I ended 2011 by reading one of my favorite novels from that year, Money Shot, to which Choke Hold is a followup. Angel Dare, a pornstar turned target, winds up embroiled in an underground MMA operation that is about as intense and exhilarating as the first book. If there's a third book in the works, I can't wait.

The Sorrows by Jonathan Janz - Samhain's line of horror novels is handily picking up where Dorchester's Leisure line disastrously left off, and this haunted castle novel was a real stand out. I have Janz's followup novel, House of Skin, and I've read a couple reviews that lead me to think it's better.

Harbor by John Adjvide Lindqvist - I had the chance to read Lindqvist's latest novel, Little Star, in November, but it just fell short of surpassing the atmosphere displayed in this haunting novel that I read in January. A bizarre, disturbing chiller of a book.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig - It's not exactly a crime novel, not urban fantasy, and not horror. What it is, however, is an amalgamation of all those genres, presented in such a way that the book was unputdownable. It also didn't hurt having a captivating protagonist, Miriam Black. I've got the sequel, Mockingbird, on my to-be-read pile, and an early contender for my favorites of 2013, I'd wager.

December 19, 2012

Fave Five of 2012: Novellas & Novelettes

I read a whole lot of novellas and novelettes this year, and I could probably expand this to a top ten list, but let's stick with five for the sake of time and space. Unlike the other fave five lists I've written up for this week, this is the one that doesn't contain a single physical book. Every single novella I read this year came in the form of an e-book. Conventional publishing just doesn't bother with them, so finding a physical copy in a bookstore--or even ordering one in, for that matter--is tough. Thank you, Kindle.

Tribesmen by Adam Cesare - Adam's debut novella (it was a debut, right?) really packed a whollup, with a take-no-prisoners homage to exploitation horror films with a tinge of satire and a whole lot of blood.

Black-Eyed Kids by Ian Rogers - I'm a fan of Felix Renn, and of the three stories I read from Burning Effigy Press, this third in the series was a real standout. All three stories, plus a new 200 page novella, and more has been published. It's called SuperNOIRtural Tales and I'm very optimistic about it.

Snowblind by Michael McBride - My first chance to read Michael's work, and I think my first time reading from the Delirium Books library, and I thought it was a strong indicator that I need to read more.

Waiting Out Winter by Kelli Owen - After reading this apocalyptic novella, I had a new revulsion towards house flies. And if you read it, I'll bet you do too. I loved Kelli's other novella, The Neighborhood, and was happy to see this one meet expectations, and maybe exceed them a little bit.

What Gets Left Behind by Mark West - Spectral Press never disappoints with their limited edition chapbooks, but this one about two boys and a serial killer manage to stand out from a very impressive herd of stories.

December 18, 2012

Fave Five of 2012: Anthologies & Collections

A really good year for short fiction, thank you very much. I had the opportunity to read numerous collections and anthologies, even appear in a couple of them (shameless plug: Fading Light; Stupefying Stories; Arcane 2). There are quite a few other books in this category I could highlight as recommendations, but I'm keeping these year-end lists brief with only five. And to think, there are many more that were released through the year that I haven't had a chance to read yet. I'll save those for next year's list, perhaps.

Anyway, here are five great books of short fiction that I'll recommend to readers without hesitation:

Blood and Other Stories edited by Ellen Datlow - An anthology about vampires and other parasitic relationships, this is yet another example that a book with Ellen Datlow's name on it is a must-have.

Still Life by Nicholas Kaufmann - One of the smaller collections I read this year, but an impactful one all the same. The nine stories in this book exemplify Nick's ability to pull a reader in, go "Clockwork Orange" on their imagination, and make them beg for more.

House of Fear edited by Jonathan Oliver - I'm a sucker for a haunted house story, so it's no wonder I thoroughly enjoyed this anthology, which featured stories from authors who I count among my favorites, like Joe Lansdale, and others who are well on their way, like Weston Ochse.

Every House Is Haunted by Ian Rogers - Ian's collection of stories run from riveting monster fare to understated gothic, with many featuring a haunting Canadian backdrop. If you think we Canucks can't write horror, then you're not reading the right books. Start with this one.

Demons edited by John Skipp - This anthology acts as a bit of a timeline on horror and dark fantasy that features some truly disturbing (and a couple humorous) demonic tales. New authors, established authors, and even legendary authors make appearances in this one.

December 17, 2012

Fave Five of 2012: DVDs

This year I think I saw a fair number of movies on DVD, but I think I've probably seen fewer this year than in year's past, and I'd say that's because there just weren't as many to get excited about. After seeing some of the highly anticipated movies bomb at the box office or get skewered by critics and fans alike, my eagerness to sit down and watch them waned. John Carter, for example, wasn't as bad as some led me to believe, but it was certainly a disappointment.

But rather than lament the poor showing from the movies I took the time to watch this year, I thought I'd highlight five of the DVDs that came out in 2012 that I really enjoyed and would recommend to just about any movie lover. And they are:

The Cabin in the Woods - My favorite horror movie of 2012. I haven't seen many, I grant you that, but how many--particularly from the Hollywood fare--measure up to this high-octane satire of the genre. And I think I would have loved the movie even more if I had never seen the trailer.

Drive - When I sat down to watch this movie, I had no idea it was based on a novel. Well, if the book is even half as good as the movie--and, let's face it, books are usually better--then I have got to read that book. The cast is phenomenal, surpassed only by the story ... and maybe the soundtrack.

Hanna - I'm inclined to call this movie Hunger Games for grownups. A teen girl, raised by a secret agent, is sent on a mission to assassinate a C.I.A. operative and winds up on an odyssey of suspense and revelation--with a whole lot of ass-kicking.

Silent House - Watching this movie, I think I know why the Olsen twins weren't very good actors: their little sister is hogging all the talent. Despite finding the ending to be fairly predictable, the camera work and lead performance kept me captivated the whole way through.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - This was just a good ol' fashioned spy thriller that relied more on the script than the stunt work. Stellar performances all around and one more reason to worship Gary Oldman.

December 13, 2012

End of the World Giveaway Hop (Dec 14-21)

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and My Life With Books are co-hosting a giveaway blog hop dedicated to the much ballyhooed prediction that the world will end on December 21st. Well, as it happens that's exactly when this giveaway ends, too. So, you'd better hope the people wearing tinfoil hats inside their homemade bomb shelters are wrong, otherwise you won't be able to enjoy any of these great prizes on any of these blogs.

The idea behind the giveaway is simple: Which books would you save if the world was coming to an end?

I could provide plenty of suggestions, but I'm sticking with one incredibly talented author by the name of TOM PICCIRILLI. Which book? Any book.

For those who don't know, Tom has been dealt a bad hand in the form of brain cancer. He's soldiering through and some of the things he and his wife have written since his diagnosis and beginning treatment have been heartrending and heartwarming all at once. David Niall Wilson and everyone involved with Crossroad Press have done something rather magnanimous as a result of the news, and that's pledge 100% of all proceeds of each sale of a Tom Piccirilli book they have on their catalog to help Tom pay the exorbitant medical bills incurred because of this disease.

Incidentally, other publishers of Tom's work like Dark Regions Press and Chizine Publications have also stepped up this year to show added support for Tom. I'm unsure what other publishers have been so generous, but every little bit helps, I'm sure.

With regards to this giveaway, it ain't much, but I've got $15 in the form of a gift certificate to Crossroad Press that is going to one lucky winner (They sell e-books in all the major formats, so it doesn't really matter what kind of e-reader you have). You can browse the books (all conveniently listed here) to see what's available for purchase. You get some books, Tom gets some coin. It's win-win.

Technically, the winner will be able to use the gift certificate towards any of the books Crossroad Press has cataloged, but I'd encourage the winner--and everyone else for that matter--to throw a little love Tom's way.

JUST FILL OUT THE RAFFLECOPTER FORM TO ENTER. Everyone who enters gets one free entry, but you can earn two more entries spreading the word about the giveaway via some form of social media (check out the entry form for details).

Giveaway ends at midnight on December 21st, and I'll draw a winner at random on December 22nd. Anyone in the world can enter. Good luck to everybody--especially to Tom.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elbow Room and a Sense of Doom: an interview with Michael McBride, author of "Snowblind"

After being entertained by the new novella from Dark Fuse and Delirium Books, Snowblind, I had the chance to ask a few questions of its author, Michael McBride. We talk writing, reading, artwork, and the end of the world. Enjoy!

Gef: Your debut novel, Species, came out in 2004 if I'm not mistaken, so you're creeping up on a decade in the published novelist racket. Do you still feel like a greenhorn these days, or more like the grizzled vet?

Michael: Somewhere in between. I’ve learned a ton about the business, largely through trial and error, that has helped me better navigate the small press racket, but I won’t pretend to be an expert. I’ve found a few presses with whom I enjoy working and pretty much just stick with them, mainly because of my working relationship with the publishers/editors. Tons of promising presses pop up every year with publishers who show a lot of enthusiasm, but most find there’s a whole lot more hard work involved than they expected. I’ve been swept up in it, like most everyone else out there. It’s fun for a while. A lot of fun, actually. Ultimately, though, the work suffers for it. By now I know how I want my work to be presented, what I expect from a publisher, and what I’m prepared to give in exchange. My readers deserve the very best, both from the physical presentation and the work itself. To give them anything less would be unacceptable, both from a personal and a professional perspective.

Gef: Snowblind revolves around four friends elk hunting in the Rockies. Are you much of a hunter yourself out there in Colorado, or was the backdrop for this story a little less personal than that?

Michael: I hunted a fair amount as a kid, primarily because it was something that was important to my dad. It’s just not one of those things about which I get excited anymore. I still enjoy getting up into the mountains, though. There’s something both liberating and unnerving about distancing yourself from the rest of the world. It’s strange to think that you’ll find areas of forest where no man has ever laid foot within a day’s travel from a city like Denver, with a metro area population of nearly three million.

Gef: Snowblind takes place in a fairly isolated patch of wilderness. Is it that isolation that lends itself to the story, where so much of the population has been urbanized or suburbanized? Does the widening gap between urban and rural life lend itself to a story like this?

Michael: Totally. I won’t say I’ve ever lived a rural existence, but I find it far more appealing than this shift toward urbanization. I need elbow room, you know? All of the new construction around here seems to be a competition to see who can squeeze more people into the smallest space possible. I would imagine people who become accustomed to living in such a manner would find any form of isolation terrifying. With Snowblind, I attempted to use the remoteness of the location and the blizzard as a character of sorts. Isolation personified. It’s that invisible character who stalks the hunters through the majority of the story.

Gef: Where some folks have been wearing sandwich boards and proclaiming the end times for publishing due to the rise of digital media, you've been an author that's had more of an adoptive attitude. Are there any trepidations you have with a prospective "Kindle" generation, or do you just see it as the next go-round in publishing's evolution?

Michael: Adoptive attitude. I like that terminology. I think that’s about the best approach one can have at this point in time. The industry’s in a state of transition, but I think the ultimate resolution will be a pretty even split. There are those out there (myself included) who simply enjoy reading from a physical book with paper pages. (I’m actually something of a hardcover snob, truthfully.) I’ve sold a ton of eBooks and made a whole lot more money than I’ve made from the small press editions, but I refuse to sacrifice one in favor of the other. The industry needs publishers and, most importantly, editors. How else will a reader be able to find quality in a sea of typo-riddled, poorly written, haphazardly formatted self-published garbage? As the large houses are forced to lower their prices, I think you’ll see the market settle in and the importance of publishers reemerge. All of that aside, it’s wonderful to see so many more kids actually reading. If nothing else, I hope that trend continues.

Gef: I'm a monster fan, myself, so Snowblind appealed to me right off on that front. However, you mentioned in an interview with Dark Scribe a few years back that you prefer an apocalyptic kind of tale over classic monsters--all things being equal in the quality of writing, anyway. Dystopia and apocalyptic stories seem to have found new fame in recent years. How have you observed that trend, or do you try to ignore the ebbs and flows?

Michael: I would imagine the recent resurgence of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction in the mainstream is a consequence of the catastrophic turn the economy—our nation as a whole, for that matter—has taken over the last decade or so. I think people see some sort of horrible end as a natural result of the direction society is heading. (There’s only so far we can fall, right?) Zombie material fits that mold perfectly. I’ve noticed the trend, but I don’t have the ability to write in such a way as to ride the popularity waves. My muse is fickle; I write whatever she wants me to write, whatever that might be. I tend to write more thriller-type material anymore. Dark thriller, of course.

Gef: When it comes to the book cover, Daniele Serra did a heckuva job capturing the isolation and bleakness of the landscape and subject matter. Serra even won a British Fantasy Award this year. How did the working relationship come about there, and how impressed have you been with the covers for your stories?

Michael: Dani’s not only a killer artist, he’s an incredible guy, too. That’s important to note, in my opinion. I take great pride in working with stand-up individuals who deserve whatever success and accolades come their way. He’s given me some of his best work for sure. His covers for Predatory Instinct and Snowblind are both perfect for the stories. Shane Staley, the publisher of Delirium Books, has always done a good job of finding the right artist for my books. It was his idea to get Dani in the first place.

Gef: Okay, Christmas fast approaches. What's on your reading wish list? The wintery landscape of Snowblind looks to lend itself to horror fans this time of year. What more from your works would you recommend? And who are some other authors folks need to look out for?

Michael: I always love this time of year because I generally get new books from John Connolly, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Jo Nesbo, Preston & Child, Michael Connelly, James Rollins, and (every other year) Michael Marshall. (If you aren’t reading outside the genre, kids, then your work will always be derivative.) Personally, I have a ton of new books due to be released this winter. In addition to Snowblind from Delirium, I have Vector Borne from Bad Moon Books and The Coyote from Thunderstorm Books, who will also be releasing my apocalyptic God’s End Trilogy in deluxe limited edition just in time for the end of the world on 12/21/12. And I always keep an eye out for the newest releases from guys like Jeff Strand, Gene O’Neill, Gord Rollo, Norman Prentiss, Brian James Freeman, JG Faherty, Nate Southard, and William C. Rasmussen, among others, who have some big futures ahead of them.

A big thanks to Michael for stopping by the blog. Be sure to check out his site (, as well as SNOWBLIND.

December 12, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Snowblind" by Michael McBride

212 pages
ISBN-13: 9781937771492

I have never been to the Rockies, let alone in the winter. I do, however, recall seeing a home movie from the 60s of my dad in his twenties, as he and his brothers hunted elk in the foothills of the Rockies in Alberta. It was mesmerizing. So, as McBride's novella kicks off with a closeknit foursome of friends hunting elk in the Rockies, I was immediately on board.

The four men, each successful in their professional lives yet unfulfilled in some intangible aspects, reunite annually to hunt the Rocky Mountains, more out of tradition than anything else. They've grown apart since college, but all make the effort to see each other in the isolated wilderness in that kind of bonding experience they just don't get in their private lives. This trip winds up different to a startling degree as a blizzard rolls in, and with it comes a threat they didn't expect and are not prepared for. When one of them is killed, they initially believe they are up against a grizzly bear, but it becomes quickly evident that the predator is much more intelligent, cunning, malicious--and it's not alone.

The story gets right to the action from the outset, and the perilous situation is palpable, particularly when the foursome-turned-trio hunkers down in a derelict barn after the first attack. They have no clue what's outside, because the blizzard has created whiteout conditions and the howling winds mask any noise, except for the faint scratching at the door that winds up being a taunt from whoever (or whatever) is out there. There isn't a whole lot of time to get to know these men, as the tension doesn't let up, but there are tidbits of backstory interspersed to give a fair idea of what drives them, and what hinders them.

There is a bit of a strain of the credulity of the story, in my opinion regarding the threat they face and its seemingly innate ability to anticipate their every move. This is not a paranormal story, but it got to a point that I wondered if there was some supernatural influence going on. The ending worked great, tying things up with just enough explanation to avoid pulling my hair out, but there was one aspect at the very end that was a bit grating. But overall, Snowblind was a thrill ride, one I'd recommend to any horror fan wanting to curl up with a book by the fire this winter.

December 11, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
published in 2009
391 pages
ISBN 0439023491

Fair warning: I'm going to get a little bit spoilery with this book. Not in a give-away-the-ending way, but basically discuss things that happen in the first half of the book, plus what happened in the first book. Okay? All right, then.

I've done a pretty good job in avoiding the details of Catching Fire and Mockingjay over the last couple of years, which is a bit astonishing considering the ferocity of some people's love for this trilogy. I say some people, but let's face it, I mean YA bloggers. After I read the first book earlier in the year, I was a tad underwhlemed. I enjoyed the story, but felt Catniss was given way too many outs by deus ex machina that miraculously saved her time and again. After she survived the Games, and saved her teammate Peeta in the process, I had to wonder how Suzanne Collins could possibly follow it up. I flippantly thought: Well, I guess she's just going to have to make Catniss go through the Hunger Games again and up the ante.

And that's precisely what she does. She makes Catniss enter the Hunger Games again. Like Jaws 2 was basically the first Jaws with a bigger shark, Catching Fire is the bigger shark equivalent of The Hunger Games. I just worried Suzanne Collins was setting herself up to jump that shark.

Fortunately, I thought this second book wound up being better than the first. Certainly more engaging and more willing to explore the complexities of the situation and each character's motivations.

Catniss and Peeta are heroes at home, but segregated to a degree by being moved into the swankier houses in District 13 (swanky meaning "less dingy"). They have to pretend to be in love still to fool the President and appease the population, which puts a strain on her relationship with Gale. And when she's confronted by the President, who ostensibly tells her he knows it's all a con, but it's keeping a simmering rebellion at bay, Catniss is forced into doubling down on the facade or else face retaliation from those in power. Sufficed to say her efforts are in vain, her relationships with nearly everyone she holds dear is stressed to the breaking point, and a crackdown on District 13 ensues as turmoil builds elsewhere in the colonies. In a last ditch effort by the President to both entertain and punish the masses, the annual Hunger Games are switched up a bit and former winners from each District are forced to enter the Games again.

There came a point in the book where that became plainly obvious, and an audible groan erupted from me. I was not in the mood for a rehash. Thankfully, the dynamics of the Games were entirely different, with different stakes and a political climate irrevocably changed from the previous year's events. Catniss has matured in many respects by this point, but her naivety persists in others and gets a little grating. There's a great build in tension through the book and the payoff at the end, while muddled was satisfying.

After I read The Hunger Games I was in no hurry to read the second, but I must say that I am now eager to read the final installment, Mockingjay, to see how Catniss carries on with a revolution all but setting the colonies alight. If the third can build on the momentum in the same way the second book did, then I should be in for a treat.

December 10, 2012

Still Writing: an interview with Nicholas Kaufmann, author of "Still Life"

After reading and enjoying Nicholas Kaufmann's short story collection, Still Life, I had the chance to ask him a few questions about his stories, his approach to writing, and thoughts on the form itself. Enjoy.

Gef: Looking back at these stories, with the earliest published in 2001 all the way to the two original stories, how would you describe your evolution as a writer?

Nick: I would describe it, with great hopefulness and no small amount of wishful thinking, as "headed in the right direction." It's true what I mention in the author notes in STILL LIFE. I really do look back on many of my earlier stories and cringe at how poorly they're written and constructed. I don't think I'm alone in that, either. I think that happens to most writers, especially the ones who, like me, want to keep learning and growing and striving to be the best they can be. I'm one of those writers who thinks that we become better with every single word we write, even if those words don't happen to make it to the final draft. So I like to think I'm that much better a writer with every new story. If I'm wrong about that, I don't want to know it!

Gef: A couple of the stories include elements drawn from your Jewish heritage. When crafting stories, how conscious are you of things such as faith and race? Do these come to the forefront early in the creating process or just elements that organically appear as you write?

Nick: With the stories "The Jew of Prague" and "Under the Skin" Judaism was a part of the process from the get-go. In "The Jew of Prague" I wanted to have the main character, David, be a lapsed, perhaps even self-hating Jew who finds himself in a world not just where that faith is still very much alive for others, but where that faith still has enormous power. Even then, though, the story is really more about identity than religion. "Under the Skin" took a slightly different tack. The Jewish angle in that one is less about identity or faith than about making the theme of issues with the first-born more mythic by using the structure of the Passover seder. But generally I think details like faith and race come early in the creative process for me, if that's what the story demands. I've also written plenty of stories where they aren't mentioned at all. With a few exceptions where I've had to be specific, my characters could pretty much be any race, ethnicity, or religion the reader wants them to be. When it comes to issues of faith, I'd say most of my stories are actually faith-free. Not surprising, considering I'm not big on religion!

Gef: As a fan of monsters, the Golem seems to be one of the under-appreciated ones (at least in my experience). What monsters, if any, do you think could use a brighter spotlight?

Nick: Well, I'm definitely a fan of the golem, as you can tell from "The Jew of Prague." In fact, I'd love to see more stories about the golem and its cousin, the man-made monster. Too many writers are focusing on vampires, zombies, and now werewolves too. There just aren't enough Frankenstein riffs out there these days. But generally I'd love to see more creepy stuff and less gut-munching, whatever the monster.

Gef: How have you found the rise of the Kindle and similar devices affected short fiction, both as a creator and as a consumer?

Nick: I might not be the right guy to ask. I only just recently got a Kindle and have only read a small handful of books on it. So far, though, I find the learning curve of going from paper to Kindle very easy to handle. In fact, by the end of my first reading experience on the Kindle I was already used to it and enjoying it. But in this short time I haven't really found e-readers to have any sort of affect on short fiction, either in subject or form. I think e-readers have revolutionized the way we read, at least in terms of content delivery, but not necessarily what we read.

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

Nick: The best piece of writing advice I ever received was to just put your butt in the chair and write, even if it's only for half an hour a day. But if you do it every day, or as close to every day as is possible for you, you will eventually finish what you're writing. And for writers, just finishing the damn thing is half the battle. It's not the end, of course, because then comes the really fun part: revising! For me, that's where the magic happens. I love revising and polishing, and I hate slogging through the first draft. But you can't get to one without doing the other first.

The absolute worst writing advice I ever received was that you have to start at the bottom of the totem pole before you can be successful. But writing isn't like working your way up in a company. Despite everyone who tells you that you have to start with short stories before novels, and that those stories have to be published by non-paying venues so you can get "exposure," there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of writers who start with a novel right out of the gate, and one published by a major publisher, too. Don't ever listen to anyone who tells you there's only one way to go. There are as many routes as there are writers. You should always strive for the top. If that means honing your craft until you're good enough, then so be it. You would hone your craft for any other career, wouldn't you? Why treat writing any differently?

Gef: What projects are in the works that readers should be watching out for in the future?

Nick: I have a novel coming out from St. Martin's Press in the fall of 2013 called DYING IS MY BUSINESS. I would describe it as a supernatural noir, though blended with some heavy fantasy and horror influences. It's about a thief who works for a Brooklyn crime syndicate who discovers he can't die, or rather he can't stay dead, and gets caught up in an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil after trying to steal something he should have left alone.

A big thanks to Nick for offering his time and answers. Be sure to check out his blog (, as well as his collection STILL LIFE (