June 27, 2013

Rabid Rewind: "Looper" starring Jospeh Gordon-Levitt

starring Josesph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, & Bruce Willis
written & directed by Rian Johnson
TriStar Pictures (2012)

Time travel can be a pain in the ass if you think about it too much. Some folks can't even follow The Terminator, which isn't exactly what I'd call a complicated movie. So, it kind of makes sense that when Joel (Gordon-Levitt) sits down with his older self (Willis) in a diner and starts talking about the ins-and-outs of time travel, his older self tells him to shut up. Why spoil a good movie with a bunch of gobbledy gook about temporal shifts and paradoxes? Time travel is a thing. Just go with it.

It's the mid-21st century and Joel is a looper, a hitman who kills people sent back in time by crime bosses in the future. Some fella giving you a headache? No problem. Just shackle him, throw a bag over his head, strap some silver to his back, and zap him back in time thirty years where Joel is armed and waiting in the middle of a cornfield. It's nice work if you can get it, but there's a catch: every looper eventually kills their older self. They never see who they're killing until the deed is done--bag over the head, remember?--so the only giveaway at first glance is that the bars strapped to the target are gold instead of silver. Kind of like getting your gold watch for retirement. Enjoy it, kiddo, because you've got thirty years to live it up before those crime bosses round you up and zap you back in time so your younger self can finish you off. That's why these hitmen are called loopers, by the way: when they kill their older selves, they've basically closed the loop on their lives.

With me so far? Good. Because this whole operation has a big wrench thrown in its gears when Joel comes face to face with his older self, who is unshackled, unmasked, and ready to fight for his life. There's a new crime boss in the future called the Rainmaker closing everyone's loops and Old Joel wants revenge. But as Young Joel chases him down, while at the same time trying to keep from getting killed by his fellow loopers who think he's gone soft, he finds out there's more to Old Joel's plan than he's letting on and his pursuit leads him to a farmhouse and a young mother who may or may not be raising Old Joel's nemesis.

I imagine the house of cards that is the time-travel aspect of this movie could fall apart if I really sat down to mull it over, but there's no point, because the performances and action are all so captivating that I was sucked in from the get-go. I think it's kind of funny that Joseph Gordon-Levitt basically adopted Bruce Willis's mannerisms in his performance, since it was pretty unlikely Willis was going to be the one to push the envelop. The world is near-future, but not Bladerunner-ish with any heavily stylized backdrops or costumes. There is some telekinesis (one in ten are in this world), a hover-bike or two (I want one), but other than that it's a pretty ordinary world, which helps ground the story.

Things get a little crazy towards the end, but the pacing is done really well, gradually ramping it up from a noir-ish mystery to an all-out run and gun action film. I loved it, and I'm apparently not alone, since the movie has a very strong rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's crime fiction mixed with sci-fi here and there, and that's a magical combination for a guy like me, and I'm really glad to see it handled so well. And if your tastes are like mine, I doubt you'll be disappointed by this movie either.

June 26, 2013

Rabid Reads: "The Firefly Witch" by Alex Bledsoe

The Firefly Witch
by Alex Bledsoe
self-published (2012)
46 pages
Available via AMAZON 

Aside from being a talented novelist, Alex Bledsoe can spin a yarn of the short variety, too. The Firefly Witch presents three short stories that feature a small-town reporter recounting how he met and fell in love with a witch. Bewitched it is not.

Ry is working on a story for the paper and is introduced to a blind woman named Tanna who studies parapsychology. He's smitten with her from the get-go, and she's quite taken with him as well, due in no small part to the fact that she sees him during their first meeting. It turns out her blindness is a unique condition, where her sight returns to her while near fireflies--hence the title of the stories. With each story, Ry and Tanna work together investigating paranormal occurrences, all while their romantic relationship evolves.

"The Chill in the Air Wakes the Ghosts in the Ground" kicks things off with their first encounter, as Ty is tasked with writing a story on the blind witch working at West Tennessee University. From there, she confides in him about her coven being blamed for some vandalism that's happened at one of the local cemeteries, and convinces him to help her find out who is responsible. A charming story, but with some rough patches in the dialogue, I thought.

"Lost and Found" introduces the viewpoint of Tanna by way of journal entries, as she and Ry investigate what she believes is the world's first ghost. This story was particularly interesting because of the premise of who the ghost might be and the history behind the person. The switching in viewpoint was a little distracting, jumping from Ry's first person narrative to Tanna's diary, but still a really good story to up the ante.

"The Darren Stevens Club" takes a little more personal approach to the characters and brings Ry even further into Tanna's spiritual world when a ghost manages to haunt her from the inside. Not exactly a showstopper, but this third story really helped solidify the universe in which Bledsoe is playing and forges the bond between the two characters.

A fascinating little fantasy romance series here, and there are even more stories released in three-packs that I see when I browsed the Kindle Store (I assume they're for sale with other online outlets, too), of which I've purchased the next collection. I like Bledsoe's writing and the way he deftly blends the magical and the mundane. These first three stories are earlier works and are a little rough around the edges compared to his most recent efforts, but they're still worth checking out.

June 24, 2013

Thrills Not Lost in Translation: a review of David Khara's "The Bleiberg Project"

The Bleiberg Project
by David Khara
English translation by Simon John (2013)
originally published in French (2010)
ISBN: 978-0-9853206-9-0 (Kindle)

Jeremy Novacek starts off as a bit of an a-hole in The Bleiberg Project. David Khara's protagonist is a rich, spoiled, sulking, self-destructive booze-hound with every privilege at his disposal after making a killing on Wall Street. But he's got daddy issues. Heck, who doesn't.

When Jeremy receives word that his estranged father died, a man he never really knew, a series of events kicks off that has Jeremy following in his father's footsteps to solve a mystery behind a Nazi conspiracy that all stems from a key with a Swastika insignia. Jeremy has ghosts of his own, still tormenting by a drunk driving accident when his alcoholism was at its worst, but his now-dead father's ghosts veer more into obsession, as Jeremy gradually learns more and more about why his father abandoned him and his mother all those years ago.

Aided by an attractive federal agent in learning his father's secrets, Jeremy becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse race for answers against a secret group that seems hellbent on stopping them. Throw in an assassin with motivations of his own enterting the mix, and this novel really doesn't have a chance to slow down.

If there was a gripe to be found, I'd have to say it was the regular switches in point of view. Half of the novel is told through a first-person account of Jeremy's thoughts and actions, while the other half is told in third-person, including periodic flashbacks to Nazi-ruled Germany. I'm a reader accustomed to reading stories that have one style of PoV, so the switches from first-person to third-person felt like speedbumps while reading. And scenes told in third-person that featured Jeremy were confusing at times, since I figured those scenes would be kept in his point of view. Other than that though, the actual story flowed well and offered a refreshing twist on conspiracy theories surrounding WW2.

The novel is subtitled "A Consortium Thriller", so I assume there is a followup novel in existence in France. I just wonder how long I'll have to wait for an English translation.

June 21, 2013

My Top 10 Favorite Horror Villains: a guest post and giveaway by Jeff Gunhus, author of "Night Chill"

Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Middle Grade/YA series The Templar Chronicles. The first book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. The book is a Book Of The Year Finalist for Foreword Reviews and a Finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award. Book #2, Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy was released April 2013. Night Chill is his first book for adults. As a father of five, he leads an active lifestyle in Maryland by trying to constantly keep up with his kids. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel.  

Top 10 Favorite Horror Villains
by Jeff Gunhus 

1. Jack Torrance (from The Shining)
2. Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs)
3. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)
4. Annie Wilkes (Misery)
5. Carrie White (Stephen King’s Carrie)
6. Dr. Frankenstein
7. Mr. Hyde (Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego)
8. Dracula
9. Voldemort (Harry Potter series)
10. The Man Jack (The Graveyard Book)

From the author of middle grades spine-chilling horror series The Templar Chronicles comes a supernatural thriller for his adult fans

"Gunhus delivers a taut supernatural thriller...all the chops of an action-packed horror tale." - Kirkus Reviews

Emotionally scarred from a car accident in which a little girl was killed, Jack Tremont moves his family from Southern California to Prescott City in the quiet mountains of Western Maryland. At first, the small town appears to be the perfect place to reconnect with his family and to cure his troubled conscience, but Jack soon discovers he has left one nightmare only to walk into another. When a stranger who has been struck by lightning dies in Jack's arms, a child's voice comes from the man's smoldering body to issue a warning:
They're coming for your little girl, Jack. . . you better run. Take your family and run. 

The warning turns prophetic when a local cult targets Jack's five year-old daughter Sarah and Jack finds himself in a fight against dark, supernatural forces that he cannot begin to understand. With the help of a mysterious Native American, Jack uncovers more than just a conspiracy that extends into the small community, but an ancient mystery larger than anything he could have imagined. Suddenly, he's not only fighting for his family, but also to stop a devastating evil from escaping into the world. Above all, he must rush against the clock to save his little girl.

Learn more at JeffGunhus.com

Buy the book at Amazon!

Night Chill

Enter the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card & Signed Paperback

A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. Giveaway is sponsored by the author.

June 20, 2013

The Horrors of Being a Tall Man in a Little RV: a guest post by Jonathan Janz, author of "Savage Species"

It's summertime, which means it's camping season. That's pure heaven for some, but it can be a bit hellish for others. Jonathan Janz, author of The Sorrows, House of Skin, and the new serial novel, Savage Species, has a bit of a summer-themed horror story to share. Enjoy.

The Horrors of Being a Tall Man in a Little RV
by Jonathan Janz

My wife’s parents own an RV. We live on a hill, which means they can’t park the RV out in front of our house when they visit and instead have to park on the nearest flat street. That means it’s some other poor bastard’s house that gets the sunlight blotted out by the RV rather than mine. So my neighbors look like Cousin Eddie has come to visit, while I enjoy my untrammeled front window view. It works out nicely.

Most of the time when they come they stay at the nearby state park. Now this state park, with a few important variations, is the setting for my new serial horror novel Savage Species, and it’s a great place to visit. However, on occasion it gets really hot there and we have to shelter inside the RV. You know, because eighty-eight degrees and muggy is a whole lot more comfortable than ninety-one degrees and muggy.

It was during one of these sweltering July afternoons that I found myself stuck, along with my wife and three small children, inside the RV with my in-laws. To be totally honest, I love my in-laws. Sometimes I wish I didn’t because then I could make the same jokes that every other guy gets to make about his in-laws. But mine are really nice.

I just wish their RV was bigger. Not just bigger, mind you, but taller. I go about six-foot-four, and my in-laws are little folk. Not quite Shire-sized, but not far from it either. A couple times I’ve noticed how furry my father-in-law’s feet are. I haven’t gotten the chance to examine my mother-in-law’s feet. She’s sort of modest. Plus, that’d be a hard thing to ask without having her call the police.

So maybe because my in-laws are so little, the RV can only accommodate little folk comfortably. They bustle about happily, navigate the ten-inch-wide main aisle, and behave like it’s perfectly normal. I, on the other hand, bump into things like a college freshman during rush week and bang my head on every random outcropping until my kids finally tell me to sit down before I trample someone. And the bathroom? Forget it. If you’ve read Poe’s story “The Premature Burial” you have a good idea about how I feel when trying to do my business in that vertical coffin. After I’m done and go stumbling out of there, I fall to my knees with my arms upraised like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption and give thanks for allowing me breathe clean air again.

So what’s my point?

That RV is a place of horrors for me, a sinister environ where anything might happen. And sinister things do happen in Part Two of Savage Species (The Children), which happened to go on sale this week. The first installment (Night Terrors, which is linked below) can still be downloaded for free. It ended with a very special character (Emma) trapped inside an RV by carnivorous, sadistic, nine-foot-tall monsters. Part Two begins with one of our heroes (a newspaper photographer named Jesse) trying to save her. She’s in the bathroom, hiding from the monsters. Jesse has to enter the RV, do battle with several of the beasts, and try to rescue Emma. When I wrote that scene, I was able to reference every bad experience I’d ever had in my in-laws’ RV: the stifling heat, the enclosed spaces, and perhaps especially the wonky physics. You see, the RV in Savage Species has been overturned, which makes things even harder for Jesse. But since Emma is the girl of Jesse’s dreams, Jesse is willing to face those monsters. And the tiny bathroom.

I hope you download Parts One and Two today. I hope you experience the serialized event of the summer about which Mark Justice (Pod of Horror) says, “Reading Savage Species by Jonathan Janz is like discovering a lost Richard Laymon novel. And that’s a good thing.”

I happen to agree, but I’ll let you discover it for yourselves.

I hope you have a great day. And may all your enemies have to spend the day in an explosively hot RV that was engineered for hobbits.

Early Birds Beware: a review of Tim Curran's "Worm"

by Tim Curran
DarkFuse (2013)
ISBN 9781937771799

When I was a little kid, bugs grossed me out. I was so squeamish that I can remember my dad having to put the worm on my hook when he'd take me fishing, because I refused to touch the wriggly little s.o.b. (the worm, not my dad). A few years later and I grew out of that, and at twelve saw Tremors for the first time, and thought it was one of the coolest movies ever. Giant, man-eating worms? Oh yeah. Sign me up. So when I got a chance to check out Tim Curran's latest novella, Worm, and the cool cover featuring a giant worm chasing all those puny humans, I was hoping for some good old fashioned giant monster action. But did it deliver?

In a word: yes ... and no.

Pine Street finds itself cut off from the rest of the city when an earthquake strikes, followed quickly by black viscous goo bubbling up through the ground. The odor is foul and it just keeps rising out of the ground until the street is impassable. The residents of Pine Street soon find out that they're not dealing with so much an earthquake as an unholy uprising of some of the foulest and ferocious worms you've ever imagined. They're not gigantic like those Sarlac's or whatever they're called from Return of the Jedi, but they've got teeth--lots of 'em.

The characters aren't terribly memorable, but when so many of them are being killed by the carnivorous worms, and in such increasingly grotesque ways, why bother with character development. Frankly, the most memorable character in the book is Stevie, a half-Pomeranian/half-poodle, which--spoiler alert!--winds up not being much of a foe against the infernal invertebrates. If you're a reader with squeamish tendencies, I'm left to wonder why you would seek out a story about giant worms. Still, if you're one of those thin-skinned readers who detests any animal violence in your reading material, save yourself the time it'll take to write Tim Curran an angry letter about letting the worms kill poor Stevie so early in the book, and just pick up Marley & Me. I'm sure no dogs die in that one.

Anyway, the action in Worm is as unrelenting as it is unapologetic. If you enjoy B-movie fare in all its pulpy goodness, you're gonna like this. If you want something the least bit subtle or contemplative, you're in the wrong neighborhood, pal. And that neighborhood probably has a Pine Street.

June 19, 2013

Wish List Wednesday #140: Matthew McBride's "Frank Sinatra in a Blender"

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.

A crime novel with Frank Sinatra in the title? Why, you'd think it was a Rat Pack caper novel, wouldn't you? I sure would. That is, until I listened to the Booked Podcast episode in which the hosts reviewed Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride.

Set in St. Louis, an alcohol-fueled P.I. named Nick Valentine is tasked with finding the culprits behind a robbery that saw millions stolen from a credit union. Where does Frank Sinatra come into the story? Well, that's his dog. A gritty, snarky crime novel--and it's a got a f**king dog? Sign me up.

Podcasts have turned into one more avenue for me to find book recommendations, and the Booked Podcast has talked about quite a few books that I've either read and enjoyed or sound really promising. I've never read Matthew McBride's work before, but thanks to a podcast I'd like to change that.

June 17, 2013

The Underside of Civility: a review of Gary McMahon's "Nightsiders"

by Gary McMahon
DarkFuse (2013)

Civilized society can be a precarious proposition sometimes, and it's highlighted really effectively in Gary McMahon's new novella.

In the span of a week, Nightsiders depicts the disintegration of a family. The trick is that it may well have been crumbling well before the story even began. Robert Mitchell, along with his wife, daughter, and son, arrive at their new home in the little English town of Battle only to find it occupied by Nate and Monica, two unsavory interlopers who claim the house is theirs. After a brief but violent altercation, Robert and his family find themselves holed up in a hotel in town while a police sergeant tries to sort the whole thing out. And that's when things get really weird.

Nate is a brute and Monica is ... well, there are moments when it's not entirely clear what she is in relation to Nate, but sufficed to say they are both bad news for Robert and his family. Their presence inside the house throws the entire family off balance, especially since there seems to be some kind of malevolent intent behind Nate's actions, but nothing explicitly made clear to Robert or the others. It feels like the chickens have come home to roost, but Robert's never seen the guy before and has led a rather meek and unassuming life.

The dark cloud of the interlopers presence isn't the only thing dogging Robert, as his wife--and he for that matter--are still coping with the trauma as a result of her being raped. That act of violence has palled Robert, feeling powerless at the time to help his wife, and even more powerless to help her in the aftermath. Gary McMahon does an impressive job in presented the paralyzing dread of a family man seeing his family splintered before his eyes. There's a bit of that weird tale vibe through the first half of the novella, but as it moves along it becomes very sinister. And while it become ever more otherworldly with the suspense, things almost crystallize in how real it feels, emotionally at least. By the end of the book, all bets are off and the gut punch that comes with the final confrontation is shocking.

I am continually impressed by Gary McMahon's ability to weave horror so seamlessly into the mundane. Nightsiders is no exception.

June 14, 2013

Chasing Tale [6/14/13]: Graffiti in Books

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the books that I recently added to my to-be-read pile. Some are advance review copies, some I bought from one store or another, and others are freebies from promotional offers that caught my eye.

Buying used books is like treasure hunting sometimes, or maybe more like an Easter egg hunt. It depends on if you have a particular book in mind when you scour the shelves. And whether you find what you're looking for or not, there's a sliver of satisfaction in the simple exercise of it all. Depending on the store too, the organization of the shelves could be orderly or downright haphazard with books scattered in piles along the floor, adding to the vibe while shopping.

One thing that can really sour the experience for me though, is when I buy a book, get home, and find it's littered with a previous owner's handwriting. I tend to watch out for books that are marked up, as the graffiti really hammers home the fact the book is used. Silly, right? I know, but it's a hangup of mine--plus it kind of reminds me of English class in high school, a place that ultimately soured me on books for years.

Anyway, I found a book that I'd been keeping an eye out for and bought it without cracking open the cover. I was just so darned pleased to find a copy. It was only when I got home that I found my little bargain was polluted with underscores, highlights, scribbles in the margins, and bullet points at the end of each chapter. Crud.

Oh well. That's the risk when you're looking for books on the cheap, I suppose. Along with that book, I've added several others to my bookshelf. Take a look.

Lustmord: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher Vol. 1 by Kirk Alex - This is the first book in a six-book series. Criminy. And I don't think it's going to be a lighthearted romp, either. But, how many stories featuring a dungeon are lighthearted romps?

Hiding the Smile by Charlie Boucher - I believe this is Boucher's debut novel, and she dares to make it a vampire novel. Well, it's sort of a vampire novel, but sounds more like a darkly tinged tale of friendship and betrayal with a private girls school as the backdrop.

No Beast So Fierce by Edward Bunker - I know Edward Bunker solely through his supporting role in Reservoir Dogs. Before Hollywood came calling, the man was a talented author, and before that he was a career criminal. Hoo-boy, this should be good.

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain - This is the book I bought that had all the notes written in it. The handwritten bullet points at the end of each chapter might not be so bad, but the underlined words and highlights throughout the text are eyesores. Looks like it's a cast away from someone's English class. Why the hell didn't I get the chance to read any noir back when I was in school? Damn you, Robertson Davies!

Abandon by Blake Crouch - What's better than a haunted house? How 'bout a haunted town? This paranormal thriller looks to be quite promising, and likely to make The Blair Witch Project look like The Apple Dumpling Gang.

The Dead Man Vol. 5 created by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin - Three more novellas in the series, bundled together for my convenience. The three books are The Death Match by Christa Faust, The Black Death by Aric Davis, and The Killing Floor by David Tully.

The Work of the Devil by Katherine Amt Hanna - I happened across this novella with a blend of horror, sci-fi, and western genres. I got it cheap and the Dark Tower vibe has me interested. I'll give it a chance, anyway.

Everville: The First Pillar by Roy Huff - One of the gripes I have with epic fantasy is the epic-ness of those thousand page anvils fans of the genre call books. The first book in Huff's Everville series clocks in around two-hundred pages, though. That's practically a pamphlet by epic fantasy standards, but it sounds like the perfect length for me to give it a chance.

The Allliance by Scott Klug - Among the plethora of review copies that get thrown at me, I think this is the first time the author has a history as politician. Former U.S. Congressman Scott Klug e-mailed me a review copy of his debut novel, and it's a thriller no less. Beats the heck out of a political memoir, I can tell you that right now, so that's already one detail in its favor, but is the title supposed to have three "L"'s?

Broken Branch by John Mantooth - While I've added this novella to my TBR pile, you may have seen John's guest post and giveaway posted here on the blog a couple of days ago, promoting his new book, The Year of the Storm. If not, check it out by clicking here.

Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos by James Marshall - The followup novel to Marshall's Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies. It sounds absolutely cray-zee.

Lost Girl of the Lake by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty - I read a review for this novella over at HorrorWorld a while back and thought it sounded like something I'd go for, then I found out it was available as an e-book.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk - I've only read a couple of Palahniuk's books, but quite liked them. I recall this book getting a film adaptation, starring I think Sam Rockwell. The trailer made it look interesting, so I'll have to give this a go sometime.

Huntress Moon and Blood Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff - I got these two novels about a month ago, when Alexandra had one promoted as a free download and one on sale for only 99 cents. Seemed like it was a no-brainer.

The Cleansing by Shane Ryan Staley - I have a subscription to the DarkFuse newsletter, and as such I receive the occasional free novella from them as a thank-you. Well, thanks right back atcha, DarkFuse.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson - I got this one through Book Depository when I saw it listed for less than five bucks, and since I've been meaning to read a Jim Thompson novel for years, it seemed like the perfect time. I never saw the movie, mainly because I tend to want to read the book first, and I haven't hurried to see a movie starring Jessica Alba in some years. Just sayin'.

Emergence by WilliamVitka - A band of superhero kids from Brooklyn battle an ancient evil that returned to claim the city? Uh, yeah. Sounds bonkers, and bonkers is my bread and butter these days. Sounds promising.

The Blue Blazes by ChuckWendig - After being wowed by Blackbirds and Mockingbird, I'm excited about Wendig's next offering through Angry Robot. It looks like more gritty urban fantasy goodness, so I'm already optimistic.

June 13, 2013

Short and Not-So-Sweet Stories: a review of "Shock Totem #5"

Shock Totem #5
edited by K. Allen Wood
Shock Totem (2012)
ISSN: 1944-110X

If there is a go-to place for me when it comes to horror stories, it's Shock Totem. The ST gang have carved out a niche for themselves in the short fiction landscape by honing in and highlighting some of the best dark fiction you can find in short story form.

"In Deepest Silence" by Ari Marmell kicked things off story-wise with a Lovecraftian tale set in a nuclear sub of all places. The claustrophobic atmosphere was handled well, with plenty of navy jargon that didn't feel overwhelming, and a cool premise of literally not being able to see the indescribable horror swimming in the ocean's depths. Cool stuff.

Before that though, there was a brief defense of the horror genre from Mercedes M. Yardley. Not her most heart-wrenching essay in ST's pages, but one I found myself agreeing with wholeheartedly. People may not want to call it "horror," but it's out there--and it's everywhere. There's plenty more nonfiction to be found in this issue as well, including an interview with Jack Ketchum.

Back on the story front, the assortment varied in styles, but kept a similar stark tone. From D. Thomas Mooers' "The Girl and the Blue Burqa" and its paranoia gone wild, to what may be my favorite from the offerings, Joe Mirabello's "The Catch." An quirky, creepy, otherworldly bit of horror that would fit in well with The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, with an annual fishing trip through time--and a Viking chauffeur. Plus, there's the other stories from F.J. Bergmann, Nick Contor, Kurt Newton (accompanied by some stunning artwork), Darrell Schweitzer, Jaelithe Ingold, Anaea Lay, Mekenzie Larsen, and Sean Eads.

ST ought to be on your radar if you love horror or short fiction. And if you love both, then you have no excuse. Really good stuff, and I already have Shock Totem #6 on my Kindle, and waiting for #7.

June 12, 2013

What's Your Book About?: a guest post by John Mantooth, author of "The Year of the Storm"

John Mantooth (@busfulloflosers) is an award-winning author whose short stories have been recognized in numerous year's best anthologies. His short fiction has been published in Fantasy Magazine, Crime Factory, Thuglit, and the Stoker winning anthology, Haunted Legends (Tor, 2010), among others.  His first book, Shoebox Train Wreck, was released in March of 2012 from Chizine Publications. His debut novel, The Year of the Storm, is slated for a June 2013 release from Berkley. He lives in Alabama with his wife, Becky, and two children.

What's Your Book About
by John Mantooth

What’s your book about?”

It’s a question I’ve heard over and over for the last few months.  It’s always the first thing people ask when they find out I have a book coming out, followed closely by “is it fiction?” and “can I buy it at Barnes and Noble?” (I believe this last one is actually a way of the person trying to determine if it’s self-published or not. The idea being that if they can actually walk into a brick and mortar store and walk out with my book, then I am a real writer.)

It’s about this kid whose mom and sister go missing, and then this old man shows up at his door and…”

And they’re gone.  Eyes distant, heads nodding in that way people nod when they want you to hurry up and stop talking.  For a while, this behavior perplexed me.  I mean, why would they ask if they didn’t really want to know the answer?  Then it dawned on me.  They don’t really want specifics.  They want generalities.  They want genre.

Which is where it gets dicey.  I could say my book’s a mystery.  That’s acceptable, but it’s also misleading.  Thriller sounds good, but that tends to make people think of Harlen Coben, and I ain’t Harlen Coben (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  I finally started calling it Southern Gothic, but only because I was trying to avoid calling it what it really was.  See, it’s sort of a dirty word.   Yeah, that dirty word.

Oh, the horror.

This is what happens when you tell people your book is horror: they recoil, crinkling their noses in barely hidden disdain.  They make faces that can alternately be interpreted as condescending or (worse) pitying.  They walk away, and quite frequently they make the quick and final decision that you are one of those writers, which is to say not a real writer worthy of their attention.

But you know what?  I don’t care anymore.  I’m coming out today, holding my book proudly in front of me.  It’s a horror book.  I’m a horror writer.  And not only that, you can buy it at Barnes and Noble.  So there.

Thanks to John for stopping by the blog. If anyone is interested in getting their hands on a copy of The Year of the Storm, you can find it listed on Amazon.com.

June 11, 2013

Never Underestimate a Fairy: an interview with James Marshall, author of "Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos"

I had the chance to ask a few questions of James Marshall, author of Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies and the newest novel in his How to End Human Suffering series, Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos. Enjoy!

Gef: I'm guessing that like "Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies," the second book in your How To End Human Suffering series delivers what it advertises. Namely Zombies, Fairies, and Albinos. Aside from the obvious, what's the books about?

James: The first book in the series is NINJA VERSUS PIRATE FEATURING ZOMBIES. It's an outrageously fun and darkly satirical novel about a sixteen-year-old pirate and spiritual leader named Guy Boy Man. He's the only living human who can see zombies everywhere, controlling everything. While he rallies others to his cause, which is to end human suffering worldwide and in his high school, Guy struggles to maintain a relationship with a cute, pink-haired girl named Baby Doll15 who has a unicorn that follows her everywhere.

The second book in the series is ZOMBIE VERSUS FAIRY FEATURING ALBINOS. It's about a depressed zombie named Buck Burger. With his marriage crumbling and a prescription for an anti-depressant in hand, Buck meets a beautiful green-haired pharmacist fairy named Fairy_26. He quickly becomes a pawn in a cold war between zombies and supernatural creatures.

Gef: In the pantheon of dream matches, zombie versus fairy doesn't rank high with me, I must admit. Serendipitous discovery in your writing or calculated move to boost the profile of fairies?

James: You've made a common, but fatal, mistake. The reason you underestimate fairies is because fairies are generally considered feminine and slender. (I.e./ You don't see a lot of shirtless fat dude fairies.) But it's only crass sexism that makes us think that women aren't super dangerous. If it weren't for our narrow-mindedness, we'd recognize that women are a menace. And while it's true that overweight women are very frightening, skinny chicks are scary, too. Fairies are even more dangerous, because they can fly.

Think about it. You're walking along and you're like, “Oh, look, there's a fairy! How delightful! I think I'll try to bat it out of the sky with this stick.” The next thing you know, the fairy is buzzing around you, doing all kinds of angry fairy things, and you're like, “I've made a terrible mistake! The fairy is harassing me! I must seek shelter under this tree. Oh no! The tree provides no protection. And now the fairy is sprinkling me with some sort of sparkling dust. What's this? I'm having a horrible hallucination! Perhaps it would help if I hurled myself off this cliff.”

Gef: Rather than a straight-up sequel--and how could it be, I suppose--the protagonist from the first book, Guy Boy Man, takes a back seat while you introduce Buck Burger, a zombie with a bit of a crisis of conscience by the sounds of it. What drew you to Buck Burger's story?

The world is full of zombies: unthinking, unfeeling people who accept the status quo. Some zombies don't give too much thought to their horrible plight. They work their zombie jobs. Deposit their money in zombie banks. Raise their kids to be zombies. They're mindless. Heartless. But then there's Buck Burger. He doesn't like being a zombie. What's the point? Why destroy everything? Why eat human flesh? I was drawn to Buck's story because I like the big questions. Why are we here?

Gef: Chizine has a knack for publishing the work of not just talented authors, but authors who walk the road less traveled. At first blush, your work may have the distinction of walking the road least traveled among the Chizine library. How did the relationship come about?

James: A friend recommended ChiZine to me and I think it's a great fit. I come from a literary background and, while my How To End Human Suffering series is outrageous, it's dark satire in the style of Jonathan Swift's “A Modest Proposal.” To learn more about it, please visit www.howtoendhumansuffering.com and to connect with me, please follow me on twitter @james_marshall or friend me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorjamesmarshall

Gef: Given zombies have made the marquee for the first two books in this series, do we dare expect them for the third, or are the albinos out to steal the spotlight?

James: Zombies will be back in the third book but, as you predict, the albinos will take center stage. They're the puppet masters. But they're not quite what they appear to be.

Gef: I knew it. Well, thanks a lot for stopping by the blog, James. As for the rest of you, be on the lookout for James' new novel, as well as his earlier works.

A little more about James Marshall: A collection of James Marshall's short stories, LET'S NOT LET A LITTLE THING LIKE THE END OF THE WORLD COME BETWEEN US, was published by Thistledown Press in 2004, and it was shortlisted for both the 2005 Commonwealth Writers�Prize (Caribbean and Canada Region) in the Best First Book category, and the ReLit Award for short fiction. His first novel, NINJA VERSUS PIRATE FEATURING ZOMBIES, was published by ChiZine Publications in 2012; it is the first book in the How To End Human Suffering Series. The second book, ZOMBIE VERSUS FAIRY FEATURING ALBINOS, is available now.